A braw Halloween -

Stuart Letford, Convenor


This year’s Collogue took place – in person – at Old Gala House, a splendid historic building nestled in the Scottish Borders town of Galashiels. Living as I do these days in the middle of Perthshire, a very early rise was necessary. With no time for breakfast and a brief visit en route to Stanley to pick up Bill Bennett, it was full steam ahead. Galashiels is one of those places where, a local will cock an eyebrow on hearing which road you took to get there, and say, “Oh I wouldn’t have taken that route. I would’ve come by …” I hadn’t been to Galashiels in at least ten years and the route I took was with hindsight not the best. Eventually, we arrived hungry and parched at Old Gala House, assembled a couple of Society pop up banners and made a bee-line for the biscuits and caffeine. Three cups of strong coffee later and I'm The Sweeney, kicking Monday morning’s door in, telling it to get its trousers on because it's nicked. Now we’ve started!
In the spirit of the much-missed Roderick Cannon, I played outside the venue to welcome everyone. The lashing rain, though, meant that I managed only as far as Go To Berwick Johnny before heading indoors. Inevitably, given lingering concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of members in attendance this year was fairly low. After welcoming everyone it was over to Matt Seattle, who lives in nearby Hawick and who arranged the day’s presentations. The first of the day’s proceedings was the competition categories that we were unable to hold earlier in the year at our online competition. These were the New Composition category and the Skeely Piper, which this year required tunes related to Sir Walter Scott to be played. This allowed for more tunes than one would first think and, with Wattie himself looking on sternly yet approvingly from the fireplace, a great many were heard. The competition ran smoothly and by noon adjudicator, Hamish Moore, had heard all entries and had retired to consider the placings.

The Society then held the Annual General Meeting. With quite a few members attending virtually, Anne Duncan’s mobile phone was the device used to allow them to participate. This was an interesting experience. Anne helpfully carried her mobile phone around when questions were asked from the floor in order that those online could see and hear who was asking the questions. Julian Goodacre, who attended virtually from his home in far-off Peebles, made the point that the Society should now consider using professional facilities in order to hold its events. The technology is there so we should use it. This suggestion was welcomed overwhelmingly. Pete Stewart, estimable editor of this organ, made the point that although Bridget’s accounts showed this year’s competition made, as expected, a small loss, that perhaps the best word to use is not ‘loss’, but rather ‘investment’. Given the healthy state of the Society’s accounts, this is a fair point.

AGM over, we broke for lunch. I eschewed a visit to the Great Tapestry of Scotland as I was by now ravenous. Along with Bill Bennett, I made my way to the Salmon Tails pub for lunch. It was only 13:00 but the pub’s staff had all dressed for Halloween. Morticia Addams brought my panini to me. I had the pleasure of meeting two new members of the Society, John Thomson, Dundee and Robert Porter, London (Belfast originally).

After lunch, our first speaker was James MacDonald Reid. His presentation – delivered without notes – covered his life and included his Lowland bagpipe, playing with the Grateful Dead with Janis Joplin dancing in the audience … and Scottish Television’s weird, tartan, music and ceilidh dancing programme, Thingummyjig! It was a wonderful presentation but, sadly, space means I cannot write more of it. James should write a book. What a read it would be!
(Ed: fortunately as editor, we can find sufficient space to allow James to tell the story, or at least our edited version - see p. 7)
John Nichol and Jules Horne were the other presenters. John, an actor from the district, spoke about Walter Scott. His presentation was polished, well researched and humorous. Jules entertained us with local stories, some related to Halloween with beautiful Border scenery projected onto a screen. [Ed: again see following pages]
An hour-long large session concluded the day’s proceedings. About a dozen of us then made our way to a charming restaurant before returning to Old Gala House for an evening session to round off the day.
Anne Duncan, Bridget Taylor and Matt Seattle should be mentioned in dispatches. They ensured the day went smoothly and we extend our sincere thanks for their hard work.
Invariably, after every Collogue, many of us come away buzzing at the presentations and the music and my mind immediately ponders the next one. We hope to return to in-person events next year and the committee will be discussing these soon.