Billy Ross & John Martin
Braes of Lochiel
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1. THE HUT ON STAFFIN ISLAND/ THE LONE BUSH 2.44
A couple of fine hornpipes to get us started - the first a fairly recent composition by accordionist Phil Cunningham,and the second a powerful tune by the Irish/American fiddler Ed Reavy that John picked up a few years back.
Billy: guitar; John: fiddles, mandolin, cello
2. THE SMITH'S A GALLANT FIREMAN 3.06
The blacksmith enjoyed high status in rural society as the epitome of manliness and moral integrity. The tongue twisting set of words was written in the mid 1800's by John Harrison of Forglen in Aberdeenshire to a much older traditional dance tune that is still popular today. Harrison started life as a farm labourer but later moved to Edinburgh where he worked for Blackie the publisher. We used the song as the theme music for a BBC Scotland production of the same name.
Billy: vocal, guitar; John: fiddles
Wha's king o oor toon and keeps the lads in awe man?
Wha has lasses nine or ten when some hae nane at aa man?
Wha can mak us deftly dance till we be like tae fa man,
Wheneer the music o his pipes is heard in cot or ha man?
3. THE BATTLE OF SHERIFFMUIR 3.01
This fine old tune is from the Angus Fraser manuscript where it appears under its Gaelic name Blar Sliabh an t-Siorradh, and is published in Alison Kinnairdâ€™s collection The Harp Key. It commemorates the battle of the Jacobite rising that took place in 1715 near Dunblane.
Billy: guitar; John: fiddles
4. DHEANAINN SôGRADH 3.08
'I would sport with the dark-haired maid,' runs the chorus of this Gaelic waulking song - but the maiden in question turns out to be a boat called Seonaid (or Janet). This is a typical waulking song as used at one time in the Western Isles by the women while working the tweed. The song may have its origins as a rowing song being drawn into use as a waulking song at a later date. This version comes from Lewis although the song is found throughout the Outer Isles.
Billy: vocals, dulcimer; John: fiddle, trod/Iran, chorus
Dheanainn sťgradh ris an nigh ean duibh
An dŽidh dhamh Žirigh as a' mhadaim
Dheanctinn sťgradh ris an nigh ean duibh
5. THE LASS FROM ERIN'S ISLE 3.22
'At close of day my thoughts they stray to a lass from Erin's Isle.' Billy Ross's own composition of youthful love.
Billy: vocals, guitar; John: viola, whistle, cello
Two summers now are passed and gone and you're still on my mind
October winds return again and play upon the wynd
And I long for sweet contentment that lingers for a while
And at close of day my thoughts they stray to a Lass from Erin's Isle.
6: DR McINNES FANCY/ LEXY MACASKILL 3.41
One of Billy and John's most popular sets - two fine pipe marches, the first by the noted piper the late Donald MacLeod, the second by Dr. John MacAskill.
Billy: guitar; John: fiddle, mandolin
7: AVONDALE 3.28
This powerful symbolic song was written by the late Dominic Behan in praise of Parnell, the nineteenth century Irish nationalist politician, Protestant landowner and leader of the Irish Land League. Charles Stuart Parnell was born at Avondale House, County Wicklow in 1846. The lead set by Parnell and Michael Davitt in Ireland did much to stimulate the struggle for land reform in the Scottish Highlands. Billy learned the song many years ago from the fine Irish singer Al O'Donnell.
Billy: vocal, guitar; John: fiddle
Oh have you been to Avondale
And wandered in her lovely vale,
Where tall trees whisper low
The tale of Avondale's proud eagle.
8: SCANDINAVIAN POLKAS 3.40
The first of these three tunes has been known in Orkney for many years as the Norwegian Polka, the second is a popular Swedish folk-dance tune GŠrdebylŚtten, and the third, for which we have no name, is one that John gathered on his travels. John double-tracks on fiddle.
Billy: guitar; John: fiddles
9: THE BOLD NAVVY MAN 3.05
The song paints what is probably a fairly accurate picture of the rough, tough life of the Irish navvy at the turn of the century. In Patrick McGill's book The Children of the Dead End the song is attributed to an Irish navvy called Two Shift Mulholland, and is said to have been popular amongst navvies working in Scotland at that time. The old words have been set to music by Davy Stuart.
Billy: vocal, guitar; John: fiddle, whistle, vocal harmony
I've navvied here in Scotland and I've navvied in the south,
Without a drink to cheer me or a crust to cross me mouth,
I fed when I was working and starved out on the tramp,
The stone has been me pillow and the moon above me lamp.
10. BRAIGHE LOCH IALL or BRAES OF LOCHIEL 2.54
A Lochaber love song more familiar as a slow pipe tune Banks of Lochiel. In the song the author generously gives his blessing to the girl he loves in her marriage to another. Billy learned this version of the song from Flora MacNeil.
Billy: vocal, guitar; John: fiddle, whistle, cello & harmony vocal
0 theid is gun teid
0 theid mi dhachaidh
Gu innis nam b—
Far an ceolmhor ainnir
11: JAMES F. DICKIE/ JENNY DANG TFIE WEAVER/ MALCOLM THE TAILOR/ JOHN KEITH LAING 3.21
Four reels . . . the first written for the famous North-east fiddler by John Murdoch Henderson and published in his Flowers of Scottish Melody (1935), the second and third are traditional and the last is by the Caithness band leader Addie Harper.
Billy: guitar; John: fiddles.
12: THE AULD MEAL MILL 3.02
A song from the North-east bothy ballad tradition. We heard the song from an old friend Alec Jack from Tore in the Black Isle. Billy added a third verse and adapted the tune.
Billy: vocal, dulcimer; John: fiddle, mandolin, bodhran
When the horse are in the stable and the kye are in the byre,
And the hard days work is over and old folks round the fire;
I'll gang skippin o'er the heather tae yon fairm ahint the hill,
Aa tae meet my bonnie lassie at the auld meal mill.
Produced by Peter Shepheard. Recorded at Pier House, Edinburgh in June 1990. Engineered by Peter Haigh
Front sleeve photo by David Paterson: The snow covered peaks of Beinn Damh, Maol Cheonn-Dearg and Sgorr Ruadh south of Loch Torridon in Wester Ross. Sleeve design by John Haxby (art surgery).
Special thanks to Flora MacNeil for Braighe Loch Iall; to Davy Stuart for Bold Navvy Man; to Veronique Nelson, Freeland Barbour, Nigel Jelks and Ian Dearness for assistance with tune titles and to Dr John MacInnes for help with the Gaelic songs.