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" ... man to man, the world ower,

Shall brothers be, for a' that."

Robert Burns

A fabulous sunny Sunday in late March and the first ever Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards at Blair Castle, Perthshire.  Following the decision late last year to discontinue the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship, local hero Campbell Smith decided to put together a rescue plan.  With help and advice from many fiddlers, notably Patsy Reid, that rescue plan came to fruition on Sunday 26th March in the form of the Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards.

It was a day of great music .... but more than a littel stressful for the adjudicators!! 

The inevitable down side of an event such as this is that most of the participants return home "empty-handed" as it were.  However, it is the taking part which is important and those fiddlers who were bold enough certainly gave the decision makers a difficult task.  Well played everyone! 

AND I accepted an award on behalf of Niel Gow and his descendants as he was inducted into the "Hands up for Trad" Music Hall of Fame!  This award will hopefully reman on display at Blair Castle, close to the famous portrait and Niel Gow's old fiddle.

The village of Inver in early March.  (The roof of Niel Gow's cottage is visible right of centre, above the roof of the old Inver Inn.)  The male osprey returned to Loch of the Lowes on Thursday 16th - just in time for the Niel Gow Festival!

Very sorry to hear of the death of a good friend and one time fellow member of "Heritage" Mike Ward. Mike was a "man o' pairts" - linguist, musician, teacher, raconteur, curry maestro - but extremely modest.  He will be hugely missed by many people in Scotland and beyond.  He leaves us with fond memories. 

View from Dunkeld Hermitage Bridge

January gales and high water levels have at last taken their toll.  The tenuous hold of the root network could no longer support the giant and the mighty Douglas fell, spanning the pool at the Hermitage and smashing the information panel!  (A quick count of the annual rings revealed the age of the fir to be much less than one might think.  Less than 100 years.)

January afternoon, Dunkeld Bridge
Last trout of the year - a bonnie broonie on the fly - in December!! Caught when fishing for Grayling on the Tay (and returned to the water of course). Alas, no grayling to be seen.
In November, high pressure with clear skies and sub-zero temperatures brought a new and different beauty to the Perthshire landscape

Birnam had the privilege of a visit from a large flock (nearly 200 birds) of waxwings, beautiful winter migrants from Scandinavia and northern Europe.  They dined on rowan berries near Little Dunkeld church, taking just over a week to strip the trees before moving on.

View looking south-east from Craig Vinean (white buildings of Dunkeld just visible above larches in centre of picture)

Perthshire resplendent in fabulous autumn colours which  persisted well into November, thanks to the gentle autumn weather we had this year.

Many of our winter visitors have arrived - redwings & fieldfares, whooper swans, pink-footed & greylag geese etc etc

Lunch out of the wind, behind a peat bank near the Minister's Loch

November, and more sad news.  My friend, angler, writer and conservationist Bruce Sandison passed away on Sunday 30th October at home in the village of Tongue.  He was a true gentleman and did so much to help me, Gregor and Jim on our annual Troot Tour.

October, and very sad to hear of the passing of Angus Grant, son of Aonghas and Moira.  His music will live on.

Bonnie wee brook trout, Sierra Nevada (caught & released)

September fiddle week in Birnam was great craic,as ever.  The weather was a real "mixed bag", with some days being - would you believe it? - too warm!!  (Finished one day with a session outside!)


Most of August I was in the U.S. for a wonderful spell of fiddling and fishing in the Sierra Nevada - "Snowy Mountains" - of California.  (Thank you Barbara, Jane et al for organising!)  When you're used to being relatively close to sea level, doing stuff at 10,000ft is a challenge!  And what a stunning landscape. No wonder John Muir was inspired to campaign for the preservation of such beautiful wild areas.

Caught a few wee fish - and had a magical encounter with a bear!  (I was assured that it was a BLACK bear and not a Brown Bear - in spite of it's relatively small stature and brown fur!)

July and a fine weekend in Islay, in spite of the dreich weather.  Great craic in the bar of The Port Charlotte Hotel and fine tunes with Alastair Savage, Jim Leighton & surprise visitor Archie McAllister.  And the hospitality of our host Graham Allison and his staff was fantastic.  Thank you all!

A pike on the fly from Butterstone
Eider (male) and white campion

Had a fabulous afternoon on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, where thousands of seabirds nest.  Really worth a visit between late April and the end of June.  (The boat sails from Anstruther.)

A Sunday morning at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, in time to see the Flying Scotsman set off on a journey to the Borders.

May fiddle week and the sun shone almost all week (the Friday morning was a bit cloudy).  (Good news for our swifts, who arrived back from their African holiday on May 5th.)

Cowslips in bloom

In early April I had the great privilege of being part of a lovely wedding in Port Charlotte on Islay.  The clouds dispersed and the sun shone on the big day for Alastair & Fiona. Congratulations the new Mr & Mrs Savage!

First trout of the year! (Loch Gorm, Islay)

This fiddle stand was made in Knoydart by Drew "Indiana" Harris, using a stave from a whisky barrel.  This design and more on Facebook  (www.madeinknoydart).

Ron Shaw has published a book of music in traditional style for 'cellists.  It contains old tunes from the tradition plus many of Ron's original compositions.