An historic set of bagpipes which have been played on the Brazilian beaches at Copacabana and the Grand Canyon, having survived the rigours of the first World War, will be centre-stage as shinty comes to the fore in the celebration of the tenth Blas Festival.
In the week of the Camanachd Cup Final, when the culmination of Blas 2014 and shinty’s showpiece game come together in Inverness this year, three shows highlighting the importance of shinty to Highland communities and Gaels world-wide, as well as the impact of the First World War on Highland communities, will be performed in shinty-playing areas.
The first of the “Home and Away – Glòir nan Caman” - shows will be in Tighabruaich, home of Kyles Athletic, on Wednesday, September 10. This is followed the next evening in Inverinate in Wester Ross and finally on Friday night (12th), the evening before the Camanachd Cup Final, Eden Court in Inverness is the venue. The shows, which are building on the success of previous versions of “Shinty’s Heroes” will be presented by Hugh Dan MacLennan and this year’s musical director will be Megan Henderson. Joining the cast will be the piping MacGillivrays of Calrossie, Gary Innes, Linda Macleod and Calum Alex MacMillan.
Hugh Dan MacLennan said: “We know that Shinty’s Heroes was well received and that it was not possible for everyone who might have wanted to see the show to be there. We are delighted that this year we have an opportunity to take the shinty shows to Argyll and Wester Ross and we will be tailoring the events to the various locations, highlighting heroes from each, and bringing the connections between music, song, shinty and the First World War together. I am particularly pleased to have Megan and the MacGillivrays involved and I know that the piping story with Duncan and the Festubert pipes was a very moving experience which we will highlight once again. It’s a remarkable story that a set of pipes can survive the rigours of the War and then end up being played on the beaches of Brazil during a Pope’s visit. All will be revealed in due course!”
How and Away will also feature the story of the MacGillivray Cup, one of shinty’s most prized trophies, originally donated for play in the 1920s by one of Duncan MacGillivray’s relations.
Hugh Dan added: “The MacGillivray story gives us an ideal opportunity to link the importance of shinty to Highland Communities during the First World war with some of our most famous songs and stories. There is no doubt that Shinty played a great part in sustaining communities’ spirits particularly after the War, but it also provided the soldiers with some sense of hope that they would have something to return to. We will also reflect on how important shinty appears to have been to the Highland diaspora world-wide as they retained their memories of home, particularly at the New Year and that is singularly important this year with the Commonwealth games and Glasgow and it being a Homecoming Year.”
Blas in its tenth year is now an international extravaganza with events at 100 locations around the Highlands and in Argyll and it runs from 5 to 13 September.
Shinty’s show-piece event the Camanachd Cup Final takes place in Inverness on Saturday 13 as Blas comes to a climax. Arthur Cormack, who leads the organisation of the festival with Fèisean nan Gàidheal, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with the Camanachd Association to explore the links between sport, community and the arts once again. We know that a considerable number of people expressed an interest in the previous show and this time we are taking it to Argyll and Wester Ross as part of our plan to reach out to areas in the community which do not get the chance to see this kind of event that often. Who knows but that a team from either or both areas might make it to the Camanachd Cup Final that week as well, which would be a remarkable coincidence!”
Further information about Blas 2014 can be found at the festival website, where there are full details of the festival programme and ticketing arrangements.