The Banff and Buchan Collection

close window to return to index

Tape 1994.016 transcription

Word Search page:
      PC Control+F
Mac Command+F

[GE] He wis a great singer. Oh, she kent an affa range o bothy ballads, aye ballads o a sorts, traditional ballads an a, we mebbe wastin time, but it disnae matter. And seen there wis a grocer down at Coldhome shop, he wis a local shop, and we got, ach there wis vans come here ye ken afore the supermarkets. There wis a van every day, even in oor time, eh, grocers and butchers and fish vans and everything, sometimes there wis twa vans a day, but we hid a regular order doon at the shop, the Coldhome shop, Caulhame Shop. And fan I wis a bairn, mebbe 8, 9 year auld, I hid a little pony. Ah well, ma granda bought it, it wis the pony belonged tae the place, but eh, eh ma sister and I and ma cousin gaed tae the shop every Saturday and collected wir ane groceries, plus some o the neighbours roon aboot. We hid a little governess cart, a little gig, uh huh, and a shetland pony.
      And eh, George Fowlie, fit I'm gan tae get at, the grocer, he played, well he'd his ane dance band jist playin at the fairm dances, aye and hall dances tae. Him and his daughter, and I think they'd an ootside musician tae help him, he played the fiddle himsel and he also played the cello. And his daughter played the fiddle, she wis a richt good fiddler, aye she wis a classic fiddler, she got tuition. And this man used tae come up tae ma granda, twice at least every winter, twas aye a Seturday nicht efter the shop wis shut, but Mrs Foolie looked after the shop tae ye see, so he woulda come awa aboot mebbe eight o clock left the shop efter the business wis bye, and he come up here and played. My granda, we a likit music ye see, and onybody, ony o the locals, the neighbours at wis interested, they wis a invited alang if they wished, so there used tae be a fair gaithering for this man coming up. He played the whole evening, well he played a selection or so, twas gut strings on his fiddle ye see at that time, there's nae steel strings, at's gan back a gey, well jist as far as I can mind. And he'd tae tune his fiddle aye atween ilkey, we'll, big peat fire doon in the auld hoose doon the close. And the heat affects the tension o the strings ye understand, so he'd tae retune't. And I could the fiddle afore I could play it, jist wi listenin tae him. Well the music's here, I kent the pitches and I could jist listen tae him ower the times that he played. I wis supposed tae be in ma bed, but I widnae gang tae ma bed and if I wis I managed ta creep ben and listen. No, I wis aye fascinated by music. And eh, he played a sorts o Scottish dance music, just a sort o Scottish, strathspeys, and reels and athing up tae midnight and efter at it wis a ??? and they played for mebbe anither hoor, up tae mebbe three times, twice at least tae through the evening and morning. And then efter they set off home the whole company accompanied them doon the road, and this wis jist fit happened, at happened mebbe twice every winter. So at wis a great interest tae me, is playin this tunes.

And ma mither wis a good player, aye reasonably good player. Is man took in pupils tae, Geordie Fowlie, so mither wis a pupil o his for a while.

[TM] On the fiddle.

[GE] On the fiddle, aye, uh huh. And eh, aye she played real weel, at the, well when I min on her first, but she gaed awa and she neglected it and, but you heard her took a tune oot o the, aye, uh huh. So there wis an auld fiddle in the hoose apart fae the een that she played, and well I wis gey enthusiastic, so it wis packit doon tae the shop, well I took it doon masel. He strung it up and put a bridge on o it and repaired it. [laughs] And that wis the start o my fiddling.

[TM] And how old were you then?

[GE] Ah well, eight or nine I winna tell ye which. Nine mebbe, eight or nine, I'm nae sure. I min, I had a bike tae like a the ither loons. I wisnae allowed tae take the bike there tae ga awa wi this fiddle, I'd tae walk in case I fell aff ma bike and burst it. [laughs]. I min half way hame, comin ower the scare hill we ca'd it, it's a connectin, jist an auld farm track it wis, connectin the Coldhome Shop and is road up here, through the close o wir farm down here. I min sitting doon on the dyke tookin the thing oot o the box and tryin tae play a tune on't. At wis jist the first wi'oot ony tuition. I dinna ken foo I got on, but I ken ere wis nae time ere I hid tunes oot o him, jist gradually progressed. And I wis putten back tae him for lessons. But I hid as mony tunes in ma heid and wi the enthusiasm, he couldnae dae at much wi us. He said I jist canna do nothing wi ye. I had as much in ma heid as I didna need the music.

[TM] Oh you didn't need to read music?

[GE] No, no, no. And he said it's impossible. The only thing, wey at he got intae the back wis if he give me something that I didna ken. But play it ower eens, if he played it ower mebbe twice that wis a I got tae get it.

[TM] And you had it in your head, you didn't need the music?

[GE] Aye, uh huh. And there's a person in Strichen jist exactly the same, Gavin Barron. Ye've heard o him have ye? No. He's the grandson of the Gavin Greig fae the schoolhoose, well the late Gavin Greig at Whitehill, him at collected a the bothy ballads. His musical ear wis jist much the same as mine. So that's the start o ma fiddling. And I fiddled awa at hame, and seen aboot the time I left the school, I jined the, well it's a van man again, he wis the conductor o the Fetterangus Strathspey and Reel Society. Ye ken is, there wis aboot thirty five fiddlers gaithered there every wik at Fetterangus in the public hall.

[TM] And who was that, the, the leader of that?

[GE] Jimmy Youngson ye ca'd him. He wisnae the leader, he wis the conductor. And he come roon here and kent that I played. He aye come in and got his tea is Jimmy Youngson, in fact he wis brocht up on a place up the brae here a wee bit, and he wis affa well acquaint. And he come in every, when he come roon wi his van he got a cup o tea. And he aye hid me yokit wi the fiddle if I wis aboot ye see. So there wis a competition, eh, the first competition that they held at Mintla, I canna tell ye, I think I wis aboot fourteen ere at, ah but I wis at the Strathspey and Reel Society at that time. He, got us tae come doon, and there wis a neighbour up the road here at wis a fiddler, we biket tae Fetterangus every wik tae the practices.

[TM] You were allowed to bicycle with your fiddle now?

[GE] Ah, no, I wouldnae dae it noo, aye. But we did it, and we enjoyed daen't. And course nichts, well we hid an ileskin, een o yon ileskin capes that gaed ower the handlebars o yer bike and ileskin troosers, jist the aul fashioned ileskin. He wis a roadman is man that I'm spikkin aboot, and he hid two sets o ileskins and so I got a, on a real bad nicht I got a shot o his spare set. We biket and the fiddles in aneath the cape tae keep them dry. Ye ken its affa fit ye dae wi youth min, eh isn't it. [laughs] But what an enjoyment I got oot o at, and whit an experience watchin and listenin tae a that better players ye see. And through the winter there wis guests invited in aboot, well Jimmy Dickie fae New Deer, ye've heard aboot him, Charlie Sutherland fae Fraserburgh and Hector McAndrew fae Aberdeen, and Duncan Strachan fae Potarch at Banchory, jist a first class players, they were a invited, mebbe twa o them were invited, three o them invited mebbe in the course o a winter jist as a guest, and they played the most of the evening themselves and we listened tae them. It wis jist a, eh, somebody, a better player tae listen till. Seen we hid a tune the gither. It wis jist a highlight, welcome aye.

[TM] How often would you meet, once a month or?

[GE] No, no, once a wik. Mm, hmm, mm hmm. See in the winter time we gaed oot tae concerts, specially the time o the war, well the welcome home fund and so on, and concerts were a ower the place. And there wis a bus arranged, and well we'd locals fae roon here, aye wir ane local concerts at Mintla, and mebbe hiv een at Strichen. We used tae fill a bus oot o the district here, eh, audience, spectators, aye. And they collected them up, well some oot o Strichen tae, but there wis a lot oot o the surroundin, because they a enjoyed is type o music. There wis wireless at at time, but there wis no television ye see. And, and fae one thing jist progressed tae the ither. And eh, in that competition, I was under 14, it ran fae 14 at at time, there wis four o us competin, and I wis second. There wis three places, first, second and third, and they wis a pupils at wis gettin tuition. There wis a pair fae Kemnay, Jock Morgan fae Kemnay, ye've mebbe heard o him tae, na, he wis a he wis a great fiddler and a great composer and singer and a, jist a richt roon musician. Is wis twa o his pupils. They won, they were first, een o the lassies played the piana, and anither lassie the fiddle, and there wis a twin, I dinna ken if there were twins or no, two lassie Gormans fae Fraserburgh they got tuition and a, well they were third and I wis second at is competition. And at's jist when we were youngsters. And seen, efter we grew up wi gaed tae Banchory at the competitions ere, and Elgin and various places. And ach, often it wis mebbe a third or something, I nivver hid a first wi the fiddle, nae many, nae wi the adults. But it wis jist playin mair than competin that I enjoyed, I wis affa bashful when I wis younger, I wouldna hae sung in the front o folk jist, well jist up to lately [laughs].

[TM] And what about the songs, when did you start learning songs. Did you sing them to yourself?

[GE] Jist sang them tae masel. They were a in ma heid, but I nivver sang tae onybody, as Isabel wis saying, up till aboot, aboot eighty-five mebbe, would it?

[TM] Mm hmm.

[GE] That's aboot it, I would say. The first day that I really sung, Isabel broke her feet. Well that wis vegetables again, she tummeled ower a, a wire basket, a scull we ca'd it, it wis discarded but full o cabbages or something and broke twa bones in her fit. So she couldna come up tae Keith wi me, so I gaed up masel, in the car I gaed up I wis singin awa tae masel, [laughs], I thocht, I'm jist masel the day, I'll have a go, there's naebody that I ken [laughs]. I had a super time and I entered the, fit would it hae been, would it have been the diddlin or wis it the mooth organ.

[IE] No, ye wis second for the bothy.

[GE] Aye, I wis second for the bothy, na I wis third. I wis third for the bothy the first day.

[IE] Second for the fiddlin than.

[GE] Well it wis the fiddlin mebbe than, I aye hid the fiddle wi us. And I said, well she's nae wi me, ye ken it makes ye self conscious if some o yer near folk is listening, well it did tae me. So I let fly, I hid twa nips efter I gaed up [laughs], and entered a this competitions, so I won is, and come hame and jist laid the certificates onto the table and she wis ben next mornin before me. She said, 'Good god, you musta been affa drunk last nicht, or something else, afore ye gaed tae that length like'. Ye ken, I wis fair amazed masel, I jist didna think it wis possible. And since that time well, a the competitions I hid some o the awards, either first, second or third. [laughs] In Auchtermuchty, I see there's the two cups there, that's for the bothy ballad and the traditional ballad. And I had the cup at bothy, at Auchtermuchty last year for the bothy ballad, at's the wey that I qualified for Elgin last year tae. And I've hid the Strichen een, twice. And the Keith een, I've hid them a. The Kirriemuir een twice! And that's Auchtermuchty twice. Eh, over and above a this seconds and thirds. Syne the diddlin, well, I've hin a lot o cups for diddlin, Strichen and ??, Strichen's the last fower, five year. And eh, had Auchtermuchty last year, but nae this year, there's a lady took it fae me. And there the thing goes on. [laughs] So at's my history.

[TM] Oh well not too many didlers aroound.

[GE] No, nae sae much here, it's a pity tae ye ken. But there is a few, at Jock Duncan's at won the bothy ballad at Elgin's a good diddler, and the man fae Banchory Fred Davidson and Willie Fraser, but Willie Fraser's mostly a judge noo, ye ken Willie Fraser fae Aberlour?

[TM] I've met him.

[GE] Ye've met him. Aye. Great lad Willie. He wis a piper till he lost his fingers. No he's president o the TMSA. The association.

[TM] Now Mr Birnie was saying today about diddling, about how it's different from just giving the tune. What was he meaning by that.

[GE] It was different.

[TM] Rather than, ta tum te tum. You mean it's different from that but how?

[GE] Aye, he meant that there wis a, a guidelines for it. Well, I'm jist nae sure about the guidelines, I've nivver stuck to ony guidelines, at's jist my natural wey o diddlin and at's it. But, min I did some slow waltzy kind o things, but at competitions I dinna think it wid tak a trick, the slow tunes. It wid hae tae be something strathspey, or march, or something, or jig, something wi a wee bittie mair life and love in't.

[TM] So were there people who diddled when you were a boy, around?

[GE] Aye there wis a few ye ken. When there wis nae musicians you know it's somebody to make the music.

[TM] Did they dance to it?

[GE] That's what they did ye see, kitchen dances in the fairm kitchens. Well, it wis a home-made entertainment, in special times o the year, the meal and ale efter the harvest, efter the hairst, I'd better stick tae ma Buchan. [laughs]. The barn wis cleared oot or the laft wis cleared oot and there wis eh celebrations and folk invited. Your dad hid twa three meal and ales in his laft, or wis it the barn?

[TM] In the barn.

[GE] Barn it wis, aye. Jist a social occasion and jist get twa three fiddlers in aboot for dancin, and onybody at's capable of singing, sing or recite, or fitever goes, it wis jist a ceilidh, no no it wis common enough. And often there wis naebody suitable, some o the folk could play I think but they couldnae play tae keep up, aye for dancin, so they diddled and they used tae work the comb in a bit paper ye see. Oh ma granny used tae go the comb and the paper for music, and jist diddlin if the fiddler got ower foo. Ye used tae gie him a lot o whisky tae get the best oot o him, and if it too much well they were incapable, and in somebody you know to diddle to take his place. [laughs] So there you go.

[TM] So were there still meal and ales going on when you were a boy.

[GE] Aye a few, mostly on the bigger fairms, it, far they hid accommodation. Aye. No, no, there wis, and there wis in the halls tae, there wis a meal and ale occasionally held in the local halls, but eh, there wis at Marnie, wisn't there, meal and ales. Aye, jist a lot o the local fairms. Some o them would ey year, and some o the neighbours the followin year, and spread them oot ye see, and the neighbours wis a invited along, jist a social occasion. Uh huh. Well, I wis maistly aye fiddlin at these meal and ales efter I wis growin up a bit for the dancin, and her uncle John Elphinstone and Charlie Low uh huh. Three o us. Auld Michael, fower! Aye, well the fower o us did wir best tae keep them dancin. I wis the baby amongst them ye ken.

[TM] What sort of dances did they do?

[GE] Oh, jist a the eightsome reels, waltzes, maistly waltzes and eightsome reels, and eh.

[IE] And ?? lancers.

[GE] Aye, they would ha daen that tae. It wis affa popular aboot at time. Na, na, a lot o waltzin, and eh, quick step and foxtrot. I wis haein tae play some foxtrot music the day, but ach the efterneen jist seemed tae disappear. It woulda suited the aulder folk. There's the stayin song. It, we were at a weddin, I wis jist a loonie mebbe four, na na I'd a been aboot eight then. It wis jist new oot this tune and they played it a lot at evenin up in the Free Masons up at the White Horse at Strichen, at's far is weddin wis. And ere I came hame I hid it here, and it wis played an affa lot. Buggie and Jock wis anither Scottish tune. It would hae been kinda a foxtrot tune.

[TM] How does it go?

[GE] [Diddles the tune] There it goes on. Ye ken is, I canna sing min, I'll hae tae stop singin, [laughs] ah well, old age and so forth, through tae. Well we'll go aheid and dae something.

[IE] At's been going on a the time.

[GE] Is at been going on ! Ah michty, I didna think ye wis recordin a that. It disnae matter. Good luck to it.

[TM] That's exactly the information I'm looking for.

[GE] [laughs] Well but ye've jist exactly got what happened.

[TM] Well it doesn't happen now.

[GE] No, no, are you still recording?

[TM] Mm hmm.

[GE] Back to the Strathspey and Reel Society, oh there wis thirty-five o us onywey, and the leader wis a Bill, oh god fit wis his name, he wis heid forester at Aden, whit wis Bill's name. No, I shouldnae forget, he gaed fae here doon tae Cortechie, doon tae Princess Alexandra's man fit de ca them, early, early's estate doon at Cortechie. Angus Ogilvie, he progressed fae Aden estate doon tae be heid gardener doon at Cortechie. So we missed him, he joined the Brechin Strathspey and Reel Society. But we still gaed on, there wis a new leader, there wis a Ned Stewart fae Fetterangus, he took over. And Jean Stewart, at wis Ned's sister, they come wi the travellin folk, ye ken the same Stewarts as the Stewarts o Blairgowrie, Jean wis the pianist to the Fetterangus Strathspey and Reel Society, and she also hid her dance band ye see, so we gaed oot and did is concerts tae the, well tae Auchnagatt and Ellon and jist Peterheid, the Rescue Hall and New Deer, ach jist ower a the place. And Jean got the dance efter the concert, we did is concert and Jean hid the, got the dance thing efter her and her band played for the dance at followed the concert. And this concerts that we went to, well we got folk oot fae Aiberdeen as special guests. There wis Violet Davidson, she wis famous in her day, eh, aye she wis a celebrated singer. And we got her oot, and we hid tae pay a fee for her but there wis big audiences, we could afford to dae it, and it drew the company. And there wis comedians come oot and jugglers come oot, and usually a good fiddler, Charlie Sutherland or Hector McAndrew, or Bill Hardie fae Aberdeen, or some o them, usually wis invited oot, well jist as an outstanding player, and there we gaed on ye see. And, oh I thoroughly enjoyed it.

[TM] What about somebody like Willie Kemp, was he?

[GE] No, I never kent o Willie Kemp, he wis a wee bit afore my time ye see. But he woulda been gan roon aboot a the circuits, but no it was afore my time.

[TM] What about George Morris, he was a bit later?

[GE] Well, he wis a later I div min some o him. But nae sae much. There wis a man Strachan used tae come and sing, bothy, John Strachan, I'm sure ye've heard, aye.

[TM] John Strachan, from Fyvie.

[GE] Aye, yes, fae Fyvie. He was invited along sometimes. And there wis a Moira Thow, well she wis Moira Fowlie at at time, she came fae New Deer, een o the Culshes, Mid Culsh I think, her folk wis there. She mairried a man Thow, and she gaed tae the Mill Inn at Maryculter and she wis invited out often, she wis a very good singer, she wis a trained singer, she sang Scottish ballads and aye, cornkisters and a.

[TM] So where did you learn most of the bothy songs that you sing now, not the newer ones.

[GE] Weel, jist listenin tae them locally. There wis a man fee'd at Kirkton o Tyree aboot a mile doon the road here, he'd a motorbike and he'd a gramaphone, and he'd the affaest collection, it wis jist his hobby is records, a the bothy ballads and well jist a the local ballads at folk wis interested in, at wis his winter's entertainment. He gaed every wik, he went somewhere tae entertain a household. So he wis tae come up here mebbe twice in the course o a winter tae.

[TM] With his gramophone?

[GE] Wi this gramophone, one wi a big hessian canvas bag and his records on the other side, and what a burden, and onto his motorbike and away he gaed. He wis a gey canny chiel, he come up wi this motorbike and played this whole batch o records, we got an affa lot a, ye ken, Muckin o Geordie's Byre, jist a, onything ye could mention. If it wis ony popular at a, and ony good, Willie bocht it. And he wipet the record, he wis affa methodical every time he put on the record, afore he put it on, he'd a white duster tae tak the dust aff. And the same when he'd finished the record afore he put it back in it's sleeve again. So that wis a great lot a [laughs] ye ken, collection o tunes and songs that I heard fae him.

[TM] And your parents sang both sides?

[GE] No, it wis mair ma grandmother that wis the singer, and ma mither. She sang but nae sae much, she wis a fiddler. Uh huh. But eh, the Eastons, aye the family, they were a singers, there wis music in them a. The cousins used tae come in aboot tae this ceilidhs that I wis spikkin aboot, well they a did their turn. Aye, they a sung their song, or a couple of songs, just depend. And eh, ma grandmother at I wis tellin ye aboot, well she wis affa bashful tae, shy. Okay at hame but when there wis folk in aboot, and she woulda gan awa in the corner, in the, ye ken at the edge o the door and sung fae there, she jist widnae get up on front o folk, she wis jist that timid nature. But she wis a real good singer and she'd a good voice and well, she hid knowledge o a this ballads. And as I said she gaed alang wi the fishin crews and did their cookin and cleanin, well I think it wis for the coopers mair than the gutters. But she stayed wi the gutters, a her accommodation wis along wi the gutters, and a lot o them came fae the West coast, a lot fae the Highlands, Shetland and awey, and Ireland even, and they brought an affa collection of ballads wi them.

[TM] Must have been some songs they had down there.

[GE] Well ye see they hid tae hae something tae keep themselves…. [End of side one.]

[TM] Well, I was going to ask what was your grandmother's name?

[GE] Isabella Easton, and Isabel is Isabel Easton.

[IE] Mair modren.

[GE] Aye, the modren version o it.

[TM] So where's, where's home for you?

[GE] Oh, here!

[TM] Right here?

[GE] Aye, uh huh.

[TM] This is your home farm?

[GE] Oh aye, oh no, I've been here a ma days. Schooled fae here, and efter I left the school, well there wis a lot o the grandchildren helped ma granda, ye ken. There wisnae a lot o money a going and as they left the school they a come hame here for a while tae get established, and eh, worked for him. And the last grandchild, well when I left the school he wis ready tae tak advantage and move off tae mak bigger wages. Well he gaed tae Craibstone actually, at wis Alan Easton, ma cousin, and eh, he kent I wis gan tae be leavin the school so he made arrangements tae go intae the college in Aiberdeen tae get a wee bittie, ye ken, a degree. So I wis left the school and come tae work here, and I worked for ma grandfather till he got ower auld tae be interested. Well I wis gan tae leave tae get a job tae, there wisnae much money it wis a gey hard struggle. Oh we got a livin, we nivver wanted for anything, but eh, there wis nae surplus. There wis, abody wis in the same fix, even the big fairmers. Athing wis tight at that time, it wis a gey, but we survived and we wis happy and we got a the clothes we wanted and plenty a, tae eat, and well we wis content, we didnae ken onything else. And so, well, bye and bye I got a quine like a other body, and gan tae dances an at, and says, look I canna afford tae bide here ony langer. Eh, I used tae get half a crown in the wik, 2 and 6, fit's at! 12 and a half pence aye, noo, in new money!

[IE] Twelve and a half pence.

[GE] Of course it wis worth a bit at that time, but half a croon. I says, look I canna live on it, so it wis up tae five bob, but ach I says is is hopeless, look I've gotten a girl noo and I hiv tae tik her tae the pictures and I hiv tae get oot masel. And they said well we canna afford tae pay ye muckle mair. Look, if you mak a hame for us, and we gie ye the grun tae please yersel wi, the place ye ken. Aye, jist the land the workin o it, and the gin on tae mowin. So fair enough I hid a go, and started off and, for once we jist improved, aye as much as ye were able till. And eh, I gaed oot tae dae thrashin ye ken at the neeperin fairms for an extray, and workin amon the tatties, jist if there wis a ??? Jist the same's folks daein yet. A lot o big fairmers noo's goin oot, them even wi 200 acres gan oot and takin a side job tae augment their income. Well at's fit happened here and seen well the auld folk passed on and eventually the place wis left tae me, wi mi pittin sae much o ma life int'll it. Well, ma granny wis aye doon in the auld hoose fin we got mairried, so we hid tae, I bade wi Isabel's folk for a year efter we wis mairried till we got this established here. And this wis jist gan tae be a temporary home for's, but it's been a hame for us for forty-six forty-seven year, and it's gan tae dae until we eventually move into Strichen or far ever we go.

[TM] So the main farmhouse is down the road?

[GE] It's doon in the close aye, aye. But it, it wis burnt, it's intae a shed noo. No, no it's nae, nae a hoose, oh it hisnae been for lang enough. Ma granny stayed in't, and it took on fire. And eh, my god we'd some job tae getting her tae shift oot o it.

[TM] It wis thatched?

[GE] It wis a thacket hoose, aye, but at's gan back a lang time ago, uh huh.

[TM] When was it thatched, when you were a boy of course?

[GE] Oh well, aye, and a gey while afore at. That auld hoose doon ere wis on the go at the time o Culloden, foo ever lang ago at is, they tell me, and it wis thatched every, och every four, five years I suppose. It got maintenance in between, but it wis a cosy hoose.

[TM] What kind of thatch was it?

[GE] Jist stra and clay. Aye, it wisnae heather and it wisnae rashes, jist oat stra, straightened oot, specially prepared, straightened intae bunches, and clay wis dug oot o they, the red clay ye ken, and puddled and made intae like cement, and there wis thatchers, at wis jist their trade they gaed fae place tae place and that, so this man come and repaired it, ye ken jist maintenance, every year did somethin till't tae preserve it. And I think aboot five, six year it woulda lasted mebbe, till it wis renewed again. Jist the top surface o't, nae the hale roof, jist a bit taen aff and a new layer putten on the top. But there wis tiles, ye ken the pan tiles in below, uh huh, and in below the thatch like tae, so it's kinda double roof it wis. An affa lot o them wis at.

[TM] So how big was that house, just a but and ben or?

[GE] No, it hid mair than at, a but and ben and twa places wis there?

[IE] But and ben and the closet.

[GE] Oh well, aye, three rooms woulda been en. They were really big rooms. There wis a big, well fit we ca'd the kitchen, aye, it wis a gey big place, and the ither end wis a gey big place, and the middle, well it wis jist a bedroom. Uh huh, aye.

[IE] Fireplace?

[GE] Oh it wis an open fireplace, jist the auld fashioned.

[TM] Did you have a swey?

[GE] No, it didn't hae a swey, it hid a cross, fit ye ca a runtle tree awa up the lum a bit, and a big chain at come doon the middle it hid huiks, hooks on't tae hook the pots on till. A lot o the fairmhooses hid sweys, but is een didnae. It wis back a stage further, and is lang, oh big strong links it hid. And this eh, click, huik, at ye could put up the links to lower or raise yer pots. But it hid great big binks at the side, at ye could tik yer pots doon and set intae the side o the fire and still hae een on the top o the fire ye see, ye'd plenty, plenty room tae maneouver.

[TM] What sort of lum was it, was it built in or hingin?

[GE] It wis fit we ca'd a hingin lum, it wis actually wooden construction, it hid the stone gable, for the ye ken gable end for the ??? up, and it wis oh, mebbe up aboot is, above the fire, awa fae the danger o fire, and it come oot a good bit, mebbe oot aboot is and gradually slope't up tae the top. And it hid a big shelf across the front o it, well nae a big shelf but a ledge, and a lot a stuff wis stored on is. And eh, fit we ca'd a hingin lum. No, no it wis aboot the last o them tae survive in this corner. And eh, I canna tell ye mair aboot it. There wis a, the calendars used tae, well there wis a calendar at ma granda claimed as his, great big pooch or pocket, he kept a lot o his important kind a tickets in is ye see, sangs ye see, copies o songs or recitations that he liked daen, and when is folk came in aboot this thing wis aye taen doon and the tickets held oot tae onybody at wis capable of recitin them or singin them.

[TM] And they said that that house was around at the time of Culloden?

[GE] I believe so, mm hmm. Ye see, since ever is wis taen in, I hiv a, the papers o it, I got them fae ma mither but I canna tell ye off hand, fae the original time it wis taen in oot o the heath. If ye read the sleeve o yer tape, ye see, it'll gie ye a wee bit a clue. Is wis the Well Head Folds they called it, there wis plenty supply a water and it wis good grazing, and an affa lot o the neighbours and stock owners brought their, scarce o water in this district, well up above, doon in that ither direction there's plenty water. But they brought their beasts here tae get water, and I think that's the wey it wis ca'd the Well Head Folds. And it's been in different, in the same strain o folk a the time fae the very first. But the queer thing about it wis there wis nae male, eh, children, it wis a lassies, and there wis aye some ither family mairried in and took ower the place.

[TM] So the name changes but the family…?

[GE] The name changes, aye, but they wis a related ye see. There wis Mitchells, and Lunans and Esslemonts and Eastons, and there wis anither een come in, ach I winna tell ye which that is, and they a married in. First the Eastons he married an Esslemont, is George Esslement he hid twa daughters, and ma great-grandfather, auld Tom Easton he mairried een o them, so he's succeeded tae the place but they were rented at at time, they were on the Philorth estate and he took tenancy o it. And it wis him at bought it, na it wis ma grandfather, bought it in 1925, the estate wis selt off. So it wis, it belang tae the family efter at. And seen ma grandmither hid it, efter granda died, efter great grandfather died, and she passed it on to me. Well, it wis kinda an agreement if I would mak a home for them, and, and eh, so I'm glaid I did. Daen good enough [laughs]. Well we intensified ye see, ye hid tae jist tae keep going and improve the production. And oh, we hid a huge stock on't for the size, and, and eh, she wis prepared tae have a go tae, and at's how it's landed. But we're jist twa daen auld folkies noo. [laughs].

[TM] Where did you come from? [to Isabel]

[IE] Jist across the burn [laughs].

[GE] Aboot, fit wid it be, a mile through the fields? A mile and a half mebbe.

[TM] The girl next door.

[IE] The girl next door, aye.

[GE] Aye near enough, it wis a bit by the road, but walkin straight through, och it wis mebbe a good mile, mebbe mile and a half at the very maist.

[IE] When I used tae ging roon wi the pram tae see mam, it took me an hoor, but ye couldna tak the pram through the fields of course, but if I wis gan across masel, 10 minutes through the field.

[GE] Aye, it's kinda a z ye see, ye'd tae ging up and back and back again, aye the lang way roon. But through the fields, quarter o an hoor. Aye, a good mile onywey. Through anither farm like, through their grun, but it wis jist a straight.

[IE] There jist is the one farm atween us, ????

[GE] Uh huh. So that's the story of oor life.

[TM] How many brothers and sisters did you have?

[GE] One sister. She stays in New Pitsligo. Uh huh.

[TM] And what year were you born?

[GE] When? 1923. 17 April 1923. At's the een ??? ye're fillin up, they're checking up on me tae see if I'm nae makin [it up; laughs].

[TM] Too much money.

[GE] Aye. [laughs]. No, but well, well. No, at's, in the music, it's jist come a naturally and the singin and it's jist this last, well since '85 at I've sung in public, and is competitions. No, I've thoroughly enjoyed efter I got in amon them, and it's a bit of a challenge and it's fine to have a go wi yer opponents and still be friends wi them, at's the main thing. Gan tae these festivals, oh it's jist a delight meetin in wi a yer rivals ye ken. No, ye come tae ken folk fae a ower the country.

[IE] Jist ???

[GE] Well that is, aye. No, no, I passed my prime a good bit. So, no that's ?? story, and at's jist aboot it. I suppose it's comin till an end, doesn't metter if I hiv tae listen tae the rest o them, and I'll help them a I can. And this tape ye brocht today, well Duncan Simpson, ye ken Duncan?

[TM] Yes.

[GE] He tried me on a lang time tae mak a tape, jist purposely for funds for the tape service, cause they're affa hard up, it's a voluntary and it's a donations, and the volunteers at dis the duplicatin and athing, it's a voluntary work. Duncan would be about the only paid person. John Duncanson, he's president and Maitland Mackie, Sir Maitland Mackie, well he his a, well he's jist een o the directors tae on a voluntary basis. And their machines wis gaen daen. Ye see they hiv aboot eight or nine duplicators, they dae aboot twelve cassettes, ye ken better than I dae. Duncan makes the master tape first. And seen one o this lassies comes in, well in rotation, there's some o them in every day, ye see. There's some in every day, but jist in rotation is volunteers, and they process them, and they're put oot, they're puttin oot about 750 every wik I think. Aye, it's for a the Grampian area, doon intae the Mearns, jist onybody who's interested. And the Post Office daes it free o charge. And they're putten intill a thing like a glaisses case and the, and the slot for the address slip and it's address tae the person, and seen efter they've heard the tape they return tae the tape service again turn the slip address back tae the tape service, and there it goes on. And, well they got this, I dinna ken fit they've got, mebbe twa thoosan pound, I winna tell ye exactly, mair than two thoosan pound.

[TM] From the sale of your tapes?

[GE] From the sale, aye. We kept them within wirsels, Gibby Ross wis needin them, Gibby wis gan tae gie us £2.49 or something each, ye see efter they were processed and ready for selling. I said, oh no, I widnae want tae dae at, I'd rather sell is, cause it's for charity. And they were, it wis sponsored, aye the Heritage thing, it's like the Heritage festival, they were fair in wi this tae ye see, they said we'll sponsor yer tape and introduce and launch it at the festival. And they wis a involved in it, Isabel wis sellin, Duncan wis sellin. I wisnae selling cause I wis up tae the eyes wi competin and things a that kind. And Richard fae Edinburgh, at's wir grandson, the fiddler, and Ethel his mother, they were jist selling at entrance tae the hall and ach jist various places. Ye ken is, we selt is mony at day at it covered the initial cost. Aye, paid the initial cost, I thought the tape service would go halfs wi us, ye ken it wis a lot o outlay. Duncan did the master tape but we gaed roon, well it wis him at did the negotiations, and we got, we got a discount being for charity and for the blind. So it turned out it wis the Grampian Tapes at wik at processed a the, they got aff a thousand copies, which I thought wis gey ambitious, but it disnae maitter, we did it, and the labels were produced in Manchester, a firm there. Duncan kent something aboot em, he approached a few firms, and well they were the best deal, it still cost a good bit but I paid it, and we nearly covered the initial cost, at the festival, almost that day. So that took the sweat oot o me, ye see, it wis a bit o a thocht. And ever since at time well every penny's gaen tae charity, and they've gotten it wid be twa thoosan, but I wouldna tell ye exactly noo, I think it's about £60 here. And the kirk, Mr Birnie's kirk, oor kirk at Tyrie, there wis 60 volumes o the new hymnery, they were affa needin new, well the auld een wis oot o date ye see, and usually abody had their ane hymn book, but I provided em wi this. I wanted tae gie something tae the kirk, spiered a what I could gie them, ye ken communion dishes or something a that kind. But well they're a supplied wi their silver and athing. And, it come tae him, ye ken is I'm richt glaid at he suggested sich a thing, and they're stick on a table at the door, and abody helps themselves as they ging in. Takes in a, ye ken intae the kirk on a Sunday, take a copy along wi them, and hopefully they leave em on the table as they retire, as they're gan oot again. A, but they div, I've nae doot. In the, well we're up tae date in wir hymnbooks, and they're used every, on a communion day when they're a, ye ken is it gies ye a fine feeling at they're being used and purposeful. So at wis the kirk, and the Heritage, well I gave them a lovely shield, it's really a good shield, I'll gie them anither een if they wint it, tae encourage the youngsters tae, well, recite.

[TM] Is it for the under fourteens?

[GE] Yes, uh huh, it's for the youngsters. So this last twa year, it's gan tae St Combs, there wis a David Dunbar, and Gordon Ross wis it? Or David Ross and Gordon Dunbar? It's some o the twa, is twa laddies, last year and the year before, at's only twa years it's been on is it, but it'll seen be a third year again ye see, May. Aye two years. Well, it wis aff the tape service, eh money. So they got that. And the remainder, I think I'm gan tae gie it tae the Chest, well we thought, Isabel has a haun in this tae, cause she's selt a lot o tapes tae and she purposely got a fine big handbag and a this festivals and concerts she takes a lot wi her. And surprise, sometimes ye dinna sell mony and next time ye selt a lot. We selt a gey few the day, at I wisnae thinkin aboot. I wis up, we'd been ere every year is file at New Deer but I nivver thocht on takin them up ere. I dinna like tae sell ma ane product.

[TM] No it's hard.

[GE] It is hard. Some dear body a daen't. Ok she has mair sale push than I hiv, but she's mebbe nae sey much involved in't. And the tourist board's selt a good lot till us, at a their different, daen't free of VAT and a'thing, we get back the full fiver. And eh, some o the local shops, they've a van selt a good few till us. Ma sister in Pitsliga, and there it goes on ye see. And eh, no, there's a, they'll seen be selt oot. We wis doon at the leisure centre at the Burns supper last year, and foo mony did we sell there. Thirty-five?

[IE] Thirty-five.

[GE] Well the management kent that I hid them, and they said 'bring yer tapes alang', and so I hid naething adae wi the selling, they selt em. And whit a boost at wis, well I didna charge onything for ma services. It wis jist a great boost tae ken, for them sellin is, and ken that folks interested. And a lot o them's bocht em tae send tae their relations abroad ye ken, em at his a sair, soft spot for Buchan.

[TM] Many far and wide from around here I'm sure. A lot of folk.

[GE] Well, they're nearly a the different countries ye can think o. Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Och and further afield than that ye ken. A lot o them sent oot tae the folks at's emigrated fae this district. And an affa lot were selt through the post tae, aye, eh, the postal, we charged 50p for postin. An affa lot o folks were, they sa it in the papers ye see, there wis a big splash in the Press and Journal when it wis launched, and a lot of folk at originated fae this district up in Ross-shire and Ullapool, och well Ullapool's Ross-shire, but ye ken, a ower the place.

[TM] Yes.

[GE] And friends at wis at school wi, an affa lot o them wrote and asked a copy, sent in the cash and posted them back tae them. I wis seein a gey important lad aboot a week ago here, and we wis spikkin aboot ey thing and the ither, ye ken, and he got, he's affa interested in bothy ballads, but he didnae ken that I'd a tape, so he hid a copy tae, sent one back tae him. And at the Elgin festival, I took up is year, they said I shoulda haen them last year, so they selt a good few this time. Aye, the MacAllan, comp o the Bothy. The champion o champions. Aye, uh huh. So there it is. But I gaed them a commission noo for selling theirs. It their, is, it's the Rotary Club at organises it, but it's the MacAllan distillery at sponsors, they pay a the expenses, pay the prize money, and we a get a bottle o single malt MacAllan, £20 worth, £19.99 it costs in the store doon ere. And wir expenses paid, and eh, well last year I'd £25 o prize money. And we hiv the honour of being asked tae perform.

[TM] Oh well, it sounds like a good evening with 600 people.

[GE] And it wis the sair heidies, are you recordin a this yet.

[TM] Bits.

[GE] Are you recordin is?

[TM] I wanted to ask about things like hogmanay when you were a loon, what did you get up to on Hogmanay?

[GE] Ah well, have you got it going noo? Well fen we were bairns at the school we used tae ging oot and seek hogmanay, ye ken we gaed roon a the neighbours, and we recited or sung or something. We gaed tae the doors and knockit and started singin or recited, and they come oot and, they either a come oot and listen till us a the door else they invite us intae their hoose and we'd tae perform. And seen we a got an aipple or an orange sometime a piece a cake or a penny or something and we moved on fae ane place till anither. There wis a bunch o us, well it wis basically a relations, there wis mebbe half a dizen, six o us a getting, for company. And we'd get a big circuit, we'd a daen a couple a miles mebbe. And an affa lot o properties and hooses up the roadie and roon aboot.

[TM] Is there a special rhyme?

[GE] Pardon.

[TM] Is there a special rhyme that you used?

[GE] Well, we jist, the folk at we kent at we'd get something fae, at we'd be accepted.

[TM] But was there a special verse at all that you said to them at the door?

[GE] Nae really, we jist did what we had rehearsed. Oh well, there wis sometimes 'Rise up auld wife and shak yer feathers, dinna think at we are beggars, we're only bairnies come tae play, rise up and gies wir hogmany, wir feets caul, wir sheens thin, so gies a piece and let's rin'. At wis ey jingle at we used tae dae, but they usually winted somebody tae sing or somebody tae recite a bit efter at, so we'd ging roon a the places och till aboot ten o'clock mebbe, eleven o'clock, sometimes it wis a bonny moonlichty nicht, and we'd a skate in the puddles on the wey back, it wis jist a social occasion. If there wis a puddle in a park, ye ken, a pond, we hid a skate and in atween hauns and haud gang. And we come hame, we'd a a bag on oor back, like a schoolbag, [laughs], and we put wir, fit wid we ca it.

[IE] Spoils.

[GE] Spoils intae this bag, and jist, it wis a social occasion. I wouldnae dae it noo ye see, but it wis fashionable at at time, at wis fen we were bairns.

[TM] Did you get money as well?

[GE] Sometimes you'd a got a sixpence each mebbe, if they hidnae something. Sometimes they hid home-made candy prepared in baggies ready tae hand oot. [End of side two.]


back to top