Click here to login
select Language
Google plus pinterest Share on Stumble Upon Share on Reddit Facebook Share on Tumblr
The 'Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire' (4 of 6)
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
John MacDonald
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

The late John MacDonald of Pitgaveny, Elgin, was a ballad singer, whistler, diddler, and melodeon player. He was known as the 'Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire'.

In addition, from the 1940s to the 1980s, he was a correspondent for "World's Fair", a weekly trade newspaper for the circus and fairground industry. Writing under the pen name "WellWisher", he reported on events and developments in Scotland in a column entitled "Notes from Scotia".

John also made puppets and put on shows for children. In this audio extract, recorded after a performance for a crowd of children at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Bill Sinclair asks John how he started his career as an entertainer.

Interviewer: This to me is a wonderful, wonderful thing you've been doing for the children and - Tell me, how did you get involved with all this, John?

John: Well, it goes back a long way. I - Where I was born and brought up on the Dava Moors - if ye know where that is?

Interviewer: Very much so

Well, there's no shows or entertainments of any kind, but Ah jist cam to it an Ah wis a born entertainer seemingly, an Ah run away fae the school an wauked to see Bronco Bill's Great Wild West Circus when Ah wis a boy of ten year old. Ah wauked the fourteen miles from Dava to Forres to see it an the fourteen miles back afterwards. An Ah met old Bronco Bill himsel an he shook hands wi me, an when he heard hoo far Ah wauked - Ah wis barefoot, Ah'd only a shillin - ninepence to get in and thruppence for somethin to eat - he says, 'There's an extra sixpence tae ye'. An that wis money in those days, ye know? That wis before the first World War an ever since that, Ah wis a great circus lover, ye know? Ah think it's the greatest entertainment in the world - the real tented circus. But I couldnae - never had money for that, ye see, so I met Duncan Morrison - ye mind the doctor, Duncan Morrison with the puppets - an he showed me how to work the puppets. He said, 'Johnny man, you could make a puppet circus. And that would be - entertain the bairns an ye could carry it in a case'. An Mary, my wife, went with me but she never did anything but she attended the children - kept them in order an took their collection. An we gave the collection - after we'd paid wur expenses - to the blind homes an the Highland Orphanage an Aberlour Orphanage, an as much as we could to them all. Been doin it all wur lives.

Interview: Well, it's really wonderful. So, you'd say from your younger days the circus influenced you on all the little things you have here?

Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye. An when Ah was young, Ah used to walk a tightrope at home. A wonder I never struck maself. Ah used to wauk the top o a fence for a mile.

Interviewer: Bit of a trapeze artist too?

Yes, Ah did the trapeze, aye. Ah hid a trapeze fixed up on a tree, an Ah did the trapeze, an horse riding. Ah tried that, but it kicked an butted me, the horse, so that stopped me wi that

Image Copyright - Elvis Payne. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.