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Graham Donachie's Stories
The Bothy


The Breadalbane Arms......

This pub was located on Constitution Road in Dundee... It was never given it’s proper title by the staff or the many regulars who drank in the smokiness of it’s interior. Downstairs was the bar, upstairs was ‘the bothy’.. where the ‘folk nights’ happened.

The regular folk nights died...but through some efforts by a band o’ ‘irregulars’....the wee back room flourished..if only for a while...and Saltires hung on the walls and Socialist speeches were read and Nationalist emotions were havered and the band played on. The pub was known simply as ...The Bread....or The Bothy..

I came late to it’s door. It had been a hangout for the “folk revival’ a few years before I ever entered . Although a lyfelong folk enthusiast, fate kept me from participating in the resurgent pub venues and open stages of that tyme.

I sang my songs to my wee lads at home...they were my favourite audience. Many years have passed since then. Now they can sing them back to me.....such is my reward for passing on a wonderful
and rich oral tradition. I never have claimed to play the guitar. I say only, that I have a fair strumming and finger picking style. My attempts at mandoline are ‘dross’...but ..what the hell...

This is for my best mate Jim Patterson...or “Jeemie”..as I call him.!... He is my true brother in folksong.
In our postal years together we were known only as “the pals”...then when we started singing together....with another folky...Dougie Spence...we referred to ourselves as just..the band.

We never rose to stardom... on account o’ Jim’s constant off key renditions of everything.. We never did sound ‘together’... on account o’ Jim’s ability to take off on an entirely different musical plane.
We never got it quite right... but that was not Jim’s fault.....it was the penny whistle and auld ‘beat up’ accordion he played....They connived together to frustrate his obvious talent. We never did get the harmonies perfect.... but that was because Jeemy couldna sing a ‘maiks’ worth.... That last remark is for the Scots among us.

For all that we did not achieve.... one thing we did....we remained the deepest o’ friends...an’ I love him for just being...my pal Jeemie.

He phoned me a couple o’ days ago. Just back from a cycling holiday with his lovely wyfe Emily. They cycled together in France..  Guess what ?...Into a French pub they ventured...an Irish theme pub..a lad from Newtyle in Perthshire was there..he played on the pipes...two Irish lassies played pipes and
guitar...and Jeemie just happened to have his whistle along.... “Just like the auld tymes Graham..ye wid hae been in your element”......  And so my pal goes on playing...and I go on remembering.

One of these days when I eventually return  home.............?

The Bothy.............

Winter nichts in smoky bar room
laughing wi’ the drinkers there,
flirtin’ wi’ the lassies smiling
tyme for trysting, if they dare.

Some were eager, others shy
some ignored the offered wink,
some adored the folky minstrel
the wild and green eyed Irish tink.

We were there for singing pleasure
We stood up and sang the sang,
tae that noisy smoke filled bar room
I brought my auld ‘twelve string’ alang.

.......

Jim wis there wi’ penny whistle
cheeks a puffin, at the tune
left foot stampin’ oot a wild beat
Pictish majick a’ aroon’.

Then he taks intae his airms
a great squeeze-box o’ michty size..
no it was’na Jeannie Buchan,
wad I tell ye a puckle o’ lies ?

I telt him often..”Jeemie freend,
play saft when ye squeeze yon thing”
but he wis aff in his ain mind...
“ Ye Jacobites”.. he did.. aff key sing.

But there wis a tune that we a’ played
when a’ the backroom wis a’ ears,
when we played in tune the gither,
twas ‘ McAlpines Fusiliers ’.
..........

Dougie Spence the Hagstrom player
curly blonde, this laughing chiel,
played his tune left handed rythmn
roaring like a dancin’ deil.

Mandoline his fingers played on
deft and swift on eight string reel
jigs and wild dance Dougie playing,
nought but pagan joy we feel.

Standing broad within the backroom
framed by Saltires hanging there
did he sing o’ Scotia’s past
an’ we...the harmonizing pair...
Sang the proud sangs o’ the lads
that stood fir what we hae the day
Regiments o’ Alba’s bairns
that fought an’ died in bloodie fray.

........

Graham wi’ his famous Fender
twelve string loud and strumming saft
plays the Burns and swains the lassies
och he isnae... a’ that daft.

Finger pickin’ ..tenor high
Border ballads an’ fair maids
lovers dead in weeping heather
sangs o’ blood stained Hielan’ plaids.

Were the tales he stilled the hearts by,
crying softly as he played
were the lassies silent lulled by
sweet voice, ower the ancient grave ?.

Often on these beery nichts
when they wad never let it pass,
that I wad tak the flair and sing
that ..’I.. once loved a lass’..

..........

“Tyme gentlemen please”
was the cry that we ignored.
“Tyme gentlemen please”......
“Finish your drinks now folks”.....

“Dae ye no hae any hames tae gae tae”
Ok..OK...OK...one sang or jist anither for the road....


We three in misty harmony...
we played like.. the “Blessed Trinity”
our song in celebration o’ the..
“ Road and miles to Dundee”...
...........................................

Hic’’’ .........splish in the wee loo.......?

Jeemie ...are ye dancin’...or is that jist the way ye’r
staunin’ ?

Oh Flower o’ Shcotlannnn!!!

Jeemie...sober up ...the last sang...c’mon mate....

Graham...is that yirsell ?? is thir an echo in here ??

Shite Jeemie...it’s no’ me..it’s mi’ lang deid brithir.................................

Jim he loo’ed his ain squeeze box
he loo’ed it like nae ither,
he loo’ed it mair than the lanky ‘Ned’
wha wis Jim’s only brither.

At end o’ gig when Jim wis fou
an’ lager did’na sink doon mou
wad he pour intae the box’s bellows,
a taste o’ Tennants..

Then we three rose tae sing the sang
tae sing it tae this drunken shower
B’ Jasus.. will I ever remember the tune
and the words.......”O Flower.........

......................................

Years hae passed since singing tymes
o’ battles fought ....
Memories are still wi’ me
o’ dreams I sought....
My friends are constant....never bought !!!

Jim and Emily..........

Graham...Aug..2002..


Read other stories from Graham Donachie