South Uist Hogmanay festival gathering pace

Now in its third year, Fèis Chullaig, the Hogmanay festival organised by Ceòlas Uibhist, has gone from strength to strength. Running between Christmas and New Year, events including dances, family cèilidhs and music sessions saw the highest number of participants yet. Originally starting out as a residential school in 2015 based on the successful summer school model, the event has altered to be more community orientated, responding to local demand.

Featuring a strong programme focussed on children and young people this year, the Fèis opened with a crafts, story and dance session in Lochboisdale Hotel on the 28th, followed by a traditional music session led by Alana MacInnes and Shona Masson.

Èirisgeidh was the setting for Friday’s events, which included an array of events including a somewhat chilly cockle picking on the morning tide, further bilingual children’s activities, a piping recital featuring students of Iain MacDonald of Glenuig and a dance in Talla Choimhearsnachd Èirisgeidh played by Kilphedar Sound.

The traditional Hogmanay cèilidh in the 19th century Grogarry Lodge, complete with cocktails and fresh seafood hors d’oeuvres in a cosy setting, was exceptionally busy on Saturday, with around 50 people arriving to hear authentic local music. The relaxed evening was followed by an energetic dance in Talla an Ìochdair, driven by the mastery of Trail West, one of Uist’s favourite bands. Around 250 adults spent the night dancing Strip the Willow and enjoying Gaelic sing-alongs.

On Hogmanay itself, droves of families packed into the Borrodale Hotel for a children’s cèilidh, which saw our talented youth singing, dancing and playing the button box and pipes. With Penny Burgess as bean an taighe, the tradition of the Hogmanay boys was brought into the hotel. The Duan Callaig was recited by local primary children and several lit caisean, from Smercleit and Èirisgeidh, were passed around the lounge for a New Year’s blessing. The Fèis was brought to a close with a lively traditional music session.

Ceòlas received highly complementary feedback, including: “traditions and culture truly rooted to Uist, moving with times, alive and kicking for young and old and so much fun! You really did crack it!”

Ceòlas would like to thank the over 630 attendees, as well as those who performed. Special thanks go to Angus Campbell for supplying the seafood, Grogarry Lodge staff for their help with the catering, the staffs of Lochboisdale Hotel, Borrodale Hotel and Am Politician, those who helped to run the Ìochdar dance and Roddy MacKay, the Colliers and the MacInnes of Èirisgeidh for the caiseanan. The organisers would like to acknowledge and show appreciation for the support given by Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, HIE and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.