Scots folk star fears for island’s heritage as last violin teacher retires


SCOTS folk legend Aly Bain has blasted his home council for failing to replace the Shetland’s only violin teacher.

The island’s school violin teacher retired last year and has not been replaced since.

Now Aly Bain, the famous fiddler said the fail will jeopardise future generations of talented musicians and will compromise the island’s heritage.

Aly Bain playing the fiddle  Photo:Trevox 

Alan Gifford taught violin for 15 years in Lerwick, Sandwick and Cunningsburgh but decided to leave teaching last Christmas.

And the failure to replace him has now sparked an online protest from concerned parents.

More than 200 pupils – a third of the children on the island- were learning how to play the fiddle under Mr Gifford’s tuition.

But Bain fears that the failure to hire a replacement will have serious repercussions for the island’s musical future.

The fiddle player who tours with world-class accordion player Phil Cunningham, said: “If you take away from the grass roots level then where does that leave future generations? I know there are cutbacks in Shetland as with everywhere else, but what we are talking about here is not horrendously expensive.

“You are talking about the island’s musical heritage. Musicians from Shetland help promote the islands world-wide.”

Bain fears that talented musicians from the Shetlands including Catriona MacDonald, and Christopher Stout and the group Fiddlers’ Bid could be the last of their kind if the Shetlands Islands Council does not hire a new teacher.

He said: “It would not surprise me if Shetland has more professional musicians on the road per head of population than anywhere else. That is all down to people like Alan Gifford, a very talented teacher.

“A huge number of tourists come toScotlandbecause of its music. I think a recent survey said this was second only to people looking at their ancestry.”

Angry parents whose children have not been taught since Christmas took to the internet to voice their concerns.

Ann Shuard said: “Shetland council what are you playing at? Shetland is known for worldwide for the talented fiddle players. Tourists go to Shetland from around the world to hear the music. To stop the young from being able to continue their lesson in music is shooting yourselves in the foot.”


One parent Gideon Johnston, whose 11-year-old daughter lost her tuition said: “My lassie has had no lessons since before Christmas. It’s something that’s always been, always should be. The council are not trying hard enough. If it goes on any longer she’ll lose interest. It will be a year by the time they decide anything.”

Jerry Edwards, the schools service quality improvement officer, said the post of violin tutor was advertised but only one person applied.

The applicant failed to get the job.

Mr Edwards added that no appointment would be made so close to the local council elections next month and it would now be up to the new council to decide on budget priorities.

He said: “It wouldn’t be right to start children now with a new tutor who might be made redundant.”

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  1. Totally agree.Good for Aly Bain to highlight this.Shetland is famous the world over for its fiddling and wonderful knitting, both supported in the past by SIC education.
    I think to short sightedly curtail this invaluable teaching on the basis of cost, is to put Shetland’s long term heritage at risk.
    The teaching of both made our education unique.Why try and destroy part of what makes Shetland so special?
    I have three children one of whom is a fabulous fiddle player courtesy of the education here. One of the other plays a mean DB too. You can’t pay for this kind of education.
    Meanwhile Shetland Arts have built a huge arts centre to showcase our talent. What’s the point if they are not investing in the teaching of the talent.

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