Tuesday 1st September 2015
With shinty’s day of days, the Camanachd Cup Final, a fortnight away and a team from the Aird district near Inverness flying the flag in shinty’s showpiece occasion for the first time in over 60 years, 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 in Beauly as shinty comes to the fore in the celebration of Blas 2015.
The acclaimed “Shinty’s Heroes” show, which has been performed in various different forms throughout the Highlands and Islands at Blas festivals, will see its most poignant performance yet when the Paterson bagpipes from Beauly are brought back to their home town near Inverness to mark the centenary of the Battle of Festubert from where they were returned.
The show is presented by Hugh Dan MacLennan and this year’s musical director is former Scottish shinty captain and Mànran star Gary Innes. Joining the cast will be Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie who has a very personal connection with the pipes, Linda Macleod, Allan Henderson and Iain MacFarlane. Russell Jones will represent the Kingussie club which also has a very strong connection with Festubert.
Hugh Dan MacLennan said: “Shinty’s Heroes has been incredibly well received everywhere we have gone as we have highlighted heroes from the various shinty playing communities, bringing the connections between music, song, shinty and particularly the First World War together. We are especially pleased, however, to be able to perform the show in Beauly on such a significant date as the anniversary of the battle where the Paterson brothers, Alasdair and Donald, and so many other Highland heroes were lost. The piping story with Duncan playing the Festubert pipes is 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. And the whole event has a bit of extra interest for shinty fans with Lovat at the very height of their preparations for the Camanachd Cup Final.”
The proximity of the Camanachd Cup Final will also allow the show to detail the achievements of the Beauly club which won the trophy for the only time in 1913 with Alasdair Paterson, who was to die at Festubert, the captain. The first half of the show revolves round the impact of the First World War on shinty-playing areas and in particular Beauly and Lovat. Hugh Dan will provide an audio visual display detailing some of the exploits of Highland Heroes at battles such as Festubert in 1915 through a combination of war-time and sporting images.
He said: “The starting point of our journey is really the unique success of the Lovat and Beauly players who apparently combined to win the Camanachd Cup in 1913 in Beauly’s name. We’ll celebrate that remarkable event and then follow a couple of the Beauly players who went to War and left us a remarkable pipe tune which we will play on the evening. There are extraordinary tales to tell it’s singularly appropriate that we mark the shinty players’ and the shinty community’s contribution to the Great War. And the impact that had on the game.”
A particularly relevant theme which will be highlighted in the Phipps Hall event is the part played by the Lovat family, and in particular the 14th Lord Lovat, in shinty and also in highland history through his military experiences. Lord Lovat was the first President of the Camanachd Association, shinty’s governing body, and played a crucial part in maintaining the traditions of the game pre-War and then in its resurgence and development in the Post-War years. He also instigated one of shinty’s most enduring rivalries in 1904 when he offered the Lovat Cup for play in 1904 between Lovat and Beauly as a New Year event, which survives to this day.
Phipps Hall is a singularly appropriate venue for the occasion given its role in the gathering of soldiers before the departed for the War.
Established 11 years ago as a result of The Highland Council’s desire to create a festival that would match the vitality of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours, the Blas festival is now an international event showcasing Highland culture and its continuing success has been welcomed by the Scottish Government and Highland Council.
Blas 2015 will take place at venues across the Highlands and Argyll between 4 and 12 September.
Tickets for all Blas events can be bought online, or by phone, with details on the festival’s website blas-festival.com where further information is available on the full programme of events.