HERITAGE

The story of a group

Written by Jack Beck

Presented to Davy Lockhart on the occasion of his 80th Birthday 

1978 Christmas card (by George)

         Heritage logo (by Davy)

This story starts in late 1975 with the decision by a number of Dunfermline folk-music enthusiasts to meet weekly in the upstairs lounge of a beat up pub called the ‘Brig Tavern’. The Brig was situated under a railway bridge which carried the main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen; this combined with the parlous state of the upstairs floor led to some interesting constraints on the playing of music!

To fully document the history of Heritage, however, requires us to delve a bit deeper and go back a bit further. Dunfermline had been home to a series of very successful folk clubs since the very early 1960s including the Howff, Belleville, Green Tree, Kinema Ballroom and City Hotel clubs. When the latest one (the City Hotel) closed in early 1975, the network of folk enthusiasts which was left homeless included highly accomplished singers and musicians as well as highly committed fans. Among those were Jack and Aileen Beck, Jimmy Dunn, Lindsay Porteous, Archie Todd, Mike Ward, Davy Lockhart, George Haig, Mike O’Connor, Mike Mustard, Mark Milligan, Tam (the bam) Flanagan and Jean Gardiner.

The get-togethers in the Brig Tavern which began simply as an opportunity to stay in touch and continue to enjoy the music socially, fairly quickly evolved into an unspoken ‘self-help’ group which definitely tried to break down barriers between performers and non-performers. Amazingly, there was one early occasion when almost everyone who would eventually play as part of Heritage in the subsequent 15 years was in that upstairs lounge (Jack Beck, Lindsay Porteous, George Haig, Mike O’Connor, Mike Mustard, Mark Milligan, Jimmy Dunn, George Duncan, Pete Clark, Mike Ward and Davy Lockhart).

Just after the demise of the Brig (to make room for a new roundabout) and a move along Netherton Broad Street to the 'Lyn Tavern', a request came in for a group to play a charity gig at Saline Community Centre. The request came through Jean Gardiner and she convened a discussion to decide who should play and what the name of the group should be. The name which emerged was ‘Heritage’ and, inevitably, these events marked the beginning of something of a divide between ‘performers’ and ‘supporters’. By now we were into 1976 and the venue changed yet again - this time to the ‘Union Inn’.

It was during the ‘Union Inn’ period that Heritage began to actively seek bookings in folk-clubs around the central belt of Scotland, using the established contacts that many members had developed when singing or playing with previous groups. It was at one of these gigs, in Leven, that they were to meet someone who would become a firm friend of the group - the late Peter Forbes.

Peter was a wonderful piper - of both Highland and Uileann pipes, while his daughter Helen was a very accomplished penny whistler. Peter encouraged the group and introduced them to a much wider repertoire of fine music (both Irish and Scots). Peter and Helen were later to become honorary members of Heritage, briefly, for a tour of Brittany.

                                 Peter and Helen

This is a good place to divert slightly and describe the kind of music that Heritage played. The founding members had as their ‘template’ the musical approach exemplified by a number of North of England groups who had played at the Blairgowrie and Kinross festivals during the 1960s and 70s. This was the fairly revolutionary (for then) mixing of songs and music - sometimes even in one set. Jack’s friend and mentor John Watt had also already been working along similar lines with a variety of fiddlers and accordionists.

Peter Forbes came from Broughty Ferry and was friendly with a number of musicians from around the Dundee area. He was influential in getting Heritage regular bookings at the Dundee Folk Club, and it was there that they met up with people like Jake Donnelly and Peter Boond, who would subsequently form An Teallach and CeolBeg respectively. Jake has remained an enthusiastic fan of Heritage ever since and now also plays with Pete Clark in an ‘occasional’ ceilidh band.

The Union Inn proved to be a short-term home and there followed a longer period when the Heritage band wagon sojourned in the upstairs room of the ‘Bruce Tavern’ right in the middle of the old historic centre of Dunfermline. This was mainly because it was George Haig’s ‘local’ and served a mean pint of Guinness. In this setting on a Wednesday night some memorable sessions took place, with visits from members of what would become CeolBeg as well as Walt Michael (US hammered dulcimer player), Jake Donnelly, Peter and Helen Forbes and many others. These were not paid guests as it was still the avowed policy of the core ‘attendees’ that this should be an informal session with as little performer/audience divide as possible.

By 1977 the line up of Heritage had settled as follows:

Jack Beck (vocals and guitar), Jimmy Dunn (accordion), George Haig (five string banjo), Davy Lockhart (fiddle and viola), Mark Milligan (bodhran), Mike Mustard (fiddle), Mike O’Connor (fiddle), Lindsay Porteous (pan pipes, jaw harp, mouth organ and percussion)

 Heritage # 1

In 1978 Heritage was contacted by Dougie Alexander, who was the Scottish co-ordinator for the Festival Interceltique in Lorien in Brittany and asked to join a 10 day tour of Brittany with, among others, the Monktonhall colliery pipe band. This was the start of a somewhat mythical ‘alternative universe’ which the group concocted during their subsequent European meanderings. The story of the ‘carrot heided c--t’, Jack’s request to photograph two young Breton lassies ‘au naturel’ and the pursuit by the CRS (French security police) up the hill to the dormitory have become the stuff of legend, and the legends continued for many years!

By this time the line-up had gone through its first change, with the departure of the two fiddle playing Mikes as well as Mark and the arrival of Mike Ward playing whistle, pedal harmonium and small pipes. Just before this change the group made its first (and speculative) recording, allowing Lindsay’s friend and band-leader Farquar Mathieson to try out his new recording equipment on them in Charlestown village hall. The master tapes were used to make a souvenir cassette for the group members and friends as a memento of the repertoire that had been built up prior to the changed line up.

                   Heritage # 2

On returning from Brittany the group dived into a very active period of playing festivals and clubs all over Scotland, and Sandy Muir (an old friend of Jack’s) who had just signed the punk rock group Skidz and had had a top ten hit with them, heard the tape which had been recorded in Charlestown. He signed up Heritage to his ‘No Bad Records’ label, saying that he fancied the title of one of the tracks (Fanny Power) emblazoned across tee-shirts all over Scotland! Heritage recorded their first ‘real’ album, NBLP2 ‘When the Dancin’ it’s a’ Done’, at Robin Morton’s Temple studios, and the Charlestown tape was remastered as NBLP1 ‘Some Rantin’ Rovin’ Fun’. The albums were released at the end of 1980 and the beginning of 1981 and they received very complimentary reviews (Alistair Clark of ‘The Scotsman’ listed NBLP2 in his top ten folk albums of the year).

In the spring of 1981 the group were invited to stand in for the ‘Gaugers’ on a regional tour in the South of France, where they started a love affair with the music of Occitani and made their first acquaintance with Dominique LaLaurie, Margaret Boudet, Max Johanny and the members of ‘Perlinpinpin’. In the summer of the same year Heritage went back to Lorient as part of the Scottish contingent for the Festival Interceltique. This was the beginning of a ‘golden age’ of European travels for the group with a tour of Switzerland and then Friuli (where they toured with an amazing Calabrian group called ‘Re Niliu’) the following year and a return to Lorient and Occitanie in 1983. At that Lorien Festival Heritage played support to Runrig in the Palais de Congres with George Duncan playing accordion in place of Jimmy (many years later Mike was in Brittany on holiday and mentioned that concert - the daughter of the house he was visiting went out and returned with a cassette that she had recorded from the front row!).  In 1984 they were back in France and in 1985 returned to Friuli. By this time Jimmy Dunn had permanently left the group and Alistair Marshall had joined, playing whistle, flute and pipes as had Pete Clark playing fiddle. In 1987 the group had made a ‘home recording’ on borrowed equipment and Lindsay let Ian Green hear it - he issued it commercially the following year as ‘Passport - Fife and A’ the Lands About It’ CTRAX 024 on Greentrax Records. This was subsequently picked up by a French record company called ‘PlayaSound’ and they sub-contracted it as part of a ‘world music’ series and issued it as a CD called ‘Ecosse’ PS 65042. This recording was so successful in its various guises that the group began to make tax returns!

During the late 1970s and early1980s Heritage hosted a grand jamboree every September at Kinlochrannoch where friends and acquaintances would gather for a weekend built around a charity concert in the village hall and a cheap B&B deal for all in the magnificent Victorian ‘Dunalistair’ hotel.

Around this time the group appeared on STV in the series ‘Hear Here’ and on Zurich TV during their Swiss tour, as well as on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio Forth.

 The boys approaching the Eiger

Time for another diversion -

In 1988 Jack had been asked by Ian Green to record an album of songs for Greentrax and the project became more or less a Heritage songs album. Jack was accompanied by the then current members of Heritage plus Gary Coupland (of the Singing Kettle) on accordion to replace the missing Jimmy Dunn. Although the album was released to critical acclaim, it was the last one Greentrax issued solely in LP and Cassette format and as a result suffered poor sales. ‘O Lassie, Lassie’ CTRAX 027 was, however, a favourite of both Ian Green and Pete Heywood (of Living Tradition magazine) and it would eventually be re-released in CD format some 14 years later.

In late 1990 The group was joined by Alan Macdonald playing fiddle and mandolin and made a return trip to their ‘happy hunting ground’ around Agen in the South of France, meeting up again with many old friends, including Dominique, Margaret - and Davy’s musical colleagues of Los Cottilhons.

 

Dominique with Heritage in Agen

Davy leads an international ensemble in Montflanquin

By this time Heritage had a repertoire which included not only music from England, Ireland, Scotland and the Northern Isles, but also from all over Europe and the USA. In 1992 they decided to invest the (not insubstantial) royalties from ‘Passport’ in the production of a new album. They approached Robin Morton of Temple Records, who had produced and recorded their first albums and he agreed to take on the project, while making it clear that if it didn’t shape up it wouldn’t be on his label. Dominique visited Scotland that year, playing at Dunfermline and Polmont folk clubs as well as the French Institute in Edinburgh - so the group began by recording a set of Occitan polkas with Dominique guesting on melodeon.

The album ‘Tell tae Me’ Temple/Flying Fish COMD 2051 took a long time to record - mainly because of the difficulty of finding times when everyone was available (actually quite a lot of tracks do not involve everyone for that very reason) - both for recordings and for rehearsals. By the time it was finished the group had come to the end of its life.

Heritage lasted longer than many other groups and developed remarkably both in terms of musical ability and breadth of repertoire. The group still gets regular airplay and its final CD still sells around the world - as do a number of Greentrax compilations containing Heritage tracks.

The ultimate Heritage line up was:

Jack Beck, Pete Clark, George Haig, Alan Macdonald, Alistair Marshall, Lindsay Porteous and Mike Ward

Heritage # 3

Meanwhile (1)

Back in France Dominique had joined an acapella singing group called Au Son de Votz who sang for dances in village halls around the Agen area and recorded an album with Occitan ‘supergroup’ Perlinpinpin. She subsequently moved up to the Limoges area where she joined a group called Chantelébre that she has since said reminded her of Heritage. In 2002 she brought Chantelébre to tour Scotland and the group were joined by Heritage members at some of the gigs.

Meanwhile (2)

In 1987 Jack was contacted by Wayne Bean from Maine in the US, who had come across NBLP1 and 2 in Bermuda in the collection of his wife-to-be Jean who comes from Perth in Scotland (she had bought them in Lindsay’s Culross shop while on a visit home). Wayne was completely overwhelmed by the albums and was determined to track down Jack in particular. When he succeeded Jack was invited to tour in Maine in 1988, with Wayne and Jean using the intervening year to learn a whole plethora of unfamiliar instruments in order to provide Jack with a ‘Heritage’ to accompany him (since they couldn’t afford the real thing). From that grew a remarkable long distance appreciation society which continued when Wayne and Jean moved to East Tennessee and put together their own group ‘Pictou’ which though by no means a copy, is certainly strongly influenced by the early Heritage recordings. Wayne is probably Heritage's biggest fan (Jack describes him as 'The Keeper of the Flame').

Meanwhile (3)

Davy kept up his 'French Connection', moved to Cupar and became a stalwart of many of the pub sessions which took place in that part of Fife. He can always be relied on to come out with a set of Occitan tunes and celebrated the approach of his eightieth birthday by joining Chantlebre on a number of their November 2002 tour gigs in Scotland.

Meanwhile (4)

George had taken early retirement from his job and with the accompanying ‘golden handshake’ he enrolled in a music technology course at Glenrothes College. A couple of years later he had installed a ‘state of the art’ recording studio in his house. He had also become a highly respected autoharp player and was being recognised as such by the best around! He even ended up teaching courses in how to play Celtic music on the autoharp in the US. He and Jack regularly toured the US for a number of years following the demise of Heritage and George guested on the Pictou CD ‘Reprobate’ (2002). At the time of writing he has become highly sought after as an album producer and sound engineer.

Meanwhile (5)

Mike O’Connor had moved to the US as a result of promotion within the RAF and then eventually retired to his beloved Cornwall. He became much in demand as a session fiddle player and recorded with Martin Wyndham Reid among others. He now runs a traditional arts consultancy near Padstow and works as a storyteller and fiddle player.

Meanwhile (6)

Pete became a full-time musician, which in Scotland usually means playing in as many different ensembles as possible as well as tutoring etc. While doing all of this he has also produced some highly regarded recordings - most notably a CD of the works of Niel Gow played on Gow's actual original fiddle.

Discography:

Heritage

1980 - ‘Some Rantin’ Rovin’ Fun’ No Bad Records NBLP1

1981 - ‘When the Dancin’ it’s a’ Done’ No Bad Records NBLP2

1988 - ‘Passport’ Greentrax CTRAX 024

1989 - ‘Ecosse’ Playasound PS 65042 (French CD of ‘Passport’)

1993 - ‘Tell tae Me’ Temple/Flying Fish COMD 2051

Jack Beck

1989 (reissued 2002) - ‘O Lassie, Lassie’ Greentrax CDTRAX 027

2001 - ‘Half Ower, Half Ower tae Aberdour’ Trad. Bearers LTCD1006

2004 – ‘Twa Times Ower’ Fishtail FTCD 06

Lindsay Porteous

1987 - ‘A World of my Own’ Tron Workshop TW01

1989 - ‘Portrait of a Jew’s Harp Player’ Greentrax CTRAX 022

1991 - 99  A series of Tron Workshop specialist CDs

Mike O’Connor

                2000 - 'The Seals Singing' Lyngham House lyng 211 CD

2001 - ‘The Soul of the Fiddle’ Lyngham House lyng 215 CD

2001 - 'The Whispering Forest' Lyngham House lyng 213 CD

Pete Clark

1996 - 'Fiddlecase' Smiddymade SMD 608

1998 - 'Even Now - Niel Gow' Smiddymade SMD 615

2002 - 'Birnam Oak' Inver 223

2002 – ‘Sycamore’ Inver 224

2004 – ‘Mackintosh at Murthly’ Inver 225

Pictou

1988 - 'For to Find Mad Tom' pic 001

2002 - 'Reprobate'  CW music CWCD 001