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Calum Kennedy


1928 - 2006

Popular folk singer. Born in Orinsay in the Lochs district of the Isle of Lewis, Kennedy's father ran a bus service to Stornoway. He began singing in the local Free Church, but moved south in the later 1940s, working as an apprentice at John Brown's shipyard at Clydebank before briefly studying medicine at the University of Glasgow, which he left to join the army. His singing career was launched when he won the Gold Medal at the 1955 Mod. In 1957, he won an international folk competition in Moscow and was presented with his medal by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1960s and 70s, Kennedy dominated the world of both Gaelic and Scottish folk-singing and appeared on his own television programme.

In his early career, his renditions Gaelic songs like Peigi a Ghraidh and Mo Mhathair were unsurpassed and his interpretation of Byron's Dark Lochnagar, together with his own composition Lovely Stornoway, were widely enjoyed. Although he was to enjoy continued success, he made mistakes in his later career; his performances became tartan-coloured stereotypes and he bought the Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen and the Palace Theatre in Dundee when they were declining in the face of television. By the 1980s he kept going by touring the village halls of the Highlands and Islands. He agreed to let a BBC documentary producer follow one of his variety tours and the result, Calum Kennedy's Commando Course (1985), was filled with intrigue and farce to the extent that Kennedy turned to the courts in an attempt to keep it from the screens.

Kennedy died in an Aberdeen nursing home.


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