writer, singer, songmaker, storyteller, cultural organiser, publisher
I have done many things in my 76 years.
I wrote a song that got into the Top Twenty in 1961, then I was a boy banker in Africa, a guitar teacher in the USA, a psychiatric social worker in Scotland. I began to write books, mostly about aspects of Scottish traditional song.
Then came the Songmaker In Schools project, in which I began to visit schools, writing new songs with the kids.
From that came an artistic partnership with African artist Amu Logotse, which led to me becoming a storyteller and project organiser. In 2015 I was startled to be given the Hamish Henderson Award For Services To Tradtional Music.
I have told stories or made songs in 200 schools, 50 libraries and 30 museums in Scotland, Russia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, the USA, Uganda, the Czech Republic and England.
I have had six books, many articles and various CDs published by others, and have published 10+ myself as Gallus Publications, and have created and performed in many shows.
Currently I continue to work with Christine Kydd on songwriting projects, and to develop the longterm charitable project for street kids I co-run in Uganda. I am helping Christine work up training and mentoring projects.
Various ideas are in stages of development. They include applying the People's Parish approach to communities where I am active, working towards the 150 year recognition of the meeting of David Livingstone and Henry Stanley with a uniting theme of Water, and other stuff.
I was born in Inverness, lived in Invergordon then Orkney, did most of my schooling in Dingwall, then lived and worked in Glasgow, London, Uganda, Kenya, South Yemen, the USA, Birmingham, and Glasgow again in 1968. In 1996 we moved to Linlithgow. Over the back wall from our garden is ruined Linlithgow Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots was born. At present we spend half our time in a flat above a bookshop in the little seaport town of Cromarty, just across the Firth from our childhood homes.
My song Talking Army Blues spent 13 weeks in the Top Twenty in 1960, performed by Josh Macrae. A couple of my songs for adults (Shift and Spin and All The Tunes In The World) have been widely sung and recorded, and the Singing Kettle children's show have used 20 of my songs.
In 2010 I gathered up a few of my books and turned publisher as Gallus Publications.
In 2012 I developed a project called Collier Tracks that traced and tell of Scots miners here and in Nova Scotia through their songs and stories, and created a show with Siobhan Miller that took the songs to communities in Blantyre, Plean and Newtongrange.
I also gathered up contacts with storytellers in central and eastern Europe for an academic study I was involved with.
For the 2013 bicentenary of David Livingstone I researched and developed several small scale projects under the generic title of Livingstone's Magic Lantern. These included a storyteller-based show about Livingstone and his great friend inventor Paraffin Young with the participation of Scots singer Christine Kydd, and a Highlands-based show about Livingstone and his other close friend geographer Roderick Murchison with the participation of storyteller and musician Bob Pegg.
I have created two websites about Livingstone and Scotland, and published a book titled Rocks In The River about Livingstone's people. The first show was initially performed in West Calder High School beside where Young lived and Livingstone visited. It then went on the St Mungo's Museum Glasgow, and to the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre. It was in October 2013 performed in Glasgow, Mull and Edinburgh as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.
A solo show called A Mountain In My Hand about the linkages between Livingstone and various Highlands places and people was performed in September in Nairn, Gairloch and Thurso, and in October in Fort William.
The Rocks In The River show was performed in Muir of Ord on 23rd November, a solo version was taken to Ormiston, Stenhousemuir and Edinburgh. I also tried to support performances of two vocal works about Livingstone that were made by Scots composer Hamish MacCunn - but without success.
More recently I created for Scotland's National Library another themed show, about Scottish Women In WW1.
I got around to publishing a book - with recordings - of my Pictworks poems and pieces.
Christine Kydd and I as Ceilidhmakers continue to deliver songmaking projects in Aberdeenshire primary schools, most recently along the River Dee. We are also running a Telling Our Stories songmaking project in four communities around the Tay Estuary, part of the Tay Landscape Project. And we are helping cclebrate co-operation in Scotland in song over the centuries with the new Scottish Cultural Co-op, beginning with the 1761 Fenwick Weavers who started it all.
In 2016 for the Dingwall Book Festival I wrote and published a booklet on local architect James Joass.
In 2017 I am making a book on 'Dingwall On The Waters'.
I have been investigating 19th C Highland ministers who were amateur archaeologists and geologists, and Alexander MacKay of Rhynie, who became a lay missionary in 19th C Uganda.