SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

Blog Feed Post

Ancient Ritual Inspires New Work By Scots Songwriter Robin Beatty

Tuesday 22 April, 2014
A unique centuries-old Hebridean ritual, harvesting Gannet chicks, has inspired a songwriter and a song which will be showcased by The Old Dance School in Aberdeen 's Lemon Tree on Tuesday, May 6.

Once a year, 10 chosen men make a treacherous journey out to the remote island of Sula Sgier to take part in the ancient rite - the harvesting of the chicks or 'gugas' - and return to the small community of Ness on the Butt of Lewis, where they are a celebrated delicacy.

This controversial tradition is still allowed to continue today under a special license from Scottish Heritage Trust.

In 1991 a Derbyshire photographer was the first ever 'outsider' to accompany the 10 Lewis men on the hunt, and two decades after that grueling expedition to Lewis, his son, acclaimed guitarist and songwriter Robin Beatty (28), has written song a honouring the tradition he witnessed as a five-year-old boy.

He and his band The Old Dance School will perform the song in a series of concerts across Scotland - in Alnwick (April 30), Portree (May 1), Stornoway (may 2), Glasgow (May 3), Dundee (May 4), Aberdeen (May 6), Findhorn (May 7), Montrose (May 8), Edinburgh (May 9), and the Moniaive Folk Festival (May10).

The musician says he is "excited, and even a little nervous" to be returning to the island that informed his love of Celtic music and the band's elegant contemporary folk sound draws strongly from this early inspiration.

Over a fortnight, Robin's photographer father John Beatty documented the catching, plucking and salting of 2000 sea birds on Sula Sgeir and while he worked, his young family was immersed in the community of Ness in northern Lewis.

Says Robin: "We'd spent few weeks trundling around in the van while Dad worked on Sula Sgeir with the men of Ness . . . I was only young but I still remember the sounds and colours of music sessions going on in the local pubs.

"It was tremendously exciting. I loved wandering across the expansive peat bogs and windswept beaches with my little sister."

His father remained friends with the men he photographed taking part in the 'guga' harvest and wrote a book about his experiences. Occasionally through Robin's childhood, the family were sent a guga for Christmas by the friends they'd made on the island.

"We kept it in a bucket of salt water in the cellar," the musician says. "It was very fatty and salty - we always said we were getting a taste of the sea."

The song about the gannet hunt, Sula Sgeir, is the centrepiece of the third album by the seven-piece folk outfit The Old Dance School, entitled Chasing the Light.

It was recorded in Glasgow by celebrated producer Calum Malcolm and was lauded as folk album of the year by The Scotsman, and BBC Radio Scotland 's Album of the Week.

"For years, I always wanted to write a song retelling the extraordinary tradition of the guga harvest," Robin says. "But when I started, I realised it was reflected against an even more controversial backdrop."

The song juxtaposes the ancient sea bird hunt with the large scale wind farm scheme proposed for the island in 2006.

He says: "I was following the story of the campaigns and legal battles that went on for a decade with the windfarm proposal, which would have been the biggest in Europe had it gone through, and thinking about how it would affect the small community we had spent time in."

In the form of a moving conversation between a father and son, his song pits the arguments for and against windfarms as well as the guga harvest.

The Old Dance School have performed Sula Sgeir and at festivals across Europe, but this will be the first time Robin returns to Lewis to perform as part of their first Scottish tour.

"I'm really excited to present it to the islanders, it means a lot to me," Robin said. "I know that for many, it will be a heartfelt issue. And it would be amazing to meet some of the men who took my dad out with them all those years ago."

Tickets for The Old Dance School gig are available online at, by phone at 01224 641122 and at Aberdeen Box Office at the Music Hall and His Majesty's Theatre.


Note to editors:

Please find attached a photograph of Robin Beatty aged five on Lewis, free to use.

Issued on Monday, April 21, 2014

The Old Dance School

Duelling fiddles, soaring brass crescendos, and irresistible grooves, The Old Dance School's genre-defying live show charts their remarkable journey from ballet school basement jam sessions and cowshed rehearsals, to remote lighthouses, to headline appearances at international festivals.

Championed by BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris, expect extraordinary virtuosity and vitality that has received plaudits throughout the UK , including Songlines Top of the World, and The Scotsman's Album of the Year.

Band Images:

More info here,




Press Contact:

Further details from Joyce Summers,
Press Manager,
Aberdeen Performing Arts,
Tel 01224 337641 Mob 07919 565156 Email [email protected]
Aberdeen Performing Arts is a charity registered in Scotland No: SC033733


Distributed by

Read the original blog entry...

Latest Stories
Cloud is the motor for innovation and digital transformation. CIOs will run 25% of total application workloads in the cloud by the end of 2018, based on recent Morgan Stanley report. Having the right enterprise cloud strategy in place, often in a multi cloud environment, also helps companies become a more intelligent business. Companies that master this path have something in common: they create a culture of continuous innovation. In his presentation, Dilipkumar Khandelwal outlined the latest...
Data center, on-premise, public-cloud, private-cloud, multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud, IoT, AI, edge, SaaS, PaaS... it's an availability, security, performance and integration nightmare even for the best of the best IT experts. Organizations realize the tremendous benefits of everything the digital transformation has to offer. Cloud adoption rates are increasing significantly, and IT budgets are morphing to follow suit. But distributing applications and infrastructure around increases risk, introdu...
DevOps has long focused on reinventing the SDLC (e.g. with CI/CD, ARA, pipeline automation etc.), while reinvention of IT Ops has lagged. However, new approaches like Site Reliability Engineering, Observability, Containerization, Operations Analytics, and ML/AI are driving a resurgence of IT Ops. In this session our expert panel will focus on how these new ideas are [putting the Ops back in DevOps orbringing modern IT Ops to DevOps].
Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simplicity and reach of the open web. With staff in 10 timezones, Isomorphic provides a global network of services related to our technology, with offerings ranging from turnkey application development to SLA-backed enterprise support. Leadin...
FinTech is a disruptive innovation that denotes the adoption of technologies that have changed how traditional financial services work. While FinTech is now embedded deeply into the financial services ecosystem, the rise of digital age has paved way to FinTech 2.0 - which is rolling out innovative solutions through emerging technologies at a disruptive pace while maintaining the tenets of security and compliances. Blockchain as a technology has started seeing pilot adoption in FinTech around ...
Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation. DX encompasses the continuing technology revolution, and is addressing society's most important issues throughout the entire $78 trillion 21st-century global economy. DXWorldEXPO® has organized these issues along 10 tracks, 22 keynotes and general sessions, and a faculty of 222 of the world's top speakers.
On-premise or off, you have powerful tools available to maximize the value of your infrastructure and you demand more visibility and operational control. Fortunately, data center management tools keep a vigil on memory contestation, power, thermal consumption, server health, and utilization, allowing better control no matter your cloud's shape. In this session, learn how Intel software tools enable real-time monitoring and precise management to lower operational costs and optimize infrastructure...
Atmosera delivers modern cloud services that maximize the advantages of cloud-based infrastructures. Offering private, hybrid, and public cloud solutions, Atmosera works closely with customers to engineer, deploy, and operate cloud architectures with advanced services that deliver strategic business outcomes. Atmosera's expertise simplifies the process of cloud transformation and our 20+ years of experience managing complex IT environments provides our customers with the confidence and trust tha...
SUSE is a German-based, multinational, open-source software company that develops and sells Linux products to business customers. Founded in 1992, it was the first company to market Linux for the enterprise. Founded in 1992, SUSE is the world's first provider of an Enterprise Linux distribution.
Artifex Software began 25-years ago with Ghostscript, a page description language (PDL) interpreter software prevalent in printing and related applications requiring rendering and/or conversion from one software language to another. Founded by renowned computer scientist Dr. L. Peter Deutsch, our company has thrived on the basis of our sharp focus on this area of expertise, a zealous commitment to quality and a strong customer service orientation. Over 100 OEM partners representing some of th...
Blockchain has shifted from hype to reality across many industries including Financial Services, Supply Chain, Retail, Healthcare and Government. While traditional tech and crypto organizations are generally male dominated, women have embraced blockchain technology from its inception. This is no more evident than at companies where women occupy many of the blockchain roles and leadership positions. Join this panel to hear three women in blockchain share their experience and their POV on the futu...
In an age of borderless networks, security for the cloud and security for the corporate network can no longer be separated. Security teams are now presented with the challenge of monitoring and controlling access to these cloud environments, as they represent yet another frontier for cyber-attacks. Complete visibility has never been more important-or more difficult. Powered by AI, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System technology is the only solution to offer real-time visibility and insight into ...
Every organization is facing their own Digital Transformation as they attempt to stay ahead of the competition, or worse, just keep up. Each new opportunity, whether embracing machine learning, IoT, or a cloud migration, seems to bring new development, deployment, and management models. The results are more diverse and federated computing models than any time in our history.
Alan Hase is Vice President of Engineering and Chief Development Officer at Big Switch. Alan has more than 20 years of experience in the networking industry and leading global engineering teams which have delivered industry leading innovation in high end routing, security, fabric and wireless technologies. Alan joined Big Switch from Extreme Networks where he was responsible for product strategy for its secure campus switching, intelligent mobility and campus orchestration products. Prior to Ext...
In today's always-on world, customer expectations have changed. Competitive differentiation is delivered through rapid software innovations, the ability to respond to issues quickly and by releasing high-quality code with minimal interruptions. DevOps isn't some far off goal; it's methodologies and practices are a response to this demand. The demand to go faster. The demand for more uptime. The demand to innovate. In this keynote, we will cover the Nutanix Developer Stack. Built from the foundat...