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Accordion and Fiddle Festival 2017

Glorious weather greeted a host of musicians and supporters from all points of the compass who converged on Portree’s Royal Hotel to attend the thirteenth annual Skye Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Starting on the Thursday evening it was a “full house” to be welcomed by Festival chairman, Ally “K” MacPherson who called upon Margaret Nicolson of Staffin to formally open the event. The daunting task of opening music for the festival fell to the hugely popular Janet Graham and her Band, with Janet from Cumbernauld on lead accordion, Derek Hamilton of Galston on second box, Jimmy MacDonald of Tighnabruaich on piano and Richard Hughes of Tobermory on drums. As has happened over the previous Festivals, Derek, Jimmy and Richard were also probably the hardest working musicians at the event as they volunteer their services as backing to many players throughout the Festival and are always much in demand. Other musicians who took to the stage were, on piano accordions, Betty Donaldson of Fife, D B MacLeod of Lewis, Iain Joseph MacDonald of Muir of Ord, John Omand of Tiree, Andy Philip of Ayrshire and Paul Wright. On two-row button box it was Hamish MacDougal of Muir of Ord, on piano it was Ian Wilson and John Cameron, and on drums we heard Ally “K” MacPherson, Gerry Boxall and Hamish MacKenzie. Wonderful informal sessions enjoyed by a packed audience but highlight of the evening was the sparkling performance by the special guest band, Andrew Knight and The West Telferton Band. As ever, bandleader Andrew was on fiddle, with accordions of Richard Ross and Derek Hamilton, Colin Garvin on piano and Douglas Knight on drums. Their lively and varied programme was much acclaimed by the audience and the evening came to a close with the band being joined by earlier players for a traditional “stramash”.

Friday was another day of capacity audiences and continual informal sessions with players from the previous day being augmented by the presence of Caithness duo Elizabeth MacKenzie and Iain MacDonald on accordion and fiddle respectively, Sandy Ross of Lochcarron on 3-row button box and Ally “K” MacPherson, Tom Moffat and Willie MacFarlane on 5-row boxes. Then it was time for another special guest band in the persons of The Craig McFadyen Scottish Dance Band with a superb programme, beautifully executed including many pipe tunes and with not a note of sheet music in sight – great stuff, all from the head and the heart. Craig was leading the band on piano accordion with dad Hector on second box, Matthew MacLennan was on piano and George Bremner on drums. A great performance and Craig is to be congratulated on keeping his dad under control – well, almost! To finish a memorable day of music it was another “stramash” for a happy audience.

Officially the last day of the Festival, Saturday morning saw further informal sessions from the musicians, including a contribution on accordion from Aly “Beag” MacLeod of Achiltibuie and probably the furthest travelled player, Ian Johnstone of Miami, U.S.A. which kept toes tapping until lunchtime when the afternoon was opened with a one hour session by the hugely popular local young fiddlers’ group, “Skye Strings” led by their tutor, Laura Harrington. Final guest band in the Royal Hotel then took to the stage for their lively programme. That task fell to Roya MacLean and Her Band comprising of Roya on piano accordion, Gillian Stephenson on fiddle and Ally “K” MacPherson on drums. The music continued through the evening with an informal and fun ceilidh run by Derek Hamilton and co. while the Festival dance was held in the nearby Skye Gathering Hall with music by The Ballochmyle Ceilidh Band and attended by around 140 dancers who were even entertained at the interval by a quartet of fine local teenage musicians known as “The Northenders”. According to ticket sales this had been the best ever attended Festival dance and the same could probably be said for all other ticketed events which were sold out in advance of the Festival.

The die-hards, and there were lots of them, stayed on to enjoy another day filled with music on Sunday before departing homewards on Monday – exhausted but happy!

John Grundy.


Steven Carcary Duo
3rd May 2018

Sandy Nixon Scottish Dance Band
5th April 2018

Sileas Sinclair Trio
1st March 2018

James Stewart Trio
1st February 2018

The Islands Ceilidh Band
4th January 2018

Isle of Skye (Photograph)