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Celtic & Scottish Studies Blog

Celtic & Scottish Studies Blog

Traditional arts, languages and culture in Scotland

The Ardoch Suite | The Poor Had No Lawyers

Ross Ainslie, bagpipes, Fraser Fifield, saxophone, performing 'The Ardoch Suite' photographed by Andy Catlin


Audio recordings and a description of the event in 50 George Square, Edinburgh, 26/03/24.
"Ardoch Suite" (New music for saxophone and bagpipes by Fraser Fifield with Ross Ainslie) and Andy Wightman (The Poor Had No Lawyers)


A brief account of the evening in the ‘Project Room’ of 50 George Square, 26/03/24, which featured a live music premiere, ‘The Ardoch Suite’, plus a talk from the renowned campaigner on land related matters, Andy Wightman, drawing upon his acclaimed book, The Poor Had No Lawyers (2010), in front of a capacity audience.

For the event I composed new music under the title, The Ardoch Suite, for soprano saxophone and Highland bagpipes. In the writing I tried to avoid cliche, a bid to musically represent a sense of ‘what if’, which is my own feeling when considering the fate of Glen Gairn and what I suppose might be called the former Upper Deeside Gaeltachd. My special guest was Ross Ainslie – a fantastic piper and versatile musician, covering the bagpipes parts more deftly than I could have hoped to. We opened and concluded the evening’s event with music, either side a presentation of around 30 mins from Andy Wightman.

Ross Ainslie and Fraser Fifield performing 'Ardoch Suite' March 2024.

Ardoch is in Glen Gairn, not far from Ballater, Aberdeenshire, and was the home Jean Bain, the last speaker of Deeside Gaelic.  My childhood stomping ground of Glen Tanar is about 10 miles east as the crow flies but I recall visiting Glen Gairn just once – a beautiful, quiet glen, largely uninhabited, if not completely so at the time.

I heard only much later of Jean Bain, and of Deeside Gaelic. Then I couldn’t help but re-assess a little what I took for granted as being Upper Deeside, the area I’ve always thought of as home.

While I may musically dream, Andy Wightman takes a more direct approach in bringing attention to the detail of events which have contributed to land related issues historically and up to the present day.  Over 30 mins or so Andy delivered a compelling account drawn partly, of course, from his 2010 book, The Poor Had No Lawyers, and referenced the case of Glen Gairn/Ardoch, and the late Jean Bain, particularly.

A timely 1982 episode of ‘Weir’s Way’ visited Jean Bain and her son Robert. It’s available on Youtube.

On Tobar an Dualchais there are a variety of references to the former Gaelic spoken around Upper Deeside, for example: Gaelic used to be widely spoken in the Braemar area. Miss Ma… – Tobar an Dualchais

My thanks to Ross for kindly agreeing to share some of the audio captured with a zoom recorder by Andy Caplin. Thanks also to Andy for the photography. (

Photographs from the Glen Gairn area by James Dyas Davidson were displayed during our performance, with kind permission.  James’ photography can be enjoyed here

Sincere thanks to Andy Wightman for making the time to share his knowledge and insight, please, Visit and support Andy’s work here. 

Ross is currently raising funds to pay for a new studio recording of his own music – please visit and give your support here

Below are edited parts of the ‘The Ardoch Suite’ with Ross Ainslie (bagpipes) alongside my saxophone – I hope you enjoy the music – it’s a live recording, and imperfect, but I feel it captures some the energy of the evening:


“Up by Tullochmacarrick”

“Jean’s Lament”

“Blairglass / Shenval”

“Angel’s Peak / Alehouse of Abergairn”

“Clachan / The Old Manse”

“The Ardoch Polka”


to see other work made in post by Traditional Artist in Residence, Fraser Fifield:

Fraser Fifield – Artist in Residence (



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