Nettie Simm

Nettie grew up in Traquair and Innerleithen. She danced and sang with Innerleithen opera chorus, sang in the church choir and, on moving to Stow, sang with the choir here, initiating the transformation of this choir into the community choir, Galawater Singers.

My earliest memory of songs are World War 2 songs such as :-

Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, run, run, run
A Toory on his Bonnet

My father sang these songs and whistled a lot. He sang songs like, ‘A Wee Bit Ragged Laddie’ (The Drunkard's Raggit Wean). He also loved Burns’ songs. My mother tended to sing hymns and was teased about only knowing “Deedle Deedle Dumpling, My Son John” as a nursery rhyme.

Nursery rhymes were the usual selection eg Rock a Bye Baby, Humpty Dumpty. I grew up in Traquair and later Innerleithen.

In the school playground we sang skipping songs, ball rhymes and tig rhymes such as’ Eetle Ottle Black Bottle’, 'Eeny Meeny Miny Mo'.....also 'In and Out the Dusty Bluebells.' The game 'What's the Time Mr. Wolf was also popular as was the ball game, ‘One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four.’ I remember a Mrs Yates and a Miss Bell who gave us singing lessons at primary school – often patriotic British songs. Mrs. Malcolm would also teach us singing in the classroom with songs such as:
Dream Angus
Castles in the Air – I think the Drunkard’s Raggit Wean was sung to the same tune.
The Cockle Gatherers
Caller Herrin’

She fostered our interest in Scottish stories, and sometimes told really scary ones. I first heard of Thomas the Rhymer in her class – P4.

In P6 and P7 teams were picked for the Scottish Country Dancing competition in the Borders Music Festival in Hawick. My team was the first to enter from Innerleithen in 1952 or 53 and wasn’t placed but my sister’s team came first the following two years. There were solo performances from some of the older children.

On Victoria Day each May, the children stood outside Leithenside School round the flagpole for a service and sang “I vow to thee my Country” etc.

My mother wanted to play the piano but never got the chance, but my uncle was sent for violin lessons. Me and my sister Anne were sent for piano lessons from the age of 9 to about 14. We were taught by my uncle’s wife who was a music teacher. We did not enjoy the lessons very much. I had another uncle who played the organ at Traquair church and my grandfather was a Presenter in the church in his time. We were also sent to Highland Dancing classes which we enjoyed very much, and this led to performances in school concerts and local summer Fetes and Festival Weeks. The repertoire also covered the Irish Jig, Tambourine Dance, Sailor’s Hornpipe, etc.

On my father's side one uncle played the pipes and another was a drummer.
The radio was a great influence in our lives. I remember 'Children's Favourites' on a Saturday morning which ran for many years. Also, there was Forces Family Favourites on the Sunday about lunchtime. My father would always listen to Scottish Country dance music which was on for a half hour every week and the whole family would listen to 'Friday Night's Music Night' (which is still going.)

There was no instrumental tuition at Peebles High School at that time but there was a school choir from S3 taken by Archie Whitelaw, the school’s very enthusiastic music teacher. On Armistice day the choir would sing at the local cinema in Peebles following the showing of a topical film. There would then be a remembrance service with a Pipe Band and Silver Band, and the British Legion from all over Peeblesshire marching in with their flags. The choir sang songs like:-

Land of Hope and Glory
The Dambuster's March
Bonnie Charlie's Noo Awa

Dances would have music such as The Every Brothers. I enjoyed acts like Tommy Steel, Bill Haley and the Comets, Cliff Richards and the Shadows but weren’t serious fans.

At the dance halls we would do some Scottish dancing, jives, foxtrots, waltzes, tangos etc.

In my parent’s day there were 'Band of Hope ' meetings where there was a lot of singing also. The children were involved in pantomimes often led by the scouts. The first record player to enter the home was bought by my sister in her late teens. Her first record purchase was Jim Reeves – Distant Drums.

The opera in Innerleithen started in 1908. This was to be a big musical influence and I started in the chorus at the age of 17. I was also a member of the church choir in Innerleithen and later in Stow where we moved in 1984. Now I sing with the Galawater Community Choir.