Accordionist Jim enters the hallowed hall of fame
Celebrated Shetland accordion player Jim Halcrow was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame at an awards ceremony on Saturday night.
The 78-year-old, who has played throughout Shetland and beyond with the Jim Halcrow Band, has now gained one of the highest honours in traditional music, regarded by some as the Scottish “Oscars” of the genre. Other Shetland members of the select group of inductees are the late Peerie Willie Johnson and the late Dr Tom Anderson.
Mr Halcrow was accompanied to the Scottish Trad Music Awards in Fort William by his wife Doreen and son David, in whose band he now plays. The event was televised live on the Gaelic channel BBC Alba, with a host of celebrities present and many well-known bands and musicians playing.
Mr Halcrow, from Scalloway, knew he was to be inducted but found the experience rather overwhelming. He said: “I was never expecting anything like yon. I’d heard about the Hall of Fame but I thought me, playing my peerie accordion up in Shetland, I’m never in that league. Obviously someone thought I wasn’t that bad. So long as I get peace to play my peerie accordion in Shetland I’m quite happy.”
He added: “We had a super night, there must have been 800 or 900 people there and I wondered what I was landing myself into.”
Fortunately, he said, he did not have to make a speech, and did not have to go onto the stage to be presented with an impressive silver salver.
Mrs Halcrow said: “It’s a great honour and he’s done very well, there’s not many in Shetland [in the Hall of Fame].”
David said the event had been highly-charged with category winners such as live band of the year, folk band of the year and album of the year being named on the night.
He said: “It was a tremendous night of music, a great mix and range of music. I’m really proud he [my father] got it, proud for him and for Shetland.”
This is the second accolade Mr Halcrow has had this year. In the summer he received a national award for his lifetime’s contribution to music in the form of an engraved goblet from the National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs, presented at their annual gathering. He said: “I’m been honoured to get two awards in one year and I think that’ll do.”
Mr Halcrow, who worked, and sometimes still works, as a piano tuner – and still cannot read music – got his first accordion aged 17. That was in 1951, and he taught himself to play using techniques developed on his mother Jeanie’s pedal-driven organ.
He mastered the box within a year and joined Shetland’s then top band The New Players, later joining the Hamefarers Band. His own band The Better Haaf became resident musicians at the Lerwick Hotel in the 1970s, and took up the same role at the Shetland Hotel from its opening in 1983.
Over the years Mr Halcrow has appeared on stage with luminaries such as Peerie Willie Johnson and Willie Hunter. One of his most memorable experiences was touring France with Alastair Hunter’s Scottish Dance Band. Most recently he has appeared at Celtic Connections and given classes at Shetland’s Fiddle Frenzy.