Julie Fowlis named as UHI Alumnus of the Year

Pictured from left to right are: Sandra Murray MBE, Prof Matthew MacIver CBE, Julie Fowlis.
Pictured from left to right are: Sandra Murray MBE, Prof Matthew MacIver CBE, Julie Fowlis.

Scottish singer and multi-instrumentalist Julie Fowlis has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands Alumnus of the Year.

The annual award is given to a former student for services to the community, achievements in arts or sciences, business or in public or academic life.

The 35 year old graduated from the university in 2011 with an MA in material culture and the environment. Brought up on North Uist and later in Ross-shire, she has been an ambassador for Gaelic music and culture over the course of a solo career which has included numerous awards, worldwide performances and three highly acclaimed studio albums.

Julie Fowlis was presented with her award by university chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, at the organisation’s Foundation Day.

The event, which celebrated the achievements of its staff, students and supporters, was held at Nevis Centre in Fort William today (Tuesday 26 November). Over 250 guests attended.

The university also presented four honorary fellowships at the ceremony. Golfer Paul Lawrie OBE and fashion designer Sandra Murray MBE were two of the recipients.

Sandra Murray is an internationally renowned artist couturier based in Inverness. Born on the Island of Lewis, her designs are inspired by her Hebridean roots.

She was commissioned to design Her Majesty the Queen’s piece for the opening of the Scottish Parliament and was awarded an MBE for services to Scottish fashion and textiles in 2009.

The outgoing chair of the University Court, Professor Matthew MacIver CBE, was also made an honorary fellow as was Jack Watson, chair of the University of the Highlands and Islands Development Trust.

Speaking about her award, Julie Fowlis said: “It’s a huge honour to be named as Alumnus of the Year. I felt very proud to be one of the first year graduates from our newly formed University of the Highlands and Islands in 2011 and, through continued work as artist in residence with the digital archive project Tobar an Dualchais based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, I have enjoyed keeping up those links with the university.”

Sandra Murray said: “On first impression, this award took me by total surprise. Then I was reminded of the amazing Gaelic poem by Colin Masterton from Plockton called ‘Cò Mi?’ (‘Who am I?’) which is about Scotland talking to herself.

“The words can describe any practising artist today and the challenges they face, especially in the remote Highlands of Scotland, wondering if anyone local even notices they exist. This proves they do and confirms that awards and fellowships serve not just as measures of recognition, but more importantly, of encouragement. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a compliment from time to time!”