The brother and sister team of Ray and Archie Fisher first became known to a wider audience this year when they appeared for a long run in the Scottish Television documentary programme, "Here and Now". But they were already well-established among Scottish folk-enthusiasts. Popular in the Glasgow Folk Song Club and as regular singers at "The Howff" and "Festival Late" in Edinburgh, they launched their own experimental "singers" club with other young folk in 1961. They called it appropriately "Folk-Song Workshop". When Arnold Wesker toured the Scottish Trade Unions talking on Labour and the Arts, these were two of the group he took with him to illustrate his theme.
Individually and together they have had a big influence on other young singers, Archie with his easy, pleasant folk manner and sensitive accompaniments; Ray of all the young singers, probably closest to the "big" Scottish ballad tradition as personified by such singers as Jeannie Robertson from whom she has learned to much.
The Night Visiting Song —
This is a composite version from field-recordings made by Hamish Henderson. There is a whole series of night-visiting songs in Scotland, ranging from the bawdy, such as "The Laird o' Windy Wa's" to the tender. This is a particularly good version of the latter. An English version, "The Grey Cock", but with a supernatural theme, may be found in "The Penguin Book of English Folk-Songs".
Far Over the Forth —
An expanded version of a song sometimes attributed to Burns. It is a curious mixture of the folk-sentimental and the literary-sentimental. Is was learned from the singing of Lizzie, the daughter of the great Aberdeen folk-singer, Jeannie Robertson.
The Twa Corbies —
When is a ballad not a ballad? Answer — when it isn't sung. The Twa Corbies has for long been regarded as one of the most flawless as it is one of the grimmest of all our ballads; but it wasn't being sung. No tune appeared to survive in oral tradition and attempts at setting it remained literary, academic and dead. Then R. M. Blythman (the Scots poet "Thurso Berwick") set it to this marvellously sombre old Breton tune, Al Alar'ch, The Swan, learned from the Breton folk-singer Zaig Montjarret. The result was astonishingly right and the Twa.Corbies has passed into the repertoire of our younger folk-singers. It is related to the English "Three Ravens. A corbie is a crow.
The theme of the poor man who casts off his rags to show himself a shining prince is common in folk-lore, and especially in love stories. In Scotland it was given a realistic twist, reflecting the pride-in-poverty of the Highlands and its contempt for the pride of property in the Lowlands. Indeed the historian could read much into the frequency with which Highland Lords in disguise carried off Lowland maids and then confounded the canny commercial instinct for property of bride or father. In "Glasgow Peggy" (Child 228) to which Kilbogie is closely related, this is made clearest in the verse:
He's ta'en her up to yon high hill,
When that the sun was yet shinin' clearly,
Says: "A' that is yours as far as ye can see
For lyin' doon wi a Hielan' laddie"
And the same point is made in she coach and six reference in Ray Fisher's version.