Falkirk Folk Club

August 12th, 2014 | Folk clubs, Photos, Poems for children, Scotland

Recently I had the good fortune to spend some time in Scotland. I was staying with my friend, Maggie Somerville, whose daughter, Gronya, was a member of the Australian Badminton Team. We were living in the small town of Falkirk, midway between Glasgow (where the Games were being held), and Edinburgh.

Although not large, Falkirk has a thriving folk club, and Maggie and I were keen to get along if possible. They hold their club nights – “session nights”, as they call them – on Thursday evenings, at the Tolbooth Tavern in the middle of town.

We arrived a little late the first week, not being entirely sure where to go or what to expect. Proceedings were in full swing by the time we arrived. The weather was unseasonably hot, and they had chosen to meet in the newly-refurbished courtyard downstairs rather than the customary upstairs room which would simply have been too hot.

The courtyard was L-shaped, and it was impossible to see the performers from where we stood. I noticed one gentleman had scaled the wall for a bird’s eye view, so I decided to follow his example. It turned out to be a relatively simple matter to duck around the back, climb up onto a rubbish skip, and from there up onto the beautiful old stone wall. I did get a wonderful view from up there. I was only cursing myself for not taking my camera with me.

You will note that my hat gave a fairly firm clue to my nationality – although we were mistaken for Kiwis!

Me on wall

The following week we were back upstairs, and both invited to perform.

Maggie played a tune on a whistle, and sang a couple of songs.

Maggie - whistle

Maggie - guitar, singing

I recited a couple of poems from my new book, “‘The Billy That Died With Its Boots On’ and Other Australian Verse”.

Me copy

There were a number of fabulous performances during the course of the evening.

This gentleman gave a very spirited rendition of Danny Boy.

Danny Boy

And this man played the “Irish pipes” beautifully. (Note that the bag is inflated with bellows under the right arm, rather than the Scottish system of a tube from the mouth.)

Pipes

Here are a couple more shots of the rest of the gang.

Group shot 1

Group shot 2

It was a great evening. Naturally enough, we drew comparisons between Falkirk Folk Club and our own meetings at Ringwood. I was struck by how many strong solo performers there were, mostly singers of traditional songs, accompanying themselves on guitar. On the down side, though, there were no women performing, although there were plenty in the audience. Also, the instrumentation was heavily biased in favour of the guitar. I have mentioned the pipes player already, and there was also a fiddler. However, there were no accordions, harmonicas, whistles or mandolins.

The place of poetry is an interesting one. I was certainly accepted at the club as a poet, and we were told that it is not unheard of to hear poetry at their meetings, but it was also clear that it is a fairly rare event. At Ringwood we have quite a number of reciters and poets. The tradition of poetry and recitation would appear to be stronger in Australia than in Scotland.

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