Donald MacLeod: Tis the season to give thanks and try and be jolly

Given “tis the season to be jolly” and that today is Christmas Eve, I’ve decided to fully embrace the festive spirit, and spread some overdue Christmas cheer and goodwill by giving thanks and awarding “Donald Gongs” to those who, in another depressing and distressing Covid year, have made some of my darker moments brighter, lifted me up when I was down, and backed me to the hilt. Stars each and every one of them.

First up, but in no particular order, a string of Donald gongs must go to leading industry figures from Scotland’s beleaguered, almost decimated hospitality, tourism, culture, live music and leisure sectors.

To name but a few, respected live music promoters and good friends Mark Mackie and Geoff Ellis, as well as highly respected hospitality figures such as Marc Crothall, Colin Wilkinson, Stuart Patrick, Mike Kill, and the legendary theatre giant, the king of Panto (oh yes, he is!) Iain Gordon, of the Glasgow Pavilion are all fully deserving of gongs for sticking their heads above the parapet when it was easier to dive under the duvet.

Also worthy of awards are all the representatives of the industry associations such as the SLTA, NTIA, ST Alliance, SHG, UK Hospitality, MVT, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and SCMIT who in the interests of their desperate members, have fought doggedly and determinedly with the crackers at Holyrood for sector recognition and emergency financial support.

And while I’m on about sector funding, Creative Scotland – one of the few government agencies to get a thumbs up from Audit Scotland, something which cannot be said for the Scottish Government – are also a deserving recipient of a Donald Gong for their diligent management and industrious processing of thousands of emergency funding applications.

Special recognition and thanks should also be given to those broadcasters who gave myself and other industry figures air time to express their views, and question and condemn government policies we believed to be iniquitous and disproportionate.

In particular BBC Radio Scotland’s John Beattie, Mhairi Stuart and Stephen Jardine, and Laura Boyd at STV News, as well as the news teams at Radio Clyde, Go RADIO, ITV and HEART who all deserve Donald yule-tide gongs for their support, as do all at The Herald, in particular my long-suffering editor Donald Martin.

However, for his unstinting support of the night-time economy, Donald’s Golden Media Gong goes to one of the UK’s top broadcast commentators and great friend, the fantastic Mike Graham from TalkRadio.

When the Covid pressure became too much, and we were finally allowed to travel, my family’s favourite retreat to rest and unwind was again Dunkeld. Here we would hook up with our great friends, and talented couple Dougie and Jenny Maclean. Dougie who penned our other national anthem Caledonia, is one of Scotland’s greatest folk singers. He is also a fabulous story teller, what the Gaels of old would call a Seanchaid, and his knowledge of ancient lore and Scottish history is breathtaking. They are fully deserving of Donald Gongs, as are their weekly live streaming broadcasts of Dougie and his Tattie Heeds from their Butterstone studios – performances which have received three million views across 56 countries. A fantastic achievement!

Donald Gongs are also given to all those who made my wife and I feel so welcome during our trip to the isles, in particular Glenegadale House on Islay, Argyll House Hotel in Oban, Sligachan Hotel and Kinloch Lodge on Skye , the highlight of which was bombing along a deserted sun-kissed sandy beach on Islay, Top Gear style, while blasting out The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. Absolutely brilliant.

A deserving gong also goes to my great friend and promoter Jim Morwood, who stepped in to act as chauffeur for my proud mum and I when we went to Windsor Castle to collect my MBE for services to charity and music. An unforgettable, magical day.

However, the biggest, shiniest Christmas baubles of all are reserved for my lovely wife Pauline, family, and embattled staff. They have been a huge source of strength and support in these trying times and I really can’t thank them enough. Merry Christmas x

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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