Mearns Connections Festival is great success

The four day Mearns Connections Festival held at the Grassic Gibbon Centre last weekend has again been judged to be very successful by the 350 visitors and a delighted organising Committee.

The Festival chairman Jim Brown thanked all those who attended and he feels that the public response justified their decision to increase the length of the event but reduce the seating capacity by returning to the Arbuthnott Hall.

On Friday a traditional piping welcome was provided by Thomas Roberts to a capacity ninety guests, at the Connections Dinner which had a sporting theme for the Olympic Year. George McNeill, the record breaking sprinter from Tranent, royally entertained his audience with hilarious musings from his successful running career that had taken him all round the world. Dennis and Lorna Collie provided the musical entertainment in fine style finishing with the “Floo’ers o’ the Forest” after a Gibbon narration by Andy Hall. Douglas Lamb delivered a unique grace including thanks for the 19th century feats of the famous local pedestrian Capt Robert Barclay Allardice.

Saturday saw a Glenesk Travel bus meander round the Mearns transporting local singers, reciters, balladeers, storytellers, heritage guides, musicians and listeners to all the Burns connections in the Howe from Clochnahill to Brawliemuir. Andy Hall, Mike and Marion Robson, Alan Sim, Donald Clerk, Dennis and Lorna Collie, Dave Mcdonald and Eddie Cairney performed all the duties apart from driving the bus!

Andy Hall introduced this year’s Mearnsong on Saturday and the audience were treated to an outstanding evening’s entertainment from fiddler Patsy Reid, accordionist Angus Lyon, American fiddler and singer/songwriter Laura Cortese from Boston and singer/songwriter Jefferson Hamer from Brooklyn, New York City.

This was a very special and memorable evening and the first time at the Grassic Gibbon Centre that Scots traditional music has combined with American bluegrass. When the combination is performed by musicians of such technical excellence, talent and enthusiasm for their respective and combined genres, the result is unforgettable.

Sunday morning saw the Arbuthnott Church service move to the Centre with the Rev Dennis Rose conducting the morning service. Music was provided on the keyboard by Elinor Gallacher and on the harp by Gina Gallacher. The congregation of 50 was augmented by visitors attending the baptism of Norman Derek, the baby son of Lana Scorgie and Paul Rae from Laurencekirk. This was a very special first for the Festival.

Sunday afternoon brought one hundred visitors to the final event of the Festival to enjoy the company of the popular entertainer, broadcaster, commentator and writer, Robbie Shepherd and his wife Esma, a talented pianist. Robbie was in great form in his chat with Jim Brown and covered his whole journey from childhood at Dunecht to becoming the doyen of the Doric and Scottish Dance Music. In the second half Robbie was joined by Esma on the piano and regaled his audience with stories, poems and songs that had shaped his very successful career in entertainment. The committee of Jim Brown, Andy Hall, Dennis Collie, Marion Robson, Isabella Williamson, Alan Baxter, George Anderson and Sarah Gillanders were greatly helped by the Centre catering staff led by Francis Knight and the sound engineer Rod Grant. The 2013 Festival is already being planned.