An odd time this last week. We got off to an interesting start with Willie Campbell here on Raasay for yet another ‘Raasay Tunes’ night on the 29th of March, an appropriate date for singing some sad blues tunes on what might have been our ‘Brexit Day’ had the government not got itself into yet another mess. Willie is an amazing singer from Lewis, and he entertained a fair crowd of locals with his mix of traditional pub songs and country hits. The most fun, however, was the day afterwards in which I convinced Willie to visit us in the distillery for an impromptu session in the warehouse. Behold what Iain Robertson refers to as my “latest in a long list of health and safety nightmares”:
I was very much worried that the sound recording devices I had one me wouldn’t be up to the task. My once trusty Zoom H2 that I’ve carried since college suddenly died at Christmas time and I do need to invest in a new one at some point. All I had on me was the Sony, which was positioned quite far back in the room and even equipped with my Rode videomic Go wasn’t in the best place for audio. The only other thing I had on me was my cheap and cheerful clip-on mics that I carry around everywhere I go which are great for interviews but not exactly the range of music and deafening notes when clipped to Willie’s lapel. What I ended up doing was creating a bit of a compromise, using audio from the clip on mic to capture the rich guitar notes and vocals, but the audio from the camera synced up with and blended together to add in a nice atmospheric tone. Overall a great success, and all done with a single camera! I had Willie sing the same song twice, so all the ‘movement’ shots are actually from his second run (which is why the sound doesn’t always 100 %match up). Willie also sent me one of his tracks to see if I could do anything with it in terms of a little impromptu music video, so I’ll be looking at that when I next get the chance. Overall though a great fun session and a really interesting night of music.
But not long after editing and posting said video we heard some worrying news that would eventually blossom into something a lot more strange and tragic. Just as I was finishing up for the day on Sunday, Chloe informed me that one of the locals, Alasdair Lovie, had gone missing that afternoon. Alasdair and his wife had moved to Raasay well over a decade ago and at 77 years old Alasdair was still incredibly fit and active for his age, often being found in his garden or walking the dog around Inverarish and Suisnish. As it was such lovely weather and quite warm that afternoon, I didn’t feel that worried initially. Alasdair had developed dementia in recent years and sometimes people suffering form such conditions can get lost and wander off, but I had thought it would be unlikely he would stray that far from the road. However, as we collected at the fire station to organise and search the immediate area the concern amongst us locals began to heighten slightly. It was as if Alasdair has just vanished, with no sign of him on near roads, in any houses or outbuildings and with his last reported sighting being near the old mines at the start of the ‘Burma Road’. For the next week, helicopters, coastguard, police, mountain rescue teams and able residents walked and picked over the entirety of the island to no avail. Mary and I found ourselves hiking rivers and marshland, in teams we searched roadsides, coastlines, hills, moorlands, buildings and thick scrubs of bushes to no avail. By the end of the week after what must be the most exhaustive search the island has ever seen, the search officially concluded. There were no clues beyond his last recording sighting on the road to the old mines, no discarded piece of clothing or footprints, nothing to indicate where he may have gone. The island is still in a state of slight shock and disbelief from the events, and should nothing turn up in the next few months it will certainly go down as one of the most bizarre and mysterious disappearances in the history of Raasay. In many ways though I do think it highlighted the real community spirit of the island, with dozens of locals dropping everything to craw and re-crawl miles land and coast, teams of volunteers manning the fire station around the clock with food and hot drinks for the police and other teams who were working tirelessly throughout the day. I do hope Alasdair didn’t suffer wherever he may have got too, and one day hopefully there might be some closure to this sad story.