Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Cathie Higgins (Nee Stewart) (1927-2005)

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Cathie Higgins (Nee Stewart) (1927-2005)

Article excerpt

January 2005 was all the bleaker for the death of the ballad singer Cathie Higgins in a Perthshire nursing home.

I had the pleasure of knowing Cathie since the summer of 1954 when, on the prompting of Hamish Henderson of the School of Scottish Studies, I went song-hunting in and around Blairgowrie, my native town. I was very quickly directed to Berrybank, Old Rattray, across the river, the home of the Stewart family, where I encountered parents Alec and Belle, their sons and daughters, and all the other relatives and friends who trooped in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night.

Cathie was the elder daughter, a dark, striking girl with thick black hair and large, lustrous eyes. She was at first reluctant to sing for my tape recorder, but soon she followed her mother and sister, Sheila, and gave me song after song.

The Stewarts were a travelling family who had been settled in Blairgowrie and Rattray for some years. They had always sung, but never in public. When they discovered how much 'outsiders' liked what they did, they went back on the road again, this time to tour folk clubs all over Scotland, England, and, eventually, overseas.

Alec played his pipes, Belle sang and diddled, Cathie and Sheila sang. …

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