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Dougie MacLean, Tannahill Weavers and friends reunion
Centered around the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Perthshire Amber (the Dougie MacLean Festival) takes place in the heart of Scotland each autumn, with concerts in theaters, castles, and even an iron age crannog. It’s also a gathering place for musicians who have worked with singer songwriter MacLean through the years, and shared concert stages with him all across the globe. Fiona Ritchie sat with Dougie and a few of his musician friends to hear their stories and reflections on the music they’ve brought to the world over three decades.

This conversation featured Dougie MacLean, Roy Gullane, John Martin, Patsy Seddon and, later, Andy M. Stewart and Martin (Mame) Hadden. It was recorded exclusively for The Thistle & Shamrock. Excerpts were featured in a two-part special airing on many public radio stations across the U.S.

(This conversation was recorded before a live audience in Pitlochry, Perthshire 2006.)

Introduction to Pitlochry Festival Theatre audience from Fiona Ritchie:

So let me just add my welcome to Perthshire Amber. I’m sure that when you walked into the theatre and the atmosphere here you felt you had really arrived at something unique, which this definitely is. It’s great to be a part of it and to do something which will carry something of the spirit of what we are doing to audiences across the United States, and maybe entice them to come across and be part of it in future years. There are people here today who have been together, in one way or another, in varying different combinations, and who have crossed paths for many, many years now as friends and musical companions as well. We are just getting together to reflect a little bit on that with them in advance of their reunion concert tonight.


Fiona:

First let me welcome them all, and to start with we have Patsy Seddon, Dougie Maclean, Roy Gullane and John Martin. First of all, Dougie right up there in the centre. Can you maybe just give us a little sketch of how far back you all go, as friends as well as musical companions?

Dougie:

There was a certain generation of us, I think, that got into folk music very early on, and we all ran the folk club in Blairgowrie. I had got together with some school pals, and by having the folk club bands like The Tannies would come through, and from that very early growing up together all this Scottish music thing got going.

Fiona:

There is a story about you being recruited to join The Tannahill Weavers who were short a fiddler, and of them driving past in a Transit van. Now over the years every time you tell this story I have this impression of Roy Gullane hanging out of a Transit van with a net, not even slowing down.

Roy:

Yes, I had one of these big postbag things that, you know, that the trains use! We knew he was going to be at Kinross Festival and we kind of just drove around the streets till we saw him.

Dougie:

Yes, I was just kind of standing at the side of the road. I had a nice wee job as a gardener up in Aberdeen and had a nice wee flat, and we were just going round the festivals, and we went to Kinross. But I remember standing on the pavement and the white Tannahill van just pulling up in front and basically Roy just got out the van and said, “Dougie, d’you want to join a band, we’re going to Germany in three days’ time,” or something like that. So I said, “well can I have five minutes to think about that!” So I went back to the campsite to the tent where I was staying with all my friends from Aberdeen and I said, “Roy Gullane’s just asked me to join his band, and they’re going to Germany in three days, what do you think I should do?” And they’re all saying, “go for it!” And actually, if I hadn’t made that decision my life would have been completely different.

Fiona:

Roy, you had been out on the road, and the autobahns and various other motorways with the Tannahills, now this is going back to the early 70s, isn’t it?

Roy:

Yes, ‘74 - ‘75.

Fiona:

Yes, I mean all these bands; John, you were a member of Ossian, and all these bands were really plowing new territory for Scottish music.

Roy:

Yes, most of the solo guys were going out there, Alex Campbell and all these people, and thanks to them, Alex and people like Hamish Imlach, there was a path through the forest, and there was a circuit of clubs where you could play. But I think we certainly widened the path and made it more accessible to others.

Fiona:

It was in Europe where you were first really established, and then it didn’t take you much longer to cross the Atlantic and start to bring your music to American audiences. And you built a tremendous following all across North America, which sustains you still.

Roy:

Yes, we really are very proud of that and we appreciate that a lot.

Fiona:

And, John, you’ve done the rounds too.

John:

Does it show?!

Fiona:

Remarkably not! When I look at all of you, now we do get to say these things because we’re on the radio, but none of you has changed very much at all, in spite of it all!

Roy:

Good healthy living! Which we are famous for. Nice clean boys!

Fiona:

Yes, the Tannahill Weavers - Nice Clean line of products! But you, John, you have found your way into many of these bands along the way, and bring a certain sound with your Scottish fiddle. It’s the hallmark of a Scottish fiddle sound in a band that has characterized the Tannies and Ossian and these groups.

John:

Well, it’s great now to look around and see just how many fiddle players there are at the moment, thousands and thousands of kids are playing. But when we started with Roy, Dougie and myself, there weren’t that many fiddle players and back then bands were crying out for fiddle players, they couldn’t find any, so it’s great now that things have totally changed.

Dougie:

Yes, it was even hard to find someone to play a fiddle tune with.

Roy:

It was strange when, vis-à-vis recruiting Dougie, when we did lose our original fiddle player, Mike Ward, the choice was … John and Dougie - they were all we could get! And John was already in a band. It’s all changed now, but at the time...

John:

…yes, at the time there weren’t a lot of fiddle players around. I had actually come out of the Strathspey & Reel Society side of fiddle playing, and I remember the chaps at the door were Billy Jackson and George Jackson, and I remember them asking me, would you like to join a band - this was Contraband, way back before Ossian, and that was 1970, I think, or ‘69, I forget. I think they were in short trousers at the time, 14 or something!

Dougie:

I think Contraband were amazing, they sort of inspired us. I remember coming to see the band at the Aberfeldy Folk Festival, playing in the tent, and all of us sitting up at the back; me and Andy and Mame, all of us who are in the show here tonight, and us all thinking how brilliant it was. But they were an electric band and we were all into Steeleye Span, etc. and that was all happening down in England at that time and it was great to see a Scottish band that was doing the same kind of thing.

Fiona:

Yes, it was all a tight little scene that sort of fired itself up, and I think that the people listening would almost find it unbelievable to think that there weren’t that many fiddlers around, because there are so many now, so many good fiddlers, and so many women fiddlers too. And, we have one with us, although people will think of her as a clarsach player which she is best known for, and that is Patsy Seddon. Patsy, you would have been well aware of the work of all these guys and, apart from your own ground breaking work with Mary McMaster in forming the harp duo Sileas, there was your collaboration with Dougie, which first brought the sound of the clarsach on to a contemporary folk album. Patsy was involved in one of your first albums, Dougie.

Dougie:

Yes, because we didn’t know anything about harps, I mean, there was no way that musicians like us would ever cross paths with harp players and I remember being fascinated.

Patsy:

Yes, harp playing at that time was quite a “precious” scene, you might say, and when I met Mary McMaster and learned that she was actually in Sandy Bell’s most nights learning tunes from, well these guys probably, on her harp, that was quite a shock to me and also of course, quite an inspiration. And then I ended up at all sort of parties.

Dougie:

Yes, that party, I remember hearing you playing and thinking, that sounds fantastic. I was recording a record, the first record that we were doing on our own, and I was mesmerized and I remember approaching you saying that I think it would work with one of my acoustic songs, you know guitar and clarsach. Nothing like that had ever been done.

Patsy:

You said something like, oh that’s so modern sounding!

Dougie:

Yes, as you say it was a bit like the fiddle at that time, a bit precious sounding like you said. It was like out of the Strathspey & Reel Society or the Country Dance Bands, that sort of place would be where you would find fiddles, you wouldn’t find them in a pub.

Fiona:

It was quite a segregated scene.

Dougie:

Yes, you would never really meet each other in that scene.

Roy:

We’re having a bit of a sing-song, bring your harp!

Fiona:

And yet now, for people to hear harp integrated into all kinds of line-ups or as an accompanying instrument to song or playing with other harps, I mean it’s a big part of the scene now.

Patsy:

When we started nobody really played tunes on the harp, it was all chords or arpeggios or something like that.

Fiona:

Or harp tunes, old laments, that sort of thing.

Patsy:

Well there was a bit of a start with that, Alison Kinnaird best known for that, but Mary and I really our line of work was really to integrate into the bands. I mean, we never got asked to join the Tannies.

Fiona:

But there’s hope yet!

Roy:

Well, we’ve thought about you often!

Dougie
:

You did develop a sort of guitary way of playing the clarsach, which wasn’t really done at the time.

Patsy:

Well, we ended up in a seven-piece band, which didn’t have any guitars; I don’t know how we managed that. It was seven women and not a guitar among them. In fact, I said the famous words to Mary, she said why don’t you come along, I’ve been asked join them, and I said, you can’t have two harps in a band! And, well we’ve built a career in that for 25 years, so.

Fiona:

Here we are sitting in Pitlochry in the Highlands of Scotland and I realize that meeting in Scotland is probably not very common for you all, although you all started out from here, you are probably more likely to cross paths with Roy in the Netherlands or at a festival in Cape Breton, or somewhere else, I mean how often do you get together here in Scotland?

Roy:

The last time we met was when Dougie and the Tannahills were in Newark airport! Just walking into the bar!

Dougie:

Yes, about a month ago!

Fiona:

Your paths must have crossed, apart from working together and traveling in scary Transit vans, your paths must have crossed literally all over the world.

Dougie:

It used to be like that in Germany. I remember there would be a few bands on tour and you would pass each other on the autobahns.

Patsy:

Dougie’s always been great for bringing everyone together. I remember the New Year parties where people came from all parts of Scotland; the Aberdonians came down, and we came up from Edinburgh. Why don’t you do that anymore, that was great?

Dougie:

Well, that was kind of an answer to the fact that we hardly ever saw each other during the year, so we thought we’ll just have one big party at New Year and so for everybody who’s on the road and touring it’ll be the one time of year that we can all get together and just play music for ourselves, instead of performing at festivals or at concerts.

Fiona:

And for those of us who lived overseas, as I did in the States at the time, it was the one time of year when you could pretty much guarantee that you would be home for Christmas and New Year so you could come to the party and see everybody.

Dougie:

I think a lot of bands actually came out of that too, you know, people would meet up and say, I’m looking for a fiddle player, or …

Patsy:

And a few marriages!

Dougie:

Yeh, and a few marriages as well! Probably a few children too!

Roy:

It wasn’t me!

Fiona:

When people hear your story, which is going back now 25-30 years now we’re talking, there is a romance of being on the road and traveling the world with your fiddle case or guitar case over your back and I think a lot of people do romanticize it. But a lot of people couldn’t hack it, it’s a really hard life, I think. Being out on the road and always having to be concerned about making it to the next gig and what your sleeping arrangements will you have when you get there, you know, which floor will you be on that night? It must be quite a hard-going life.

John:

Well, the floors have got a bit softer over the years! That’s the good part, but the traveling is still difficult.

Fiona:

I wanted to ask you about that. There was a time when you were just packed into a ropey old van and going from festival to festival and you were sleeping in tents or literally just where you were offered accommodation.

Roy:

We slept in the van too. We used to take it in turns because the worst place to sleep was next to the gear stick and that got rotated. Because of course, we never stopped, I mean we drove through the night. And this is where the story comes from about losing Dougie on the autobahn. It was because of this bed. We had stopped and all got out to have a coffee. Dougie had been driving at this point, and so when we all got back in the new driver wanted the keys. And this hand came out from behind this curtain thing - the bed was behind a curtain, and we thought this was Dougie, so we drove away. We were in Düsseldorf and we stopped in Frankfurt and all piled out the van again. Where’s Dougie? That’s when we realized that we’d left him at the motorway services!

Dougie:

Yes, I had just gone to the toilet, and I came out and just saw our white van disappearing on to the autobahn. I had enough money for two cups of coffee and I had to make them last! I thought that they were bound to realize I had gone, say at the next roundabout, so I waited, and I waited, all night I waited. Eventually Alan phoned up the services and said, is there a Scotsman sitting in the café! And, eventually the German police came and took me in their Porche, passing all the lorries trying to find one with a number plate from where we were going. They pulled these German truckers over and said could you take this straggly Scottish musician! I was terrified!

Roy:

And he was out of their truck into our van and away to the next gig.

Dougie:

Away to the next gig without any sleep, I don’t even remember the show.

Fiona:

You could all write books of the stories! But I’m sure you couldn’t print most of it, or anyway name names! But here we are in a very nice theatre, and you’re well accommodated and you traveled here in comfort. It does make me think there have been so many changes over the years, and one of them has to be just the level on which this all operates now. The places you perform in - it’s all easier in those ways. In some ways travel has become more difficult now, but it’s lost its gritty edge. You’re reaching a lot more people now too.

Dougie:

I think people are much more aware of the music now, and when you’ve been around long enough you build up your own public, and I know when I go to America now, name a song or a band and the whole audience give a big applause, you know. And they might be Tannahill fans. We’ve built up this lovely community of people over the years who’ve maybe watched what we’ve all been doing, got all the albums. They’re bringing their kids now, and we’re all growing old together, it’s brilliant.

Fiona:

What are the other main differences you would document in the music? I’m thinking about how your music gets to people. You used to have to drive around with these really heavy boxes but now it’s all very different. You can put MP3s up on your websites.

Dougie:

Well John and Ossian were really the first band I knew to make their own CDs which was an inspiration to us all at that time. Nobody did their own thing at that time.

Fiona:

Do you mean their own CDs or their own record vinyl?

Dougie:

Well, their own record vinyl.

John:

With Contraband we had moved down to London to do all the recording stuff, and we were determined that wasn’t going to happen again, so that’s when we started Iona Records at that time.

Dougie:

Nobody was doing it, nobody thought that it was something that you did, and when we came to start doing our one it was because of what you had done with Iona. I remember coming and asking you for advice when I did my fiddle album, and I recorded it at my house. I came down to John with a tape asking him if the recording was good enough, because John had been through that process with Ossian, it was great encouragement. Every band does their own now. Everyone has their own label and independents are everywhere. I remember having to go down to London with Craigie Dhu, the album that Patsy played on, to get the vinyl cut because there was no cutting room in Scotland. I got the Stagecoach bus down and the driver had his flask of tea and rolls about Carlisle, I think. There was me going to Soho with my big reels of tape to get them cut. At that time in Soho they used a diamond needle to cut the acetate and when the needle got worn after being used on all the big stars, it got put in this wee room to cut independent record labels! So you never got the good quality and you were struggling with all that kind of stuff and listening to test pressings.

Roy:

You needed a studio. In those days you had to use a studio, now you don’t.

Fiona:

How many albums has the Tannahill Weavers done? You have a new album out now, what number is that?

Roy:

15 or 16 now, and we’ve got a couple of compilations on top of that. And millions of samplers.

Fiona:

And you’ve lost track, and the royalties have lost track of you.

Roy:

Yes! You know the story, the check’s in the post!

Fiona:

And Patsy, what are the main differences for you and how it all works for you as well as how your music gets out there?

Patsy:

Pretty much really what you’ve been saying - getting to play in Arts Centers, theatres. I think we didn’t get so much the rough end of it like these guys, because being women and being harp players, and there was only two of us, we were probably treated a bit better! We weren’t expected to kip on floors at any time. And I suppose the harp does cross over into, how can I say, the gentler side of things. We did use it to our advantage. But harps now, they’re everywhere, they’ve infiltrated quite successfully, I think. There’re a lot of harp players out there now, which is fantastic.

Fiona:

And there are a lot of young folk playing good quality music, and I suppose you must find that now when you travel across to the States. You must be amazed at how many there are. There will be some people who have grown up listening to the Tannahill Weavers, or Dougie, or Ossian and have actually shaped their sound around your sound. Is that a bit strange to think of? It must happen.

John:

Well, we do come across a lot of soundalikes, yes!

Fiona:

How do you feel about that?

John:

Oh it’s a positive thing, not a negative thing - a form of flattery. And they’ve got the same line-ups.

Roy:

Apparently all the Asturian bands have the bouzouki, guitar and bass pedal, and pipes, they’ve created this whole thing over there. I’m quite proud of it.

Fiona:

Because there was no line-up like that existing before you.

Roy: No, certainly not in Asturia!

Dougie:

Well I remember when I joined the Tannies and had got the wee glockenspiel which I worked out a wee part for, you wouldn’t have found a glockenspiel in folk music at that time, you know. You were adding these little things into the music which is now quite accepted.

Roy:

And it got worse! When we added the bagpipes we had to tune the glockenspiel with the bagpipes!

Dougie:

Do you remember when we bought a hammered dulcimer?

John:

We bought a harp, and we bought a clarsach!

Dougie:

I remember we were all sitting in the van with this hammered dulcimer and one of us was going to learn to play it, all the strings that you play with the hammer, and we were trying to knock a tune out of it, I think we threw it away in the end!

Roy:

I think we ended up slicing bread with it!

Dougie:

Yes, something like that!

Roy:

We just couldn’t go into a music shop without buying something - oh, let’s have one of them!

Fiona:

You bought a clarsach, but I’m sure all over the United States hundreds of people bought clarsachs after listening to, well Alan Stivell would have been an influence and then Sileas. Having two harps together just hadn’t been done before.

Patsy:

But also before us harp players usually combined playing with some other line of work and so we were traveling, like these guys, trying to drag these harps round the States. We do get these harp players coming up to us, I don’t assume anything, and saying, oh I first heard you when I was five, which does make me feel a bit old.

Fiona:

Well here we are at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, it’s part of Perthshire Amber and we’re having a chat with Dougie MacLean and some of his friends from years ago who still enjoy getting together to play music, and they’re going to be doing a reunion concert tonight as Patsy said, and Roy Gullane and John Martin and many more on stage showing us how this music has evolved and how their paths have crossed and criss-crossed over the years. I am curious to know whether any of you have any burning questions for anyone up here of any sort. Yes …

We have Dave in the audience from Laurence, Kansas and he’s curious about your first memories of playing in the States - what was that like for you? If you can remember it! Roy G: I can remember ours, we were actually in Canada very regularly and we got a gig in Minneapolis, which we did a lot of overnight driving to get to. My first experience of the States, I remember was, oh let’s go back to Canada! It was just so different.

Fiona:

What about you, John, what first took you over there?

John:

Ossian was the first band that we opened in the States with - that was in the early 80s, and we had a great time, a great experience. At that time there was five in the band, plus a sound guy, plus all the wives and kids, and that’s not a good recipe for touring the States, really, all in a 15 passenger van. We covered thousands of miles with the pregnant wives in the back, so that was an experience! Not to be repeated!

Fiona:

You didn’t make them sleep next to the gear stick?

John:

No! We didn’t make them sleep next to the gear stick! It was something like a 2-month tour, so we had a lot of time off and went sight-seeing and went to the Grand Canyon and all that kind of stuff.

Fiona:

And maybe at that time you were thinking it could be a one-off, and not become part of your lifestyle.

John:

No, that’s right. We thought we might never get another chance, so we went to see all the sights.

Fiona:

And you’ve probably not had another chance to do that again, because it’s work, work, work.

John:

No that’s right, these boys keep us busy! We’re on the go all the time.

Dougie:

Talking about memories from the States, I, like Roy, had come down from Canada to San Francisco - from Dunkeld - and I had to rent a car, so I went into the place and they said, “have you got a credit card?” I didn’t really know what a credit card was practically! I said, “no I’ve got cash here, I want to rent a car.” “Oh, you can’t rent a car without a credit card”. And that was a difference I noticed, we didn’t use these kind of things, none of us would ever have had a credit card. You couldn’t just pay for something in hard cash, you had to give them a credit card. I remember having to get on the phone to Jim McLaughlin up in Edmonton and he had to wire down information from his credit card to I could drive the car away. It’s kind of a different world in many ways.

Fiona:

It would have been more of a mystery to you back then, there is so much more we are exposed to and so much more we have in common now.

Roy:

Yes, it was almost like you could wake up somewhere and know where you were by the clothes people were wearing, you know, if you are traveling through Europe - oh, there’s a German or there’s a Dutch person, you just knew. Now everyone wears the same kind of stuff. There was a time when you went to the States you’d need an extra suitcase to bring things back that you couldn’t get here – and vice versa, I suppose. But that doesn’t happen anymore.

Fiona:

And the language - you wouldn’t make the linguistic gaffs that you once would have, when you’d open your mouth and say something that was completely unintelligible, or even offensive to the American ear!

Roy:

Yes, I always ask for "an eraser” now!"

Fiona:

Yes! Anymore questions from our little group here?

We have Carl from Charlottesville, Virginia, visiting Pitlochry today, would like to know as young players which artists from outside of Scotland, would have been most influential to you.

Dougie:

I was very inspired by American songwriters, actually. A funny thing but maybe, because that’s what we were hearing a lot of.

Roy:

It’s what we were playing in the band a lot of the time, James Taylor and Jackson Browne.

Dougie:

Personally, I was fascinated by the acoustic guitar and it wasn’t really played very much over here like it is in the States, America is kind of the home of the acoustic guitar, so I listened to a lot of that - finger-picking, Joni Mitchell. the song writing thing. But I don’t suppose we were exposed to much other music really, now it’s kind of a genre which is on the radio all the time. We would never have had a chance to hear Chilean music, or Bolivian music. We started to hear it, I remember, when we were touring - you’d get the Bolivian guys in the streets, and that was really when we started to hear that kind of music, the buskers you’d see as you were touring around. You would never have heard it on the radio here back then.

Roy:

Germany was really a big melting pot of all these various musical types, a lot of Eastern European type bands. We heard a lot of Greek music in Germany.

Dougie:

We used to play a lot of European festivals and that was when you would get a chance to hear.

Roy:

The very early Tannahills were influenced by a Scottish band, funnily enough, called the JSD band, never heard of outside the British Isles. It was just the excitement of the way they played music. It kind of spilled over into the way we played.

Fiona:

Was there any influence from Irish music coming over into what you were trying to do?

Roy:

Oh yes, I mean they were very exciting players, Planxty and the Bothy Band from my standpoint. The way that they gelled and played the melodies and the rhythms together.

Patsy:

My memory is that you guys were actually trying to raise the Scottish music’s profile, because there was a lot of Irish music in Scotland, and you did great work.

Roy:

Yes, I think all the bands like the Tannahills, Ossian and Silly Wizard, it was like one day everyone woke up and said, we are going to play our own Scottish music because all of a sudden we were all doing it.

Fiona:

And the harp’s been a bit part of that musical identity as well, hasn’t it?

Patsy:

Well there are a lot of Irish harp players, but that’s been a bit more neck and neck probably in terms of the numbers of Scottish and Irish harp players, even though the harp in the world is more associated with Ireland. It, controversially, actually started in Scotland!

Fiona:

Where’s Alison Kinnaird when we need her?! How has your repertoire changed over the years? You talked about really focusing on getting a lot of Scottish tunes into your sets early on, but obviously song writing and tune writing has been a big part of what you have been able to bring to your music over the years as well, for all of you. How do you feel when you think about how you are expressing yourself with your music now?

Roy:

You just have to listen to the albums in chronological order and I think Dougie would agree here, that over the years we have kind of refined what we have discovered we are best at and just trying to take it a little bit further every time. Trying to make it better, trying to play better, trying to produce better. Because it would be quite horrible if you discovered to couldn’t go any further. I wouldn’t like that personally; I would always want to do something else. I play every day, I still want to try and get better.

John:

Keep trying Roy, keep trying!

Fiona:

As you say, when you start out, you never think that you are going to create a musical style. And for Dougie, leaving some Scottish songs around that other people pick up and have now become part of our contemporary folk song tradition, if you like, you don’t think “this is what I’m doing.” Or like John, “I’m going to create a sound for Scottish fiddle within bands.” Because you’re just in the moment when you start out with your music, but then when you get to this point and you start to look back, you can think about the mark that you have made.

Dougie:

I think what happens to you as you get older you become at peace with it, you become mature with your own music.

Roy:

You become more comfortable with it when you discover that you’ve actually achieved something, or when people tell you that you’ve actually achieved something.

Fiona:

Well, just when we thought we had run out of things to talk about, a couple of shadowy figures have emerged from the wings of the theatre here. It’s like one of these surprise programs when people burst into tears when old friends show up on stage, so let’s all burst into tears for Andy Stewart and Mame Hadden!

Roy:

Still walking without their zimmer frames - still upright!

Fiona:

This is the point now when I think I should leave the stage and just let whatever’s going to happen happen. Well, Andy and Mame, it’s very nice of you to get out your beds and come and join us here on the stage at Pitlochry.

Andy:

Yes, well I thought so! Dougie had these fantastic arrangements - the only fly in the ointment was that he kept them to himself and forgot to tell anyone! Didn’t tell anyone else!

Mame:

Who gave you my home number?

Fiona:

Well, we’ve sort of completed a pack of cards here on stage. Joined by Andy M. Stewart and Mame Hadden, Martin Hadden, both of whom played for years in the band Silly Wizard as many of you will remember, and at one point Dougie played with you in Silly Wizard too. So, many times these paths will have crossed and re-crossed.

Dougie:

We all went to school together!

Fiona:

Well, we’re going way back now, aren’t we? Before you were jobbing musicians, this is back to friendships, to school days now, isn’t it? When you were playing your first three guitar chords, literally- in Blairgowrie, at Blairgowrie High.

Andy:

Yes, we went to school together, and it was just a common interest that we had in music and also to combat boredom, to actually create something, so we ended up playing music and going to gigs. Dougie started up with Ewan (Sutherland) first of all.

Dougie:

I remember being on the stage at school, and then we’d all meet up at my mum and dad’s house.

Andy:

Yes, those days were great, and it was just something that we did. We played music and we would write songs. It was a momentum that we started to build.

Dougie:

We would just play music and come up with songs, just traditional stuff that had never really been experimented with.

Andy:

But you never heard it on the media, you never heard it on the radio or saw it on records. There were some Gaelic singers, but when bands started appearing from Ireland you could see that there was a movement going on in Ireland which was similar to what we were trying to do here, was to get a different kind of music listened to that wasn’t getting heard.

Andy:

I was no use with the bass, because I realised that I was playing it like a banjo! A giant banjo!

Fiona:

And you were so young, when Phil Cunningham came into the band, you used to have to get permission to take him.

Mame:

We went on a tour in Spain and we had to get special permission from the British Consulate to take Phil because he wasn’t yet 16. So Phil had to send a postcard back to the Consulate every week saying that he was ok.

Fiona:

Again, I want to turn to the audience, there may be a couple of questions for Andy and Martin.

We have Don, who’s re-settled in Comrie, Scotland, so you haven’t had to travel too far to be with us here today. He just wants to know, when you started out playing your music here in Scotland as young lads, could you have imagined how well it would have been received by audiences in the United States, particularly with those with a connection with over here?

Mame:

No, we couldn’t have anticipated it. It just never occurred to us. Andy: We had all played a lot in Europe and if somebody had said to me as a kid that these very old fashioned songs that I knew, that one day I would be writing and singing songs like this in Germany or France or all over Scandanavia… that was all a big surprise to me anyway, and we had done all of that before we had ever made our way to the States. So there was a process of being continually surprised, as far as I was concerned, that this music would have an appeal beyond a very small number of people. But what was amazing was the warmth of the audience from the US and the way they responded. They’re very warm and generous audiences. Playing the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, I remember, this woman came up and identified herself being from New York and wanting our phone number. That she might be able to get us over to play in the States. But I never thought any more about it, I mean, America was somewhere you saw on the television, it wasn’t the place that the likes of us would go, you know! It was a fantasy place, where folk drove around, sirens blaring, impossibly beautiful women, and palm trees and stuff. So we were completely astonished a few months later when this woman gets back in touch and says, we’ve got you a spot at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, so could you come over to stay. The spot was 20 minutes long, so we went to the US for the sake of 20 minutes, no more, hoping that there would be somebody in the audience that might organize a tour. So that’s how we ended up going.

Fiona:

It’s amazing how the momentum has just built up over the years, and the appetite for it shows no sign of waning at all. There’s just as much of an audience for it.

Dougie:

The fiddle tunes, they were for dancing really, we never really thought about it as concert stuff, or it would be Scott Skinner playing the fiddle behind his head. It was kind of music hall stuff.

Andy:

It was really just for the sake of the music itself.

Fiona:

I’m conscious of the fact that you, Dougie, have gathered all these people here, not just to talk to me, but to play music with you tonight right here on the stage of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Dougie MacLean Reunion Concert, and I’m sure there will be other people here you’ll be wanting to see again, so before we wrap things up here I’m going to give the final word to you. How does it feel to be surrounded by some of your oldest friends and musical collaborators once again?

Dougie:

The whole idea came because we have this beautiful theatre here and it would be wonderful to have this wee festival so we could all get together. So I just asked everybody if they were up for coming to the final concert, and I was delighted and excited when everybody said, “yes we’d be up for that.” We’re all still in the business, all still working away. A great opportunity for us to have a nice night and share each other’s company and each other’s music and share with the audience some of our stories about traveling up and down the autobahns as we were talking about earlier on. There are hundreds of these stories, and it’ll really be great. I’m looking forward to it!

Fiona: Yes, thanks for letting us be part of it, in kind of a back-stage way. Dougie MacLean, Patsy Seddon, Roy Gullane, John Martin, Andy M Stewart, Martin Hadden, it’s been great to chat to you, thanks very much.