CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in Scotland

Ceilidh dancing at five bob a night

JIMMY COOPER - interviewed by Alan Ward - 2 of 11

And I played at the Irish ceilidh dancing. Away back in the 20s there was an influx of Irishmen into Coatbridge Iron Works 'cause they were busy then, just after the First War. And there were a lot of widows, and the Irishmen married them! You know widows from the First War - men who were killed - this is how it happened really - they married the widows. And then they booked a little hall - Irish dancing, ceilidh dancing, and it was all men - no women in it - it was all men. That's how I learned to play jigs and reels playing at these Irish dances. It was all 4-hand jigs and things like that y'see. So it went on from that till somebody else heard of me playing and says 'Right, come on, we'll have ago at the real old time dancing'. Went into a place in Coatbridge. We played a few halls with ordinary old time - Veleta waltzes and eightsome reels and Salisbury quadrilles and things like that.

But during that time there wasn't much money in it y'know you was lucky if you got about 5 bob for about 8 to 4 in the morning - you're lucky if you got 7/6d. Dulcimer and melodeon was the band... There was Mick Finnegan, there was Felix Dolan, Hughie McKenna, Johnnie McKenna, Cooper and Freal - dulcimer players. This is another Cooper - Cooper was a dulcimer player and Freal was an accordeon player. Then there was Skillen's Band from Bargeddie - Dick Skillen - his brother was blind, a blind accordeon player. Then if you went into Bellshill there were dulcimer players there - people I didn't know. (The dulcimer players listed above were) just in Coatbridge itself. Nearly all in Coatbridge, not in Airdrie - there wasn't any in Airdrie. It's funny that - all the dulcimer players were in Coatbridge. In fact most of the dulcimer players that I found were nearly all of Irish descent.

But then again to make a bit of money we went and done a bit of busking. We got three of us - one singer, a cornet player and a dulcimer. We're away up to Dundee and done a bit of busking there. Then we used to do the miners' rows in Armadale, that's up towards Edinburgh - busking - made a few bob. There wasn't much money about because they were idle as well ... but nevertheless we always made a few bob; and that was the size of it.