The well-known adage ‘there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle’ became a reality recently at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, thanks to a 93 year old patient. Staff and patients were serenaded daily by violinist Alan Cairney from his bedside in Ward 31.
A semi professional musician, his repertoire ranged from ‘Mairi’s Wedding’ to ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and his musical renditions not only set feet tapping but proved to be a great hit..
Alan, who was born in Prestwick and subsequently moved to Glasgow, took up his bow when he was nine or ten years old. He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed playing except when my mother told me to practice. In those days coal was scarce and we didn’t always have a fire in the room. If my parents wanted to listen to the wireless I had to go into a cold room and it was really difficult to play the violin with frozen hands.
“I remember sailing up the Clyde on the Jeanie Deans paddle steamer and my parents made me play on the boat. That was purgatory for me – I was just a young lad, 10 or 12, and a very shy boy.”
Alan was a classically trained musician, gaining ALCM in violin. But his real love was traditional jazz and he switched to double bass when he played in the first band set up by Kenny Ball.
Alan then became a gigging musician, playing with the likes of Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot. His violin was brought into play again – as a doubling instrument for the tango.
He says he was prompted to bring his violin into hospital when he mentioned to someone that he could play. When asked how he thinks staff and patients have enjoyed being serenaded he said: “I think they ran away and got their ear plugs – no, I’m only joking. They all seemed keen to hear me play; being a Glasgow boy I know I am good!”
NHS Forth Valley Nursing Auxiliary Allison Cowie agrees. She said: “We encouraged him to play. He was absolutely brilliant and it cheered us all up. It was great having your own personal musician on the ward.”