Christmas Greetings

I have always loved Christmas. I remember one magical Christmas Eve walking with my older brother, Jim, through the deep snow to serve at midnight mass. It was my debut. I was so excited! I can still hear the distant church bells as we scrunched for a long way through the thick snow. All around, the silence of the night, the piercing chill wind, the distant lights surrounded us. After mass, we met our family and friends, wishing one to the other a wonderful Christmas.

I was not disinterested by presents but, for me, the lasting beauty of Christmas has always been the way in which it transforms people’s lives and creates a deep sense of mutual affection and love. Even today I get that lovely warm feeling when I see my grandchildren’s eyes light up with wonder at all things tinselly and sparkly. It makes the world a better place.

For me, it is a time of deep nostalgia too because most of the people who inhabited those places when I was a child and, indeed, most of the places themselves, are long since gone. It still manages to stir something of profound meaning and deep gratitude in my heart.

One particular Christmas Carol never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Consequently, I went to the piano and recorded it as a way of expressing my warmest Christmas wishes to each and every one of you. Now, which Carol could it be?

Thanks very much Anne for your guest article. Lovely to hear about your choir days and about your and Tony’s favourite Carols xx❤️

Home is Where the Heart is

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that “home” is not a physical place. Rather, “home” is a state of being – a felt sense of love and belonging. It resides internally, a part of my own personal “inscape”. In other words “Home is where my Heart is”.

The music I have selected below forms part of this “inscape”, this sense of home in all its guises.

“Home” is a pretty little melody and is essentially my “English home“.

“Nostalgia” represents my feelings of longing for Scotland.

“Irish Hero” is dedicated to all those Irish Scots who have contributed so much to Scotland’s way of life.

Finally, “Irish Dances” recalls memories of a happy childhood with my family where Irish and Scottish music (plus a wee bit of Sinatra and Tchaikovsky) cohabited sweetly in my heart. Enjoy!

I was born in Glasgow. Most of my forebears, however, were Irish immigrants who had come to Scotland due to the potato famines.

I am proud to be Irish-Scots. The Irish worked in the mines, steelworks and factories in the late 19th and 20th centuries and, despite considerable poverty and hardship, contributed greatly to the economic, cultural and social expansion of Scotland.

As children growing up in the mid-20th century, my siblings and I were exposed to both Scottish and Irish traditions in music, art and literature. This rich Celtic heritage is one I have come to value more and more as I grow older.

I have lived in England most of my adult life but still feel that sense of home which is Glasgow. Indeed, I often experience a strong sense of nostalgia when I recall my life and my family in Scotland.

However, I have strong roots in England too. All my children are Anglo-French (Michèle was French) and all my grandchildren are English-born. I feel at home here in England and have developed a close affinity with its people and culture. So where is home?

John sharing a piano moment with his cousin, Michelle. Note his sisters’ Irish dancing cups on the piano and the ‘Sacred Heart’ picture which was a feature of many Scottish and Irish Catholic homes.