12 May 2015

The Traditional Scottish Fiddler (A Layman’s Guide)

Here, we have an excerpt from the SFO’s archives.

Though Reesa McGinn’s gift to her friend and fellow fiddler, Willie Dunlop, pre-dates the formation of the orchestra, they were both founder, and stalwart, members of the SFO.

This “Layman’s Guide to the Traditional Scottish Fiddler” (male variety) is as conceived and drawn by Reesa (July 1978).

It carries the disclaimer –

Any non-resemblance to any persons (whether living or otherwise) is purely co-incidental and simply due to bad draughtsmanship!


This is the king-pin of the Scottish Fiddler. Should this for any reason be removed, the whole figure will immediately disintegrate, probably causing great distress. (These fiddlers are a one-off job and are now absolutely priceless!) In the event of this happening, all pieces should be carefully gathered together (polythene bag in sporn (sic)) and returned express post to Dubble U-Dee, Kilmarnock, Scotland, where it will be expertly restored with minute and invisible stitchery.


Family heirloom and garment of great mystery. Handed down from father to son since the days of Adam, the jealously guarded secret being thought by many to have something to do with this!

Skean dhu

When not in use to strengthen leg, it is indispensable for interval revelry: e.g. cheese and wine, dart throwing etc. … anyway, it’s fairly good for stirring tea!


Made from the skin of the spring haggis. One haggis will make one belt and two shoes or, alternately, one shoe and two belts, the latter being the less popular – as it’s only the occasional fiddler who can come to terms with it.

Tacks (on soles of shoes)

The “Rhythm Section”. Specially welded from the brother of Mons Meg. Each one is carefully tuned to a note in the chord of A. In use for ALL tunes, no matter what.

Bow tie

Best worn with elastic round neck – can then be used as an effective air cooler when the pace gets hot!


Especially engineered to give the excitement of a sauna bath during the performance. Also useful for hiding braces, sleeveless and / or backless shirts etc..


For use as effective crowd control weapons (in conjunction with the bow tie), should anyone in the audience feel inclined to:

  • clap out of time
  • leave early to catch the last bus / train / plane / anything
  • leave for ANY reason
  • linger at the end of the concert (thereby delaying the ceilidh)


An essential piece of equipment this – as it usually remains articulate long after the fiddler is exhausted, whilst still vibrating in sympathy!


Excellent storage space for anything – e.g. –

  • rosin
  • spare strings
  • polo mints
  • spectacles
  • polo mints
  • pencils
  • rubbers
  • clothes pegs
  • polo mints
  • glue (for fixing damage done while playing Irish music)
  • a few coins (to rub together), and
  • a plate of porridge (already salted)
  • (more polo mints)

It is always worn over the kilt except in extreme cold weather or in moments of absentmindedness.

Here’s how the original version – from which the above text is taken – looked: