Tatty Bogos in the House of Dun

September 17, 2006

Thistles at the House of Dun

Back to our travel to Scotland.
When I was looking in the Net for interesting events in the Fringe I searched for a concert of Emily Smith, who is one of the most beautiful voices in Scottish modern folk.

She wasn’t performing in the Fringe, but she had a gig in Montrose, in another festival called The Hairst. She was supposed to play in something called “Ballads and Bothy Ballads” together with other artists. As she’s really good, we bought the tickets.

The venue for the event was a place called the House of Dun – I didn’t look any further about it. We were expecting a “normal” concert in a “normal” venue so we were in for a big surprise when we got there in the evening of August 16.


The House of Dun is a stunning Georgian House with fabulous Victorian gardens, designed by William Adam in 1730, enlisted in the National Trust for Scotland!



We went from surprise to surprise: we were welcomed by the owners, complimentary glasses of wine were offered, the audience was no more than 50 people, the event was taking place in the Saloon and Dining Room, which had a big fireplace, was hung with family portraits and decorated with the most magnificent plasterwork on the walls and ceilings…

houseofdun1.jpgThen the artists came in, and simply sat on chairs facing the audience. One by one, they stood up and told a story or sang a song with voice alone, except a guy who accompanied himself with acoustic guitar and mouth harp. No mics, no amplification.
Only every now and then the singer was somehow accompanied by the others that hummed harmonies almost by themselves.
It was amazing! It was just like being among friends on a cosy and carefree night, and hearing the perfect intonation of all those solo singings was such a treat…

Stories were told or sung about lost and found love, hard work and frolics and drinks, ghosts and charmed tatty bogos that become beautiful lads when kissed by beautiful lassies…
I must say that I had some difficulties understanding everything, as when it wasn’t Gaelic from the Hebrides it was pure Scottish…
Funny stories set the audience roaring with laugh, sad tales produced more than one quicly hidden teardrop on many eyes…
What an evening! We just wished it never ended!

And now, let me introduce you the artists:

Scott Gardiner
A young guy from Forfar, who was the Master of Ceremonies and who sung funny and sad ballads from farmlands of the North East Scotland. If I understood correctly, one of the songs was about one of the very first combined harvester, boldly painted in yellow and red, that in the end killed its proud owner…

Margaret Bennet
A lady with a beautifully pure voice, singing songs, mostly in Gaelic, from her home island of Skye. Love, emigration, hard life… the lives of fishermen in joy and sorrow.

Emily Smith
She was the reason why we were there – we were just lucky that searching for a piece of gold we found a whole treasure.
She’s oh so good, at her ease both in strictly traditional ballads and in more modern songs.
Really, you should get some of her recordings!

Jim Malcolm
The guy with the guitar.
What astonished me was the ease of his voice, warm and expressive. We didn’t know then, but Jim is quite famous in Scotland, having also been the singer of the celebrated band Old Blind Dogs. In 2004 he won two awards by the Scots Traditional Music Society, as Songwriter of the Year, and as Scottish Folk Band of the Year with Old Blind Dogs.

Stanley Robertson
To some extent, the most astonishing number. Close to his seventies, Stanley is a tall, imposing gentleman with a powerful voice and a funny glint in his eyes. A natural storyteller, he also sung with unflinching assurance through some really harmonically and melodically difficult Gaelic tunes.
His were the ghost stories and the one about the poor Tatty Bogo that said “I loooooooooove you” to the beautiful lassie…

The beautiful lassie

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2 Responses to “Tatty Bogos in the House of Dun”

  1. Sheila Says:

    I was at this great concert too, I live locally. Enjoyed your nice review and description of the House, and hope you’ll return to Dun again some time.
    Kind regards

  2. Dear Sheila, thank you very much for your comment. That concert came as a total, beautiful surprise for us, and was probably our greatest experience last summer.

    I am also surprised (and very happy) that one person from that audience found and read the post in my blog. I couldn’t have imagined that blogging was so powerful! 🙂
    How did you find it?

    Emily comes to Edinburgh quite often (she has paintings in a number of galleries around Scotland), and I go with her every now and then, so who knows, we may come to Angus again!

    Thank you again for your message,

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