Jimmy McBeath

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Jimmy McBeath: was born in Portsoy, Banffshire, in 1894.  Having left school at 13, he was fee’d at St Brandon’s Fair to a farm in the parish of Deskford.  According to Jimmy it was “All hard slavery work - up at five in the morning to sort your horse, and you didn’t fasten your boots until after you got your breakfast.  You went in at half past five and got a cog o’ meal and milk and bread, oat-cakes and a cup o’ tea wi’ it.  You had to carry on fae that, from six till twelve o clock and started again tae one.  You stopped at six and came in and sorted your horse and then you went away to your tea at twenty minutes to seven at night.  Some farms were very tight wi’ the food, oh yes, very, very, very tight wi’ the food.  Some farms were very good wi’ the food again.  But it was slavery days all the same.  You workit the whole six months before you got money at all.”

Jimmy joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1914, probably to escape the drudgery of farmwork, and served at the front in Flanders and in Ireland.  Later he became a street singer at the suggestion of Geordie Stewart, a scrap-dealer who happened to be the brother of Lucy Stewart, the fine ballad singer from Fetterangus.  He was discovered in 1951 by Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson and a selection of their recordings of Jimmy is available on the American Rounder label.

Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Up in the North and Down in the South (MTCD311-2)