The big-hearted and community-spirited were honoured for their contributions to local life at the annual Eilean a’ Cheò civic awards, hosted by Highland Council in Portree last Friday.
The awards are organised by Eilean a’ Cheò councillors to recognise those who have contributed to the success and wellbeing of the area.
The arts and music award was shared by Lorna Cormack and Mary Anne MacKenzie.
Lorna organises the Portree Community Panto every year – and numerous hours of her time are given to write scripts, organise venues, rehearsals, costumes, casting and more for this highly-successful and popular event.
In addition to the panto, Lorna also helped organise the terrific Portree Christmas lights switch-on event, which attracted a bumper turn out in early December.
Sharing the award was Mary Anne MacKenzie, who for many years has been honorary secretary of the Skye Mòd.
Her role involves preparing a syllabus for competitions, booking adjudicators, organising running orders for the programme and ensuring the prizes and adjudication sheets are available for handing out at the event or sent to the relevant schools thereafter.
Mary Anne was a member of the board of Comhairle nan Sgoiltean Àraich/TAIC which was instrumental in establishing and supporting Gaelic playgroups across Scotland, including several in Skye, from the 1980s until around 2011. There is no doubt that the work of this organisation contributed greatly to the demand for, and growth in, Gaelic medium education.
Mary Anne is also a member of Urras an Eilein which was set up the late Sir Iain Noble, the late Donald MacMillan and Donald John MacLennan, the purpose being to support cultural and educational activities with an emphasis on those which are indigenous in character.
Most recently, Mary Anne took on the role of Gaelic tutor for Portree Gaelic Choir which, this year, recorded its best result in many years, coming third in the prestigious Margrat Duncan Trophy competition for large district choirs at the Royal National Mòd in Glasgow.
The community award was presented, as a whole, to the people of Raasay.
Police sergeant Bruce Crawford made the nomination due to the support offered to the emergency services during the search for local resident Alistair Lovie in April 2019.
Sergeant Crawford’s nomination said: “Tragically, Mr Lovie has not been traced. However, I take great pride in nominating the community of Raasay as a whole for formal recognition due to the incredible support offered to Police Scotland throughout the search operation.”
Ward members also acknowledged the role that the Raasay Community Council plays in articulating the views and concerns of the island’s people.
David Croy on behalf of the community and Anne Gillies, as chair of the community council, were there to accept the award.
The enterprise award went to the Staffin Hall committee, in recognition of their work in improving facilities, and to help bring Staffin stores into community ownership.
Mark Shaw from Kyleakin was presented with the environment award. For the last two years, he has spent all his spare time trimming grass, edging verges, weeding pavements and generally making the village look great.
His work and efforts know no bounds, and he manages to source donations of materials and equipment for his projects. He has prepared and painted the railing along the Obbe Road and has recently started to repaint the lampposts.
All Mark’s work is done completely voluntarily with a smile and passion. He takes great pride in what he does and asks for nothing in return.
The sport award went to athlete Hugh Campbell, a celebrated runner who has also helped to raise the profile of the Skye half marathon; promote health and wellbeing to children; support charities including Lucky2bHere and the Skye Foodbank and to engage with the Sir Lewis Ritchie Report aimed at improving local health services.
Rebecca Smith, who created the Room 13 Torrin community art studio at her croft on Skye ten years ago, was given the young people award.
The studio in Torrin got underway in 2009 in the form of drawing, painting, printing and collage sessions in Rebecca’s small art shed.
Since then, Room 13 Torrin has established itself as a thriving community enterprise. There are twice weekly after school art sessions for primary aged children. These have proved so popular that Rebecca runs weekend and holiday workshops for the exploration of other arts and craft techniques.
The studio is also regularly used by adults and there are special days when families can come and work on art projects together.
As a focus for sharing creative and entrepreneurial skills, the studio is empowering local young people to become motivated, resourceful and engaged in the development of arts within their community. The children are as excited about presenting and selling their work as they are creating it.
Article by Keith MacKenzie and photographs by Willie Urquhart.