Play it Again, Mike

heritageJack’s weekly guest blog
For more than fifteen years I was the lead singer and back-up guitarist in a Celtic band called ‘Heritage’. Although we were never more than middle-weights in the traditional music scene, we had a lot of fun traveling Europe’s musical gig trail.
The glory days are over and we’ve gone our separate ways, yet some band members keep in touch. Our piper/whistler/keyboard player Mike Ward, who still lives in Scotland, came for a month’s visit to the bookshop two years ago.
Mike has always had a special affinity for Brittany (in NW France, one of the seven recognized Celtic Nations) so has kept up with friends there since the tour days. He recently sent a news report about the sad fate of Pontivy Castle, one of the places where we had played. A lengthy downpour undermined a section, and it collapsed.
This sad event led to much reminiscing between us about the various times we’d been to Brittany – including playing the biggest Pan-Celtic festival in the world, at Lorien. Ah, the magnificent sound of Bagad Kemper, with its combination of highland bagpipes, bombardes, binious and drums; hurdy-gurdy bands of women in regional costumes; wonderful food and drink; and the warm hospitality of Bretons toward their Celtic cousins.
Of course Mike, who studied for the priesthood, never lets me forget the time I stumbled in my faulty French through requesting that two young women pose for a photograph ‘au naturel’ (in other words, nude). We recalled the late great piper Gordon Duncan sitting backwards astride a motorcycle, playing the pipes like a child of Pan as the bike roared through the Lorien’s main streets. Perhaps our favorite was the gig at the Palais de Congress, where the sound desk smoked and sparked all the way through. (Or maybe that’s just the gig we’re most grateful to have survived–no, that would be the one where we kept throwing our cigarettes behind us as we played on a German naval boat, only to find afterward that munitions were stored in that space.)
As you can tell from these memories, we were never equal to the Beatles, but we had some fine musicians on board and even merited an article in the US folk music magazine ‘Dirty Linen,’ by Steve Winick. It was Steve that I met for the first time in person, at my birthday dinner last week in DC.
Which is really the reason behind this blog. Who knew that a castle in 1980 would lead to two friends connecting in the US in 2014? Yet there sat Steve with his lady Jennifer, chatting away with Wendy and me as though we’d know each other since birth. I love these connections through my music, and that so many of them continue. Like books, music keeps the world at large turning, and my personal circle of connections turning in very happy ways. I am a blessed man.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Play it Again, Mike

  1. Sue Wallis

    Good heavens, man, you do lead an interesting life! Music and books will do that to you and a wee bit o’ whiskey!

  2. I would be interested in a copy of this photo – and any others you have, for our photo/history project. We are intending to do a CD of live recordings to mark Girvan Festival’s 40th and I’m working with John Weatherby to start to collect any live recordings for a wider project. Have you any live Heritage, Jack Beck or other tapes that might contribute to a history of the folk revival in Scotland? Cheers, Pete Heywood

    • Hey Pete,
      I can do a search for the picture (which I also have as a hard copy, so could scan), and I have some Heritage recordings from the Girvan times that I can search for as well. Do you have a cut-off date for this?


    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing! – Lois McKenzie Goodman

  4. Janice Brooks-Headrick

    Jack, Yes, seems to happen with musicians. Cuz often finds he’s playing with people that he met decades ago. Also, the last 10 minutes of the movie Tom Jones, this guy was singing that sounded like you. Didn’t see the credits. Jan Janice Brooks-Headrick 865-429-1783 Storyteller Author Instigator Timeline: Email:

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