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This month marks 25 years of Celtic Connections, the music festival that champions folk music from around the world.  Scotland is at the forefront for contemporary celtic music and in the Highlands there has been a strong tradition for teaching music and sharing it through the generations.  This week we are profiling our design Duncan MacGillivray.  Duncan is an outstanding piper, whistle player, guitarist and composer.  He lives in Easter Ross, running his farm and playing music across the country at family celebrations.   

You and your children are outstanding musicians and are ambassadors for Scotland playing all over the world. How do you think Scottish music been able to flourish internationally?

Good music has a natural appeal. It's as simple as that. Be it exuberant, sad, reflective, whatever the mood, if it's good, it hits all the right buttons. A lot of Scottish music falls into that category. 

Your family have been farmers in the Highlands for generations and the Calrossie Shorthorn was the most famous herd in the country. How has the farm developed over the years?

My grandfather Capt. John and my father Donald, were Shorthorn breeders par excellence, selling world-wide to North and South America, Australia & New Zealand, South Africa, even Russia. In the Sixties, the Shorthorn fell out of favour. My father waited in vain for its return and ended up displenishing his herd, opting instead for the Limousin and the Romagnola. Since then, the Shorthorn has made a spectacular comeback, and Calrossie blood still flows amongst the best herds, albeit way back. We still have a quality cattle herd but we don't specialise in pedigree breeding anymore, but who knows what the future holds.  

Your children are half American and you have encouraged them to travel and study abroad.  Do you think they, and young people across the Highlands and Islands, are less likely to stay and work locally?

Highlanders have, historically, had to travel the world to seek opportunities for their various talents and I suppose it's no different today, although the present world is rife with dangers of a more unpredictable and insidious nature. It's nice to be able to fulfil your potential in your own homeland, however sometimes that's not possible. 

What would you recommend at Celtic Connections in Glasgow this year?

I've had a look at the running order and could probably recommend three different things each night. The variety and quality is incredible. I'm delighted to have been invited down to join 'The Occasionals' on January 20th as one of their guest musicians. They are as good a dance band as you will get and they play in the Royal Concert Hall at 10.30pm. Earlier that night, the musical punter is presented with a typical Celtic Connections quandary: 'Ross Ainslie' leads an ensemble at the Mitchell Theatre, 'The Tannahill Weavers' play in the Strathclyde Suite, a 'Dave Swarbrick Tribute' takes place in the Tron, all simultaneously. I recommend them all, so take your pick! 

My son Iain, has been invited to join Alasdair Fraser and Nathalie Haas, for the seventh year running, with their Fiddle and Cello weekend on January 27th and 28th in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Then the following weekend he is playing for a 'Musician's Nest' concert in the Strathclyde Suite on 3rd February at 2pm, featuring musicians who studied at the eponymous Benbecula College Music programme. 

Typically, there is so much superb musical fare on offer, that we are all spoilt for choice. And that is the wonder that is Celtic Connections!  

Duncan Macgillivray
Duncan Macgillivray Carpet Bag
Duncan Macgillivray Carpet Bag
Duncan MacGillivray  Large Rug
Duncan MacGillivray Large Rug
Duncan Macgillivray Tweed 18
Duncan Macgillivray Tweed 18" Cushion
Duncan Macgillivray Lowland Tweed 22
Duncan Macgillivray Lowland Tweed 22" Cushion
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton 18
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton 18" Cushion
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton Throw
Duncan MacGillivray Wool/Cotton Throw

Behind the Design...

This week we are profiling Yvonne Mackay, the tweed, carpet and worsted wool.  Yvonne is also our Operations Manager, she came to ANTA 12 years ago aged just 19 and she quickly progressed through the ranks of the company.  She was brought up in Stenness on Orkney and came to the mainland with her now husband Ben.  Soon after starting with ANTA, Yvonne began studying textiles in Galashiels.  Whilst there she worked part time in the ANTA Edinburgh shop, enabling her to continue her learning about the Scottish textile industry.

2018 marks 100 years since women were able to vote in Britain.  What has been the biggest enabler for you to get to where you are now?

My parents encouraged me to do my best at school and go on to further education but they also instilled a very strong work ethic in me from a young age, I have always had a job at the weekends and have enjoyed the independence it gave me. I would say the biggest enabler for me at ANTA has been the opportunities I have been given.  I have have moved from one role to another throughout the company, sometimes being pushed out of my comfort zone but always supported and encouraged.

You married Ben in July last year and have bought your first home in Inver.  What has been your favourite product in your new house?

Our Large Cawdor rug. It has always been a favourite pattern of mine - we have had the rug for over 4 years now and with two dogs and a stove it saw daily abuse.  It is now the centerpiece in our sunroom, giving it a shampoo when we moved meant it looks as good as new, my dad even spilled a glass of red wine over it at Christmas which came out no problem - I would recommend it to anyone.

Scottish craft and design is world-renowned yet the industry is falling. How do you think ANTA can compete with manufacturing and design on a global scale?

I do believe that consumers have become more conscious of where their products  come from and how they are manufactured.  This probably started with the food industry but has transcended across sectors.  ANTA has very strong values which are using natural materials and manufacturing in Scotland.  I think we can compete on a global scale by sticking to these beliefs, not compromising on design, training the next generation and finding the market who also appreciate these qualities.

It is not uncommon for young people to leave the Highlands in order to find work, especially those who go on to university.  Why did you come back to the Highlands and is there a way, do you think, to encourage young people to bring skills back to local businesses?  

We moved back to the Highlands as I was given the opportunity with ANTA to be based in Fearn.

I had lived and worked in Edinburgh for 3 years after graduating but I was at the stage where I wanted to live in the countryside again so it was ideal timing.

I believe that the key is in creating the job opportunities for people that can compete with what is being offered in the cities.

Yvonne Mackay
Yvonne Mackay Cabin Bag
Yvonne Mackay Cabin Bag
Yvonne Mackay Weekend Bag
Yvonne Mackay Weekend Bag

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