Roots

Jock Herbertson (2nd from the right) at the Marine Garden Ballroom 1930

There has been music in my family for a long time. My grandfather, Jock Herbertson was a multi-talented man and one of his talents was journalism. Fortunately, most of his published articles were on his boyhood in Dalry, Edinburgh and he mentions the fiddle playing of my Great grandfather, a cabinet maker. I know that my Great grandmother would sing the family favourite, “The Rowan tree” and the whole family would be expected to contribute to musical evenings, typical probably of many Scottish families

Jock was a violinist who learned by ear. Jock began playing the violin in the army in India during the WW1. He played a multitude of venues from silent films to theatres and dancehalls. In the blitz in London he was one of those musicians who entertained the brave Londoners hiding from the bombs in the Underground. He even learned the English concertina at a late age and was capable of playing some very difficult pieces on it.

Jock Herbertson

Jock married my Grandmother Veda La Court who had been on the stage in vaudeville since the age of 14. She was a contralto, a friend of Gracie Fields and accompanied Caruso on an Irish tour. She apparently had a beautiful contralto voice. My father, a singer, learned the trumpet in the Harry James style, toyed with the clarinet, and saxophone and is a fine pianist. He has been playing regularly in clubs for more years than he cares to remember.

Veda La Court

My mother never sang professionally but I always remember her singing beautifully when she was on her own. Her father, Frederick Buglass, owned a fiddle and one of the best collection of 78 records imaginable kept in the guests room in a tenement in Tolcross, Edinburgh. He was a sergeant in the black watch and fought in both world wars. He was a mild and amiable man but tall and strong as an ox.

As far as I can establish my family on my father’s side have been self taught musicians for generations and on my mother’s side, the Buglass and Sandilands and Towers, the folk and popular songs were part of the evening’s entertainment doubtless for generations.

I remember at parties, uncles, aunts and cousins singing Scots songs and popular songs. No one in my family on either side had any serious musical training. The music apparently has to come out regardless.

My Uncle, Douglas Herbertson playing harmoinca

My Uncle, Douglas Herbertson playing harmoinca

My oldest daughter Alexandra, plays the violin now, my oldest son electric guitar and my youngest trumpet and guitar. My youngest daughter has already sung on stage at the age of seven. (Didn’t push her). Perhaps they’re all on the same journey.

Things to do this year. Get the family singing and doing party tricks at Christmas. perhaps we can reinvent folk music.

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