Finding Jimmy Shand

A chance remark can lead you off your chosen path … and set you up for an unexpected encounter.

While on a tour of Europe in May, my sister Karen (who is also a Scottish country dancer) and I managed to sneak in a three-day visit to Edinburgh and its surrounds including a side trip to Fife.

We’d both explored these special places on previous trips but there are always new delights to discover.

I am very fond of bird watching and photography. Hearing of my hankering to see puffins (such captivating birds), the friends we stayed with in Edinburgh arranged a boat trip for us from the fishing village of Anstruther in Fife to the Isle of May, a Scottish National Nature Reserve. With it being nesting season, we had a great chance of seeing puffins up close.

As we drove through Fife, we came upon the town of Auchtermuchty. John, our friend who was driving, casually mentioned this town was once the home of Jimmy Shand.

Loralee with Jimmy Shand (1908-2000)

I am sure John did not expect such an excited reaction from this Kiwi backseat passenger. “Jimmy Shand,” I cried out. “I love his music!”

From the time I started dancing in the mid-1970s, the tempo, clarity and energy of Jimmy Shand and His Band’s music has always appealed.

Many a time I’ve danced to Jimmy’s set of tunes for the Eightsome Reel. The De’il Amang The Tailors is a particular favourite—no matter how tired the legs are, this tune gives more spring to my step.

Another favourite is his arrangement of the traditional strathspey Braes O’Tullymet. Nowadays, I still dance to Jimmy Shand’s music as our Johnsonville Club tutor Rod Downey regularly uses his recordings. [1]

Having heard my excitement at seeing the town where Jimmy once lived, John added fuel to the fire by mentioning there’s a statue of Jimmy in Auchtermuchty.

Of course, we had to deviate off the A91 into the small town, driving up and down the narrow streets in search of Jimmy Shand. And there he was, playing his button accordion under a stand of trees.

Puffin with a catch of sand eels

Scottish Country Dancing adds flavour to our lives wherever we go. If you are ever in Fife and see the signpost to Auchtermuchty, I suggest taking a few minutes to veer from your path and meet up with Jimmy Shand.

We made it to Anstruther in time to catch the May Princess over to the Isle of May. On the boat we found out there was an estimated 92,000 puffins on the island along with hordes of other seabirds including razorbills, guillemots, Arctic terns and shags.

We had two and a half hours of bliss in this puffin paradise—and I got the close-up shot I wanted of a puffin with a beak full of sand eels to feed to its puffling.

From Loralee Hyde. Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 22 No. 2 June 2019

[1] Rod Downey, Mathematics, Computer Science and Scottish Country Dancing, April 2019, p1

Click here for more about Jimmy Shand and his music

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