This obituary by Rob Adams was published in The Sunday Herald on 21 October 2012:
Born: November 11, 1952; Died: October 16, 2012.
Ian Hardie, who has died aged 59 after a long illness, was one of Scotland’s best-loved fiddle players and a talented and prolific composer whose tunes are played across Europe and North America as well at home in concerts and informal sessions.
He was born in Edinburgh and at the age of six began taking classical violin lessons, which he continued until, at 14, he became interested in traditional music.
On leaving school he studied law at Edinburgh University and was soon involved in extracurricular studies in the seat of learning that was Sandy Bell’s bar in nearby Forrest Road.
The nightly informal sessions there in the early 1970s forged friendships and folk groups and he was a prominent participant, going on to play across Scotland with Chorda and Wee Willum and featuring on the acclaimed Live at Sandy Bell’s album with the pub’s ceilidh band. Towards the end of the 1970s, several members of Wee Willum formed a band that was to have a lasting influence on the Scottish traditional music scene, Jock Tamson’s Bairns.
Featuring Hardie alongside Norman Chalmers, John Croall, Tony Cuffe, Jack Evans, Adam Jack and Rod Paterson, the Bairns, as they were affectionately known, released their first, eponymous album on Temple Records in 1980.
Their modern, acoustic interpretations of exclusively Scottish music swam against the tide of Irish influences that had come in with groups like Planxty and the Bothy Band, and after a personnel change that saw Derek Hoy join Ian on fiddle and guitarist Tony Cuffe go off to join Ossian, they recorded their classic second album, The Lasses Fashion.
Still regarded as one of the finest examples of the traditional music revival in Scotland, it gained a certain caché when the great guitarist-singer-songwriter Richard Thompson named it one of the 10 best albums of all time in a Q magazine feature.
Shortly after the album’s release, the Bairns temporarily retired. Hardie, by now living in the Borders where he worked as a lawyer, continued to compose tunes in the traditional style – some of them, he confessed just a few weeks before he died, in his office in Kelso where, on occasion, he’d take his mind off matters legal by having a tune on his fiddle. His dozens of compositions went on to fill three books, which are regarded as go-to sources by musicians looking for Scottish repertoire.
In 1986 he recorded his first solo album, A Breath of Fresh Airs, which he followed with A Breath of Fresher Airs in 1992 and The Spider’s Web duo album with pianist Andy Thorburn in 1998. An excellent player of the smallpipes as well as the fiddle, he also teamed up with accordionist Freeland Barbour in the long-running dance band The Occasionals, featured in the Ghillies and in 1994, having moved to Nairn and joined Janice Clark and Dagger Gordon in Highland Connection, he played fiddle, viola, double bass and smallpipes on the group’s Gaining Ground album.
His fiddle expertise led to him guesting on recordings by singers Isla St Clair and Margaret Stewart and piper Hamish Moore, and after rejoining Jock Tamson’s Bairns for their 1990s renaissance, he contributed hugely to their albums May You Never Lack A Scone and Rare. He also taught some of Scotland’s best young fiddle talents, including Mike Vass, and edited the Nineties Collection, a volume of new compositions written in the traditional style.
He gave up law to concentrate on music in 2001 and two years later, following a trip to the Smithsonian Fiddle Festival in Washington DC with the Occasionals, he conceived what many consider to be his masterpiece, Westringing.
The album explored the connections between Appalachian old-time fiddle music and the Scottish and Irish repertoire and featured him playing entirely solo, using altered fiddle and viola tunings and capturing the landscapes and sounds of the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as portraying the grandeur of the Highlands where he’d made his home.
He continued playing with the Occasionals until the brain tumour with which he’d been diagnosed curtailed his gigging activity. Always a gentleman, he bore his illness with great dignity and was looking forward to being inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Scots Trad Music Awards in Fort William in December. Ian Hardie is survived by his wife, Viv, and children Andrew and Fiona.
Jim Gilchrist wrote the following obituary for The Scotsman of 5 November 2012:
HIS dual job description of “fiddling solicitor” may have prompted much ribaldry, but Ian Hardie’s credentials were impeccable, both as a lawyer practising in Kelso then in Nairn, and as a widely respected fiddle player and composer of tunes, in his own right and with such acclaimed folk bands as Jock Tamson’s Bairns and the Occasionals.
Hardie, as one band colleague put it, played music that was “direct, forceful, accurate, yet shimmered with Highland mist”.
Although seriously ill, he was delighted that his first album of his own compositions, A Breath of Fresh Airs, was re-issued earlier this year, 26 years after its original release, and he still managed, recording at home, to overlay his own skeely playing on to the tracks his colleagues in the Occasionals dance band had pre-recorded for their seventh album, Birling.
Hardie and his older sister, Sheila, grew up in Fairmilehead, Edinburgh, with ready access to the fields and the Pentland Hills engendering an enduring love of the outdoors, while visits to his grandparents’ smallholding at Eshiels, outside Peebles, forged an early association with the Border country.
A consummate sportsman (as well as a creative gardener), Hardie took up golf at an early age and continued to play wherever he lived.
He was also a keen rugby player, with his school team at George Watson’s and later for Edinburgh University, where he studied law, and with the Scottish Universities and Law Society teams. He was also an enthusiastic skier, hill-walker, tennis-player and runner, competing in 10k runs and half-marathons.
On his first day at Edinburgh University, he met a girl called Viv, and they celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in July. Having graduated and served his apprenticeship in Edinburgh, he became a partner with Taits of Kelso, spending 11 years in the Borders before moving north to become a partner in R&R Urquhart, developing the firm’s Nairn office.
He was highly regarded as an efficient lawyer who maintained exacting standards of integrity, both for himself and for everyone else.
Throughout his life, however, music, of all sorts, exerted a powerful fascination. He started playing classical violin at the age of six at George Watsons, and toured the eastern United States with the school orchestra in 1968. Like many others at the time, he was also drawn to the sounds of Cream, the Who and the Beatles, acquiring a bass guitar to play along with Deep Purple, and enlisting in a pub band with the peerless name of Fred McLudgie’s Big Idea.
At the same time, however, emerging folk bands such as the Chieftains, the Bothy band and the Boys of the Lough started to cast their spell, along with the country dance sounds of John Ellis, Jimmy Shand and the Wallochmor Ceilidh band (with two of whose members, Freeland Barbour and Gus Millar, he would later play in theOccasionals).
Hardie honed his craft in the convivial Edinburgh folk howff of Sandy Bell’s, going on to join his fellow sessioneers in Chorda then the legendary and highly influential Jock Tamson’s Bairns.
The Bairns’ limber, swingy approach to Scottish music, at a time when many bands were pursuing Irish influences, established a reputation which long outlasted the two albums they made in the early 1980s before disbanding. Almost two decades on, Hardie would re-unite briefly with them to record another album, the splendidly titled May You Never Lack a Scone.
In the meantime, he had established a name for himself, both as fiddler, with the long-running Occasionals dance band and the Ghillies (with piper Duncan MacGillivray) and Highland Connection. He had also been composing industriously, and in 1986, his debut album of his compositions, A Breath of Fresh Airs, became the first album on the newly established Greentrax label.
These tunes did indeed prove invigorating; played with characteristic snap and swing, their titles frequently name-checked Border landmarks. He also contributed bass, guitar and small pipes to the instrumental mix.
Greentrax founder Ian Green had known Hardie since his early playing days. “When he moved to the Borders,” Green recalls, “he asked me to help distribute his tune book, A Breath of Fresh Airs, and that was when I suggested he record an album of the same title. That became TRAX001 for us.”
Hardie maintained a long relationship with Greentrax, including the follow-up Breath of Fresher Airs and, with pianist Andy Thorburn, the Spider’s Web, as well as albums with the Bairns and the Occasionals.
He was already ill when in 2011, Greentrax decided to re-release his debut album to mark the label’s 25th anniversary. “Ian was absolutely delighted,” adds Green.
Hardie published two further tune books, as well as editing the Nineties Collection, a landmark compendium of the new, traditional-style music being written across Scotland.
Eventually, fiddle triumphed over lawyer’s brief and, as he liked to put it, he “didn’t darken the door of a legal office” after 2001.
An American trip with the Occasionals introduced him to the unfamiliar string tunings of old-time players, and heheaded for the Appalachians to enjoy front-porch sessions with seasoned players.
The result was the album Westringing, in which his newly acquired tunings lent a fresh resonance to established Scottish material.
He remained an integral element of the Occasionals, along with accordionist Freeland Barbour, banjo and mandolin player Kevin MacLeod and drummer Gus Millar.
MacLeod recalls Hardie’s fluidity as a sight-reader: “It was quite superb, and astonishing to a virtual illiterate like me.
“His own music was direct, forceful, accurate, yet shimmered with Highland mist, and was distinctively Ian. He sat easily in any sphere, folk, trad, ceilidh, Appalachian and so on.”
Hardie, who will be posthumously inaugurated into the Traditional Music Hall of Fame at December’s Scots Trad Music Awards, is survived by his wife, Viv, and by their children Andrew and Fiona. Despite his deteriorating condition, his sense of humour and zest never left him: just last month, he and his fellow Occasionals recorded an interview for Radio Scotland’s Take the Floor at his home overlooking the Moray Firth.
Just before signing off, he remarked, characteristically: “Actually, despite the fact that we’ve all been professional musicians for so long, it’s just a bit of fun.”
The following is from the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame website:
Ian Hardie is one of Scottish traditional music’s most talented and prolific composers, a master of all tune styles from slow airs to strathspeys and reels and a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist who has made a major contribution to the preservation and evolution of traditional music though his playing with both folk groups and dance bands.
Ian was born in Edinburgh on November 11, 1952 and began taking classical violin lessons at the age of six. He continued studying classical music until the age of fourteen when he began to take a keen interest in traditional music, which was enjoying a revival through folk singing and was about to enjoy an equally pronounced, instrumental renaissance in which Ian played his part.
On leaving school Ian studied law at Edinburgh University and was soon involved in extracurricular studies in the seat of learning that was Sandy Bell’s bar. The nightly informal sessions there in the early 1970s forged friendships and folk groups and Ian was a prominent participant, going on to play with Chorda, featuring on the acclaimed Live at Sandy Bell’s album with the pub’s ceilidh band and towards the end of the decade, forming Jock Tamson’s Bairns with Norman Chalmers, John Croall, Tony Cuffe, Jack Evans, Adam Jack and Rod Paterson.
The Bairns released their first, eponymous album on Temple Records in 1980, presenting a modern interpretation of authentically traditional acoustic, exclusively Scottish music, and after a personnel change that saw Derek Hoy join Ian on fiddle and guitarist Tony Cuffe go off to join Ossian, they recorded their classic The Lasses Fashion, which is still regarded as one of the finest expressions of the great revival of traditional music that helped to shape and create the contemporary Scottish identity. The band retired shortly afterwards but returned in full vigour in 1995.
Meanwhile, having graduated and trained as a solicitor, Ian lived and worked for several years in the Borders where he wrote many of the dozens of his compositions that have now filled three tune books. In 1986 he recorded his first solo album, A Breath of Fresh Airs, which he followed with A Breath of Fresher Airs in 1992 and The Spider’s Web duo album with pianist Andy Thorburn in 1998. He also teamed up with accordionist Freeland Barbour in the long-running dance band The Occasionals, featured in the Ghillies and in 1994, having moved north to Nairn and joined Janice Clark and Dagger Gordon in Highland Connection, he featured on fiddle, viola, bass and smallpipes on the group’s Gaining Ground album.
Always a superb fiddler, Ian has guested on recordings by Isla St Clair, Margaret Stewart and Hamish Moore and joined Jock Tamson’s Bairns for their 1990s renaissance, appearing on their May Ye Never Lack a Scone and Rare albums, until 2006. The following year, having giving up his law practice to concentrate on music, Ian released what many consider to be his masterpiece, Westringing. Conceived following a trip to the Smithsonian Fiddle Festival in Washington DC with the Occasionals in 2003, the album explored the connections between Appalachian old-time fiddle music and the Scottish and Irish repertoire and featured Ian playing entirely solo, using altered fiddle and viola tunings and capturing the landscapes and sounds of the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as portraying in music the atmosphere and magnificence of the Highlands where he’d made his home.
Accordionist Freeland Barbour delivered the following at Ian’s funeral in November 2012:
Just before he died, Ian Hardie asked me to deliver the ‘spiel’ at his funeral. Being the modest man he was he didn’t call it a eulogy, but a eulogy it most certainly was as we remembered the rich and varied life of someone whom I regard as one of Scotland’s leading traditional musicians.
Ian was an Edinburgh lad, though with strong Border connections, and indeed it was to Kirk Yetholm and Kelso that he and his wife Viv moved after the completion of legal training for both of them in Edinburgh. During his upbringing in those Edinburgh years Ian was developing in to the complete musician. He was classically-trained and fluent, as at home playing the violin or double bass in an orchestra as playing the fiddle, viola and latterly smallpipes in a traditional music setting. His first band, who played covers round the Edinburgh pubs, gloried in the name of ‘Fred McLudgie’s Big Idea’. Whatever the idea was it didn’t last but Ian had by this time discovered the traditional music world of Sandy Bell’s and there he met many future friends and musical colleagues. He played in the bands Wee Willum and Chorda, and then came the highly influential Jock Tamson’s Bairns. At a time when the Scottish folk scene was singing Scottish songs but taking its instrumental inspiration from Ireland, Jock Tamson’s Bairns and Ian in particular remained firmly Scots in all their repertoire, and the creative approach to older Scots melody and style that they showed has had a strong influence since then. Ian also had a great love for Scottish dance music, with the names of Shand, Ellis and even The Wallochmor (!) cropping up from time to time.
During his Kelso years, Ian not only was a partner in a leading legal practice, but there was a family to be with, and sports to play. He was a great sportsman, a golfer, curler, skier, runner, cross-country cyclist, squash and tennis player, hill walker, and latterly a fisherman as well. He was also a top-level rugby player, turning out for Edinburgh University, Scottish Universities, Watsonians and Kelso. He was a keen gardener too and how he found time for music as well I do not know, but he did, learning the pipes with The Rev. Joe Brown at Yetholm, and honing his compositional techniques that were evident in his first solo recording, ‘A Breath Of Fresh Airs’, which was also the debut release of the Greentrax label. Three more solo releases followed over the years, all showcasing his compositions, and many of these have been taken up, performed and recorded by a huge cast of other well-known musicians, with Willie Hunter’s version of ‘Esther Stephenson of Embleton’ springing immediately to mind. Ian’s own fiddle style possessed great attack and steadiness of rhythm and was at one and the same time Scottish and individual. And his compositions mirrored this, were melodically developed, and in his slow airs in particular extremely moving. The congregation who stood in the church in Nairn as he left us, and listened to his own recording of his air ‘The Last Farewell’, are not likely to forget it.
In 1989 the Hardie family moved up to Nairn and Ian took on new legal duties there, and the music continued with Highland Connection, The Ghillies and The Occasionals. The list of subsequent recordings and highlights is long, and Ian also found time to act as editor of the foremost contemporary traditional music book to be produced in recent years, ‘The Nineties Collection’. This was sponsored by United Distillers and led The Ghillies to an epic series of concert/dances in distilleries up and down the land. In 2001 Ian decided to leave the law and concentrate on his music, and this allowed him to take up teaching roles with Feis Rois and others, and to act as External Examiner/Adjudicator with The Royal Scottish Academy of Music And Drama and in Shetland, amongst others. In 2003 Ian (with The Occasionals) took part in The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., and he became very interested in the link between the fiddle music of Scotland and that of Appalachia. A number of trips to The States followed and the results can be heard in his last recording, ‘Westringing’.
Ian’s music is a lasting legacy. I have absolutely no doubt that in many generations to come his name will still be spoken of with admiration and his music will still be played. And that is not just my view, for at this year’s annual Scottish Traditional Music Awards Ian will be inducted in to The Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame, and it will be richly deserved.
Ian was a proper ‘bonny lad’ or ‘lad o’ pairts’. He had great wit and humour, a deep love for his family, and a care for all his fellow mortals, and the courageous and dignified way in which he bore his illness was truly admirable. I finished the ‘spiel’ that he had asked me for as follows – ‘All of us gathered here today, and many, many hundreds more throughout Scotland and far, far beyond will give thanks that our lives coincided with his and that we knew him, in whatever way that may have been’. His zest for life and sense of humour never left him right up till the end, and we shall leave the last word to him. At the end of the ‘Take The Floor’ feature that The Occasionals recorded three weeks before he died, he remarked in characteristic fashion, ‘Actually, despite the fact that we’ve all been professional musicians for so long, it’s just a bit of fun’.