A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘ceilidh’

A Lismore Ceilidh

This is a wonderful way to visit an island, you immediately feel that you are not a tourist and are being allowed to interact with island life, chatting to residents and finding out what they do and how they do it. As well as that, our own connections are coming up again and again and we are finding we know the same people but under different circumstances. After a strong meditation, a cycle down to the south end of the island,

passing the small but well-kept village hall,

a visit to the Heritage Center, not quite long enough, and then on to Mairi’s sister and brother-in-law who are building a fantastic new house with ongoing legal access problems hopefully coming to a conclusion. Confirms my bus theory that a few decades ago a bus toured through the Highlands and Islands and dropped off awkward customers in every community. Awkward is a pejorative term as other words spring to mind. Sarah and Yorick are coming to the end of a long and protracted access dispute with a neighbour. A strainer placed in front of an access point with no other purpose than to prevent access.

They had managed to buy a croft of an elderly couple and proceeded to self build a fantastic looking house themselves while working the croft, Sarah building up a textile business

while Yorick puts the house together. Amazing workmanship and dedication while having to go to court with the neighbour. As it is still going on I better not say too much other than wonder why people go down that road which seems to be based in such awkward bad neighbourliness.

Another fine evening’s worth of Applecross seafood was produced and an evening of music was in the air. Being part of the community was apparent from early on when Eric dropped in and added to the “Big Archie” story. He certainly seems to be a colourful character. Calling in to the Heritage Centre where we met Murray, who turned up for the music session later, and then on down to Mairi’s relatives. It all appears that we are making contact with the community rather than a fleeting sightseeing visit. Maybe I am too aware of the numbers that come through Applecross and just stop at the Inn before hurriedly going on their way. Having Mairi chat away about who everyone was gives a more substantive view of the island. The visitors here do not seem to be out of keeping with the numbers living in the community and I only met two groups of tourists on bikes when I travelled down to the south end. Distinct similarities to Applecross emerge all the time. The land is very similar although there is none of the regimented plantations, there are lovely native tree groves that are abundant with bird life. There are far more cattle and sheep on the ground, although sheep do seem to dominate the landscape. The population does seem to be slightly younger but some do need help in the sheep gathering and keeps the younger members of the community very active. The west theme of having several jobs is manifest here on the island.

After our meal of Applecross seafood, which it was nice to share with a couple of the arriving musicians we went through to be entertained by several locals who turned up as preparation for the Tap Root Festival in a couple of weeks time. Accordion,


whistles, piano, a couple of songs and a bit of craic. Could not help thinking of ancient times, of many ceilidhs, of tales told, songs sung and tunes played. No one taking the lead but a natural flow and rhythm to the evening. It was only till later I discovered that Big Archie dropped in for a wee dram. He caught up with Mairi in the kitchen before taking his leave. So much packed into just one day.

A Busy Wee Spell.

It was one of those nights of light sleep and a 5.30am start as the forecast for this week is pretty appalling for late August and do not expect much time on the water from now till Saturday. So an early breakfast for the pooches and off the moorings nice and early with a lovely sky



and calm waters.



The intention was to get as many creels up today as possible as I do not seem to be able to catch enough to keep the Inn going for more than two days. I keep thinking that the fishing has declined a bit but it is because so many berried ones are going back. Just cannot land any now it has become engrained over the past 10/15 years now. Going north and it was still fine but the passing sailor was starting to show a breeze under way.


Four more fleets and it was hard graft with a few things not staying where they should. last sailor passed and I called it a day after hauling 500 creels and a long splash going home, time to tail the inevitable squats.


Treat the next few days for catching up many of the jobs that need doing ashore.

Back to Friday and after the dolphins I had planned a restful early afternoon before going up to the Community Hall to help organising a family ceilidh. Isla had got in touch a wee while ago and asked if there was anywhere her travelling group from Oxford Uni could play a gig and I had checked making sure it was not clashing with the Fishing Weekend. It did not, so booked Community Hall, organised sound and everything was set until mid afternoon phone call from Community Hall saying Music Store locked and no key. The planned snooze goes out the window and a rapid search round the community for the key to no avail. Only thing for it to avoid a cancellation was to find a Liverpudlian, a jemmy bar and we were soon in. Unfortunately the door was no more as it was weaker than the lock,


but we were in and the ceilidh was on. Met up with Isla and the guys, all 16 of them at the Inn,


sorted a few soft drinks out and some drinks for the band and away we went. A raffle for calendars and wine went fine and the music with some completely new dances, a Thread the Needles and Nine Pins,


went down well, especially with the visitors and there were plenty. People who came, came to dance and it was nice to see a ceilidh with lots of kids running about, some hard to catch.


The visitors from Toscaig left early to make more ice cream, going as well as the langoustine this summer.


Finished up with a St Bernard’s and a Orcadian Strip the Willow. Good friendly night.

Saturday started on time but for the wrong reason, meant for an early start but the head said otherwise, Lots of painkillers got me going at the back of nine but knowing the day was set fair and the pain receding settled into a fine days fishing with the bonxies.



Missing my afternoon kips due to lack of time and arrived at the Inn with a bit of a back wash from the days pills but soon that was lost in the melee of the night. Tonight’s event was another charity event, a bed push over the Hill, one that happens annually and means a booking of 15 meant no tables down that end of the bar. it went well until the usual late comers. They got seated, were appreciated and all was well. Lots of monies raised and home, knackered by 11.30pm knowing I had to go back out to the Varuna to land the rest of the langoustine, feeding the monster is becoming seriously hard work.

The sunset was special



and waitresses


are always around for a shot in the sunset.


I think it was Saturday afternoon I was checking out the camera as it was acting up a bit, went out to the garden and discovered a little unusual way of sorting an error communication between lens and body. Apples,





and puppies were looking fine, rampant, bored


and slightly apprehensive.


Sundays langoustine



were looking fine as were the staff.


Langoustine cooked off so were not being abused or being mistreated. A day that was beautiful but busy again, very busy. Lots of people outside so there is not too much competition for seat and tables but dishes one way and food the other way just kept coming in and going out. Made it through to six with the help of a brownie before sitting down to a plate of squats in chilli sauce rice and salad. Life is tiring but good. Made it out the door and away on the bike after another bar glass wash up and seeing them coming in again. Brief interlude with a journalist who was doing a more in-depth view on the NC500, a bit more than how wonderful the drive and scenery is. more on how it is affecting people who live here and how they go about their lives. Every now and again you get a bit of a jolt and a group of four Italians came in for lunch and chatted a little to them. Love the sound of the language, second only to the lilt of the Gaelic, turns out that one of them was woken up in Rome 150 kms away by the earthquake that so cruelly destroyed so many lives up in the mountains to the north-east. An immediacy when you speak to some one directly connected to events that are heart-rending but distant when seen on TV. Reminds me of the couple from Nice on table 7 a few weeks ago. Pretty rapid movement on our episode with the door as a new one has already been purchased and is back in Applecross along with lock.

Conference and Ceilidh, Day 1

A short snooze and a boring rugby match and now back on the keyboard mainly because we have just finished a pretty stunning two days where Applecross has hosted a day and a half Conference on energy efficiency and related matters. Last night we were dancing to the music of the Kyle Ceilidh Band, attended by many of the Conference goers. Yesterday morning I woke early and with a sinking feeling as the old head was going to give trouble, today of all days. Up, painkillers and a lie down on the couch before more painkillers and up the road to the Community Hall for the Conference. Lucky that it was brought under control by lunch time with more painkillers than I would tell the Doc. Unfortunately I know that I have taken too much as the stomach tells me so. All well by evening and it does not matter as there is too much to do to think too much about it. Immediately you saw how much work had gone into the organising of the Conference although I was well aware by the number of emails that had been flying about over the last week. It was noted locally that some of the info went out a little late but that was as a result of late financing of the Conference. Initially it was thought that HIE may have been interested in part funding it but that was not to be and a rush of requests for local sponsors rapidly filled the gap. Had a laugh when I picked up my name tag as when I booked I had filled it in slightly tongue in cheek.


Sat at the back to watch proceedings get under way.


First up was Jess to tell us about the Trust and how they operate in Applecross. Some interesting facts for those on the floor and Jess was followed by Wolf and then Alejandra, from Bolivia, to give us a summary of their trip to Applecross and what they hope to achieve here. Sometimes tea breaks are just as important to those attending these events where information is exchanged and disseminated.


The tea-table was surrounded with people in animated conversations. Back into the Hall where we heard Elaine Morrison talk about Just Energy.


Fascinating amount of knowledge out there and the presentations hopefully will be appearing on the AEE websitehttp://www.spanglefish.com/applecrossenergyefficiency/  and/or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ApplecrossEnergyEfficiency and possibly on the Community Company page.https://www.facebook.com/applecrosscommunitycompany. Rather than me badly regurgitating excellent presentations better reading them directly. A quick-lunch and as Callum wanted a little footage of wood chopping, headed off down to Heather’s but was not too impressed with the axe, she did agree. Take my own axe to finish it tomorrow. Seems it was on the gaelic news tonight, thought the hen was more impressive than me getting the axe stuck in the wood. Did manage to chop some. Called in at the Inn to give Cheffie an idea of who was going to eat what from the set menu and by the time I made it back to the Hall Amanda had just about finished her presentation about establishing local wood fuel supplies. While I was at the Inn I was stopped in my tracks by a unobstrusive meeting taking place. Every now and again some thing happens that really brings it home telling you that you are on the road.


The meeting was with Mick and Duncan of Highlandeco and local contractors concerning the ground work building the turbine house, pipe line and intake. This was followed by Nick Chapman who told us about the work of Community Energy Scotland who have mentored us through to where we are, in particular Mel Macrae who has since moved on to greater heights but is keeping an eye on how it is going. The local power initiative is the next stage of the project. Finally it was Susan Walker’s turn to tell us what is happening on the south end of Skye’s crofting township of Camuscross and Duisdale where they are also looking at hydro and a community hub, coupled with what looks like a thriving crofting community. The agriculture side of Applecross crofting has been crammed into the marginal lands on both the south and north coasts and has not the same opportunities as the bigger better land crofts of Skye but even here we are starting to see little hot spots of new crofters trying out different things other than the traditional sheep.

So a 4.30pm finish on the first day and after a quick dog visit, they have been neglected a bit lately, up to the Inn before the masses came. Switched into the Maitre d’ mode and just as well as Boss was not long back and feeling not too chipper after a long couple of days on the road. Twenty-five from the Conference were expected to eat before heading down to the Hall for the Ceilidh. All went well apart from a soup for a haggis, but quickly sorted by cheffie, with not too much grumbling. Have a memory stick to fill up for Kayvan who was taken by the music we played as background in the morning.


To be fair he had been in since sixish,in the morning that is. Stayed till around eight and then back to the Hall again. The ceilidh was simply awesome The Flensburg guys were on the floor all night, they had no choice. First time I knowingly danced with a Bolivian, a Nicaraguan, a Nepalese, an Indonesian, a Kenyan and a German all on the same night. Sadly Christine from the Phillipines was not feeling too well but was better yesterday so joined in late. They were really quick learners and by the end of every dance they knew what they were doing. The floor from the first dance to the last was full and the night was based on raffle and donations kindly donated from the Inn and the shop. I love this picture, showing young and older, lots of different cultures all coming together, having a great time. I don’t think Michelle stopped smiling all night.


A princely sum of £350 was raised. Willie and the rest of the Band said it was the best night they played at in years and they said it several times and meant it.


Having booked bands before I went looking for money to pay them but it had already left the building. Applecross at its best, half eleven at night and off I went. Raised the money in quarter of an hour with an unsecured loan and back at the Hall as they finished packing the equipment away. Michelle from Kenya and Flensburg had a starring role as she sang unaccompanied,seems it was “the Titanic song” originally by Celine Dion, beautiful it was too even if I did not recognise it and it kept the kids attention, well maybe not Thor’s.


Back by popular demand Michelle had us and the band singing along to a song from her homeland.


I found this very moving, here we were in the far north-west of Scotland listening to a young lady from Kenya singing a song to us from her own culture. It is one world and I have been wearing the tee-shirt for years. Heart felt thanks to all who organised the two days. Last Conference post to come.

Stressed, but humour wins through.

Just trying very hard to lower the stress levels. Come away from trying to register V.A.T. online and although I am not the best IT guy on the peninsula you follow the instructions, fill in the boxes,sort your password, get your ID and then get your activation refused. Give it a rest for a wee while and do a catch up on something else. On the plus side I had a good chat with a couple of Company directors this morning about governance and things seem to be on schedule, tight but ok. We may be dealing with problems that are not there which does not help stress as it is difficult to deal with people’s perceptions.Over the years I have been involved with the Pier I have missed one deadline in 13 and so far the Company has met all its deadlines. We are moving from the volunteer world into the paid administrator sphere where we can no longer expect to do so much as volunteers but the problem with all new organisations is finding the extra revenue to pay to keep a track of financial and legal necessities. It is the growing pains of a new entity in a small rural community and trying to take something from the buffeting we have had over the last few months improved governance is emerging. One thing I forgot to mention about the Community Company AGM was that we ended up with 3 new members and 4 definite offers of volunteers which probably says more than anything and gives a better balance to the overall picture here. Reading in the WHFP this week about another community going through an upheaval and my heart goes out to the people involved as I know how upsetting these situations are and it is not pleasant reading a view in the press of what is happening locally. You feel powerless to correct anything you feel is taken out of context or misconstrued. I am fortunate that I do not feel the need to place blame and try very hard not to judge those with different positions to your own, very difficult at times when you are in the middle of  a vortex but it is character forming they ( however they are) say. I have to say this blogging lark is a bit of a stress release and to those who read it sorry for boring you today. The stress levels have also lowered due to me getting my headphone jack sorted out on the iMac and now have the NAD amp and B and W speakers linked up and some pretty good music has been playing loudly for the last couple of hours, Babelfish,Nickel Creek,McGoldrick and Afro Celts. Taking the odd photo helps as well as you can just look at it and remember how fortunate you are to see something like yesterday’s sunset take place. Also picked up a shell on the Bay the other day which are fairly uncommon here, lots on the Harris beaches, beautiful pinks….natural perfection.




Most important of all we need to keep our humour and a couple of comments come to mind when “a member of the public” said as she left the Community Council meeting on Tuesday that it had been far more entertaining than telly. I take that as a compliment and a follow-up chat confirmed it today. Yesterday while chopping wood at the gate, a stop for a ceilidh with a passing resident ended with a fantastic saying in gaelic for some one who is leaving maybe not in the best of humour, “thoir do chasan leat” meaning be sure and remember to take your feet with you….west coast/gaeldom humour at its best. Life may be stressful but it is so good.

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