A funny wee idea for a show: Ian Jack misses Andy Stewart and the whole 'White Heather Club' crowd
Sunday 17 October 1993
Let the wind blow highand the wind blow low, and it's off and away in my kilt I'll go.
All the lassiescry Hallo, Donald, where's your troosers?
I may have got the words wrong here and there. But the fact that I can recall the gist of them, as well as short bursts from 'A Scottish Soldier' and 'Campbeltown Loch' ( . . . I wish you were whisky, Campbeltown Loch, och aye), is a large testament to the man who sang and wrote them.
Last week, on of all programmes the terminally-modish Late Show, the BBC broadcast some blurred black-and-white footage of Stewart singing and strutting away in his White Heather Club circa 1962. It is kitsch now, a version of Scotland for export which has been blown off its snow-capped ben by Billy Connolly, Rab C Nesbitt and a dozen others. It was also kitsch then, if we had known the word. Stewart was at the end of a long - some may say ignoble - tradition of presenting Scots to themselves and others as pawky peasants in funny clothes.
That may account for part of our disbelief at his relative youth. Stewart was a young man when he was imitating Harry Lauder. But the chief cause, I think, is just how much television and our idea of amusement have changed so much in 30 years. No BBC executive now could say he had a great idea for a show: it would have Scottish country dancing, an accordion band, a funny wee man singing about mountains - and it would knock Brookside for six in the ratings. Or at least he couldn't say it and survive.
Yet, if Brookside, which has an average audience of six million, had existed in the early 1960s, the White Heather Club would have done just that. At its peak, more than 10 million people watched Stewart and his fellow artistes. But where are they now? Some answers:
Moira Anderson, soprano, lives in Glasgow and is still singing 'Ae Fond Kiss' to delight audiences all over the world.
Kenneth McKellar, star guest and handsome tenor, also lives in Glasgow and is also pleasing audiences 'all over the world', and still rides a motorbike at the age of 66.
Ian Powrie, fiddler, is still fiddling and touring at 70.
Dixie Ingram, a smashing dancer over the swords, gave up dancing in 1970 to become a livestock auctioneer. He's 56, retired, and lives in Edinburgh.
Joe Gordon, of the Joe Gordon Folk Four ('The Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre', strum, strum), became a hypnotherapist after a heart attack and lives in Ayrshire.
Jimmie Macgregor, the sweatered folk-singer who took over the show after Andy Stewart left, presents radio and television programmes in Scotland. He's 58. Some mystery surrounds his partner, the polo-necked Robin Hall. He is, according to BBC intelligence in Glasgow, 'believed to be in London'. But then Lord Lucan is believed to be in Namibia.
I look at Danny Baker, and I miss them all.
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