The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.058 transcription

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[TMcK] With Andrew Robbie

[GE] Aye an is Alec Willox at doon the road. Is Andrew Robbie and Alec Willox, they were neepers, an they'd places aboot the same size and they, they worked wi each ither, which wis an affa good system tae. The neeper folk, a their jobbies, ken ??? twa wis company til each ither, an een keena encouraged the ither a bit. So we met in wi Andy an affa lot. And he wis invited oot, a langer seen, aye afore television an at, to weddins, even, he wis affa popular, but he sang at a this, a lot of this meal an ales and sma concerts an at. And he used to be invited tae this weddins jist for entertainment, tae sing ye ken, wi some o us, the bothies and his comedy, aye.

[Mrs E] On Hogmanay nicht we used to a meet up and Andy used to be singin, Mrs Robbie wis a kinda ashamed o him, she thocht that folk would be laughin at him, but they werena laughin at him they were enjoyin his singin.

[TMcK] Laughing with him

[Mr & Mrs E] Aye, that's right.

[GE] No, no Mrs Robbie, where the bothies were, in the downward ???? at that time o ony ??? ye see

[Mrs E] But Andy he aye hid aff his jacket and he aye hid the braces on, wi his thumbs in.

[GE] Oh no, he wis a great lad Andy. Far did ye find his tape?

[TMcK] In the school of Scottish Studies.

[TMcK] If we could just start with where and when you were born.

[AD] Well I was born at Lintmill here in 1925, and eh of course have lived here all my life so far.

[TMcK] Yes, as they say so far. So in this actual house?

[AD] Yes that's right.

[TMcK] And were your parents native to here as well?

[AD] Yes my parents were Alva people, parish of Alva. My grandfather was grieve at Steenyley, Stoneylee Farm, lived in a little cottage about two miles from here. And eh, he spent his last years at the ????, which was the post office, he was post master, the local post master. And then my father took over that job when he died, and then he moved to the Lintmill market gardening, soft fruit growing. He also worked at the Turriff Mart and was a drover, taking cattle home from the mart to the fairms.

[TMcK] And what did you do for a living for most of your life.

[AD] Well, he died when I was 10 years old and I took over the fruit and the market garden at that time. That would have been '35. Well actually my brother, they worked here on the fruit until the war, but he was called up, he was in the Territorial Army and he was called up. And at that time I was working on a farm and I came home to look aifter the crops and garden.

[TMcK] Were you fee'd

[AD] I was fee'd for about 3 or 4 months just before the war came.

[TMcK] Where was that?

[AD] It was at a place called Mill of ???. And dinna ask me tae spell it! (Laughs)
About an 8 acre farm.

[TMcK] And how did that come about getting fee'd there?

[AD] Well at wis jist near accepted, at wis about the only job, if you wanted to take up a trade, I fancied joinery myself at at time, you had to wait until you were 16 before you could enter an apprenticeship. So you fee'd for a couple of years until you were 16.

[TMcK] Did you go to a hiring fair for that or just word of mouth?

[AD] No, no the farmer came and visit and hired me.

[TMcK] He knew you were leaving school

[AD] Yes that's right, 10 bob a week.

[TMcK] What sort of conditions? Were you living in the house?

[AD] I was living in the house, aye, and conditions were good. Plain food but good clean people.

[TMcK] Oh that's good to hear, you hear so many stories of rough conditions you know.

[AD] Well there were rougher conditions, if you went into the bothies or the chaamers I think probably, pretty rough place sometimes in the chaamers. Well I experienced that mysel, because stayin here, I visited local fairm ??? gan aboot in their chaamers. And it was quite rough. The talk was rough, and the songs were pretty rough, the stories, oh aye (laughs).

[TMcK] were you ever at any of the feeing fairs?

[AD] No, I never was.

[TMcK] No need to be I suppose

[AD] Well, ye see the war time and they stopped then for the war and I dinna think they ever come up again efter the war

[TMcK] When you were on this other farm were there other people fee'd there as well.

[AD] No, no I was the only hired man, loon, I wis a loon

[TMcK] And was there any music or song about the place

[AD] Well there wis, wait a minute, the farmer's niece, sometimes she played the melodian, quite good she wis too. But that wis a the music it wis at that farm.

[TMcK] When did you first start playing something yourself.

[AD] Oh, I played the mooth organ when I wis oh I suppose, 7 or 8 year aul I suppose. Christmas gift o a mooth organ, started playing. I bought my first mandolin, oh, I'd a been aboot 15 at at time I suppose.

[TMcK] Where did you find that

[AD] Oh there wis a shop in Banff at got a ??? they were new, they cost 30 bob complete with case and plectrum.

[TMcK] About three weeks wages then?

[AD] About three weeks wages aye, laughs

[TMcK] That's not bad

[AD] And so I did my first. And I bought a guitar shortly after that as well, jist fae a local chap at happened tae hae een.

[TMcK] Did you have a teacher for the mandolin at all or did you figure it out?

[AD] No, the only, I had lessons on the fiddle for a while from a Willie Montgomery from Banff, an Irishman. He wis a roadman, until he be retired. He used to wear a glove on his left hand to save his fingers.

[TMcK] While he was working?

[AD] Aye

[TMcK] That's planning.

[AD] Aye, he wis a very interesting man. He had studied esperanto, and he spoke Spanish and German, all self-taught. he was brought up in the slums of Dublin he was a communist as well.

[TMcK] Sounds like a lively character.

[AD] He was a very interesting man aye,

[TMcK] What sort of age was he

[AD] Well I thought he wis ancient of course, because I was young. But I suppose he was might have been close on 70 when I wis getting lessons. Well he certainly was retired at that time so he'd have been over 65.

[TMcK] Was he a good fiddler.

[AD] Oh he was an excellent fiddler, he played traditional stuff and classical stuff as well. He'd studied harmony as well, aye he was quite a musician really.

[TMcK] Do you ever play the fiddle any more, do you have one

[AD] Well I've got a fiddle, I try some. But since I lost my sight, well I gave it up for a good few years an a neighbour, Henry Simpson, he talked me into taking it up again. But ye see I canna see the angle of the bow, so my bowing's pretty rough, and sometimes at the wrong side o the brig and stuff o that kine. But we enjoy trying to play, the two o us. We're both a bit disabled. He had a stroke, a couple of strokes a couple o years ago, and his right hand, his bowing hand is not too good, but always improvin

[TMcK] Probably good exercise to work on that

[AD] I would imagine so. But he's very determined to get back intae shape.

[TMcK] That's good. When you were young do you remember what sort of things you got up to at Hogmanay.

[AD] Well the first footing, first-fittin, was still on the go then. Used to go down to Banff or Turriff and one or two chaps would go round knocking up the houses.

[TMcK] Did you take anything with you

[AD] You'd a bottle in your pocket, dish out your Hogmanay. We nivver carried the lump o coal, which was the traditional thing I think, but we got the bottle.

[TMcK] The bottle was more fun eh (laughs). Did you ever hear of anybody playing tricks, like stealing somebody's gate or something like that?

[AD] Oh yes, put a slate on top o the lum, or a sun, harmless pranks. But at wis not only Hogmanay, at wis at any time at.

[TMcK] I heard of someone at Longside who put a plough on somebody's roof, between the two chimneys.

[AD] Oh aye, at's typical aye.

[TMcK] And do you remember a rhyme about Candelmas? First comes Candelmas?

[AD] I've heard it, first comes Candelmas and then the new meen and next, oh no, I canna mine. my mither would have. No I canna mine.

[TMcK] Next Sunday aifter at, at's Pace richt. That's how it went. Do you remember doing anything special on Candelmas at all or your mother.

[AD] No nae really.

[TMcK] Saltie bannocks day at all

[AD] I suppose we hid bannocks aye

[TMcK] Did you roll easter eggs

[AD] We rolled easter eggs, painted them up

[TMcK] How did you roll them, was it racing them down a hill or something?

[AD] Aye, jist on a grassy banks, rolled them doon, until the inevitable happened

[TMcK] Gordon Easton said it was a competition to see who could break the egg first so you could eat it. And did you do anything at halloween at all, anything special

[AD] We used to have a bonfire, aye

[TMcK] On the 31st, end of October

[AD] Oh well, it was a toss up atween Halloween and Guy Fawkes o course, the 5th, lastet from one til the other I suppose (laughs)

[TMcK] Did you make neep lanterns.

[AD] Uh huh

[TMcK] That must have been some chav, carving out the neeps.

[AD] Oh aye, aye.

[TMcK] So hard

[AD] Aye it wis hard going, it made a terrible stink fan ye lighted them up tae.

[TMcK] From the candle inside

[AD] Well the neep began to cook ye see, from the heat o the candle. Aye there used to be, the WRI, the Women's Rural Institute, usually hid a competition for neep lantrens at some o their functions.

[TMcK] Had to get them quite thin wouldn't you

[AD] Aye to get the light coming through at's right. Really jist doon tae the skin if you could

[TMcK] Need a good sharp spoon

[AD] At's right

[TMcK] Were they still doing meal and ales when you were young

[AD] Aye, well occasionally, some o the country halls hid a dance, which included a meal an ale, a barrel and meal an ale instead o yer tea, or along wi yer tea

[TMcK] ANd how would they make that

[AD] Well I couldna gie ye a recipe, but it wis jist the whisky in the meal

[TMcK] Sort of like Athol Brose, well that's meal and honey and whisky and cream.

[AD] Aye, uh huh. And there wis, there wis the sowins o course, that wis anither diet that they hid.

[TMcK] How was that made

[AD] That wis made by the husks o the corn, ca'd the sids, it wis a very thrifty diet, it wis using the waste o the corn to make the sowins, a kind o a gruel.

[TMcK] So would you soak the sids, aye, and then boil the liquid.

[AD] I nivver actually tasted sowins, a lot o these things were just beginnin tae fade oot in my time really, the old practices, traditions.

[TMcK] Did you ever hear anything of the horseman's word, speaking of old practices.

[AD] Aye, well at come up in Hamish Henderson and Alan Lomax were around and Lordy, ye've probably heard of Lordy, Geordie Hay, known as Lordy. He knew a bit about the Horseman's word and eh, but of course it wis a secret society, it wis a masonic kind o thing, and supposed to be a bit o devil worship I think. But he widnae gie much away ye see, because he'd been through the horseman's word ye see, he'd been through the caphoose, Lordy, so he wouldnae gie onything away.

[TMcK] Well of course he'd sworn not to.

[AD] That's right, that's right. It wis really a racket to get a booze up because the boy that wis ga'n through the caphoose supplied a loaf o bread and a bottle o whisky, so a the ither boys hid a slice a bread and a booze up. I think at wis the main thing.

[TMcK] They had a shak o old horny.

[AD] Aye, they hid a stick wi a bittie rabbit's fur or something like that, ye wis shakin hands wi the devil.

[TMcK] That must have been good fun for everyone except the young loon

[AD] Oh aye, oh aye. I suppose it could got oot o hand sometimes, but I suppose usually it wis a hairmless prank. I suppose they'd try and scare the loon, he'd a been blindfolded I except of course. There wis an interesting thing, ye've probably a heard this. Hamish Henderson had set up his recording equipment and he wis interviewing anither chap aboot the horseman's word, and he says what is the Horseman's word, and eh this man says, it wis wish and high and Lordy he piped up and says at's nae right and he says the right word ere, which I dinna ken, but when Hamish Henderson played it back, the tape had jist come to an end before he said the word, so you can imaging the devil had a lot tae dae wi at! So he nivver got the word recorded.

[TMcK] Quite right. When did you first meet Henderson and Lomax and how

[AD] Oh, I'm affa bad at minin years.

[TMcK] Well I suppose it would be 1950 or '51

[AD] Well it wis in the early 50's certainly aye.

[TMcK] And how did you come across them were you just in Turriff when they were

[AD] Aye, there wis a chap ca'd ?? in Turriff at, he wis producer for the drama group and he held concerts, he hid a concert party, the Turriff Players and he had been, they'd contacted him and asked if he knew any singers, so I wis roped in along wi a lot mair o the local singers for this, includin Lordy o course and Jimmy MacBeth, oh aye.

[TMcK] Or MacBeith

[AD] MacBeith, sorry aye.

[TMcK] So he himself used to correct that pronunciation

[AD] Aye, and he used to correct Shakespear as well, he used to say it wis a wrang, the story wis a wrang.

[TMcK] He knew the richt way

[AD] Aye he knew the richt way o it, at's right.

[TMcK] He was a character wasn't he

[AD] Aye he wis great Jimmy.

[TMcK] I heard some story that he was banned from Turriff for a while, is that true or just from the hotel

[AD] Aye, it's probably true enough, I nivver heard o him bein in trouble or onything wi the police but maybe he wis, I nivver heard aboot at. He wis aye a cheery kinda chap and little trouble as far as I could see

[TMcK] What about Crichie, did you ever meet John Strachan

[AD] John Strachan wis there at night as well at the Commercial as well in Turriff. In fact I think it wis him talking about the Horseman's word before Lordy butted in

[TMcK] Sounds like a grand gathering.

[AD] Oh it wis aye, but I had to leave early because I hidna lights on my motorbike, and I'd to leave early, worse luck

[TMcK] Probably went on for some time eh

[AD] Oh I think so, it wis heading that way

[TMcK] So did you see them on other occasions as well, all those folks

[AD] Well, I met Hamish Henderson in Banff one time, but just spoke to him in the passin, it wisna a ceilidh that night, so no I never really met them again.

[TMcK] Did you ever meet a man called James Carpenter

[AD] No

[TMcK] An American. Probably a wee bit before your time. I guess it was between the wars he was coming round recording as well. How about Kenny Goldstein, did you ever meet? Another American.

[AD] No

[TMcK] SO when did you start singing?

[AD] Oh I suppose about 5 year aul I suppose really. But it wis, we used to sing a the songs at wis popular at that time, the popular songs like 'South of the Border' that kind of stuff.

[TMcK] Red river valley.

[AD] Red river valley, aye. At wis a wee bittie later on, because we heard these on the wireless, and we didna have the wireless until about 1938 I suppose. It wis a the stuff we heard on the wireless at we sang at at time. My mother used to sing a lot, it was nearly a the sanky hymns that she gid aboot the hoose singin.

[TMcK] Was she from fisher folk

[AD] No, no she was a Walker from New Deer, well New Deer district. Clashiefolds was the name o the farm.

[TMcK] And what about her parents were they New Deer folk as well

[AD] They were New Deer folk aye, at wis Clashiefolds and there wis Walkers at Howe o Bedlam??? and then White Dog.

[TMcK] Did your father sing at all

[AD] No, no he didna, I don't think he was musical at all. Nae a lot o music in the Dey side, it was the Walker side that had the music

[TMcK] What was your, let's see. Your father's name would have been Dey, of course, but his parents where were they from?

[AD] At's going back to my grandfather and Andrew Dey frae Steenyley. We hiv traced the family back. There wis a connection wi the Buckie district and the Gordon ??district, but they're a local within a 10 mile radius or so I woulda said. My great-grandmither wis fae Aberchirder, or Foggie. But a good few o ma faither's, ma uncles, ma father's brithers, went doon tae London and Cardiff. I suppose there wis a shortage of work up here at that time. They moved south anyway, and some went out to America.

[TMcK] Where some of them still are

[AD] They still are, we're surprised to find.

[TMcK] What was your two grandmothers names before they got married

[AD] Em, oh, ah well, eh, ma grandmither, that wis Gill, ma mither's mother, was Gill. And eh, ma father's mother oh me, we checked that up as well. ??? laughs It's funny I can mine ma great-grandmother's name but nae ma grandmother's.

[TMcK] Did you know your great-grandmother

[AD] No no, nor ma grandmither. Ma mither would have been 43 and ma father 55 when I was born ye see. They were really grandparent age rather than parent age. So at made a bit o complication really. So my grandparents were all gone before, oh well no, ma mother's mother, a very old lady, I div remember her that's right. I think she'd a bin about 92 when she died. My mother was 94.

[TMcK] How many of a family?

[AD] Well my father, this family, my brother, eh, well my father was married twice, his first wife died. He'd two daughters wi his first marriage, and three o us wi his second marriage. A brother and a sister.

[TMcK] And you the only one that's musical.

[AD] Oh well, ma brother had a, certainly could sing in tune, but he hidnae the interest really. Ma sister she likes music but she doesnae perform at a.

[TMcK] How about a wee tune on that, the mandolin or something?

[AD] The mandolin?


[TMcK] What's the name of that one

[AD] That's the Headlands, the ??? Headlands.


[AD] That's the Wild Rose o the Mountain


[TMcK] Lovely

[AD] That's the Linn Waltz. One of my own.

[TMcK] It's a lovely tune. A nice wee mandolin as well. ??? Where did you get that one.

[AD] I advertised for a mandolin, and a chap came in aboot wi it jist, and it's quite good I thought, it wis the only one that came on the go. The ither mandolin wis prettier but this was a best toned een.


[AD] It's em, Farewell tae the Creeks. It's a local tune, pipe major frae Banff that wrote that een.

[TMcK] That wis before the war was it

[AD] Oh aye, I suppose.

[TMcK] I didn't realise that was a North East one

[AD] Oh well, at's was the tune Hamish Henderson set words til, Farewell ye banks o ????

[TMcK] Slightly different in the ?? there

[AD] Oh aye, it's four majors I think in the variation. And I made a right mess o it.


[TMcK] The Hen's March Ower the Midden

[AD] That's it.

[TMcK] Is that a Shetland tune.

[AD] Aye I think it is a Shetland tune

[TMcK] I've never heard it on the mandolin, just the fiddle, looks harder on the mandolin.

[AD] Ye get a better ceckle, a better hen's ceckle on the fiddle.

[TMcK] Looks very hard to play on the mandolin. Sounds like a nice air starting there.


[TMcK] Is that another Shetland one?

[AD] At's a lament, Neil Gow, ??? ????


[TMcK] Nice tune.

[AD] Fiddlers tae the fore.

[TMcK] Do you write a lot of your own

[AD] Weel I've done een or twa, but eh, I'm inclined when I mak them up I canna play them (laughs)


[TMcK] That looks like a difficult one, with those intervals, unusual

[AD] Aye, I'm nae playin well today, it's nerves you know (laughs)

[TMcK] Oh well, that happens to the best of us. Do you make songs from scratch?

[AD] Aye, some, I've een ca'd Tattie Soup.

[TMcK] Oh, that sounds promising.

[AD] Is is ma version o Grannie's Hielan Hame an a.

[Plays and sings.]

Nae far fae Pitsliga there stans a wee hoose
An it stauns in an orra peat bog
Fen I think o the days that I spend at at place
It maks me as sick as a dog

I still see aul Grannie, a pipe in her gob
In her haun a muckle beer mug
Noo Gran didnae cry fen I kissed her goodbye
She jist gid me a scud on the lug

But I hear aul Grannie's singin
Fen I hear a diesel train
And I min' on Grannie's cookin
Fen my belly's got a pain

As roon the world I wander
I picture thee a glin
An it's really affa fine tae think
I'll nivver be there again.

There stauns a wee shack at the back o that hoose
And I used to go at a trot
And sit at my ease, wi ma briks roon ma knees
While I studied the Northern Scot

There's nae modern loo could ever compare
I sat there and says to masel
Sae cosy and snug and the only humbug
Wis the torn ???? in the pail

But I hear aul Grannie's singin
Fen I hear a diesel train
And I mine on Grannie's cookin
Fen my bellie's got a pain

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