On Saturday evening 24th June Simon Thoumire made a flying visit to Sgoil Chiùil Na Gàidhealtachd (The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music) in Plockton to induct the fabulous Dougie Pincock – Director of the music school to the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. We managed to surprise Dougie and we had a great night complete with brilliant performances from the current crop of talented young musicians in attendance at the Centre. This is Dougie’s final year in Plockton after a very successful 23 years at the helm and he will be very much missed. This is Simon’s (surprise) speech!
In 1985, at the age of 15, I already knew the secret to a good life: listening to and playing Scottish traditional music. Since I was 10, I had been listening to Silly Wizard on Robbie Shepherd’s The Reel Blend. Recently my life had been changed by The Easy Club and their amazing self-titled album, and it was in 1983, I bought my first music cassette, The Battlefield Band’s “Home is Where The Van Is”. I still love that album, especially the pipe march “The Cowal Gathering”. I played pipes with 65th Edinburgh Boys Brigade and hearing these tunes in the context of a folk band blew me away.
By 1985, I had already heard Dougie Pincock with the Battlefield Band. I had watched them play with Van Morrison on TV and perform their “Anthem for the Common Man” album in concert at the Usher Hall. Their Four Minute Warning Set from the album is still one of my all-time favourite sets. When I heard that The Battlefield Band were coming to my school to play a concert, I couldn’t believe my ears. Up until that point, I hadn’t told anyone in school that I played music, schools weren’t that interested in folk music in these days, but I had to get to that concert. The band were wonderful, and if I didn’t know it already, I knew then that I was going to be a musician. Dougie showed his teaching credentials when, after the concert, I was able to speak to him and play his pipes. It was so kind of him to let me play the jig Glasgow City Police and I’m sorry again Dougie for all the slavors I left in your chanter.
Fast forward to 2000. Lots of things were happening in Scotland for our traditional music. We started the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award and formed Hands Up for Trad. But far bigger than that, this was the year Dougie was appointed Director of Sgoil Chiùil Na Gàidhealtachd. Nine students from all over Scotland arrived in Plockton, including musicians Ewan Robertson and Gillian Fleetwood, and they all started their pathway to potential careers in traditional music.
Ewan remembers that Dougie “worked tirelessly, set high standards, and always had their back and best interests at heart. He lead the line with confidence and with a smile and Ewan said “I would not have lived my dream of becoming a professional musician without him, thank you Dougie, for everything!”
Gillian Fleetwood said “I learned so much from Dougie in that time. He was also finding his feet, but doing so with his trademark integrity, honesty and patience. Dougie was incredibly patient with me! I know it was frustrating for him sometimes but I’d like him to know that the kindness and generosity he showed me is something I still think of now and his legacy is that I am better teacher, better friend and indeed a better person as a direct result of his input. “
Dougie always brings in so many brilliant tutors to work with the students. Seamus O’Baoighill said he “benefited massively from all of the individual tutoring over his few years at the school which helped form the foundations of his playing that he relies on today. He also said “I cannot thank Dougie, the tutors, and staff enough for including me in such a musical and encouraging environment.”
And of course there has been a few adventures along the way including 22 albums, all with brilliant titles including my favourite – Plockdown. Mari Mackinnon said “It was all just so special… From the tours, to the performances, the carry-on’s and the capers, our debut at Celtic Connections in 2010, to making friendships for life, to losing the microphones on tour, Mrs Fergusson’s missing flapjacks (Levack), the tunes, the music weekends, the stressful ‘big sets’, misbehaving and not being caught as well as misbehaving and definitely being caught, the encouragement to do better, the safety to make mistakes and learn, the life long skill of wrapping an XLR cable meticulously, the success, the failures, the tears, the smiles, the buzz of being part of something more special than we ever realised at the time… Dougie worked so hard to give us all of that – It’s shaped us to be who we are, it’s part of our identity and many of us wouldn’t be living the lives we do without those experiences! That is a legacy…”
So, to the reason I am here. Dougie has done so much for so many people over many years, and Hands Up for Trad wants to celebrate this. Tonight, I am here to induct Dougie Pincock into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for his services to our community. Móran taing agus meal do naidheachd Dougie. Please welcome Dougie to the stage to accept his award.
Read about the other 2023 Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame Services to Community Inductees.