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" ... man to man, the world ower,

Shall brothers be, for a' that."

Robert Burns

I keep the words of Robert Burns at the top of this section.  They NEVER cease to be relevant, yet this very simple concept would appear to be beyond the grasp of so many folk, some of whom are powerful people, blinded by dogma and devoid of compassion. 

"An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind" are wise words usually attributed to Mohandas Ghandi.  For too many regimes, and indeed individuals, the determination to impose their will takes precedence over the voice of reason.  And why? To salvage pride, boost ego, ensure continuation of a dynasty?  Whatever the excuse, the narrow, blinkered vision of these ruthless individuals and their disciples refuses to see what really matters.  They impose their will and the innocent majority suffer the consequences.

Forget about religion and race.  Basic humanity is what matters.  Call out the bullys and dictators for what they are, whoever they are and wherever they are.

The month of May and some warmer weather has arrived (at last). Most of our summer migrant birds have returned and I have heard Cuckoos.  It's not all good news however.  I'm very sad to to report that the male Osprey of the pair nesting at Loch of the Lowes was found dead just a few days ago.  It seems probable that he's been shot.  This leaves the female sitting on eggs and faced with the dilemma of leaving them exposed to the cold and to potential predators while she goes to find food.  Some humans don't deserve a place on this planet.

After a brief change of mind and show of support, the pendulum has swung the other way and The Royal Dunkeld Hotel has decided that the trad session on Thursday nights is NOT worth supporting.  (Better to have football on the telly.)

April and fresh snow on the hills is a reminder that Winter still has a hold.  Yet daffodils are blooming and migrants are returning from their winter quarters.  I've seen Osprey, Chiff Chaff and Sand Martins. (We had fabulous sunshine for the Niel Gow Walk during the recent festival!)

I'm very disappointed to announce that the Royal Dunkeld Hotel has decided that musicians are not welcome in the bar on Thursday nights. Apologies to anyone who has travelled there for a tune only to find an empty bar (or a bar devoid of live music).

Scotland's trad music scene lost two great characters this month:

the fabulous pianist Joan Blue of Forgandenny and button box legend Fergie MacDonald of Acharacle, both lovely people and fine players.   

On my way home after a wee visit to Ireland in April I stopped at Girvan and caught this photo of a moody sky over Ailsa Craig.

A new tune book was launched at this year's Niel Gow Festival!  Most of the tunes have been specially composed for the book but this collection does of course include a few by the Gows.

To order a copy (and we can send overseas) please visit the Niel Gow Festival web site.

Books are £15.00 (p&p to the US is £15.00). 

March, and one bit of good news this year is that commercial fishing for Sandeels is to be banned in Scottish waters.  But this is possibly too little too late.

These important wee fish have been exploited for years, primarily for processing into feed for farmed salmon , pigs and other livestock.  Modern fishing technology enables boats to encircle and hoover up entire shoals. And only 10% of the feed is converted into biomass i.e. 10 tonnes of Sandeels may yield 1 tonne of Salmon.  

Of course, dwindling stocks of Sandeels affect the seabird species which largely depend on them for food.

And pollution and parasites from marine fish farms affect Scotlands wild migratory fish populations (salmon and sea trout) which, in some locations, have been virtually wiped out.

Those with vested interests (or lacking knowledge of the facts) justify this "perfect storm" of disasters on the grounds of jobs in rural areas plus the export value of the produce. And the general public are largely unaware and unconcerned about something which is occurring out of sight below the water surface.

Anglers are only too aware of the plight of our fisheries.  They know the waters they fish and have watched the decline of catches over the past 50 years.

Consider the above when next you ponder the purchase of some Salmon - or indeed any other farmed fish.  (The small Sea Bass sometimes displayed on fish counters are often farmed in sea cages in Mediterranean countries including Greece.)

That was the good news.

There has been much sadness, including the continuing persecution of innocent people in Palestine and Ukraine, and in other countries which fail to make the headlines. 

And recent weeks have seen some old friends departing this world, including Ian Green of Greentrax Records.  Ian was a great champion of Scottish trad music for decades and will be sadly missed.

February arrived with Scotland experiencing unusually mild weather for the time of year, but the chill of winter soon returned.

But Snowdrops and Aconites are in bloom.

Sunrise on the 21st December 2023

December and ,now we've passed the winter solstice, the hours of daylight begin to increase and thoughts turn to spring and the year ahead.   

December sunset at Camusdarrach, Morar

The Strathspey & Reel Society concert at Birnam Arts on 4th November was a great success!  The format of a first half for listening followed by a ceilidh dance works really well.  

A bit late off the mark with my October news (it's the 30th as I write).  It has been a very wet month in Scotland, with much disruption and damage.

Farewell to another old friend, Lindsay Porteous.  Lindsay was quite a character - some would say eccentric - master of the Jaw Harp and maker and collector of unusual musical instruments.  I first encountered him as a member of the Fife-based folk group "Heritage" in the 1970s.  He travelled throughout Europe with the band and made many friends.  He will be remembered by many, even those who made only a brief acquaintance with him and his bag of assorted whistles, ocarinas .... you name it!

We did escape the rain for a week, when we visited Salo on the western shore of Lake Garda in Italy.  This was where Gasparo Bertolotti during his early life (though he was not born there, but in a wee village a few miles away).  He became famous as a luthier and became known as Gasparo Da Salo.

The claim that he "invented" the violin is perhaps a bit over the top (Andrea Amati would have had something to say!), but he did make very fine instruments and inspired subsequent makers.

At the start of the month, the hottest September Fiddle Week ever!  Daytime temperatures in the high 20s and even creeping into the 30s!  It was a very enjoyable week, with surprise visits from The Sandy Brechin Trio on Monday and Muriel Johnstone on Friday morning.  Tunes and Tapas at the superb Dunkeld Deli was definitely a highlight!

Sandy Brechin Trio (Chris, Sandy & Jimmy)

After the fiddle week we had a weekend break in Hexham.  Met violinmaker Dave Mann (at last) and visited the famous Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall.  Ten days later, on the 28th September, this famous tree was felled in an act of vandalism.  How sad.

Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland
Tunes & Tapas at Dunkeld Deli

August arrived with the sad news of the passing of Robbie Shepherd at the age of 87.  Robbie's voice was instantly recognisable to fans of Scottish music,  country dance music in particular.  For over 30 years he presented the hugely popular weekly programme "Take The Floor" on BBC Radio Scotland.

Music aside, Robbie was a great champion of the Doric dialect.  He was born in Dunecht, some 10 miles or so inland from the city of Aberdeen.  His normal speaking voice and his radio voice were one and the same.  And you could hear him smiling.

He was a real gentleman and will be sorely missed.

Robbie Shepherd at Aboyne Highland Games, August 2022. With yours truly & Charlie McKerron

On a happier note, a fine day was spent bobbing around the Bass Rock in a wee boat watching the Gannets.  Fabulous!

Thank you Rab the boatman and Liz Myhill for organising.

On the last day of August we were in Edinburgh for a screening of a new animated film about "A Bear Named Wojtek".

Rescued by a Polish regiment during WW2, Wojtek travelled with the soldiers through Europe and ended his days in Edinburgh Zoo.  What a beautiful animation!  Well done all concerned!

July has arrived, bringing cooler weather and some much-needed rainfall.  Logie enjoyed a run on the West Sands at St Andrews.

The annual art exhibition at Fortingall, Perthshire, is now open (until 6th August).  It is a bonnie place to visit, art exhibition or no.

The Molteno Hall in Fortingall
"My" wall at Fortingall.

June got off to a warm and sunny start. 

Temperatures have been as high as 26 Celsius!  River levels are low and the ground is very dry. 

The weather was mostly good during a visit to the very bonnie Isle of May in the Firth of Forth - a fabulous week of observing and painting seabirds and their habitat.

The lengthy hot, dry spell persisted until the 25th, when Logierait had a much needed downpour.  

Vetch in bloom beside the River Tummel

May is possibly my favourite month, (closely followed by September).

So much is going on in the countryside.  And in the lochs and rivers, fish are becoming more active.

Iain Ross by Alison Price (circa 1998)