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Seven centuries of Scottish Song at Balfron!

We have visited Balfron on several occasions now but we have to say what a wonderfully warm welcome we get and these lovely folk are always a most enthusiastic audience! Balfron is celebrating 720 years since the town's first documented appearance in a Charter of Inchaffray Abbey on 3rd October 1303. They have organised various events to mark this occasion and invited us to do an opening evening concert.

We decided to attempt to represent every century in song and tell a little history along the way. They also asked us to sing a song written for the event by Jim Thomson of the BHG. He has written The Charter of Inchaffray and we started the evening off with this lovely piece which tells the story in verse and music.

We really enjoyed putting together the programme for this event and included The Four Maries, a song which has become connected to the life of Mary Queen of Scots but also has its origins in the courts of the Russian Tsars.

Another lovely song we included was the Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, this is a Child Ballad (No. 58) and there are some great recordings of this song around, we really like the Anias Mitchell version, but we have now worked on our own arrangement which is always a fun part of the process. This is another legendary story with the possibility that there really was no person called Patrick Spens and some contested ideas about what naval tragedy the song is really referring to. Apparently, Child collected 18 different versions of this song!

Another topical song Syd performed was the Weavers In 1820, the weavers of Balfron joined many others across Scotland in agitating for radical change picking up perhaps from the original intentions expressed in the French Revolution of ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’. Around two hundred armed Radicals paraded in Balfron awaiting instructions and a proclamation was posted calling for the Radical Insurrection. Unfortunately for them however, a network of government spies had infiltrated the ill-organised “Radical” movement, not only as informers but principally in the role of “agents provocateurs”. They ensured, by false promises of a huge groundswell of support, that the ramshackle insurgents’ groups led by Andrew Hardie and John Baird made for a bleak moor near Falkirk where they were confronted by detachments of the 10th Hussars and the Stirlingshire Yeomanry in a skirmish referred to as the Battle of Bonnymuir. Inevitably, the Radicals were defeated, captured, and then punished by transportation and even execution for some. Legend has it however that one of their ringleaders from Balfron, Moses Gilfillan, escaped to the US and made good there.

We are currently working on a new album and hope to get this online soon. Some of the songs we have been working on recently are not yet recorded but they are set to become firm favourites with us.

Thanks again to the good folks of Balfron for turning out in great numbers, singing along with us, and just generally being a really wonderful audience!

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