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Cliar were formed in 1999 by singers Mary Ann Kennedy and Arthur Cormack, but in truth the band’s roots go much further back than that.
During the tail-end of a pretty grim winter, in February 1992, Arthur and Mary Ann were joined by Arthur’s long-time musical partner, Blair Douglas, and Glasgow guitarist, chaz stewart, whom Blair had met while playing with the likes of the Zydeco Ceilidh Band.

The plan was to tour the West Highlands and Islands gigging at night and touring schools during the day. The lack of a name for the four prompted Arthur’s wife, Shona, to suggest “Cliar”, after the itinerant bands of poets and musicians which used to roam the Highlands. This was all very fine, although Arthur felt compelled to translate the word as “wandering minstrels” on the posters, which perhaps wasn’t quite the image they were hoping to create.
Despite cancelled ferries, charming landlords, catering to schoolchildren’s tastes in music from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Psalm 23, and once even being mistaken for Runrig (don’t ask), the tour was a great success and all four agreed they should do it all again.
Seven years later, and with the assistance of the Scottish Arts Council, the four original Cliar-ites did get together again with the addition of two new members: Mary Ann’s cousin Maggie MacDonald and then-BBC-colleague Bruce MacGregor, who was later to make his name as the founder of the Highland fiddle showcase Blazin Fiddles.


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