93 Year old Patient Serenades Staff and Patients

The well-known adage ‘there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle’ has become a reality at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, thanks to a 93 year old patient.

Alan Cairney from Gartmore, near Stirling, is playing his violin and setting feet tapping from his bed in Ward B31. A semi professional musician, his repertoire ranges from ‘Mairi’s Wedding’ to ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and his musical renditions are proving to be a great hit with both staff and patients alike.

Alan, who was born in Prestwick and subsequently moved to Glasgow, took up his bow when he was nine or ten years old. He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed playing except when my mother told me to practice. In those days coal was scarce and we didn’t always have a fire in the room. If my parents wanted to listen to the wireless I had to go into a cold room and it was really difficult to play the violin with frozen hands.

“I remember sailing up the Clyde on the Jeanie Deans paddle steamer and my parents made me play on the boat. That was purgatory for me – I was just a young lad, 10 or 12, and a very shy boy.”

Alan was a classically trained musician, gaining ALCM in violin. But his real love was traditional jazz and he switched to double bass when he played in the first band set up by Kenny Ball after Kenny left the Sid Phillips band where he had been lead trumpet.

Alan – a refrigeration engineer by profession – then became a gigging musician, playing with the likes of Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot. His violin was brought into play again – as a doubling instrument for the tango.

But when his employers asked him to manage their Scottish office, Alan had to decide whether to turn full time professional musician – or take the job. He chose the latter.

He says he was prompted to bring his violin into hospital when he mentioned to someone that he could play. When asked how he thinks staff and patients have enjoyed being serenaded he said:  “I think they ran away and got their ear plugs – no, I’m only joking. They all seem keen to hear me play; being a Glasgow boy I know I am good!”

NHS Forth Valley Nursing Auxiliary Allison Cowie agrees.  She said: “We encourage him to play. He’s absolutely brilliant. It cheers us all up, and some of the patients have said how much they like to hear him. I think he’s the first violinist we’ve ever had in here – it’s great to have your own personal musician in the ward.”