Alasdair McDonald

Unique among Scottish Folk Festivals, Marymass had Residents. This was the umbrella name for performers who, at any other Festival, might well have topped the bill, but at Marymass they were part of a high quality supporting line-up for the duration of each Festival. At the eighth Marymass Folk Festival in 1974, the Residents were Johnny Silvo, The Sands Family, Dick Gaughan, An Triskell (from Brittany), Saffron, Tich Frier, Andy Ramage and Jean Redpath. Imagine being top-of-the-bill after them!! Having such quality Residents meant that a number of venues could be covered simultaneously – and in the early days, demand was there – and community events could be undertaken too, all in the knowledge that whoever you heard wherever, it would be quality.

Having a band of Residents playing at concerts, sessions and community events over an eight day Festival meant of course that they were seen and heard around about the town. All the Residents would be staying with host families and so the families and their friends and neighbours would get to know the Residents – share a Pint, have a blether in the street. In short, the Residents and the locals got to know one another throughout the week and over the years.

Another benefit was that the Residents got to know one another. Being a musician so often means frequent touring. Being in one place for over a week gave loads of welcome opportunities to meet other musicians, relax, get to know each other better, form musical collaborations and, as with the host families, develop lifelong friendships.

Having a group of Residents around for a week, also spawned some extra-curricular activities…… a Football Match and Sea Fishing off Largs to name but two. Home Brew parties at Stan & Jean’s house were not on the official list!

This Exhibition includes – or should include – a photo of the two teams prior to kick-off at Meadow Park of an International Select vs a Marymass X1.  The pic tells part of the story – the ages and the shapes and the less-than- Corinthian look that says ‘Why did I not stay off the Drink last night?’  A poem written by Danny Kyle to commemorate this thankfully one –off event is included somewhere in the Exhibition.

Some Residents were so well received at Marymass, that by popular demand they were invited back year after year. The indefatigable Johnny Silvo was almost an ever-present as was the much-missed Danny Kyle. Tich Frier and The Buskers among others were also regulars and that could include Saffron, Bill Hill, Iain MacKintosh, Crowdy Crawn, Arthur Johnstone, Stephen Quigg…. the list goes on.

The Residents concept was an inspired idea and one that has served Marymass Folk Festival well – even if the duration of the Festival latterly has had to be reduced, the principle has stood the test of time.