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WATCH: 'Greatest honour of my life' – Bothy Ballads winner (32) shocked at Elgin Town Hall in Moray


By Lewis McBlane

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DESPITE facing tough opposition, a 32-year-old has won the biggest prize in the world of bothy ballads.

Paddy Buchanan (32), winner of the 41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Paddy Buchanan (32), winner of the 41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Paddy Buchanan won the Bothy Ballads Champion of Champions title in Elgin on Saturday night before a 400-strong crowd.

Only his second time competing at the Elgin Town Hall event, his formidable opponents included last year's winner Shona Donaldson and Joe Aitken – the top singer in the contest's 41-year history.

From left; Allan Taylor, Moira Stewart, Joe Aitken, Geordie Murison, Shona Donaldson and Paddy Buchanan...41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
From left; Allan Taylor, Moira Stewart, Joe Aitken, Geordie Murison, Shona Donaldson and Paddy Buchanan...41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Paddy, accepting his award, said "this is the single greatest honour of my life."

For his efforts he received two bottles of whisky from sponsor Glen Moray, along with the traditional porridge bowl and spoon.

He was also awarded the Donald Ferguson Memorial Medal, in honour of the long-time Elgin rotarian who helped organise the event for many years.

Audio engineer Paddy, who qualified for Elgin by becoming Stonehaven champion, said he was shocked to have won the title.

“My aim was, if I was lucky, to maybe come third or whatever," he said.

“Because these guys I'm singing with, they're the cream of the crop – the best of the best.

"I just feel so honoured to be up there with them.

“I just thought: 'If I can get through my song, not miss my words and deliver the story, then I'll be happy.'

“It's such an honour to be at Elgin in the first place, competing, so to win actually doesn't seem real.

“All I've been saying to everybody is: ‘Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?’"

Winning Paddy the top honour was his version of Princie and Jean, a ballad telling the tale of a talented horseman left behind by a changing world.

His journey into bothy ballads began only recently.

Starting his musical journey in a rock band at school, he later found a passion for folk music – particularly medieval songs, road ballads and child ballads.

But, at the tail-end of the Covid-19 pandemic, Paddy's friendship with veteran singer Geordie Murison, who also competed on Saturday, launched a new chapter.

Paddy said: "Geordie just took me under his wing and said: ‘That's good Paddy, just you come along with me.’

“And he led me astray from there.”

Saturday's event, compered by Gary Coull and featuring entertainment from leading fiddle player Dr Paul Anderson MBE, also saw Moira Stewart and Allan Taylor compete for the top prize.

The singers with compere Gary Coull (front) and Rotary president Michelle Anderson (back centre)...41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
The singers with compere Gary Coull (front) and Rotary president Michelle Anderson (back centre)...41st Champion of Champions Bothy Ballads Competition 2024, at Elgin Town Hall. ..Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

It was judge Robert Lovie from Banff who put Paddy in first place, followed by his mentor Geordie in second and Shona Donaldson in third.

Elgin Rotary president Michelle Anderson, during her vote of thanks, paid tribute to the audience, volunteers and performers.

“These events don’t just happen," she added.

“There is a lot of background work goes into it, and the preparations started months ago."

For Paddy, what continues to draw him back to bothy ballads is the richness of the stories and language involved.

And, since standing up for the first time and singing unaccompanied at Stonehaven Folk Club, he said the "wonderful community" within bothy ballads has embraced him throughout.

“I just love it. I absolutely love it," he said.

“It's the richness of the stories and the culture of the farming traditions of the north east of Scotland.

“We're very lucky here.

“And we're not afraid to poke a wee bit of fun at ourselves sometimes.

“It's just all done in great spirits – we try to keep the tradition alive and we have a bloody good time doing it."


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