In the Fiddler’s Hand


Sandy Bells’ (Forest Road, Edinburgh) is a pub where traditional music happens regularly. Away from the fast tunes and craic at the back of the room, there is often serious discussion, sharing and knowledge exchange (as well as flyting and debate) to be found among close-knit groups gathered closer to the bar. Catching up there with my old pal Jim Gilchrist this Friday, I was d elighted and astounded to find him produce, from a plastic bag, an old, original copy of a Scottish fiddlers’ manuscript tune book. Written in various hands it appears to represent a good sample of the popular fiddle music of the early twentieth century in a place, as yet, not known but certainly in Southern Scotland.


Any old tune book is of significance as it brings insights into not just repertory but also of popular taste, creativity and musical interests.  Manuscript tune books are highly important. Many, like this one, contain popular tunes taken down from printed collections, but also contain unique material that never found its way into commercially produced anthologies. I look forward to playing the tunes and to writing about the collection here in detail in due course.