Ref NoSBA/158/13
TitleOral history project file, Peter Duffy [Scottish Borders Memory Bank]
DescriptionInterviewed by Andrew Dickson.

Release (Waiver) Form held by Scottish Borders Archives.

WORK: SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT: Employment practices
[Mackinnon; Duncan (1916-1969); dance promoter]

Transcript of interview with Peter Duffy, with photograph and 13 No. audio recordings [MP3].


Now, which bands did you play in, to start with?
Well it was The End to start with. I, I kind of formed that with another guy ... that started in Stow. That was the main place where the guys ca, one guy came from ( ... ...) eventually we came from different places as the band got bigger ... one came from Gala [Galashiels], one came from Gorebridge but it was mainly Stow. And then we became the Jaguars. Sorry, we started off as the Jaguars and then we, we became The End after and ... yeah, we travelled all over. Borders and ... spent a week in Blackpool, Manchester, aye, all over the north of England.
A lot of them, ones that Duncan [Mackinnon; Duncan (1916-1969); dance promoter] arranged for us and ... Kilmarnock, Glasgow, Fife ... all over really. [Mackinnon; Duncan (1916-1969); dance promoter]
Did, did you go ... further north for Duncan?
No. No. That's about I think (...) Dunfermline but that's about as far as we, we went north ... but he used to arrange with other impresarios to swap bands as well, so we would swap with another band. He would ring their band up and he would send us down in their place, you know? It was quite interesting. Going to all the different places and that, you know? jobs in Yorkshire. A lot of it was when we were on holiday but we were never professional. We all had our own jobs as well.
So, used to sit after our job on the Friday night and ... sometimes all weekend. We wouldn't get back the early hours on Monday morning. Were away all weekend playing.
So ...when did the band first form?
It was 1963. It was round about the time when the Rolling Stones, the Beatles sort of first started. I always remember that and we finished in '69. It was just at a time when the discos were coming in and a lot of the, they were taking a lot of business. No good trying to compete with them because it was like one-man band and he could get these a lot cheaper like, you know? That's why he decided, all the guys had all their own ... directions in life. Some of them starting to get married and all sorts of things so we just all agreed just to give it up at that time.
Was, was that just after Duncan's death?
Trying to think ...

He, he died ... January '69. [February 1969]
Was it?
Supporting Bands
Yep, yeah.
Can't remember if that was before or after. That might have been something to do with it as well right enough. Because he kept us going you see, and for a long time, for many years, we never really looked anywhere else because he kept us going. Sent us all these different places. And it was easier for us to do that, you know? We, we played a lot in the Carlisle Market Hall for him because he used us as a support band for a lot of the big bands that used to come and, you know, he knew he could rely on us. And it was really important to get a big support band ... before all these guys came up like. I mean we, we played with The Who twice. We were supporting band for The Who, twice in Market Hall and many other ones like, you know. So that, that was an important thing to him that he had a, a reliable ... support band like, you know, because he had to keep it going and keep the credit going until the main, main act came along ...
Mmm huh. ... and ... yeah, we became quite well known in Carlisle, just for that like, you know?
Did, did you play your own songs?
No. It was mainly other people's songs that we did like.
Right, right.
Recording A Single
We recorded a record in Edinburgh. It was the old E.M.I. in those days ... just made the one record but it didn't, we gave them all away to our, to the folk that supported us at the time like, you know? The, the dances we played and that, but that was quite exciting, making a record, you know?
Wish I could remember all the bands we used to play with…
Now would that, would Duncan have been able to arrange getting that record made or ...

No, no. That was ourselves.
Right, right.
Aye, we did that on our own. We were determined to get something, so we did a kind of demo. Demo and sent it out, but nothing ever came of it you know. So we, we got two or three boxes of records, we just gave it out to all the, the folk that supported us at the time at all the dances and that. Still got one somewhere likely. It'll be in a, you know, aye, because we, we did a lot of blues in these days. That was our thing like. It's not everybody that liked blues, specially for dancing, and that's what I mentioned to you, Robert Plant and his Band of Joy. It was like a total blues night and of course ... they couldn't dance to it at all. Duncan wasn't very happy about that but he then realised it wasn't the right type of music. But I think he had got a chance to get Robert Plant quite cheap, one of these exchange deals, you know? And ... because what he used to do is he used to get them, he had, Dunc. had a great knack. One of the knacks that he had was to get big bands before they really made it. He would get them two or three months beforehand and by the time they came up here, they'd probably have a hit record in the charts and of course, they came from far and near to hear them. He had this tremendous knack, he knew exactly ... and I don't know how he did this, but when he listened to some of these other impresarios and they said "Dunc, two or three weeks time these guys will be in the charts." But he had this knack of doing that. He made a lot of money out of that. Did you know he was a farmer, at one time?
Yeh. But I, I haven't really sorted this out because some, some even Beatles books say he was a pig farmer and some say a chicken farmer.
He was quite a ... he was quite a prosperous farmer. At one time he'd, he'd more than one farm.
But I think he had lost most of that because of his drinking.
So he, he had the farm at Drygrange. Where else did he have ...
I'm not sure.
Was there one on the road between St Boswells and Jedburgh?
Not sure. He took me to one of his farms once. I remember that. It was what he called his graveyard (...) and he had, well he had two graveyards. He took, I think it was away down back of Drygrange somewhere and what it was, when all the things were rattling in the, the late, mean he was in the late '50s as well, he was really big as well, and what he did was, he hired a lot of his bands, or loaned them out to pop groups and of course, when they came back, they were absolute, destroyed, and he had this massive mound of cars and vans, all with the writing on them, and for all I know they might even be still there today. A huge mound. It was like a great big scrap yard and he said to me, "Look", he says, "these are all the motors that I've bought in my lifetime and most of them have been hired out or loaned to pop groups over the years", and then he says, "then come and have a look at this". And we went into this, which was on the farm and he opened this door of this big long, like a barn thing, and it was full of old equipment. Band equipment, amplifiers and microphones and all sorts of gear. And I says, "What on earth's all going on", he says, "Again it's all stuff that I've bought for bands, they've given us it back. Half it doesn't work now, that's, otherwise they wouldn't give me it back", he says. And there was stuff lying about. We couldn't believe it, you know? And I says to him, "How, how did you accumulate this"? He says, "Well, it's just over the years, you know". He'd been doing this. And ...I'll never forget that. Yes. I think that was quite close ( ... ...) I remember we took him ...he says, "C'mon", and he showed us where to go and I seem to remember, away at the back of Drygrange somewhere. Away down in that way.
On the, on the road to Earlston or ...
I think it was on the road to Earlston, aye. ( ... ...) somewhere. I mean that was a while ago now. I remember showing all this - a lot of vans and that and he reckons some of the vans he never even got back! They just scrapped them up and never even gave him them back. He was quite a kind person in some ways too. He would lend out things, in some cases for money, but others if, if he was desperate to get a band to a certain place, he would actually just loan them the van like, you know? In fact he, he gave us a loan of a, an old Comer diesel one, one day, from his pool of cars and that, you know.
He didn't drive himself I don't think.
Well ...

That, that I know of.
I, I don't think he had a licence but he, he did drive on one occasion. He drove Wiggy Brown somewhere and ...


yeahh. And ... he turned round when they were nearly there and ... Wiggy asked if he had a licence and Duncan said, "No". What did you play in the band?
I played the drums. Started off playing the drums and then there were other drummers came along too because I went away to .. college in Ipswich so there were other drummers filled in but I kept coming back and forward, you know. But I was one of the founder members of it. yeah, when I came back from ...Ipswich again I started going around with them again, you know? So every now and again I would stand in later on like. But I, I can tell you right funny story about Duncan. As I say we used to back him a lot and ...Carlisle Market Hall, which was a big hall to the main market in Carlisle. Now these days there would be something like two thousand people got in there to see the big bands and of course we would have to play to about, maybe about 1500 people to 2000 before the big band came on. Well that was quite a daunting task. So, there was one night, Duncan, one of the big bands, can't, I think it was the, I'm not sure whether it was The Walker Brothers, some, I can remember, it was something Brothers, I remember that, and he had a double again. He had one at Dumfries and one at Carlisle Market Hall and he made a huge amount of money that night. Got absolutely drunk and, normally what used to happen was, sometimes the bouncers would give him a lift home but sometimes he'd come down and ask us. Sometimes we were never sure because "Is he coming with us, or is he going with the bouncers?" and what, you see? So this night, he got absolutely drunk once he'd taken all the money in and ...we never saw him, for ages after and at the end of the night, we went away for a drink, at the end of the night we got, "wonder if he wants a lift" we weren't sure. Couldn't find him anywhere, so, away we goes home and in these days, there was a, outskirts of Carlisle there was a massive big roundabout as you came into Carlisle and we were coming round this roundabout and one of the guys said, "Is that not Dunc. lying in the middle of the roundabout there?" And we went up the road a bit and then we turned and came back and went round the roundabout again and said, "Yeh, it is. Look. There he's lying, there he's lying sleeping in the middle of the roundabout". So, we parked the car away up further out quite a dangerous bit, you know. So, we parked the car and went down and we woke him up and he had two massive big bags round his neck with all the money in it, tied with binder twine. He had tied the binder twine round the two bags and they were hung around his neck, and they were just about choking him as he was lying sleeping! Money bags, gripping onto them. So anyway, we gets a hold of ...two of us gets him under the shoulders and gets him at the back of the van and he still has this huge big money bag so, what I did was, I gave, half choking him, I took the money bags off and stuck it underneath the, the back seat of the van. You know, the back seat and away we went home. Took him back to Drygrange. Again, got him under the shoulders and carried him into the house. Said cheerio to his wife and that and away we went back to Stow. And ...the next again morning, Dunc. was on the 'phone, "How did I get home last night? Was it with you guys?" Because we took him up home a lot, you know and he automatically wondered if it was us. "Did you guys bring me back last night?" "Yeh, yeah. You alright now?" "Oh yeah, grand, fine. But I've got a big problem", he says, "did I have any money bags with me when you saw me last night?" I says to him, "Might have done, Dunc,". "No", he says, "I really need to know", he says, "because I think I might have left them on the roundabout at Carlisle". So he remembered! Going for a sleep on the roundabout at Carlisle and ...well, he actually 'phoned Mick the driver and he says, "I'm not very sure Dunc.", he says, "they might still be in the van. Let's go and have a look". So he went out and of course I had hidden them under the seat like, you know? So they were all, two of them were still under the back seat of the, the car like and he was highly relieved when Mick said "Aye, we've, we've found them", know? And of course he said was "Is th, are they all there? Has any money been taken out?" So that was quite comical like, with him losing a bit, I reckon in these days, you, you could be talking into the thousands in the bags. The takings. I should imagine two thousand people in in these days. Multiply it out, you know.


So, yeah that was that story and then he told me the story about him being blown up in Epping Forest ...
So he was, I think it was probably towards the end of the war and I think they were on training or something and there was a land mine, somebody stood on a land mine or something in Epping Forest ...two or three of his colleagues were killed and I always remember him saying, he, he lived for the moment because he was lucky to be alive at that time, you know?
But ... did he say the extent of his injuries or ...
No. Never mentioned that at all. Remember him ( ... ..) I have a ( ... ...) I think Dumfries that night when he told us this story. Just trying to think ( ... ...)


And ( ... ...) poetry as well. Poetry.
Oh aye, his poetry. He showed me a lot of his poetry. He had ...wads and wads of poetry. Some of them were on the back of cigarette packets and he just ran, put them all together with rubber bands and ... some of them were really tremendous. It was like his observations on life and I can always remember, he was on about ... Jimmy Clinkscale once. He was on about him. Everybody was headin' for Melrose sports, including himself. He was coming through the Square, he looks up and he saw Jimmy Clinkscale. About the only one in the whole of Melrose square that wasn't going to Melrose sports. And he reckons he was up there, sitting counting his money! ( ... ) it was comical. And he wrote a poem about this. And I always remember that. His poem he wrote about Jimmy and of course Jimmy wouldn't be too enamoured. But he was very friendly with Jim at one time. He used to go to the Square. Course, you know, Jim and all the people in all the bands as well of course. That's probably how they got to know each other.
But I always remember telling young Dunc to hold on to all that poetry, that was really something. But he loved the Bor, the old Border poets, a lot of old Border poets ... and he loved the books that he read on, on poetry ( ... ) and again, he would do a lot of that during the week when he wasn't so busy.
Mmm huh.
He would do that.
So, what, what did he do then? Did he like, promote the dances at the weekend and then ...
That was like a full time thing after he'd finished all his farming.
He, he worked on the farm as well?
I'm not sure about that because I can't remember having him working on the farm when I used to go and see him like. I think he was like full time at that time, when I, when I knew him. So, I think the farms came before.
Started farming before then he got into the dance bands because I don't think he was in a band himself.
But he was associated with all types of bands. I remember that too. Scottish dance bands, that too ( ... ...) bands. Scottish dance bands, and jazz bands and old time and aye, all types of bands but I think probably he would make most of his money from the pop group scene. I, I'm sure that's what he did because he made a lot of money from that. So ...


And, and, he was telling you about starting up in Liverpool as well?
Aye, that's right. With, with his famous Klondyke dances as he called, he nicknamed it the Klondyke dance and the first time he went to Liverpool he had hardly anybody at all. His takings were really low and he thought, he knew that there was a lot of people went to the dances but for some reason they didn't come to his, you know, they supported the local ones like, so, towards the end of the dance and that, he, he thought that he would come up with this idea where he would try and figure out a way of enticing them back the next again week. And he dipped into his takings, what little takings he had, and he, he sorted out all the half crowns and ... he just threw them up in the air and scattered them in the middle of the dance hall. Of course, everybody went wild trying to get their, because half a crown was a lot of money in those days. And of course, the next again week he went down and tried it again. I think he had contract there. Hired the hall for two or three weeks type thing, you know. And the week he went down and they were all queuing up, waiting to get in the hall. They had heard about his famous Of course, he advertised it as the Klondyke dance the next again week, you know?
Right, right.
Stuck, the Klondyke Dance. How long he held them for I'm not sure, but I remember him telling me that he made quite a bit money in Liverpool.
What, what, roughly what year would that be?
It was before we sort of went. I think it must have been round about, '62 '63 maybe. Something like that.
Right, right.
Must have been round about that time.
Did, did he ever mention any of the bands that he employed down there?
Not, not in Liverpool, no. But I knew he did use a lot of Liverpool bands over the years like, you know over the years. Can't remember it doesn't ring a bell at all, what bands he did use ( ... ). There were so many of course. A lot of them that you never hear of; never really made it in the charts and that, but there were so many of them that he'd probably have his pick like, you know? And again, he'd probably get them through these exchange impresarios and that, you know. He'd get them through them.
Do you reckon he would have had dealings with Brian Epstein even then, for the Klondyke dances?


Not sure about that. I'm not sure about that. I'm not even sure whether he, he got Beatles through Epstein. I'm not sure if it was done… His dealings were through, as I say, these other promoters and rangers. Like Robert Stigwood and people like that. Used to send them on tours, Robert Stigwood and he would 'phone up the different promoters all up and down the country and see if he could put a tour together. You see, that's how they would do it. Dunc. got a lot of his people through that. But I'm not sure whether ( ... ...) whether it was just that Brian Epstein was the manager and that's the reason he 'phoned him ... and he, he did tell me ... that he did chase the, the Beatles off the stage at Gala. Palais and ...they were so scruffy, unkempt looking and he says it just looked as though they'd been sleeping in the van the night before and were totally ruffled up and their clothes were dirty as well and he said that they just weren't playing at one of his venues looking like that. So he chased them like. That's, that's all I remember about that side of it, you know?
Do you remember that night being advertised in the paper at all?
No, no. I don't at all. So it's obviously, must have been before the Beatles became big because we would have know if they had been coming to Gala. so it must have been just slightly before they, they started making records and they really started to be recognised. It must have been before that. Might have been the Silver Beatles.
I'll tell you another really funny story. We were at a place called Rosewell. You know Rosewell?
And in these days Dunc. used to hire about six bands, all to play on the one night. It was just one after another. I can't remember what he called that now. But it was one of his things that he thought of that he could keep it going for, oh, quite a few hours and ...he advertised it and ...all these bands came. They came from all over the country, you know. Sheffield, Manchester, and we played that night as well. I remember that. At the end of the night, again, he had a really successful night and he got quite well on with drink. Fell sound asleep and he was in the little anti room in this hall and he was snoring his head off and there was a whole queue of managers for the six bands all sitting waiting on their money, and not one of them, including me, had the courage to wake him up, because he was a ferocious guy when he was woken when he was drunk! When he wanted to sleep. And we all had to stand there and wait till he woke up to get their money off him. Always remember that. That was Duncan. Trying to think of ... He told us a lot of stories. Trying to remember them after all these years, you know, but ...yeh, he had, I remember he did have shares in a club in London. He did, told me that. I think Acker Bilk's might have been that, but he used to go to Ronnie Scott's quite a lot as well, but that might have been just going for entertainment right enough.
Mmm huh, yeah.


He used to this Ketners, eating house in London. It was a famous eating house of his. I can always remember him on about that. Enjoyed his food and his Tia Marias. Used to love Tia Marias with his food. And George Melly, I remember him telling me. He was quite proud that he was in George Melly's because he remembers, that was at Carlisle Market Hall, he came onto the stage and introduced George Melly and I don't know if George Melly was very happy because Duncan was quite inebriated again and he staggered onto the stage. I don't think he was too ...chuffed at someone being drunk ...introducing him.
Mmm huh.
Think he felt it was a bit of a slight ( ... ) reckoned at the time, like that you know. There's another, an American group Duncan used for a long time. They came to this country. A massive big band. I can't remember what they were called. He was really friendly with this guy as well. Big coloured guy and he had like all his family and he was the boss of this big band and he travelled all over the country for Duncan. I can't remember what he was called. He booked the Bay City Rollers one night and, but would you believe they were below us on the bill? Yep. Just not long after that they took off.
Mmm huh.
Can always remember they backed us that night at Selkirk.
That would be late sixties wouldn't it? '68 ...

That's right. I remember Rod Stewart at Selkirk. Remember backing ... the Yardbirds. Run a dance one night at Dunbar, the Harbour Ball at Dunbar. It was the Yardbirds, and Jimmy Page was playing bass guitar, right unusual played base guitar in these days for, for the Yardbirds .... became a session man. That always stuck with me. Remember ...that was one that stuck.
I'll try and remember who Rod Stewart, Rod Stewart was singing for somebody ...

Aye, was he with ... was Rod not on, there was the Steam Packet with Elton John on Piano and ....
It wasn't that. He played for another band as a lead singer.
Right, right.
Sorry, he sang for another band in those days it might have been the Yardbirds, you know. He was like a guest, wasn't there all the time. He was like a ... guest.
I just can't ... but that was at Selkirk. Remember him coming up the stage at Selkirk and he was like a guest. yeah we hung out with groups in those days.
Did you support The Who when they came to Selkirk and Gala. as well then?
No, it was Carlisle Market Hall. I can't even remember them coming to the Borders.
Yeh, yeah.
Can't remember that. I remember playing, we used to practice in the Hydro at Melrose. I remember the Rolling Stones ... we were playing one of their numbers and they, they looked round the corner, because they were quite amazed it was one of their, just one of their recent ... releases. And of course we copied it the night, the week before, and they heard us playing it and they, they come down to see what it was. They couldn't figure this out like and here it was us. They never spoke to us either. Just watched us play the number and, and then went out again.
Do you know if Duncan ever had contact with the Beatles after they made it big or ...

Oh I think he'd blown it by that time. We went for a drink with Robert Plant. I remember one night. That was in Selkirk. The County in Selkirk. We went for a couple of beers with them and John Bonham was there. Remember that. They were, they were great group in those days. We looked up to them ... as a blues outfit they were really good like in those days ( ... ...). And they were really ordinary guys in these days. Little did we know what they were going to progress into, you know?
Did he ever mention his role in that, Johnny Gentle Beatles 1960 tour?
No. It was just a story about them chasing off stage. If you could have got a hold of the bouncers they might have been able to tell you but to confirm that story but he told me that himself on a Sunday like ( ... ... ...)
So did Duncan actually go down to Liverpool and all the other places himself ...
Yes, yes. ... to get the dances going?

yeahh. Used to hire Tom Paton, you know, it was the man from the Bay City Rollers. Used to hire him a lot in the old days and it was Tom Paton Golden Crusaders from Bathgate ( ... ... ) That's how it was Tom Paton. He was the manager eventually, of the Bay City Rollers. But he was very successful ... He had a great band in those days. Marmalade, they used to come, … Fourmost, Fortunes, Dave, Dee, Dozey, Beaky, Mick & Titch, ( ... ...) Sandie Shaw. She had a crash one night and we leant her all our equipment.
Was, was it a bad crash?
No, there was nobody actually hurt but all the, the gear was bashed, aye.
Right. Where was that about?
Carlisle Market Hall as well.
I remember she actually came and asked me because I used to manage them as well like, you know, ( ... ...), she asked me ( ... ) "Would you mind", or could they hire the, the ( ... ... ...) hire the drums and a couple of guitars. Otherwise it would have just, the show would have had to stop. The Kinks ...

Did they ....
That was Carlisle Market Hall again.
Right, right.
The Who
I lifted each one of them on to the stage at Carlisle. The steps, somebody had pinched the steps and the dressing room, you had to walk along the side to get up onto the stage. Somebody had pinched the steps. I had to lift them like that onto the stage and they had their guitars and everything like ready just a ...That was in the days when the, The Who used to smash their guitars and amplifiers. That was an eye-opener seeing all that happening. Course, we had to get all their stuff away from all that, you know, in case there's, it was damaged like, you know. It was frightening that, you know. We had to take away your stuff because these things were flying about. Had to get it away.
Did, did they ever say how they started doing that or ... was it just a rage, a Townsend rage?
Never said. Never said, but I can remember seeing the guitar at the end of the, the night. It was just a, just held together with a bit string. It was like, it was absolutely destroyed(?). I can always remember the great big Marshall speakers they had in those days. What I discovered was, there were false bits in them. The bits that they were false, were the bits that he stuck his guitar through.
Right, right.
So he wasn't going through speakers in some instances?
Because they did it so much, you can imagine how much that would cost them if they'd damaged the speakers. And all they did was they put a wee piece of felt on the bo, they brought this felt on for Marshall, and they put the felt on. Each night, the roadies put new felt on and that's the bit they hammered into, because we shared the same stage with them.
Aye Joe Cocker, he came to Gala. I think it was just, just when, he was quite well known then, at that point, you know, at the start of his career like. That was The Searchers. Fortunes is probably one of the best singing bands I ever heard. Remember they were at Jedburgh one night and the, the power broke down and they got out ...just Spanish guitars and they kept, the dancing came to a halt and they just kept the audience enthralled, singing with the Spanish guitars, all night. They just sat down on the stage and started to play. There's not many bands can do that, you know.
And can you remember any of the other local bands?
There used to be one from, come quite a lot from Gorebridge, called Skipping Ropes and Bangles. They were, played down here quite a lot. Carol and the Citizens, they were from Hawick. I remember them. A lot of them came and went, you know. We were probably one of the longest on the scene. You know, that era.
Mmm huh.
PP Arnold and the Nice.


Did he ever mention his involvement in local companies? I know he was kind of involved in a laundry and a crisp factory as well?
I knew that Jimmy Clinkscale was involved in laundry because he had the laundry here.
In Kelso, because I remember ...picking up his car, one night, big Rover one day and he had the laundry here. That was like the old Croall Bryson's garage along the Poynder Park way. You know where?
Yeh, yeah.
I think they've converted it into factories, that was his laundry. And whether he had shares in that along with Jimmy, that's probably, would make sense, and Jimmy would, business-wise they were tied into two or three things then in the early days. That would make sense. Crisps, I don't know about ... ..

And they'd probably both have shares in that ... club in London.
I think so, yes, that, that does ring a bell, that. I don't remember if he told me that or not, but, or whether I'd heard it ( ... ..) but I think that was true, that he ( ... ) can't at the moment ... but the, that's, yeah, that's allright, yeah.
Any more questions?
I can't at the moment, but that's all right. [END]
Access StatusOpen

Show related Persons records.

    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2022