Shinty, Songs & Screenings -Transolcation Festival Snapshot


………and flower shows, walking tours & book launches……………

And that was just one day of the Translocation Festival marking 200 years of the Kildonan Clearances in Helmsdale, Sutherland. We’re just about to go into the second week of what is turning out to be the most full-on and fun festival.

Everyone taking part is putting their heart and soul into it – the stamina of the Timespan team, volunteers and participants is above and beyond, but as someone has said – ‘this is a one-off, it will never happen again’, then added – ‘can we do it every year’.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed more than a few community artists, but now that I’ve seen Anthony Schrag in action in this wee Highland village, no words can quite describe the impact of this hyper-magnetic force of nature on locals and visitors of all ages. He looks like Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, except he generates his own chemistry.

Yesterday’s Canadian V Locals shinty match started with the teams being piped across the Helmsdale Bridge, and when the wind blew us up  to Couper Park,  the number of players had trebled with shinty players of all ages and abilities appearing from what seemed like nowhere (well the bus from Kinlochbervie).

It was as if Anthony had sprinted round the district with a fiery cross alerting anyone who could wield a shinty stick. The prelude to the match was the singing of traditional shinty songs.  We joined in the chorus as earlier in the afternoon, a group of us had been taught Duthaich Mhicaoidh by Mod Gold medalist Christine Stone, who has a beautifully tender voice and a lot of patience.

That the park is dominated by the evocative statue of The Emigrants made it a moving as well as sporting occasion. In the end, the Canadians were victorious with a 4-1 win and we celebrated with Jean’s beyond delicious Translocation cake. Everyone and everything came together in the end.

Then it was on to the UK launch of two new books from Cape Breton University Press at Timespan with the Ken & Friends band hitting exactly the right note as Chicago based Scottish author June Skinner Sawyer talked about her guide/handbook Bearing the People Away, and Gaelic scholar and author, John Macpherson gave us the inside story on his translation of writings of the Rev Duncan Blair.

Then at 10pm, everyone took to the streets for the outdoor screening of  the film by artist Hugh Watt featuring the haunting sound of the Melvich & Gaelic Choir singing the same Psalms that evicted tenants of Kildonan sang at Ach’na h-uia two centuries ago.

Visit for next week’s events.  Here’s a signpost from artist Jo Roberts who as well as being a dynamic artist in her own right, is brilliant and unlocking the creativity of mere mortals, and played a pivotal role in directing Timespan’s floral displays at the Helmsdale & Loth Flower Show.


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