Iain MacKintosh

Folk musician

Born: 20 July, 1932, in Glasgow.

Died: 27 August, 2006, in Glasgow, aged 74.

IAIN MacKintosh, known as "the quiet man of Scottish folk", had the love and respect of his peers and of his audiences throughout Europe and America. He was regarded as the ultimate professional, although his stage presence was understated and seemingly without artifice. This professionalism had been honed over his 30 years, or more, of playing folk venues throughout the world and regardless of the country in which he was touring, he could hold an audience enthralled with his remarkable choice of songs and stories. Of the many countries he visited, his favourites were Germany and Denmark. In Germany he toured at least twice a year, sometimes as a solo performer, sometimes with Hamish Imlach and after Hamish died, with Brian McNeill. In Denmark, the Tnder Festival became his main showcase and his yearly appearance at the Visemllen (the Song Mill) became valued as much for his performance as for the musicians and songwriters he introduced.

Like so many musicians, MacKintosh had an unusual apprenticeship. After an education at Glasgow High School, he was called up for National Service in the RAF and spent most of that time in the UK, although for six months he was stationed in Egypt. On returning to Glasgow, he worked in his family's pawnbroker and jewellery shop but, during that time, he became increasingly interested in folk music. In 1970, after seeing the American folk singer Pete Seeger at Glasgow City Hall, MacKintosh decided to leave the business and become a "full-time" folk singer. He became part of the excellent group The Islanders, but then decided to work solo, embarking on a long career that took him all over the world. He recorded several albums and CDs in Germany and Scotland, each showed his remarkable gift of making every song his own, regardless of the writer.

Although MacKintosh seemed to be constantly "on the road", his friends were well aware of his commitment to his family. His wife, Sadie (whom he married in 1956), and his two daughters, Fiona and Isla, provided him with a home life away from the rigours of touring. Comparatively recently, the onset of Parkinson's Disease and cancer of the throat put an end to MacKintosh's musical career, although he still found time to visit the Glasgow Folk Club and the Celtic Connections festival, especially when his friends (of whom there were many) were performing. He often remarked that he did not miss the travelling and performing, but he missed the "craic" - the sessions with his fellow musicians. During this time, life at home with his three grandchildren, Struan, Rhianna, and Scottgave him immense pleasure and more than made up for the travelling life he had left behind.

Over the years, Iain MacKintosh and I spent a lot of time together, mostly abroad. One time in Cologne, Germany, we were booked on the same radio programme to play 20 minutes each. He played six songs of two minutes and I thought at the time the songs seemed a little shorter than usual. I played three songs, each around six minutes long and after the programme had been recorded, we sat in the caf and compared notes. It transpired he was paid a lot more than me and when I questioned this he said: "Read your contract - the payment is per song, not for the time you play." That was one of the more valuable lessons I learned from a true "pro" who, incidentally, never tired of telling that story.

Iain MacKintosh will be sadly missed by all his friends in the folk scene and beyond. Although he was not noted for his compositions, the songs that he wrote stand equal alongside the compositions of established professional song- writers. To quote from one of his last songs:

I can't believe it's 30 years since I began to sing

But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing.