A legendary Gaelic writer, actress and singer, renowned as one of the originators of the Edinburgh folk scene of the 1960s, is set to celebrate her 80th ‘birthday’ in style as she takes to the stage with musical friends at the Blas Festival on 15 September.
Brought up in Marvig, Lewis, Dolina MacLennan was introduced to drama and the great Gaelic bards at the Nicolson Institute and would go on to devote her life to writing, singing, acting, broadcasting and political campaigning.
She and Robin Gray were the first folk singers in the Waverley Bar, which continues to thrive today as the hub of folk music here in Edinburgh.
In the 1970s she made a name for herself, singing for the Scottish Ballet in a Gaelic production that toured the country before becoming the first Gaelic speaker to present lunchtime programme 12 Noon.
She has appeared on TV numerous times, contributing to the first ever Gaelic teaching series Beagan Gàidhlig, and going on to star in soap operas, movies such as The Queen, and even comedy series Still Game.
However, what Dolina is known for most is her role in the ground-breaking 7:84 Scotland production, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil which changed the face of Scottish theatre and politics and toured Scotland and beyond in the mid-1970s.
Dolina, who is currently celebrating her 60th year performing at the Edinburgh Festival, said: “As my birthday falls on January 1st, it is always hard to distinguish it from the usual Hogmanay celebrations; this year was no different.
“This year, being special, my daughter Jane and my friend Christine Grant Ross produced a cake with an 80 on it. That’s as far as it went for celebrations apart from family cards and gifts; I didn’t feel like a big party because of the death, a few months before, of a beloved nephew. I feel like the Queen, having two birthdays.
“So, this is the very first time in all of my 80 years that I have been rewarded with what I always wished – that my birthday was on a normal day like 15th September!
“I am hugely honoured by the generosity of the Blas Festival and look forward hearing my favorite singers and musicians and meeting old and new friends.”
Helping Dolina celebrate her milestone birthday will be Pàdruig Morrison, Christine Primrose, Allan MacDonald, Seasaidh Lexy and a few others to be announced.
Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from 7-15 September.
It aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over nine days of concerts, cèilidhs and larger events in venues across the Highlands and Islands.