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THE SCRANKY BLACK FARMER

Artist David Blyth will breathe new life into a character from NorthEast farming history when the record ‘The Scranky Black Farmer’ is launched on Thursday 31st August, 7pm at the Tin Hut Session, Gartly, with an artist’s talk. The vinyl record is a collection of seven versions of one bothy ballad The Scranky Black Farmer which David discovered had been written on Earlsfield farm near his home in Clatt. The ballad documents the harsh conditions endured by the ploughboy and other workers on this farm and was probably written in the 1880’s. The collection includes modern, rare and antiquated representations in a manner of Scottish styles giving it a robust and comprehensive feel. “David Blyth’s presentation here of the variants of The Scranky Black Farmer …. becomes a fascinating study of contemporary representations of traditional Scots song.” Cathlin Macaulay, School of Scottish Studies The listener can sense a changing social attitude towards Scottish farming life: the earlier songs seem to reflect the harsh years prior to industrialisation that saw the decline of the Horse and Plough; the more recent versions become more of a nostalgic-romantic celebration of the plough. However, collectively they combine to form one unanimous voice – a voice that speaks of man’s essential and enduring connection with the land. Recorded over a period of more then fifty years, the compilation conveys the fundamental idea that history is a living thing and that it is constantly shaped and remoulded by the interaction between people, places and the past. This seemed to be confirmed for David by the uncanny notion that the songwriter of The Scranky Black Farmer would have observed the same landscape that he and we do today albeit that over a hundred years have passed in between: ‘When I get off the 306 bus from Huntly-to-Kennethmont and walk three-and-a-half miles home through the ploughed Aberdeenshire landscape towards Clatt it can feel a little haunting to utter those dour verses that have become permanently inscribed in my memory. Dare I re-animate the spirit of the Scranky Black Farmer? ‘ During his two year research David has been unable to discover who the songwriter was. Documents held in The Brander Library in Huntly make blurred reference to five or six farm workers who worked on the Earlsfield farm in the early 1880’s but the nature of seasonal work meant that workers would regularly move on to new employment as little as six months later. This was no doubt the case with the author of this song. In common with many Scottish traditional Bothy Ballads, it is a stark documentation of working life on farm touns in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. with its crude living conditions, the ‘feeing’ markets and villainous farmers. The word scranky translates as either ‘thin, mean or lean’.


Bringing the project full circle it came as a fortuitous coincidence for David meeting with traditional Scottish singer, Shona Donaldson from Huntly, who agreed to do a live recording of the Scranky Black Farmer in a byre at Earlsfield Farm where Skinner (the farmer) once worked. The only female voice on the record, Shona’s contribution makes an appealing addition to the collection and to the ongoing history of the song. Shona will be present during the event. For more information or images contact: Deveron Arts, The Studio, Brander Building, the Square, Huntly, AB54 6HX Tel: 01466 794494 or 792734 info@deveron-arts.com www.deveron-arts.com

Listings: Huntly, Scotland Scranky Black Farmer Artists Talk and Record Launch 31 August 2006, 7 pm The vinyl record is a collection of seven versions of one bothy ballad The Scranky Black Farmer. The ballad documents the harsh conditions endured by the ploughboy and other workers on this farm and was probably written in the 1880’s. The collection includes modern, rare and antiquated representations in a manner of Scottish styles giving it a robust and comprehensive feel. Deveron Arts, The Studio, Brander Building, the Square, Huntly, AB54 6HX Tel: 01466 794494 info@deveron-arts.com

www.deveron-arts.com

Venue: Gartly Tin Hut

deveronarts I the studio I brander building I the square I huntly I ab54 8br I 01466 794494 I info@deveron-arts.com I www.deveron-arts.com

David Blyth Scranky press release  

David Blyth Press release

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