Tannahill Weavers. Taking Celtic Music to a new Level!
I was really excited when I heard that the Tannahill Weavers were coming to my little town. I’ve been a fan of theirs for many years.
Before they started playing, I was invited round the back to meet them by Graham Pope, who had organised their appearance here. They were all feeling a bit tired as they’d had a long drive.
LYN Where did you get the name from?
Roy It’s from the town of Paisley, Scotland’s historic weaving industry, and local poet laureate Robert Tannahill. He’s not as well-known as Robert Burns, and he doesn’t have a Supper named after him!
LYN How long have you been together?
ROY The group is 50 years old next year. We’re trying to get an album out to celebrate it, plus a tour organised.
LYN How did you get your style?
ROY It started as a bit of fun and just grew.
LYN What would you call your style?
ROY Traditional Scottish but the rhythms are different.
LYN And how did you get your style?
ROY It just grew and developed.
Lyn Do you improvise much?
PHIL Not on purpose!
LYN Do you go abroad much?
ROY Most of our tours are abroad, mainly in America.
LYN Where was the most exotic place you’ve played?
EVERYONE Definitely Mexico.
ROY We were the first Western band to play in Yugoslavia after Tito died.
LYN Why are you here in our little town?!
EVERYONE We know Graham.
I left them to get organised and went to sit down.
John Martin was one of the original members. He plays the fiddle and sings harmony vocals.
Phil Smillie is the New Boy. He joined in 1974. He plays the flute, whistles, and the bodhran, which is a Celtic drum.
Roy Gulland is the main founder member. He plays the guitar, sings all the lead vocals, and also cracks the jokes and explains the words of the songs, which is very necessary.
You can chat to a Scotsman OK, but as soon as he starts singing, the language turns into a sort of distilled English (which is what it often is. Have you ever been in Edinburgh late on a Saturday night?!)
For instance, the Weavers sang a song called When the Kye come Hame. If Roy hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have known that meant When the Cows come Home.
There was another song about the Battle of Culloden, which was a terrible battle.
Hundreds of Scottish fighters were taken prisoner and shipped to Australia.
Said Roy, it was the biggest movement of Scottish until the ad Drink Canada Dry came out!
Roy has a lovely distinctive voice. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t understand what he was singing as his voice is a musical instrument.
And then there’s Lorne MacDougall. He plays the Highland bagpipes, the Scottish small pipes, and various whistles. He joined the group 3-4 years ago.
Lorne walked onto the stage, dumped his sports bag on the ground beside him and slumped onto a seat.
Every time a tune started, he would reach into his sports bag and I half-expected him to take out a Haggis sandwich or a deep-fried Mars Bar.
But he produced different whistles of varied sizes and colours.
His bagpipes lay on the ground in front of him and sometimes he’d look at them as though they were unfinished homework that he had to hand in the next morning. Then he’d slowly stand up and pick them up, tucking the bag under his arm and blowing into the mouthpiece – and he’d start to play.
Suddenly, he’d grow in front of our eyes. He wasn’t just a young lad in his 30s; he was a tall, proud descendant of Scottish warriors. Everyone stared at him, mesmerised.
No exaggeration, Lorne’s the Eric Clapton of the bagpipes.
Watch Ray’s video of the evening and just look at the speed that his fingers move!
Maggie Smillie is married to Phil. She sells the CDs, t-shirts, etc and also shares the driving.
LYN Maggie, where did you and Phil meet?
MAGGIE We met in Minnesota in 1984 when the guys were touring in the USA; Just met in a bar after the gig, basically 🙂 Standard story I guess! Boy meets girl. It was February in very cold Minnesota and I gave him my mittens to wear.
LYN Why don’t the guys wear kilts when they’re playing?
MAGGIE Kilts weigh a ton! There’s a lot of material in them and they take a lot of looking after. And then there’s the accessories; it’s impossible to take them on tours.
It’s a shame as they’d look really good wearing kilts. And I couldn’t help wondering how many thousands of miles their own clothes had travelled!
The Tannahill Weavers are magnificent musicians and great entertainers. I do hope they’ll come here and play for us again.
One thing though; it was a mild Winter’s evening and there’s a free car park right outside the building, but the room was half-empty.
Literally thousands of people live here within a few miles and a lot of them claim to be music lovers.
So I just want to say to them, Shame on you for your apathy. You missed a memorable evening!
Thanks to Ray Whiteway-Roberts for the use of his videos from the evening.
And thanks to Graham Pope for his organisation of great local events.
firstname.lastname@example.org Keep up your good work!
The Tannahill Weavers