Ewan McVicar, the Scottish storyteller and singer, says Hamish was “a raconteur who taught Billy Connolly how to tell stories, a singer who taught Christy Moore how to perform and a blues guitarist who taught John Martyn how to play”.
This from Dick Gaughan…
“His generosity was legend and not just in buying rounds of drinks. He would do anything he could to encourage and help younger performers. For example, when I was struggling to earn a few pennies busking in Portobello Road in London in 1971, Hamish came to London on a short tour and we met up in Mooney’s Bar in the Strand, a haunt for Irish and Scots musicians in those days. He insisted that I come with him round the clubs he was playing and would instruct the promoter that I was to be allowed to do a spot and several gigs came my way as a result.”
Hamish was a big man in every way, big in size and big in presence. He could command an audience in a way that very few people can. He was a great storyteller, who knew that the way to get an audience to listen was to tell them stories as well as sing them songs.
He was a Lord of Misrule with the spirit of anarchy in his very bones but he was also a great champion of the underdog and the dispossessed. He could have an audience laughing themselves silly one moment and bring them up sharp with a lovely song like Black Is The Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair) the next.
He made dozens of albums and performed at thousands of gigs over the years, from CND gigs in the early days of the Peace Movement to concerts with an audience of thousands at festivals such as Cambridge and Tronder. It was at Tronder that Hamish used to cook his legendary curries for up to 800 people.
He left behind a heap of albums and a mountain of memories. He died too young, aged 56 in 1996, but as he said in his biography, Cod Liver Oil And Orange Juice. “When I die I want everything to be knackered,”
One of the folk scene’s great characters and also a fine blues singer and guitarist, it was Hamish who brought songs like Black Is The Colour, Sonny, The D Day Dodgers and If It Wasnae For The Union to the forefront of the folk scene.
As the Irish saying goes, “We shan’t see his like again.”