Well, firstly, and most importantly, Dick Gaughan is a Scot, from Leith on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. Leith, once a separate port, has been part of Edinburgh since the 1920s, but has retained a distinct identity.
Born Richard Peter, the eldest of three children, in 1948. By a sheer accident of timing, this event took place in Rottonrow Maternity Hospital in Glasgow while his father was temporarily working as an engine driver at Colville’s Steelworks and so Gaughan spent the first year and a half of his life in Rutherglen, a period of which he swears he has no recollection at all, not even of being knocked down by a bus. This must have had a profound effect, however, because immediately after this he went to Leith to his paternal Irish grandparents with whom he lived until his own parents returned to Leith some months later and he has never been back to Rutherglen since!
His mother, Frances MacDonald, was a Highland Scot, originally from Bohenie in Lochaber, whose first language was Gaelic. She was a singer in both Gaelic and English and won a silver medal at one of the Gaelic Mods as a child in the 30s while at school in Arisaig.
WORKERS’ SONG by DICK GAUGHAN
His father, Dick, was born in Leith of an Irish father, also called Dick (Gaughan’s grandfather) an Irish speaker and fiddle player, from Doohoma in Iorrais, Co Mayo. Gaughan’s grandmother, Bridget Madden, born in Glasgow of Irish parents from Killala, played button accordion and was also a singer, in English only.
Gaughan was brought up immersed in the musical traditions and culture of the Gaels, both Scots and Irish, which naturally, therefore, provide the foundation for everything he does.
He has been a professional musician and singer since Jan 1970. Has been playing guitar since the age of 7 and made his first solo album in 1971. Working mainly in the areas now known as “Folk” or “Celtic” music, he has recorded quite extensively since then in many countries and in various combinations. Has also worked extensively as a session musician in a wide variety of musical styles.
During this time he has also been fairly active as a record producer/engineer, midi programmer, composer and orchestrator – composing music for films for the BBC, Scottish Arts Council and independent producers as well as a full symphony (“Treaty 300”) and a 12-part suite for orchestra (“Timewaves”) – actor and theatre music director, having been in both roles with the celebrated 7:84 (Scotland) Theatre Company in the early 80s, songwriter whose songs have been recorded by, among many others, Billy Bragg, Christy Moore, Mary Black, Roy Bailey and Capercaillie.
STAND UP FOR JUDAS by DICK GAUGHAN
Served for several years as a reviewer/columnist with Folk Review magazine in the late 70s and also instigated the setting up of the association Perform in the early 80s and was its Chair for 2 years.
Was an early member of the band Boys of the Lough and is on their first album and was with the now-legendary Scottish Folk-Rock (what a lousy label that is!) band, Five Hand Reel, making 3 albums with them. In the 90s he founded and produced the short-lived but quite extraordinary ensemble Clan Alba.
Gaughan has been the subject of three full television documentaries in the UK – BBC2 Spectrum (1982), Scottish Television NB (1989) and BBC4 Session (2006) – as well as many radio documentaries in several countries.
His 1981 album Handful of Earth was voted Album of the Decade for the 1980s in both Readers’ and Critics’ polls in “Folk Roots” (now called “fRoots”).
Having very eclectic tastes, he also plays everything from free jazz and rock to country music. He plays most fretted stringed instruments but his natural instrument, and perhaps what he is happiest doing, is acoustic guitar.
His greatest musical love is for the ancient traditional Scots ballads. Also know as The Muckle Sangs (the big songs), these are the big story songs which form a substantial part of Scotland’s living wealth of traditional song.
TOM PAINE’S BONES by DICK GAUGHAN
Over the years, Gaughan has recorded and performed many of these “Muckle Sangs”, The great Scots Ballads are mostly of very great antiquity with some of the themes and motifs being traceable back thousands of years. Full of mystical and supernatural references. they are very dramatic and powerful and Gaughan has always insisted that the greatest singer of ballads he ever was privileged to hear and learn from was the late Jeannie Robertson.
Gaughan has also been quite passionately obsessed by computers since 1984 and took a programming course at Edinburgh’s Telford College during 1984, while recovering from voice problems, spent several years as a Sysop on one of Compuserve’s Forums and is a regular reader and occasional participant on the Usenet newsgroups rec.music.celtic and uk.music.folk
He has also been designing and building websites since the birth of the WWW, experience which he puts into his web design company, Gaelweb. Believes passionately in the principle that all sites should be designed so as to be fully accessible to all readers regardless of platform or software, especially in view of the number of people with disabilities using the web, and has no patience with sites which say “best viewed on …” or which are built using non-standard code which only works with one particular browser (i.e. Microsoft-specific coding). He also has a great love for Celtic art and did the little knotwork graphics you’ll find occasionally around this site, most of them based on motifs from The Book of Kells, The Book of Durrow and The Lindisfarne Gospels.
Lists his greatest influences as Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Flann O’Brien, Bert Jansch, Betty Frieden, John Lennon, Vladimir Illych Lenin, Hugh MacDiarmid, Tim Berners-Lee, Davy Graham, Doc Watson, Hank Williams, Jeannie Robertson, Ewan MacColl, Somerled, Bertolt Brecht, his mother (Gaughan’s mother, not Brecht’s), his father (likewise), his grandparents, Calgacus, Dolina MacLennan, Crazy Horse, Sandy Denny, Martin Carthy, Clarence White, Sean O’Riada, Jack Mitchell, John MacLean, Big Bill Broonzy, Hamish Henderson, Robert Burns and everybody else he ever met, read, saw, heard or spoke with.