The man who brought the Beatles to the Borders

Forty years after the death of John Lennon comes a new project which looks into the work of the man who brought the Beatles to the Borders.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 2:54 pm
Duncan Mackinnon, left, doing what he did best, selling tickets. Can anyone name the other two gentlemen?

The Galashiels arts centre and music venue MacArts, named in recognition of the work carried out by Duncan Mackinnon and run by The Duncan Mackinnon Music and Arts Trust, has been awarded £7,000 from the William Grant Foundation to deliver an oral history project based on the life and work of Duncan Mackinnon of Border Dances.

Mackinnon was a prominent Borders music promoter who brought high-profile acts to the Borders and further afield in the 1950s and 1960s.

Acts included Johnny Kid and the Pirates, The Hollies, The Who, The Pretty Things, The Kinks, Long John Baldry (Rod Stewart), The Yardbirds (Jeff Beck), Spencer Davis (Stevie Winwood), Robert Plant’s Band of Joy (before he joined Led Zeppelin), The Walker Brothers, The Troggs, The Alex Harvey band, and more.

The MacArts Centre in Galashiels was named after the popular Borders promoter.

In 1960, Mackinnon promoted the first Scottish tour by the Silver Beetles – later known as The Beatles – when they backed Johnny Gentle.

The oral history project aims to collect the stories from people who played and worked for Mackinnon. The project is also interested to hear the stories from people who enjoyed attending the “dancing” that Border Dances put on.

MacArts manager Chris Wemyss said: “Duncan’s inspirational work shaped the cultural landscape in the Borders and further afield and it is vital that these stories are recorded for future generations and that we celebrate his legacy.”

In support of the project, MacArts is also working with Heriot Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design fashion communication students.

Theresa Coburn, lecturer in Fashion Communication, said: “This competition offers a fantastic opportunity for our students to explore the rich cultural history of the Borders through the lens of 1950s and 60s pop music, and specifically, Borders Dances. 

“Their research into the groups, fashion and the social and political landscape of the era will provide much creative inspiration for contemporary interpretation and original ideas – as well as informing them about the legacy of Duncan Mackinnon and his influence on the culture of the town that they have chosen to study in.”

If a reader is interested to tell their story of attending the “dancing” or tell any other stories about the life and work of Duncan Mackinnon, Border Dances please get in touch with Maggie Marr, the project manager, by email on [email protected]