Ref NoSBA/158/14
TitleOral history project file, R Scott Forsyth [Scottish Borders Memory Bank]
DescriptionInterviewed by Andrew Dickson.

Release (Waiver) Form held by Scottish Borders Archives.

WORK: SERVICES: Transport: Road, Rail
LEISURE: EXPRESSIVE ARTS: Dance, Events, Occasions and places

Transcript of interview with R Scott Forsyth, with photograph and 13 No. audio recordings [MP3]. waiver

Now, who formed the company Scott, James & Partners?

A man by the name of Tom Forsyth, who was married to my cousin and the person who had the dancing was my uncle, a man named Peter McLaughlin. But he started that during the war. And he rented the Volunteer Hall from the ... Town Council.
Mmm huh.
Although for a Wednesday, a Friday and a Saturday and when he died, Tom Forsyth and his sales manager, Jim Paterson, they came up and kept, kept it going. And then, I started to help them and they decided that we'd form a partnership. My name's Scott, so that's the Scott part, and James was Jim Paterson ...
Right. ... and the partner, the partner is Tom Forsyth. So that's how it got it's name.
So, when, when would that be? Would that be the fifties or sixties?
Yes. Be the late fifties. I can't remember when but the late fifties.
How long did the partnership run dances for?
Until it, just, people didn't want to come any more. It just, it just ran, quietly down. I can't remember it would be the late sixties.
And smaller places were on the go where they could get a drink and things. See, they wouldn't do that.
How popular was the Empire Palais?

Very. Used to be packed, on a Saturday night.
How, how many people would you get in?
Oh, seven hundred.
Sometimes in excess. But seven hundred on a Saturday night. We never ran dances on a Friday night. That was an arrangement made by my uncle and Mr McKinnon. That he could have the hall on a Friday night provided he didn't set up within the area on a Saturday night.
And he kept to that agreement. And it was Tommy Graham that used to play every, every Saturday and then with that sort of the big band thing went away you got the, the groups. Duncan McKinnon just used to get us the groups. [Mackinnon; Duncan (1916-1969); dance promoter]
On a Saturday.
So, all the groups in the sixties, well most of them, would come through Duncan?
They all came.
We never did anything about it he, he ... if it suited him, if he was alright on the Friday night, he could get the same group to come ... and then we, we tried to, to keep it going, we tried to get named and ... and he got them as well. But it just died a death.
What big names can you remember getting up to Gala.?

Oh, I can't remember. I can't remember. The Tornadoes were here, Lulu. I think Lulu was with Duncan. I don't think Lulu was on a Saturday night, but I think the Tornadoes were. Think it was The Tornadoes. And a woman drummer. I can remember the one chappie that came, I remember, because he came up to the house and ... What the hang did they call him? He's an entrepreneur now. His daughter, "Anne, who was that chappie that came up to the house from the dancing ... got a daughter that's in showbusiness now?"
"Oh aye. Well, there was Vince Hill, wasn't there, one time? And there was ... What do you call him? I can see ... He's a beautiful daughter. Singer. She's a singer.
"She's a singer over ... Well he was a singer. Ma ... ma ... "
She ...
Marty ...

"Marty Wilde?"
Something like that, aye. It was so long ago ... remember ...
"Was it Marty Wilde? There is a Marty Wilde ... "
His daughter's Kim.
"That's, that's it. That's right."
She was just a little, just a little tot. And they came up to the house. We had a rare night.
"We had a rare night, yeah ... mmm uhuh."
... his wife was there. We'd a right good sing song. Now, what was their group that came? I used to love them. They've not long since retired actually. Oh, I mean, it's silly to ask. The, the place was packed for them. I can remember that.
"It was the, the Drifters or the Bee Gees or the ...
No. No. I couldn't even remember the song. Their hit song. Course ...

Did, was Duncan often ... at the hall on the Saturday night, or ...

Never. Unless he wanted to see me about something. But normally ... he would come, or I would go and see him. He stayed out at Drygrange and ... I've seen me pop over to see him about something.
So could he, could he get virtually anyone ... ... ... What Duncan tried to do, was try to pre-empt a group or a singer that he knew that they would go to the top. So he got them cheap. Sometimes they didn't honour his contract. One of them was Tom Jones. He got Tom Jones before ... his 'Unforgettable'. So he turned around, I don't think he honoured his contract. They took a loan of Duncan sometime but Duncan was a devil and he was a ... better the devil you know than the one that you don't know.
I mean, the, the, he had the roller skating in Melrose as well. You knew about that didn't you?
Oh, he just wants to know about Scott, James.
Aye. So what's your interest in ...

Oh well I'm, I'm researching three books and the, it's just never been documented, so, now's the time to do it. I stumbled across it so I may as well, I'm a trained journalist so, may as well try and write down what I can.
Well I don't think there's very much more I can tell you unless, you just ask a question.
Did, did you try other venues or was it always the Volunteer Hall?

It was always the Volunteer Hall. ... Except on a, we had to vacate it for the bird show and then we had it in the old town hall which is demolished. We used to have it there but oh, it was terrible in there. It was ... it was upstairs and I didn't like it. A. you get trouble ... Somebody getting chucked down the stairs ... And that's the only ... we never, we never ventured outside ... we did contemplate actually buying the Volunteer Hall. We went over and we went right into it. It belonged to a company called The Marmion Company which owned a lot of property in Gala. and we really wanted to convert it into a proper dance hall cum theatre. That's ... for what it's used now. But negotiations with The Marmion Company broke down and the town got it and made a proper backside of it. They're maybe better now, but at the time they, they thought that our rent would go on forever more but it ...
... what ... bouncers worked at the Empire?

Never ever called it the Empire. It was just the Palais.
Adam Crawford. I can remember Adam. Reg ...
Reg Andrews.
Reg Andrews. He was a, a retired boxer. My father. We ... we weren't bouncers. We just looked after ... we did ...
The door and ... it was only latterly when ... the groups came that ... discipline seemed to go out the windows, into the sixties. We were ... very seldom there were fights , mind, if the place is packed there was no room to fight anyway. But when there's plenty room. I can't remember. We used to have Adam Crawford and ... and Reg. I can't remember the names of the other ones. I can't. For the life of me.
Did you have like, a refreshment stall as well, inside the hall?
No. Weren't allowed it. That's why we wanted, that's why we wanted ... Well, no we didn't. That's what we wanted it for ourselves for. To really make it into a soft drink bar and an alcoholic ... It never came. Maybe it was fortuitous because we'd have spent a lot of money and that sort of thing phased out. People started going to dancing in the Melrose Hydro where they could drink, of course. And the décor was much better. Because I mean, the Volunteer Hall was always an all-purpose hall. We put on coloured lighting. That attracted people, but then we had to take them down and pretend it was used for somebody else. We'll just finish it. Pack it in. At last Duncan tried it a, a couple of Saturdays but he realised that it was ... no use. So the town, the town lost out on it altogether.
And do you, do you think the company should have tried in, out in Kelso or was Duncan's stranglehold there too tight?
Never thought it would ... I mean, we were all business men in our own right so, I mean, it was just a, it was a sideline of my uncle's that ... we just kept going. It was very profitable to start with. There was no point in chucking it away. So we just kept it going and ... we never ever thought of branching out into, to that form of entertainment. I mean ... Tom Forsyth was the owner of ... he'd a big house. He was Jusrol ... He started up Jusrol and Jim was his sales manager. I looked after the factory here. The woollen mill here, so, a Saturday night we didn't work any other, we used to run one on a Wednesday when it was the Braw Lads ... it was never very successful. You'd get a couple of hundred people in but a couple of hundred people in the Volunteer'd think they were never there. It needs about five hundred to make it feel kind of full. No we never saw ... It was just a nice little bit of pocket money.
And did you run the buses to get people into Gala.

Duncan did I think but we never ever did. Course the trains were running then as well and, and the Hawick girls used to come across. We sometimes used to, I think before I was married, but we would go across to Hawick on a Friday night. Used to have dances in The Crown. But on a Saturday night, the, the girls would come across and get the Pullman back. Hawick lassies. Duncan used to run buses from ...

Dalkeith. ... Dalkeith and ... caused a lot of bother. Caused a lot of bother. We never ever thought it would ... it could stand on its own without us bringing things.
Now, can you remember any of the local bands that you employed there?
I think there was just one set band, wasn't there?
Aye, once there was groups as well, I mean, Tommy ...

Tommy Graham.
A FEW LOCAL GROUPS ... was the resident band until the groups came and then I can't remember the name of the groups. I don't think there were many local ones. There were some good ones. They didn't get very much. When I think about it, in the sixties they would get maybe fifteen quid between them. We had, I mean, we had a sort of, we were, depending on the crowd, we'd give them maybe a wee bonus. Couple of quid each ... Always did. Duncan didn't like it because it, we were always getting onto him for it. I can't remember any of the, the groups. Can't remember for the life of me. I think there's one from Kelso but ... they used to come. And one from Jedburgh. But what they were called, I don't know. Haven't a clue. I don't know where the books are now. Haven't a clue. I think Tom took them away when he, I think he kept the, he kept the ... he kept the company name.
As a shadow company or whatever he wanted to do but, he could do it through that company. I had nothing then to do.
And did Duncan ever tell you anything about his sort of time promoting the Beatles?
No ...
No. He never did.
And ... I'm going to be hearing a story tomorrow that ... Duncan threw them off the stage at the Volunteer Hall because they were too scruffy.
That would be on a Friday night then. But of course it would ... it wouldn't concern me and I wouldn't know anything about it and of course, Adam Crawford ... knew it. See, Adam Crawford worked for us but he also worked for Duncan. He died ... [assume Adam Stevenson Crawford (1919-1998), shopkeeper]
Just last year.
Last year and ... he would have been a fount of knowledge for you and I can't think of anybody else that's still living that ...
There was what's his name? He used to bounce. Nan Tully's uncle.
No he was, no he wasn't. He did the, he was the boy on the desk. The cashier.
Oh that's right. What was his name then?
Think he's dead.
Aye he's dead.
I can't think of anybody that's ... ..

I don't think there's anybody else alive that would ...
There is. I can't remember his name now.

Jimmy Rutherford's still there.
He's, he's solely Duncan. He never worked for us.
Yeh, yeah.
Oh aye, Jimmy Rutherford had a lot to do with Duncan. Well, I know Jimmy fine enough. I forgot about Jimmy.
( ... ... ) So you've obviously spoken to him then?
Yeh, yeah.
Oh, he's a fount of knowledge. He's got quite a good memory, Jimmy, as well. Aye, he's getting on a bit.
What other ... promoters were there in the area?


None that I know of. None that I know of the laddie, Macari tried, tried to start something up for a while but it didn't last a month. But Duncan had a stranglehold as far as the Borders were concerned. He had most halls booked. I didn't know he went as far as Liverpool. I mean, he sort of was all over the Borders.
And can you think of anyone else who might could help me or ...
Leave me your address and if it comes to me I'll ... I'll write to you. There is one chappie but I don't know whether he worked for Duncan or not. But you'll get most of your, you'd get most of your information from Jimmy Rutherford. He did it for years. For years Jimmy Rutherford and what do you call him from Newstead ... Kaye ...

Oh aye. ... aye. He was another one. He used to do it a long time.
And Barry's dead. He did it. No. I can picture one and if I see him, I have seen him, not so long ago ... I think he did for Duncan as well. He certainly did for Duncan in Gala. Whether he went ... Duncan had a nucleus of people that would travel with him.
Mmm huh.
He'd maybe hire people in the specific town but he did have a nucleus of people that went with him, from the area here. That I know.
I know I, I've got a, a couple. I know Len Prior.
In Gala. I've to see him.
That was another Duncan. That's the one I'm thinking about actually. Ah well, that's it. Because Len's getting on a bit.
Mmm huh.
Len Prior and, what was the boxer I said? What was the name?
Reg Andrews.
Reg Andrews. They were related some way or another.
Are they. ( ... ... ) Reg Andrews and his ...
Oh aye. They were friendly. Len must be getting on. Anyway, if you see Len ...
He's up in Kingsknowes ...
I don't know. But that's the one I was thinking about. That one was the one I was thinking of now that we said it ( ... ... ) He ( ... ... ) Len, I'm not sure whether he worked at the Palais or not but he probably did. I think he did for, for Duncan as well. Anyway, if you're to see him ... you'll get a lot more information than I can give you.
And have you got any, did you, anyone take any pictures of the bands or would that just be Duncan's department or ...

That was Duncan. I've nothing. He sometimes give me a leaflet. And I mean if you go into the local press, you're bound to get a, a photograph of Tommy Graham because he was, it was a super band.
Mmm huh. And did you take any pictures of the actual hall or outside it?
There's plenty pictures going about that, as it was then ... a big barn. It was just a proper barn. Couple of cloakrooms and a couple of toilets and a big, big square and a stage. That was it.
And did Duncan ever tell you about his exploits down in Liverpool?
No. Never. I probably, never talked to him very much about it.
Seems to be a bit of a man that never stood still, did he. He bobbed about and ...

Oh, his finger in more pies than ... Like, he once came to me and wanted us to buy ... wanted us to buy that ... hotel, on the way to Berwick. Tillmouth Park.
I remember that. He said "Get a hold of your cousin", he says, "I can get that. I can get the Tillmouth Park and the farm, the whole farm, and the fishing rights for £85,000". I don't know how many million that the fishing rights went for not so very long ago. But I can remember him coming and, and I said to Tom Forsyth, I said ... Tom says, "I've got my ... .", he was just starting off with Jusrol. He says, "I'm overstretched". Well ...
That was when, when would that be? Would that be early sixties?

Sixties. It was in the sixties because we didn't, we weren't associated with Duncan until the start of the groups. We asked him if we would get us groups because we didn't know and he did. Nobody wanted to listen to the big band and do foxtrots and quicksteps. They wanted to stand in the place ...

So did, did Duncan get a percentage for getting the bands up?
Never took a thing.
(recording interrupted when someone enters the room)
So did, were you still carrying on with dances after Duncan died?
They just sort of ... petered out

Before then.
Was he finding it a struggle as well?
Yes. He was. He ... aye, he told me that. And attracting ... named groups was getting difficult because they were starting to ask for a ... lot of money. And as I said to you, he, he always tried to pre-empt popularity. He was quite good at it. He dropped some goulies but ... his biggest one I think was, he brought, old fashioned dancing went to the, and he brought, I can't remember the name of the orchestra. It would cost him an awful lot of money. He brought it to the Volunteer Hall on a Friday night and I went in to see him and I think there was twelve people. And he, he brought a skiffle group and that didn't take off either so I mean, he, I think, well, he obviously made a little money but he didn't, he didn't set the heather on fire. I don't, not, not, I don't think so.
And ... what ... do you know any other businesses he was in. I know he tried the laundry as well and ...
No, I don't. Oh, I know he was in a few things but, no, I didn't. I didn't ... I really didn't have much to do with him. Bands only, only thing I had to do with. And it was, he would just 'phone up and say you're getting so-and-so, and so-and-so tonight. Pay them so-and-so and ... that was the end of that, if I wasn't there he would 'phone up Tom Forsyth or Jim Paterson and say that's what's coming. I'd go down and see him if they didn't arrive. Which was not uncommon for a group to, specially round about New Year and Christmas time.
What, what did you have to do then? Just try and get any band and ...
Yeh. Ah w, I'd think of one Christmas, the band, one of the band turned up and the rest didn't. But he knew, he'd been in the pub and he knew that there was a local group drinking there and he went round and got them. And he had the amplifiers so they used, and he just played along with them ... this band? I thought, "Oh, my God! There's going to be trouble here". But ... no. So they got a nice wee bonus. Because Duncan, if they didn't do that, Duncan just never used them again. And I mean, that was something then because ... and he would always ask how they'd gone down or if we said we wanted them back then ... all they had to do was Duncan.
So ... was it, your uncle had the dances af, just after the war as well.

During the war.
During the war.
Until he died.
Right, right.
My father helped. And my mother did the books.
Was that in the Volunteer Hall as well or ...

That's, that's where it got it's name.
Right, right.
Oh during the war. Jam-packed, that was run on a Wednesday. Soldiers, of course, I can remember as a wee boy, going in the ( ... ... ) but I can't remember what the bands were. That was at the end of the war but I can't remember the war. Would be just after, the hall, it wasn't then being used for anything else. During the war it was used for other things but I can't remember. I was too wee. I certainly couldn't remember going '45/'46, looking, then '47 dancing. And ... always used to go, all the good dancers would go early when there was space because after that you got shoved. My father and Uncle Pete would stand in the middle and keep everybody moving round this end. Those guys ... There was very seldom any trouble. Very seldom.
And did, did, so did Duncan talk about his army days at all or ... just strictly business most of the time?
No, I can, but, I can't remember. He certainly did speak about the army but I can't remember now. I honestly can't remember ... I can remember him talking about ... but that's gone. See I can't remember. When did Duncan die?
'69. 1969.
Oh well, the, the da ... Palais was finished then.
Mmm. What about ... just been reading in the library, some adverts for '67 for the Palais.

We were there then, but ... that would be about the last year of it. I was in Gala. I was living in Gala. I wasn't living in this house, I was living in another house in Scott Crescent and we came up to Gala. in '63/'64 and it wasn't long after that. And '67 probably would be about the last of them and then. We were trying on a Saturday night. We were really getting either has-beens or folk that were c, coming up to try and attract but it was never going to work. So we just cut our losses and ...

Would ... other people have tried dances in there after the ...

Well, I asked them actually, if they wanted to band together and I would kind of look after it for them and, and they did agree. They did agree, and then, I don't know what happened, if a couple, probably a couple of bad nights and I realised that if they were going to make any money it was going to be very, very little, so it never came to ... and I certainly wasn't going to ... I had enough worries with my own job without trying anything else ... [END]
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