Ranald and Iain - The First 35 Years

Towards the end of 1972, whilst Harvest was in its death throes, a friend of mgill's - along with three other partners - bought a seedy pub within the entrance lane to the covered market, called The Old Market Inn.

It was a three-storey building, with one central doorway leading directly to a flight of stairs and a door on either side, leading on the right to the public bar and on the left to the ‘snug’. Upstairs was the same layout with the addition of a ladies' toilet. It was to this salubrious venue that young Doug Florance (his Dad was also Doug) invited mgill, with the idea of providing some live music in the upstairs bar.

 Ranald and Iain in 1992  Initially the idea was just to provide a session for Saturday lunchtimes, so mgill called on a few mates to ‘gie a haun oot’. One of them was the recently-returned Ranald Smith, who had been in the year below mgill at school and who had gone to University in Aberdeen in 1966. There, he had organised the University Folk Club after having served his apprenticeship at the famous Aberdeen Folk Club under the expert eye of the legendary Arthur Argo.

Ranald’s bag of songs was mainly contemporary, whereas mgill had a repertoire which leaned more towards the tradition - although he also could provide many contemporary songs at the drop of a hat.

In the next year ‘The Market’ underwent major refurbishment, to the extent that the central stairway was removed and the two rooms, both up and down, were knocked into two big rooms with a fireproof metal staircase at one end. The new upstairs room became a venue on Friday 3rd August 1973, when Iain started a thirty-four night run before heading off to London in September.

 Ranald and Iain in 1993  Andy MacDonald became the organiser of the entertainment, and it was decided that a stable of singers be formed, each of whom would have their own night. Of course Ranald was the first one on the list!

When Iain returned from London he’d sit in with Ranald, playing lead guitar and providing harmonies, but it took till December 22nd 1975 before they played a full concert to finally establish themselves as a recognised duo.

They spent a little time toying with names for the duo, but as Danny Kyle once said when introducing them at a festival - “Next up is a group I really like and I also like their name, which they must have spent hours dreaming up … it’s Ranald Smith & Iain MacGillivray!” and off he went shaking with laughter.

In the early years, an evening would begin with Ranald and Iain splitting the first half into two solo spots, and coming together as a duo for the second half; but as time passed and more material was learned they adopted the format they use today - as a duo from the beginning, but dropping in solo songs as they see fit.

2010 sees them celebrate thirty-five years as an occasional duo, and in that time they have played all over the Highlands with the odd jaunt further afield.

 Ranald and Iain in 1994  In the late seventies / early eighties they held residencies in Aviemore, Nairn, Ullapool and two in Inverness - as well, of course, as supporting the Inverness Folk Club and Festival.

In 2003, after a break of about eight years, they decided to hold a reunion concert - which for some forgotten reason they decided to hold on the nearest Saturday to the Summer solstice, and have continued to do so ever since, calling the concert - appropriately enough - ‘The Midsummer Gig’!

Two separate events conspired to delay the 2005 concert until September (‘The Autumn Gig’) and to cancel the 2007 concert entirely. In 2005 Ranald suffered a heart attack whilst at a business meeting in Aberdeen, and in 2007 - due to severe circulation problems caused in part by  the diabetes he’d suffered for twenty nine years - Iain had his left leg amputated below the knee.

Back on course for 2008 and in 2009 they also appeared at the inaugural Northern Roots Festival at Bogbain Farm and Heritage Centre, Inverness.

In addition to continuing their annual concert they played the Glenfarg Village Folk Club to great acclaim in 2010 (see Reviews),


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