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The Freedom of Ross and Cromarty (22/09/08)
At a ceremony held in Tulloch Castle on Friday evening, The Highland Council presented James Hamilton (Hamish) Menzies from Dingwall with the Freedom of Ross and Cromarty.
This prestigious event was shared by family, friends and invited guests. Before enjoying a meal in the Great Hall, Councillor Margaret Paterson welcomed everyone to the occasion and highlighted that the Freedom was a very rarely presented honour.
On behalf of the Council Convener, Councillor David Alston read out the Freedom scroll before inviting Hamish to step forward to be awarded the honour in recognition of his dedication to choral and Gaelic music.
After dinner the celebrations continued with musical performances, including a special set by Dingwall Gaelic Choir which Hamish conducted for almost 35 years. On his retirement he held the distinction of having the title of the longest serving Gaelic choir conductor in Scotland.
Born in Sutherland and brought up in Brora, Mr Menzies joined the RAF at the age of 17. On his return he took up the post of organist and choirmaster at Clyne Parish Church, also directing and conducting the Gaelic Choir in the village.
Moving to Dingwall in 1969 following his marriage, he began his long association with the Dingwall Gaelic Choir in their tenor section.
In 1973 he took over as conductor and led the choir to many distinguished successes, progressing to the premier competition for choral singing in 1977 and winning the much coveted Lovat and Tullibardine Shield at the first attempt. Under his leadership the choir has won the premier trophy on many occasions along with first prizes in other major choral competitions. In 2003 at the Royal National Mod in Oban the choir won every competition entered, culminating in top marks for music.