Sunday, March 18, 2018

Jackie Dennis The Kilted Choirboy

Jackie Dennis was born in Leith, Edinburgh in 1943. He grow up in Canonmills and loved to sing. He started performing aged 14 and became popular with US Servicemen regularly appearing at an American Air Force base in Prestwick. The spiky haired teenager covered pop tunes dressed in a kilt and his likable cheeky persona earned him the title, “The Kilted Choirboy". Mike and Bernie Winters (a comedy duo) spotted him and made the introduction to their show.

Business agent Eve Taylor signed him and he recorded for Decca. There under the watchful eye of Harry Robinson (Lord Rockingham’s XI) he recorded a cover version of Billy and Lillie’s US hit “La Dee Dah.” The single went to #4 in the UK Charts in 1958.

Meantime Eve Talyor secured him a spot on the Six-Five Special (BBC), television program and subsequent movie spin off. The tartan teenager proved a popular novelty act.

When Jerry Lee Lewis controversially withdrew from his British tour Jackie Dennis replaced him.

He also toured the US and appeared on the Perry Como Show billed as 'Britain's Ricky Nelson.’

On his return he continued to perform and released several singles. Despite his initial success his subsequent works were less commercial. A cover of Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater” did make it to the UK Top Thirty which would prove Jackie’s last chart success.

Musical tastes were changing and Jackie found it difficult to break free of the cocky Scotty image. After he was dropped by Decca he retired from show business in the early 60s.

Worth a listen La Dee Dah / You're the Greatest (1958)
My Dream /Miss Valerie (1958)
The Purple People Eater / You-oo (1958)
More Than Ever / Linton Addie (1958)
Lucky Ladybug / Gingerbread (1959)
Summer Snow/ Night Bird (1959)
The Wee Cooper O' Fife / Come Along (1959)

Friday, March 16, 2018

St Patrick was a Scotsman

St. Patrick of Ireland was born circa 385 AD, at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland. The parents of Maewyn Succat (or Patricius) were wealthy Romans living in Britain. His father was a deacon. When Patricius was fourteen, he was captured during a raiding party by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was sold as a slave to a Michu, an Irish chieftain and remained there for six years and became a shepherd. Patrick sought solace in his predicament and prayed while he looked after the sheep. His spirituality brought the boy strength even although his captor was cruel and demanding. Patrick was clever and taught himself the Gaelic as well as studied druidism, the predominant religion in Ireland at that time. He escaped slavery when aged twenty, and returned to Scotland to reunite with his family.

He studied to be a priest and was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre before being sent by Pope Celestine as a bishop to take the Gospel to Ireland. The young man’s heart was still in Ireland and eventually when Pope St Celestine decided to make Ireland a Christian country St. Patrick was given the mission of evangelizing the Irish. Patrick became the special Apostle of the Irish nation.

He arrived in Ireland in 433 AD and from the onset met with hostility from the Druids. Overcoming hostilities, he converted the chieftain Dichu and began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland. He was a humble and brave priest who wore rough clothing and slept on hard rock bed. Patrick went from region to region winning respect and eventually the faith of the populous. As evidence of his presence Patrick is thought to have left his foot print on one of shore rocks just at the entrance to Skerries harbor.

Wherever he went on the Emerald Isle the fame of his miracles and sanctity went before him. After 40 years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering Patrick worked many miracles and established Ireland as Christian country. He retired to County Down and died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been celebrated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. There are many legends surrounding St Patrick most of which cannot be verified. Some of the more common were:

Patrick used the shamrock (a three leaf clover) to explain the Trinity and this icon became associated with the Irish ever since.

Another legend was Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland; snakes were a popular symbol among the Irish pagans.

He used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross. The sun was a common symbol in Irish paganism and veneration of the symbol appealed to the Irish converts. By the seventh century, St Patrick was revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

FIFA World Cup songs : Scotland vs England

The largest sporting event in the world is the World Cup. Professional sport and marketing are closely wedded and by the time of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia . arrives we will be wearing the same gear the soccer players are wearing during the competition. The best team in the World meet every four years to see who is the very best .

Scotland, is one of the oldest football nations in the world (England is the other), the former fiercely proud of playing in eight World Cup tournaments. The latter won it in 1966. Scotland has qualified on nine occasions and in 1950 took the unprecedented decision to not participate because they felt ill prepared and did not consider themselves worthy as British Champions. Despite the nation’s unenviable record the squad have never advanced beyond the first round of the finals competition. Historically they are considered talented and brave hearted with their play sometimes bordering on brilliant, but the efforts of the qualifying Scottish National Squads have always been fruitless.

To the Tartan Army failure to qualify to the World Cup competition is a national disgrace. Scotland’s failure yet again has left all ‘Jock Tamson’s bairns’ melancholic. The last time Scotland qualified for a World Cup final was in 1998 in France. The only positive note to all of this is we have not been exposed to yet another Scottish Football Squad song. Such events kicked off in 1966 when England won the World Cup (and we have never been allowed to forget it). The tournament had an official song called 'World Cup Willie'. It was sung not by an Englishman, but by a Scot called Lonnie Donegan. Jimmy ‘Greavsie” Greaves, himself a member of the England Squad, was less than complementary about the choice of singer at the time and considered him passé. The single did not sell particularly well and remains a curio.

At the next FIFA World Cup Mexico (1970) Scotland did not qualify. The defending champions England went to Mexico strong in squad and with a team song that would top the UK charts. “Back home” was recorded in a tiny recording studio with all the England team present. The song was written and produced by Bill Martin (Scotsman) and Phil Coulter (Irishman) – well it is Great Britain after all. ‘Back Home’ set the bench mark for all squad songs to follow. A lyric triumphantly proclaiming the trophy was pretty much in the bag and there was not much point in anyone else turning up set to a simple tune. England got knocked out in the quarter finals after a major scandal alleging misbehaviour in the camp.

By 1974, Scotland were back in the finals which were hosted in West Germany. To celebrate their return to the world stage the Scottish squad recorded a little ditty entitled “Easy Easy.” Although the single got into the UK Top Twenty, Scotland was eliminated in the first round (What’s new?). England did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup West Germany.

Argentina hosted the World Cup in 1978 and horror of horrors, England again failed to qualify. The Scottish manager, Ally McLeod mistakenly talked up his team strongly inferring it was more or less a foregone conclusion they would win the championship. The ever gullible, Tartan Army thought so too and in the resulting euphoria which proceeded the competition saw comedian, Andy Cameron (born in England) jump on the bandwagon. He recorded Ally’s Tartan Army which became a hit.

Determined to succeed in the charts (at least) the Scotland World Cup Squad engaged the help of another cockney Jock, Rod Steward. 'Ole, Ola' (Mulher Brasilieira), like Ally’s Tartan Army the single sold well and both charted in the UK Top Ten. Sadly Scotland fared less well on the field and was dismissed somewhat dramatically from the competition at the end of another scandal filled first week. Rod and Andy did likewise and were summarily dismissed from the pop charts.

Spain hosted the FIFA World Cup 1982 and old rivals Scotland and England were back in contention. The England World Cup Squad released ‘This time (We’ll get it right)’ (co-written by Chris Norman of Smokie) and the Scottish Squad had “Bonnie Scotland We have a dream” written by B.A. Robertson. Both songs charted but while England went through to the second leg of the competition, Scotland was un-ceremonially dumped at the end of the first week. What’s new?

In 1986 the World Cup was again held in Mexico. Scotland qualified this time but were knocked out in the first round of the competition. England meantime lost in the quarter finals. England’s official world cup song "We've Got the Whole World at Our Feet"/"When We Are Far from Home" and Scotland’s ‘Big trip to Mexico’ both faded quickly. The same song writers wrote both songs.

The Old Enemies were back at it in the Italian World Cup finals in 1990. Scotland World Cup Squad’s "Say It With Pride" flopped at the lower end of the Top 50 as the Tartan Army’s team failed to make it through to the second week of competition. World in motion by Englandneworder (England and New Order) topped the charts but the England team went out in the semi finals on penalties.

By the time the 1994 FIFA World Cup was hosted by the US (neither Scotland nor England qualified), so there was no song. Four years on the World Cup France 1998 saw Scotland qualify and this time with the help of Del Ametri and their dedicated single "Don't come home too soon." As usual the song did better than the team and the Scottish squad was back home to listen to it in the Top Twenty. The official song of the England National Football Team was "(How Does it Feel to Be) on Top of the World?" by "England United." This was a makeshift ‘supergroup’ consisting of Echo and the Bunnymen, Space, Spice Girls and the lead singer of Ocean Colour Scene, Simon Fowler. The song was written by Ian McCulloch. The song and the team did quite well but England lost again on penalties and failed to make it through to the quarter finals.

Scotland did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup South Korea/ Japan 2002 but England did and once again lost in the quarter finals. The official World Cup song did not involve the squad that task fell to the golden tonsils of Ant & Dec with We’on the ball.

By this time there was a plethora of other songs and music associated with the competition but most were unconnected to the English Football Association. In 2006 Germany again hosted the World Cup finals. No Scotland, but England was there with “World at Your Feet" by Embrace as the official England World Cup song. Did well too but England were knocked out on penalties in the quarter finals again.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was held in South Africa (and Scotland was not be represented). Despite England qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the Football Association announced there would be no official song. However James Cordon and Dizzie Rascal cover of Shout (previously a hit for Tears For Fears) was adopted. The FA refused to be associated due to links to hooliganism in the lyrics. In any event England were knocked out in Round 16 .

England's 2014 Official World Cup Song is Greatest Day by Gary Lineker and Gary Barlow. It is a cover of Take That's "Greatest Day"

The Official World Cup Song for the 2014 Competition is We Are One (Ole Ola)

Worth a listen
Lonnie Donegan
World Cup Willie (1966)

English World Cup Squad
Back Home (1970)
This time (We’ll get it right) (1982)
We've Got the Whole World at Our Feet" / "When We Are Far from Home (1986)
Englandneworder (English World Cup Squad with New Order)
World in Motion (1990)

Scottish World Cup Squad
Easy Easy (1974)
Ole, Ola' (Mulher Brasilieira) [We're gonna bring that World Cup back from over there] with Rod Stewart (1978)
We have a dream (1982)
Big trip to Mexico (1986)
Say It With Pride (1990)

Andy Cameron
Ally’s Tartan Army (1978)

Del Ametri
Don't come home too soon (1994)

England United
(How Does it Feel to Be) on Top of the World? (1994)

Ant & Dec
We’on the ball (2002)

World at Your Feet (2006)

Ricky Martin
La Copa de la Vida'(1998)

Boom (2002)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Robert Burns -- Tam o' Shanter

Robert Burns on the BBC

BBC Radio Scotland's Esme Kennedy and Dave Batchelor recorded performances by some of Scotland's best-loved actors of Robert Burns's works. A team from the University of Glasgow provided the many guides featured throughout this website. Recordings from 716 works are available, many of which have now been associated with days of the year.

Robert Burns (BBC)

Niel Gow (1727–1807)

Niel Gow was born in Strath brann, west of Dunkeld, Perthshire in 1727 to John Gow and Catherine McEwan. The population spoke mainly Gaelic and he was christened Niel (the Gaelic version of Neil). The family moved to nearby Inver, in Dunkeld where his father made a living as a plaid weaver. Young Niel showed an early aptitude for making music and taught himself to play fiddle on a kit (a half size fiddle) at the age of nine. Niel watched other fiddlers bowing technique and how they held their fiddles. In his early teens he had lessons from John Cameron of Grandtully and quickly established a reputation after winning an open competition in Perth in 1745 (the year of the Jacobite uprising). Fiddle competitions were judged by a blind musician to avoid favoritism. John McKaw, was the appointed judge and after naming Niel the winner, he declared he would recognize his bow hand anywhere. Where most fiddlers emphasised their downbow Gow put power into his up-bow and played it like an organ at full gallop. His standard and style of playing was such he became in great demand for all social occasions as far afield Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Dunkeld sat as the gateway to the Highlands and when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited Dunkeld House on his march south to Edinburgh, Niel Gow was asked to entertain the Young Pretender. He travelled with the Young Pretender’s army as far as Luncarty before returning to Inver. Niel was married to Margaret Wiseman and their first of eight children was born in 1751. They had five sons and three daughters and all the boys became fiddlers. After Margaret died he took a second wife Margaret Urquhart in 1768. From then on Niel enjoyed the patronage of the Murrays of Atholl and was associated with three Dukes of Atholl (2nd, 3rd and 4th) during his long life, the third Duke paid him a retainer of £5 per year for playing at the many parties and formal balls held at Blair Castle.

Niel originally trained as a plaid weaver, like his father, but soon became a full-time musician. He soon gained the reputation as the best fiddle player in Perthshire. Gow was a maestro of the fiddle and played the dance music which was very popular at the time. He could be compared to BB King and like King and the Delta Blues, he made fiddle playing very respectable. Prior to this fiddlers were thought rather disreputable types. The fiddle music had an aural tradition and was taught 'by ear' rather than written music. Scottish fiddling in the Highland tradition was influenced by the ornamentation and mixolydian scale of the Great Highland Bagpipe, as well as smoother bowing. Fiddlers frequently performed solo. Niel often performed with his brother Donald, on 'cello. Later his band included one or more of his sons, together with Samson Duncan of Kinclaven on fiddle. The line-up may have been further augmented by piano, but this would have depended very much on where the band was playing. His reputation grew until he was the most famous fiddler and traveling dance instructor in Scotland. Despite his fame he remained in Inver.

Although he could scarcely read music he is credited with anything from 50 to 87 compositions many of which remain the backstay of modern Scottish country dance music. At the time much of the dance music was transmitted by ear from one fiddler to another so who actually composed which tune was impossible. Many of Gow’s tunes were derived from older tunes or are copies of tunes published earlier elsewhere, often under a different title. This was not uncommon at the time and was not an attempt to plagiarize just a means of musicians sharing the music. Many songs had several titles especially when fiddlers developed individual variations on the original tunes. When Niel and Nathaniel Gow published their various collections of music they would state "as played by Niel Gow and Sons". Many of the jigs, reels and strathspeys which survive today are labeled as "traditional." Gow inspired and excited dancers with powerfully rhythmical music and his regular cries of encouragement.

The strathspey is thought to have originated from the Strathspey area, the strath or broad glen of the River Spey, in Moray and Badenoch and Strathspey. The music was originally written for the fiddle and used for dancing. A slow and stylised form of reel it was originally called a 'Strathspey reel' while the standard reel was known as an 'Atholl reel'. The dance tune is in 4/4 time, but it sounds quite different because it is slower and contains dotted rhythms. One of these rhythms has a special name and is called the 'Scotch snap' or 'Scots snap'. Using a peculiar bowing technique to produce a very short note followed by a long (dotted) note played in sequence, it gives strathspey a 'snap' sound when played. The Scotch snap is generally exaggerated rhythmically for musical expression. In the highland dance there are generally 108 beats per minute with many Scotch snaps to give the piece a rhythmically tense idiom.

Strathspey refers both to the type of tune and to the type of dance usually done to it. There are two basic kinds of strathspey dances. The first is the set dances that are danced as a 'longways set', with lines of men and women facing each other and interweaving across the central space in different patterns. The other is like a slow version of a reel of four, where two couples intertwine in figures of eight, and is one of the standard dances in Highland dancing.

A Scottish country dance will typically consist of equal numbers of strathspeys, jigs and reels. The strathspey step is a slower and statelier version of the skip-change step used for jigs and reels. Traditionally, the strathspey was followed by a reel, which is in 2/2 with a swung rhythm, as a release of the rhythmic tension created during the strathspey.

The reel is a very old form of music in Scotland. Reels are mentioned as early as the 16th century . It is the fastest of all the tunes played on instruments in Scotland. Reels are generally in 4/4 or 2/4 time, meaning that it has four or two beats in each bar. Reels highlight the agility and dexterity of musicians on their instruments, and they can be played on pipes, fiddle, accordion and other instruments. The reel is used for many set dances, mostly for three, four or eight dancers to a set. In Highland and Island Scotland, it was traditional at weddings for the bride and groom to dance a foursome reel with their best man (in Gaelic, the fleasgach) and the bridesmaid (maighdeann). The most popular set reel is the eightsome reel.

Jigs are a form of dance tune in compound time. The origins are unknown but jigs appear to be related to the gigue, a European baroque dance. Most jigs are in 6/8 time, and Scottish jigs are relatively fast and lively with melodies featuring sequences of quavers and semiquavers, and often with dotted rhythms throughout the tune.

When not playing dance music Gow enjoyed performing deeply moving laments. He published three well known laments: Niel Gow’s Lamentation for Abercarney (1784); Niel Gow’s Lamentation for the Death of his Brother (1788); Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his 2d Wife (1809).

Robert Burns visited Niel Gow in 1787 when touring the Highlands. Burns stayed at Culloden House (now the Scottish Horse Museum) and breakfasted with Dr Stewart, a well known fiddler in the district. Niel Gow was sent for and, with Dr. Stewart joining in and Peter Murray on the bass, Niel played a selection of his own compositions. Burns took such a fancy to Niel's tune "Loch Erroch Side" that he asked for a copy of it and afterwards set his "Address to the Woodlark" to it. The tune originated from an air Niel had heard his wife Margaret singing. It is now better known as 'The lass o' Gowrie'. Many believe Gow's air of Locherroch Side is thought to be the basis for Robert Burns' ballad, "Oh! stay, sweet warbling Woodlark, stay."

Niel Gow was a man who was highly respected at all levels of society and at his height of fame Niel was welcome in any of the grand houses in the country. On his way to Aberdeen he stopped off at Brechin Castle where the Dalhousie family made him very welcome. Not only the master musician he was a good humoured fellow who enjoyed the company of others. On his death in 1807 he was buried in the local graveyard at Little Dunkeld. The Niel Gow Fiddle Festival takes place in Dunkeld and Birnam, Perthshire, Scotland every year.

In loving memory of Dougal and Elsie McCallum and Peter Cameron

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Haggis: Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!

The exact historical origins of our great national dish appear to have been lost in the mists of time. Some claim the dish originated from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers, who took their herds from the Highlands to market in Edinburgh. Others believe the dish is pre-historic and a pragmatic way of cooking and preserving offal that would otherwise spoil following a kill. Fresh offal or pluck consisted of heart, liver and lungs which was chopped and mixed with cereal (oats) and herbs then stuffed into the stomach of the animal before being immersed in boiling water for two to three hours. Haggis became a popular dish with poor people because it used cheap cuts of nourishing meat that would otherwise have been thrown away.

The first published haggis recipe (hagese) appeared circa 1430 in the verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum which came from Lancashire.

For hagese'.

Þe hert of schepe, þe nere þou take,
Þo bowel noght þou shalle forsake,
On þe turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,

It was eaten in Scotland because in 1520 the Scottish poet William Dunbar, penned Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy which refers to 'haggeis'.

“Thy fowll front had, and he that Bartilmo flaid;

The gallowis gaipis eftir thy graceles gruntill, As thow wald for ane haggeis, hungry gled.

Dunbar and Kennedy’s Flyting (poetic jousting) was a popular and influential poem and was almost a de rigueur inclusion in Scottish anthologies of verse for the next two centuries.

Gervase Markham wrote The English Hus Wife (1615) and included a receipt for Haggas or Haggus in the section entitled “Skill in Oate meale”. Haggis was popular in England until the middle of the 18th Century before it became more associated with Scotland.

In 1771 there is reference to haggis as a Scottish delicacy in Tobias Smollett’s novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.

In 1774 the English cookery writer Hannah Glasse published a recipe for Scotch haggis in The Art of Cookery. Glasse wrote mostly for domestic servants and referred to them as "lower sort". Her book was most influential with many of her receipts still recognizable today. She did however show marked disapproval of French cooking styles and in general avoided French culinary terminology.

Burns immortalised the haggis in his eight verse poem Address to a Haggis (1786). By ringing the praises of common fare the bard was gently lampooning the pretentious French cuisine popular in Edinburgh at the time. Only after his death in 1796 when Burns’ close friends decided to celebrate his memory did they organized a supper in his honour and ate haggis. Each year on the 25th January Burns Suppers are held all over the world to commemorate Scotland’s national poet. Recitation of the poem Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns is an important part of the Burns supper. The haggis is now as firmly established as a Scottish national icon as the much revered whiskey.

There are many recipes for haggis but most have the following ingredients in common: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock. The traditional animal's stomach has been replaced with sausage casing. The dish is served hot with neaps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and taken with a dram (a glass of Scotch whisky). Today there are many different varieties including vegetarian haggis and kosher haggis.

Since 1971, it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung. The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis. Despite regular reviews of the ban on food products containing sheep lung it remains enforced. Hence Americans cannot get authentic Scot’s Haggis but make do with what is available

A common fiction promulgated by some is the haggis is a small Scottish animal (Haggis scoticus) with longer legs on one side, so that it can run around the steep hills of the Scottish Highlands without falling over. The Hebridean Haggis is "thought" to be the original native species. The Lewis Haggis is different from the Haggis on the mainland: unlike its mainland relative all its legs are of the same length. The two varieties coexist peacefully but are unable to interbreed in the wild because in order for the male of one variety to mate with a female of the other, he must turn to face in the same direction as his intended mate, causing him to lose his balance before he can mount her. As a result of this difficulty, differences in leg length among the haggis population are accentuated.

Haggis Hurling has become popular of late and involves throwing a haggis as far as possible. The world record for haggis hurling was achieved by Lorne Coltart at the Milngavie Highland Games in 2011, who hurled his haggis 217 feet.

Reviewed 20/01/2017