The Glasgow Islay Association's Millennium Home Gathering Weekend

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...Thanks to Eric McKechnie for this update!

What a month July was for the Glasgow Islay Association.  On Sat 8th July
Marcia Barnes, our North American Representative, flew the Association flag
at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina.  The GMHG are
one of the biggest in North America and it was the first time we had been
represented at such an event.

Sporting her Glasgow Islay Association polo
shirt and name badge, Marcia received a warm welcome at many of the Clan and
Society tents and helped promote the Association and indeed the beauties of
Islay.  On the 15th July our President Robert MacKenzie was a guest at the
"Canada Reunion" organised by Sue and Toni.  Robert was totally amazed by
what he saw both in terms of information but more especially by the great
love of Islay the members have.  Since returning he has talked endlessly of
the experience, each time beginning with "You would not believe...!"  Sue's
article was copied into the last issue of the Ileach and Robert was lavish in
his praise during his remarks at the start of our Millennium Home Gathering
Concert so much so that several people wanted more information on what was

The 28th - 30th July was the Millennium Home Gathering weekend on Islay.  The
Association had started the ball rolling for the weekend by organising the
Friday night concert and dance and encouraging other local organisations to
become involved - which they did.  While much of Scotland was either under
cloud or deluged by rain, Islay bathed in sunshine.  I travelled over on the
Thursday to finalise some arrangements for the concert and despite a misty
sea crossing the sun started to break through just after we arrived on
Islay's shores.

Friday was just beautiful.  I stayed with my mother who live on High Street,
Bowmore and her back garden has the most beautiful view of Loch Indaal which
I just soaked up - its a therapy in itself!!  Tickets for our concert had
been selling well but by Friday morning it was a sell out - all 300.  The
tourist office in Bowmore had been selling tickets and when I went to see
them they said that their phone had been ringing all day with people looking
for tickets.

The concert was not due to start until 7.30pm but people started arriving at
6.15pm for the good seats!  There was great activity around the hall and at
7.15pm the Islay Pipe Band played in the sunshine outside the hall on Main
Street.  Long before 7.30pm the hall was full - not another seat could be
fitted in.  And then began a great night of Gaelic and particularly Islay
entertainment.  The stage party comprising the President, the Chairman and
Honoraries of the Association was led on by Pipe Major Duncan Heads.  Robert
gave his welcome and introduced the Chairman for the evening, Mr Gordon
Caskie.  Singers were Donald M MacLeod of Portnahaven, Bette C Bell of Port
Charlotte both former national Mod gold medalists, Islay McTaggart a former
silver medalist and popular Glasgow entertainer, Norma Munro of Ballygrant
who sang Scottish songs (as opposed to Gaelic) and the Islay High School
Ensemble and Folk Group.  The audience joined in many favourite Gaelic songs
and the enthusiasm was running high when the Islay High School Folk Group
sang "Westering Home"!  For this special occasion Pipe Major Duncan Heads
composed a new tune "Millennium Home Gathering"  which was a delight to hear.

Morrison Bowmore Distillers provided the complimentary refreshments for the
interval.  As a committee we were somewhat apprehensive about the logistics
of servings some 300 people a dram in 20 minutes but we did it - not that
there were many who had to be persuaded to enjoy a glass (or two!) of Bowmore
12 Year Old!

The second half of the concert was opened by the pipe bank playing in a very
small space at the front of the stage.  They were fantastic - a stirring
delight.  By 10.30pm the concert was over and all 300 left the hall lavishing
praise on the artistes and organisers.  "It was like the Glasgow Fair Concert
used to be 40 years ago!" (Myra will know what that means or was she with the
boy at Bowmore pier!)

Following the concert was the dance and the enjoyment just kept going.  All
ages and families filled the hall for the dance.  The band was the Islay
Accordian and Fiddle Club Band but for the older amongst us it was the
Mansefield Band.  When the dance finished the crowd just wanted to keep
going.  By 2am I was done!   There is something special about Islay
Gatherings whether they be in Glasgow or Canada or Islay but that night in
Bowmore hall will give memories for many a long year.

On the Saturday there were a variety of events on but I managed to see just
two - the Islay Family History Society Exhibition and the Finlaggan Trust
Open Day.  The Finlaggan event was great and no doubt you have seen the
picture on the Lochside website.  The Family History exhibition just brought
the memories flooding back.  It was held in Bowmore and comprised an old
photographs exhibition broken into the parish areas of Islay featuring
schools, entertainment, businesses and so on.  What a collection of photos
they have.  It was enjoyed by all that attended - and that was a lot of
people - which goes to show the keen interest in Islay family history.  There
was a picture of Port Charlotte Primary School which included our President
as a young boy and take it from me he was not a pretty boy!!  I congratulate
the IFHS in putting on such an event.

Sunday and the sun was still shining.  The Round Church was the setting for a
special Gaelic/English dedicatory service.  The church was packed and the Rev
Ann McIvor, Rev Angus Morrison and the Trustees of the Association were piped
to the front of the church by Pipe Major Duncan Heads.  Readings from the
bible (in Gaelic and English) and hymns reflected our Islay heritage and it
was very emotional for many attending.  Robert Forest sang one of the psalms
in Gaelic and Rev McIvor 's remarks reminded us of why we love Islay so much.
 Following the service we moved to the hall for teas.  It was such a
wonderful occasion.

Leaving Islay on the afternoon ferry evoked memories form the Glasgow Fairs
of years long gone by with the decks of the ferry and the pier at Port Ellen
just crammed with waving hands.  A young piper played from the top deck of
the ferry as we left the shore of Islay with many a tear being wiped away. 
Most spent the afternoon in the sunshine admiring the beauties of Islay as we
sailed its coastline towards West Loch Tarbert.  The piper continued,
musicians played and people talked of the great weekend on Islay and memories
of their own days on the island.

"Islay's Marvellous Millennium Weekend" was the banner headline in this weeks
Oban Times.  It raved about the occasion saying there was only one problem -
how could Islay do better in the future.  The answer is - we don't want
anything better we just want more of the same.  Canada here we come?  Failing
that the 139th Annual Gathering of the Glasgow Islay Association will be held
in Glasgow on 2nd March 2001.

Eric McKechnie
Secretary - Glasgow Islay Association

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