Archive for Jock Herbertson

The Musician

Posted in Life and Times with tags , , on February 22, 2008 by craigherbertson

Granddad Herbertson

Jock Herbertson (2nd from the right) Marine Garden Ballroom 1930

There has been music in my family for a long time. My grandfather, Jock Herbertson, was an unusual man. At an early age he was inducted, by mistake, into Silver Service as the valet to the younger son of the Earl of Moray. (Jock had fancied the Civil Service and later resumed that career to a high level). This younger son of the Earl of Moray gained notoriety as one of the suitors of the late Queen Mother.

My Grandfather, as a result of his contact with the gentry became the epitome of style. Throughout his life he remained immaculately dressed and bore himself with consummate dignity. Picture him in plus fours, sipping a gin and tonic, holding a silver cane in one hand while demonstrating the latest hustle in card tricks.

Jock was an obsessive man, a championship winning golfer, a car driver in a day when not many drove, a card sharp and billiard player who could ride a horse and give a good account at polo. But perhaps above all a musician. One of his talents was journalism.

Fortunately most of his published articles were on his boyhood in Dalry, Edinburgh. There, he mentions the fiddle playing of my Great grandfather and relates anecdotes of kicking balls of straw and rags around with the Heart of Midlothian football star, Bobby Walker, in the streets of Gorgie.

Because of Jock’s articles, I know that my Great grandmother would sing the family favourite: “The Rowan tree” and the whole family would be expected to contribute to musical evenings, typical probably of many Scottish families. At the time, everyone had their own party piece, card tricks, poetry, recitation, a song.

My Great grandfather was a cabinet maker who at one time rented apartments in Charlotte Square. Shame he didn’t have money enough to buy the place as by now it would have been worth millions.


Vida la Court

Jock Herbertson

Jock Herbertson

Jock Herbertson was a violinist who learned by ear. He played a multitude of venues: silent films, Clubs, theaters and dance-halls. When his fingers began to fail he turned to the English concertina and was capable of playing some very difficult pieces on it.

In the heady days of his youth he ran off with my my Grandmother Veda La Court who had been on the stage in vaudeville since the age of 14. Her first part was as beauty in a tableaux titled ‘beauty and the beast’. She was a contralto, a friend of Gracie Fields and Harry Lauder and she accompanied Caruso on an Irish tour. She apparently had a beautiful and unusual voice. While on the ferry to Ireland, Caruso drew a little charcoal picture of her which was unfortunately lost.

My father, who left home when I was nearly five, was a singer. Ken learned the trumpet in the Harry James style, toyed with the clarinet, and saxophone and remains a fine pianist. He has played regularly in clubs for more years than he cares to remember. He celebrated his eightieth birthday not long ago and the club put on a big spread for him to mark the transition. The Evening News made much of the fact that whole generations of Edinburgh Dancers had proposed, engaged and married to the music of his band The Kentones.

My mother never sang professionally but I always remember her singing beautifully when she was on her own in the kitchen. Like my uncle, she was pitch perfect and always recognised immediately when I drifted from the melody.

Margaret Buglass

My Mother


My Father


Fredrick Buglass, Black Watch 1918 (Standing far right)

Her father, Freddie owned a fiddle and one of the best collection of 78 records imaginable kept in the guests room in a tenement in Tolcross, Edinburgh. He was a sergeant in the black watch and fought in both world wars. One of his favourite recitations was Abdul Abulbul Amir by Percy French, which of course he could relate word perfectly with all the appropriate actions.


Fredrick Buglass circa 1916

Fred Buglass

Family Buglass fancy dress circa 1920


The Herbertson brothers wearing the family tartan (cheap and hired)

As far as I can establish my family on my father’s side have been self taught musicians for generations and on my mother’s side, the Buglass and Sandilands and Towers the folk and popular songs were part of the evenings entertainment doubtless for generations.

I remember at parties, uncles and cousins sang Scots songs and popular songs of the day. It would be a myth to say everyone sang traditional songs. Uncle Joe was renowned for singing Sinatra. My Aunt Norah was an absolute star with Shirley Bassey numbers. My step father liked Perry Como and basically my lovely Great Aunt Jessie just liked a laugh. Her son, Uncle John was a bit of star and would occasionally do an Elvis Presley impersonation wearing her wig. No one in my family, on either side had any serious musical training.

The music apparently had to come out regardless.

My oldest daughter Alex, plays the violin now. both my sons the guitar. My youngest daughter ahs already song on stage at the age of seven. (Didn’t push her). Alex is the first in a long line of bemused fakers to get some decent lessons. She sounds great.

Things to do this year. Get the family singing and doing party tricks at Christmas. perhaps we can reinvent folk music.