Glasgow Islay Association Home gathering in Bowmore

The London Olympics organisers would have greatly envied the lack of empty seats in Bowmore village hall on July 28 where the Glasgow Islay Association held its home gathering as part of its continuing 150th anniversary celebrations.

President Malcolm Campbell, a native of Bowmore, warmly welcomed the large audience and introduced guest chairman the Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland. The politician, who was born and brought up in the Mull of Oa where his parents are hill farmers, expressed his delight at being back among his ain folk. He recalled with exceedingly good humour boyhood days on the island and schooldays spent at Port Ellen and Bowmore.

Alistair, who is also the House of Commons Deputy Chief Whip and Comptroller of the Household, went on to congratulate the Association on its 150th anniversary and touched on the once prevailing social and economic problems which led to the movement of the Gaels to the larger cities. While strangers in an alien environment they hankered after social fellowship with their own kind and this led to the formation of the territorial Highland associations in the mid half of the 19th century, An Comunn Ileach among them.

Following his well received address, the chairman and his mother Mina received tokens of appreciation from Abby Brown and Hannah Gillies. The chairman’s wife Kathryn was unable to be present as she had veterinary commitments in Orkney where the Carmichael family home is.

Very much present were honorary patrons Professor Sir William Stewart, accompanied by Lady Stewart, and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen who decided against attending the Olympics opening ceremony in favour of supporting the home gathering. Opening the concert was the Lagavulin schoolgirl piper Katie MacNiven, fresh from her triumph at the Bowmore sports and following much vigorous Highland dancing at the Basel International Tattoo in Switzerland. Continue reading.....

The accent on youth continued with the appearance and fine singing of the Bowmore Primary School Choir, led by Helen Gillies, and Coisir Òg Ghàidhlig Ìle, conducted by the newly wed Arlene McKerrell. The Bowmore Primary and Islay High Schools’ Wind Band, directed by Scott MacDermott, showed their aeolian skills, and Coisir Ghàidhlig Ìle, under the baton of Iseabail Mactaggart, impressively filled their two spots on the programme.

Mòd gold medallists Bette Bell, Port Charlotte, and Dugie Gillespie, Portnahaven, and a former president of the Association, were both in fine voice and their song choice greatly pleased the island audience. Charlie Kirkpatrick and his broadcasting band greatly upped the tempo and provided the music at the ensuing dance. While the attendance at the jigging was disappointing, Charlie and his musicians kept those present on the hop.

During the course of the evening, a commemorative bottle of specially vatted Scotch malt whisky was auctioned off and realised £825. This distillation was the brainchild of James MacEwan of Bruichladdich Distillery and encompasses the produce of the island’s eight distilleries. Aptly, a total of 150 numbered bottles have been produced and these will retail at £120; the auctioned bottle was No 1 in the collection. All proceeds from the sales will go to the Association for disbursement to charitable causes of their choice.

The curtain came down on the Bowmore celebration with Coisir Ghàidhlig Ìle leading the audience in the Gaels’ song of blessing and farewell ‘Soraidh leibh’. An Comunn Ileach’s sesquicentennial celebrations continue on Friday, 7th September, when members will be guests at a civic reception, hosted by Glasgow City Council, in the City Chambers in George Square.

The Glasgow Islay Association was formed in 1862 by a group of gentlemen concerned with the interests of exiled islanders of Islay. They met in the Garrick Hotel in Glasgow’s Stockwell Street with the aim of establishing an association which would provide a link between the exiles and their native island.

The group was led a by a well known city printer and publisher Archibald Sinclair who had been born and brought up at Mulindry on the outskirts of Bridgend. He became the first president of the Association and his son and namesake also went on to don the presidential cloak. The aims of the Association, set down at that inaugural meeting, remain an integral part of An Comunn Ileach’s current constitution. These are – ‘bringing together natives of Islay resident in Glasgow and vicinity; cherishing native attachments; collecting and preserving the traditions, tales and poetry of Islay; affording relief to necessitous and deserving members of the Association and natives of Islay; advancing the welfare of members and Celtic matters generally’. Founder member Archibald Sinclair would be pleased to know that these aims are still honoured and upheld in a world he would now scarcely recognise.

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

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