Dick Gaughan is a legend in Scottish folk music. For 40 years, he has dominated the folk scene as a group member (Five Hand Reel et al), as a guitarist influencing many other folk guitarists, and as a distinctive singer reinterpreting traditional ballads and using contemporary song as political weapon. Dick is a man of the left and was a stalwart supporter of the miners and other industrial struggles and more recently a campaigner for independence and for a Scottish Socialist Republic. So when he was struck down with a stroke last year and could no longer perform, the Scottish folk scene was in despair and rallied to support him with a benefit concert at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Tonight, we are at a further benefit, but also to allow Celtic Connections audiences to honour Dick. A packed Fruitmarket at a sold out concert show how much Dick is appreciated for the many years he has performed at Celtic Connections.
The concert is opened by Scotland’s unofficial queen, Elaine C Smith, who not only comperes with great brio but sings very decently as well. She has an easy task to keep the crowd interested, with a great cast of singers there to pay homage to the great man. Notable among them are Martin Simpson and Tony McManus who pay tribute to Dick as a great guitarist as well as a fine singer. Other performers include Karine Polwart who sings with great conviction, and Dougie MacLean, himself a folk legend in Scotland for Caledonia, who rounds off the evening with another of his great songs. The Wilson Family, who worked with Dick supporting the Miners’ Strike, sing some great close harmony songs including Baker Hill. The Bevvy Sisters, Patsy Seddon and Mary Macmaster, plus the house band, provide great music. However, the biggest star of the night is Dick Gaughan himself who, sporting a white beard, takes to the stage to a standing ovation. He speaks clearly to thank the audience and says he hopes to come back next year and sing. Whether he does or not his place in Scottish folk music is assured.