Hamish Menzies, who conducted Dingwall Gaelic Choir with great success for 34 years died suddenly on 23 August.
He was born in Helmsdale in 1937 and brought up in Brora. Hamish was born into a very musical family. At the age of eight a friend of the family, who was a musician, took him under her wing and taught him piano for seven years.
After National Service in the RAF he returned to Brora where he became organist and choirmaster of Clyne Parish Church and conductor of the local junior and senior Gaelic choirs as well as playing piano for local dance bands.
In 1966 Hamish moved to Dingwall to work with the local Hydro Board. He joined Dingwall Gaelic Choir as a tenor and took on the role of organist and choirmaster in Strathpeffer Parish Church, which he held for 16 years, subsequently transferring to Castle Street and St Clements churches, where he played regularly right up to his final days. He was a man of strong faith and a church elder for many years.
In 1969 Hamish married his school friend Janet and their family was completed with the birth of twins Kirsteen and John in 1973. Subsequently he had a unique bond with his four grandsons, James, Benjamin, Finlay and Hector, with with whom he enjoyed telling stories and jokes. Hamsh was a man who was seldom seen without a broad smile.
Having sung in Dingwall Gaelic Choir for seven years, he took over the baton in 1973. At that time the choir sang in the Margrat Duncan competition, which did not require so many Gaelic speakers as the rather more prestigious Lovat and Tullibardine Trophy. After several years of winning the Margrat Duncan, including meeting the Queen Mother at the Aberdeen Mòd in 1976, he took the choir into the Lovat and Tullibardine competition in 1977 – and they won; a feat repeated on no less than five futher occasions under Hamish’s leadership. He handed over the conductor’s baton to his daughter Kirsteen, who continued the same level of success – with her dad singing with the bass section!
Hamish Menzies was a well respected and well loved figure in the world of Gaelic music and was granted the freedom of Ross and Cromarty in 2008, but he was principally a family man who loved his family. His popularity was evidenced by the huge turnout at his funeral service. I was privileged to be asked to conduct the massed choirs in the Gaelic invocation Athchuinge at the graveside, which ended with his grandson, Finlay, playing Lord Lovat’s Lament on the pipes, as Hamish had requested should the occasion arise.
The world of Gaelic music has lost one of its best ambassadors and he will be sadly missed but, especially, by Janet and the family.
Gus am bris an latha