For Auld Lang Syne – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is on time for a change – –

It’s really great to re-connect with an old friend and it’s always interesting how it comes about.

Another old friend Fraser Bruce was researching for a book he’s just published about the early days of the folk music scene in Scotland in the 1950s and 1960s. One of his informants was me and another was Andy Hunter.

Andy was an important early folk revival singer of old ballads he learned from the great Jeannie Robertson when he was attending Aberdeen University. He also wrote many songs in a traditional style.

He eventually moved to live near me in Fife and we became close friends. When he recorded an album of ballads and songs in the 1980s I was honored to be asked to accompany him on guitar on some of the songs. Around that time he was one of the folk who began planning the degree program in Scots music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow (now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and he invited me to be the external examiner in Scots song.

Also around that time Jeannie’s daughter Lizzie Higgins would stop off at Andy’s house on her way either south or north and he’d invite me over, so another big connection. Lizzie recorded one of Andy’s best known songs – ‘Up and awa wi the Laverock’ on one of her albums. That was a song I accompanied Andy on when he made his.

He was a professor of French at one of the Universities in Edinburgh and eventually moved to France some years ago and I had lost touch which was a great sadness to me.

I’m glad to say that he is active as a folklorist and piper and living in his beloved Brittany.  And we are back in touch.

He played a quiet but important role in the beginnings of the folk music scene of the 1960s in Scotland and continues to do so – –

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Filed under between books, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE SILVER STAR by Jeanette Walls

Practically a household name by now, Jeanette Walls won acclaim for her memoir The Glass Castle. Her Appalachian family’s dysfunctional story resonated with many.


The Silver Star is fiction, but you see some of the same character shapes or tropes. Two sisters abandoned by a bi-polar mom head across the country to find refuge with their uncle, who is a reclusive hoarder. They learn a lot of secrets about their respective fathers, and about mom’s history in the family.

But they learn harder lessons as well, about what it means to trust someone in authority and how to cope with self-esteem versus whether the law values you as a human being or not. On the surface the story is quite straightforward, but underneath so much of what isn’t said haunts the reader. It’s that characteristic Walls style: here’s what happened, now you decide what it means.

The ending is perhaps (small spoiler alert) a tiny bit more satisfying than real life sometimes allows. But it’s fiction so we should get SOME grace out of dysfunction. I enjoyed the book, and honestly it bordered on YA fiction. A coming of age story that involves a little more violence than parents might like, but a whole lot less than most actually face. Set before the 2000s, it also has a lovely nostalgia for those who attended school in the ’70s and ’80s. If some of the characters are swiftly drawn, the main ones are people we’ve known, went to school with, look up now and again on Facebook. Two thumbs up.

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Filed under between books, book reviews, bookstore management, VA, Wendy Welch