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Two great Scottish cultural ‘institutions’ celebrate 40th Anniversaries Runrig and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig@40

On August the 9th and 10th of this year, two great cultural ‘institutions’ of the Gaelic revival will come together to celebrate their respective 40 year contribution to the regeneration of the language and culture of the Gael.

Internationally renowned Scottish Celtic Rock Band, Runrig, which celebrates its 40th Anniversary this summer, has invited Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, which too was founded in 1973, to play a part at the Runrig 40th Anniversary event and concert taking place on the Black Isle.

The Band is delighted to extend an invitation to Sabhal Mòr to have a presence there and, in so doing, to recognise the history and great synergy which exists between us. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will be providing one of the ceilidh bands who will perform at the Friday night ‘Ceilidh on the Moor’.  This will be drawn from the very large number of internationally renowned musicians and singers now so much associated with the work of the college.

Calum Macdonald of Runrig said, “We are delighted to invite Sabhal Mòr Ostaig to have a presence at our 40th anniversary event. There is so much shared history and common purpose between us, and we congratulate them on their remarkable success story.”

On the Saturday, Sabhal Mòr will be inviting concert-goers to visit the special Sabhal Mòr Ostaig event taking place all day on the festival site. The event will feature the full range of courses, projects and initiatives associated with Sabhal Mòr along with a range of workshops, music and song sessions, drama and film sessions and of particular interest, a language ‘taster’ session which will give concert goers the unique opportunity to learn some Gaelic through a Runrig Song Session. The whole day will be very much about fun and entertainment, engaging the public in the richness of the language, culture, music and song. People will be able to get access to the wide range of cultural programmes, services and initiatives offered through SMO.

Prof Boyd Robertson, a life-long friend of Runrig’s Macdonald brothers, and a former classmate of Rory’s and now the current Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig explained,
“It is very appropriate, in the year that both Runrig and Sabhal Mòr have their 40th anniversary, that the College will be taking part in Runrig’s ‘Cèilidh on the Moor’ event in the Black Isle in August. Both these entities have contributed enormously to the regeneration and revitalization of the Gaelic language and culture and both have acted as powerful international ambassadors for both Gaelic and Scottish culture. I have a long personal connection with Rory and Calum Macdonald which goes back to early school days in Lochmaddy in North Uist, where Rory and I were on the same class, with Calum being that little bit younger. The links between Runrig and Sabhal Mòr can be viewed in the broad historical context of a Gaelic revival but also through the personal links between some of the band members and Sabhal Mor. Rory Macdonald as a young Graphic Designer was largely responsible for the design of the original College logo and other examples of his design work are still held within our archives. Runrig also played at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s, Talla Mhòr, in the earliest days when the first cohort of students had arrived to take up their studies at the original Ostaig Barn building. Over the years it is also very evident that many students who found their way to study at Sabhal Mòr did so through having developed an interest in the language and the culture through the music of Runrig.”

Prof Robertson went on to say, “One individual, in particular, embodies the association between Runrig and Sabhal Mòr. That person is Donnie Munro, greatly acclaimed as the lead singer with the band for many years and now Director of Development and the Arts at the College.  Donnie is coordinating the programme of events to mark our 40th anniversary. He has been heavily involved in the college’s development over the last decade and has more recently been charged with the task of raising funds and the necessary political support for the new Kilbeg Village Development, the first phase of which will begin very shortly. This represents a major new phase in the development of Sabhal Mòr and the local area and it is fitting that it should begin in the year in which we, like the band, celebrate our 40th anniversary.”

Former Runrig lead singer, Donnie Munro, commented from his Skye home,
“I am delighted that Runrig has invited Sabhal Mòr to participate in this great celebratory event and it is fitting that two such distinctive cultural ‘institutions ‘of the Gaidhealtachd, having emerged in the same year, should now come together to celebrate that journey, in a cultural and political landscape very different to that which existed when they both set out.”

Munro went on to say, “There is no doubt that there was a critical mass of activity which came into play in the years following on from 1973 and although it was perhaps in no sense a coherent movement as such, in retrospect, the advent of things like Runrig, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the West Highland Free Press, the work of 7.84 Theatre Company and Dr James Hunter’s seminal work, the ‘Making of the Crofting Community’, all brought a new awareness and a dynamic new voice to young disinherited Gaels and inspired a confidence and a resolve to challenge and change the mindset which had been historically inherited and then, with a new found vigour  to extend the reach of the language and culture itself beyond the Gaidhealtachd to be embraced by a national and international audience.”

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