In the Herald - Folk festival was a hit

Date Published 
Wed 7 Apr 2021

Article written by Pete Heywood - A few copies of the book are still available and it may be purchased here

The Folk Festival, with its roots in the community, touched many people in the town. Billy Connolly was no stranger to Irvine and people still share memories of meeting him in the street where he would give a friendly wave. He did this before he found worldwide fame powered by his stories of real-life presented in the humorous way which Billy Connolly was a master of, and after. He occasionally visited Irvine in his later years. Marymass was an important step on his life journey.

Billy documented life in words and stories, whereas photographers document in pictures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Combine words with photographs and the effect can be multiplied. This has been the impact of the book, 50 years of Marymass Folk Festival. It has allowed people to relive their memories and tell tales of Marymass as they experienced it. Other musicians who had long associations with Irvine included Johnny Silvo, Danny Kyle, The McCalmans, Iain Mackintosh and Hamish Imlach, who all feature in the book. Who would think that Hamish might have gone to Officer training at Sandhurst, or that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid feature in his family history?

Social Media demonstrates that photographs have two main times of interest – immediately after the event and years later. Nowadays, photographs are quickly uploaded to Social Media and often forgotten about by the following day. The Marymass book exists because photographs were taken and kept. Pete refers to importance of ‘documenting the ordinary’. Few photographs exist of the humble rag and bone man. The main reason why is precisely because it was so common. Film was expensive in those days and few people would consider wasting it on something which they viewed as ordinary. Why bother? Thankfully some did – and still do.

The story of Marymass Folk Festival has now recorded for posterity. The book has been lodged with various institutions including The National Library of Scotland and as far afield as The Smithsonian in Washington, USA. The book did its job. It marked the occasion and the commitment of many people over and beyond the festival’s 50-year span. Covid-19 ruled out a formal launch of the book, but that may still come later. Despite this, the first edition sold out quickly with most copies ordered in advance. An exhibition of photographs might be appropriate in the future and Irvine Camera Club would be keen to help make that happen.



Cracking article Pete - thank you!

Marymass Book. A few copies of the book are still available and it may be purchased here

Great article Pete, many thanks.