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About PlaidSong

Nicky and Syd are both from Perth, Scotland and have collaborated musically for several years, recently forming PlaidSong. They combine historical research interests with traditional, original singing/songwriting. Nicky and Syd draw on an age-old tradition of finding and learning songs from the many cultural sources of Scotland, adapting and reworking old tunes and new words.


Syd started playing guitar with friends aged 14 and progressed through various bands, duos and solo performances, often featuring his own compositions, until teaming up with Nicky as PlaidSong. Nicky has sung since the age of 9 when she entered Scots song competitions at the local competitive festival winning awards in various classes and the Silver Medal for Scots Song. She has sung with various groups and operatic societies as well as singing solo.


They are now writing new and original songs around these age-old themes. They regularly perform at Scottish evenings, Burns Suppers, musical and literary societies, concerts and private functions. Syd and Nicky have a broad range of experience and taste in music, which means their collaboration as PlaidSong comes as a natural progression for both of them.


Syd House was born and raised in Gourock, in the west of Scotland.

  • Graduated from Edinburgh University with Honours degree in forestry and ecology.

  • Professional Forestry Commission manager in Scotland and has also worked in Australia, North America and Europe.

  • Retired in 2016 and was awarded an MBE for services to forestry.

  • Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and has written, lectured and broadcast extensively on the subject.

  • Remains actively involved in various charitable and professional forestry bodies in Scotland.

  • Co-author of 2 books: ‘The Good Tourist’ (1991) promoting an environmentally friendly approach to tourism and ‘The Tree Collector’ (1999) a biography of David Douglas, the great Scots plant collector who introduced many new trees & plants to Europe.

  • Co-produced and appeared in a joint UK-US documentary entitled ‘Finding David Douglas’ (2009), writing and performing the theme song ‘To the Oregon Country’.


Syd offers lectures and talks on:

  • 100 Years of reforesting Scotland: The History of the Forestry Commission in Scotland.

  • The Tree Collector - The Adventures of David Douglas as a scientific collector in the Pacific Northwest and his substantial contribution to Scotland’s forests and landscape today.

  • Scots Plant Collectors in North America: Bringing Back the Plants & Trees - Archibald Menzies, David Douglas & John Jeffery.

  • The Impact of WWI on Scotland’s Forests and the stimulus to reforesting Scotland (including the role of Canadian and Newfoundland Forestry Corps in Scotland during WWI).

Nicky Small completed her PhD at the University of Dundee, where she also took her undergraduate degree. (She has published under the name Dr Nicola Cowmeadow).


  • A Carnegie Scholar, her doctoral thesis was on the theme of ‘Scottish Noblewomen, the Family and Scottish politics.

  • Attended the Ryerson Congress, Toronto in May in 2017 speaking on friendship in Early Modern Scottish noblewomen’s letters.

  • Various articles published including: ‘Only a Jacobite Heroine? Margaret, Lady Nairne (1673-1747)’, ‘Your Politick, self-designing sister’, Scottish Noblewomen’s Electioneering in 1702’ and ‘Redefining Scottish Noblewomen’s Political Activity in the Era of Union’.

  • Currently, Nicky is freelance working on a variety of projects, research, and writing.

  • Nicky has presented short films on local history topics - see Perthshire History Films.


Presenting on topics relating to family history and genealogy is an important part of Nicky’s work and, as well as musical presentations, she offers lectures on a range of local history and genealogy subjects including:


  • Introduction to searching for Scottish ancestors.

  • First World War - Searching for Scottish Soldiers.

  • Scottish Ancestors in Context – helping people find resources to understand their relative’s past way of life.

  • In-depth genealogy presentation – explores the kind of material people doing family history can find and also debunks some common myths!

  • Two Duchesses of Atholl – compares and contrasts the lives of two notable Perthshire noblewomen – the first duchess of Atholl, Katharine and the eighth Duchess, Kitty. Highlights how these remarkable women used their role and positions to engage in politics, welfare and war work.

  • Simply a Jacobite Heroine? The life and letters of Margaret, Lady Nairne. Covers the life story of a notable Perthshire Jacobite who lived through the rebellions, created a dynasty and commanded men & arms in the ’45. It also explores her wider life and interests arguing that she was not just a Jacobite but also a talented and accomplished woman. 

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