Tag Archives: group

Albannach’s Star Piper, Donnie ‘Bullfrog’ MacNeil Gets His Own Personal Dressing Room At NH Highland Games In Loon.

by Anura Guruge


Click to ENLARGE to get a better view of Donnie’s star-plate on the door.

Picture supplied online, on Facebook, by a member of ANOTHER band playing in Loon — who obviously was quite put out that he, much senior (in terms of age), does not get his own private dressing room. I won’t say who he is to save him the blushes.

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by Anura Guruge

I Think I Am, After 17-Years, Done (Finis) With The New Hampshire “Highland Games” At Loon.

by Anura Guruge


Since I discovered it in 1998, serendipitously by happening to drive past, the New Hampshire “Highland Games” was a much anticipated highlight of my year. For a number of years I used to go for the entire weekend, borrowing a condo from a friend. I marked my year in terms of the “Highland Games” — before the “Games” and after the “Games”.

Between 1998 & 2015 I only missed two “Games” — both because of high dudgeon. One was the second year when it was in Hopkinton and I just could not stomach going there rather than to Loon. The other time was more recent, viz. 2013. I had had enough. It had just become sheer exploitation of the punters — i.e., folks like us.

And I am boycotting them again, expect I don’t think I will ever be going back! Enough is enough. Yes, we had a GRAND TIME last year. One of the best. But when I look at the schedule it is deja vu all over again with one new band, i.e., “Skerryvore“, thrown in. I could have even overlooked that IF not for the conspicuous shortage of Pipe Bands, especially the lack of bands from the Mother Country. In the late 1990s and early 2000s they always paid to have a decent band from the U.K. fly over. No more. And it isn’t as if they have reduced the prices.

This is exploitation. It is banking on us loyal ‘Scots’ truding up there and ‘paying the piper’, irrespective, even if they just keep on watering down the show. I had it. I, as ever, studied the schedule. Found but explicit references to two pipe bands: “Hampshire Pipes & Drums” and “Kiltie Pipe Band“. Two fine bands and there will, of course, be five or six from around New England and possibly even as far as Pennsylvania. But I don’t even see a Canadian band on the schedule and they have some fine bands up there.

So I am DONE. Through. Kaput. Finis.

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by Anura Guruge

“Skerryvore” (From Scotland) The Headlining Performers At Loon’s 2016 “Highland Games”.

by Anura Guruge

The 2016 Scottish Highland Games
in Loon, New Hampshire

will be on Friday – Sunday,
September 16 – 18, 2016.


Yes, ALL the evergreens, viz. The Brigadoons, John Carmichael, Charlie Zahn and Albannach are back ALONG with the Glengarry Bhoys (from 2014 & before) and the Searsons. Click to access the official “NHScot” Website.


Click to access the “Skerryvore” official Website — with samples of their music.

The name “Skerryvore” comes from the name of a reef OFF the Scottish west coast island, Tiree, from which the original band hailed (in 2005).

Not as strident as Scottish groups of the past … but this could be the mellower sound. Easy on the ears. Looking forward to checking them out.

Here are 2 recent YouTubes of Skerryvore.


Tiree is highlighted in yellow. Skerryvore Reef is to the southwest of the island.

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by Anura Guruge

Quite The List Of Tax Lien Properties For Auction, ‘At Absolute’, In Campton, New Hampshire.

Anura Guruge December 2014 thumbnail


by Anura Guruge

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Click to access auction site.

This Absolute Auction, by the McGlauflin Group has been in the local papers quite a bit. I like Campton. We even looked at some places in Campton in 2007 before (alas) moving to Alton.

At any other time I might have been slightly motivated to have a look at some of these properties since I am sure there are some absolute bargains to be had at this absolute auction. But the goal is NOT to buy any property in NH anymore! 

We Visited The New Hampshire State House In Concord. Part I (of many to come)

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.


..by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

Yes, this is the impressive, iconic, white edifice with the ever shining gold dome, completed in 1819 and now having the distinction of being the oldest state house in the U.S. where the legislature still meets in the original chamber. [Some simplify that to say that it has the oldest ‘working’ chamber.] Our visit was for home-schoolers. It was organized by the same lady that arranged the equally successful and rewarding trip to the UNH ‘Know the Coast‘ day in October. It was originally going to be on Thursday, but got postponed till Friday because of the Nor’easter. We had to be there at 10 am. We had to first shovel the drive again and clear up the approach to the mailbox before we could leave. Since it was a ‘holiday’ parking wasn’t a problem and we parked right behind the State House, at a meter, with six quarters for 2 hours.

We lucked out in multiple ways. There were only three families the group just met the minimum 10 requirement for a guided tour. Furthermore, though their was another tour at the same time for a troop of boy scouts, we got the Director of the State House Visitor’s Center, Virginia Drew. She was good. She has been doing this for 12 years. She was knowledgeable, engaging, friendly and very helpful.

I was surprised how ‘open’ the State House is. I know it is the people’s house, but it was different. You just walk in. Everybody was ultra friendly. It was a good visit, a good tour. I was impressed. It was my first time. Devanee had gone with her school in Grade 4, as is the norm. Deanna had never been, and neither had Teischan. I am going to go again. See NH government in action. That we know a few legislators will make it even more fun. We got to see where Senator Andrew Hosmer will be sitting. Teischan even tried it out.

Click to ENLARGE.

New Hampshire Governor's Office, State House, with the Christmas trimmings.

Governor’s Office with the Christmas trimmings.

NH House Senate Chamber.

Teischan getting a one-on-one from our tour guide, the Director of the Visitor’s Center, Virginia Drew — in the Senate Chamber.

Virginia Drew with Barak Obama

That is our guide, Virginia Drew, the Director of the Visitor’s Center with one of the many visitors that call in. She is the one on the right.

Anura Guruge December 28 2012 at the New Hampshire State House

Trying out one of the tall chairs at the back of the Senatorial Chamber. It was very comfortable.

NH Highland Games At Loon 2012: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Companion Post:
>>  NH Highland Games At Loon: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 — The REPORT CARDSept. 23, 2012.

I realize that the above Report Card is way too long. So here is the pithy summary.

Hadrian's Wall Musical Group by Anura GurugeThe Good

1/ Hadrian’s Wall. The BEST of the Games 2012. They rocked. Dave Gossage will remind you of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull!

2/ The Massed Bands at the Closing Ceremonies. Spectacular. Hard to beat.

3/ The perennial, ‘never bad’ favorites: The Briagdoons, Albannach, NH Pipes and Drums, Mohwak Valley, Catamount, Rob Roy and Governor John Lynch. Thank YOU.

4/ Good free coffee by Green Mountain Coffee (along with free plastic water cups, a chocolate ‘something’, which was addictive and cute, GreenSt. Patty’sheadbands). Many thanks. Much appreciated.

5/ Celtica, U.S. Border Patrol Band, all of the St. Andrew bands, the Drum Majors (even the guy that kept on dropping his mace).

The Bad

1/ No Grade I band.

2/ No bands from the U.K., let alone Scotland — when this is supposed to showcase Scotland; Albannach alone can’t always be the token Scots.

Denis Carr

Denis Carr, of ‘The Brigadoons’, the requisite Voice of the NH Highland Games.

3/ Having the Clan Roll and Opening Ceremonies separate.

4/ No Denis Carr at the Opening Ceremony.

5/ No real innovation over the last decade.

The Ugly

1/ $5.75 for a sausage roll — that is Scottish Highway Robbery.

2/ No trophy for the Amateur Drum Major even though it was a proper, slated competition and they announced a winner and said that they had no award for him.

3/ The ‘Performance Tent’ is the same, with the very same dirty, blue curtains, as it has been over the last 10 years; no light show, no big screens, no dancers … just shabby, tired and dark.

4/ Prevailing sense of general apathy by the organizers.

5/ The event and program looks and feels tired, lackluster, flaccid with no efforts at re-invigoration.

Yes, with those same resources I can do better, just in case you were wondering.

NH Highland Games At Loon: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 — The REPORT CARD

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Just 3 Related posts (from many):
1/ NH Highland Games At Loon: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 — Some Pictures; Celtica, Hadrian’s Wall, The Brigadoons, Massed Bands etc.Sept. 22, 2012.
2/ NH Highland Games At Loon, 2012: Weather, Parking, Groups, Celtica and The BrigadoonsSept. 21 2012.
3/ Laconia Multicultural Day September 8, 2012: They Pulled It Off Again. Thank You. THE REPORT CARDSept. 8, 2012.

See 1st link above for more pictures from the 2012 Games.

I have been going each year since 1998, with just one exception — the last year that it was at Hopkington, given that I just did not like that venue for the Games (and sure enough they came back to Loon, somewhat sheepishly, the following year). As a family we have been going since 2003. Teischan, now 6, has never a missed a Games in her life! So I have been to 14 games, Deanna & Devanee to nine and Teischan to six. I did play the bass drum (poorly and not for that long) for a British Army Cadet Corp. (cf. ROTC) marching band and did once march with them through Aldershot (cf. West Point). I also did play the drums, while in school in London, for an incredibly bad band appropriately called the ‘Bubonic Plague‘. So, I think we are qualified, in multiple ways, to state an opinion here.

My REPORT CARD for 2012.

For just doing it: B+. Yes, this is their 37th year (and I was there for the gala 25th celebrations). I could be wrong, but of late I get the feeling that they are just going through the motions, trying to maintain status quo (which is good to a point), expending as little as possible, and not really making an effort to add a little bit of new pizazz each year. Let me give you an example. At the closing ceremony, the M.C., without any major embarrassment, announced that they did NOT have a trophy for the Amateur Drum Major, though there was a competition for that class! He went onto add, kind of shamelessly, that they would welcome a sponsor for that trophy for next year. I told Teischan that we will donate it, but we were beaten to the punch. Somebody else, standing by the announcement platform, immediately offered! But, that is not good. They take in a LOT of money. Entrance was $35 per adult. Come on buy a trophy. Yes, I (as an adopted Scot) know that it is in the GENES (and in the case of many in their low-slung jeans as well), but don’t be SO CHEAP! Actually that is, to me, the keyword of the Games of late: CHEAP. Take the ‘Performance Tent’. It is the same as it was when it was introduced in 2000 (maybe 2001) after a Games ‘impacted’ by the remnants of an hurricane. The same low budget, zero affect lighting, no atmosphere … just a cheap tent thrown up for 3 days. Come on. This is 2012. Lets have some light shows, lasers, videos, big screens. Dancers. Segways (a NH invention). Look at the Summer Olympics. There is no reason to be stuck back in 2000 — other than the desire to conserve money, a noted Scottish trait. Oh yes, they had an huge innovation this year, for which they were very proud. The Clans, at 11 am, were not escorted into the rink by a pipe band, instead they were serenaded to a song by John Carmichael and Charlie Zahm. That was nice, and different. But, that raises another question. Denis Carr of ‘The Brigadoons‘ has traditionally been the much beloved Voice of the Games. Denis has done sterling work for the Games, particularly so in 2001 when he was called upon to sing ‘Amazing Grace‘ (which he does real, real well) about a dozen times a day. John Carmichael is more famous but does not have Denis’ unique personality and presence. John is very good but he is ‘flat’. He doesn’t lift a crowd like Denis can and does. John gets polite applause, Denis gets a reception. Charlie Zahm sang the National Anthems. He was OK, but I, for one, missed Denis.

Effort: B-. Of late I get the distinct feeling that the ‘Organizers’ (the so called ‘Board’) doesn’t give a hoot about non-VIP, punters like me who pay the gate entrance and come in. It seems to be: ‘let them eat cake at $7 a slice’. I love the games but the last few years I have felt exploited; even cheated. I just happened to find, serendipitously, a whole list of ‘Highland Games’ in the U.S. — arranged by State. I really am going to think about checking out some other Games. Just saw that the Florence, Massachusetts, Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, had ‘Enter the Haggis‘! Wow. We saw them in their one and only appearance at the NH Games — at one of the events in Hopkington. They are good. World class — and I will contend that they are better than any group at this years game! Q.E.D. I am bummed (though Hadrian’s Wall warmed the inner cockles of my heart today). Deanna liked ‘EtH’. Though she hates long car rides I could have talked her into going to see the ‘EtH’. Well, the $5.75 for a sausage roll was the final straw. Despite my well known addiction to sausage rolls, and my ability to eat them in large quantities, I did NOT buy a single roll this year. It is not the price. I took $40 for food and in the end JUST spent $7 on a whoopee pie (see pictures) for the kids. I did NOT buy any food. I was protesting in my own little way. Deanna had brought some egg salad and almonds. I ate that and then went to the McDonald’s (in Loon) and blew $20. A sausage roll in a U.K. shop, this morning, will cost me 90 ‘pee’. [I checked.] That is 10 ‘pee’ under a Quid. A Quid is currently worth $1.62. So a sausage roll in England will cost me $1.46. Let us be generous and say $2.50. I am NOT paying $3 on top of that — when food prices, on the whole, are cheaper in the U.S. than in the U.K. Last year, I think, it was $4.75. A decade ago, I am sure unless my brain is playing tricks on me, that they were under $2 — which is what they should be. Screw them. I had it with the blatant exploitation. I will vote with my wallet and my feet. This might have been my last Games.

‘Enter the Haggis’ that has only appeared at the Games once — and that was when it was in Hopkington.


Overall Experience today: A. It is like what they say about fishing, though I don’t fish. Even a real bad day that involves 30 marching bands and The Brigadoons is better than the best day at ‘work’ (though I don’t work, per se, either). It wasn’t a bad day. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun. Lots of highlights. “Hadrian’s Wall” lit up the day and made me glad to have been there to see them. It is just the overall ambiance; lets just call it tacky.

‘Energy’/Ambiance: B-. ‘Albannach’ continue to be THE power source of the Games. They are the energy source. They continue to rock. Thank you, Albannach.

Organization: D, you finally managed to lose ME, and you really couldn’t have asked for a more loyal and devout fan.

Event Programming: D, for it having been done by a Dunce on Drugs; a drunk would have been more creative. ‘Searson’, supposedly a featured group, only had one slot yesterday, at noon to coincide with the Opening Ceremonies. They didn’t get much of a crowd. I had to go and check. Having the Clan Parade separate from the Opening Ceremonies is a 2001 innovation — and I know they will cite space. I don’t buy that. The Opening Ceremony is best when you have the bands and the clans interacting, feeding off each other. Having fun. And I missed Denis at the Opening Ceremonies. Was glad to see Governor John Lynch there. He got, as he should, a very warm reception.

Weather: A+. It was a cold start, but as predicted the Sun came out, the clouds disappeared for a couple of hours in the afternoon and the temperatures soared to the 70s. It was hot enough that I considered taking off my ‘heavy’ shirt. Dark clouds rolled in during the Closing Ceremonies but there was no rain — as we got on I-93 about 7:30.

Crowds: A. Wasn’t bad. Slow start but it was respectable by mid-afternoon. Only Albannach managed to PACK the ‘Performance Tent’!

Web site: C. It is OK, but could be so much better.

Sound: A, they used to fumble and stumble about like they had never done it before. They have got better, though it has taken them 10 years. Yes, they have now reduced the gigs to 35 to 40 minutes (which is shortchanging the punters like me again). So it does give the sound crews more time between gigs for set up. The 2nd ‘Celtica’ gig had some feedback, but the volume was way up. Sound, in general, was good.

Food: D. Selection was good, BUT I am not paying blatantly exploitative prices — on principal. I can be a Scot too.

Printed Program: I buy it on the way out so it doesn’t get mangled during the day. Since I print the schedule from the Internet I don’t need the Program to tell me what is happening when and where. When I went to get one on the way out, around 6 pm, the tent was closed. I could have ‘knocked’ — but I decided that I am going to keep the $5 in my pocket as yet another small protest.

The Performances We Saw

Massed Bands: A-. They were all OK. The U.S. Border Patrol, Ottawa Police, NH Pipes and Drums, Mohwak Valley and the various St. Andrew bands stood out. I missed not having a Grade I band. Also NO representation, whatsoever, from the U.K., let alone Scotland. That used to be a signature item — a Scottish band for the Highland Games.

Celtica (x2): A. We saw both their gigs, one at 10 am and the other at 4 pm, the 2nd two-orders of magnitude better than the first — hangover most likely the explanation. They are good. They are loud. They had the crowds bopping. Teischan was mesmerized. Watched them from the bottom of the stage both times. (See pictures). They tried to add some vocals. They just come across as a ‘cover band’ — shades of ‘Seven Nations‘ and ‘Red Hot Chilli Pipers‘ but with some je ne sais quoi missing. They try but they don’t (as yet) have the personality. I wish them well. But, I have a feeling that they have reached their ‘Parkinson’ — the NH Highland Games is about the top of their Game, as appears to be the case for ‘Albannach’.

Searson: B-. The ‘Indigo Girls’ without the magic. Three girls and a male drummer. They were OK. They had been to the Games before. They got a terrible slot, noon — coinciding with the Opening Ceremonies. I left after 15 minutes because I wanted to catch some of the Opening Ceremonies too. Deanna stayed. She thought they were ‘OK’ — and she is nowhere CLOSE to as fussy as I am. They are OK. I would not drive 3 miles to see them, but I am picky.

The Brigadoons: A+. When it comes to the ‘doons‘ I can’t be objective. They were like the 1st group I heard when I stumbled into my 1st Games and instantly fell in love with their music — having been a Steeleye Span and Lindarsfarne.groupie there is a genre of music that hits a chord with me. The ‘doons’ do that. Deanna and the kids know that the ‘doons‘ are my fix at the Games. They epitomize the games. The lineup has changed again! They played for about 35 minutes. They are getting old. Ashley, the youngest, is now playing with “Hadrian’s Wall”.

Hadrian’s Wall: A++. The BEST group of the Games this year, by far. The Brigadoons with attitude. Seven Nations without the grating edge (which is not a bad thing). Glengarry Bhoys Mk 1.5 — and they are from Glengarry and they are all related etc. etc. Albannach without the monotony! (Sorry). Searson with Testosterone. [I could say that differently and more powerfully, but Deanna will yell at me.] Celtica in their DREAMS! (Sorry). They rocked. They hit the right ‘tone’. They connected. They didn’t have a piper, but Dave Gossage on tin whistle put many a piper to shame. This guy reminds me of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull! Mark my words. These folks still have a lot of work to do. They need a new name, they need their OWN Web site. They will go far. Maybe they should, if they read this, call me. I will make them famous. Deanna shouts at me when I buy $20 CDs at the Games, correctly pointing out that I can get them for $12 on Amazon. But, I bought one of their $20 CDs and Deanna didn’t shout at me. I listened to it twice on the drive home. It wasn’t great; it needs work. But, they were THE HIGHLIGHT of 2012. Bravo. Take another bow.

Albannach: A+. What can I say about Albannach that hasn’t been said before? Lets start by saying that they are the nicest, most unassuming folks you could ever meet. They are famous, the most famous at the Games but they remain well grounded — wondering around the grounds. They will stop and talk to you. They will let you maul them while having a picture taken. I just acknowledged a couple of them, by raising my finger, when I saw them walk by. One of them said “Hi, mate” though I hadn’t said a word. They recognize the faithful. They were, by far, yet again, the MOST popular at the Games. Only group that packed the tent. They rocked. The crowd loved them. I listened to the entire 4 pm gig. It was OK. There was very little banter. I think they were tired. I don’t blame them. They have been doing the Games, every year, for 9 or 10 years — starting when they were Clanna Druma. They have done yeoman work. Thank you.