THE unlovely concrete span from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin may have undermined the romanticism of the Skye Boat Song, but there can be no denying the rich musical heritage inspired by this western isle. Love songs and laments, ballads and comic ditties, pipe tunes and fiddle melodies record the history and scenic beauty of Skye.

Gaelic choirs and rock bands continue to fly the faerie flag for the island, and it has a recording industry which, per head of population, should be the envy of any metropolis.

It could be argued, therefore, that there is a touch of the ''coals to Newcastle'' syndrome about the appointment of Louise Mackenzie, an east coast fiddle player and composer of note, as the co-ordinator of traditional music in Skye and Lochalsh. Hasn't traditional music been managing very nicely, thank-you, all by itself for centuries and isn't this yet another instance of bureaucratising something which in reality needs freedom from red tape in order to flourish?

It was indeed the dreaded ''feasibility study'' which identified a need for such a post. Commissioned in 1997 by Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise, the study concluded that although traditional music was alive and well in Skye and Lochalsh, there were gaps which needed to be plugged.

Mackenzie will be the thumb in the dyke but, if we can change metaphorical tack, to meet her is to know that any red tape will be used to tie bows on a package of musical encouragement which she intends will turn the area into the Cape Breton of Scotland, a traditional music mecca in which no-one, neither resident nor visitor, who wants to involve themselves in music is denied the chance. Feisean nan Gaidheal is the organisation managing the project and its director, Arthur Cormack, says the

original vision was to give people of all ages the chance to learn traditional music but

also to make music deliver

for tourism.

Almost 50 amateur and professional individuals and groups have been identified as being involved in traditional music in the area. There are five record labels operating there. ''On the face of it, it seemed that a lot was happening,'' Cormack says, ''but there was no co-ordinated effort to develop it in any way. That is why Louise's post came into being to market and to nurture traditional music.''

Cormack admits that the local schools are mainly well catered for on the musical front, but outwith formal

education there are many

who don't have access to tuition and participation. He would see the #65,000 project, which is partnership funded, as a success if it sustained jobs directly through creating music or indirectly through attracting people to the island.

Mackenzie was seen as the ideal person for the job. She was working as a public relations officer with an Aberdeen company but taught fiddle to both children and adults in her spare time.

She is well known on the

traditional-music circuit and has in the past gone to Skye

and Lochalsh to tutor at

Feis an Earraich and Sabhal

Mor Ostaig.

Having, if you will pardon the pun, those two fiddles to her bow does indeed make her seem tailor-made for the post. The Cheshire cat grin betrays

a woman who has found her dream job.

Mackenzie is one of five children who sang their way through childhood. She, however, was the only one given the chance to learn an instrument and Scottish fiddle music became a love affair.

Born in Nigg, north of Inverness, she got her first violin in primary seven before being taught at the academy by Christine Martin, who in the intervening years has also migrated to Skye.

Martin encouraged Mackenzie to learn traditional fiddle and it was music in which she had been marinated since she was first conscious of her dad singing Ally Bain tunes about the house.

A defining moment was a summer school at Stirling University when she was 15. One class was run by the late Dr Tom Anderson from Shetland, who was impressed enough by the teenager's talent to invite her to Shetland for lessons. Aonghas Grant taught her in another class and she proudly keeps the red tassel on the end of her fiddle to prove it. A grant enabled her to take up Dr Anderson's offer of tuition. ''He was incredibly strict,'' Mackenzie says, ''but you always felt you wanted to go away and practice it to get it right.''

On one new year trip, Anderson introduced her to the great Ally Bain himself on a first footing expedition, making her do the pinch test for reality.

These visits to Anderson meant she could write with feeling about music in the

Shetland community, which brought her top marks in Higher music, but when her parents said music wasn't a ''proper job'', Mackenzie decided to do business studies at Aberdeen University.

She confesses that during classes she composed traditional fiddle tunes until her law tutor said he had had enough. ''Bring your fiddle in tomorrow,'' he demanded. She did, and when her playing had proved she was not just doodling but a serious musician, the tutor asked: ''What the hell are you doing here?''

Her exam results underscored that she was a square peg in a round hole and she left to be a full-time musician. She played with an outfit called Desperate Danz and taught at a number of feisean across Scotland, including Skye.

Then came the ''proper job'' with an engineering design company and those who believe in predestination may see her public relations stint as groundwork for the future. ''My new post brings together the two things I do well,'' she agrees. ''It's heaven to be able to work at what you really enjoy doing.''

Perhaps her greatest talent is to encourage people of all ages to learn music. She is particularly keen to give older people access to take up an instrument.

At 32, Mackenzie is at the start of a personal journey and a journey for traditional music. She sees a time when visitors to Skye and Lochalsh will be able to tap into music everywhere from the local pub to the annual festival. She wants to support bands like Blazing Fiddles and Peatbog Faeries in raising the profile of traditional music and the woman in the township who wants a shot of the clarsach.

She hopes to fill the vacuum caused by education cutbacks which take music off the school curriculum and to feed the success of Plockton School as a centre of excellence in music. She has plans for feisean and fiddlers' rallies, classes and workshops.

''I want to see all these

people working together to build a far bigger picture,''

she says. ''My dream is to see Skye as the Scottish Cape

Breton. It would be lovely to have that culture where everybody wants to go out and play, sing, or teach. It is good for tourism, but it's so good for bringing a community together as well.''

She adds: ''We are very rich in our musical talent but we need a bit of a boost. Skye and Lochalsh has been brave enough to bring someone in to co-ordinate that talent.''