The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469   Message #3294306
Posted By: Jim Carroll
22-Jan-12 - 06:22 AM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Don't know how accurate this description of MacColl's 'discovery' in the 1930s (apart from the obvious inaccuracy of describing his father as a Glaswegian).
"Ewan MacColl was himself a victim of the Depression. The son of an unemployed Glasgow steelworker, who had moved to Salford in search of work during the twenties, he had suffered every privation and humiliation that poverty could contrive for him from the age of ten. His memories of his early years are still bitter—like his recollection of how to kill aimless time in a world where there was nothing else to do: "You go in the Public Library. And the old men are there standing against the pipes to get warm, all the newspaper parts are occupied, and you pick a book up. I can remember then that you got the smell of the unemployed, a kind of sour or bitter-sweet smell, mixed in with the smell of old books, dust, leather and the rest of it. So now if I pick up, say, a Dostoievsky—immediately with the first page, there's that smell of poverty in 1931."
MacColl had been out busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learnt from his mother, border ballads and folk-songs One night while queueing up for the three-and-sixpennies, Kenneth Adam had heard him singing outside the Manchester Paramount. He was suitably impressed. Not only did he give MacColl a handout; he also advised him to go and audition for Archie Harding at the BBC studios in Manchester's Piccadilly."
PROSPERO AND ARIEL (The rise and fall of radio, a personal recollection – D G Bridson 1971)

I never heard MacColl sing in Gaelic in public, though he did so several times in Critics Group meetings as an illustration of style.
According to a conversation I had with Salford historian Eddie Frow, his father, William Miller had "lots of old Scots songs and ballads", though I suspect many of these were fragments or incomplete, later expanded by Ewan for public performance.
I seem to remember he and Joan Littlewood did some collecting (for the BBC??) in the Highlands; it was there he got his 'Chairlie Plenderleith' stories, (and 'The Wellington Boot' about the Highlander who leaves home one morning to get his boot repaired and is away for several years, having undergone many adventures).
MacColl never claimed a Gaelic background.
Jim Carroll