Published: 08/02/2008 00:00 - Updated: 29/11/2011 10:37

Geordie triumphs with a bothy ballad classic

Just champion Macallan Porridge Bowl winner Geordie Murison.
Just champion Macallan Porridge Bowl winner Geordie Murison.

HE MAY be a weel-kent face on the bothy ballad scene, but it was Geordie Murison's performance of a lesser-known ballad which saw him crowned champion of champions at Elgin on Saturday. An excellent delivery of the 19th Century ploughmen's song, 'Auld Jock Bruce o' the Fornet', won him the coveted Macallan Porridge Bowl for the first time. Contractor Mr Murison (57), of Netherley, near Stonehaven, was brought up with music and singing, and has been singing bothy ballads since he was a child. He gained his place in Elgin Rotary Club's champion of champions competition after a win at Turriff last year. The newly crowned champion said he was "most surprised and delighted" to take the honour – and revealed that it was his wife that persuaded him to choose the song. "It is one of the old classic ploughmen's songs from the late 1800s. I have sung it a couple of times before, but it was my wife, Joyce, who told me to do it." The judge, veteran balladeer Jock Duncan (83) of Pitlochry, said he chose Mr Murison as the winner because he took his time, expressed the song well, and he had chosen a very traditional and true ballad. Mr Duncan praised all competitors for their enthusiasm in preserving the vernacular, and said there were not many marks separating any of the performances. "I cannot criticise any of them, and they are carrying on great, great traditions. This is the hame country of it, and to see the enthusiasm for it here is fantastic." Last year's winner, Bill Gray from Peterhead, took second place with his rendition of 'Bogie's Bonnie Belle'. Mosstodloch's Eric Simpson was third with 'The Alford Cattle Show', while Joe Aitken of Kirriemuir came fourth with 'Barnyards of Delgaty'. There were also performances from Bill Ross of Nairn, the winner at Auchtermuchty, who performed 'Coortin' in the Stable', and Hector Riddell from Finzean, who sang 'Sleepy Toun'. He stood in for Gordon Easton, who was in hospital in Fraserburgh after breaking his hip. More than 700 people packed into the Town Hall for a first-class evening of entertainment spanning almost four hours, compered by Andy Ross. The bill featured Pat Fraser of Aberlour, who recited poetry by Ian Middleton; Scottish songs from Clavie King Dan Ralph and his daughter, Ruth, accompanied by drummer Dave Martin; Scottish musical medleys from the Brumley Brae Blin' Lumps; and bothy ballads from 13-year-old Eoin Taylor of Alford, a junior competition winner. There was a special tribute for Donald Ferguson, a Rotarian who for many years worked tirelessly behind the scenes making sure the balladeers were looked after. Octogenarian Mr Ferguson, who lost his sight a few years ago, was accompanied on stage to accept a gift. In the 26 years of the competition, almost 20,000 people have enjoyed the entertainment and helped devour tons of stovies and gallons of whisky. Sandy McMorran, president of Elgin Rotary Club, thanked all the organisations who support the event, particularly principal sponsors Macallan, and Duncans of Deeside and Claymore Dairies. The Rotarians' partners and ladies of the Inner Wheel gave their support, while the 1629 Restaurant in Lossiemouth supplied the stovies. The club's annual attempt to serve up the stovies in record-breaking time hit a stumbling block. The audience enjoyed the meal so much that a number went back for seconds, so the Rotarians were unable to say whether the record time of 14 minutes and 23 seconds had been beaten. TMSA Scotland, who organise the festivals in the lead-up to the champion of champions competition, were applauded for their efforts in helping to maintain and nurture the unique music of the North-east. Mr McMorran added: "The competition would not be possible without the balladeers, and I would like to thank their contribution to keeping the past in the present. "It is wonderful to see a new generation coming through, represented tonight by Eoin Taylor." Once again, the contest was recorded for posterity by the Elphinstone Institute of Aberdeen, and CDs and books celebrating the Mither Tongue were on sale in the foyer. e.green@northern-scot.co.uk

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