I am writing this tribute to Gordeanna in strange circumstances and with a heavy heart, counterbalanced by the fact that Gordeanna has been, and remains, one of the most influential and inspirational figures of Scotland’s folk revival. Anne Neilson, Gordeanna’s friend and collaborator, was to have written this tribute, but within 48 hours of contacting her for an update and a promise from her that she would work on it at the weekend, we received the shock news of Anne’s sudden death at home.
It was with great sadness that the family of Alan Bell announced that he had passed away on 25 April after a short illness. Alan was 84, a much-loved husband, brother, father, uncle and great uncle. He was best known as a performer, writer and as the founder and director of the Fylde Folk Festival which ran from 1972 until 2014. Alan was planning a one-day Fylde Folk Festival revival on Saturday 22nd June 2019 in Fleetwood, an event which was also to mark his 85th birthday.
On 27 May 2019, my friend and musical colleague, Colin Ross, died in Whitley Bay hospital after a brief illness. We played together for 60 years. I would like to share with you some of my memories of this great man.
Roger Marriott died in February in hospital after a relatively short illness. A lot can be packed into 90 years and it is a testament to Roger that at his funeral there were people present from so many differing aspects of his life. Together, he and his wife Beryl, who died a few years ago, were incredibly influential figures in the folk revival, and were known to many in the current scene.
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Miles wrote, sang and recorded countless songs still popular in folk clubs. They mocked all kinds of follies, even those of folk itself. A fine guitarist and a wry observer of life, he blended music hall, cabaret and folk song in a distinctive way: Ewan MacColl said he “had the common touch” and Peggy Seeger calls him one of her “favourites of the ironic, sarcastic, humorous writers of iconic folk songs.” She said, “I recently sang his Hippies And Beatniks parodying Gypsy Davy: it brought the house down.
Bill Spence of Voorheesville, NY, passed away on 7th February 2019 at the age of 78, with his family at his side. Known as a master of the hammered dulcimer, Bill Spence is often credited with the folk instrument’s revival in the 1970s. Bill’s musical and social achievements over very many years are simply astonishing. Not only was he a great musician, he also dedicated much of his life to encouraging and supporting other musicians.
Caroline Ann Paton died on March 18th, 2019 aged 86. Her name may not be familiar to many of our readers in the UK, but Caroline and her late husband Sandy were well known to musicians from here who toured in America. In 1961, together with Sandy and business partner, Lee Haggerty, she founded Folk-Legacy Records in Huntington, Vermont, and over its lifetime, the label issued more than 120 albums from artists as diverse as Frank Proffitt, Gordon Bok, Norman Kennedy, Bill Staines, Hedy West, Ian Robb, Harry Cox and Paddy Tunney.
Maureen died at her home in Kirriemuir on 20th December 2018. Blessed with a modest unassuming demeanour, crystal clear voice, unassailable optimism and an unforgettable laugh, Maureen made countless friends in her 77 years.
Like most readers of The Living Tradition, I knew Bill through his songs, folk club and festival appearances and knew very little about the other aspects of his life and family. Attending Bill’s funeral, together with three or four hundred other people, was an uplifting, emotional and revealing occasion.