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Davy Tulloch was born in Lerwick, Shetland, on January 9th 1959. His father, also David, was from the island of Yell, and his mother, Wilma, from the island of Trondra. When Davy was first born, the family lived in Market Street, Lerwick, but later moved to Clickimin Road, where his mother still lives today. He was brought up in a musical household, as Davy’s father played the fiddle, accordion and keyboard, and was also a singer of some note. From an early age he showed a keen interest in all things musical, and his mother recalls him singing at 15 months! By the time he was two he had his own record player, but only one record – the Wark o’ the Weavers! He started to play the keyboard at the age of 4, but the fiddle was the instrument that he was most keen to learn.   

He spent many holidays with his father’s family in Yell, where there was an organ, and his Uncle Tammy also came round of an evening to play the fiddle…Davy was given a half size fiddle when he was 6 years old, and ‘scraped’ away on that for a couple of years, until finally at the age of 8 his father gave him some basic lessons. He practised relentlessly, his father being his fiercest critic. When he was 10 he took more formal fiddle lessons at school, which he did not really enjoy, but his determination saw him through that phase, and it was clear that he had the potential to be a very talented player. His father teased him that he couldn’t call himself a real player until he could play ‘The President’ by James Scott Skinner (He did play it many years later at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh).

At the age of 13 his Uncle Lowrie took him to the Forty Fiddlers, and it was there he met Tom Anderson for the first time. Tammy, as he was affectionately known, was quite a foreboding character, but he clearly recognised Davy’s potential, and decided to take him and another young lad, Trevor Hunter, for fiddle lessons. After that Davy’s playing went from strength to strength. He left school at 16 and took an apprenticeship in plumbing, but every weekend he was out playing either locally in Lerwick, or at functions all over Shetland. On one of his college ‘blocks’ in Inverness he played at the Eden Theatre. At home, he was often to be found in a session at ‘The Lounge’ in Lerwick with Ronnie Cooper, John Pottinger and Peerie Willie Johnson’ to name but a few.

In 1975 Tom Anderson organised a tour, during which they played in such diverse places as France, Canterbury, London, Fife and Edinburgh (School of Scottish Studies). It was during this tour that he met Yehudi Menuhin, which he spoke about often as being one of the best experiences of his life.

In 1980, Davy joined the Shetland band Hom Bru, and they were recognised as an up and coming new band on ‘the scene’. Davy later left Hom Bru and formed a band called ‘Curlew’ with Veronique Nelson and Dave Jackson. Together they recorded an album with Topic Records in 1985 called ‘Curlew: Music from Shetland and Beyond’.

After leaving Curlew, Davy continued to play ‘the folk circuit’ as a solo player. He also started teaching his own pupils, both privately and in some Edinburgh schools. He had also, by this time, composed a number of his own fiddle tunes, in addition to transcribing many of the old traditional Shetland tunes, many of which had never been written down before.

In 1987 Davy played at the folk club in Ayr, where he met his future wife, Lee. He moved to Ayr shortly afterwards, and they were married in February 1988. He continued to play as many ‘gigs’ as possible, both in Scotland and abroad, but after the birth of his daughter, Erin, in 1990, he gave up going on the road, and concentrated more on teaching. He taught pupils at home, and also for a time taught a group in Arran at the weekends.

Davy died suddenly, at home, on May 31st 2000, at the age of 41. He had a great passion for the fiddle and the music, which was apparent both in the way he spoke about it, in the tunes he composed, and in his playing. His death was not only a great loss to all who knew and loved him, but also to the world of traditional music. It was his fondest wish that a book of his own compositions be published one day, and it is the intention of his family to make sure that wish comes true.

Lee Tulloch (2010)

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