Singer, songwriter and musician
Born: 30 May, 1934, in Dundee.
Died: 6 July, 2009, in Kirriemuir.
JIM Reid – a man who many consider one of Scotland's finest folk singers – died at the age of 75 on Monday, 6 July, after a long illness. His contribution to Scotland's singing tradition has been immense, and in 2005 he was voted Scots Singer of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards.
At the first Blairgowrie Festival he met the traveller family, the Stewarts of Blair. He was one of the founders of the Traditional Music and Song Association's Keith Festival (in 1976) and was later given honorary membership of the TMSA. His love of the poetry of Tayside and Angus led to his inspired musical settings of poems by Violet Jacob and Helen Cruickshank. In particular, his song The Wild Geese, created from Jacob's poem, established Jim's lasting legacy.
Jim was born and brought up in the Stobswell area of Dundee, attending Clepington Primary School, then the nearby Morgan Academy.
At the age of seven he showed his musical potential by winning the Leng Medal for singing a Scots song. From Stobswell Cross, Jim's grandfather had run the horse-drawn bus to Forfar – immortalised in Jim's song The Stobbie Parliament Picnic. On leaving school, Jim worked as a mechanic in what was by then his father's garage, before joining the Royal Engineers.
During National Service, Jim's enthusiasm for traditional music was fully awakened when he heard the radio programme As I Roved Out, presented by English folk song collector Peter Kennedy and Irish uillean piper Seamus Ennis. The folk revival in Scotland sprang to life in the early 1960s and, when the first Dundee folk club was formed, Jim joined local group the Shifters, the name taken from the well-loved Jute Mill song by Dundee poet Mary Brooksbank.
He later joined the Taysiders, adding to his repertoire of Scots folksong and accompanying himself on guitar and concertina, along with traditional tunes on mouth organ and pipes. After working for G&P Barrie at their Dundee lemonade factory, Jim became production manager with Robb's of Arbroath, leading to a major change in his life. Robb Brothers' factory was near the now-famous Foundry Bar, the haunt of local musicians, where Jim soon became an accepted part of regular musical gatherings in the back room.
In 1975, Jim suggested that a group of these musicians should enter the Ceilidh band competition at the Kinross Festival. This they did – with four fiddles, two accordions and Jim on guitar and mouth organ – returning that night as champion Scottish Ceilidh Band. So was born the hugely influential Foundry Bar Band. After a very successful debut album, Jim went on to record his iconic solo album, I Saw The Wild Geese Flee, in 1984, firmly establishing him as one of the finest voices in the Scottish folk tradition.
Those who knew Jim knew an exceptional man, a warm and compassionate friend, always helpful to younger singers and musicians, with never a hard word to say. Many will remember his couthie songs, whether his own compositions or old poems magically transformed by his music. He always liked to include place names in his songs – Auchmithie, the Dichty, Tullybaccart and Kinclaven Bridge.
He captured the human tragedy of the Highland Clearances in The Spark Amang the Heather, and he looked back in sadness at the demolition of his Dundee childhood playground in Catherine Street, while in one of the favourites, Vinney Den, he achieves the stature of a classic ballad.
I will always recall with pleasure dancing a waltz to the Foundry Bar Band at Auchtermuchty Festival in the 1980s as Jim sang a version of Banks o the Roses – a song that in many traditional versions is a murder ballad! Many will remember the Gartly Restaurant sessions during the Keith Festival, when it would seem all the musicians in Scotland would join the Foundry Band for a Sunday afternoon of tunes – dozens of fiddles, accordions, guitars, concertinas and mouth organs.
From the USA comes a memory of his visit with Sheila Stewart to the Pinewoods Festival in Massachusetts in 1988 when, on the last night, the concert began with Jim's arrival across Long Pond through the mist and in a canoe, standing and playing the bagpipes. A most magical memory.
Jim leaves a considerable legacy of songs and music recorded with Springthyme, on his own Greylag label and with Greentrax. In 2004, he produced a book of his songs, tunes and anecdotes, The Better o a Sang, and most recently contributed to Linn Records' Complete Songs of Robert Burns.
In 2007, after his memory had started to fail, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
He is survived by his partner, Julia, his daughter, Linda, and son Craig.