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      Barra & Vatersay News

Vatersay fisherman Donald Francis MacNeil and piping tutor Domhnall Bàn MacDonald have been honoured in the Scot Trad Music Awards 2023.

The duo were among the winners at last night’s awards (Saturday, December 2), which also saw recognition for a host of leading lights in the Gaelic music scene, including Julie Fowlis from North Uist, Duncan Chisholm, Iona Fyfe, Blazin’ Fiddles and Trail West.

Also honoured for his services to Gaelic was broadcaster, author and poet John Urquhart, originally from Harris.

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Julie was honoured as Musician of the Year, sponsored by University of the Highlands and Islands. Julie has been singing, dancing and piping since she was a child and has released six solo albums to date, and a further eight with various musical groups. 

Donald Francis MacNeil was the lead singer on “The Clearances Again”, a song penned by  Celtic pop-rock outfit Skipinnish in protest at the Scottish Government’s ultimately ill-fated Highly Protected Marine Area plans to limit fishing.

Their efforts were hailed at the awards ceremony in Dundee as the best original work of the last year.

Angus said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised as best Original Work of the Year and we’d like to thank all those who took the time to vote for The Clearances Again. We set out to write and record a song that would send a message to politicians, loud and clear, that HPMAs would devastate our coastal communities, their economies and their way of life. We know that message was heard and the Government took action.

“I have known DF for many years and understand what fishing means to him, his family, and his community. Therefore, it was an honour to present The Clearances Again from his perspective, telling his story to illustrate what was at stake so listeners could understand the depth of feeling and dismay at what was being proposed. We are delighted the song resonated with so many people across Scotland and beyond.”

The Clearances Again has since been translated into Gaelic by Angus’s mother Flora. Fuadaichean (Gaelic for Clearances) was recorded by Skipinnish, DF and many well-known supporting voices such as Julie Fowlis, Karen Matheson and Mick MacNeil, formerly of Simple Minds. It was released in November.

DF will debut Fuadaichean at Celtic Connections 2024 as part of Skipinnish’s 25th Anniversary concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 20 January. This concert is already sold-out and has been one of the fastest selling gigs of the 300-event festival.  Skipinnish will also celebrate 25 years by performing one of their highest profile gigs on Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade on 12 July 2024.

Meanwhile, Domhnall Bàn MacDonald, who teaches extensively in Uist and Barra, was crowned Music Tutor of the Year.

The award for the music tutor was warmly welcomed across the Southern Isles, with Sgoil Lionacleit posting: “Huge congratulations to Domhnall Ban MacDonald on winning Music Tutor of the Year at this year’s national Trad Awards. Absolutely so well deserved in recognition of all your hard work and commitment. We are all super proud, Domhnall and look forward to seeing you when you get back.”