Seven tribes and a virtual treat

The names of seven ancient tribes are contained within the names of seven hills and wattirs all within sight or sound of Knockengorroch Meadow home of Ken Dee.

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 11.48.47The Brockies, the Brackies, the Fiddaich, the Maddys, the Dukies, Shallochs and the Garrochs, all converged once upon a time on Knockengorroch Meadow, home of the ‘Gai-sure’ Garrochs on wattirside of Deugh.  To the green sward bank of the ‘Birth-stem’ Deugh of Solway Diva goddess River Dee Ken Doon hame of Gallowa’, from far and wide they gathered here the people of the land to celebrate the gifts of Spring  and Summer time.

So it went, for century on century, until one day their voice was silenced.  The cruel 19TH century hand of the Southern Upland ‘clearances’ made landlords rich at the expense of their cattle herding tenants, most of whom were forced to the flee their homes, to make way for more profitable new improved sheep farms.  After which historical British crime against humanity, the whole of the upper Aftonwater glen of Birthstem Deugh was home to no more than a dozen families, where once had been hundreds and thousands of souls.   All was not lost however.  Those hired shepherds and their households who remained continued to gather on the ‘Recht Knock meadow holm’ of Knockrach of Deugh, until the late 20TH century in fact, when coniferous cabbage wood was deemed more profitable than the lives and livelihoods of good folk.  Sad to say, by the year 1971 on the upper Deugh above Carsphairn only one of ten hill farms remained in occupation, and that was Knockengorroch …

Which is where I come into the story – a little later in the midge ridden summer of 1997 a Magic Rainbow descended on Deughside and after that an equally midgie Ceilidh Gall Gallowa’ was born and after that at the end of a dricht september,  the first Hairth of Knockrach made history.  The mother of all Upland Music Festivals in all the land of Scotia  –  Knockengorroch World Ceilidh sounded loud and clear the call of return to the hills, and you came, you the people of the land, and for over twenty years now you came to this place and made it happy once again

And then, once more bad news was heard.  First a rumour, then a rapidly appoaching threat to life and limb, then suddenly, if not the actual end of the world, as close to doomsday as ever I recall in more than seventy years, the lock down was upon us.  This month of May the Cairnsmore hills of Deugh are strangely silent, but every passing storm cloud has a silver lining.  Wind and rain have lashed the meadows for the past two days, Knockengorroch  2020  this weekend would have been a bedraggled cold affair.  In addition to which the good news is that we’re safe and well and warm and dry in our homes -and connected as we never were before.  When I was a boy in short trousers only the likes of comic Dan Dare and the Martian Treens conversed with each other’s moving image on a futuristic screen, but now we can do just that.

To me it is miraculous, that I can talk to all of you like this, and that you can hear me.  I don’t know how you did it but you’re here on line.  Thankyou for supporting our ‘world ceilidh’.  The virtual treat that we’ve enjoyed these past two days confirms my faith in humankind but more than that, it reaffirms the future  of a real music festival that awaits out there in the not too distant unlocked future, and what a fest of fests that will be!

I am nearly finished.  When I am done I want to hear a huge round of un-muted noise.  Give it up for all the performers, songsters , musicians, wordsmiths and workshop tutors who have given joy, and I still don’t know how it was done.  Give it up for Katch, Fiona, Lizzy, and Toby , and give it up for my son Robert who tells me what to do, and last but not least give it up for Liz my lovely wife.

Haste ye back to Knock INSHALLOCH if God permits  one day in the not too distant future we will meet again in person but till then cheerio, stay safe

Thankyou all!

Simon Holmes





18 years and the Knockengorroch Hairth burns bright still


YA SALAAM Knockengorroch! Peace upon you sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, children of Bo-Airigh. Another four days of upland music, song and dance, and poetry and storytale, and many more exciting happenings, all have come and gone.   After eighteen years of artistic adventure and much acclaim the meadow Hairth of Knockengorroch World Ceilidh burned bright this end of May, in the form of eighteen guest-fires.

INSHALLAH ‘God Willing’ or if fate decrees Knockengorroch hearths will burn again next May.  Without a warm guest fire in this tranquil upland glen there will be no magic Ceilidh, without the crackling logs, the scented drifting smoke ascending to the homely sky, it may even come about that this great event will falter and then die. Make your voice heard! If like me you cherish liberty and freedom, cultural heritage, artistic expression, or just simply the communal right to re-connect with nature, join with me. Haste ye back to Knockengorroch and return the ‘High-field’ of the ‘Rock-fetched’ back to humankind.

Three days and nights the ‘Cow-lords’ stage was host to performances that called the faithful to the fruitful Celtic hairth of Scottish and World Music. Everybody in the hill-foot audience made connection with the green Bo-Airigh stage and everyone was happy. Diverse genres, many cultures, traditional and cutting edge music, all were celebrated. On the Shieling ‘Summer Lodge’ Stage, in the Knocktaigh ‘Highfield House’, under Maddaigh’s Mash Tree, in the Fraoch ‘Heather’ Bar, world dance, live-song, ambient sound and light, roots music through to digital electronica, and beyond to rhythmic temples of pure spirit driven sound, all the heads and Gairy craigs of Cairnsmore of Deugh echoed to the music of the people of the land.

More still, the work of many years of love and craftsmanship – Lang Whan ‘Long John-Owen’s hall’, the World Ceilidh Longhouse has now a toorie loft house that rises proud before the mount they call the Craig of Greystone and Knockgrey, and Carsphairn Greenwell of Scotland. Fons Scotae: the Fruitful Well of ‘Concordance’, where recht Whan ‘John-Owen’ slew the champion of the ‘Black-stem’ Deugh, and where about a fire three ‘poet-songsters’ played. They spoke to us, and we to them in song, beneath the rafters of a ‘bútt and ben’ long-hall that was built in lasting tribute to those long passed away, but with whom we shared the gift of celebration in the upland spring. . .

Come back again, you patrons of the best music festival I know of anywhere in any truly heiland glen between here and the Himalayan snow. Spread the word! Introduce a friend, or many friends. We need more of you to make the Ceilidh magic happen. And so to all my true good friends I say take care. Inshallah we will meet again next year.


Guy Berresford_DSC2977_!oC12World Ceilidh 2015 is set to be a fireside experience like no other seen before on Knockengorroch Meadows. A warming hearth by day, a twinkling beacon of festival community by night, a glowing tribute to the ancient cattle Bo folk who dwelt here long ago. On waterside of Deugh this May, once again the meadow fires will be re-kindled as so they rightly should. The right for us to light them has been hard won. The relevant Fire, Public Health and Licensing authorities were not easy to convince, but it seems we have succeeded in persuading them that safely managed communal camp fires are an essential feature of this unique Upland Festival.

Unsupervised public visitor camp-fires are now prohibited at all music festivals in Scotland, including here at Knockengorroch. For the first time in 18 years we have been instructed by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to fully implement the prohibition of ‘unauthorized local fires’at an event whose many loyal patrons have grown to cherish the rare pleasure of their own open outdoor hearth-fire to sit beside.   We have no choice in the matter, other than to apologize to those of you who up to now have safely and responsibly managed some of the friendliest and most inspirational festival fires to be found anywhere in Great Britain.   Do not be dismayed! In every cloud there is a silver lining. We have an alternative plan, a unique World Geilidh Guest Fire initiative that we believe not only caters to the needs and welfare of our many visitors but that celebrates the wondrous ancient gift of magic fire itself.

For every Upland Festival year now passed a tribute welcome fire will burn. To celebrate eighteen great years of music, song and dance on Knockengorroch Meadows, in every arena, and in every local quarter of each and every camp site a warming Ceilidh Guest Fire will be lit, managed and attended by campsite stewards, open to all who camp nearby, or who come to visit, a friendly neighbourhood fireside hearth to set down and enjoy the tranquil Glen of Deugh. On the Loaning field, on Waterside of Deugh, on the wild brae moor, beside streams and pools and even hidden springs, the Black Hairth smoke of old Knokrach o’ Deugh will rise up above the green,and happy folk will meet again.

To protect the meadow grass somefires will be portable ‘Black lum’ iron ‘Home-fire’ braziers, while in tribute to Black-stem Garroch ‘Gorroch’ folk whose hearths burned brightly on these meadows long ago, others will be permanent dry-stone clay and turf interpretive features that connect the landscape of the past with the heartbeat of the present day, in a way that only this living World Festival of World Pastoral upland life can do so well.

The Fire Service is adamant on the matter. It is a condition of our public entertainment licence that no fires in wheel-hubs are to be allowed, nor can we supply our guests with fire-wood any longer.   However, there are those of you we know who come with braziers and a variety of customized metal stoves raised above the ground,who bring your own firewood and who manage your own fires safely and responsibly.

It could be that some of you fall into this category, in which case you may be able to still have your camp fire but there must now be conditions: your fire would have to be approved by our Fire Safety officer, and if deemed suitable there would be a 10/15 min briefing on fire safety eg never leaving the fire unattended [or extinguishing it if not being supervised]. Or alternatively you may be happy to camp beside one of our communal fires and help ‘supervise’ it.

We cannot guarantee this special privilege, but if you wish to know more, please email for further info.