SCOTLAND'S famous folksong trio take their name from the Scots Border raiders or 'reivers' of centuries ago who used to rustle the English cattle. In a way, the title is very appropriate for The Reivers now raid the folksong treasury of the world for the delight of millions of ballad-lovers.
The group came together just over a year ago in 1958 under the direction of Norman Buchan, a Glasgow teacher, to appear on Scottish TV's Jig Time. An instant success, they remained with the programme for 40 weeks.
The Reivers are (l. to r.): ENOCH KENT, 27-year-old sales representative, who graduated from Glasgow School of Art in Pottery and Design. He has frequently broadcast with Alan Lomax, the American folksong authority, who described him as the best ballad singer he'd heard in Britain. RENA SWANKIE, 24-year-old inspector in a Glasgow engineering factory, was formerly a children's nurse. She interrupted her honeymoon to make this record. JOSH MACRAE, 26-year-old teacher, is also a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art where he studied drawing and painting.
All three have been recorded independently by Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies, but this is their first record for a commercial recording company.
As with most folk, music, the origin of four of their songs is obscure. The Wreck of the John B. obviously comes from the Bahamas and its form owes much to Pete Seeger of America's famous Weavers; The Wark o' the Weavers probably came from Angus but is now mostly heard in Aberdeenshire; Johnny Lad is a popular Glasgow children's street song probably derived from an 18th century love song; Balloo Bakery is an old Scottish lullaby. The Wee Magic Stane, on the other hand, is a modern ballad, inspired by the daring ' theft ' of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey a few years ago.
Nothing has been more surprising in the world of music in recent years than the astonishing revival of interest in folk-song. Spear-heading that revival in Scotland has been the sprightly and vigorous trio of Rena Swankie, Josh MacRae and Enoch Kent. Taking their name, The Reivers, from the old Border raiders, they give to their ballads an attack and vigour that must have characterised their namesakes.
Although they had been singing for a number of years to enthusiasts and for the archives of The School of Scottish Studies and other academic institutions. it was not until they appeared on the STV programme of Scottish Song and Dance ' JIG TIME ' that they became known to a wider audience. Since then, and especially since their record of THE WEE MAGIC STANE (The Work of the Reivers Vol. 1 JKR 8026), whose restriction by the BBC caused a storm north of the border, they have become a household word. Further, they have succeeded in remaining true to the authentic Scottish tradition and achieving a mass popularity; this record shows just how they do it.
THE AULD MAID IN THE GARRET
It's a queer thing, tradition; this is a song that one might have sworn was written for the old Glasgow music-hall, and perhaps this version was. But in origin this song goes back to a penny sheet ballad written by Martin Parker in the seventeenth century called THE WOOING MAID
JOCK SINCE EVER I SAW YOUR FACE
This is a new version of an old piece of Lowland mouth music, i.e., a song used to accompany a dance when no instruments were present. This version was written by Enoch Kent for a nation-wide TV programme on the Gorbals.
The tale of the wife whose temper was too hot even for Hell to hold is found all over the English-speaking world. In America it is known as THF FARMER'S CURSED WIFE: it is found in England and it has frequently been attributed to Burns, who certainly collected it. The Reivers use the Irish chorus form.
GOVAN IS A BUSY PLACE
This snatch of Glasgow sporting life, set in the ship-building area of Govan-was written a few years ago by Scots actor and writer, Roddy McMillan. for his play ALL IN GOOD FAITH.
DOWN IN THE MINES
The Reivers, while basing themselves on Scottish material, draw upon a world-wide repertoire. This song was written by Merle Travis and it first appeared in a collection from his native Kentucky called " Folk Songs of the Hills." Incidentally, in the same album was his SIXTEEN TONS.