• My Tunes

    The Woodside Reel

    The session scene in Oban has used a number of different venues throughout my time as a participant. For a while in the mid 1990s the main weekly session was in The Woodside on Tweedale Street. This was before the pub was extended and the rear was converted into a night club of sorts. A small, narrow pub, it didn’t have much space for musicians or punters but this did make for a good atmosphere as it didn’t take many folk to make it feel busy. I was making my living as a busker at the time so was playing a lot, often many hours per day. New tunes would…

  • My Tunes

    Lisa Cronin’s Jig

    Another tune from 1995. This jig was written for my girlfriend at the time, Lisa Cronin of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. Like many young traditional musicians I had discovered syncopation and started to incorporate it into some of my own tunes. I thought I was being modern and contemporary at the time but syncopation actually has a long history in border piping. As Matt Seattle points out in the introduction to his great book of tunes ‘The Border Bagpipe Book’ (Dragonfly Music, 1993), “Syncopation, which is now being introduced as a kind of modernism into Highland piping, was almost certainly present in Border piping three hundred years ago.” I play…

  • Music

    The Toffee Works – Lusty in Carnac

    Around 10 years ago some pals and I put together an Anglo/Scots band to try and realise some musical ideas we had been thinking of for a while. We named ourselves The Toffee Works after the factory in Jon’s home town which makes that famous Wigan sweet, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

  • My Tunes

    Mike Campbell’s Reel

    I wrote this tune back in 1995 and named it for one of Oban’s characters, the late Mike Campbell. I first met Mike when I was still in school as he worked as a clam diver with the father of one of my friends. Later, when I was old enough to drink in the pubs, he would regularly be found in The Oban Inn, telling stories and sinking a fair few drams. He loved the music and always had a request for a tune or two from me.

  • Photography

    New camera in the telephone exchange.

    I’ve been considering purchasing a fixed lens compact camera for a good while now and was lucky enough to get my hands on a used Fujifilm X100T at a very reasonable price. I’m still at the early stages of learning how to use it well but here are some images taken in one of the telephone exchanges I regularly work in. The exchange is a reasonably large one with a fair amount of disused equipment and areas.

  • My Tunes

    Willie Hoffleman’s Unbelievable Reel

    In 1995 I spent a month or so in Munich with some Irish friends. At that time the Deutsche Mark exchange rate was very favourable to those using the pound and the punt and a fair few Irish students would head to Bavaria for the summer to work in the car factories and the beer festivals. I tagged along and managed to get some work at the world famous Oktoberfest, feeding Maßkrüge (litre beer glasses) into a glass cleaning machine in the kitchen of one of the smaller ‘tents’, the exclusive Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke.

  • My Tunes

    Jeannie Oban

    Here is another of my earliest tunes, written around 1994, which I named after my maternal grandmother Jane Prosser. Jane was born in Oban in 1925 and was more commonly known as Jean. Twice married, her first husband was Edward Ritz from Alberta in Canada with whom she had six children.

  • My Tunes

    Ruaraidh’s Hornpipe

    Over the coming months I’m going to attempt to transcribe, record and post many of the tunes that I have composed. I started writing tunes pretty early in my traditional music ‘career’. I was travelling around a fair bit and didn’t have access to recordings or notation so I just made tunes up. I’ll try and post them in chronological order but I don’t remember all the dates of composition so will have to guess some.

  • Music

    Old-Time Tune: Barlow Knife

    I’ve had this tune floating around my head for a number of years now, one of those tunes that you can hum but never get round to learning. Well, I though it was time to put that right.

  • Food

    Spaghetti Con Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

    During a recent visit to our new house by the lovely sisters Jessica and Georgia Wolfson I prepared what is probably the most regularly eaten pasta dish in our house. Jessica subsequently asked me for the recipe. As a very simple recipe I thought it would take just a minute to write down but soon realised that there are more to these Italian recipes than initially meets the eye (or taste buds). I love Italian cooking and it’s the combination of simple recipes, quality ingredients and attention to detail that makes it my favourite cuisine.