Myself and daryl are based in collieston, on the Buchan coast. I moved here in 2003 and Daryl a few years later and we started making music. Initially we developed a ‘village orchestra’ (Oxbow Lake orchestra) The Lang Reel O Collieston was written at one of those sessions. 

One of our many musical obsessions has been traditional Aberdeenshire and Scottish and Irish music but also creating new Buchan music based on the same traditions of ballads, stories etc but reflective of our own tastes.

Daryl was playing a lot of traditional English, Irish and Scottish music before moving to Scotland and marrying a local Quine. 

We’re both also obsessed with the Blues, funky stuff and the Hammond organ, but we’ll leave that for another time!!

My fathers family are from Oyne near Insch, where my Uncle still lives in the family home and I spent a lot of my youth with my cousins, aunt and my Uncle John Nicol, on their farm, Craigford. My uncle had a big impression on me as a child and I was about 14 before I could fully understand what the Nicol family were saying!? 

My father loves to sing bothy ballads and burns tunes and his best friend Frank McNally was a well Kent Aberdeenshire bothy balladeer, who’s sadly no longer with us.

So I was immersed in this music and my mother’s Irish music, as a child. Punk

Rock came and went and I immediately connected with The Pogues etc but also Aberdeenshire songs. The rebel sound system of Robbie Shepard show, being a regular listen.

I’ve worked and lived in Aberdeenshire for 30 years and have regularly spoke with my cousins on the loss of their dialect and how to save it, so was delighted to see Jill’s website developing.

So now back to Collieston;

We knew about this old fisher dance; a reel that they would dance, right through the village, down to the beach at weddings. It was a means for people to meet their future partners.

The village re-enacted the dance in the 80’s. So we knew the rhythm, only. Videos on this site.

We then discovered the poem The Lang reel o collieston online by a villager Doctor Mackie, who’s son still lives in the village.

And wrote the music to go with some of the words, for a village wedding, which we were delighted to play live, as guests danced on the beach on a hot sweltering day!

So where is the regional music of Aberdeenshire and Buchan, today?

Unfortunately fewer and fewer folk spek tha Doric, with fewer bothy ballad and regional music events, it’s less likely for people to connect to this beautiful sing song language, which is so suited to lyrics. 

Burns poetry, is keeping a form of old Scots to the fore of our consciousness. But more needs to be done, otherwise it’ll be gone, after hundreds of years.

Myself, with others, have been highlighting the links between the past and the present.

I recently brought together a compilation album called ‘Buchan Sunsets’ under my record label ‘Village Sunsets’ of local artists, which brought music together of similar themes and connections. Some of whom have strong local ties but may not speak the Doric anymore. But notably Alan Davidson (the Kitchen Cynics) local folk lorist, joe Kingman (previously of wild NE trad band ‘We Free Kings’) who spent his childhood on collieston beach!, local singers/musicians and mixing in poetry by John Mackie, who although brought up in London, had strong family ties in the region, lived in Banff and wrote beautifully about it. John unfortunately passed away as we were releasing the album. Much missed.

Village sunsets is a roots label based in collieston, a Croft industry, which I hope to do more for local artists, although majority so far has been as a platform for my own music and bands i play with. 

At this point, it’s worth highlighting The Fonsecas, who are a roots, traditional and folkie outfit, very much focussed on creating a new regional folk music. Based in cruden, collieston and new pitsligo, first album ‘where the river meets the sea’ was very much based on traditional themes of loss, the sea, etc with the new album in making much more trad based.

The Fonsecas came together at the cruden bay folk club, which we regularly play. A key for us, with the climate crisis and lockdown is to focus more on grass roots local live events and online activity.

And I’d also like to mention the feel of an album I’m half way through writing, based on life here in Forvie (Collieston), called ‘Forvie Lullabies’ , which I’ve released half of the tracks in the lockdown, in the hope of bringing some calm to people’s lives. This pulls from a lot of traditional ballad music, but slowed down and with similar themes, Such as fishing (aff tha pottie murlan), winter storms (Sna part 1 to 3) etc.

These discussions have inspired me to look at bringing together a compilation of new music using the Doric, so watch this space!! 

‘The Lang Reel O Collieston’ by the Oxbow Lake Band

The words are from a poem by Doctor Mackie who lived in collieston, the full text is shown below.

The lang reel was danced through the village, as a reel, down to beach, as a marathon danceathon, at weddings. We knew the rythmn from the dance, but even the dance steps details has been lost to time. Daryl and I then wrote the music  to accompany the words we extracted from the song, especially for a wedding in the village, which was held on the beach. It was great to play live, while everyone danced on a roasting hot day on the beach.

We danced that reel along the braes,
An through the toon tae the grey green sea,
An’ by the shore my thochts were wild,
An’ seen it wis sae clear tae me,

That bonny quine I should mak mine,
Nae langer wid ma hert be free,
I could’na wait tae seek ma fate,
an’ I jist hid tae mak ma plea.

Och, mairry me in Collieston,
An dance again the Reel wi’ me, wi’ me, wi’ me.

Nae langer wid ma hert be free,
We’re wedded till Eternity.

This version was recorded live at banff castle in 2010.

The Lang Reel o Collieston by Dr Lewis Mackie

As I cam intae Collieston a weddin party did I see
The bride an’ groom were hastenin on
An’ a’ the fowk chased them wi’ glee.

I saw a lass wi’ speckled een an’ stopped her as she passed by me
An’ shouted her abune the noise “Why a’ the hilarity?
Oh, lassie wi’ the speckled een far dae ye haste sae jauntily?”

“Tae Penny Gravits, Sir” said she, “Tae dance a reel maist cantily”.
“An’ wha will ye get tae partner ye, tae dance that reel sae merrily?”
“Nae wint o’ partners will I hae.” She answered me richt cheerily.
Awa she skipped, blue ribbons dancin roon her hair sae prettily,
A’ I could dae wis follow her an’ hope that she wid dance wi’ me.

At Benatlove there wis a steer o’ fowk a’ fou a’ jollity
An the Lang Reel wis formin up sae we looked for places eagerly.
They tied a ribbon roon ma airm an’ shook ma han’ maist cordially
An took me tae the laddie’s raw an’ gar’d me stand there patiently.
Fan I looked ower the lassie’s row, I did so very fearfully.
Bit fa wis there bit Speckled Een a’smilin at me cheekily.

We danced that reel along the braes
An through the toon tae the grey green sea,
An’ by the shore my thochts were wild
An’ seen it wis sae clear tae me,
That bonny quine I should mak mine.
Nae langer wid ma hert be free.

Wee Speckled Een, she haunted me an made me sigh sac wearily
I could’na wait tae seek ma fate, an’ I jist hid tae mak ma plea.
“Och, mairry me in Collieston an dance again the Reel wi’ me”
An Gweed be thanked, she smiled at me
An spoke these words sae lovingly
“My bonny lad gie me your han’ we’ll dance oor measure joyously
Wi’ the Lang Reel a’ Collieston, we’re wedded till Eternity.

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