Fiona Riddel

Fiona has lived in Stow all her life. She went to the local school and has been working at Stow primary school as a classroom assistant for nearly 20 years.


My mum played the accordion so there was always the Scottish element in the house. We've still got her accordion up the stair. It's a massive thing with 120 bass. She was good at it. She could kick out a tune. She was a wee woman with this big machine. She played it until she was not fit enough. She got a replacement when she moved up The Crescent, but she didn't have the puff for it any more. It was a big thing to play. She and her brother grew up away in Kintyre and learnt when they were small.

My Dad, being from Skye, was a ceilidh man. We were always away at ceilidhs at some point of a weekend. It was mainly Musselburgh and East Lothian and places like that that we went to. Mum liked her country music and Jim Reeves and classical music as well so there was quite an eclectic mix of music at home. She played for fun at home, not outwith the home.

Nursery rhymes were all the usual ones and I remember singing Coultice Candy. In the playground we had rhymes for skipping. There was a kissing one.......

If you got a tug in the rope it was 1,2,3 and then it was how many skips you did and whatever one you failed at was how many kisses you were going to give to whoever was the amour. We played all the time with the big rope.

I learnt the recorder at school. I think it was Jeanette Wood who was a teacher from Fountainhall at the time who took us. I remember going to the old Berwickshire high school in Duns for a competition. We were always entering competitions and we did well. There was Shona Wallace, David Crawford, myself and possibly Alison Redpath. These are the ones I can remember for the recorder competitions, and also choir competitions. We always seemed to do quite well. Mr Robertson was the music teacher. He was at the school for quite a long time. He must have left when I was there because I can't remember him in the later stages. I was away for a year up in Stonehaven when I was about 9. I can still visualize him standing in the old hall at the piano in his tweed suit going through the time signatures and the taffa tiffees. I don't remember who came after him. We used to get, 'Singing Together' on the radio at school. I've still got some of the books. We used to sit and listen to the radio and sing along to it. I remember Old Wally Wally and there was another one that was a fishing one also.

A couple of us started the guitar with Brian Mulligan. He was a teacher for a short time at the school. I always remember I had this, not a great, guitar and it was steel strung, and the other girl had a nice guitar with nylon strings. She seemed to do a lot better. But that was me at the time. I started these things and just didn't carry them through. I can still remember a few chords. I started in the pipe band as well. There was a group of us started on the chanter but I think it was roundabout the transition to the high school and so I dropped out after a while. We did Joseph at the Academy. I was in the choir at the Academy.

I like Americana. I like my Steve Earle. I'm quite eclectic. I'll listen to anything. I've had to listen to a lot of different things from rock and jazz and blues and love it going on around me.

My husband and son both play in bands. When I first met Mick, he was playing in a resident band in Penicuik. It was three or four nights a week. That was a huge thing in our early life. With two young sons growing up it was difficult because he was away four nights a week with his musical we could never go anywhere weekends together because he was always playing.

Kieran started on keyboard with Kathy Stewart and he was very promising, but he didn't stick at it and it was more football that he was interested in at the time. I think he regrets it now when he sees Matthew. Matthew took up the guitar quite early and it was just so natural for him. He did a lot himself. Of course, Mick was there for back-up, but Matthew is very much self-taught. He plays keyboard, the moothy and bass guitar. He can pick up most things. He's got a good ear. He's a singer songwriter. He's also been playing quite a few big gigs up in Edinburgh recently.

I remember going up once to Torsonce for the Tattoo when the Bullocks were there. I was in a wee drama group in Stow. The lady who took us lived in the old gas house. I think her name might have been Mrs. Cranston and she'd been into acting herself in the past. There was a group of us put on a play. There was Aunt Aggy. They all had really old-fashioned names. I can remember that about it. It was about this group of young women or young girls. I'm sure it was the same ones, like Shona, Debbie, Alison and myself doing it.

The Skye Boat Song was sung a lot when I was small, because my Dad was from up there. It was played at his funeral too. It has a nice tune to it.

I remember when Shona and I were doing a few songs over at Fala, Blackshiels. It was a benefit night and we were young teenagers at the time. We'd never done anything like that before. We went across and we were to sing a couple of songs. One of them was Streets of London by Ralph McTell. I remember we both started off. We were very nervous. Shona stopped singing and I kept on for a few more bars and then I looked down and I thought …. I can't do this on my own.... and stopped. Mountain Thyme was the other one we sang. It was funny because the guy who was coming on after us was much more professional. He had a guitar and one of the songs he was going to sing anyway was Streets of London. So, it was very nice because he got us back up and we managed to sing the song to the end with the guitar. That was probably my most embarrassing moment.

The valley has always been rich in musicians. Kathy and Andy Stewart lived in the flat above us for quite a while. I always remember, not long after they moved in, it was the first winter I think, Kathy came down, black streams down her face saying she couldn't understand why the fire wouldn't light and she thought the coal was wet. She couldn't understand why the coal was wet. It was just classic.... winter ..... coal's will light! Another memory I've got is of you and Nick going up one night and all I heard above me was clonk clonk clonk, the foot. My goodness! That would be Nick playing his melodeon! Then there was Alan Bertram too. He came to Stow in the eightees. Then there was Bill Watkins who lived in the old Smithy at the corner and I think he ran a folk club in the Houff at some stage.