Musician’s talk for Probus Club

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THE MONTROSE and District Probus Club met on Tuesday, but unfortunately their scheduled speaker was unable to attend.

Instead, the club was delighted to welcome speaker Bill McDonald in his stead. Mr McDonald came all the way from Forfar with a selection of mouth organs.

A native of Speyside, Bill was brought up on a farm near Aberlour and from an early age he enjoyed playing the ‘moothie’.

He has fond recollections of playing many folk tunes with his father and other farm-workers in the stables of an evening and described this music-making as “bothieness at its best”.

After a career which took him to Aberdeen, Huntly and Dundee, he finally moved to Forfar where he became involved with the Accordion and Fiddle Club.

Some year later he joined a group of musicians from near and far who called themselves ‘Keltic Fiddlers’. They held concerts in various Scottish venues and toured Northern Ireland on various occasions. They even managed a tour of performances in various centres in New Zealand.

Bill gave the club a history of the mouth organ, or harmonica as it is also known.

It was invented in China, but it was in Germany in the early 18th century that the models we know today took shape.

The diatonic model is more basic but the chromatic harmonium (almost like a double decker) has a wider range of notes.

The instruments come in all shapes and sizes, and it was amazing to hear him play ‘Cock o’ the North’ on a minuscule instrument that actually sat inside his mouth.

John Paton gave a suitable vote of thanks and the morning session ended up with a few impromptu tunes by Bill on the ‘moothie’ accompanied by one of the club members on the accordion.