Reviewed by Mary McWay Seaman, Celtic Connection, September, 2007
Belinda Rathbone”s new memoir is an exceptional combo of history, lament, battle cry and chronicle of what is, sifted from what once was, in rural Scotland. To read THE GUYND: A SCOTTISH JOURNAL is to become an intern folded into the intimate workings of a culture with tattered veils of medieval custom. Guynd is the Gaelic word for a “high, marshy place,” the name given to the Ouchterlony family estate near Arbroath in Angus. An award-winning photography historian, the American Rathbone married John Ouchterlony, the Guynd”s 26th laird, and moved to his 416 acres of farmland and forest to restore the tribe”s crumbling 200-year-old, 32-room Georgian country house near the older (1615) homestead with its stone-walled, relict garden. Ouchterlony had been an adventurous engineer working around the world with little time for his holdings. Rathbone, daughter of an English mother and well traveled throughout Europe, expected to be prepared for life anywhere in Britain. However, the landscape and culture of Scotland astonished her. Dismayed at the Guynd”s neglect, she states that “This was not the cherished family retreat in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or the lakeside log cabin camp in the Adirondacks.” The richness of detail delivered from the pen of this lyrical writer is a treasure unto itself, recounting a decade at the Guynd that began in 1990. “Once upon a time country society revolved around places like the Guynd, with each estate conducting its own little orbit. It was like a village, in which all inhabitants played their role and knew their place.” So begins a section with misty traditions wafting through the old home place stuffed with antique furniture, silverware, china, pictures, weaponry, books, dance cards, diaries and dunning notices. By the 1920s imports of foreign goods had killed local production, and income from tenants, crops and pasture could not maintain large properties. Many were leveled or turned into hotels or schools. Remainders are termed “the centerpiece of a system gone to seed, deeply suggestive of the forbidden desire to give up and get out. Some hidden force kept them there, but it wasn”t exactly love.” As for the Guynd, The long-absent man and his mansion “belonged first to each other, and only after that to anyone else.” Seeking simple comforts, especially after their son Elliot was born, Rathbone shoulders heroic cleaning and renovation efforts that drive assistants out the door. She employs the age-old rule when confronted with overwhelming tasks ” break them down in manageable components. Schedules and timely performance become paramount. Advice from historical societies and government groups on restoration arrives with a horror of bureaucratic “historical correctness” to be accompanied by inspections and endless paperwork, but the eminently common-sense Rathbone saves the Guynd from such shackles. The volume of multi-tasking involved with refurbishing the house, outbuildings and furniture, along with field and forest work, prevents most projects from crossing the finish line. Indeed, works-in-process dragging through years appear to be the modus operandi of several other Scots, stoical do-it-yourselfers with the long view of centuries. Completed tasks, strangely and vaguely devalued, put Rathbone and Ouchterlony at odds. The hardship of living with mounds of hopelessly broken stuff, a crude kitchen, primitive heating, and harsh cultural economics eventually crushes ambition. Heat is never turned on before December 1 or after March 1, no matter the weather or temperature. The archaic kitchen creates hours of extra work. An egg-timer by the telephone inhibits leisurely conversations. A misery of clutter is warehoused in every room as centuries of hard times had led to hoarding. Comical interludes include an attempt by Rathbone to load junk for the dump, only to be apprehended on her way to the car. Candle stubs, string, shredded stockings, mysterious mechanical parts, decades-old canned goods ” nothing is considered trash. A feel for legendary Scottish frugality is offered in a description of Arbroath. “There are thirty-two pubs in Arbroath, but their street profile is more like that of a speakeasy. The doors remain shut, even when the pub is open, and it will stay open until the last man leaves. Drinking is a serious occupation in Scotland and there”s no need to waste money on a sign.” The quiet Scottish Christmas, so different from the English one, is expected. Scotland, rooted as it is in post-Reformation, 16th-century Presbyterianism, is not famous for its Nativity spirit, although folks do whoop it up on New Year”s Eve (the ancient Celtic/Norse Hogmanay). “Not-very-bonny Dundee” propels tenants to the Guynd”s cottages and flats. Retired folks with home maintenance and gardening skills fare well. Younger, rougher lodgers with emotional baggage, poor educations and addictions provide absorbing studies of the welfare mentality. Rathbone constructs a fascinating feudal heritage concerning entitlement attitudes among the tenantry, “an erratic population of fugitives ” Occasionally they might spend a day lifting tatties for a local farmer or banging in fence posts for John, if he pays them under the table so as not to compromise their unemployment status with the Department of Social Services. Being mainly the descendents of that class of feudal society who worked for the laird and in turn were looked after, they continue to expect to be looked after to this day.” The government now takes responsibility for these people. Puzzled by these renters, Rathbone observes that most Americans descend from immigrants who “expected to strike out on their own.” A journey through this magical book illuminates the ongoing potency of history and custom in an enduring culture, no matter how superficialities like dress and decorating may change, no matter how family structures may shift, or how governments may rule. Readers in company with Belinda Rathbone throughout the pages of THE GUYND: A SCOTTISH JOURNAL, quickly learn that they are joining her “in another land, in another time”"

The event raised $7,000 for the Denver Fire Fighters Burn Foundation. “Another great day of golf for a great cause” according to Steven Annis, tournament director. The 5th annual tournament will take place Monday June 23, 2008. Pictured above is John Nallen presenting the check at the Denver Fire Dept. station #6. John Nallen and family from CO, Mayo Ireland own Nallen”s Irish Pub in downtown Denver and have also recently opened O”Shea”s Tavern & Grill in the Denver Tech Center.

The brilliant, innovative harping of M”ire N” Chathasaigh, Irish Traditional Musician of the Year 2001, and the astonishing virtuosity and versatility of English guitar wizard Chris Newman, has been heard all over the world: now they come to Cameron Church September 23rd for the first time with their addictive and stylish cocktail of powerhouse Irish dance-music, gorgeous airs, evocative old songs and striking new compositions – with shots of hot jazz and bluegrass thrown in! Their new CD FireWire has garnered extraordinary critical acclaim: “M”ire N” Chathasaigh is in a class of her own” The Guardian “An eclecticism and spirit of adventure that is quite thrilling… Virtuoso playing… bewitching string fantasies and a wonderfully clear and expressive voice” The Times “Dazzling virtuosity… The speed and complexity is to be marveled at… exquisitely delivered… delightful” The Daily Telegraph Their “blazing guitar and dancing harp”, coupled with Chris”s “subversively witty introductions”, guarantee a unique and captivating evening. Sunday September 23rd 7:00 pm, Cameron Church 1600 South Pearl, Denver. Tickets at the door: $15 (children 12 and under $10). Sponsored by Kolacny Music, Denver. Call 303-722-6081 for info.

SINEAD O”CONNOR will perform at the Paramount Theatre on Friday September 21 introducing her latest release “Theology”. “Theology is an attempt to create a place of peace in a time of war and to provoke thought,” says Sinead O’Connor about her new studio album, the artist’s first since her 2005 reggae collection, Throw Down Your Arms. “The events of September 11, 2001 contributed to the writing of the songs very much so, as did events subsequently as they have panned out all over the world.” The whole world became a very dangerous place on that day.” I simply wanted to make a beautiful thing, out of something beautiful, which inspires me.” Theology, the record, apart from being a place of peace and meditation, is a very personal emotional response.” Influenced by a wide variety of musical and literary sources which have helped shape her aesthetic consciousness since childhood, O’Connor composed the majority of the songs on Theology, the first album to be comprised mainly of her own material since her fifth full-length album, Faith and Courage, was released in 2000. Both icon and iconoclast, Sinead O’Connor has been making music, rejecting stereotypes and defying expectations for more than a quarter century.” At the age of 14, she wrote and recorded the debut single for the Dublin-based Irish band In Tua Nua, then left the band because she was too young to tour. In 1990, her sophomore album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 while her Prince-penned single, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” reached #1 on the Hot 100 and earned her a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance.” Twenty years after she first began transforming the pop cultural landscape with the release of her debut solo album, The Lion and The Cobra, Sinead O’Connor continues to delight and surprise, challenge and inspire with the sound of her voice and the power of her music on Theology. Showtime is 7:30 PM. Doors open 6:30 PM. This is an all ages show. Tickets are $52.50, $42.50 and $32.50 RES plus applicable service charges at www.TicketHorse.com, the Dick”s Sporting Goods Park box office and at all metro Denver Dick”s Sporting Goods stores. Ticket Center hours may vary. Contact retailer to confirm hours of operation. To charge tickets by phone, call 1.866.461.6556 or log on @ www.livenation.com. Tickets available the day of show at the Paramount Theatre box office from 4 PM ” showtime. Ticket purchase includes parking for the Plaza Parking garage located on the corner of 18th & California (1 1/2 blocks north of the Paramount Theatre). Patrons must present concert ticket stub upon exit of parking garage.

A slice of musical heaven in my life has been the experience of Willie Clancy Summer School held in County Clare on the West coast of Ireland. Each year around the first week of July thousands of people stream into Miltown Malbay, (once home to uilleann piper Willie Clancy) and surrounding towns to enjoy classes, concerts, and ceilis celebrating traditional music and dance. People road bikes or hitched rides from Miltown, Spanish Point and Quilty to share a tune, song, or dance. There was an organic high to the whole experience ” simple but powerful. Stop, I know what you”re thinking ” but I was drinking a lot more pints of water then porter. Were those uplifting endorphins I read about kicking in from the aerobic pace of the ceilis ” I don”t know ” surely the simple beauty of the area had something to do with the feeling. Back in the school and disco days it was about dancing with the pretty girl ” this was different ” it was more like connecting to the magic of the music and dance and just being content with the moment. When I returned to Colorado (with sore feet and baggy pants from dancing 6 hours a day!) I wondered if a “Willie Week” type of event could be successful in the Rockies? Thanks to Barbara Yule and friends, the ingredients for such an event are in the mix for September 27 through September 30 when they present the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival hosted by Walsenburg, La Veta/Cuchara and Gardner in Huerfano County in the scenic mountains of Southern Colorado. Barbara and husband Jack moved to Huerfano County from Scotland over 6 years ago and have been homesteading on their 30 acres outside of Gardner. They lived in a trailer, then cabin, as they steadily built their home (and it”s almost finished). Throughout the construction they have had many music sessions at their place with Jack starting things up on his button accordion. But as Jack continued to build their home during the day, Barbara began to build a festival. Now, in only its 3rd year, and with limited funding, it would not be fair to compare it to Willie Week which has been going since 1973 ” However, they have made some great strides bringing in some top international talent and developing community support for the fest. They even involve the Huerfano County youth with special K through 12 in-school programs that run the whole week prior the Fest ” Brilliant! Below are some highlights that Barbara sent us in a press release. There are detailed event and class descriptions, performer bios, and other helpful information at www.celticmusicfest.com This year”s festival includes five individual concerts featuring Irish and Scottish international artists. Thursday”s opening in Gardner is ceilidh style and includes sets from all the artists performing over the weekend ($12). Friday night at the Fox Theater in Walsenburg, is hosted by famed Irish fiddler Seamus Connolly with premier uilleann piper Jerry O”Sullivan, Irish harper Lynn Saoirse, cellist Abby Newton and others. Saturday night at the Fox is an all-Scottish concert with Scottish popular singers Margaret Bennett, Alison Bell and Ed Miller and an ensemble of musicians and storytellers ($20 and $16 for children and students). Bring your cool sunglasses for a little genre cross-pollination Saturday afternoon when world renowned jazz harpist Park Stickney and special guests (jazz musicians) fuse Celtic with jazz for an up-tempo performance. The concert”s finale presents the dynamite duo of Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Irish harper with guitarist Chris Newman. Afternoon concerts are $16 and $13 for children and students. Check out the discount weekend concert ticket to save money. There are also two free Ceilidhs ” a Dance Ceilidh in La Veta Park Saturday afternoon and a final Ceilidh at La Veta Inn Sunday evening. On offer for children are Saturday morning activities, $5 per child, free for parents, and a special Sunday concert at $5 per ticket. The festival not only boasts excellent and unique concerts performed by top international artists, but a full program of courses, workshops and demonstration talks presented by these same artists. Here is a chance for musicians to sharpen their own skills in classes and workshop settings. Instruments include harp, Highland pipes, uilleann pipes, Irish fiddle, Celtic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bodhran, as well as singing workshops in both Irish and Scottish songs and even ceilidh dancing for everyone. A full harp retreat course of 15+ hours with Irish harpers Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Lynn Saoirse and other workshop leaders costs $235 for pre-festival registration. Each intermediate/advanced piping course consists of 7 hours with Jerry O”Sullivan and added sessions with other artists ($110). Irish fiddle with Seamus Connolly, Celtic guitar with Chris Newman, both intermediate /advanced, and elementary harp with Scottish teacher Heather Yule are each four hours long and cost $60. There are shorter one to two hour workshops costing between $10 and $15 an hour. Free beginning classes in harp, bodhran and whistle. For a full schedule of events, fees and lodging suggestions see www.celticmusicfest.com or telephone the festival office at 719 742-5410. So there you are ” if you have an interest in the traditional music and dance from across the foam, plan your trip to Southern Colorado now. It is very easy to get to ” just east of I-25 ” come on, you can do it! (and maybe you”ll feel your own organic endorphin propelled Rocky Mountain high! Or just have a pint of 333 whatever!) by Pat McCullough e

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