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Charlie Murray (bothy singer)

matt milton 27 Jul 09 - 12:57 PM
Vic Smith 28 Jul 09 - 09:01 AM
GUEST 29 Jul 09 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,matt milton 29 Jul 09 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Peter Shepheard 29 Jul 09 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,Peter Shepheard 29 Jul 09 - 01:33 PM
Fred McCormick 30 Jul 09 - 07:58 AM
matt milton 30 Jul 09 - 08:29 AM
GUEST,Edgware 19 Sep 13 - 08:07 AM
GUEST,14 Feb 2015 21 Feb 15 - 03:20 PM
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Subject: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: matt milton
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:57 PM

Hi all. Just listening to the Bothy Ballads: Music from the North-East CD from Greentrax Records. Some great stuff on there (Jimmy MacBeath and others).

But the performance that really stopped me in my tracks was a version of "My Last Farewell to Stirling" by a singer called Charlie Murray. I only know this song from a book by Ewan MacColl, but the tune Charlie Murray sings is much more haunting and modal. (The tune given in the MacColl book is a bit more English-hymn-sounding).

Anyway, Charlie Murray has (or had, I should say) a great voice. Very little on the Internet about him though. The two songs he sang on this compilation appear to be his only recordings. Does anyone know of any other recordings that were made of his singing?

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: Vic Smith
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 09:01 AM

You are absolutely right to be enthusing about Charlie who was a great singer and a lovely man. At the time that I knew him, the late '60s and early '70s, he was living and working at a farm near Forfar and was a great lover of and performer of the old Bothy Ballads from the farms of the counties in and around Aberdeenshire. He became a regular and popular fixture at all the TMSA Traditional Music Festivals around that time. My Last Farewell to Stirling was probably his most requested song but he had quite a large repertoire of authentic bothy songs that he sang with that deliberate phrasing and distinctive tone. The only other commercially released recording that I know of him is one track When I wis jist but Sweet Sixteen on the long deleted Springthyme LP Scots Songs and Music (recorded at the Kinross Festival) SPR 001 though lots of people, self included, sat with portable cassette recorders and recorded all the concerts and ceilidhs at those festivals.

I remember a late (virtually all) night session in a large caravan that Tina and I had rented on the Kinross camp site that included - at various times of the night - Adam and Charlie as well as Aly Bain, Joe Burke, Finbar & Eddie Furey, Jim Bainbridge, Trevor & Lyn Sheridan, Dave Goulder and Belle & Alex Stewart.

He took to singing in unison with another old bothy veteran, Adam Young at the festivals and they complemented one another in a strange way. Charlie was a much better singer than Adam but Adam had a really good presence as a performer and was garrilous and hilarious where Charlie was quiet and shy.

The person who could supply more information for you about Charlie is Pete Shepheard of Springthyme Records and there is an email contact for him on his website at

Pete sings a number of songs learned from Charlie and he will be coming down south in September along with Tam Spiers and Arthur Watson and the three of them will be singing at The Royal Oak in Lewes on 17th September - see

One last short story. I remember one of these festival concerts with Adam and Charlie singing together and they were singing The Overgate, the story of the misadventures of a farm worker who goes up on the spree to Dundee and meets "a lady of the night". They came to the verse that normally goes:-

Says I, "I've lost my waistcoat,
my watch chain, and my purse."
Says she, "I've lost my maidenhead
and that's a damn sight worse!"

Clearly singing the word "maidenhead" was too much for these two lovely old guys, so they substituted the word "handbag"!

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 07:27 AM

Thanks Vic, some lovely anecdotes there. Sounds like there's probably a gem of an album that some enterprising Scots archivist could compile if they could spare the time to track down all the veteran folk audience members with cassette recorders.

Actually, I think despite their gentlemanly intentions, "handbag" still retains a certain entendre. I won't be able to hear Lady Bracknell's famous speech in quite the same way ever again.

I've pencilled in 17th September; haven't been to the Royal Oak yet, so that'll make a grand first-time jaunt.

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 07:28 AM

guest above= me

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: GUEST,Peter Shepheard
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 01:23 PM

Charlie was a fine singer who I came across one night probably in summer 1967 when we were looking for 'new' traditional singers to bring as guests to the Blairgowrie Festival run by the newly formed Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA), the festival having been started in 1966. My wife and myself toured around the local area and came across Charlie Murray and Adam Young singing one Saturday night in the Justinhaugh Hotel near Forfar where there was a regular song session. Charlie and Adam were then invited as guests at the Blair Festival that year and were regular guests at TMSA festivals from then on - and Charlie was also roped in as a judge in the traditional song and bothy ballad competitions - and in other years was a winner.

I recorded a number of songs from him at his house near Justinhaugh: The Hash o Benagoak, The Fornet, McGinnin and his Cross-Eyed Pet, Hillie's Man, My Last Farewell to Stirling. He also sang Hairst o Rettie that he had learnt from old Jimmy McBeath who he had heard singing at country fairs and markets, the Tradesman's Plooing Match at Hogmanay and the song When I Wis Just But Sweet Sixteen that I included on the first LP recorded at Kinross in 1973. He was a guest at Kinross Festival in 1972, 73, 78 and 80.

Perhaps we should look to put together an archive issue of his singing? All you out there let me know what you have.

The LP SPR 1001 is still available: Scots Songs & Music 1
Live from Kinross Festival - A historic album of songs and music recorded at the 1973 Kinross Festival.

Have a look also at Jock Duncan:
and also Gordon Easton:

Both are great traditional singers with traditional songs and ballads and bothy ballads in their repertoire.

Listen to Jock here:

Peter Shepheard

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: GUEST,Peter Shepheard
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 01:33 PM

The recordings of Charlie Murray on Greentrax were (I think) recorded by Hamish Henderson for the School of Scottish Studies in 1972 - this is referred to in the notes in the Kinross programme of that year:

Born in the Black Isle, brought up in Aberdeenshire, has worked on farms all his life in six counties from Easter Ross to East Lothian. He has been at Craigeassie near Forfar for nearly twenty years, His repertoire of songs has been picked up in bothies, at markets and in farm kitchens. He often gives a song at his local the Justinhaugh Hotel. Was recorded recently by the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.

Peter Shepheard

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 07:58 AM

Peter Shepheard. "All you out there let me know what you have."

I'm afraid I've got nothing useable, but I think a CD of the man would be an excellent idea. Peter, from your second posting, it sounds as though he is still alive and still singing. Would a set of new recordings be feasible?

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: matt milton
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 08:29 AM

No - I initially misread it the same way - sadly those are the reproduced sleeve notes from the Greentrax album in 1972.

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: GUEST,Edgware
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 08:07 AM

Charlie Murray's voice was heard on at least one recording from the Kinross Festival - recorded by the BBC Folkweave program. It would be nice to think that one day the Beeb might make these recordings available.

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Subject: RE: Charlie Murray (bothy singer)
From: GUEST,14 Feb 2015
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 03:20 PM

As Charlie's son I'd occasionally drive him, usually accompanied by Adam Young, to folk venues. My dad was never a good or confident driver. I remember dropping them off in St Andrews and returning to pick them up towards the end of the show. It was the last song with everyone up on stage, (including Rab Noakes who'd probably topped the bill), they were doing Wild Mountain Thyme which was often dad's end of the night song at Justihaugh pub, I'm probably biased but felt that his voice came through above them all. With respect to recorded songs, he appeared on three records.

Scottish Tradition 1, Bothy Ballads, Music from the North East
TNGM 109 by School of Scottish Studies.
Songs :- My Last Farewell to Stirling & The Hairst o' Rettie

Scots Songs and Music SPR 1001 (from the Kinross Festival (1974?))
Song :- when I was jist but sweet sixteen.

Ballad Folk, Jean Redpath with guests
From Jean's BBC Scotland TV Series (1977?) REC 293.
Song :- The Guise O'Tough

After retiring he recorded some tapes on his portable recorder so I've some cassettes of that. The sound quality is not very good but there's one or two good tracks especially a version of the Ball of Kirriemuir set to a different tune with some very amusing verses.

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