Sept. 18Th. 09 - 1pm; to Woodside Crematorium for the funeral of my close friend of 40 years Davie Speirs; Blues/Folk singer and accomplished Guitar and Banjo player, comedian and epic story teller and imbiber supreme, he never wasted a minute.
Having been asked to speak at the funeral service by his wife Myra my apprehension grew as the time drew nearer; as someone who is used to speaking in all sorts of situations you would not imagine that being asked to say a few words of farewell to a much loved friend would worry me but this kind of speech is different, I speculated that speaking in the bear pit of hostile political gatherings would be easier. I was quite convinced that I would not be able to get through it, but I did; only just as emotions welled up near the end. My last words were “I’m proud to have called him friend and comrade and whenever I think of him in future I will hear music and laughter” I only just got there but I don’t know how, now I’m glad and relieved that I did.
The people in attendance could have filled the crematorium twice and the humanist service was relayed outside on speakers, Davie’s wife and lifelong companion Myra had told mourners she did not want to see black attire and people should think about how Davie used to dress when choosing what to wear. Thinking of dressing like Davie (think George Melly) meant a glorious display of hats summer dresses slacks and outrageous ties it was a superb late summer day and in as much as it’s possible to enjoy a funeral everyone had a great time. I can’t remember seeing so many old friends and well kent faces; literally from all over the world; Davie and his family were well known and loved and this turn out showed it; I was delighted for Myra and his children Gary who made a fine speech and Seona; they would not have needed reassurance about the love and respect that people feel for Davie and them but it was satisfying to see so many there.
The speeches were funny; which was unavoidable considering Davie’s personality; he was a one man hilarious riot who could have easily made a living out of comedy he did not need to work at it, some people work their socks off to be funny like Jimmy Tarbuck or Bruce Forsyth and some like Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe just have to glance at you and you are off; Davie was one of the latter kind; trouble was he could make you laugh wherever you were the more inappropriate the occasion the better he enjoyed doing it; at some other funeral for instance or at some solemn occasion, he would give you a glance and it was fatal to meet his gaze; he would keep looking at you and moving his body around to get you to look at him, this made some occasions an ordeal but completely hilarious. When both his legs were amputated below the knee he asked the prosthetic technician who was dealing with the job of making his artificial replacements if it was all the same to her could she make him 6Ft. as he always fancied being taller; he also asked for the artificial legs to be hairy because he sometimes wore a kilt and he was proud of his previous real hairy legs, he was simply irrepressible.
He was a fine musician and singer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of music art and literature along with geology films and the theatre and much more; he could hold his own in conversation with the most eminent people, beneath the ribald hilarity and outer picture of a Champagne Charlie lurked a brain like a gin trap and a gentle caring man; he was one of the cleverest people I ever met and deadly in argument; particularly when he argued with racists or right wing reactionaries; these were the times when his legendary good nature slipped as he would tear in to them without mercy; a bit like myself really with less brain power on my part.
When I am involved in decision making which affects others I rely on a system which helps me and it involves Davie; Myra; and the late Sam McAmley, another great friend and staunch socialist, I simply consider the reaction of people like these on hearing what decision I had chosen to make and if I can look such people in the eye and defend it then I reckon I won’t be far wrong. There are not many people that you meet in life whom you can turn to without hesitation for help; people that you trust implicitly and who will not judge but help you; that was Davie and Myra and we are lucky to have had such friends.
Our happiest times were when our families were young and we had access to a rambling old house in a place called Boat of Garten in the Spey Valley; we went there every year for 15 years and the house was full of music and laughter; various friends visited us there and the holidays were special; my oldest daughter was having a special 30 Th. birthday celebration and she chose to have it there with a group of friends; she had such happy memories of her time spent there. We tackled all the usual pursuits like swimming in lochs and rivers, hill walking; canoeing and my favourite which was bird watching which in this location included Golden Eagles; Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons etc. the children loved it and learned to appreciate the out doors and its wildlife. The days started early and finished with a crowd in the large living room around a wood fire; where a few drinks were taken and Davie and others played instruments while "songs were sung by old and young” and stories were told; some of which were even true. I can still see Davie sitting there with the kids spell bound listening to his tales and jokes, these are indeed precious memories and we did not know at the time just how much we would cherish these times as the years passed by.
The folk/blues scene in Scotland has suffered another blow; so have progressive political causes whom he worked for all his life; his family and his army of friends likewise but we all have the memories and we always will, we will mourn and carry on because we have to; if he has gone somewhere and I know he would laugh at that suggestion, I hope he has a guitar and some refreshments with him.
I think I can already hear the faint sound of music and laughter.