The Isle of Barra. Is Detroit near by?

08 Apr

Situated far off the Northwest coast of Scotland among the Outer Hebrides, is the island of Barra, reputedly the home of clan MacNeil. My condo’s assistant property manager Nicolle, shares her name with the popular Cape Breton family of musicians The Barra MacNeils, and the  heavenly voiced singer Rita MacNeil.

I have a connection, albeit tenuous, with a couple of these Barra progeny.  I first encountered Rita MacNeil during John Wyre’s first Drum Festival at Expo 86 in Vancouver. I was sitting in the lounge area just off stage when Rita came in. I said hello and she, being very shy, just nodded and mumbled something unintelligible. Later I would see her on CBC  television where she had her own show.  Anyone who has heard Rita singing will never forget her voice.

My connection with the Barra MacNeils is less personal. During my first year serving on the board of the Toronto based Amadeus Choir, a fundraiser was planned. I suggested hiring the great chef Michael Stadtlander to cook for us and  for entertainment, someone suggested the Barra MacNeils. The benefit was a success. After dinner I wandered outside and listened to a trio of MacNeils as they played a very hot hornpipe. The drummer was terrific. He ended a short solo with a perfectly placed woodblock note that made me laugh. He saw me and we laughed together. I did not speak to him as I had to Rita, but we did share a rare and enduring moment.

All these memories came back to me when I heard Mary T. Barra, née Makera, testify before the U.S. House sub-committee on commerce. She is not from Barra, but her husband Tony may well be. Of course the politicians were a cacophony of caterwaulimg retromingents. Though none of the foregoing, Mary was General Motors sacrificial lamb. Gracious me, she had only been CEO for 3 months and all she would say to all the questions was, “I don’t know”.  Tsk tsk, unfortunate lady. I’d expect, if you had any sense at all, you’d want to join  hubby for a lengthy getaway.  Might I suggest the Isle of Barra?

Mary T. Barra remains GM’s CEO. GM has been recalling millions of vehicles from years past to the present.  Cpmedian Stephen Colbert recently telecast a picture of three small GM cars declaring them to be, “The last GM cars”.



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