A Brief History: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
1983: Club formed in August for singarounds in Mercat Hotel, Haddington as "Mercat Folk Club". Got off to a good start attracting many local musicians to weekly sessions.
1984: Monthly newsletter "Mercat Folk News" introduced, edited by Ros Pearson with contributions from most of the regulars. First annual song contest won by Phil Taylor with parody of Lionel Ritchie's "Hello". First annual barbecue at East Fortune. A record and song book library started that year. Edgar Ashton first began importing students from the Edinburgh University Folk Song society
1985: Song writing competition winner, Davie Robertson with "A Drinkin' Man". Davie also responsible for "Cantering Home", an amusing and educational series of articles in "Mercat Folk News" on the secret language of the Travelling People, many of whom settled in Nungate, In November newsletter became "Mercat Voices". A good Autumn for new members with half a dozen becoming regulars. The year ended with a Christmas buffet, excellently catered for by Wilma and Graham McInnes.
1986: Club going from strength to strength with member numbers increasing. Building of Torness Power Station became a source of visitors. The annual song contest was won by Kenny Brill with "Gilmartin". Another successful barbecue was held at East Fortune. An increase in 'gaddin aboot' by club members this year, with Mercateers descending on Edinburgh, Newcastleton and Auchtermuchty Folk Festivals en masse.
1987: The Club continued to multiply in members and activities, one of the latter, a visit to the embryonic 'Nittin Folk Club' in Lady Victoria Pit Museum tearoom. Launched in August, the sessions at Lauder attracted regular visits from our club. A new cartoon character, a cat called "Freddie Folk" started his career in Mercat Voices"
May brought the song writing competition, won for the second consecutive year by Kenny Brill with "Watching". A highlight in August was a visit from Bolivian band 'Paja Brava', from the Edinburgh Fringe, having a free night they were pointed in our direction by Danny Kyle. An innovation was the introduction of members performing occasional twenty-minute spots.
1988: The first quarter of the year showed a slight decline in attendance figures. In mid July venue closed for renovations We decamped to the Pheasant Hotel for six weeks. Returning to the Mercat decision made to start booking professional guests. Committee set up to organise this, costs to be met by a weekly raffle. Davie Robertson regained the song writing trophy with "Ower Much for Me". In lieu of a barbecue a picnic was held in August and another in September, both at Garvald. On the 14th September Davie Steele was our first guest. Sadly the din due to serving of meals in adjacent lounge blighted an excellent performance. This ongoing situation forced us to look for new venue. The club found a new home at the Pheasant Hotel on 27th October and became "The Haddington Folk Club".
The "Mercat Voices" passed into history with this epitaph.
Oh! Ye voices gone,
Sounds of other years!
Hush that haunting tone,
Melt me not to tears.
The newsletter temporarily renamed "Singaround" and due to commitments, Ros Pearson relinquished editorship to Gordon Pearson. An eventful year ended with a Christmas buffet in new venue with a great turnout of "Pheasant Plucking Folk"!
1989: A guest night in January, featuring John Watt and Davie Stewart boded well for our first year at our new venue. More guest evenings featuring Eugene and Andrea Rae, Tomas Lynch, Steve Turner and Bill Hill were to follow throughout the year. Alan Crawford, our landlord, extorted a trophy from the Alloa Brewery as the prize for the annual song writing contest in May. The Alloa Cup won by Ros Pearson for the splendid "A Song With a Chorus". The barbecue which was revived that year, was a great success Because of heavy rain, an empty cottage was put to good use for a ceilidh. The Christmas event was a "Do something different and do it in fancy dress" night. A fitting end to a good year!
1990: Edgar still brought EUFSS members along to offer samples of new talents. In March we travelled to Newtongrange Folk Club to take part in a "Come-All-Ye", (an afternoon singaround and an evening concert) - in which local clubs each performed a thirty minute spot. March ended with Sara Grey as first guest of the year. May's song writing contest won by Lyn Livingston, her song written for the centenary of the Forth Rail Bridge. Another club member, Sheila Thomson, won a £400 prize for song writing at the Battlefield Band Weekend at Dunbar! Gordon Bok guested at the club in June. A skittles night was held in Musselburgh in August and another excellent, if wet, barbecue in September. A new trophy was donated by Davie Tate to be presented annually to the person voted to have done the most for the club during the year. In September Gordon Pearson relinquished editorship of 'Singaround', handing it over to the new team of Sid Taylor and Karen Dietz. "The Panamas" band played at our Christmas Ceilidh which, with an excellent buffet, ended the year on a high note.
1991: The new look, high tech, computerised "Singaround", in a very impressive format, promised to make the newsletter into a more sophisticated record of our activities, It appeared in February as did Rod Sinclair, our first guest of the year who performed a splendid gig. May brought the Song Writing Contest, which Jimmy Leith won with "A Borderline Ballad"! In December the editors of "Singaround"reluctantly decided that owing to commitments (having a baby in one case) they were forced to give up production of the newsletter. The previous editor agreed to carry it on with the help of ready copy from members. It was renamed "Pheasant Company Accepted".
1992: Normal club activities prevailed until May when Seannachie performed a guest night. Two weeks later the Alloa Cup song writing contest was won by Scott Murray, of the band "Sangster", with "Pulling the Old Man's Beard". Mick Taylor and Aly Pate were joint winners of the "Davie Tate Cup" for services rendered to the club. At another successful guest night in June, Tommy Sands delivered a memorable gig. A great year for guest artists, as we had Sid Kipper in June and Martin Carthy in November! For Hallow E'en, an "Old Time Music Hall" filled the bill, with everyone dressing the part. The Panamas again helped to make our Christmas Ceilidh a great success.
1993: A great guest night in April featuring Frank McLoughlin and Gillian McDonald, kick-started the club from its winter doldrums. Ian Turnbull won the "Alloa Cup" with a seduction ballad, "Come Tae Bed Wi' Me Wife" To mark the club's tenth anniversary a successful concert was held in the Town House, as part of the Haddington Town Festival. Haddingtonian Gill Bowman, who started her folk career with the club was an appropriate choice to top the bill. Many good sessions during summer took us up to November when Davie Steele made a long awaited return. Davie performed one of the best nights of entertainment that we have had at the club, finishing the evening with "No Easy Way to Say Goodbye". Our Christmas Ceilidh, saved from disaster by Malcolm Rutter, who provided the music when The Panamas made a last minute cancellation.
1994 to the present time to follow at later date.