The humour, uncanny perceptiveness and rare talents of Matt McGinn made him a household name in Scotland and in folk circles throughout the world.
Matt McGinn was a native of Gallowgate, one of Glasgow's less affluent areas, a bizarre part of the old town in whose tenement closes and back courts grew the seeds of his music, poetry, social observation and unique humour. The eighth child in his family, Matt first saw the grey light of the Gallowgate day in 1928, two years after the General Strike. His childhood spanned the terrible Depression years of the thirties, and in his early teens he lived through the Second World War and the drab, ration-,book years that followed. But the McGinn family was well accustomed to living on less than the bare necessities of life long before food coupons were introduced and the urchins of the tenements had to get their "luxuries" the hard way, by raiding local dairies and bakers' shops. The juvenile courts of the time had very definite ways of treating these young unfortunates, and so Matt spent his 13th and 14th birthdays in St. Mary's Remand Home, Bishopbriggs. In April, 1942, the liberated McGinn returned to the small room and kitchen on the ground floor of the Gallowgate tenement which was his family home. Four days later, Matt's father died, victim of a respiratory ailment which was one of Glasgow's plagues.
During the next four years, Matt moved from one job to another, always hoping for that few extra bob to help his mother and the other young McGinns. Then, partly due to the early influence of his father, partly through the inquisitive awe inspired by Glasgow's street-,corner soap-,box orators, and partly due to the bitter experiences of his own young life, Matt plunged sincerely and deeply into back-,street politics. He also married (Janette) and settled into his own wee "single end" in the Gallowgate.
Other influences, broader and further-,seeking than those of the Gallowgate thirties and forties, made their mark on Matt McGinn. His poems first became noticed in the early fifties, and by the end of the decade, Matt's determination, natural gifts and vision made him a prominent figure in the contemporary Glasgow folk movement. His reputation spread to America where, in 1962, he sang in a Carnegie Hall concert with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. Matt went on to be regarded as one of Britain's most powerful folk writers with over 500 songs to his credit and, as a performer of his inimitably potent songs, he became one of Scotland's leading folksingers.
Matt McGinn died on 5th January, 1977. He was 48 years of age.
All but one of the songs are by Matt McGinn, "Lady Chat" having been borrowed from Jim McLean. In the title track Matt points his pen at one of the major threats to life in the modern world — pollution! The tragic account of the "Ibrox Disaster " was undoubtedly the most moving piece to come from the pen of McGinn in years and was released as a single at the time of the disaster.
My thanks to the McGinn Family for their confidence in Greentrax Recordings and to Alex Osborne, in particular, for pointing me in the right direction and assisting me in pulling the project together. Alex's enthusiasm was boundless throughout. My thanks also to B.M.G., Clem Dane, Peter Haigh and John Slavin.
I knew Matt well and booked him for the Edinburgh Police Folk Club ('Fuzzfolk') on many occasions. Releasing this compilation has been a labour of love for me.
Ian Green of Greentrax Recordings.