“Growin up in Macduff, the fowk are superstitious. Ye hear loads o stories o ghaisties an battles an folklore an that. Ma faither an granda were baith stotrytellers an aa, Ah’ve mindit bitties o their stories, inventit bitties o ma ain. It’s a richt broth o stuff Ah’ve got in a ma heid; it just comes oot an a pit it doon. Simple, ken?”
Scriever Pat Hutchison. He’s awa tae launch his first book; Sanner Gow’s tales and folklore o the Buchan. Ye cannae move twa feet in the north east wioot duntin intae a body wha’s either a poet, a musician, an artist or storyteller. But aftimes naebody sooth o Stonehaven will ever ken o their talents. There’s muckle yont the Tay awaitin discovery, so mon an let’s stravaig.
Pat’s a braw example. Gin ye want tae get richt tae the hert o the oral culture o the area, his book’s the place tae stert. The tales are aa fae the region cried Buchan. Ah spiered at Pat tae summarise the airt. “The Buchan? Its aaricht. Ye get some bonnie sunsets like. Fowk hink we’re clannish, ken? Ah dinnae. Ah hink we’re a shy sortie fowk. Specially the fisher fowl.”
Pat’s the unofficial minute keeper o MacDuff. Owre the years whiniver the fishers or fermers wad yaise an auld word, or tell o a superstition, Pat wid mak a record o it. His hoose is stowed oot wi jotters filled wi notes.
Keepin his lugs open tae the clash o his warld in sic a fashion means that Pat’s stories are stappit-fu wi the humour, the romance an the queerness that maks the place unique. An thir materials hae been processed through the harns o a real storyteller. These are stories fir tellin, tae bairns at eenin, tae yirsel wi a dram, tae yir pals fir a lauch. Ye couldnae ask fir a mair pleasing innin intae the stories o the North-East than Pat’s book.
The book has its launch at the Heritage Cente in Turra, 20th May at 2-00 pm, an ye can buy it the noo online through Unco Press.
If the tongue o the north rattles tae the rolled-‘r’ o the Doric; then its hert beats tae the rhythm o the strathspey. Ilka nicht in the week ye’ll find a guid sized squad o fiddlers, box players, an whistlers blawin an skirlin awa in ae howff or anithir. As whisky glasses shoogle oan the table tae the time o stampin feet, ye’ll hear thoosan year-auld tunes pleyed alang wi hings screivit last Seterday. Nae place in Scotland can match sic a vieve music scene, an it gies the place life. Rabbie Fergusson goat it richt when he scrievit:
Nought can cheer the heart sae weel
As can a canty Highland reel;
It even vivifies the heel
To skip and dance:
Lifeless is he wha canna feel
Oot o thir sessions, like life fae the primoridial ooze, hae cam some o the best traditional musicians in Scotland. Ah’ll wale just twa sterns oot the north-east constellation, but mind aye that there’s a wheen mair.
The Old Blind Dogs are a band fae Aiberdeenshire wha’ve embodied aahin guid aboot the scene fir decades noo (pictured right). Ilk puckle o years the lineup regenerates like Doctor Who, keepin their soun fresh an varied. They aye pley wi a mixter-maxter o warld influences anchored tae Scottish tunes. The noo is a braw vintage. The grieve o the unit is Johnny Hardie, kenspeckle fiddler an Shire loon, an he’s brocht intae the fauld three gey talented lads oan the pipes, drums an bouzouki. This ticht wee unit hae been blawin the taps aff venues oan tour, an hae just brocht oot anithir CD. Catch them in Glasgae or Aiberdeen in May an July.
Iona Fyfe is ane o the younger but mair respecktit practisioners o the Bothy ballads. Ballads are a complex artform whaur storytelling, leeteratur and music come thegither. The tale telt in sang serves as a sortae mellifluous history lesson, a mindin o the fowk wha hae chauntit the same sang afore, a mindin o the warld that we’ve aa cam fae. Bothy ballads arnae a North-East preserve, but the teuchters that plooed the ferms o Aiberdeenshire until nae lang syne hae left a kist o sangs that’d bring a tear tae a gless ee. Iona’s oot oan tour aa owre Scotland this simmer. Awa ye gang oot an get a ticket for ane o her gigs.
There’s a buzz aboot the airt the noo. There’s Hidden Aberdeen street tours an storytellin sessions an the annual Doric Festival o poetry. There’s the stramash o the Blue Lamp ceilidhs ivery ithir week. There’s the guid evangelical wark o the Dee and Don ceilidh collective bringin mair fowk intae the tradition through classes an ceilidhs aa owre the shire, an SC&T daein the same in the city. There is nae doot a cultural renaissance oan the go up here. It gars ye smile tae see it.
But how should we bather wi aa this culture? How should we tak tent o somethin sae local, some wad say parochial? Is it no restrictive, pittin fowk in Doric straight-jaickets, inculcatin young musicians intae a scene tae force the traditions ontae them?
Tae repone tae that, I’ll gie the last word tae oor pal Pat, the author quotit abuin. He’s spikkin aboot the Scots leid, but could be spikkin aboot Scottish culture aathegither-
“It gies ye a sense o identity, o belongin. If the bairns at scuil wad learn tae read the Doric they’d hae a sense o whaur they are. They wadnae gang intil the false culture o the day. They could gang aa owre the warld an no lose a sense o themselves. They’d hae their ain identity tae faa back oan, ken?”
Alistair Heather is a student o History an French at Aiberdeen University. Gie him yer chat oan twitter @historic_Ally