Television programmes, like record albums, can be a long time in the making. And, in a sense, genesis of the TV series on which this record is based occurred more than twenty years ago. It was as a schoolboy that I first encountered ships' patterns in a Clydeside junkyard. Many-sized, multi-shaped, wooden frames, they are used in casting parts of the main engines. They fascinated me then-and fascinate me still-a splendid record of a unique trade. So, when Scottish Television were looking for a new format and a new studio setting in which to stage The Islanders' kind of music, it seemed to me that the patterns I had first seen all those years ago would suit our purpose admirably. Much more than just a marvellous set of props, the connection between the patterns and the music we were presenting was very real: folk music and craft skills are often linked by a common heritage. And the patterns soon proved the strength of our argument by adding another dimension to the songs performed by The Islanders and their guests.
Incidentally, the patterns, which our Archie McArthur manipulated so skillfully on the show were authentic down to the smallest detail. Stephen's Engineering, of Linthouse, Glasgow, agreed to lend them for the entire run of the series-on the strict understanding that if a ship broke down, and we had the appropriate pattern, it would be returned immediately! This didn't happen which in ways is a pity. I can just imagine the look on Jim Craig's face if the set had disappeared half-way through one of his numbers
We had worked together on several television programmes in the past, but Patterns of Folk was The Islanders first full starring role in a series of their own. What we wanted to present was a new kind of folk show-one which would appeal to comitted devotees and a general audience alike. Indeed, the break with tradition was so complete that on one occasion the boys appeared in pink suits. Expensive too! Their material-the songs, not the suits- also reflected the best of folk music everywhere. Seven television programmes devour more than seventy songs and, unfortunately, we can't use all of them on this record, but record producer Bryce Laing has managed to capture the full, robust flavour of much of the TV series.
Consider, for instance, the always-funny JEELY-PIECE SONG, and its account of high living frustrations if you happen still to be a weanling, or the equally authentic, but more serious ORANGE AND THE GREEN, containing as it does a pointed message for bigots of either hue. There's also an unusual and little-heard version of the WILD COLONIAL BOY sung in forceful fashion by Jim. Gentler and very different is Nancy's sad and lonely promise, I NEVER .WILL MARRY, and the haunting, poignant FAREWELL TO FUINARY so beautifully performed by Ed.
I won't list my own special favourite, but I will say that there isn't & bad song on the entire record. If you agree that it had its beginnings all those years ago, I hope you will agree that it was well worth that wait.