The true sense of community singing.
Great musical nights are a function of many things so if you have had a hard days walking, something to eat and a few beers then you are likely to be nothing if not receptive. Add to that a world-famous hostelry and a sizeable like-minded audience then the auspices are good. All we need now is some music!
The Clachaig Inn is not far outside Glencoe at the far end of the famous pass just before you get to the village itself. It sits at the foot of some of the most famous hillwalking in Scotland; the Aonach Eagach Ridge (a serious undertaking for fearty’s like me) Buachaille Etive More (one of the most distinctive mountains you don’t even have to leave your car to see) and finally Bidean Nam Bian (the highest mountain in Argyll and a big and complex day out). That said I don’t know where we had been that day but it is, without doubt, classic Scottish mountain country.
The Clachaig was not particularly (though that may have changed) known for music but is a pub where lovers of the outdoors; walkers climbers, kayakers and the like, are likely to meet. On this occasion we were entertained by an artist whose name remains forever unknown to me – presumably a local lad with no more than a guitar and some backing tapes – oh and a very popular musical catalogue. This consisted of every classic, good, popular song you have ever heard, ‘Sloop John B’, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘American Pie’, – everything of that sort. In fact, he sang near every song this writer knew, pretty much a proto-Americana set before the word was invented. What a shame I never knew or just can’t remember who he was. Given that, I would bet there are some well-known artists who would give an awful lot to have the kind of reception and audience participation he had that night.
Not surprisingly the packed room was full of the same post-exercise well fed and lubricated good cheer as we were and it took little prompting for the patrons to join in with the singing – and not surprisingly most knew the words to every song. There was a group of what we surmised to be Dutch bikers in town, one of whom seemed to be managing to sit on an upended log whilst in a coma. Such was the power of the music that said biker on hearing the strains of, ‘American Pie’, woke, sang it through and then immediately slipped back into his stupor. He became the legendary log man of the Clachaig Inn (we were always nothing if not hugely amusing) even if he didn’t know it. He still gets a mention now and then.
On such a night it would not be unusual to hear strange sounds coming from the toilets – as they did on this occasion as the lone piper fettled his chanter, filled his bag and joined us for a rendition of, ‘Flower of Scotland’. As a keen rugby fan, I have always wondered why we are stuck with such an inappropriate song as, ‘Swing Low‘, when others have the likes of, ‘Fields of Athenry‘, ‘Bread of Heaven‘, and of course, ‘Flower of Scotland‘.
Everyone present knew the song and to say there was a rousing chorus would be a gross understatement and whatever that thing is that happens to the back of your neck happened to me. I admit in the days of self-identifying on official forms I often put Scottish as my ethnic origin partly because I’m a contrary bugger but also because I feel in my blood that is where my home really lies. Given that I was born in Carlisle it is only a twist of time and history that I am not Scottish – so I do feel entitled.
‘Flower of Scotland’, was written in the sixties by Roy Williamson of The Corries – even if it does seem like it could be centuries old. I’ve heard it sung at Murrayfield and, stirring as it was, when sung at the top of dozens of voices in a cracking pub – you don’t get more roots than that. Now you may feel that time and memory has romanticised this event and there is some evidence that this was the case as I recall trying to force a fiver on the artist in recognition of a wonderful night. It may also be that said artist was not as Scottish as he seemed because he tried to decline (or was it something to do with wanting to get away from the drunk?)
I mean a fiver was a lot of money in those days!
Dodgy shirts – great song.