25th June 1936 saw the birth of Roy Williamson, Scottish folk musician and songwriter in Edinburgh.
Williamson was brought up in comfortable surroundings in Northumberland Street in Edinburgh, his father was a lawyer and they had servants in the house growing up but tragedy struck the household in 1944 when he took his own life, this was kept from the children and it was only to come to light decades later.
Roy and his older brother were then sent to Gordonstoun boarding school, increasingly their mother couldn’t cope with them and they spent much of their early years in or around the school, even on their school holidays.
Roy went on to The Edinburgh College of Art where he became friends with Bill Smith, and Ronnie Browne. Roy went on to become an art teacher at Liberton High School, where he taught a friend of my father’s.
Roy founded the Corrie Folk Trio in 1962, alongside Ron Cruikshank and Bill Smith, they played their first gig in the famous Waverley Bar on St Mary Street, Cruikshank left the group within weeks of this due to illness which led to the arrival of Ronnie Browne, Irish singer Paddie Bell also joined the group who became the Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell for the festival gigs that year.
Early tv appearances followed on the Hoot’nanny Show and later The White Heather Club. After a series of arguments Smith and Bell left the group and they became The Corries as we know and love.
It was Roy who wrote Flower of Scotland, a song he didn’t rate at the time he was always the main musician, bringing sensitivity and technique together to lay the foundations of the group’s characteristic interpretation and arrangement of their material. Ronnie’s booming tenor singing gave the Corries their main vocals.
Flower of Scotland was first sung at a sporting event in 1974 when the winger, Billy Steele, encouraged his team-mates to sing it on the victorious Lions tour of South Africa in 1974, since then it has been increasingly used as our unofficial national anthem and sung in many stadiums throughout the world. As well as Football and Rugby internationals perhaps some of you will remember the song being belted out before Scottish lightweight world champion, Jim Watt’s bouts.
Flower of Scotland was voted tops in an online poll of over 10,000 people to choose a national anthem in 2006.
To say that Roy and Ronnie as the Corries are a Scottish institution would not be a lie, I listen to Corries songs as regularly as any others and they will always have a place in my heart, I never got to see them live but my late mother and her friend did on several occasions. On August 12, 1990 we sadly lost Roy Williamson he died from a brain tumour aged just 54 in Forres.
I know you are all expecting Flower of Scotland but I have managed to dig up a couple of early videos, the first one here is of The Corrie Trio singing a great Irish song Rare Old Mountain Dew. The second song, on the link below, is James Hogg’s ‘Lock the Door, Lariston’ as The Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell, although Paddie doesn’t sing in the video from 1962.