The Clutha Vaults, Glasgow


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.