Skipinnish’s and Hebridean fisherman Donald Francis (DF) MacNeil’s hit protest song opposing HPMAs will debut in Aberdeen this Friday 12 May
Fisherman Donald Francis MacNeil joins Celtic music legends in hit song’s first live performance
Celtic music legends Skipinnish and Hebridean fisherman Donald Francis (DF) MacNeil will debut their hit protest song, opposing Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), in Aberdeen this Friday 12 May.
The Clearances Again, written by the band’s co-founder Angus MacPhail, is from the perspective of his friend DF who has fished the waters around his home island of Vatersay and nearby islands all his life. It illustrates the significant concern over Scottish Government plans to impose HPMAs on island and coastal communities. If approved, HPMAs would cause economic, social and cultural devastation by banning all fishing, aquaculture and infrastructure developments in at least 10% of Scotland’s coastal and inshore waters by 2026.
HPMAs stem from the Bute House Agreement between the government and the Scottish Greens. They would mean Scotland’s island and coastal communities, where fishing and marine activities are critical for the fragile local economies, will be devastated as centuries old industries will be forced to close and small inshore fishing boats – such as DF’s – will be permanently tied up in harbours and ports.
The song – which was 64-year-old DF’s recording debut – was released on 14 April and reached number five in UK download charts in a little over 24 hours and became the longest top ten charting song for Skipinnish. Its time in the top ten saw the song overtake established global acts such as Ed Sheeran, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson and Sam Ryder.
Inshore fisherman, DF will perform as lead vocals on The Clearances Again along with Skipinnish at the band’s Aberdeen Music Hall gig on Friday 12 May. They will be joined in the song by the gig’s special guests Leo Moran and Anthony ‘Anto’ Thistlethwaite of The Saw Doctors, who will also be opening the Aberdeen event.
The Friday night concert coincides with the annual major fishing exhibition in the city which attracts thousands of people from fishing communities across the UK.
DF MacNeil said: “This is the first time I’ll stand in front of such a large crowd to sing, and certainly the first time I’m debuting a song. I’m doing this to send a clear message to the government and politicians about the damage they’ll inflict on island and coastal communities through their poorly conceived policies.
“I am singing to save my community and my industry for future generations. We want the government and its agencies to work better with us and in a more collaborative and open manner. We are often at the blunt end of a thoughtless Edinburgh policy with little or no meaningful consultation or dialogue or care for its impacts. We know every inch of these shores and we know the waters better than any civil servant. But ministers and officials feel they can write us off with the sweep on a pen and leave us to pick up the pieces.
DF added: “The communities of the Highlands and Islands are no walkover. We hope the response to this song shows our politicians that they must rethink and avoid inflicting depopulation on the scale of the Highland Clearances on our already fragile communities.”
Skipinnish’s Angus MacPhail, who is originally from Tiree but now fishes out of the Isle of Barra, commented: “We’ve been blown away by the response to The Clearances Again. It’s the highest we’ve ever reached in the download charts and the longest we’ve remained in the top ten. This clearly shows the strength of feeling towards these disastrous proposals, not just among the fishing community but people across Scotland and beyond who fully understand the devastating impact HPMAs will have. This disgraceful treatment of our island and coastal communities must be stopped, otherwise our future will be wrecked for the sake of a political deal.
“To have our lyrics quoted in parliament across all political parties and used to inform a public discussion in support of scrapping the proposals means we have struck a chord with people. They see how ill-conceived these plans are and the catastrophic consequences they will have. Sadly, our politicians have yet to wake up to that reality, but through sustained campaigning and objections we hope the folly of their plans will dawn on them before it’s too late.”
Angus added: “We are looking forward to debuting The Clearance Again with DF. He sings it from the heart because he knows what’s at stake if the Edinburgh government gets its way. You can feel the passion in his voice and we are sure the audience will be captivated by his unique delivery of the song.”
Despite the consultation on HPMAs closing on 17 April, Skipinnish and DF MacNeil are urging people to continue lobbying their MSPs so that the strength of feeling against HPMAs remains at the forefront.
Tickets for the concert and the live debut of The Clearances Again at Aberdeen Music Hall are available through the Skipinnish website.
Source: Press Release