One of my dearest friends passed away on 20th January 2021. Willie Haines and I had worked on many projects over the last couple of decades, including the Scottish Folk Directory and, most recently, Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland. Willie will be sorely missed by his family, friends and fellow musicians both in Scotland and elsewhere.
Willie Haines was born in Dundee on 28th November 1947. His family were celebrated trade unionists and Willie remained committed to progressive politics throughout his life. Willie won a place at the prestigious Morgan Academy which had become a grammar school the previous year. The young Dundonian then headed to London to make his way as an accountant. But the call to a different path was getting stronger.
As a teenager Willie joined the local Tayside folk music band, Barty's Bow. London saw him playing concertina in the Irish pubs and forming the band Shegui. Shegui turned professional, toured Europe and put out its first album in 1981, but life on the road didn't suit Willie and he returned to Scotland.
With two partners he set up a music shop in Edinburgh that specialised in everything to do with folk music - the famous hub and meeting place, Blackfriars Music. For Willie, the shop was also a base from which to launch many other projects connected with his love of traditional and folk music, bagpipes and Scots song. During that time, too, he met and married a Californian living in Edinburgh named Adele.
Willie always enjoyed a parade, and one he especially enjoyed was the Tartan Day parade in New York in 2002, where he joined Sean Connery and then-Lord Provost Eric Milligan at its head.
Willie wanted to give something back to the Irish Community and in 2011 he and I founded Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland which has grown from strength to strength ever since, with music and dance events, pub sessions and much more. A year after its launch, Willie underwent treatment for nasophyngeal cancer and was cancer free for four years. It returned twice more, yet Willie was able to carry on with his music and festival for nearly all of it.
Willie Haines slipped away at St. Columba's Hospice in the early hours of Wednesday 20th January 2021.
Donations can be made to St. Columba's Hospice, Edinburgh, through Willie's Tribute site below. People are asked to share some of their thoughts, memories, pictures and music for Willie there too.
Neil Palmer & Adele Gregory