Godfather of Scottish folk entertains at Shetland Hotel

If anyone could claim to be the “godfather” of Scottish folk music it is surely Jimmy McGregor. Now “over 80” this affable doyen of broadcasting and music was to be seen appearing in front of a “McGregor’s Gathering” of folk at the Shetland Hotel, for one night only during the festival proceedings.

A stone’s throw away, I could have gone there in my smucks! I thought I might be subjected to the singing shortbread tin school of Scottish folk music but was pleasantly surprised with a mixture of songs and anecdotes, backed up with a power point presentation! He gave us an intriguing insight to a long career that’s still ongoing.

He is no stranger to Shetland (this time unbeknown to both he’d been billeted with an ex-college from the BBC Caroline McKenzie), having been several times in the 60s with his singing partner Robin Hall. He always says if asked about Shetland that you can easily keep your instrument in your case as there’s plenty of local musicans about. I have a vague memory of him and Robin judging the Miss Islesburgh beauty competition.

He also returned as a broadcaster to interview Aly Bain’s father who was a cooper. He also worked with the late Bobby Tulloch. With a chance to talk to him in the interval, he told me was still happy preforming as long as he had the energy and inclination. He knew (i) he didn’t have to and (ii) it was exercise for the grey matter. On the subject of exercise he said that’s how he differed from Robin Hall that while he did all the “living it up” earlier in his career he was always fit, running in London and of course he had a passion for the outdoors.

He started off the evening with a philosophical ditty Good Times are Coming but they don’t say when. He reminded us the way to stay looking young was to stay around old people.

He’s certainly met a lot of famous people over the years from Elizabeth Taylor to Jimmy Shand. And he shared his memories in an eloquent and intimate style coming across as a man 20 years his younger. Songs  included Sky High Joe about an anti-monarchist that blew up a post box because it had E112( Scotland having had only one queen called Elizabeth) and his nearly skiffle hit, Frieght Train. There was still the air of the rebel about him and he spoke with passion about the people he’d met. No boundaries to be pushed out on this evening, but a consummate act delivered in an inimitable spritely style. Eat your heart out The Rolling Stones.

Stephen Gordon


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