Published: 14/02/2013 15:30 - Updated: 14/02/2013 15:36

Hector is Bothy Ballad king

WINNING is fine, but keeping alive the tradition of Scottish bothy singing is the real prize for Hector Riddell.

Hector Riddell celebrates his Bothy Ballads victory. Photo by Eric Cormack.
Hector Riddell celebrates his Bothy Ballads victory. Photo by Eric Cormack.

Hector (75) completed a hat-trick of victories at the 31st annual Bothy Ballads Champion of Champions competition.

The retired farmer was the unanimous choice of judges Danny Cooper and Arthur Watson to lift the prestigious porridge bowl trophy, sponsored by The Macallan.

They likened his performance to those of the great Scottish performers of the 1960s and 70s.

Hector, who lives at Finzean in Aberdeenshire, was a winner in 2009 and 2010, and qualified for the Elgin Rotary event through his victory at Strichen.

“It’s fine to get it again, but the most important thing is that we all turn out here to make the most of tonight,” he said. “The winning is a bonus.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you win it. We are trying to keep it alive, and I try to do as much as I can. I go to a lot of schools.”

Hector has been singing for 60 years, but only took up bothy ballad singing eight years ago.

He was a farmer for many years at Little Cushnie, near Alford, and for 30 years ran the Finzean Estate Farm.

“I did a lot of band work, and before that Irish Country music. I have a great keyboard accompanist with me, Lena Garden. We have performed at sheltered housing and old folk’s homes for the last 12 years. That is very rewarding.”

Hector admitted that he was over the moon with the praise he received from the judges.

“I felt like six feet tall, and I have never been six feet!” joked the diminutive Hector.

“I like to keep a tune and I like to let the audience hear every word, because if they don’t hear the words, there is little point. You are telling a story, and you have to bridge the gap between yourself and the audience.”

Arthur Watson said: “When we discussed his performance, we agreed that it matched any of the old greats. You could put him up against any of them and he would hold his own.

“He is a terrific singer, with variations of phrases and tweaks in timing, and he even moves well.”

For more on the Bothy Ballads, including extra pictures from the competition, see 'The Northern Scot' print version.

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