Hugh Smith’s letter from Islay
Congratulations to Port Ellen contralto Marion Ramsay, who recently graduated with a paralegal degree from the law school at the University of Strathclyde.
Marion plans to continue with her singing career and active participation in choral societies. She already holds post-graduate diplomas in concert singing and opera studies from the RSAMD, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
She also took first place in the lieder singing competition at the Glasgow Music Festival in two successive years.
She was also the recipient of the diploma for western music from the Leeds College of Music and is a Bachelor of Music (Hons) from Napier University.
She has made many concert appearances through the UK and has received critical acclaim for her performance in the premier of Carl Weltse’s Requiem.
Two weeks ago she was at the Eden Court Theatre taking part in the Inverness Choral Society’s performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Sollenelle and will be back in the Highland capital in April of next year to take part in Bach’s Magnif
icat and Haydn’s Paukenmesse. Marion, whose parents Danka and Donald are well known Port Ellen residents, includes Scots songs in her repertoire and has sung at the Islay Gathering and at the local Smaull Singing School.
We all wish Marion many further successes in both her singing and legal career. She can be contacted at www. marionramsay.com,
War dead remembered
Those who lost their lives in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts were remembered at a series of special services held in churches throughout the island on Remembrance Sunday.
In attendance at these services were representatives from civilian and uniformed organisations and included crew members from the nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard, presently undergoing a major refit at the Portsmouth naval base,
Wreaths were laid at war memorials in the island parishes and at the war graves section of local cemeteries.
A special act of remembrance, led by parish minister the Rev Valerie Watson, also took place on Armistice Day at the military cemetery at Kilchoman. This cemetery was set up following the loss of HMS Otranto at Machir Bay in the closing weeks of the First World War and overlooks the location of the tragedy.
Like many of its neighbouring islands, Islay has it fair share of standing stones scattered around the various parishes. Some stand proudly on their own, some form groups or circles and, happily, all are well documented.
Among the most impressive of the Islay stones is the Ballinaby monolith on the west coast and positioned north- east of Saligo Bay.
The Ballinaby stone is the tallest of its kind on the island standing at more than five metres. It is reckoned to date back to 2000 BC, which places it in the early Bronze Age. The site contains another stone which is around two metres tall and is reckoned to be all that remains of what would have been a much taller stone. Old records suggest that another similar stone was positioned at the Ballinaby location but today no trace of it remains. It is most likely that it was demolished and used in the building of the stone dyke which surrounds the site.
The original purpose of these stones is shrouded in mystery and remains a topic of debate among archaeologists and historians. They may have been used as astronomical markers, memorials to ancient and forgotten battles or as objects of some religious significance.
Whatever their purpose, they continue to fascinate and remain a dominant if mysterious feature of the local landscape.