Fiona and her portrait

 

Staffin born Fiona Cruickshank finds herself featured in a new tv series involving artist Heather Dewar.

To be screened on BBC Alba, Fiona, now living in Portree spent a number of years travelling before returning to her favourite place of all – her native isle.

And with her connection to the far north of the island remaining so strong as a surprise for Fiona, Heather incorporates the Old Man of Storr into the background of her portrait.

Islay-born artist Heather Dewar combines two of her passions – people and art – in the new series on BBC ALBA Dealbhan Fraoich which begins on Thursday 19 January.

Travelling around Scotland she draws the portraits of ordinary Gaels with extraordinary life stories.   And as the much-loved presenter draws, she talks - and teases out of her ‘subject’ every detail of their fascinating life story. 

Heather is well-known to viewers as the presenter of Eileanan Fraoich and Bailtean Fraoich. She is a cook, crofter, gardener and artist, but possibly her greatest gift is her ability to charm and chat!

With easel, drawing board, paper and charcoal in tow, she embarks on a tour of the country, drawing the captivating and engaging people who have agreed to sit for her.

Before setting off on her travels, Heather arranges to draw her friend James MacFarlane who lives in Port Ellen on Islay. A busy fisherman who spends much of his life on the high seas, Jim regales her with his tales of life at sea and of the successive generations of his family who’ve been fishing. Knowing how important the sea has been to James, Heather decides to incorporate his beautiful skiff into the background of his drawing.

In the second programme in the series, Heather meets Ena Macdonald in North Uist. Ena has been breeding Highland cattle for decades and her services to crofting even earned her an MBE. An accomplished and remarkable woman, Ena’s life story is so absorbing that Heather almost forgets to draw! 

The third programme finds Heather on Skye where she meets Donald ‘The Hen’ Macdonald. As one of the few people supplying hens to egg-loving Hebrideans, Donald enjoys near celebrity status throughout the Highlands and Islands. His interest in hens began at a young age when, unable to rear any other animals because of his family’s shortage of land, he started using his pocket money to buy the smallest animals he could think of!

On South Uist, Heather meets Don MacPhee, the diver and fisherman who was photographed for a national newspaper when he assisted them in searching the wreck of the SS Politician. His dive unearthed many of the precious bottles of whisky that hadn’t made it onto Eriskay’s shores in the aftermath of the accident. The shipwreck became famous internationally after the publication of Compton MacKenzie’s novel Whisky Galore and subsequent film.

In the final programme Heather meets the remarkable Catriona MacAskill on Eriskay. In her mid-90s, Catriona now lives in Edinburgh but often returns to the island on which she was born and bred. Together they attend mass – as Catriona does every day – before Heather gets to work on the portrait. Rather reluctantly, the modest Catriona tells Heather about the BEM (British Empire Medal) she was recently awarded for her services to Gaelic.

Heather’s Portraits, a six-part series produced by Caledonia TV for BBC ALBA, will be broadcast starting on Thursday 19 January at 8.30pm and for five subsequent Thursdays at 8.30 - 9pm.