On the first of March the cra's starts biggin
On the second o March the hares start jiggin
And borealis loupin high, warns o win and sna forbye.
Did you follow that?
[TM] Yes I did.
[NF] Ye did. At's an old saying....
And anither old saying for next month,
well it is next month is year, when is Easter? And this is
an old saying.
First comes candlemas and syne the new meen
And the first Sunday efter at is fastern's even.
That meen daen, and the next meen new
And the first Sunday efter at is Easter true.
Have ye heard at een before?
[TM] Well I've heard a version of that.
[NF] Hiv ye?
[TM] Its eh,
First comes candlemas and syne the new meen
And the next Tyesday efter at, at's fastern's even.
That meen oot and the next meen at's heicht
And the next Sunday after that, that's pace richt
[NF] At's richt. At's right, at's anither one. Aye. At's paseday
right, at's right.
[TM] Where did you hear that one.
[NF] Oh it's an old, old one that. In fact I've just written
to the Press and Journal today, and there's a Robbie Shepherd
writes Doric in the Press and Journal and I've written that
two sayins for him, might be useful ye see. Yes. [Laughs.]
[TM] Very good.
[NF] 'The Ballad o Bennachie,' it's really part of ma own
life story; Ah wis born at the foot o Bennachie, you know,
away back in 1907. Ah'm now eighty-seven, on the twenty-eighth
[TM] I wouldn't believe it to look at you.
[NF] [laughs] Thank you, but that's, that's the case. And
the reason Ah wrote the ballad wis, as Ah probly explaint
t'you when Ah sent it in tae you, wis 'at there wis so much
o our lovely old Doric words being lost. There's a big influx
o English people, what we call Sassenachs, which we've nothing
against at all, bit they change the language. An it's sad
because, I din' know whether you could trace some of that
Doric words, they might be Vikin,' they might be Gaelic, they
might be Irish, wherever they originate. But some of them
are exceptionally descriptive, as ye'd probably discovered
in 'The Ballad o Bennachie'. So 'at wis the reason 'at I wrote
And ah, there wis
a competition come up, by the poets, the great Hugh McDiarmid,
I don' know if you heard o him or not, and other two and eh,
an this competition away back, I says, 'Ach, Ah'll send in
'The Ballad o Bennachie'.' My goodness, I was knocked out
when I got twenty-fifth equal, out of a total of about five
and a half thousand [as] you prob'ly saw on the certificate
I got. [laughs] ([TM] That's right, yes.) So I says, well
there's something in it after all, eh?
[TM] Well done.
[NF] Without being boastful. Then the same wi the Bailies
o Bennachie, that's uh...the Inverurie group, it's very fond
o that hill. It's a very romantic hill. Have ye see Bennachie?
[TM] No I haven't.
[NF] You haven't? Oh you must see it this summer. It's not
much o a mountain, as I mentioned in the poem, but nevertheless
there's something about it, there's jist a, that the, the
locals are very fond of. So I sent it in to their competition
and I got a highly commended fae them, which I copied the
certificate. So that's really the story o Bennachie.
[TM] Well done.
[NF] And is there anything in the narrative that you would
want to know or anything?
[TM] Well, first I wanted to ask you about a
tune for it, do you have a tune for it?
[NF] Yes I sent ye in a tune.
[TM] Well, there was the Faithly Four Hundred
[NF] Aye and I sent in a tune
[TM] That, and there's a tune. Do you sing it?
[NF] Did ye nae get a tune for the Ballad o
Bennachie in too?
[TM] I don't think so?
[NF] You didn't? I'm sure I sent it in tae ye,
[TM] Well, I'm not sure because
[NF] Let's see, I have it in two keys, I have
it in one key's in B Flat, which is mair for instrumental,
and arrangements, at least we got a friend o mine, a Tom Fowler
at arranged it and he put into G as well, ken, Major G 1 sharp.
So this would be aboot G I think.
There's a hill in the Garioch that's aye dear
Now the hill that I'm thinkin is auld Bennachie
It wis doon at hill-fit that I first sa the licht
And the win howling sna driftin Februar nicht
Though the hoose is noo doon but a fit o the wa
The yow trees aye staundin gaein lithe fae the bla
And the yalla most rosies aye bloomin sae fair
Bringing thochties in plenty, some sweet and some sair
Bennachie, Bennachie, wi the bald heid abeen
And the auld Mither Tap staunin oot a aleen
A' the glory of fame hine away and at hame
Aye the pride and the croon o the Garioch.
Though never a mountain, but jist wir ain heap
The sicht o her broo maks yer hairt miss a beat
Chargin up by Craigshannoch, on a guid summer day
Took at teet at the cave comin doon Herthill brae
Soochin back ower the auld days, aye, in mony a kirn
Fan we quealt wir het taes in wir ain Gadie burn
Pu'd a green bourtrie shooker tae mak a bla gun
Come the hairst wi'd get roddens and hae plaffer fun.
Oh the whap and the ??? baith wheeple their
Ye'll hear ony mornin abeen Hosie's wall
And the mavis he trochs his song sae gran melody
Jist some o the great souns o auld Bennachie
But fie that's nae athing, there's big grunted wid
The baldwin, the boodwin, the big maidens's stane
So deep doon in oor hairst sma wonner it be
It's Bennachie, Bennachie, Bennachie.
Bennachie, Bennachie, wi the bald heid abeen
And the auld Mither Tap staunin oot a aleen
A' the glory of fame hine away and at hame
Aye the pride and the croon o the Garioch.
Now when I wis a little un, and at's nae thestreen
It wis grandma's guid word brought the joy to ma een
Wi her fit on the cradle at the even doon far
And the shoud keepin time tae the wag at the wa
She could sing like a lintie, wi voice true and sweet
And her 'Fair Maid o Fyvie' would aye make ye greet
But there's een that she sung I will min till I die
And she ca'd it The Ballad o Auld Bennachie.
[NF] Is that enough for you now?
[TM] That's great, yes, thank you. Very good.
[More on melody.]
[NF] You like 'e melody?
[NF] It suits, it's simple but it suits the theme....
[TM] Did you make the melody yourself?
[NF] Yes. Yes....[getting music]
[TM] First of all, when did you make the song?
[NF] 19, excuse me, I think it's, I'll make sure, 19 something.
[NF] The date o the contest wis it? ([TM] Ah I see, 1976,
ah hah.) Bit it probably had been workin at it since 1974.
It took me some time...to get, well change here and there,
to get the right expression and got it tae, tae rhyme of course,
sensibly, nae jist puttin in words tae make it rhyme, but
make it all sense, ye see. So 'at'd been prob'ly 1974.
[TM] And did you decide, 'I'm going to make a song'? Or did
it just start coming?
[NF] Well I didnae decide to make a song, a ballad first but
eh, suddenly thocht, I wis toyin about wi some melodies and
I tried is three/four melody I wis workin at and I says, yes
at'll fit in. So the phrasin fitted in so I decided tae put
this certain melody and ca'd it the Ballad o Bennachie. And
B flat was the original one that I wrote. But B Flat's more
orchestral, it's nae good for, B Flat is a difficult key sometimes
to sing in, unless you have a high, unless a tenor might make
it, but a baritone like me which was a bittie high. So I thought
oh well, I'll get it changed, so my good friend Tom he made,
he made that arrangement and put it into the key of G too.
So he'll be fine pleased that you've come doon here, because,
you'll have to meet him some time.
[TM] I'd like to him yes.
[NF] He's now gone through his Bachelor of Music
degree at Glasgow University.
[TM] Very good.
[NF] So that was the melody for it.
[TM] Have you made other songs.
[NF] Yes, aye I made a lot of songs in the past,
more popular songs, I played in a dance band for many years
ye see, and, made quite a lot of songs. But didn't get much
success, because it was very difficult away back before the
war to break into the musical scene, it was practically controlled
by a certain group and at wis it ye see. And I remember one
melody I wrote and there was a gentleman here at used to play
with me, a Steve Spalding, and he could confirm this, at he
was very taken with this foxtrot that I wrote. So about, way
back in nineteen what, nineteen thirty four mebbe, and in
aboot nineteen thirty six one o ither band lads came in and
says 'Hey Norman, yer melody wis ower the radio the day'.
I says, 'No'. 'Yes', he says, sic and sic a band had played
it. So I had a listen again at it, and this was my melody
wi different words. So this soured me. I says, well well,
that's what they do. So, that was it. (Laughs)
[TM] So did you play round the district with
[NF] Oh yes, aye, played all over.
[TM] Buchan, and over to Banff as well.
[NF] Beg pardon?
[TM] Did you go, travel afar with the band.
[NF] Oh yes, oh aye, quite a few, awa round about. The band
I was latterly with wis ca'd Presley's Band and they were
runners up in the East of Scotland Championship, which was
pretty good for semi-professionals. We were just semi-professionals
ye see, we hid full time jobs. And we were delighted tae get
a, jist aboot half a point I think it wis in those days, behind
the winners o the East of Scotland Dance Band Championships.
So it was pretty good.
[TM] Where was that held?
[TM] Where was that held?
[NF] At wis held in Aberdeen, at the Palais
de Dance in Aberdeen. And eh, some o the big band names used
to come up and judge the contest. But eh the war come along
o course, 1939 and that wis put the end o that. There's only
one member left o that band now, one o the original Presley,
Jack Presley he still stays in Fraserburgh. His brother Charlie
died two years ago, and his brother David died three years
ago. So they're all away. But we were very lucky here in your
young days. I used to play the violin a lot ye know. And bein
allowed tae try out wir humble efforts on some really fine
instruments. And there's an old farmer here, Charlie Sutherland,
and he was actually a pupil of the great James Scott Skinner,
have ye heard o him?
[TM] Oh yes.
[NF] The Scottish fiddler, he was actually a
pupil of Skinner's. And this gentleman had a Stradivarius
violin, a genuine Stradivarius violin. And he bought it aboot
1932, and I think then he paid just over £3000 in 1932
which was an absolute fortune then. And on his death his widow
sold it for £10,000. Now I think it's in America, I'm
not sure and it was called the Goddard Strad because it was
in an English family in Northumberland for many years, in
fact Strad had mebbe made it for that Goddard family, we dinnae
know. Because Strad had sent a lot o fiddles ower here and
got a guinea for them, 21 shillings! My goodness I sa one
in the paper the other day and the upside price was turned
down, £225,000! And he hid this Strad, is Strad, and
I'll never forget the first shot I hid o it. (Knock at door
- come in). Very fine instruments to play.
[NF] That same Charlie Sutherland, hid a, they
said it was a real Matthew Hardie, have ye heard o him? At's
the great Scottish maker you know, Matthew Hardie. I thought
it might have been a genuine Matthew Hardie, but some o the
other fiddlers says no, they think it was a copy, why I dinnae
know. Because there used to be a very good violin maker used
tae be in Fraserburgh, we hid a man ca'd Joe Campbell, oh
a really fine artist. And I think he said it, and no he didn't
think it wis the genuine thing. But at wis two very fine fiddles,
I liket at Matthew Hardie, oh my goodness, and the Strad,
oh my goodness.
[TM] There was a noticeable difference?
[NF] Oh my goodness, really wonderful. It was
kinda equal on all the four strings ye see, otherwise our
fiddles you'd know the difference when you changed the string,
it was like a different character instrument so to speak.
And then there wis is Presley, at I'm tellin ye aboot, their
band, their father Chae they ca'd him, Charlie Presley. He'd
a fine collection of fiddles. Oh nreally good. Ib those days
you know you'd to be very versatile in the local band, because
you'd tae play the square dances, you know, you would know
?? abroad and no doubt in America you know them: quadrilles,
lancers, sir cashens' circle, eightsome reels. And they, they
hid a french fiddle, a magatelle and oh my goodness it was
a great fiddle. It was a bittie dour tae begin, but afore
ye wis through the first ? o the quadrille she was almost
speakin hersel and I always wonder what happened tae that
fiddle, cause Charlie had it and now he's dead, and it was
amazin how it would heat up, and in those days we'd no mikes,
no electric gadgets whatsoever. Ye'd tae play yer fiddle and
fill the hall wi the biggest crowd or old Charlie Presley
would hae booted ye off the stage. [laughs] It wis practise,
practise, practise in those days. We didnae get cash you know,
we maistly got for wir jaunts 10 shillings, ye know what that
is, 50pence today. At's what we'd a gotten then probably.
And we'd tae appear, if it wis evening dress, we'd tae be
in evening dress. There was no ragged appearance in the band,
ye'd tae be immaculate. However, at's
[TM] So how many nights a week would you play
[NF] Well it depends on the demand. Nae much
in the summer months but in the winter time you could be fairly
busy ye see. Ye'd hae a Torry, whistdrive mebbe at Mintlaw
or Peterhead or Ellon or Banff or roundabout. Then ye'd hae
the Friday dance. And I remember one ball at we used to play,
wi ma own band, we used tae play at eh, in the Drill Hall
here in Grantown Place in Fraserburgh at the annual Local
Artillery annual ball. Very fine. And in those days the gentleman
had to hae on his white gloves cause he might hae been an
engineer for instance, and the sweat at the dance would mebbe
soil the lady's dress ye see, and on white gloves and what
they called dancin pumps, dancin shoes. And the MC's there,
two, three usually on duty and if hadna that you didn't get
in. You'd to be very mannerful and go across and say 'may
I have the pleasure' and 'thank you very much', and take her
back. It was lovely to see you know. Of course that's all
gone now. (Laughs) Sad.
[TM] Yes I would like to see those revived.
[NF] Oh so would I it was beautiful. And to
see the Grand March in at days, they'd mebbe have a visiting
officer, two or three with the kilt you know and the sporran
and the gentlemen wi their uniform in at days the buttons
a shinin, sometimes led by the Provost of the town. Ye see.
It was beautiful for us up on the band stage, looking down
and keeping time, it was lovely. We'd be playin a march mebbe,
ca'd 'Sons o the Brave' and at, you know, some o your American
marchers, the great march writer, or 'Blaze Away' or something
like at, get a good step. And then get the original local
Scottish tunes for the, for the, the Sir Cashen's Circle which
would follow. Aye, it was very enjoyable looking back. Memories,
but eh. And then that Charlie Presley oh he'd some fine fiddles.
He'd a Gough[?] fiddle, which is shaped exactly like a guitar,
no F holes and ?? beside them. At a rare deep, deep tone.
A very fine fiddle. And then we'd a Jim Donald here, it was
a fiddler a his life and he'd quite a collection. And his
widow stays out in Rosehearty, I'm gan oot tae see her shortly.
And he's a fine collection of fiddles too, I just wonder what
happened to the fiddles.
[NF] Funny thing, I wis talkin till a lady here
at come fae Yarmouth, jist yesterday, and I said the last
time we wis in Yarmouth we stayed with a very nice lady bed
and breakfast and she took out an old book where there was
a lot o the local Banff, Buchan, Rosehearty, Stonehaven fishin
girls at had travelled down there for the seasonal fishing.
And there were some o their names you know, Buchans and so
on and so on. And in the morning we come awa for breakfast,
a look at this very fine old dresser, you call it a sideboard,
you know, lovely, I mean a hand made thing, but beautiful
ornamented. And up on the top I see this two cases, and I
says, excuse me is that fiddles you've got up there. She says,
pardon? I says, violins? She says, oh yes she says, there's
someone coming up from London next week to give me ten pound
each for them. I says, Oh could I have a look at them. She
says, certainly. So I had a look at them. My goodness I said,
don't you let at fiddles away for ten pounds each. They were
very fine instruments. There was one made, there's a great
English maker called Hesketh. You've heard o him?
[TM] Mm hmm.
[NF] Hesketh, and I think is would be one o
his apprentices at had made this fiddle and probably Hesketh
had a hand in't. A beautiful-made copy of a Guarneri. At wis
Stradivarius' star pupil, you know, Guarneri. They called
him Joseph ?? and this was one fiddle. And there was another
fiddle, a very, very good fiddle. Might have been Italian,
there was no name or anything in it, but it was a beautiful
fiddle. So I says, now don't let at fiddles away for ten pounds
each. I says, you write to Hill and Sons, and I gave her the
address in London, and somebody'll come up and value them
for you. I says, you'd mebbe tae pay a sum for valuein' but
it'll pay ye, so don't let them away at ten pound each. Now
if I'd been a cruel, wicked person I could have offered her
fifty pound for that two fiddles and, but I would never do
that at all, no never. I can sleep in ma bed at nicht sound.
So that wis the twa fiddles. Beautiful fiddles. I could see
by the case that there's something in here, old fashioned
padded cases you know, which would cost quite a bit nowadays.
So the old lady thanked me for it. And I often wonder how
she got on. I hope she didn't sell them for ten pound each!
Oh aye. [Laughs.]
[TM] Oh dear.
[NF] And of course in the old days we were Honeyman
fiddlers. We trained on a Honeyman violin tutor. William C
Honeyman. You never heard o that book? No? Aye, it wis a famous
book then, William C Honeyman, and it started the fiddlers
off in the key of A, which they frown at now the key of A.
That's the key of three sharps. Because on the violin, it
was supposed to be the natural key for the violin to start,
but they found it wasn't because on the E string of the violin
you'd to play it E, F sharp, ye see, tae play on it in the
scale of three sharps. And then when we played on the key
of C major which has no sharps, or the key of F, which has
one flat, or B flat, two flats, so on and so on, it was very
difficult to get your finger in the correct position to play
[TM] Because you were used to the F sharp.
[NF] Because you were used to F sharp and it
was real difficult. And we'd a big philharmonic here, orchestra
here at one time before the war. In fact there's a photograph
of the orchestra in the library and I was eh, appointed as
leader of the second fiddles, and believe me I think I musta
made a lot o enemies, tryin tae them tae get, some older players
an me, that woulda said, oh I wis playin the fiddle afore
ye wis born. But they were still playin what we called in
the 'cracks' when they came intae the natural key ye see.
But the position at were Honeyman fiddlers they were called.
Honeymans fiddlers because they started in the key of A major,
it was great fun. However we got round at. And I think there's
only two members left o that orchestra. This same Steve Spalding
at I wis tellin ye aboot, a very fine musician and a Frank
Wallace. Both old men. Both 87 or 88, I'm 87 myself. And I
think they're all away. Sad. But eh, it was lovely, it was
music then and it was a means of bringin the music to the
people. And back in the dance band days ye see there wis no
radio. Well the radios were comin in, what they called the
cat's whisker, I suppose ye've heard o them hiv ye? You know
the crystal and puttin yer ear tae the earphones. There wis
no tv or naething like at, nor amplification or anything. And
we were means of introducing the new tunes to the public.
[TM] Where did you get the new tunes, if they
weren't your own ones.
[NF] We joined a musical club then, and we got
the club's, you'd to pay so much into this club. Like for
instance, Lawrence Wright was one of the famous clubs, and
Campbell Cannelli, he wis anither famous club and agents they
were for the lovely American hits at were comin in then, especially
Irving Berlin's waltzes for instance, you know them de ye?
And they would be comin in ye see, and great favourites. And
some o them would had probably heard it wi their cat whisker
wi some o the dance bands then at wis makin a broadcast noo
and again. So we were the means o introducing the new tune
ye see. And the words would be typewritten and put up the
pillars o the hall, and we wouldnae hae tae play a tune two
three times, mebbe six times over jist till they learned the
tune and liked it. Oh aye. some lovely tunes come out across
from America. Of course we were lucky we were living as youths
in the golden age of melody I'd say, and the golden age of
jazz was just comin in. My goodness. We were hearing Bing
for instance and Jack T Garden and Hoagy Carmichael. [End
of side one.]
[Django Reinhardt], the great
guitarist, ever heard o him hiv ye?
[TM] I have yes.
[NF] Was sad when he died. I think it was appendicitis.
Nowadays he'd been saved probably ye see. And Joe Venuti,
ye heard o him, the fiddler. Oh that wis a our heroes a that
boys ye see. And Bing of course was a great favourite. When
he was quite a young lad, even when he was with Paul Whiteman's
orchestra, he was singin wi the Rhythm Boys wis it they called
that four lads or something? You could hear his voice you
know it was
. it was beautiful. He wisnae a trained singer
but I think at he wis a natural voice and it was very very
pleasing to the ear. Do you like Bing yourself?
[TM] Yes it's a very full tone.
[NF] Aye, aye. He's so expressive in his songs.
[TM] Did any of those big names ever come up
here, up to Aberdeen?
[NF] Oh yes, Duke Ellington used to come up
to Glasgow. And of course the trombone player went missin
in the Channel, eh
[NF] Glen Miller. He played in Glasgow. And
then there's quite some good o the top English bands used
to come to Scotland up to the Palais de Dance in Aberdeen.
Sometimes to the Palais de Dance, there was a Palais de Dance
in Peterhead, but it was burned down. But sometimes they come
up there. And of course we would flock through tae hear the
big shots ye see. And aul Charlie Presley he was a very fine
fiddler himsel. And they went doon tae hear Chrysler, hiv
ye heard o Chrysler? ?? Chrysler. And I min he went down tae
Glasgow I think or wis it Edinburgh, tae hear Chrysler. He
was tellin me this story. And he said eh, I wonder how long
Mr Chrysler practices in a day for instance ye see. So he'd
said tae one o the attendants. And I don't think Mr Chrysler
was a very good English, he was mebbe broken English. However,
one o the attendants come back and Charlie says, well Mr Chrysler
has practised eight hours today! And here was him gan away
on to play a concert. So the top marks wis no easy road eh!
It was hard work all the way. I aye min him tellin that story,
that Mr Chrysler had practised eight hours that day, and he
was away tae play at concert. So he'd be admired eh?
[TM] Yes indeed. So were you born and brought
up in Fraserburgh?
[NF] No, I was born at the foot of Bennachie,
where I write aboot the poem. Then I went doon tae Port Elphinstone
and ma grandmother. And when my grandmother died I moved up
to stay in Inverurie. And then in 1926 I came down to Fraserburgh
here as a late teenager to work for the summer herrin fishin.
For a firm called Lawrence in Broad Street, but they seemed
tae be pleased wi me and kept me on. So I was on there, and
of course I met my wife, she was here, a bonny girl and that
was it, I was trapped! (Laughs). Now am I boring you with
[TM] No, no, this is very interesting.
[TM] This is very interesting. You mentioned
that your mother who used to sing 'The Fit of Auld Bennachie'?
[NF] My grandma.
[TM] Your grandma.
[TM] Do you min that song?
[NF] Well I put this name to the Ballad o Bennachie
ye see. But at wisnae the song, the melody at she woulda sang.
[TM] No, no, she would have had, it was an older
[NF] She, it would be an older song, aye, oh
yes aye. Like eh
'Gadie wi yer waters sweet, Ury wi its waters
They hae trysted aye tae meet among the wids o Logie'
At wis an old song at she used to sing at sticks
in my mind.
[TM] Do you remember more of it?
[TM] Do you remember more of it?
[NF] No I dinna remember all of it, I wis jist
as a bairn then you know, to hear it. It was a nice lilting
melody. I think at was supposed to be written by a William
Thom at wis a local poem. There's quite a lot of his very
fine, in the Doric you know. But I don't know who wrote the
melody there, it might have been him, I don't know. But at
wis some o the things that they used to sing. And then of
course eh, The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie, ye've heard o it hiv
[TM] Yes, do you sing that yourself?
[NF] I used tae sing that aye. Or the, and Mormin Braes, which
was local here and some o that bothy ballads which is quite
common. And it's sad at some o them, they mix up the words
and the meaning gets lots ye see, there's so many. Ye see
its so far back in the mists o antiquity that they dinna know
who actually wrote the melody. But it wis the song would hae
been based on the raidcoats, at wis the English soldiers when
they had control after the '45 rebellion at eh, Culloden.
No doubt ye've heard aboot at.
[TM] Oh yes.
[NF] Oh yes. And no doubt that there'd be some
truth in it ye see, aboot eh, the soldier fallin in love wi
the bonny girl. The bonny lass o Fyvie. And eh, she musta
been quite a beauty, she said
'There's mony a bonnie lass in the howe o Auchterless
There's mony a bonnie lass in the Garioch
There's mony a bonnie Jean in the toon o Aiberdeen
But the pride o them a is in Fyvie-o
[NF] She's the girl got that wrote for her,
so she musta been quite a beauty in her day. And the story
goes that the dad wouldnae let her go wi the soldier ye see.
[TM] So that's the around the time of the '45
then or '46?
[NF] That'd be after the '45 I woulda say, I'd
be '46 or '47, at my guess, I would think?
[TM] I didn't realise that it dated from then.
[NF] Aye, ye see, they're comin on, you know
these Burns suppers they have and the addressin the haggis
and the tartan. And some say why the tartan? But my goodness
Rabbie Burns defied the English and wore the tartan, and he
wis caught and sentenced tae be deported and he escaped by
wearing the tartan. The great Neil Gow, you ever heard o him,
the fiddler, he wore the tartan continually and he wis very
near, he'd tae escape as well. And that's the reason that
you wear the tartan, to honour Scotland. It's both Burns,
great men like the poet Burns and the fiddler Gow, wore tartan,
Scott Skinner played, never played one concert without the
tartan. So that's why the tartan is in display and it should
be in display. I addressed the Burns Supper here in the home
here, and of course I'd on my kilt tae give it all full, the
beastie full honour! [Laughs.] Ye've heard aboot the beastie
hiv ye, the haggis!
[TM] Oh yes.
[NF] Well, what you saying now, what do you
[TM] Well I was wondering em, where you born,
it was a farm was it?
[NF] No, my grandfather had been a farm servant
and it would have been what they call a cotter house just
on the banks o the Gadie, and as I say the last time I was
past, there's just about a foot o the wall left, as I mention
[TM] In the song?
[NF] So there's some truth in that, have I written
ye see. And the yellow most rose was still blooming there,
and the yow tree, that's the yew in English, Y E W, the yow
tree, was standing there which had been planted to give some
lithe as I put in the poem, which gives shelter. So it wis
there. On the banks o the Gadie.
[TM] So your father would have gone to the feein
[TM] Your father would have gone to the feein
[NF] My grandfather.
[TM] Your grandfather.
[NF] My grandfather aye, my grandfather.
[TM] Did you ever see feein markets yourself?
[NF] Oh my goodness yes, my goodness yes, feein
markets. I served my apprenticeship in the shop, served my
apprenticeship in a shop in Inverurie, and afore the feein
market we wis busy makin up half pounds and pounds o pandrops
and pints o whisky. Poor lads, what a shame when I think on't
now. And this was for the farm servants comin in ye see. And
it was quite a day the feein market, eh, military band would
be out, the Gordon Highlanders usually in full regimental
dress, wi the pipes and drums and playin stirrin tunes like
'Cock o the North' and so on, and tryin tae offer the shillin
tae the lads and there you are, get them 'listed'. You ken
fit listed means, called up.
[TM] So they would be recruiting at the feeing
[NF] Recruitin, oh at the feein market they
were recruitin, oh definitely oh yes. Oh yes, definitely.
And eh, in at days the bicycle wis the main means o transport
ye know and we used tae admire their beautiful bikes, mostly
Raleigh, the Raleigh make you know. And in that days they'd
a gas lamp, you know, acetylene gas wi a little cylinder below
the lamp and a little tubbie o water attached tae the lamp.
And you put in a drop o water onto the acetylene, little lumps,
horrible smellin stuff, and it would, there wis a gas at come
off it ye see, and it would vaporise, and this is the gas
that flowed up a little tube. Ye'd a brilliant light. And
some o the bad lads, would hae, if the bicycles had been parked
somewhere they turned on the water, of course that finished
the whole lot. You drowned this gas and it didnae operate.
It was a horrible smell, it wis a shame. We used tae admire
their lovely bikes, green bikes, blue bikes, mostly Raleighs,
three speed, we wis lookin at the three speed, at wis a new
innovation to us ye see. And some o the gear case was a new
innovation where the whole chain wis encased inside the gearbox,
oh beautiful bikes. Very few cars in those days. the doctor
probably hid a car, usually a Ford, an old Ford ye know.
[TM] So what went on, what else went on at the
[NF] Ah well, there's all the stalls, a the
fairs o the day woulda been there ye see. There'd been the
fat lady, pay so much tae get intae see her. There'd been
a juggler, there'd be a man, a sword swallower, sometime be
a circus, if it wis the summer feein market in May. Or used
tae be a firm called Biddles used tae come wi amusements,
you know, hobby horses and swing boats in at days, there wisnae
chair o planes in at days then they'd been inventin, but there
wis swing boats and things like at. And eh, at had been
now in the winter time now, there hidnae been sae much stalls
in the winter, there mighta been a few. And there's always
the cheap John lad that would swik them ye know be a the watches
and a this kinda carry on ye know. And he'd show a lovely
watch for instance, mebbe and say how much! Five bob, five
bob for this watch ye see, but wi sleight o hand, he'd pick
ye a half crown watch probably for yer five bob, and cheat
the poor lads, but if there wis ony report he'd be whisked
away, but nevertheless it went on ye see. Aye, what a change.
But they were hard workin lads the farm people, very hard
workin. My goodness they get very little for their efforts.
Six months workin fae daylight tae dark, it was terrible,
[TM] How would the hiring go about?
[NF] The hiring, oh well, they used tae put
their cap in a certain, the old saying, I dinna ken if it
wis true, there musta been some truth in't, if they put their
cap in a certain angle, they a wore caps in that days you
know, wi a cane inside the cap to make it fluff out the cap.
Ye ken there wis a bamboo cane inside the cap, fitted. And
they said, if they put their cap at a certain angle, they
would be wantin a fee. And anither story wis that they wore
a green handkerchief in their, tunic, their jackets were tunics,
buttoned tunics up here on the breast, they'd a green round
the button o the tunic, and had a ?? over here. And something
that they did wi the hankies they used tae tell us, that the
farmer knew that they were wantin a fee, mebbe call them in
[TM] Did you ever hear of a wee piece of straw?
[NF] Yes, somethin o that nature too, same as
the angle o the bonnet. So I don't know, mebbe each area had
a different means o lettin the farmer know that they were
And it was a hard life because the farm chap
if he changed his job, my goodness he'd tae get a box cairt
and a horse, and transport a his little bits and pieces a
few miles mebbe tae find the hoose, mebbe damp or needin repairs
if he's a greedy fairmer and so on ye see. Ye've heard the
song 'The Barnyards o Delgaty' hivn't ye see, well at wis
the, at wis the sample o the auld work.
[TM] Did you ever hear of the Horseman's Word?
[NF] The Horseman's Word? No.
[TM] It was like the Free Masons, but for horsemen.
Similar sort of
[NF] Oh I see, oh aye, the Horseman's Union,
oh aye, the Horseman's Word, yes it coulda been. But it didnae
get much cut I dinna think ye see, because the fairmer'd said
are you a member o that, yer nae for ye ye see. So they could
work the poor lads jist however they wanted which was sad.
But they're the salt of the earth these people. And at's the,
many of them went to America, your place, rose to fame many
of them as you know, and eh, oh aye, good workers. And of
course during the clearances, no doubt you've heard about
that, when they were wantin more ground for sheep ye see,
they were chased away, a lot o them settled in Nova Scotia
and eh our melodies and songs went with them. And no doubt
ye've heard o the Cape Breton Fiddlers hiv ye.
[NF] Oh marvellous players. A lot of the old
melodies are Scottish and strange to be, jist be honest where
honesty's needed, a lot o that melodies are really English
at crossed the border, many o them are really English because
there's old, old books wi the melody note for note practically
some o the tunes at we call different names really originated
away back there ye see. But the great mystery is why and how
did the fiddle come to Scotland, that's what I've been trying
to find out. I wonder if Mary Queen of Scots was the means
wi ere. This favourite fiddler that brocht it across.
[TM] What about the Cape Breton style?
[NF] Oh great, great. Different style fae Scottish.
But it's a new, a new rhythm and a new drive, and their bowin
is terrific. Oh great, oh great.
[TM] Do you think it might be the way fiddle
music used to be here, two, three hundred years ago?
[NF] I doubt it, ye see the older fiddlers werenae
sae good players ye see away back, because the first thing
they hidnae the time and their hands were rough, so they were
marvellous players wi the big rough thick fingers, how they
could finger some of the flats, keys for instance was absolutely
amazing. And it's a pity we hidnae some recordin o the old
players, Gow for instance or Skinner.
[TM] There are some recordings of Skinner.
[NF] There are some recordings of Skinner, but
then very very poor recordings, away back. How they recorded
it I dinna think, it wis the hard needle probably or something,
or metal recordin or wax I dinna know, but very, very poor.
I never heard Skinner play, but I saw him once going till
a concert. And he come out a Peter Laing's printer shop in
Inverurie, and of course in his book the Scottish Fiddler
he's got 'Peter Laing Strathspey' and I think he musta written
in honour o that. Because Skinner, a his tunes it means something,
every tune. It was either a person or a scene, for instance.
He wis very eh, impressed wi the disaster wi the old traction
engine and the threshin mill that went down the hill you know.
And he says the 'weepin birches o Kilmorack' ye see where
the fireman and the driver were killed, and he wis very very
impressed wi that and he wrote that lovely tune ca'd 'The
Weepin birches o Kilmorack'. No doubt ye've heard it.
[TM] When was that?
[NF] Oh it was away back, when about 18? 1883
or 1884 somewhere back ere. Aye, and lost two fine fiddlers
here in Scotland, Ron Gonella and Willie Hunter, the Shetland
player. Lost both them, very fine players.
[NF] Shetland again, different style, but again
[TM] Did you ever meet Hector McAndrew?
[NF] Yes, very fine player. In fact at one time
Hector McAndrew stayed with an aunt o mine, his wife at wis
in hospital and Hector stayed with an aunt o mine and a cousin
hid lessons fae Hector, and Hector's famous tune of course,
eh, in G major, eh, oh come on
. [hums the tune]
Hiv ye heard it? [Hums.] It's eh
.. Auld Robin Grey,
at's the name o that tune. And we used tae hae a fine fiddler
here in the Broch, George Anderson, and they ca'd him the
nickname, by ???, and that wis a favourite piece, and he used
tae play sometimes ootside the pub and the tears rollin doon
his eyes and he'd play a beautiful very, very sentimental
solo, Auld Robin Grey. Beautiful. Aye, he was a very, very
fine player. Much in the style of Hector, oh aye, I liket
Hector playin at solo, Auld Robin Grey.
[TM] Did you every have formal lessons or??
[NF] Oh yes, aye, I had lessons fae the Charlie
Presley that I telt ye aboot earlier on. And I'd lessons from
a Mr Alec Nicol who actually belonged to Buckie and who at
one time wis leader o His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen. Very
fine player. He'd been trained out on the continent. He wis
in the music conservatoire at Prague at one time under all
the fine teachers you know, as wis of course wis Scott Skinner
of course. You know he was trained away out in wi eh, French
music masters orchestra, he was trained away there. So this
Alec Nicol was a very fine player and he used tae come tae
Fraserburgh and give lessons, so I had some lessons wi him.
Great help. Because we were eh, sort of set in oor playin
ye see wi this Honeyman who'd play in mebbe the first and
third position. But he says ye'll never get oot o the bit,
ye must hae the various positions up on the keyboard. We wis
playin up a bittie on the keyboard we'd tae jump away down,
ye see which was very difficult to do, instead of just crossin
across ye see, learning tae ???
Spikkin aboot Kreisler, he
used tae play Kreisler's melodies beautiful, ??? for instance
wi thon, my goodness wis beautiful, expressive. Fiddle's like
the human voice ye see. Ye see I nivver like tae see a singer
standing wi a ticketie in his hands readin the words. Ye canna
get your heart in, you must learn the words, get behind the
words and expression then put your own personality, if ye've
any personality intae the song, and put it across.
[TM] That's right.
[NF] Some fine old Irish tunes ye ken. Lovely
tunes, great favourites, that I ..
'I'll take you home again, Kathleen
Across the ocean wild and wide
To where your heart has ever been
Since first you were my blushing bride
The roses long have left your cheek
I've watched them fade away and die
Your voice is sad when e'er you speak
And tears bedim your lovin eye
I'll take you back again Kathleen
To where your heart will feel no pain
And when the fields are fresh and green
I will take you home again, Kathleen.
[NF] I'm an old man now, I used tae reach that
up high! (Laughs) How wis that!
[TM] Very good.
[NF] That's a lovely song isn't it. You know
[NF] Uh huh. It's a great favourite in America.
In fact I think it was written in America.
[NF] The story aboot it wis, at I heard, I dinna
know if it wis true, wis it wis a lovely Irish Colleen at
married the American soldier in the first world war, and he
took her across to Saskatchewan or somewhere, down through
into the States mebbe, but she was abroad anyway, and of course
she wis bitten wi the homesick bug, and, at's the story. It's
a beautiful thing. Now that's a song that ye've tae, ye canna
stand up and read it, ye wid hae tae get in behind the words
and feel a the feelin aboot it ye see.
[TM] That's right yes. What other songs can
you min your granny singin?
Sing tae me the auld Scots Sangs.
And fit else, 'Annie Laurie' which isnae Burns by the by,
a lot o folk think Annie Laurie wis by Burns, but it wisnae
composed by Burns. Eh
. 'Flow gently sweet Afton among
they green braes'. .. that een, which is very expressive.
Do you know it? You do! Oh, you're a very informed man! [Laughs.]
You'd be able to sing 'Yankee Doodle' wouldn't ye!
[TM] Not very well.
[NF] No? And eh 'When you and I were young Maggie',
'The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill' and some o that tunes.
You know some o them de ye? Very simple tunes, but eh, oh
aye, America his got the, they did great things for the world
o music you people across the water. Irving Berlin for instance.
My goodness. The expression that he put intae some o that
Remember the night, the night you said I love
Remember, remember you vowed by all the stars above you
Remember, remember you found a lonely spot
And after I learned to care a lot
You promised that you'd forget me not but
You forgot to remember
Fit a lovely melody.
[TM] That is a nice one
[NF] You know that one before ye?
[NF] No. Now, ye couldnae stand up wi a paper
and sing at I dinna think could ye. Ye'd tae find whit it
wis aboot. The girlfriend at turned him doon, or he'd turned
doon the girlfriend and at's singin ??? .. And eh, there's
a girl at used tae sing that very, very nice, I'd a tape and
a record o her, whit wis her name again, she played the accordion
too. She was badly attacked in a hotel this girl, you mebbe
know who I mean. Francis, eh, something Francis. What's the
rest o her name, dinna remember. And on her record she says,
this is the songs that dad used to sing to her you know, and
it was real lovely, she had a lovely expression that girlie.
Wis it Kay Francis??
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