[BAB] Neeps tae pluck.
[HB] One thing about em, about the Northeast,
you know, language, with a' this folk moving in that's going
tae dilute it, probably spoke aboot that already.
[MB] Oh aye.
[TM] Yes it makes a big difference.
[HB] It will make a difference won't it.
[MB] The kids, the kids that are jist going
tae school they're picking up oor language quick. The Buchan,
ye know a' them that's going tae the rural schools.
[MB] Provided there's nae too many o them going
and dilutin't again, but a lot o them are speaking. I can
remember when I wis new tae the school there wis, jist after
the war, there wis eh German kids. There wis somebody looking
after them in a local camp here, and there wis a chap in charge
and he wis married and he'd his kids with him and they came
tae Tyrie school. Now they were speaking oor language and
we couldna speak to their mother at home because [laugh].
They learned oor language at the school and their father wis
the only one that could translate tae them cause their mother
couldna speak English. She could jist speak German and he
hid tae translate. I mean I daresay later on they'd learnt
but the first one that came wis a little boy an he wis jist
speakin oor language jist in nae time ava. It wis quite funny
tae see fu they spik wisn't it [laugh], jist a few words,
Twas on the Martinmas market day the snow lay on the ground,
When a farmer he came up tae a lad and offered him ten pound,
But min ye've neeps tae pluck and nowt tae muck and a hunner
ither jobs forbye,
And seein the guid wife, she's laid doon, ye winna mind milking
Oot spoke the lad, oh he wis mad, Whit wis that
That you'd mak me, a farmers boy, into a dairy maid,
Oh yer neeps I'll pluck and yer nowt I'll muck and dee ony
ither job forbye,
But I'm blessed if I will undertake tae milk yer blooming
Oh haud yer tongue, the farmer said and nae
mak sic a soun,
There tak the shillin and say nae mair afore a crood githered
But min ye've neeps tae pluck and nowt tae muck and hunner
ither jobs forbye,
An if the guid wife she gets up I winna bid ye milk the kye.
That's a very weel the laddie said, I've heard
that tale afore,
But I maun hae mair proof than that afore I enter yer door,
Or yer neeps a winna pluck and yer nowt a winna muck nor dee
ony ither jobs forbye,
Nor tak in hand tae be a dairy maid or milk yer blooming kye.
I've got a maid the fermer said and she his
tae milk as weel,
Hold on, hold on, the laddie cried, man that's anither tale,
Oh yer neeps I'll pluck an yer nowt I'll muck and dee ony
ither jobs forbye,
And if the maid she gauns along wi me we'll very soon milk
The laddie arrived wi his pooches fu and a ???
on his back,
When he spied the fermer wi an ugly deem haein a quiet crack,
That'll be the guid wife the laddie thocht I'm glad she's
nae laid doon,
For I dinna want tae start milking yet afore I've seen the
My wife's nae better the fermer said, but this
is oor dairy maid,
She'll help ye wi the milking when she's gotten yer supper
Oh yer neeps she can pluck and yer nowt she can muck and dee
ony ither jobs forbye,
But it's a wunner that a woman wi a face like that she disna
pit yer coos a' dry.
[TM] That's a bit cheeky isn't it.
[BAB] Mm it is [laughs].
[TM] What drew you to that one?
[BAB] Dinna ken. When I heard Robbie Shepherd
singing it on a tape an I heard some people singing it at
a concert. And I jist quite liked it; I liked the tune, liked
the words, thought it wis quite funny.
[TM] Mhm have you heard Scot Gardiner do that
[BAB] Yes aye.
[TM] It's one of his party pieces.
[BAB] When I wis competing
last year, the boy who won; I didn't win that time because
I forgot my words, but this wis at Strichen, the boy who won,
he sang this, can't remember his name; he sang this.
[TM] Was it George Barclay maybe?
[BAB] It might hae been, aye.
[TM] Millbrex, from Fyvie. What do you think
of the competitions?
[BAB] Well I've only been tae Strichen haven't
been tae any others but I've quite enjoyed.
[BAB] Good fun.
[TM] Do you get nervous before them.
[BAB] Aye [laughs]. Always the same if I've
got tae dee a concert, I'm always nervous, but it's worth
it, it's worth it after, you know. Ye're really pleased if
ye've managed tae get through it without forgetting yer words
and really pleased at the end of it.
[TM] were you nervous for Gordon when you went
through to Elgin? That must have been quite intimidating with
eight hundred people there.
[BAB] Mhm mhm.
[MB] Ye jist takes in yer stride.
[TM] A well he wouldn't say that [laughs].
[BAB] It seems like that though.
[BAB] We were sitting when he came on, we were
sitting going no, no, no, oh God. I think we were probably
mair nervous than he was.
[TM] Uh huh, so how old were
you when you started learning his songs? It's only a couple
[BAB] Oh a couple o years, [I] must have been
jist twelve. Something like that aye, jist first year in the
[TM] So which, you're at Fraserburgh Academy.
[BAB] Mhm. I did sing when I wis at Tyrie school,
primary school I did sing there, but I only started singing
bothy ballads when I went tae the Academy.
[TM] Before that it was eh
[BAB] It wis jist in the choir. Ye know it wasn't
actually bothy songs that I sung if I wis at a concert; it
wis some ither kind o Scottish song or something like that
maybe not Scottish, but a song anyway.
[TM] What sort of songs do you remember that
[BAB] Em, it wis more sort of songs from shows,
things like that, but there wis one year a did do a bothy
ballad. I did Jeanie, Kitchie Jean, because we hid a play
and well our whole concert was based around this play and
it was set in a house in the last century. I wis the cook
and there wis a maid and the farmer and all the helpers, you
know, foremen and all the working men and everything. It wis
really good and so I had tae sing Jeanie, Kitchie Jean. At
wis quite interesting; it wis the first time we tried something
like at. It wis really good.
[TM] Have you been involved in other drama things
??? in Strichen, bein part of the festival.
I haven't been involved in the Strichen
group, but I wis involved in last year's musical at Fraserburgh,
the school musical, it wis Godspell and I wis involved the
year before in Tin Pan Alley. And this year's one as well.
[I] quite like the musicals; it's really good, interesting.
[TM] A chance to put [a group] together and
do it all at the same time.
[BAB] Good fun its jist a change you know different
[TM] So do you think you're going to try some
of the other competitions one of these days?
[BAB] I might, uh huh, see if I can get on at
Strichen this year, then I'll think aboot it.
[TM] Thinking about heading over to Keith in
[BAB] I'll try [laugh], see what happens.
[TM] Of course you'll be on holidays.
[BAB] Mhm, aye.
[TM] Soon after that, bit more time maybe.
[BAB] Bit more time tae practise and maybe learn
[TM] What's next on the agenda?
[BAB] It'll probably be the Sprots o Burnie
Boozie next; I think I'll try an learn it. It's nice one;
it's a catchy tune.
[TM] Would you like to hear some of the older
[BAB] Mhm, I niver used tae hear it because
I wis at school, but during the summer holidays we ayeways
used tae listen to it an you know this year we'll miss it.
[MB] It wis a great [incentive for] these young
singers tae get on.
[BAB] Twis, it wis a link. Aye it wis a great
opportunity tae pit in requests in for people, you know, and
a lot o old people used tae listen tae it as well, and it
kept them in touch wi what wis going on.
[HB] Oh aye, definitely.
[BAB] It wis unfortunate it's bin scrapped.
[TM] Is, are none of them, are none of them
carried on just local Aberdeenshire radio, no?
[MB] We hinna heard o it, we've lost some, but
again it's jist, eh, they might hiv an odd half hour. It's
jist nae the same; I mean abudy took their denner between
twelve and one tae listen tae Robbie Shepherd.
[HB] That's right, it wis an institution.
[MB] Oh aye aye, but I think it wis disgraceful
they took it off the air.
[HB] Everybody used tae help the orphan lamb
problems and all sorts o different things.
[MB] It wis a link, ye know, wi
and it's jist gone.
[HB] Let you know which dances were coming off.
[TM] Right yes.
[HB] Jist a source o information really.
[MB] I jist aften wonder how many o these folk
gang wrang when their singing this songs
. If they ken
whit some o the words mean, ken, like eh that een there wi
the chappie on his back. I mean, eh, obviously awa wi his
claes, but eh you jist wunner how much folk singing realises
whit the words mean.
[TM] I'm sure there are plenty of singers who
[MB] Aye a few o them widna you see, the ones
in the rural area wid probably a' ken, but some of the eens
oot o the toons singing they wid niver hae heard some of these
[HB] We were speaking aboot that this afternoon,
weren't we? I hid on Robert Wilson singing and
[HB] Some of it, we weren't sure what they meant.
[MB] 'Hold on, hold on, the laddie said.' Now,
ye see, if I wis singing that, 'haud on'.
[BAB] 'Haud on', again it's printed, 'hold on',
but I would probably sing 'haud on, haud on' if I kent, you
know if I had the words, but because I wis reading it I jist
[MB] Instead o saying 'hold' in there they should
hae put in the richt word. [background chat]
[HB] Would it be true to say if Barbara-Ann
learns a song, ken, like if she sings it to you, before she
gings on, tae us before she goes and sings it in public; I've
heard you say, could you not say that word.
[MB] Aye ??? because she's easy ???, because
she tried tae change een that. [background chat]
[BAB] Either een ye learned. [background chat]
[TM ] Or you could do one of the ones you've
done before, but without the book.
[MB] Cause I think it changes the phrasin o
them slightly too.
[BAB] Aye. The only two I ken really without
the book really is The Alford Cattle Show which I did and
??? at the moment
. Delgatie, I did without the book
that would need a bit of polishing.
[TM] Some people say there's a fermtoun up in
[BAB] I would say Cyarnie.
[MB] I would say Cyarnie tae, ye see.
[TM] Uh huh.
[BAB] Again that is how its printed, but at
wis in the words you tried me tae change min
[MB] Ye wis, there's a verse somewey that says
they were hyowin neeps, it's hoeing that's in the book.
[TM] Oh is it hoeing yes.
[MB] Aye well it's jist nae that it should be
hyowin, ye see.
[MB] Did ye read eh whit's his name?
[BAB] Charlie Allan.
[MB] Charlie Allan, did ye read him this week.
[TM] No I haven't.
[MB] He wis very good, he wis on aboot language.
Somebody gaed intae a shop and sought a pun, a poon, a pun
o something, a pun o, ye would need tae read it, but its very
good it's e the twa words that mean twa different things.
Ah it's gone.
[BAB] Aye a poun, a pound.
[MB] A pound and a pound, twa different pounds:
a pound weight. Aye the lad a pun o sweeties at's whit he
wis needing and a pound o sweeties he sought. An eh the lad
winted tae ken whither it wis a pound o sweeties or a pounds
worth o sweeties. Which wis the same word meaning twa different
Yeah he's very good sometimes using oor language, he's named
a' the places roon aboot that's only bit a can min. Cyard,
you know whit a cyard is.
[MB] Cyard jack and Cyarnie whin.
[TM] Speaking of rhymes do you remember one
which starts First comes Candelmas.
[MB] Oh aye, aye, aye, I kinna min how it goes,
but I mean I've heard the aul folk quoting it oot, ken, but
these are things that hid nearly died oot by the time I wis
on the go. I'd heard ma father quoting it, but I niver bothered
tae learn it unfortunately, which is a pity, cause now they've
gone. When ye're young ye're nae interested the same; it's
whin ye get auler and by that time it's, it's kina too late.
They've a' gone, a' the sayings [laughs].
[TM] Well, First comes Candelmas and seen the
new meen, and the first Tyesday efter that is Fastern's Even.
At meen oot, next meen at's heicht and the next Sunday efter
that that's Pace richt.
[MB] It's a wee bit like Aikey Brae; it's the
first Wednesday efter the 19th, the Sunday afore that.
[TM] Well Easter's pretty tough to calculate
if you don't have a rhyme like that [laughs].
[MB] Na na, there's a lot o these sayings
[TM] Do you sing other Scottish
[BAB] Well I would like to, but I can niver
find the music. I would like to start singing other Scottish
songs, but that wis really the first time I've ever tried,
[TM] Well again, as part of my job, if you let
me know what you want to know I can probably find sheet music
for you for quite a lot of songs, so that's part of my job
is to be a resource for things like that.
[MB] See whin I wis young there wis a music
shop in the Broch; ye could go in buy sheet music.
[MB] That's gone; ye've got tae gang tae Aberdeen
noo, see, tae get sheet music. It's terrible.
[HB] Aye Bruce Miller's is it; you were saying
Bruce Miller's would have some of that sheet music, ye know.
[MB] Well ye're sure tae get it there. I mean
there could be other shops.
[TM] Half of them can't find sheet music for
[MB] No ye've jist tae buy at big books.
[MB] And they've got half a dizen o the same
in the next een
. Ye end up buying three books and ye
get four sangs [laughs].
[TM] That's right, and the words are different.
[MB] Aye an the words are different [laughs].
[TM] Right what have ye got there?
[BAB] Eh, Whit Like Folk.
Whit like folk in yon brave Buchan lan,
Folk wha ken the grun like the back o their han,
Divot an clort an clod, rock grayvel and san,
Whit like folk in yon gran buchan howe.
Folk wha gar their grun near onything grow,
Neeps tatties and corn horse heifer and ewe,
Whit like folk in yon braw buchan neuk,
Thrawing like folk wha ken but the broads or their beuk.
And worship the horseman's ward and the shearing
Folk wha say their say and speir their speir,
Gaither gey ??? o bairns an gey muckle gear,
An gyang there ain gait wi a lach or a spit or a sweer.
[TM] Do you know about the horseman's word?
I wis jist useless
as a horseman [laughs], an ma father would hae jist come an
jist straicht like at, an ken the horse jist seemed tae ging
dead straight for him an we wir ??? aboot, and he jist maybe
went one roon o the harra so I kent whit I wis doing and ???
dead straight. An he wid hae come back in half an hoor and
done the same again jist tae tidy it up. He seemed tae be
able to get the horse tae jist ging, to do whit he winted.
Whereas me, I jist couldna dee a damt thing.
[TM] Maybe he wis fellow ??? of the horses.
[MB] Well, this is it; he'd been a horseman
a' his days an eh of course I could hannle him once I gaed
on tae a tractor. That wis different.
[MB] But that's jist how time brocht changes.
[TM] [laughs] Have you read
through the whole J. C. Milne book.
[BAB] No I've jist looked at some o the poems,
a lot o poems.
[TM] To look for one to learn, one to read?
[BAB] Well no, I'm concentrating on the singing
jist noo instead o the poems, mhm.
[HB] Is that poem about ???.
[MB] Aye we wis spikkin aboot it when wi wis.
You learned something recently, [someone hid] niver heard
o J. C. Milne, aye it wis somebody local! I wis shocked, ye
ken [laughs]. The man jist stayed doon the road here and that
wis somebody local that hid niver heard o J. C. Milne.
[TM] Well it's the sort of thing that should
be in the schools.
[MB] Aye it should.
[BAB] Aye especially cause it's local; I mean
it wis a local man.
[TM] Mhm and people like Flora Garry and Charlie
Murray. I hope that will happen some day [laughs] and not
too late before [no]body can pronounce it.
[MB] Well this is the problem.
[TM] Yes, what do you have
[BAB] Em, better deid. I hivnae deen is een
afore so I'll check fit is word is, how ye say it fyowe.
[TM] A fyowe?
[BAB] A few.
[MB] Can hardly see it, Oh ma freens, hing on,
[MB] A few, a fyowe, a fyowe I hinna missed
[MB] Aye it, it's nae a word we used a lot here
At's a real aul wordie at cause it's nae a word at we, we've
been mair Anglicised for a long time.
[TM] You don't say puckle freens?
[MB] Aye aye, puckle wid hae been the word we
would hae used, aye.
[HB] I've niver heard at either. I mean, my
mum and dad must have spoken quite broad ye know cause a lot
o these words that you speak aboot, I've heard, ye know. So
an I've no heard that one, that must be an unusual one.
[TM] Mhm. [End of Side A.]
[TM] When you're ready.
Oh a' ma freens noo gane awa,
A fyowe a hinna misses ava,
An files a thoucht gaan through ma heid,
A hantle folk are better deid.
First o a there's Kirsty Young,
Fur lang Jock tholed her souple tongue,
Day and night without ??,
The threepin-jawed she's better deid.
The dominie he's gane lang syne,
But man his name I canna min,
They say he come fae Peterhead,
Blue Mogginer, he's better deid.
And Guid forgie aul Jamesie Broon,
Wha kent the claik in ilkae toon,
And aye the ill afore the guid,
Din-raising vratch, he's better deid.
Alas for bonnie Jeanie Gow,
A strapping quine fae ower the knowe,
I doubt she wis but middling guid,
Fur a' concerned she's better deid.
In Geordie Grant o Mains o Cairns,
Saer hudding doon wi wife and bairns,
O Rathen kirk he took nae heed,
The heathen Dod, he's better deid.
The girning gamie ???,
Wi his futret tales an siclike trock,
Nae mair he'll vex ma Buchan bleid,
A Highlander, he's better died.
Cadger Lizzie ??? Deer quine,
She aye wis singing, Lord I'm thine,
And wi a' the like the lord took heed,
Noo Cadger Lizzie's better deid.
An Guid be here, I near forgot,
The Reverend Weelim Patrick Scott,
Who niver did nae ill nor guid,
Wi a' respect, he's better deid.
And coontermacious Tammy Tough,
I aften wish far eneuch,
Nae ?? nor doctor did him guid,
Twas jist as weel, he's better deid.
And Kirsten an Jemima Tate,
Nae better han at makin maet,
Or catching fairlies in her heid,
Preserve us a', she's better died.
And lawyer Tamson's weel awa,
Ta whaur there's neither lees nor law,
Lachin ?? wis tamson's creed,
The twa faced deil, he's better deid.
An for masel whin caul fyte death,
Comes shivering ben tae geel ma breath,
Let no man nod or shak his heid,
An say, I doubt he's better died.
[TM] That's a good one. Well I'm, thanking you
very much for all you effort.
[BAB] Thank you very much fur listening tae
[TM] Well no, it's a pleasure, its nice to see
somebody, you know, a younger person interested in this, cause
its all gonna die out if you're not. And try an get your school
friends interested as well [laughs].
[BAB] Uphill struggle, I think.
[TM] Yes, I think so.
[MB] Aye it's pretty steep
I wid say Does maist the o folk ye interview manage tae die
athing fae memory?
[TM] Most of the older folk.
[TM] Yes, you know it's been part of there lives
ever since they were small [though] plenty of people have
a sheet to remind them.
[TM] It takes a while to get used to it but
the more you learn I find.
[BAB] Jist be a question o reading the music.
[TM] Uh huh.
Men men, horrible men,
I've said it before and I'll say it again.
What I think of men you can't print in a book,
Lucky the girl who has never bin took.
Men, men, given a chance,
They'll string you along with a song and a dance.
They'll slip you a wink with the pink lemonade,
But leave you as soon as the moon starts to fade.
Oh I do not choose to tarry in a bonnet of blueberry
And I don't propose to marry.
You can call of the minister, I'll be a spinister.
Men, men, mischievous men,
Be on your guard when you stroll in the glen.
They'll ply you with drink and then promise
you pearls, regarding there promises,
Do jist as momma says,
Be doubting Thomas's, girls.
Men, men, horrible word,
Show me the dove and I'll give it the bird.
Just let a tenderfoot mention l'amore,
Just like a flash I will give him the cure.
Males, males, rip-roaring males,
Frisky from whisky and filling up jails.
A five dollar wager will get you a ten,
No dead wood coyote will hogtie this hen.
Men are made to breed confusion love is ???.
So I've come to this conclusion,
I don't want any part of them,
Oh the black heart of them.
Down, down, down with them all,
The cow punching type or the tenderfoot tall.
Mule-headed men who are mentally ten,
Loveable, punchable, huggable, clinchable, loveable, lynchable
Men have got a sort of nose,
For any chicken whose kicking around,
And reckon mom that goes for.
Every masculine resident up to the president.
Hi ho, song and a dance,
Trouble comes double in buckskin and pants.
When Adam begat, all the trouble began,
So that now that we finally hollered our heads off,
And dished all the dirt that we can,
Forr pete's sake, send us a man.
[TM] That's great [laughs]
[BAB] Should be in here.
Take me back to the Black
Hills, the Black Hills of Dakota,
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.
Lost my heart in the Black Hills, the Black
Hills of Dakota,
Where the pines are so high that the kiss the sky above.
And when I get that lonesome feeling and I'm
miles away from home,
I hear the voice of the mystic mountains calling me back home.
Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.
Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.
Where the deer and the buffalo roam and the
redwing feathers her nest,
That's the place that I'll call my home the land that I love
Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.
[TM] ..OK, well, you were
about to tell me a little bit about [ your song] Selling Up.
[TM] Why you made it.
[MK] Well I wis travelling to Aberdeen one day
and we were going past field after field with white tapes
put up for horses and I wis jist thinking about the beautiful
landscape and how it had been generations of peasants having
to clear strips of land, getting a whin covered piece of land
with boulders and heather and stuff. And they'd clear it and
make it tillable and no sooner had they cleared that strip,
then they'd be moved. They would just be moved to another
piece of land by the landowner. And it wis on the backs, on
their backs that the ground wis broken in, and now that the
land is really [good], we've got rid of everything and it's
at it's most fertile and easy to use, [but] farmers just can't
make a living on it anymore and it's all going over to just
horses. So all that sweat that went into making it tillable
and fertile and easy to manage [has been wasted]; it just
becomes a playground for wealthy people instead of earning
money for the farmers and their, their descendants you know
It seemed ironic really that
it you know it did seem to be just like a playground, so then
I watched Did you see, what's her name, Freida Morrison did
a programme called Troubled Fields on that very topic, and
it wis showing all the auction sales of all the farms here
just being sold up by people who just cannot manage them,
that [have] been in families for years and years and years
and they just can't manage them anymore. They're not profitable
and all the incomers come and want to just put horses on them,
so it's called Selling Up about the auctions. It's about an
old man selling up his land.
[TM] And how did you make
it, how did it come to you?
[MK] Oh well, I actually did start with words,
which I don't usually do. I just started writing down ideas
of lines and
couldn't fit any of them together
cause I hadn't got a rhythm. So then I just made up a melody.
But I deliberately, you know, I set about writing one that
would suit the North East and Doric and I chose a pentatonic
mode, you know, and just wrote a melody in that mode. But
it's not straightforward, just four lines and four lines.
It's got sort of odd phrasing and then I got just a verse
verses and chorus, just played around till it suited me, then
put chords on using the piano and then we had it all ready
to record in two days, didn't we? It wis recorded and done
I put it all onto the computer after that. The basic idea
jist came to me sitting in the kitchen.
[TM] So it was basically all composed before
you even got to the computer with it.
[MK] Yeah, mhm yeah
[TM] Do you often compose on the computer.?
[MK] Yeah, well, if it's instrumental stuff,
Annie was all composed on the computer
. Well, like Malcolm's
tune--which is a more kind of avant-garde type classical tune
that I've written about a friend of mine who's got a handicapped
I suppose the original inspiration did come
as I wis wondering around the house but it.s all been written
at the computer really.
You know one thing just triggers
off another. I get an idea down and then I put on a different
voice and play around with harmonising it and then it suggests
something else. And often I just write bare bones and Johnny
says, Well, why don't you write a bassline? Why don't you
write another harmony over there? Why don't you introduce
some strings? Why don't you, you know, and I say, Oh well,
[MK] It just kinda builds up, but things get
a momentum of their own really, I think.
[TM] Mhm, if you have a germ of an idea sometimes
[MK] Yeah, I just think that if I'd done them
at any different time
they would have been different.
You know, they have just the feeling of that moment as well,
you know. If you'd given me a melody to harmonise or something
one day, it would be completely different if I did it another
day; [it] might have a different feel altogether.
[TM] So you were saying you
mostly start with melodies when you're making songs.
[MK] Yeah, usually.
[TM] When you do that, are you setting out,
I'm going to make a song, or does the melody just begin and
then you decide it's going to be a song later?
[MK] Sometimes I just deliberately decide I'm
going to write a song, like this one I decided I would do
a song definitely on that Fair and I knew that the Aikey Fair
competition wis on the go, as well, so, you know, that's why
I said, right it'll be in--it's not pure Doric, cause I'm
not really Doric spoken--but it'll use Doric words and it'll
be in the pentatonic mode, you know. It was quite deliberately
done like that.
[TM] In the traditional style
[MK] Yes, that's right yeah.
[MK] But at the same time without being too
pedantic and straightforward as well, I mean the harmonising
isn't just four-square, if ye want.
[TM] And have you written any other traditional
traditionally styled songs?
[MK] Yes, well I wrote one called Chris's Song
which is about the life of Chris Guthrie in sunset song, have
ye read it?
[TM] No. Yes I have actually, Grassic Gibbon.
[MK] Well, that's just about my favourite book.
So I had to do that. I wrote that and it was sung at the opening
of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon centre which was nice. So it's
in, ye know, it's not in Doric; I couldn't really write proper
Doric, but it's Scottish.
[TM] So you'll be getting a bit of a reputation
for writing songs for these revived things.
[MK] Oh I don't think anyone knows who wrote
it; I don't think any one knows.
[TM] How did it come about?
[MK] I don't knows that I write songs, well
it just cause The Tifty Ceilidh band was playing really [laughs].
I twisted Liz Campbell's arm, no Johnny played it to Liz and
Stuart, and Liz liked it and so she agreed to sing it. The
only other Scottish [one] I've done really was that Ken Morrice
poem which I set for my class to sing at Christmas time. Again
it just deliberately chose a pentatonic mode and did it and
I had to bear children's voices in mind and what jumps they
could cope with and so on to make it singable.
[TM] When did you start writing
[MK] Well I liked doing a bit of elementary
composing when I did music at university but I mean I just
did, I mean what was it. I just did an exercise a week that
I had to do for the composition part of it. I never ever did
it again, really I never had time with teaching and bringing
up my family and I just find I cannot do it unless I'm absolutely
on my own. And I've not experienced being on my own until
a while ago when I was off work for a few weeks and I just
sat down and wrote a few melodies
. Reels is what I wrote.
I just started off with a few, sort of sixteen bar tunes,
and then I started harmonising them and put them together
and Johnny really liked them and it was him that really encouraged
me. And then I had another bout of worse illness; I wis off
for quite a while with Hepatitis B, so that was when I started
writing quite a lot of songs. I just rattled them off; I seemed
to do it better with a temperature, you know
. Also I
absolutely loathe house work, so I, you know, if I can say
well I've written a tune today then it doesn't matter if the
house is a tip and there's no meal, you know
. So yeah
sometimes its just a deliberate thing a sit down and say I'm
going to write a major tune today or I'm gonna write a minor
tune or I'm going to write something with a West coast lilt,
or sometimes I just
start with a chord structure just
but that's more like pop-ey things, I suppose where the beat
and the chord.
[TM] The 1-4-5 [chords].
[MK] Well, and then since
I wrote Annie, it was more adventurous than just doing a jig
or a reel and maybe a slow air, a waltz and the songs. And
I thought, well, I could cope with doing more. That's when
I started writing more, this one about Malcolm, about the
handicapped boy, but that's in another vein altogether I haven't
got a style, that's my big problem.
[TM] What was your inspiration for the, Tifty's
[MK] Just, I just love the song, you know, and
just living here and walking up and down there, I mean when
we moved out here, which is now sevnteen years ago, when I
walked down there, I just got this fantastic feeling, walking
down there without realising that this was the middle of Tifty.
I knew the song before anyway when I wis a student in Aberdeen;
I went to the folk club and that.
[TM] So you came across it in the folk club.
[MK] Oh yeah, I knew the song anyway and when
I came out here it had a really powerful atmosphere that den,
the den of Tifty. So it wis really strong and it seems to
be smitten with the tragedy of Annie because the house there,
two folk have committed suicide in it, you know, in the last
[TM] In the house right next to the mill?
[MK] Yeah, on the other side of the road. And
the farm that was there went to rack and ruin. There wis always
lambs escaping and things like this, and it just seems to
have lived on. You could feel, I don't know if you ever read
a short story by Lewis Grassic Ggibbon called Green Den;
a great short story. It's in Green Den and Clay, three short
stories that are very famous, you should read them. But Green
Den just has this feeling. When I walked down there I just
thought this is Green Den; this is what Lewis Grassic gibbon
was writing about when he wrote Green Den. I felt that very
[TM] Maybe it was, you never know.
[MK] Well maybe, yeah, and maybe he got it from
there, but just a liking for the song and association with
the place really. I've always been really happy in Tifty
We're up the hill; we're away from the bad vibes.
[TM] What brought you here?
[MK] Just, well, we were kinna hippie students
and it was the thing to get a place in the country, a wreck,
and do it up at the time, and most folk actually got fed up
and couldn't actually bear the bad winters and moved back
into town or else joined an oil rig and got rich or something,
but we seemed to have stayed here [laugh]. Just liked it cause
students in Aberdeen. And in fact it was
because Johnny's father died and we inherited his superannuation
so we'd a little lump sum, wasn't much and we just looked
for somewhere to buy looked at flats and I knew I wouldn't
really like it and this place was advertised it was two thousand
pounds [laughs]. So we bought it.
[TM ] Did it have a roof?
[MK] Yep it has a oh you know it was just absolutely
gutted down the slates and the stone and we did it worked
away at it for years and years and years.
[TM] Mhm, it's certainly nice now.
[MK] So yeah, I like it, it's a nice community;
it's a very stable community, folk down the road and everything.
[TM] So where and when were
[MK] I wis [born] in 1952 in Ullapool, so
primary school in Ullapool; my father was the local minister.
And then we came to Fochabers
. After the war [my father]
went to Ullapool to be minister there and then he moved to
Fochabers cause he didn't want us to go and live away from
home, but I would liked I could vote for it [laughs]
[TM] And your mother's people are from Skye.
[MK] Yeah well her father's from Skye but her
mother was from Aberdeen actually, but she lived down in the
west coast as well Tarbert and Arisaig an near Mallaig and
[TM] Was your family musical when you were growing
[MK] Well neither of my parents have studied
any form of music and they don't think they're musical at
all. Dad says, Oh you must get it from your uncle so-and-so,
but they both are musical, I think. Dad sings a lot of Gaelic
songs and mum can sing anything ye want
. She says, Well
everyone was taught it when I wis at school, you know, everyone
can do She doesn't think anything of the fact, but it is a
sign of musicality. But she doesn't play an instrument or
anything but there were seven children in the family and we
were all sent to piano lessons and we all sang in the church
choir an just a conventional kind of [upbringing].
[TM] Family thing.
[MK] Schooling in, yeah, school choirs and stuff
like that and I did higher music; I was the only one that
. One of my older brothers, he plays the trombone
in an orchestra and his wife's a music teacher, but none of
us are great musicians actually at all, but we all like music
and we all like a real wide variety of music.
[TM] Mhm, and what ideas
do you have for what you might do with music you've written.
[MK] Well, that's the thing that really depresses
me. Actually I've no ideas and no outlet at all for it I just
sit and write it and
while I'm writing it, I think, What's
the point, cause I haven't really got an outlet? Quite frustrating
writing songs that I can't sing myself and, eh, I don't know
I mean I know
this bloke that Johnny's going out with
tonight, I mean [he's] been trying to sell songs for years,
you know. He plays in a rock band and he's a full-time musician
and I think his stuffs great, but he's never had any luck.
It's a really hard thing to get into, so there's no future
in selling songs either, so I don't really know what I can
do. That's maybe where you could help.
[TM] Maybe, its nice to [be heard], I mean,
even if you're not making fortunes off them, which hardly
[MK] No, I know.
[TM] It's nice just to have them as well.
but I mean I don't even tell
folk that I do it much [laughs]. It sounds too pretentious
to say I.
[TM] I'm a songwriter.
[TM] But I'm not a singer-songwriter.
[MK] No [laughs]. Well that's the thing, if
anyone said, Sing your song and I couldn't do it, it would
be too embarrassing, so it is a bit, a bit frustrating just
[MK] With songs of all styles
[TM] Idea of something [that could be done with]
[TM] I mean it's a very evocative piece.
[MK] Do you think it's good enough really. I
mean I can't be objective about it at all. I mean I just haven't
a clue what it's like for someone to just listen to it.
[TM] Well I don't know if you know in that orchestration,
if it would do for something like Scottish ballet, but something
smaller a much smaller dance group.
[MK] Mhm yeah.
[TM] There are plenty of little dance groups
that do tours all over the place not on that, obviously that
ballet scale, with fifty extras or anything like that.
[MK] Oh no, not that scale, no not that. No,
even a thing for just taking round schools; I thought a smaller
local kind of thing.
[MK] To just tell children the story,
for the local for the local culture. I thought if it could
be put together [as] background music for a drama cum dance,
I don't know what. Someone who's into dance and drama would
have to decide what it is; what's the best way of putting
over that story, really.
[TM] Yes, possibly the drama resident, do you
know her Caroline?
[MK] Caroline Mendelson, well I read about her
in The Squeak all the time, but I've never met her.
[TM] She might be able to help you with some
ideas of where to go with it, because she has all these drama
[MK] Well that would be nice. Do you think it
would be, I should contact her?
[TM] Yes I think so, I'll give her your number
if you like.
[MK] That would be great. I'd like to do something
with it you know.
[There's no] dance resident at the
[MK] Oh is there not?
[TM] No, but I don't know I think there will
[MK] There was wasn't there?
[TM] Yes, she just finished.
[MK] Oh she's finished.
[MK] And are they renewing the posts then?
[TM] Well they're renewing it, in the autumn,
[MK] Uh huh.
[TM] They're taking a break, um but then after
that might get something going.
[MK] Is she still involved in dance though,
although she's not in that post?
[TM] Mhm, oh yes she is; I don't know where
she is though.
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