Jack’s weekly guest blog comes from Scotland this time, as Jack finishes leading his annual tour of Scotland and Ireland.

doune-castleIt’s always interesting to be in Scotland with my annual tour group. The group almost always includes new folk, folk I already know, and ‘returnees’ from previous tours. This year is no exception – David and Susan are both old friends and returnees, while our newish friend Joe came with his fiancee Amy (who I hadn’t met and is delightful). The newbies in every sense are Phil and Wanda, who heard about the tour from my radio show.

The tour started strong, as what might have been a disaster was averted by our new booking agent. We found that there was going to be a ferry strike on the day we were booked to sail to Mull, where were booked to spend the night in Tobermory. At very late notice the redoubtable Irene, travel agent genius, got us booked into a hotel in Oban and our ferry booking moved to the next morning; all was well!

The weather proved kind and we had hardly any rain, even quite a few bright sunny days. We were able to see Castle Stalker and Doune Castle – both settings for ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (Doune is also the setting for ‘Outlander’) and then retire to fabulous hotel food at night.

I was able to find most of the requested items to bring back with me for friends back home, ranging from whisky to flat caps. My old friends Liz Weir and Pete Clark did us proud representing the music and story culture of Ireland and Scotland. As I write this another old friend, Doli McLennan, is preparing to welcome us to her home in Edinburgh on our last night, and waxing lyrically on Facebook about the prospect.

For logistical reasons, I had more opportunity to catch up with friends and relations before the tour started this year, about a week longer than usual. That was great, but I ended up feeling a bit homesick for Big Stone for the first time. Very strange!

But it’s great to see my homeland through other people’s eyes each year and be reminded what a beautiful and remarkable country I came from.

For information on Jack’s annual tours, contact him via Pictures from this year will be available later at a site yet to be named.

RIP Davy Lockhart

heritageJack’s guest blog about a dear friend

Davy first came into my life in the mid 1970s when he was in his early 50s and I was in my 30s. I was at a party in his house when I discovered that he had been a fiddle player as a youngster, but hadn’t kept it up. But he got out his violin and we found we could play a few tunes together.

The very first time I persuaded him to get up and play at the local folk club not long after that first party, he prepared to play the first note and promptly fainted. Half an hour later he got back up played like nothing had happened. A few years later he joined a group of us to create ‘Heritage’.

His favourite place, after Fife, was France. He famously spent 6 months there after Heritage broke up and wound up as guest fiddle player with the Occitan group ‘Los Cotillons de Tonniens’ touring all over the country with them (in costume) playing all the tunes he’d fallen in love with when Heritage had toured there many times.

Heritage spent 15 years playing traditional Celtic music at folk clubs, festivals, concert tours, radio and TV all over Scotland and Europe; Davy was an integral part of the front line for much of that time. By profession he was an internationally recognised artist with work hanging in prestigious collections all over the world, as well as a much loved art teacher in a Fife High School who certainly influenced his pupils very much for the better. But he often said that his musical career saved his sanity from the bureaucracy and politics of the Scottish education system.DSCN2126

During our travels with Heritage the stories about him abounded – from his terrible driving to his ability to fall asleep at the dinner table. He would be the first to admit that he wasn’t a great fiddle player – and yet – he helped establish the sound of the group and that didn’t change much despite various personnel shuffles over the years. The other great stories were the ones that he told – like the time he joined the Home Guard so he could have a rifle to shoot the capitalists when the war was over, and on, and on – –

Davy died peacefully in his sleep on December 28th 2014 at the age of 92 after some health issues over the last year or so.

I consider myself lucky to have known him and to have had him as a friend.