top of page

A Write Highland Hoolie 2023

They came from near and far for this year's Write Highland Hoolie. The event was joyous, enhanced by crisp, clear views of the islands, the Cuillin Ridge looking its best, and soul-searing sunsets. Opening with a spectacular celebration of the Life of George Mackay Brown in music, words, and images, Duncan Chisholm, Hamish Napier, and poet Jim Mackintosh’s ‘Beyond the Swelkie' was a profoundly emotional and moving tribute to the great Orcadian. Authors that took to the stage over the weekend included Lin Anderson, whose latest spine-chilling crime drama is set in an Arisaig campsite; Denise Mina had everyone glued to their seats amid plenty of her trademark wit and humour; John Lister-Kaye, brought tears to the eyes of not only himself, but the audience when he read his story of hand-rearing a weasel kit called Wilbur, and Sandy Winterbottom, whose book The Two-Headed Whale is shortlisted for a Saltire prize, stepped in at the last minute due to a cancellation, and proved extremely popular. Keggie Carew, previous winner of the Costa Book Prize with her first book, Dadland, had travelled from Wiltshire to discuss her latest work, Beastly. The audience was in for a fascinating session when television presenter and author Jamie Crawford talked about his book Wild History.

Poetry was very much to the fore, with a hilariously irreverent session, History According to Hugh McMillan, at the end of which Hugh, judge for the 2023 Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition, presented the winner, Charlie Gracie, with his prizes. 


On Saturday, any flagging spirits were instantly fired by Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey during their rousing and entertaining session before dinner. Much to the amusement of guests and fellow musicians, the versatile Ross had done much of the fabulous catering and, at one point, was aided by Duncan Chisholm.

Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier ran another Hoolie School of Music Session in the High School for senior music pupils, while Jim Mackintosh, Hugh McMillan, Keggie Carew, Jenny Brown, and Breege Smyth also held workshops for pupils. Molly Arbuthnott visited the Primary School with her Oscar the Ferry Cat story. At the grand finale children's tea party and prize giving, Alasdair Chisholm entertained and charmed everyone with One Hungry Dragon amid excellent Gaelic and English singing from the Primary School choirs, and a lavish amount of tea and cakes.

The star of the weekend was undoubtedly octogenarian raconteur-adventurer Tom McClean. Raised in an orphanage and with a heart-rending back story, his remarkable tales of exploits in the Paratroopers, the SAS, his survival for over 40 days on Rockall, and his transatlantic solo rowing records in diminishing sizes of adapted boats had the audience gasping. His glorious understatement and dry wit while chatting with the brilliant chair, Sandy Richardson,  made this the most memorable event of a cheering weekend.