Sunday 27th April
Just back from Glasgow, helping launch Quaich - a fascinating anthology of translation in Scotland today, for which I was honoured to write a Foreword. There was an excellent turn-out for some fine readings, and I got to read Christopher Whyte's translations into Gaelic of Brian Johnstone's beautiful wee studies of early Celtic saints which Brian read in English.
On Friday I attended the Association of Scottish Literary Studies award of Honorary Fellowships. My dear friend James Reid Baxter was awarded one - and a colleague of many years, Lesley Duncan, was amongst those honoured too. And there was Flora MacNeill, the doyenne of Gaelic singers for generations, being duly honoured. Jo Miller sang with that fresh direct utterly honest way of hers, as lovely as I remember when we first worked together back in the late 1980s. And, new to my ears, Alasdair Whyte, with a beautifully pitched intense Gaelic voice. What a joy!
This was the sort of occasion which, in a more culturally aware society and with a more culturally responsive media, would have been widely covered by press, radio and television. The list of Honorary Fellows includes many of the top names in Scottish literature in English, Scots and Gaelic - poets, novelists, historians, critics. It was a heart-lifting event and a joy to see the best of people in our culture being truly honoured with excellent presentation speeches by Ian Brown. All this was in the company of my close friend Alan Riach who, whenever energies seem to flag, stirs one up with the insistence that "there is more damage still to be done!" - a need to be always clearing the decks and starting afresh.
Back on Skye we have had help preparing the lazy beds and the potatoes are now all planted. My wife, Bar, and I finished cutting one of the long peat bogs - again with help from the wonderful Shona MacLeod and her friend. Shona renewed all our dry-stane dykes magnificently over the last couple of years.
One of our neighbours' cows has calved - a fine leggy male called Yorkie. They're all named after chocolate bars. Our males are named after Scottish composers, but we are still waiting for Deedee to produce and have no idea what the sex will be. If male, his name will be Hume as the last male was Tobias. Perfect timing as Concerto Caledonia have just come out with a simply wonderful CD Captain Tobias Hume - A Scottish Soldier. It's on the Delphian label DCD34140 and the playing and singing are stunning and, of course, the music is fascinating and wide-ranging in mood. It's a must buy.
Now to finalise my presentation for the Celtic Revival in Scotland conference in Edinburgh on 1st-3rd May. This is how one does such things:
First, you send a title to the organisers, months in advance, not having a clue what you will actually say.
Second, you send them an abstract of what you are going to say, so they can print it in the programme. It helps if by then you do have a clue as to what you are going to say, but it has not always proved necessary.
Third, you write the whole darned thing out, prepare the images in a Powerpoint, and make the sound files (having edited them on a sound editor). This is usually completed not more than 6 hours before you actually deliver.
Fourth, you listen to those speaking before your presentation and realise you have to re-jig half of it to fit in.
Fifth, (always assuming there isn't the very common failure of the technology) you scrabble your way through your re-written script, re-ordered images, and sound files on a disc that are now in the wrong order, occasionally putting on the wrong example. This is the presentation - your big moment in the sun.
Finally, you have exceeded your allotted time and are invited forcefully to draw to a close, shut up, and sit down.
Be prepared for questions such as "is it true that you have eaten otter?"
I do but jest, of course (hem-hem), but there are many academics out there who will recognise much of the above.
Onward and Upward!
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.