On the 22nd of February Ayrshire and the world lost a fine gentleman and a brilliant 'moothie' player.
I first met Bobby Torrance away back in 1970 at an accordion club run by Jock Loch in the Ayrshire village of Straiton.. He played two or three selections and instantly the thing that struck me was his rythmn. It was like Jimmy Shand. Solid , jaunty, swinging and just right. If you are a player you'll know what I mean. It made the hair on the back of your neck stand up!
It turned out that Bobby was a farmhand working long hours and turning his hand to just about anything on the farm. He started out with his uncle at Craigbank Farm, Culroy just outside Ayr at the tender age of 14. He was born and brought up in Irvine.
Farms were his life . He moved to Auchendrain estate to work and met Jean who he married and set up home at Midton Farm. Let's face it farm workers had a hard life and long hours. For relaxation Bobby took up the mouth organ the Hohner Echo was his favourite and latterly he had several tuned in different keys. He and Jean loved to go dancing as well.
In the early days of playing he would listen to the greats on the old 78 records and the 'wireless'.
His idol was Jimmy Shand and it showed in his playing. He would meet up with local melodian players, fiddlers and other like minded musicians and they'd have a tune. Everything was learned by ear. Bobby was an old school 'lug' player and proud of it.
In 1981 I suggested to him that he should make a tape. 'Ach, am no' guid enough fur that' was the instant reply.
But he was! And with a fair bit of persuasion I managed to get him into the studio. I set up one mic and said 'Just sit and play away to your hearts content while I set up'. Bobby duly obliged. The Duke of Perth, The Auld Meal Mill, Polkas, Twosteps. He even played Whistlin' Rufus and changed key in the middle by turning the moothie over and not missing a beat! 'Just play me another one Bobby' I'd say, several times!
'Moothie Magic' was born. Bobby's first album was 'in the can'. 'Is that it?' he enquired. 'That wiz a loat easier than a thocht it wiz gaun tae be!'
The three stalwarts even played for dances. Now that's hard work on a moothie! Bobby would turn up at Accordion and Fiddle Clubs all over the place. Ayr, Straiton, Galston, Beith, Mauchline, Balloch, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright. I even remember him going to Inveraray for a tune at the club.
When Jean sadly passed away Bobby lived on his own for a while but following a severe illness (from which, in time, he recovered) he gave up the house and was happy to be looked after in a residential care home in Ayr. The moothie was played on a regular basis there until about three weeks before his passing. Bobby, Davie Ross and I would, as Bobby said 'entertain the auld folk' from time to time in the home, where he was a star!
Sadly, the Moothie Maestro is no longer with us but his memory will live on through his music.
I'd like to say a special thanks to Bobby's son Robert and Davie Ross for their help with the background information on Bobby's early life.
It was easy to add piano, bass and drums to his playing. His tempos were perfect!
That was the 31st May 1981 and it took 17 years of further badgering to get the follow up album done! 'Moothie Memories' was recorded (in the same way) on 8th December 1998. This time we put it on CD.
Being a quiet, kind of unassuming man, he said very little about being a 'recording star' but I'm sure he was proud of his achievements. I know I was!
With his old friend Ben Murray on Shand Morino and Ben's son Tom (played with Craig McCallum and Neil MacKeachran to name but a few) on Piano, Bobby did a broadcast from the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock for the BBC. He freely admitted that he wore brown trousers that day!!