The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.024 transcription

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[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.

[HB] Yeah.

[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, ye see.

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 the kye.

Oot spoke the lad, oh he wis mad, Whit wis that ye said,
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 kye.

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 roun,
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 yer kye.

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 toon.

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 laid,
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 one?.

[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.

[TM] Mm.

[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.

[BAB] Aye.

[TM] A well he wouldn't say that [laughs].

[BAB] It seems like that though.

[TM] Yes.

[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 of years.

[BAB] Oh a couple o years, [I] must have been jist twelve. Something like that aye, jist first year in the Academy.

[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.

[BAB] …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 music, mm.

[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 June?

[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 another song.

[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 singers sometime?

[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?

[BAB] 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…wur language 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 don't.

[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 words.

[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. [background chat]

[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 read it.

[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 but…that would need a bit of polishing.

[TM] Some people say there's a fermtoun up in Cyarnie.

[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.

[TM] Mhm.

[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 things.
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.

[TM] No.

[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 songs?

[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, last night.

[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.

[TM] Mhm.

[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 traditional songs.

[MB] No ye've jist tae buy at big books.

[TM] Yes.

[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 heuk,
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?

[BAB] No.

[MB] …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.

[TM] Yes.

[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 there now?

[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, gan awa.

[BAB] Fyowe.

[MB] A few, a fyowe, a fyowe I hinna missed ava.


[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 me.

[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.

[MB] Aye.

[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.

[MB] Aye.

[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.

[BAB] Right.

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 blue,
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.

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 of Dakota,
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.

Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills of Dakota,
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 the best.

Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills of Dakota.
To the beautiful Indian country that I love.

14 [Announcement]

[TM] ..OK, well, you were about to tell me a little bit about [ your song] Selling Up.

[MK] Right.

[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…then I…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 baby--and…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, OK.

[TM] [laughs].

[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 they do.

[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.

[TM] Yes.

[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 songs?

[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 Annie?

[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 thirty years.

[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;…it's 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 strongly.

[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 we're happy…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 you born?

[MK] I wis [born] in 1952 in Ullapool, so…started 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 that.

[TM] Was your family musical when you were growing up?

[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 did 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 anybody does.

[MK] No, I know.

[TM] It's nice just to have them as well.

[MK] Mhm,…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.

[MK] Yeah.

[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 filling manuscripts.

[TM] Mhm.

[MK] With songs of all styles….

[TM] Idea of something [that could be done with] Tifty.

[MK] Mhm.

[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.

[TM] Mhm.

[MK] To just tell children the story,…something 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 groups.

[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.

[TM] …[There's no] dance resident at the moment.

[MK] Oh is there not?

[TM] No, but I don't know I think there will be [again].

[MK] There was wasn't there?

[TM] Yes, she just finished.

[MK] Oh she's finished.

[TM] Yeah.

[MK] And are they renewing the posts then?

[TM] Well they're renewing it, in the autumn, I think.

[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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