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Anne Neilson - 1944 - 2019

Anne was introduced to traditional music in 1957 at the second meeting of the Ballads Club in Rutherglen Academy. She was one year behind Gordeanna McCulloch at the school, but their relationship with each other and their impact on others were to last for the rest of their lives. Anne worked professionally as a teacher after leaving school and if she made only a fraction of the impression that she has made on many of Scotland’s younger musicians, she must have been a great teacher. Anne worked with, taught and supported many students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who clearly thought that she was amazing, evidenced by the many tributes paid to her on social media.

Anne didn’t feel rooted in a tradition herself. She claims that the only two songs she learned at home were, Wee Chookie Birdie and Help, Murder, Polis. I held a different view to Anne about this and discussed it with her. I think that you can become a traditional singer by immersion as well as by birth. Posterity and Anne’s peers will now decide which of us was right.

Anne didn’t have the same platform or opportunities to perform as Gordeanna had with the Clutha. She was committed to her teaching and operated more in a background role, pushing others to the fore as any good teacher would naturally do. Later in life she did however spend many years as a member of Stramash alongside Bob Blair, Adam McNaughtan, Kevin Mitchell, John Eaglesham and Finlay Allison.

Along with Gordeanna and a few others, Anne worked tirelessly with the Glasgow Ballads Club. It is impossible to overstate the impact of Anne and Gordeanna on traditional singers in Scotland. They have a shared legacy in youth. They benefitted in their own lives from inspirational teachers and they have given that same gift to others. For the moment it seems like there is a cloud hanging over us, but that will pass. They will be missed – but they will be remembered.