search the folktrax site



Undoubtedly one of the most outstanding musical families among Scottish travellers and tinkers, recorded here by Peter Kennedy in 1961. During berry-picking time in Scotland, Belle's home in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, was "hame" for travellers from all over Britain. Belle's husband, Alec, plays the Highland bagpipes & the "goose", her two daughters, Cathie (Higgins) and Sheila (Mc Gregor), and daughter-in-law, Mary Anne Stewart, sing ballads and Willie Kelby plays the harmonica.

1. MY NAME IS BETSY BELLE sung by Belle Stewart - 2'55"

2. THE BURNING SANDS OF EGYPT (comp John Stewart, Pitlochry/ coll by Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser & used for the song "The Road to the Isles") Alex (pipes) - 1'41"

3. TWO PRETTY BOYS (Child #49 "The Two Brothers") sung by Belle - 4'41"

4. Jig: THE MUCKIN' O' GEORDIE'S BYRE Willie (harmonica) - 1'10"

5. TWA HEIDS ARE BETTER THAN YIN (tune of A6) sung by Cathie Stewart - 2'03"

6. MY LODGING IS ON THE COLD, COLD GROUND played by Alec (pipes) - 2'15"

7. THE DOWIE DENS O' YARROW (Child #214) sung by Mary Anne Stewart - 5'51"

8. March: THE LASS O' BON ACCORD (J.Scott Skinner) played by Willie (harmonica) - 2'36"

9. THE RAMBLING IRISHMAN sung by Sheila - 2'57"

10.Air: THE MIST-COVERED MOUNTAIN played by Alec ("goose" chanter) - 0'48"

11.BONNY WEE JEANNIE MACKAY sung by Belle - 2'28"

12. Air of Song: THE BONNY HOOSE O' AIRLIE played by Alec (pipes) - 1'42"

13. THE BONNY HOOSE O' AIRLIE (Child #199) sung by Belle - 4'23"

14. The Highland Fling (with dancer): THE DE'IL I' THE KITCHEN/ LONDON SOCIETY played by Alec (pipes) with dancer - 1'23"

15. THE GALWAY SHAWL sung by Sheila - 2'43"

16. Reel: THE MAID BEHIND THE BAR played by Willie (harmonica) - 1'21"

17. THE HAPPY OL' DAYS THAT'S AWA' sung by Cathie - 2'57"

18. STEP-DANCE HORNPIPE played by Willie (harmonica) - 0'55"

19. THE THREE GALLANT SONS ("The Canty Auld Wife": Words from Mrs Robertson, Coupar, Angus/ Tune comp: Belle) sung by Belle - 6'49"

20. Air: LOCH DHUI played by Alec (pipes) - 2'26"


22.March: THE GAY GORDONS (extract) played by Willie (harmonica) - 1'15"

Recorded by Peter Kennedy, Blairgowrie, Perthsh 1961. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published by Folktrax 1979.

BELLE STEWART (1906-1997) came from the McGregor family that used to travel Perthshire with their "shelties" (Highland ponies), hawking, tinkering and helping farmers at harvest time. "I have always been interested in the very old songs, even as a very small child. I would rather listen to my brother, my uncle or my granny, than go out and play with the other kids. In fact I got most of my oldest songs and ballads from my eldest brother, Donald, and my uncle, Henry, who was 91 when he died. My father too was an exceptionally fine singer, but he died when I was still a baby, but I managed to learn most of his songs from Donald. Although my mother wasn't a singer, she knew all the songs".

ALEC STEWART (1904-80) born Alyth 6th Feb and died Aberdeen May 12th, came from a long line of musicians. His great-grandfather, James Stewart, was piper to the Duke of Argyle, and his father, John, was piper to the Duke of Atholl and also played in front of King Edward VII at Holyrood Palace. He was private piper to Lord Ward of Dudley and carried the championship of Scotland for 9 years, winning many trophies and medals at Highland gatherings. "In our family I had 2 sisters who were good pipers and two others who were professional Highland dancers. I was Pipe-major to the Boy Scouts at Dunkeld at the age of 11, played as a special piper to Lord Gort at Lisle in France in 1940 and have had a great number of pupils of my own".

home about us contact us CD DVD order