The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.051 transcription

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[JT] Oh my god. Eh. Exercise and a, I learnt Clive [Powell] tae dee a' that, he can do it an a' [marching]. But you learn it quick. Far am I noo? I canna get a note, na. Far the heck is. Na can't find it.
[plays melodion]

What's that tune again that I was playin? Eh….
[plays melodion]

Ye ken that een, you can do that een?
[plays melodion]

Keep time to the music.
[plays melodion]

At's good, ye're doing well!

[TM] Getting there.

[JT] You've tae keep tae the music, the sound o the music. And mak ??? and keep time till't.
[plays melodion]

Noo is is, you've to do this quick. It's a bothy tune, a bothy tune…. And you could go, and you get in the way of it. The feelin of the march.
[plays melodion]

Cause I hid Leahandrai doin't.
[plays melodion]

At's good. Now. Eh, eh. If I could get a richt march.
[plays melodion]

Now [hums tune; plays melodion]

Very good! You kept time tae at een! Aye, ye kept going at at. My god, I used tae hae the [tape unclear].
[plays melodion and sings (impossible to make out)]

There's anither verse:

And put the blame at Peter Broon
And let MacPherson free.

It wisnae Macpherson. Macpherson got blamed for stealin sheep, and in those days you got hanged. For stealin. But it wisnae him. That put the blame on Peter Broon and let Macpherson free. And that's the end o that song.

[TM] That's a true story though, isn't it?

[JT] Aye. True. He was brave when he played the fiddle and that eh? [tape unclear]

[TM] Did you ever hear anything about the clock being in Fishie?

[JT] The clock at Fetterangus?

[TM] There was something about the clock that was in Banff.

[JT] Oh yes, aye. I heard my mither spikkin aboot it. It was at the wrang time or something, the clock was fast or something.

[TM] Well they were going to hang him at a certain time.

[JT] Aye.

[TM] And they set the clocks forward so they could hang him sooner.

[JT] Yes, aye.

[TM] But I heard something about that clock being in Fishie?

[JT] Aye, uh huh. Oh?

[TM] Being brought down from Banff to Fishie.

[JT] It could be.

[TM] But I don't know when.

[JT] Aye, it could be. I heard my mother spikkin aboot the clock at Banff. And eh, and at. And at, I've heard her singin, put the blame on Peter Broon and let Macpherson free. Supposed to be it wisnae Macpherson, but I dinna ken, but I've heard em singin it onywey. So, it goes. Now great old songs, do you like songs?

[TM] Oh yes.

[JT] I love those songs.

[TM] There's another verse as well about the clock.

The reprieve was comin ower the field at Banff, the brig at Banff,
To set Macpherson free,
And they set their clocks a quarter for'd
And they hanged him from a tree.

[JT] On a tree, aye. Uh huh. Well nowadays he'd a got aff ye see. There's no hanging now. But my goodness, they hanged ye for stealin. I'd heard my mother singin't. I heard my father play it on the fiddle an a ye ken. That auld fiddle my dad used to play, that's memories too. Memories o my father. Yes. He'd that fiddle oot ???. And aye fine, he wis an affa man if the fiddle wasnae played richt! He used tae try and mak the fiddle play better. And he did. He could, he could swap fiddles and he could scrape fiddles tae mak em [sound better]…. You know, the soond wisnae richt, he'd try and mak the soon better. Just like a drum….

[TM] So you'd scrape bits of the wood of to make it….

[JT] Yes, yeah.

[TM] Oh.

[JT] Scraped, scraped inside o the fiddle…. My father hid three fiddles. My dad hid three fiddles and eh, no I don't know who got the two bonny fiddles that hid cases. That wis the one that hang up on the wall, and if ye broke the string, you know, of the fiddles he played, he took the string off of there and put it on the good fiddles. But at's an auld fiddle at. I might get something for't ken.

[TM] Was he a good fiddler.

[JT] Ah, my dad could play eh, fast tunes, quick tunes. Slow tunes and a'. Aye, he's music mad. He could play the organ, could play the piana; my dad hid an ear for music. And my mum could play the pipes. My father played the pipes, and he played the fiddle. He played the spoons. Played the organ. Played the piana. Played the dulcimer. Know what a dulcimer is? He played the dulcimer. My mother played the chanter, and pipes an a'. And a ma brithers wis a', they were a' pipers.

[TM] Where did they get the dulcimer in those days?

[JT] My dad used to eh, buy a dulcimer. He and I got music. And that was the first thing, well it wisnae the first thing that he played, it was the pipes he played. But he, he liked a dulcimer, he played, he played the two sticks, like two ???…

[TM] Right now if we could just start with a bit about yourself Robert. Where were you born, brought up first of all.

[RL] Well I was born actually in the city of Aberdeen. But eh, I've lived all my life on a farm, Greenpark, New Aberdour, which is just sorta eight miles west of Fraserburgh. And, em, we have a, eh, four hundred acre arable farm. Breeding sheep, beef cattle, and eh, grow barley and oats, and em, that's where I was born and brought up and lived my life.

[TM] When were you born?

[RL] Born 1969. So eh, the grey hairs are creeping in at twenty-five! What do you think eh! Must be something wrong!

[TM] Working too hard. Em. You were saying earlier about your family being fisher folk as well.

[RL] Yes, my surname, Lovie, my family originate from Whitehills, up beside Banff on the Lovie side. My great-great grandfather and his eldest son were drowned at sea just off Whitehills, and em, after that my great grandfather moved down to New Pitsligo and married a girl from New Pitsligo and settled there and em, he had thirteen of a family of which my grandfather was one. My grandfather's name was Hardie Lovie and em, he moved to eh, New Aberdour and met a girl called Gordon McQueen and em, her father, who was also called Gordon McQueen was a song writer and a ballad writer. And em, I know one or two of his works, one of the must popular ones is Ardlaw Crew, which is actually written and is in the Gavin Greig collection of folksongs o the North East. Which was about a farm of Ardlaw, which is sort of half way between the farm here at Greenpark and Fraserburgh, which is an area called Ardlaw. So em, that was who my grandfather married, that was my granny. So they had unusual names, Hardie Lovie and Gordon McQueen. My granny always said it got them in quite bad situations sometimes, but it was unusual names. She was called Gordon because my great grandparents, McQueens, had six daughters, and em, when my great grandmother became pregnant with my eh, granny, she said this was going to be the last child that she had, so there had been no boys and they wanted somebody to be called after Gordon, the father. So my granny ended up with the name Gordon. And after that they hid three boys! [laughs] So, that's right! It was a bit unusual, but it's a fair tale to tell really. So that was my grandparents' side.
     My grandfather did a wee bit o singin and as I said on the Lovie side, and my great-grandfather, McQueen, Gordon McQueen did a lot o singing, song-writing. And at my mother's side, my mother's maiden name's Smith. And most of my mother's family is musical, play. They are now abroad in Canada and America, but various aunts play the accordion and the piano and did play in dance bands back in the fifties and sixties around the North East.

[TM] So were they local to this area of Buchan?

[RL] They were all local. My mother comes from Strichen. So that's my wee bit about my background.

[TM] And when did you first get interested in songs? Did you hear them when you were small?

[RL] Yep. I remember, yes.… I remember being a youngster and listening to a tape that my parents had, which was a group called the Lomond Cornkisters, and I remember listening to it when I was about five, six years old and really, it was the only tape that I ever played and asked for it all the time because of the cornkister songs, and I remember being, I think it was about six, seven years old, there was a big competition up in Turriff. Em, it was actually run by Mark Ellington when he was sort of new to his area. And he called it the Bothy Ballad King Competition. And as I said, I was just about six, seven years old at the time, and I remember these guys standing up on a big stage at the Haughs o Turriff, singin these bothy ballads. And I remember going home and taking the cassette of the Lomond Cornkisters out and learning this song, called Jock McKay's Wedding. And there wis anither song on it, Sleepytoon, a bothy ballad Sleepytoon. And that wis my two favourite songs. So I remember I learned them, and the following year I entered a little competition up at New Deer and got first prize for singing the two songs, Sleepytoon and Jock McKay's Wedding. Jock McKay's Weddin was a funny sorta little ditty song, and that's the cup that I won that you see over, that little cup there. Em, and then I went back the following year and sung Drumdelgie, and won again. When I was eight.
     And the woman that presented that cup was a woman called Myra Thow, who did a lot o entertainin in the North East in her younger days. She was quite an elderly woman, in fact she still comes back and fore here, her son drives her out to see us. She lives in Aberdeen and she adjudicated these competitions. And the second year I entered at the wee competition at New Deer, there was a competition later on that year at Rothienorman. And…she said that the BBC was going to be there, and I was about nine, ten years old at the time, and em, but she said, if you want to compete, you're going to have compete against the men. So I did, and there was about thirty entries on the first, on the Wednesday and they whiled it down to the five who would compete on the Saturday night. And I got into the final five and I think I got fourth out of the five. Frank McNally, Tam Reid won it. And em, Radio Aberdeen and Radio Scotland were there, Arthur Argo was there and they were absolutely amazed that this young guy, this little loon, em, fae New Aberdour which has probably never been heard of! Em, singin these bothy ballads, so Arthur and Robbie decided that they would do a wee feature on one of their programmes and featured me singin at this competition at Rothinorman. So that's really how the singing got started.
     And it just went on from there, you know, going to the festivals and competitions and learning up more songs, and meeting, you know, many people. But great encouragement from both Myra Thow over the years and Arthur before he died. Always great encouragement. And Arthur's parents were always a great encouragement. And and then I got to know, you know, going to the festivals, many other people like Hamish Henderson, Margaret Bennett. And everybody was an encouragement because I suppose when I went to the competitions, being a little boy, being a little loon, there was no other youngsters at the competitions. There are a few more now, and it's great to see it. But when I started out at the competitions a few years ago, there was no other youngsters and eh, I think that was more intriguing about the thing to other people and I think that was why they liked to encourage it, you know. So, eh, that's how I got started in my singing.

[TM] So you continued competing until twenty-one or two?

[RL] Yes, aye. I continued competing for a lot of years. Went round all the festivals. The Keith festival was always the, the great one in the North East here, which was the Northeastern Regional Festival when it started and going down to the Kirriemuir festival, the Auchtermuchty festival, and various other festivals. Em, and taking the prizes home. Beating some of these lads that had been competing for many years. Em, which em, was eh, great fun. And meeting, I think that was the great thing about the festivals. I don't go to them so regularly now, but when we did go to the festivals, my mother always went with me. And it was meeting and having sessions with everybody, you know, that had interests like yourselves.
     I think some of the festivals, dare I say it, have spoiled themselves in various ways. There's too much drink in a lot of respects which spoils a lot of evenings and things. And less funds in a lot o cases. Spoiled wi the youngsters, comin just for the drink and comin just to make a, a mess o the thing. To make a nuisance, you know, and it's pulled away a lot o the fun for folk going. But I think that was the special thing. And the thing that was always, and always has been, nearest and dearest to my heart is all the great folk we've met in the circuit in the Scottish traditional music scene. So it's, it's been tremendous. I wouldn't have given up, or give it up for anything….

[TM] And how about the piano, when did you start the piano?

[RL] Well I, it was about eh, nine, ten. There was piping lessons started up in New Pitsligo, so I'm speakin aboot the pipes here before I speak aboot the piano. But em, I did learn to play the pipes first and do play the pipes occasionally. I play the pipes. I don't take them out a lot. Occasionally I take them out at various times of the year. If somebody locally is let down by a piper, they come and call on me em, but eh, I play them when I go abroad to Canada every year. Which is about ten thousand miles away, there's nobody knows me, so if I make any mistakes wi ma pipes (laughs). But em, I do play the pipes, I like playin ma pipes from time to time, but then I started playing the piano and was taught locally by a woman called Grace Taylor who put through a lot o pupils.      And I was never interested in playing anything apart from the Scottish Music. She em, I remember going, em I'd been there a few weeks, and she said the kids were always so shy eh, at their music and she'd learnt me, the very first tune I learnt on the piano was the Lovat Scouts, which is better known as My Auld Wife. And em, she says, I remember going over it with ye at the piano, and she says, ye come back the following week after practising for a week, and she says, yer foot was on the sustain pedal, she says and ye were jist giving it laldie, she says. So there was, em, there was no doubt about the type of music that eh, was in my heart I suppose. So [I] learnt to play the piano and I also play the penny whistle and em, one or two other instruments.
      And em, going out round the North East round various concerts, em, and eh gigs, I met up with The Gairoch Blend which was a, well they'd been a Scottish dance band, but they'd been formed for two or three years eh when I met them for a start, and em, they had found it difficult for anybody with a label, being such a new band, tae tak on recording their band. So they went to one or two local companies who weren't interested in recording them, and em, so they decided they would start up their own label, which is Donside label. And they were looking for folk to record onto their label.      And they knew that I sang and did recitations and things, so eh, they invited me to take part in and make a cassette, which was back in '85, '84-'85. And eh, I went and made my first cassette. And at that time, The Gairoch Blend was also looking for a pianist. So, em, they roped me in may I say, to join in the band, and em, just up till this past year I played piano and did some singing with The Gairoch Blend, and we've played all over the country.

[TM] And Canada.

[RL] And Canada, been to Canada, six times. Over to British Columbia, to Vancouver and eh, Vancouver Island, at Burns time every year. And the band was really asked out originally to play for Scottish dances, but once they started getting to know us they realised that I did singing, so they would ask me to do some Burns songs. The following year we went back, and then they knew I did a good bit into Burns, so I was then asked to do a bit of speechifying about Burns, so it ended up that The Gairoch Blend was doing the whole evening! So it was really, it was really great fun. We got onto CBC and television over there, being interviewed and the latter two years that we've been we've also promoted the Doric over there and we've done Grampian nights which has been a wee bit away from, just a mixture in with the Burns nights and proved very, very successful. And it's amazin to sort of come out of the depths of the deepest darkest Buchan that we're in here and go over to Vancouver and meet folk from this area that emigrated out there thirty, forty, fifty years ago, who've never lost their dialect, who've never lost their tongue. Though it's become you know, a wee bit Americanised. And know every word you are saying. Love every song that you sing. And even, you know you take a humorous North East recitation and do it over there, it goes down a bomb, like as well as you were doing it in a village hall in New Pitsligo. You know, they understand just as well. So it's been a, again, it's been a great experience to go over and entertain the other side of the world, and eh, you just need tae sing some of these, like The Dying Ploughboy, which I did at a concert last year eh, in Canada. And eh, ye see the tears comin rollin down their faces. You know, they mebbe haven't heard it for forty years.

[TM] I suppose so.

[RL] So, eh, but they've got all the memories, and I suppose it's seein folk like The Garioch Blend, the boys from The Gairoch Blend going out and just, they would take ye and sit down and have a drink with ye, and relate the memories to ye about what it was like when they were there, and how it's changed when they go back, and how it's great to hear and see folk like The Garioch Blend going out to entertain them, taking the time to,…because I suppose, we didn't do it for the money, we only did it for the pleasure, because it just covered its costs, because it was expensive to go over, and fly over and, em, eh, though we always had good accommodations and things, folk put us up. It was eh, it certainly wasn't a money making event. So it was just great to go and do it. And eh, again, a lot o people that come over from Vancouver and Vancouver Island now come over and see us. You know, swapped addresses and they come and see us and come round to Greenpark and have a musical evening, with around the piano and you know…

[MB] Do you still sing Jock McKay's Weddin?

[RL] Haven't sung it for years Margaret. I don't know even if I would remember the words! (Laughs).

[MB] The old folk soon say, oh I haven't sung it for twenty years! (laughs).

[RL] I know, but…I still sing Sleepytoon sometimes.

[MB] Uh huh. It's a good one.

[RL] Yeah.

[TM] Is that Sleepytoon in the Morning, or?

[RL] Sleepytoon in the Morning, mm hm. There is the two Sleepytoons. And I remember it was put over the radio when I was aboot eight, Robbie Shepherd recorded it or Arthur Argo recorded it, and it was played on a BBC radio Aberdeen programme. And the farmer from Sleepytoon used to buy my father's cattle at the mart and eh, his name was Lyon, Mr Lyon. And I remember he come up to me at the mart one day just being a little boy. And he said, I heard you on the radio singin aboot my farm. And it was quite funny to get a connection of a song I was singin an my father sellin cattle to him at the mart. You know, it's it's a great link with tradition. So.

[TM] Fancy having a go at that one? Sleepytoon.

[RL] Sure, I was thinkin about The Dyin Ploughboy there as well. It's funny we're in the village of New Aberdour here, and the parish of New Aberdour and it was just about seven or eight years ago that I found out that The Dying Ploughboy, well so it's said, a lot of the local guys, old local men, say that the story actually took place at a farm aboot two miles from here.

[TM] That's what we heard as well.

[RL] Yeah, where we dry oor grain. A farm called Bonnyton Hill. Em, which is in fact, no you would see it from the top of the road. And the farm worker who the song was about was courting a girl, a maid from Bonnyton House and he'd escorted her home this night, and another local fee'd lad that was a bit jealous of the man going out with her. [He] jumped out on him on the way home, gave him a scare and he'd run all the way home and he'd had a chest complaint anyway and he suffered a heart attack, a severe heart attack when he arrived back at Bonnyton Hill and subsequently died after that. So that's the story as it goes.
     And it's funny the grain, the drier, the old steading which is now a drier, grain drier, the loft where he died, they say, was knocked out to make this grain drier where we dry wir oats now. So it's funny bein in there, you know, and you look up to the rafters and think that song that you sing, you know, happened, or they say happened up there. So eh, gives you one of these tingly little feelins.
     It's the same, for the past six years I've worked for Grampian Country Food Group, Grampian Chickens, and they own the farm buildings at Drumdelgie, again which is another great bothy ballad. And I remember, I've never been to Drumdelgie, although I'd passed it on the road a lot of times, cause it's a big fairm toon, and all the sheds there, the land was actually sold of about five or six years ago to the Tillhill Forestry Group and the farm was kept, the farm buildings was kept by the Grampian group and have all been turned into chicken rearing sheds. And I've sung the song for a lot of years and I had occasion one day of having some visitors, some Chinese visitors who were customers of Grampian chickens and I had to take them up to Drumdelgie and had never been before, and I thought to myself, how peculiar can you get, taking Chinese visitors up to Drumdelgie to see round these chicken rearing sheds. And I put them away wi the farm manager to have a look round, and I just stood there and looked round the farm at Drumdelgie, and again you could sense the hard work, you know, that had gone on, the toil the sweat, you know, around aboot the farm. Again, there was just something that you could feel at Drumdelgie. So that's, em, it's funny, Mr Birnie again, back to the minister again we were speaking about earlier, he did a talk at the Buchan Heritage last year - did you hear it?

[TM] Yes. That's where I met your mum.

[RL] Oh was it? Uh huh. And he got all this information from me. He come over a couple of nights and em, because I worked for Grampian chickens at the time, which owned the buildings, and I put him in touch with several people to get his information for his evening.

[MB] When you think of it, my mind flashed back to the idea of missing out the songs cause they are a waste of time, they are the only thing that really carry on the emotion.

[RL] Exactly ??? if you don't know the song.

[MB] Not only that, you just can't feel what it was like to be alive then.

[RL] That's right.

[MB] The songs the only thing that connects with the present.

[RL] That's right, that's why I can't understand that guy ?? You know.

[MB] He's got. I suppose he thinks that it's alright putting them in a book but you know singing them is a bit… anyway.

[RL] I remember standing there that day at Drumdelgie, I must have been back since, but it was the first time that I'd actually stood on the farm, and I went over the words in my head. And I felt it, ye really felt that the whole thing. 'A maist unceevil crew.'…

The gloaming winds are sighing saft,
Aroon my lonely stable laft,
Aneath the sky lights dusky reid,
The sunbeams wander roon my bed.

The doctor left me in guid cheer,
But something tells me death is near,
My time on earth has nae been lang,
My time has come and I must gang.

Ach me, tis but a week the morn,
Since I was weel and hairstin corn,
As fu o health and strength and fun,
As ony man among the throng.

But something in ma breist gaed wrang,
A vessel burst and blood it sprang,
And as the sun sets in the skies,
They lay me doon nae mair tae rise.

Fareweel ma freens, ma comrades dear,
My voice ye shall nae langer hear,
Fare weel tae yonder settin sun,
My time has come, and I must gang.

Fareweel ma horse, my bonny pair,
Wi you I'll yoke and lowse nae mair,
Fareweel ma ploo, wi you this hand,
Will turn ower nae mair fresh land.

But I've served ma maister weel and true,
My weel deen work he'll never rue,
And yet [End of Side B.]


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