It was an honour to play in the Edinburgh University annual St Andrew’s Day concert along with such excellent musicians, including the young players from the University Folk Song Society. In the above image piper Alan MacDonald warms up the empty hall before the audience arrive.
In 1971, when I came from Fife to become a first year student at Glasgow School of Art, I quickly sussed out the best paces in the city for traditional music. A real favourite was a pub at the bottom of Stockwell Street beside the old fish market called the Popinjay. Thursday night it attracted mainly Irish fiddlers to a session led by Jimmy McHugh and his close circle. I would arrange to meet college companions John Gahagan and others there and would often arrive early and study for an hour or so over a pint before it got too busy and loud. It was also a great place to learn about music by listening, watching, chatting and absorbing with the 10.00 p.m. closing time always seeming to come too soon. In 1972 the fiddler Willie Beaton asked us young lads if we wanted to travel to Ireland with a party from the pub to attend a musical event to commemorate the great composer Sean O’Riada who had died a year earlier – I still regret that finances and academic pressures stopped me going! So, it is with a very heavy heart that I hear of the helicopter crash with the inevitable loss of life and injury caused to the crew and to those enjoying the music in the Clutha Vaults, as the old Popinjay has been known in recent years. Thinking back I hear again the reels and slow airs which once filled the place.
The photograph above, taken outside the pub in the late 1970s, shows myself, Mick West, Fergus Muirhead, John Gahagan and Chris Miller.
I gave a presentation at the festival today on The Role of the Fiddle in the Scottish Folk Music Revival where I simply worked through my list of key players for the period playing examples of their music and letting the discussion take its own course. I was not surprised that many in the audience had no knowledge of several of the musicians featured and was grateful for some really useful feedback, contacts and ideas.
I’m so glad I stayed on to hear Dr Will lamb talk on his investigations and speculations on the origin of the strathspey in Scottish music. My head is full of thoughts after that and I’ll need to go an find his papers and read them in detail!
Today I made a successful ‘field trip’ to Glasgow with my old accordion playing pal Stan Reeves. I had hoped to track down some fiddlers I know of in the city and lo and behold I met them all in a session at the famous Babbity Bowster pub.
I photographed the old fruit warehouse which became the Babbity when I surveyed all the listed buildings in the Merchant City in the mid 1970s. Little did I know that it would become a hotbed of musical revival!