‘A saxmonth for tae fee’ – The Bothy Ballads and their World.

As befits our Christmas meeting, our talk on 9 December was billed not so much as a presentation but, rather, as an entertainment. And entertaining it most certainly was, with our Committee member Brian Patterson regaling us with a fund of anecdotes of his early years: the family move from Cults to the Aboyne area, his schooling at Lumphanan and his years as a fee’d loon. (As part of the preparation, a two and a half-hour interview with Brian had been recorded and is now in the archives of the Elphinstone Institute at Aberdeen University.)

Inimitably, Hector Riddell – with his voice as strong and his mastery of the lyrics as impressive as ever, despite two years of lockdown – sang a number of bothy ballads illustrating key aspects of Brian’s stories. Yet all of this was also richly informed and instructional, providing vivid insights, delivered in fluent Doric into a key aspect of North-East heritage: the story of farm life in the bothies and chaumers – the humour and vitality, the joys as well as the deprivations, of a way of country life now gone, but here, richly remembered.