NOSTALGIA is a feeling I find deeply enjoyable. And when I was at home last week, coming across the very first music recording that I owned, I was immersed in that warm emotion.
My mum had been rooting through the attic looking for books and toys suitable for my new nephew, Eachann, and, in her foraging, she uncovered a box of music tapes and some Allan Campbell MacLean novels. Contained in the box was Hebridean Accordion, by Iain McLachlan. To this day, the late Iain McLachlan of Benbecula is my favourite accordionist and Hebridean Accordion my favourite recording.
I had taken this tape with me wherever I was living over the years, but somehow in the moves and the brochan of life, recently I had lost track of where it was.
What joy and relief to be unexpectedly reunited with it. The sentimental value of it is strong for many reasons, not least because it was signed by the musical genius.
I received this tape nearly 30 years ago, in October 1987, around the same time as I started my accordion lessons with Gordon Connell.
My father had bought a fishing boat in County Clare, in the west of Ireland, and on his way home with her after being in Oban getting work done at Currie’s Boat Yard, he had stopped off in Tobermory. Playing in the Mishnish Hotel that night was Iain McLachlan and, as I had just started learning to play the box, dad bought this tape for me.
I was an instant fan and over the following months received two of his other recordings, An Island Heritage featuring Calum Campbell and Calum Iain MacCorquodale and The Kings of the Button Key Box, a collaboration with Fergie MacDonald.
In July the following year, while attending Fèis Bharraigh, we heard that Iain McLachlan was to be playing in the Clachan Beag Hotel in Castlebay. My excitement was immense and this brought about the only encounter I was to have with my musical hero. The event nearly led to huge disappointment, but due to Iain’s kindness and an understanding hotel owner, the situation was rescued.
The anticipation of hearing him play live and perhaps meeting him had been building for days, but when we arrived at the bar we were told no- one under the age of 14 was allowed in. I was only nine, so that meant having to listen from outside.
However, someone relayed to Iain that he had a super fan in the front conservatory and he – without being asked – spoke to the owner who then generously and cordially invited us in.
And, to my delight, they arranged seats for us right beside where the great man was playing.
This was a landmark experience for me and recollections of it are still vivid. Iain signed my three tapes – see picture - and his stature was elevated to new heights in the eyes of that young fan.
All these rich memories came flooding back on seeing the tape - the music, the excitement, the encouragement and, above all, the kindness.
Iain McLachlan signed the tape.