Although I didn't see all that much of him in the last 20 years as we were both on the road most of the time, I've known Derek since 1965. We were both part of the bunch who grew up together in the Edinburgh folk world of the second half of the 60s. Grew up together, drank together, lived together, sang together. We didn't think it a big deal then but that period started many legends and established the small Forrest Hill Bar as the internationally renowned Sandy Bell's Bar to which people make pilgrimages from all round the world. To us, it was just our local as we all lived in Forrest Road, the same street as the pub.
Although many people lived in those flats at various times and in various combinations, at the height of the mayhem from 1969-1971 Hamish Bayne, Tich Frier, Tom Ward and I lived in one flat in 47 Forrest Road and Derek, Aly Bain, Ian Laurie and Jimmie Milne lived 4 doors away round the corner in another. Well, we're the ones who officially lived there; there were usually a dozen or so others too drunk to go home and it was not unknown for any of us who wanted to use the bath to have to wake someone up and throw them out of it.
Had you gone into Bell's on any Saturday lunchtime you would have found at least a dozen singers in full voice, usually with the McCalmans and myself roaring away at the centre of it. I know those three voices as well as I know my own. And soaring high above all of us was always Derek's.
He had one of the clearest voices I ever heard and we would sing everything from Beach Boys to Bothy Ballad. When we got thrown out of the pub we'd head back to one of our flats, usually ours on the third floor of number 47 and carry on singing. These days, you'd have to mortgage your house to put on a concert with the people who sat on the floor in 47 Forrest Road singing all night. Or playing darts. Or just sitting around being silly.
And Derek could do frog calls. No joke. He'd studied them and, if he'd had enough to drink, he could be persuaded to explain the difference between various species and mimic their calls.
Derek Moffat, you're one of those people who've been such a fixed point in my life for so much of my life that I'm still struggling to understand that I'm not going to see that daft grin next time the Macs and I meet along the road. I've seen many pictures of you taken as you were growing older but I'm putting this one at the top here as this is the way I remember you best, back in those lunatic days when all we really cared about was having enough to drink, enough to eat and a place to sing.
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©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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