The music and Common Riding of Langholm

Interviewee interviewed by Mairi Telford-Jammeh on 15 May 2012, in Langholm.

Interviewed: 15 May 2012.
Ref: DG3-1-1-2
© European Ethnological Research Centre, 2016.

A Langholm native explains how the common riding has been an influence and how it is one of the main reasons he returns to Langholm annually

Interviewee: I currently live in London and I’ve been out of Langholm for…thirty years probably approximately.

MT-J: But you come back quite regularly?

Interviewee: Yeah I come back for all sorts of reasons, my relatives are here, I’ve got a fond association with the town, I’ve got connections, I play small pipes with a couple of guys locally. I play with the flute band every common riding, so I’ve got a musical association with the town primarily as much as anything else, aye.

MT-J: Ok. What I’m gonna ask you about is about your relationship with music and Langholm, and the influence that growing up in Langholm had on your musical career really. Can you tell me what your first musical memories are from growing up in Langholm?

Interviewee: Well, the earliest I can think of is to do with the common riding I mean the common riding is the source of all things musical to do with Langholm it’s such a strong local tradition that…and it has such a strong association with music locally that it’s hard to think that there was an earlier musical memory than that associated with the common riding, then every common riding there’s locally there’s three bands, there’s a pipe band which is the fairly typical pipe band there’s a brass band which happens to be the oldest brass band in Scotland and which is still going, and there’s a flute band which is a very unusual thing in…it’s not like a sectarian thing it’s a traditional band of Fife’s playing very simple tunes in ‘D’, and they only come out twice a year, and I’m a member of both flute band and pipe band but earliest memories must be these bands parading around the town with loads of people following them and probably me following them as a kid. It’s very impressive and the effect of having pipes very close in, in a very small town it’s very impressive and loud and exciting, you know, so I think that would be the earliest memories, I mean I have subsequently I went and had piano lessons from about age seven/eight with Mrs Barker, so that was quite interesting.

MT-J: Are there particular tunes that they bands play at the common riding that you have especially fond memories of?

Interviewee: I havae got any specifically fond tunes I mean there’s a whole load of tunes that resonate in your head because a lot of them were established around the turn of the century you know so you’re actually playing turn of the century ‘hit parade’. Songs like By the Banks of Allan Water and The Rose of Allan Dale, I mean they were popular songs in the 1910s and earlier you know so it’s…what they do is they’re very popular and they haveny changed so the’ve been playing this repertoire for quite a long time but they’re very kinna…well a lot of them, some of them go back to Burns in terms of the lyrics of the songs, but some of the music is a lot later but…so there’s a kinna tradition that stretches right back through to Burns, back to these tunes that crop up at the common riding which is, you know it’s quite an unusual thing in Scotland to have something that lasts that long as a tradition and it’s quite a powerful and resonant thing among the locals who know all the tunes off by heart and can hum them and whistle them, an as a result of the common riding being annually paraded and it’s quite an intense experience and it’s one of these things that the locals are rightly proud about.

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