The King arrives in America


This 1926 press photograph featured in Wicked Good Fiddling, an exhibition on fiddling in Maine held last year at the Lewis Gallery, Portland. It shows, on the right, James Scott Skinner on arrival at Boston on his way to participate in the World Fiddlers’ contest at Lewiston Maine. The player on the left is the Irish competitor Wiseman from Co. Cork.


The story of 83 year old Skinner’s exploits on this trip are detailed in the People’s Journal of 29 May 1926 and reproduced in the modern edition of his biography My Life and Adventures (Aberdeen 1994) p. 111-113. There we learn that at the competition the contestants were banned from the playing of strathspeys. Also, the pianist was unable to follow Skinner’s playing and he left the platform in disgust. To make matters worse, particularly in the light of my earlier post on Skinner as the foe of jazz:

Another thing that hurt his dignity was that a jazz band had been engaged for the occasion and that contests in the playing of melodeons, mouth-organs, jews-harps, &c., were features of the entertainment. (p. 113)

I sounds like Skinner would have hated the festivals of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) that introduced such competitions, along with those for fiddle, during the revival of the late 1960s!

Skinner Wiseman Press

The images are borrowed from the exhibition’s Facebook gallery: