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Tam True

‘He could be on the telly,’ they said about Tam True, ‘and then he’d never have to go doon the pit again.’

One Saturday night every month, Tam and the village’s other amateur musicians and singers gathered in Braeshee Community Centre and played for an audience. There would be solo performances, small ad hoc groups would play a set and then all twentyodd would combine for a finale. The Community Centre saw bingo nights and WEA classes and church socials and Labour Party meetings, but the Traditional Music Evening was always the highlight, providing even more enjoyment than the funeral purveys.

Near the end of the night there would be a medley played by Tam on the fiddle, Graham Hamilton, a grizzled pithead worker who squeezed deft magic from the accordion, Sandra, daughter of Jim McGuire the local NUM official, who played clarsach and mandolin, and Dougie Wallace, another miner’s son who was now at Glasgow University, but who came back often at weekends to play the pipes. ‘If ye’re gonnae get a degree and become a boss,’ his dad had told him, ‘ye’ll come back and play the pipes whenever I tell ye.’

They worked their way through a familiar repertoire, mostly Scottish tunes but with some from Ireland and Brittany and Cape Breton. The smoky hall would erupt in clapping and footstamping and bellowed-out shouts of ‘Hoooo-ooooch!’ and some people would scrape their chairs aside and hurl themselves into dance.

Then Graham and Dougie and Sandra would retreat into upstage gloom leaving the floor to Tam, to more cries of ‘Hoooo-ooooch!’ and some of ‘Gaun yersel, Tam!’ He’d start gently, perhaps with one or two slow, sentimental Lady Nairne Jacobite airs, then liven up with some popular dance tunes for the likes of Strip the Willow or the Dashing White Sergeant before letting fiery rip with a raucous medley of favourites that culminated in a rousing ‘Campbeltown Loch’ during which he closed his eyes and his arm and bow and fingers seemed to dance under a spell; by now the audience was on its feet, singing the words, leaping and clapping and dancing and stamping. There was a roar of applause as Tam, red and glowing, finished and bowed.

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iScot May 2017 issue - the one with Theresa May.I.Am front cover 116 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland Alyn Smith MEP - " Putting Women down" Robbie Dinwoodie - Our Scottish Grandees Dave Bowman - Nightmare on Downing Street Zoe Weir - The Hiroshima Survivors Derek Bateman - I get it now! Dave Bowman - English for Indy Tom Morton - Brewdog Will McLeod - Letter from America Wee Ginger Dug - The Dug has eyes Blaze's Trail - Glen Nevis Peter A Bell - The Tides of History Grousebeater - Prof Ian Ritchie CBE RA Jason Michael McCann - Our Untaught Union Dr Steve McCabe - Into the Vallies Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter - A Timeless Flame Metal Guru - Jewel in the Highlands Vivien Martin - King's Cave Arran Sir Harry Lauder Poem iSpy iScot Book Review - The Bogeyman Chronicles iScot Short Story - David McVey Major Bloodnok and Mystic Mons Meg Heidbyler Soduko ( No, not Sudoko!) Readers Letters