Jack actually gets his Wednesday guest post up on time for a change – –
I’ve been thinking about strong friendships recently.
Just a few days ago I emailed an old friend in France who I hadn’t been in touch with for a couple of years. I was desperately sad to get a reply from his wife telling me he’d died last November. Max Johanny had helped organize tours in the south of France for my old band ‘Heritage’ in the 1980s and we’d continued to correspond afterwards.
Two members of the band also had a special connection to Max. Mike Ward, who played keyboards, whistle and small pipes, and Davy Lockhart, our longest serving fiddle player. Mike was a teacher of French in a local high school and our expert in all things French. Davy was a lover of France and like Max, a lifelong socialist.
Of all the members of our band Davy and Mike were probably closest to me and yet I very nearly destroyed their friendships. Like most musicians Mike moved in other circles, as did I, so it shouldn’t have bothered me when I stumbled across a communication from him to a festival that we’d twice played asking for a booking for another group. But I allowed myself to be bothered.
Around the same time and just before ‘Heritage’ were due to record our final album, I was persuaded to give Davy the message that he was no longer part of the band. Davy would be the first to say that his playing was not of the highest quality but he had a lot of ‘soul’. I know that he was deeply hurt and I felt terribly guilty.
Some years after the final album came out Davy went on a sentimental return to France. I joined him there and we traveled around all the old haunts, eventually ending up at St. Jean Pied de Port in the Basque country where Max was the head of the local high school. Sitting at midnight in Max’s beautiful historic house I finally summoned up the courage to tearfully apologize to Davy as we demolished a bottle of Max’s single malt. We remained good friends until his death.
Mike and I never spoke about my irrational reaction to his festival approach, but I’m sure he must have known. Despite that, and when I started my annual small group tours of Scotland, I would always drop in on Mike before the tour started and eventually he visited with Wendy and me for three weeks here in Virginia. He had never been to America and was full of curiosity, delighting in meeting our friends and even playing piano for a service in our Presbyterian Church. We remained good friends until his death.
I suppose the message is that we depend on the grace of our friends, despite our failings. We’re all human after all and we make mistakes. I’ve made a good few and I’ll always be glad that Davy and Mike were able to overlook them.
Freendship makes us aa mair happy
Freendship gies us aa delicht
Freendship consecrates the drappie
Freendship brocht us here the nicht