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Music man honoured for his work

By Sarah Rollo

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Andy McCormack, British Empire Medal, New Year's Honours List
Andy McCormack, British Empire Medal, New Year's Honours List

A DUFFTOWN man has been named in the New Year's Honours List for his promotion of traditional Scottish music.

Andy McCormack first picked up the fiddle at the age of six and has been playing ever since.

He's filled venues large and small with music, encouraged countless young people and has played Scottish tunes in countries around the world.

Andy (84) said he was delighted to receive a British Empire Medal for services to music in the north-east, but there will be no special celebration.

"I'm just delighted that I'm still able to get out and play and entertain people; I celebrate every time I go out and play," he said.

"It is my hobby, a lifetime hobby and music is special to me. It is not something you can decide not to do, it takes grip and you never want to stop."

Born and bred in Dufftown, Andy recalls childhood visits to listen to his granny Shiach, who was a talented pianist.

He said: "I started playing when I was about six. I know it was during the war because my mother somehow managed to get hold of a small fiddle for me to play."

Andy, who attended Mortlach Primary, went to lessons in the town and later travelled to Elgin to be tutored by Kim Murray.

Aged 14, he played his fiddle at a school dance, enabling his peers to enjoy dances from the Dashing White Sergeant to the Eightsome Reel.

He went on to play for country dance clubs in community halls across Moray and Banffshire.

On being called up for National Service with the Cameron Highlanders in the mid 1950s, Andy, who also plays the pipes, recalls travelling around the world, playing as he went. In the far east, with no entertainment for the troops, Andy would bring out his fiddle and, along with a pair of accordion players, would entertain them.

He later became a member of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, performing in prestigious venues around the world including the Royal Albert Hall.

With the Celtic Fiddle Orchestra he toured to New Zealand and he has played at St Andrew's Night celebrations in countries including Bangladesh and India for the British High Commission. He's even played at a wedding in Finland after being asked as a favour for a friend.

Every Monday night, you will find Andy surrounded by musicians playing at a weekly Stramash at Dufftown's Royal British Legion.

Not only popular with locals, it attracts tourists from near and far, many of whom return again and again to hear real Scottish music.

Well known locally as a member of the popular Sair Heidies, he is also a mainstay in the Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society and a stalwart in the organisation of its annual fiddle festival.

The annual competition attracts players from across the country, with classes ranging in age from primary school youngsters to adults.

He said: "Encouraging young players is what it is all about and I know for a fact that many of the players who performed in the competition as kids are now playing to the highest standard."

Andy, who ran the family firm Ian McCormack & Sons with his late brother Jock, said a highlight of his musical 'hobby' was the people.

"Music opens many doors and you meet so many people and I would say there was a great fiddle fraternity, the people really are first class."

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