Dunkeld & District Strathspey & Reel Society

The Society was first formed in 1932 for the promotion of Scots fiddle music.
According to the Perthshire Advertiser, they held their fifth annual concert in 1938 in the Church Hall, Dunkeld with Miss Begg conducting.

The orchestra competed regularly at Perth Music Festival prior to 1939 when the war forced its temporary disbandment. It was reformed as an evening class under the auspices of Perth and Kinross Education Department with Miss Begg again as conductor and Miss Mackintosh as pianist with Messrs. Raeside and Bain, Pitlochry; Doig, Inver; Stewart, Dunkeld and McGregor, Strathbraan - all from the original group of 1932.

The other members at this time were - Mrs Stewart, Dunkeld (organ); Mrs Dargie, Ballinluig; Mrs Paterson, Birnam; J. Taylor, Guay; A. & A. M. Duncan & Miss M. Murdoch, Dalguise; R. Horne and Jean Henderson, Dunkeld; and R. McGregor; F. Forbes; F. McNaughton and J. Anderson all fiddlers from Strathbraan.
The evening class lasted for only two or three seasons when the Education Authority withdrew its support.
In 1966 Miss Begg retired as Head Infant Mistress at the Royal School of Dunkeld and at her presentation seven members of the former evening class helped with the entertainment - Mackintosh, Paterson, Stewart, Horne, Doig and two Duncans. To celebrate this occasion, a slow air 'Miss Begg' was composed and performed at the presentation.
The headmaster, John Maclean was so impressed with their playing that he urged them to continue as an orchestra and to look for more players. He offered them a room in the school for practising. The offer was accepted and the orchestra has practised there every winter during term times.
Sandy Cook joined as conductor and continued until 1995 when he reached the age of 87 and was presented with the M.B.E. for his services to Scottish Fiddle Music. He died in 1997.

The members in this photograph of 1933 (left to right) are:
Back Row - A. Raeside (bass); S. Doig; A. Bain; ? ; S. Fraser; J.
Front Row - J. Stewart; ?; Miss Mackintosh (piano); J. Robertson; Miss Begg (conductor); ?;
A. McGregor

The orchestra gave many small concerts at various venues. The photograph below was taken at Fishers Hotel, Pitlochry in 1970.

The players are, back row to front row, left to right:
Ian Macmillan, Andy Anderson (drums), David Scott, Alex Ross, Tavish Macmillan, Sam Allan,
Alastair Duncan, Ken Craig, John Scott, Gordon Walker, Sandy Cook, Bob Horne,
Annie Haxton (piano), Mrs Paterson, Stuart Doig.

In 1974, the orchestra undertook to supply the music at a concert organised by the Perth Gaelic Society in Perth City Hall to raise funds for the forthcoming visit of the Mod.
Fiddlers from all over Scotland were invited to attend and eventually over 100 fiddlers took the stage. This became an annual event in February and was joined in 1981 by a concert in November each year in aid of Upper Springlands, now Capability Scotland. By 1999 over £50,000 pounds had been raised for this charity.

Gordon Walker, Bankfoot, took over as conductor of the Society in 1995. During his time as conductor the orchestra continued to give many concerts throughout Perthshire and also visited Perth’s twin town, Aschaffenburg in Germany on two occasions.

Sandra Batty, Aberfeldy, became conductor in 2007 followed by Daphne Campbell, Pitlochry, in 2009. The present conductor, Campbell Smith, Perth, took over the reins in 2010.

In 1987 the Niel Gow Society decided to replace the gravestone in the Little Dunkeld Churchyard as the existing one was deteriorating. A concert was held in Perth City Hall to raise funds for this purpose with players from all over the country taking part.

Joint conductors for the evening were John Mason of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and Sandy Cook.

At the dedication of the new gravestone, the Dunkeld Strathspey and Reel Society plus several friends played and the Duke of Atholl and a Niel Gow descendant unveiled the stone.

The replacement Niel Gow headstone.

As the orchestra played, the chairs sank into the soft turf and the chair legs got shorter and shorter! Sandy Cook conducting the Orchestra in 1987 during the unveiling of the new gravestone for Niel Gow.

Some Society Pictures:

Sandy Cook and his 80th Birthday Surprise

Back Row: Guido Ruggi, Alex Elliot, Gordon Walker.
Second Back Row: Neil Reid, Peter Campbell, John Anderson, Arther Chapman, Sandy Hendry, Alex Baxter, Peggy Milne.
Second Row: Marjory Suttie, Dan McGowan, Frank Duncan, John Napier, Fraser Penny, Sandy Farmer, Ken Webster, Ken Craig, Diane Reid.
Seated: Anna Fraser, Alistair Duncan, Sarah Fraser, Sandy Cook, Sheila McIntyre (Piano),
Bob Horne, Sandra Batty.

Perth City Hall - Fiddlers' Rally


Perthshire Advertiser Article
Tuesday 12th June 2001