THIS turned out to be a memorable night of song and celebration with and for Arthur Johnstone at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival.
Celebrating 50 years of song and protest by the veteran, the packed hall lapped up a great bill in an evening ably compered by singer and actor Dave Anderson.
Luminaries abounded. Tommy Sands delivered a beautiful There Were Roses, matched by Rab Noakes’s Jackson Greyhound and 16 Tons, while Danny Couper and Martin McDonald joined rising talents Siobhan Miller and Paul Sheridan, actor David Hayman and Gaelic singer Maeve McKinnon to pay tribute to Johnstone’s talent and commitment to the labour movement.
The emotive heart of the concert was the return of the Patton brothers to reform The Laggan for the night. The band’s John McDermott, who had died since the group disbanded, was represented by his banjo, played by Billy Patton.
|The Laggan reunite! l-r Tony and Billy Patton (with John McDermott's banjo), Arthur Johnstone, ably assisted by Brian Miller.|
Awards and tributes showered down. From the STUC’s lifetime achievement award — invented, said deputy general secretary Dave Moxham specifically for Johnstone because “he is in a group of one” — and Brian Filling, consul for South Africa. And there was a tribute from the Morning Star’s Scottish Campaign Committee because, as its secretary Keith Stoddart said: “This concert is a sell-out but Arthur has never sold out!”
Johnstone, performing solo or with old or new band mates, took centre stage. Songs not heard for some time, such as Four Green Fields and Doomsday in the Afternoon, were interspersed with old favourites It’s My Union and The John Maclean March and the concert wound up all too soon with Hamish Henderson’s rousing Freedom Come All Ye.
Top talent, top evening.