Mudcat Café message #4034233 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4034233
Posted By: Jim Carroll
14-Feb-20 - 01:15 PM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
"Yes, the thread is now the Jim Carroll show"
Jim Carroll
No it isn't lady - it belongs to those who have more right to be her than all of us rolled together - the source singers
They are the ones who have us the songs and and any estimation of folk song should star and finish with them

And another
Belle StewartBelle McGregor was born on the banks of the River Tay at Caputh, near Blairgowrie, into a family of Highland Scottish Travellers, who lived in bow-tents. As a result of their life-style, the whole family received much insult and abuse. Belle´s father died when she was only 9 months old. Afraid that the authorities might take her children from her, her mother stopped travelling and settled in Perthshire. So Belle grew up in a house, and it was only when she was a young woman and married her second cousin Alec Stewart that she travelled periodically with him in Ireland.

Belle´s childhood was a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. "School was pure hell" because traveller children were despised and bullied, and she only had about two years of schooling all told, but was nevertheless quite literate. She was surrounded by love in her family and much of her time was spent accompanying her mother on hawking trips up the Perthshire glens, carried on the top of her pack.

Belle first went to Ireland with her two brothers in the 1920s, at the invitation of Alec´s family, who were already over there and finding the pearlfishing very much to their liking. She had known Alec as a child, but now they were in their late teens, and very much attracted to each other. They fell in love and were married in Ballymoney in 1925. Alec´s family were all pipers, dancers, singers and storytellers and his father was among the best champion pipers in Scotland. Belle, whose family were not pleased about her getting married in Ireland, returned to Blairgowrie for the birth of her first son, John, and tended to go back and forward between the two countries, as her family increased, with a daughter, Cathy, a son, Andy, a daughter Sheila, and an adopted daughter, Rena. Eventually Alec agreed to settle down in Blairgowrie, one of the great fruit-growing areas of Scotland, where they were later to own a berryfield, and thereafter, they were together for a lifetime. One thing Belle did love about Ireland was its songs, many of which found a place in her repertoire.

Belle first came to the notice of the folk world when Hamish Henderson asked local journalist, Maurice Fleming, to look for the composer of a song called ´The Berryfields of Blair´, which he had heard sung by a North East singer. Maurice very quickly found Belle and her family, and recorded them for the School of Scottish Studies sound archive. Belle´s songwriting originated in her family´s tradition of always composing songs or poems for occasions like Hogmanay or family weddings. While many of her songs were comic, she also wrote a very moving lament for her two brothers, who tragically died within a week of each other, leaving her utterly bereft.

Maurice and Hamish soon discovered that she had inherited many of her father´s ballads and songs, through her brothers, Donald and Andy, and that she had the travellers´ wonderfully emotive Highland way of singing - a quality she called ´the coniach´, a word of Gaelic origin translated by Dr John MacInnes as ´an intensity of melody´. After that, she and her family became popular on the folk scene, invited everywhere, their fame spreading across the sea to Europe and America.

Belle´s importance as a source singer led to her becoming known, not only in Scotland, through Hamish Henderson and the Traditional Music and Song Association, founded by a group of enthusiasts led by Pete Shepheard, who ran their first festival significantly in Blairgowrie, but also in England, where the family was introduced to the folk scene by the late Ewan MacColl, who also involved them in the Radio Ballad on the travellers. Ewan was later to produce a book that dealt with her song repertoire, shared with her daughters, in the context of the family´s history, and also included stories riddles, proverbs and cures.

In the sleeve notes to the Topic record of ´The Stewarts of Blair´ made in 1965, Hamish Henderson wrote, ´collecting on the berryfields was like holding a tin can under the Niagrara Falls. However, when we got back to Auld Reekie and began sizing up what we had collected, it was clear that the really fabulous contribution had been made not so much by the nomadic travellers among whom we had camped as by the Stewart family of Berrybank, the aiders and abettors of the whole operation