[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[TM] That's exactly the information I'm looking
[GE] [laughs] Well but ye've jist exactly got
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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.
[GE] Oh it wis an open fireplace, jist the auld
[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
[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.
[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
[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
[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?
[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.
[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.
[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
[TM] Is there a special rhyme?
[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.
[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.]
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