Duncan’s Blog – December 2013

After taking my eye off the ball a bit for a couple of months. I thought I’d try a bit harder with December’s blog. I’m starting it late on Boxing Day, after a great Christmas with the family. On reflection, this has been a good year for us, although it was blighted by the loss of a good friend and workmate, Alan Neve, during the summer (see July blog). We raised a glass to him at Christmas, and I’ll do the same at Hogmanay. I’m hoping that 2014 will be very special, though – for various reasons that’ll I’ll write about as the year goes on…

The month started well, with a visit to the Trad Awards at the Music Hall in Aberdeen. I love this event – so brilliantly organised by Simon Thoumire’s Hand Up For Trad team. I always catch up with loads of folk I know in the roots music scene, and everyone’s always delighted for the winners. I was particularly thrilled for my pal Chris Stout, who was voted Instrumentalist of the Year – so well deserved, as he’s a truly outstanding talent. He’s also been a great support to me over the past twenty years, both musically and as a mate.

Musically, it’s mostly been about writing. Cy and I are currently working on a song about ‘Skylark IX’ one of the flotilla of ‘brave little ships’ which ferried the Allied troops back and forward to the bigger ships during the evacuation of Dunkirk. My friend Mary contacted me as she’s involved in the mission to rescue and restore the Skylark, which had sunk at its moorings in the River Leven at Balloch, so the plan is to arrange for a local choir to record the song (if it’s any good…) as a fundraiser. I love stories like this. I truly believe in the importance of these heritage projects. It bothers me that parts of our maritime past are allowed to perish because restoring them wouldn’t be ‘economically viable’ – the ‘Maid of the Loch’ on Loch Lomond, for example, is the last paddle steamer built in the UK, and having her sail again would hugely enhance this magnificent part of Scotland. Why should it have to turn a profit? It would attract tourists in all sorts of ways, and bring benefits to the area that couldn’t be fully measured in economic terms. I’ve a feeling that the Lake Windermere steamers, the Cutty Sark or the Victory will survive regardless of cost, but maybe i’m staring to get a bit Scottish……..

December also started with the Clutha tragedy, of course – although it was really at the very end of November. I must be one of the few Scottish folk musicians who has never played a gig there, but it was (is) iconic, and it was such a shock. Enough has been said by others more entitled to comment, but it was a terrible thing to happen to decent folk just doing their jobs or enjoying a good night out.

Anyway, on a happier note, I’m looking forward to January and Celtic Connections. We’re supporting our pals Duncan and Johnny Cameron and their band at the Tron Theatre on Wednesday 29th Jan in their show ‘McGinn Meets Seeger and McColl’ – a tribute to three folk music legends. We’re playing the opening set, and will be including a couple of McGinn and McColl songs. Be great to see you there, if you can make it.

My only ‘live’ performance this month is on the 28th in our local pub, singing two songs as guest vocalist with our village rock band DIGG. They’re a really tight, talented outfit, so it’s no walk in the park for me – I’m singing ‘Pretty Woman’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Never Can Tell’, so I’ll need to put a bit of work into it. Great fun, though!

From now until the end of the year, the plan is to relax and recharge our batteries. We had a great month, which also included a trip down to London for me and the missus. It was primarily for me to have Christmas lunch with my colleagues and pals at PRS/MCPS, but we also managed to catch up with old friends for a night at a fab seafood restaurant in Charlotte Street, and got to see ‘The Jersey Boys’ in the West End, which was fabulous. Little did we realise that a short distance away eighty-odd people would be injured that same evening in a ceiling collapse. It’s just not possible to be safe 100% of the time, even when you’re having a great night out at the theatre, or in the pub, so I guess it’s true what they say – live for the day, and worry about tomorrow when it comes, which it never actually does. I’m doing my best to adopt that attitude, despite being a natural worrier

All that’s left to say is thanks to everyone who supported us by coming to gigs or buying our music in 2013. I hope everyone has had a great Christmas and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2014.


Duncan x