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Young Hamish upstages the whole folk festival

The star of the 33rd Shetland Folk Festival, Hamish McLeman with his happy parents Mhari and Ewan at Aberdeen

THE STAR of this year’s Shetland Folk Festival is recovering from the shock of the occasion in hospital in Aberdeen.

While the rest of the festival goers were partying hard in the early hours of Sunday morning at Islesburgh, young Hamish McLeman was busy being born at the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

His mother, 34 year old festival committee stalwart Mhari Pottinger, had been expecting to compere the Saturday night concert at the Clickimin.

But while she was on the door, the first signs came of Hamish’s impending arrival and so while everyone else was settling down to enjoy the show, she and father Ewan McLeman headed up to the nearby maternity unit.

“People had been joking with me all weekend that I was going to have a folk festival baby, and I was saying, ‘Come on, that’s not funny’,” she said.

“He wasn’t due until the end of the month, but I knew the hospital wanted to see you as soon as possible if you’re under 37 weeks.

“I was hoping I would be sent away and I could come back to the concert and maybe even compere.”

Instead she was closely monitored by maternity staff, who even started wondering about flying up the air ambulance.

“Then things progressed a lot quicker than anyone thought they would and Hamish was born at 2.16 in the morning after seven hours,” Mhari said.

The next morning the air ambulance did get called in to fly Hamish to Aberdeen for safety, because he was having “a little bit of issues” with his breathing and his blood sugar.

The hardest part for Mhari and Ewan was letting him go while they waited for the regular Sumburgh flight, but by 5pm the new family were reunited in Aberdeen.

On Monday afternoon the couple were still waiting for their newborn son to be released from the neo natal unit.

“He’s fine now, his breathing issues are sorted, and if one more blood sugar test is OK he’ll be allowed back with me in the regular ward,” his mother said.

Mhari said she was still in a daze and was still sending out updates about folk festival goings on while lying in Aberdeen.

“I was in Hamnavoe hall on the first night and working in the Legion on Friday, but it was on Saturday night when we opened the doors at the Clickimin I realised something was happening.

“I was still trying to function in folk festival mode – I think there was a little bit of denial going on.”

Word of Hamish’s arrival got out pretty fast at the festival club and by 5am the news was all over Facebook.

Mhari and Ewan were meanwhile holding off any formal announcement because they were waiting for Ewan’s parents, who were already on their way to Shetland from Mid Calder for the last night of the festival at the Clickimin.

“They came straight off the boat and up to the hospital – they didn’t expect to see their grandson so soon!”

The couple said they have been overwhelmed by the messages of support they have received by text and Facebook – “Everybody has been fantastic,” Mhari said, especially the hospital staff at Lerwick and Aberdeen.

“Everybody’s been saying it’s quite fitting, the folk festival has been such a big part of my life.

“I think Hamish was probably enjoying the music so much, and he’s a bit like his mum, he doesn’t want to miss out on the party.

“I certainly won’t be forgetting this folk festival, and it means we’ll be able to have a birthday party every folk festival weekend.”