Edinburgh folk star killed by heart attack

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ONE of Scotland’s leading folk musicians has collapsed and died after suffering a heart attack at work, teaching art to young offenders.

Edinburgh-based singer and guitarist Bobby Eaglesham, who was a member of celebrated folk rock outfit Five Hand Reel, was 61.

He collapsed in the canteen of Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution where he worked as an arts teacher.

Tributes poured in today for Mr Eaglesham, of St Bernard’s Crescent, Stockbridge, who collaborated with some of the folk scene’s biggest names, ranging from Dick Gaughan to Billy Connolly.

Paddy Bort, chairman of the Edinburgh Folk Club, said today: "He was a unique singer with a gravelly voice as well as an accomplished guitarist. He was not a song-writer, but he made songs his own.

"Bobby would only sing a song if it really meant something for him to work on it. He would come up with a new arrangement, or his own way to sing it. His standards were always very high.

"Five Hand Reel were also a big draw and a very influential band. They played traditional songs but using electric guitars."

Mr Eaglesham produced four albums with the band - which also included famous folk singer Dick Gaughan - in the late 1970s and early 1980s and toured across Europe. The group received praise for their fusion of traditional folk material with electric instruments.

He also played with Iain MacKintosh in a duo known as The Other Half. An accomplished guitarist, he worked with Billy Connolly as well during the comedian’s formative years.

Among the albums produced by Five Hand Reel were For A’ That, A Bunch of Fives and Earl of Moray. Mr Eaglesham played mandolin, guitars, side drums, bouzouki and sang on the albums, which proved popular across Europe. He also released a well-received solo album entitled Weather the Storm in 1982.

After taking a break from performing, he returned to the folk scene around ten years ago and also started Festival Folk at the Royal Oak pub in Infirmary Street. The popular venue attracted musicians including Paddie Bell, Hamish Bayne and Nancy Nicolson. In 1998, he teamed up with fiddler Chuck Fleming to record The Live Set album and also embarked on a tour of Britain, Holland and Germany in the late 90s.

He played his last two Festival shows at the Royal Oak in August.

Mr Eaglesham was born in Coatbridge but has been a resident in the Capital since moving from the Lake District in the early 1990s. He came to the city to study for an MA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art before becoming an art teacher.

Mr Bort said the musician would be greatly missed by friends and fans from the folk scene.

He added: "His death was so unexpected and I think it has left everyone shocked. He was a grand fellow, a very quiet, gentle man. He will be greatly missed.

"He collapsed in the canteen of the young offenders’ institution where he worked last Thursday at about 10am. We believe that he suffered a heart attack. Arrangements for his funeral have not been made yet."

Traditional folk singer Sheena Wellington was a friend and collaborator of Mr Eaglesham. She said today: "Bobby was such an influential singer with the loveliest voice. I used to love when he visited us in St Andrews and we’d sing songs into the night. He had a great talent for finding obscure songs or taking songs that we all knew, but had ignored, and making them sound fresh again.

"I’m still reeling from his death. He will be sadly missed."

Mr Eaglesham is survived by his son, John.