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Angus Fitchet (1910-1998) - Composer and Fiddler


Angus FitchetAngus Fitchet was born in Dundee in 1910 and became one of Scotland's foremost fiddlers and Scottish Country Dance Bandleaders.

He began playing at the tender age of five. Then, at the ripe old age of twelve, he stood-in for an absent violinist at a local cinema showing silent films and was soon making five shillings a week doing this. He wrote his first tune, the March, ‘Mr Michie’, at the age of 16 in 1926.

In 1932 he married Matilda Speirs Rowan, but sadly this union was ended by divorce.


1932 Marriage Angus W. Fitchet And Matilda Spiers Rowan

The marriage certificate shows that his father’s job had been that of 'Scavenger', but it is known that he too had been an accomplished fiddler. His son in later life, clearly in memory of his father, composed and played a 'Two Step' called 'The Dancing Dustman'.

The Dancing Dustman Two Step

Writing tunes in fond memory of his closest friends was a feature of his work .... and these rank among the loveliest of his compositions.

In the late 1930s he went to Largs to join a five-piece orchestra in a restaurant there. He also played in the Winifred Bird Mathew Band in Dundee, and then later appeared with accordionist Will Starr.

He joined Jimmy Shand’s Band in 1945 and this gave him a real taste for Scottish band work. So much so that in due course he formed his own highly successful Scottish Dance Band, and drove all over Britain in an old Dodge Red Cross ambulance run on half petrol, half paraffin (!)  to play at dances large or small. During this time, his band also made many live wireless broadcasts and records.

Eventually Angus returned to playing solo fiddle, and toured with Will Starr and Robert Wilson. He was renowned for his note-perfect sweet tone despite having a very modest fiddle. He was known to describe it as “an auld bit o' stick”. However, he did  insist on a having an excellent bow.

He was in his late sixties when he joined Jimmy Blue, whose band travelled full time with Andy Stewart. Andy loved Angus' humour and many a time "dried up" onstage because of Angus' witticisms. Andy indeed wrote a twenty-three verse poem in his honour entitled ‘On Angus Fitchet’. Although suffering from arthritis and deafness, he continued entertaining, and was often a guest with Bobby Crowe and his Band at venues all over Scotland and in the North of England.

Amazingly, he was still performing in his early eighties, and even completed a broadcast for the BBC c.1991. His reel, "J.B. Milne", has probably been broadcast more than any other Scottish tune.

J B Milne Reel

When asked, not long before his death in 1998, how he would like to be remembered, Angus considered for a few moments, then replied: "Angus Fitchet, composer and fiddler."

Listen to:

Lament for Jim McFarlane of Blair Athol

Lerwick Waltz

Radio Show Part 1

Radio Show Part 2

Radio Show Part 3

Radio Show Part 4

Radio Show Part 5

ON ANGUS FITCHET
by Andy Stewart

Come rub the rosin on the bow
And let the warl' gae roon'
Whiles I tae Angus Fitchet heed
That coaxes up a tune,

That coaxes up a bonnie tune
An' maks yon fiddle sing,
The verra lame when he begins
Wad dance the heilan' fling.

Syne when ablow his elfin chin
The trusty Hardy grips
The Merlin o' the music, he,
Wi' magic fingertips.

The shades of Skinner and of Gow
Wham nane shall e'er neglect,
I fancy tap their toes in time
And nod their grave respect.

Strathspeys sae stately and demure
Come singing frae his hand,
While jigs and reels, however gleg,
Dance out at his command.

Sae blythe and sweet his fiddle sings
And brawly fills the air,
His smiles and looks tell a' the tale,
A lang-matched love affair.

Wha' is sae heavy-fitted then
An' weary as the Deil
But loups like ony skippin' lamb
When Fitchet plays a reel?

An wha' can keep frae beatin' time?
I say he isna human,
When Angus plies his skill upon
"The Irish Washerwoman"?

(In Cork one night, I tell the truth,
He caused a fightin' fuss
When Paddy said "Yon man's no Scot,
He must be one of us")

He plays a jig sae liltin' sir,
A man condemned tae dee
Wad loup the thirteen steps an' dance
Upon a gallow's tree.

An' fan a sweet sad bow he draws
In some auld plaintive air,
The sorrows o' a lifetime come
An' stoun' the senses there.

"Bovaglie's Plaid" or "Gow's "Lament",
Baith hymns tae mak us mourn
Great sabs frae oot yet greater hearts
For joys will ne'er return.

In black and white these printer notes
Lie lost of what they seek,
Yet cry aloud in haunting sound
When Angus maks them speak.

Auld Scotland kens nae brawer tunes,
And min' she maks them well,
Than when oor Angus plays tae her
The yins he wrote himsel'.

His repertoire's an endless dance
And were he ay sae clever
As nae need food or drink or sleep
He could play on forever

Here's tae him then my prayer shall be
That happy he may dwell
And a' the wishes I wad gie
That he could wish himself

Three score and more - I ken his age -
An' Lord if it's nae trouble,
In years tae come - Ye ken the sum -
I wish him,mair than double

An' when at last at Heaven's gate
Whaur he will surely stand
I like to fancy Peter say
As he hauds oot his hand -

"A welcome Angus Fitchet here
My pleasure is to gie ye,
An twice that welcome since I see
Ye've brocht your fiddle wi ye.

But och, there's years o' music yet
Tae stir the dancers roon,
Sae Angus rosin up your bow
An gie's another tune.

The hame-spun garb o' native worth
Wi' cloth of gold we'll stitch it
And lay the makkar's mantle on
This man ca'd Angus Fitchet.

When he comes ben care hugs the wa'
An' joy jinks in the middle
The doul's awa, the dance is a',
When Fitchet plays his fiddle

Mak a' his 'oors be sweet and sure
And happy a' his days,
As happy as I am myself
When Angus Fitchet plays.

For more information about Angus Fitchet go to,
http://www.footstompin.com/public/article/celtic_music_heroes/angus_fitchet

 


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