Everybody knew Danny Kyle. From the early days of the Attic in Paisley to the latter days of Danny Kyle's Open Stage at Celtic Connections Festival, he was a central pillar of the world of Folk music in Scotland.

And the stories about him are legion. Every year at Irvine Festival, Danny pulled a stunt, stunts of superb creativity and deviousness, beautifully planned and executed. Everyone knew he would be pulling something and everyone stayed alert to spot it coming and everyone always missed it until it happened.

My favourite was the "Death Song of the MacLeods".

Irvine Festival was a week long and every day a festival newsletter was published. This particular year in one of the midweek editions, it carried a scholarly article about the Death Song, a song which had been lost due to the fact that nobody had ever sung it and lived.

On the Saturday, the Traditional Singing Competition was in full swing when compere Arthur Argo announced a late entry, a Miss Flora MacLeod from Skye.

Up to the stage, hobbling painfully with the aid of an enormous stick, came what can only be described as an ancient hag who looked like one of the witches from "Macbeth". Full length black cloak, long straggly coarse white hair sticking out from under the hood - the whole works.

A gasp of horror went through the hall as she announced in a cracked, thin quavering voice, with the sibilance of the native Gaelic speaker, "I would like to sing for you the Death Song of the MacLeods".

She opened her mouth and there emerged a shriek of syllables (utter gibberish, actually) which, to non-Gaelic speakers could have borne a vague passing resemblance to Gaelic and, as she sang, she very slowly began to topple backwards. She took a fair old time to fall and, looking back on it, it must have taken incredible athleticism. Then she landed flat on her back on the stage with a crash and lay absolutely motionless.

There was a shocked silence which lasted for quite a time until it was broken by a voice from the back which growled, "Kyle, ya bastard!"

I have so many more memories of hilarious times with him. Like the time in 1971 when it seemed that every singer and musician in Scotland had gone to Holland to the Eindhoven Folk Festival. From god knows where Danny produced a huge bale of string and I helped him tie together the wrists of everyone in the bar, telling them this was a "happening", all about increasing interpersonal communication. Nobody seemed too bothered until someone had to go to the bathroom.

But there was so much more to him than the comedian and spreader of mayhem, as any of the singers and musicians who benefited from his support and encouragement can testify. He is irreplaceable.

There is a website dedicated to Danny at The Danny Kyle Corner

Contributions and copyright

©Dick Gaughan February 2001. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, material or electronic, without the written permission of the author.

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