Traditional Fiddle Music of the Scottish Borders

from the Playing of Tom Hughes of Jedburgh



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Click here for a PDF of the Book Introduction.
Click here for the separate CD Tom Hughes & Friends

This outstanding collection of traditional fiddle music from the Scottish Borders was recorded from the playing of Tom Hughes of Jedburgh. Tom and his family were all talented musicians – his grandfather Henry Hughes, father Thomas Hughes and two uncles played together in a family band – two or three fiddles, melodeon and tambourine – playing at the local events, country weddings, harvest home and hiring fair dances.  Like his father and grandfather before him, Tom spent his working life as a ploughman on farms in the Border countryside around Jedburgh.

Although Tom’s style includes many characteristic Scottish elements, it is quite different from any mainstream fiddle style or the dominant fiddle style of Scotland’s North East. Through Tom’s playing we are able to gain an insight into an old, traditional, fiddle style stretching back through Tom’s family well into the 1800s.




Book Rear
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Faudenside Polka
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Tunes Index PDF
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Book Introduction PDF
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The recordings were made by Peter Shepheard who first remembers hearing Tom Hughes play the fiddle in June 1978 at the Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival.  Tom was sitting playing fiddle at a bench in the cobbled back yard of The Grapes Hotel in the village square.  In different quarters of the small courtyard several other sessions were going strong.  At Tom’s table were a couple of other fiddlers, at times playing together, at times taking turns.  Pete had for a long time been interested in different styles of fiddle playing and Tom’s style immediately impressed him as being distinct from the usual Scottish styles and yet at the same time both Scottish and clearly traditional. Tom’s playing included liberal use of ringing open strings and double stopping (or “double string work” as he called it), both being widespread characteristics of older, but now rare styles – but still found in Scandinavian fiddle style, in older Shetland fiddle styles and in American ‘Old Time’ fiddle music.

Over the years a new younger generation of fiddle players have taken an interest in the old Borders style as played by Tom. Tom’s grandson Jimmy Nagle of Jedburgh learned some of Tom’s tunes and style and, in the 1980s, taught members of the Small Hall Band.  Border fiddle player Lori Watson was a member of the band and she became an enthusiast for Tom’s tunes and style. The original recordings. some of which were issued as an LP in 1981, have now been revisited, around 60 have have been transcribed for the book and the new CD includes some 50 tunes played by Tom, some played solo and some played along with other border musicians – Wattie Robson, Bob Hobkirk and Tom Scott on fiddles, Jack Carruthers on tin whistle and joined on some tracks by Brian Miller or Sid Cairns on guitar.

The collection includes well known tunes such as Flouers O Edinburgh and East Neuk O Fife and old tunes such as Lady Mary Ramsay and Farewell to Whisky – but often in distinctive variants. Tom’s repertoire also includes many unusual tunes and some that are unique to to his family repertoire – many hornpipes, some old waltzes and some slow airs including several that have now become a classic of the Borders repertoire – Tam’s Old Love Song, Faudenside Polka and Auld Graden Kirn.




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