Island pipe bands join up for workshops

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Last weekend Benbecula witnessed one the largest gatherings of junior pipers and drummers to have played together on the island in living memory.

Members of Portree High School Pipe band joined with Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band to experience an intense period of tuition followed by a ceilidh in the Dark Island Hotel on Saturday night.

The event was hugely popular with the young pipers and drummers who interacted enthusiastically with their guest tutors from the internationally-acclaimed Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band.

“The idea came to us a few months ago,’ said Kenneth MacDonald of the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band Committe, and Depute Head at the school. “We were crossing Skye on our way back from the first ever Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships; the band had won their competition, and our thoughts turned to ‘what comes next? ‘We drove through Portree and the idea began to grow that both school pipe bands would benefit from coming together for a special event.”

Piping instructors Domhall Ban MacDonald (Uist schools) and Iain Ruairidh Finlayson (Skye schools) were able to enlist the expert help of Pipe Major David Wotherspoon, tenor drum tutor Laura McGowan and Leading Drummer Alan Craig, all from Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band. The drummers were also supported at the workshops by local musicians Mairi Innes from Benbecula and Calumn MacAulay from Lochboisdale.

The Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band is keenly supported by the local community and businesses in Uist. This joint event with Portree High School Pipe Band was partly sponsored by local businessman John Daniel Peteranna of West Coast Energee.

The workshops were a great success and the participants had an opportunity to display their considerable talents at the Ceilidh on the Saturday night. Pupils, families and friends also enjoyed performances by the guest tutors, local singers and musicians. A highlight of the evening was a special performance by Sgoil LIonacleit Pipe Band of their dedicated ‘Nelson Mandela Set’ which accompanied eight local dancers from Dochas Dancers and Uist Dancing Association in a stunning display choreographed by Catriona Mackinnon from Eriskay.

The audience were later thrilled to experience a stirring finale when both school pipe bands came together to round off the night with a rousing set of tunes.

“The band members have had a fantastic time,” added Kenneth MacDonald. “we are hugely grateful to our visiting tutors and the people of Uist and who have helped us turn a simple idea into such a successful weekend. We hope to have more events in the future when the pupils from Uist and Skye can benefit from joint activities.”

It’s clear that Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band will not be hanging up their instruments for the holidays but will continue to perform and practice throughout the summer in preparation for the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green in August.