Monday, 15 December 2008

Hamnavoe Scottish Dance Band

What did comedy curmudgeon Victor Meldrew do before he settled into an endearingly grumpy "I don't belieeeve it" routine of light family television sitcom farce in One Foot In The Grave?

Well, the storyline has it that he was prematurely retired from his job as a security guard, replaced by an automated machine. However, the Hamnavoe Scottish Dance Band have provided the answer with their (slightly out of focus) front cover of the vinyl release 'Going To An Orkney Barn Dance' produced by Jim Johnston and issued back in 1973 on Grampian Records, based in Wick, Caithness, Scotland.

He was in a traditional Sottish folk band. There he is, sitting in the front row on the left, looking non too plussed, despite getting to sit next to the bonny lass. He looks like someone who was left with cold porridge leftovers for breakfast and as the others appear to be having a fine old time of it, even though it looks as though they've been standing next to that semi- derelict building for hours in sub zero temperatures.

"A barn dance is any kind of dance held in a barn, but usually involves traditional or folk music with traditional dancing. Folk dancing events are often also referred to as "barn dances", despite being held in locations other than barns"
"A barn dance can be a Ceilidh, with traditional Irish or Scottish dancing, and people unfamiliar with either format often confuse the two terms. However, a barn dance can also feature square dancing, Morris dancing, Contra dancing,English country dancing, dancing to Country and western music, or any other kind of dancing, often with a live band and a caller" sourced from Wikipedia

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to go to a barn dance, it's a rambunctious run through lots of traditional music at a community event, with plenty of dancing, eating and drinking and can be tremendous fun as long as you don't mind making a bit of a fool of yourself as you mess up the dance routines and step on other people's feet. I don't know how different the Orkney versions of barn dances are to others, but I suspect that this band played at most of the one's held in that region during the early Seventies.

The band members credited on the back covers are Jack Yorston on accordion, Elaine Wilson on fiddle, Alan Drever on piano, Jackie Miller on Guitar, Arthur Sinclair on bass guitar and William Marwick on drums. They were based in Stromness in Orkney and had been going for about four years, when they cut this platter. I haven't managed to uncover any other extra information on the interweb, so any further snippets would be appreciated. My hunch, is that the cheerily challenged fellow is accordion playing Jack, who arranged the songs as well.


Stromness Dragon said...

Found this old post and it made me laugh! Here's what I know about them....Jack Yorston is at the back, second from right. He is a fabulous accordion player and after living sooth for many years has recently returned to Orkney. The lass is now Elaine Sutherland. She and Jack still play together, and they are both members of the West Mainland Strathspey and Reel Society, as am I. What I lack in technique I make up in enthusiasm. I play this record in my shed and try to play along, but it's quite fast.....The building on the album cover btw is an old mill that used to stand on the bay of Skaill, but has since fallen into the sea. Good on ya for finding this gem!

Scratchy Buckles said...

Hello Stromness Dragon,
Thank you for the extra information and I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post, I certainly enjoyed writing it. It's great to hear that Jack and Elaine are still going strong and the traditional music of Orkney is alive and flourishing. It's a part of the world I'd love to visit one day, but as I live about as far 'sooth' as one can be in these fair isles, it'll be one hell of a trek!

one final point..I'm sure the Victor Meldrew lookalike is/was cheerful fellow in real life and the camera just captured him in an off moment, I blame those pesky photographers - always waiting for you to let your guard drop for a second then pounce'n'click! an unflattering portrait (just ask Gordon Brown haha) anyway no offence is meant and I felt it was important that the Hamnavoe Scottish Dance Band should have a presence on the interweb. The record is now filed away and is a treasured part of my collection! a 'keeper' as we vinyl nerds say...
Cheers Scratchy

SKARAMAN said...

Hello Scratchy Buckles. Well, I'm the one in the back row, extreme right, standing on Jack's left. I played keyboards and, when the singer left, I became the singer as well. I am STILL playing keyboards in a band to this day - albeit with a different band - and enjoying it all yet. Jack is home in Orkney now after being in Canada for a short time, and then in Montrose, Scotland where he stayed for thirty years or so. The rest of the original Hamnavoe Band are all still to the fore except for your Victor Meldrew lookalike in the front row(left) of the picture who was in fact William Marwick and who was the band drummer. We had wonderful, funny and sometimes hairy times 'on the road', as the band used to do a week long tour of parts of the Scottish mainland in the seventies, but looking back on it all now, I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China. This record that you found was our second LP, our first one being called 'Memories of Hamnavoe', (the name Hamnavoe being the old Norse name for Stromness) which has a beautiful photo of Stromness as its' front cover and an earlier black and white photo of the band on the back cover.

SKARAMAN said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scratchy/Stretchy said...

Hello Skaraman,

Thank you for adding extra information to the 'Hamnavoe' history. It's great to put names to faces and give people their due.

One of the reasons I love collecting records is that the whole package tells a story, obviously the music is important, but a record cover adds so much more to the story of the artist... photos, lyrics, artwork, logo design, price labels etc. you don't get that in a mp3 download.

It's also great to hear that your still playing and still loving the music!

Best wishes
Scratchy Buckles

Anonymous said...

Great Orkney (Stromness) band - great guys! It's a pity that someone has not sent you a copy of the cover of their first record - beautiful picture of Stromness looking towards Hoy and Scapa Flow. I hope the band has a re-union sometime soon. It would be wonderful!......

Maelie Pudding

Miggy Sinclair said...

my uncle athur back row 2nd left sure he played bass

Stromness Dragon said...

I thought I'd revisit this post and say hello again. It's grand that folk are still commenting, and I can add a little bit more information. Jack has a new band called Aff the Kuff, for which I play the fiddle. We are available at a very reasonable rate for weddings, harvest homes, Burns suppers, dances etc. We are looking to record an album soon - alas, any thoughts of recreating this classic cover are thwarted by the fact that none of us can carry off tartan with such panache.