PRESS RELEASE: In the Wake of Neil Gunn Tour Dates

PRESS RELEASE: In the Wake of Neil Gunn Tour Dates

Category : Blog Press releases




In 1937, Neil Gunn quit his job at the Customs Office in Inverness to pursue his writing career full time. The first thing he did was to sell his house and buy a boat in the North of Skye. He spent a summer sailing Scotland’s beautiful West Coast, seeking inspiration for his writing. The following year his account of the trip, Off in a Boat, was published. In May 2014, after a time recovering in hospital from a life-threatening illness, composer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Vass set off on his own voyage inspired by Neil Gunn’s adventures as part of a new traditional arts commission sponsored by Creative Scotland. This October will see the touring of this commission and release of a new album.

Named Composer of the Year in the 2012 Scots Trad Music Awards, Vass’s music has become known for its originality and inventive approach to the Scottish tradition. A long-term member of renowned Scottish band Malinky, Mike has also performed in the Paul McKenna Band, in a duo with sister Ali, with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, Scots singer Fiona Hunter and in the feted super group Fiddle Rendezvous.

In 2013, he experienced a set-back when he was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease and was obliged to spend a prolonged period of time in hospital. His father brought him Gunn’s book Off in a Boat to read, and the idea for the project was sparked.

Says Mike: “I’d suffered a life threatening illness called Neuroborreliosis – late stage Lyme’s disease that affects the central nervous system. I found Gunn’s book utterly inspirational and immediately started planning my own version of the trip.”

A lifelong passion for sailing fuelled the development of the project which enabled Vass to find his own creative inspiration in Gunn’s coastal route. In May this year, having won the support of Enterprise Music Scotland, Creative Scotland, Calmac Ferries and Gunn’s publishers House of Lochar, Mike and a small crew set off in his father’s 35’ sailing boat from Portree on the Isle of Skye voyaging to the Eigg, Arisaig, Mull, Iona, Oban, Kentallen, Fort William and back up the Caledonian Canal to his hometown Nairn. He revisited the same coastal communities as Gunn and performed a series of concerts with guest musicians, including one at Iona Abbey.

He says: “Making music on board and watching the stunning coastline of Scotland slip by from one of the most privileged viewpoints on Earth is something I will never forget.” Though intimately inspired by Gunn’s voyage and writing Mike said: “It is inescapably the story of my own reflections. It is a journey of recovery and discovery”.

artworks-000086755784-rbz2uv-t200x200Since the voyage Mike has worked hard in the studio to compose and record a new suite of music inspired by the journey and featuring recorded samples collected on the way (from flapping flags to a diesel inboard). Says Mike: “I used some quirky sounding objects from around the house – if you listen carefully you might hear a toilet seat lid, an office stapler and a paracetamol tub being used as a shaker!” Mike will now tour the album, joined by some incredible musicians (The Cairn String Quartet, Euan Burton, Innes Watson, JenniferPort, and Hamish Napier) and featuring live sample triggers and film footage from the voyage recorded by Salmon Films.

The tour will revisit some of the areas most important to Gunn: Inverness, where he had lived; Caithness, where he was born; and Skye and Oban which were landmarks on the original voyage. Mike himself spent a week moored in Oban where he worked with the local Fèis and performed in nearby Kentallen. Mike is also looking forward to revisiting The Byre Theatre in St Andrews at the start of the tour. This is one of the first events to take place in the Byre since the reopening of the theatre under the management of the University of St Andrews, and demonstrates the University’s commitment to using the Byre to promote music of all genres as well as professional, community and student drama.

  • 7th October, 7.30pm, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews
  • 8th October, 8pm, Eden Court, Inverness
  • 9th October, 7.30pm, St. John’s Cathedral, Oban
  • 10th October, 7.30pm, SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye
  • 11th October, 8pm, Lyth Arts Centre, Wick

‘Mike Vass – In the Wake of Neil Gunn’ will be released on the 20th October 2014 on Unroofed Records, and a preview track has been released as well as downloads of sheet music transcribed by Mike during a research period at the School of Scottish Studies before the May voyage.



About Mike Vass

Named Composer of the Year in the 2012 Scots Trad Music Awards Vass’s last highly acclaimed album Decemberwell (2012) was another instrumental CD conjuring up both the chill and the warmth of the final month of the year. A long-term member of renowned Scottish band Malinky, Mike has also performed in the Paul McKenna Band, in a duo with sister Ali, with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes and in the feted super group Fiddle Rendezvous.

Also building a career as a producer (he produced Scottish songstress Fiona Hunter’s debut album last year) the Nairn-born tunesmith is known for his classy compositions – he wrote and performed the soundtrack for Gavin Robinson’s Scottish BAFTA-winning Hart’s Desire animation and his jig Cavers of Kircudbright won the inaugural Neil Gow Composition Award and has been recorded by artists from Scotland, Ireland, France and USA.


For interviews with Mike Vass, hi res images, gig review tickets and further albums for airplay or review please contact Jane Brace PR on (01243) 789554 or

For general information about the tour contact Charlotte Hathaway on 07986121370 or

Neil Gunn

Neil Miller Gunn (8 November 1891 – 15 January 1973) was a prolific novelist, critic, and dramatist who emerged as one of the leading lights of the Scottish Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. With over twenty novels to his credit, Gunn was arguably the most influential Scottish fiction writer of the first half of the 20th century (with the possible exception of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the pen name of James Leslie Mitchell). Like his contemporary, Hugh MacDiarmid, Gunn was politically committed to the ideals of both Scottish nationalism and socialism (a difficult balance to maintain for a writer of his time).

Gunn’s fiction deals primarily with the Highland communities and landscapes of his youth, though the author chose (contra MacDiarmid and his followers) to write almost exclusively in English rather than Scots or Gaelic . Despite his lack of Gaelic, he was heavily influenced in his writing style by the language.

Ticket information

Key websites – a blog about the project including diaries from the trip and videos

Media links

Soundcloud: – official preview track from the new album