A few hours’ joy in a week of madness

New Distillery Band: Playing on to give Ballater some respite in a chaotic week
New Distillery Band: Playing on to give Ballater some respite in a chaotic week

Enjoying a ceilidh 24 hours after lives and livelihoods were ripped asunder by the river-turned-terrorist was not a decision taken lightly.

But it proved right. The New Distillery Ceilidh Band were themselves short a member - Ellie McLaren who could not get through from Braemar - but had taken soundings amid local fears the ceilidh might disrespect flood victims.

However, an appreciative audience thoroughly enjoyed the January 1 Survivors’ Ceilidh in Ballater, even if we were surviving a heck of a lot more than originally meant.

Caller and band leader Alasdair Johnston started with the easy Gay Gordons, but soon promoted us to the maypole of the Witches Reel and the rush of the Riverside Jig.

Most had never experienced the Circassian Circle with a conga section, though doing said conga round a large fire appliance in the rain while waving cheerily at guardian fire fighters in the emergency HQ was definitely a first (and, we pray, last).

The event was boosted by the family of Robbie Macmillan, founder of Children of Rwanda, who decided to replace the planned raffle in favour of the flood victims. Robbie’s sister Sheona delighted the audience with Rabbie Burns’s Ae Fond Kiss and a family friend Chad Mcdonald from Tennessee played the bagpipes.

The two other soloists were Kincardine O’Neil musician Lee Taylor who played small pipes and the low whistle, and Tarland’s golden-voiced Megan Albon, whose moving composition about homecoming filled hearts and blurred eyes.

A contest to win a bottle of whisky donated by the local Co-op raised money for those affected by the floods and was swelled by generous donations.

New Distillery vary in number, but never in quality, and the skills of Alasdair, Tara, Rory, Ailidh, Tom, Grant and Gregor gave Ballater a few hours of enjoyment in a weekend of stormy madness.