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

Shall brothers be, for a' that."

Robert Burns

August , and the swifts have left for Africa after their all too brief visit.  Sadly, there are other deartures to report ...

Campbell Smith is no longer with us. Campbell was a dynamic character -  conductor and catalyst for the Dunkeld & District Strathspey & Reel Society, a pro-active and extremely helpful member of the Niel Gow Festival Society, and it was Campbell who initiated the Niel Gow Fiddle Awards last year, in response to the decision by Glenfiddich to discontinue sponsorship of the annual fiddle competition at Blair Castle.  He will be missed by many.

And Oban fiddler Maurice Duncan passed away this month.  Maurice was a highly respected performer and teacher.  He was a guest at the Niel Gow Festival on more than one occasion.

Maurice Duncan

More gigs with "Auld Hat, New Heids" this month.   See my "Bands & Gigs" page for dates.

July, and success for the ospreys at Loch of the Lowes, with two youngsters fledged and learning how to fish.  (They'll soon be better than me!)

Returning a pike to the water (caught on fly - a LARGE fly!)
A selection of pike "flies" - imitation perch design
A silvery rainbow rtrout from the Lake of Menteith
Loch Hakel, near Tongue, Sutherland

June brought plenty of rain to the Perthshire landscape (much needed, after a prolonged dry spell).

The Troot Tour 2017 was a real blast, in spite of some serious gales and consequent ferry cancellations.

Steam loco "Kissack" on the Manx Railway.

Saw the first swifts of the year on Saturday 6th May.  Summer is here!  The fiddle week was great fun - a bunch of great folk, and the fantastic weather was a bonus!!  Many happy fiddlers! 

The bluebells this year were magnificent! 

April and, in spite of the chilly wind, the first sand martins and swallows have appeared.

American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) in flower at Butterstone Loch.  Spectacular!!

THE TROOTERS TOUR OF ENGLAND!! Gregor, Jim and I enjoyed our we trip south of the border. The Coquet Valley must be one of the most picturesque in England.  And the converted church in Thropton is a superb accoustic space in which to play.  No p.a. necessary!  Thank you Roddy, Lesley, Mike, Di and co. for a great night!

A fabulous sunny Sunday in late March and the first ever Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards at Blair Castle, Perthshire.  Following the decision by Glenfiddich late last year to discontinue support for the Fiddle Championship, Perthshire local hero Campbell Smith decided to put together a rescue plan.  With help and advice from many fiddlers, notably Patsy Reid, that rescue plan came to fruition on Sunday 26th March in the form of the Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards.

It was a day of great music .... but more than a littel stressful for the adjudicators!! 

The inevitable down side of an event such as this is that most of the participants return home "empty-handed" as it were.  However, it is the taking part which is important and those fiddlers who were bold enough certainly gave the decision makers a difficult task.  Well played everyone! 

AND I accepted an award on behalf of Niel Gow and his descendants as he was inducted into the "Hands up for Trad" Music Hall of Fame!  This award will hopefully reman on display at Blair Castle, close to the famous portrait and Niel Gow's old fiddle.

The village of Inver in early March.  (The roof of Niel Gow's cottage is visible right of centre, above the roof of the old Inver Inn.)  The male osprey returned to Loch of the Lowes on Thursday 16th - just in time for the Niel Gow Festival!

Very sorry to hear of the death of a good friend and one time fellow member of "Heritage" Mike Ward. Mike was a "man o' pairts" - linguist, musician, teacher, raconteur, curry maestro - but extremely modest.  He will be hugely missed by many people in Scotland and beyond.  He leaves us with fond memories. 

View from Dunkeld Hermitage Bridge

January gales and high water levels have at last taken their toll.  The tenuous hold of the root network could no longer support the giant and the mighty Douglas fell, spanning the pool at the Hermitage and smashing the information panel!  (A quick count of the annual rings revealed the age of the fir to be much less than one might think.  Less than 100 years.)

January afternoon, Dunkeld Bridge
Last trout of the year - a bonnie broonie on the fly - in December!! Caught when fishing for Grayling on the Tay (and returned to the water of course). Alas, no grayling to be seen.
In November, high pressure with clear skies and sub-zero temperatures brought a new and different beauty to the Perthshire landscape

Birnam had the privilege of a visit from a large flock (nearly 200 birds) of waxwings, beautiful winter migrants from Scandinavia and northern Europe.  They dined on rowan berries near Little Dunkeld church, taking just over a week to strip the trees before moving on.

View looking south-east from Craig Vinean (white buildings of Dunkeld just visible above larches in centre of picture)

Perthshire resplendent in fabulous autumn colours which  persisted well into November, thanks to the gentle autumn weather we had this year.

Many of our winter visitors have arrived - redwings & fieldfares, whooper swans, pink-footed & greylag geese etc etc

Lunch out of the wind, behind a peat bank near the Minister's Loch

November, and more sad news.  My friend, angler, writer and conservationist Bruce Sandison passed away on Sunday 30th October at home in the village of Tongue.  He was a true gentleman and did so much to help me, Gregor and Jim on our annual Troot Tour.

October, and very sad to hear of the passing of Angus Grant, son of Aonghas and Moira.  His music will live on.

Bonnie wee brook trout, Sierra Nevada (caught & released)

September fiddle week in Birnam was great craic,as ever.  The weather was a real "mixed bag", with some days being - would you believe it? - too warm!!  (Finished one day with a session outside!)


Most of August I was in the U.S. for a wonderful spell of fiddling and fishing in the Sierra Nevada - "Snowy Mountains" - of California.  (Thank you Barbara, Jane et al for organising!)  When you're used to being relatively close to sea level, doing stuff at 10,000ft is a challenge!  And what a stunning landscape. No wonder John Muir was inspired to campaign for the preservation of such beautiful wild areas.

Caught a few wee fish - and had a magical encounter with a bear!  (see photo below)  I was assured that it was a BLACK bear and not a Brown Bear - in spite of it's relatively small stature and brown fur!)

This fiddle stand was made in Knoydart by Drew "Indiana" Harris, using a stave from a whisky barrel.  This design and more on Facebook  (www.madeinknoydart).

Ron Shaw has published a book of music in traditional style for 'cellists.  It contains old tunes from the tradition plus many of Ron's original compositions.