On our recent Celtic Connections tours, we really enjoyed chatting to our guests after the tours. Lars from Norway sang to us, John told us about his job —counting Capercaillies in the Cairngorms —and there was even an unexpected family reunion.
Most memorable though were the treasures that our guest Joan Brown brought along to share with us. Joan is the wife of the late folk singer and songwriter, Jim Brown, aka The Bard of the Yards, and she’d come along on the tour with her son, Gavin.
It became clear to us very quickly that Joan really knew her stuff, and in a cosy nook in the Scotia she produced Scotia Folk Club newsletters from the 70s. Joan very kindly allowed us to scan them, and we’re pleased and relieved to say that the newsletters are safely back in her hands.
There’s some real gems here beginning with this review of The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in the early 70s.
Huge thanks to Joan for making this possible. For more extracts and more on Jim Brown, read on…
Jim Brown was born in Glasgow and raised in Maryhill and said that his first taste of song culture was from watching buskers coming round the back yards of the tenements.
In later years he earned a living by serving time as a marine engineer and worked for five years at Davie Rowan’s Marine Engineers and Boilermakers. Jim says he spent his spare time “roamin’ the Highlands and pickin’ up songs and stuff that I absorbed before the Folk Revival”. He learned to play the pipes in the Boys Brigade and said ” I only wish I could play the guitar the way I can play the pipes. I can play the pipes drunk or sober!”
When the folk revival started Jim began attending the Folk Centre run by Drew Moyes, and when he first heard Bert Jansch playing guitar he had to run out and buy one.
Jim wrote his first song when his daughter, Alison, was born, and when Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger were visiting Cumbernauld, they were told that Jim had written a song about his little girl. He was invited to attend their workshop on a Saturday morning in the Cottage Theatre, and they liked the song so much they published it. Their advice to Jim was to write about what you know, Jim said “I realised that all I really did know was workin’ life on Clydeside, so I thought I’ll concentrate on that.”
Jim’s best known songs include The Ball-shy Boy from Moscow, Old Glasgow Town, The Waverly Polka and As I Walked on the Road which was recorded by Dick Gaughan on his album Different Kind of Love Song.
If you are able to track down a copy of the book The Sang’s The Thing edited by Sheila Douglas you’ll find a great chapter on Jim Brown.
We’ll share more of these over the next weeks, but once again huge thanks to Joan Brown for making this possible.