Memories of DUKES and Testimonials
Memories of DUKES
December eight years ago (give or take) there was a buzz going around St George’s Church in Dumfries that there was to be a Christmas Ukulele concert. I was making tea and serving mince pies that night and I remember telling Stuart how much I loved the concert. The next thing I knew, Stuart was encouraging me to join DUKES and a membership form was placed in my hand.
My life was a bit flat at that time. Mum had died in 2004 and Dad in 2009, and one or two friends had dropped off my radar so things were a wee bit bleak. I went along to my first lesson alone and not very sure of what I was doing, but I was made very welcome and since then have made some great friends within the DUKES family.
I can now say that that lesson was the start of my Ukulele ‘journey’. From the start, I fell in love with my uke and practised every day - sometimes morning, noon and night. If I couldn’t get a chord or a strum I would stay up in the wee small hours until I’d conquered it. This eventually paid off when I became a member of ‘A Touch of Purple’ I sometimes still pinch myself on a Thursday night because being a member of this amazing band is one of the nicest surprises of my life.
My favourite time (or times) of being with DUKES is being part of the Ukulele Festival of Scotland, both playing with ATOP and being part of The Purple Army.
During lockdown, Tom and I would walk over to the Crichton Grounds and my wonderful festival memories came flooding, I could hear laughter, people jamming and the sound of ukuleles filling the air. Long may DUKES continue!
My first recollection of wanting to join DUKES was after seeing them perform at a Christmas concert. My 17-year-old daughter had died the year before so I was in a very dark place and searching for anything that would bring light into my world - DUKES did this in abundance.
I recall my first lesson - I had achieved a lifelong ambition: I had long nails! Nope - they had to be cut short, and Linda was at the door with a pair of nail scissors!
As for the teacher – Wow, he was strict, but by the second lesson I realized that this teacher was quite funny, really, and made us all laugh!
I made so many new friends and learned to play a lovely little instrument. I stayed with DUKES for a long time and remain indebted to Stuart and his family for giving so much to me, and so many other people.
My world is still dark, but there has been a lot of light thrown my way and indeed I am a stronger person for all the love and support I have been given and this very much includes the wonderful DUKES! There have been too my good memories to talk about - I would have to write a book!
Elizabeth Lila Mcgowan
As a founder member of DUKES and possibly the oldest member in age - if anyone can beat 87 next May, I concede - I just wanted to share some of my feelings.
My husband died very suddenly in November 2009, and almost a year to the day in November 2010, I had to have our lovely old dog put to sleep. I was at a very low ebb and seriously wondering how I was going to fill the huge gap in my life when I spotted a small flyer on the notice board in the Kippford bus shelter advertising ukulele lessons for beginners at the Anchor Hotel.
I was virtually brought up on George Formby films, and loved the songs and the uke playing, and later in life I lived in Wigan for 20 years where George was born, so my attraction to the idea was immediate.
I rang to book my place and duly turned up at the Anchor and met Stuart and Linda for the first time. Armed with my new wee red uke and the little book which beginners used in those days, I embarked on a whole new chapter of my life. By the end of the first session, I could make a half decent sound, knew a few chords, and could strum and sing the simplest 1 and 2 chord songs. I absolutely loved it and the rest, as they say, is history.
I was brought up in a musical background and always loved singing and listening to music on the radio, but in those days, there was no way to learn an instrument without a lot of cash to do it privately.
DUKES’ small beginnings, initially at home with the family and in Colvend, and then with us at the Anchor, led over the years to the establishment of groups in Colvend, Dumfries, Castle Douglas, and New Galloway, and they have gradually evolved into the current arrangement with the main DUKES family in Dumfries, and our wonderful concert band, A Touch of Purple in Colvend.
I have been very much involved with all of it, to the extent that Stuart and Linda are now very close friends, and I am officially an honorary Butterworth.
There are so many memories which lots of you will share, of Christmas and Summer concerts. Our first public appearance was at a craft fair in Dalbeattie Town Hall, crammed in between the stalls, and competing with sales pitches all around us
Around 2014/15 Stuart made an announcement right out of the blue that in two years’ time the Butterworths were going to run a Ukulele Festival of Scotland in Dumfries. Little did we humble strummers and singers understand exactly what Stuart had in mind, but thanks to Linda’s amazing organisational and administrative skills the first Ukulele Festival of Scotland came to fruition as a truly fantastic international event, which was hailed by punters and professionals alike as being a huge success and one of the best in the world!
It also saw the formation of the now famous Purple Army of DUKES’ helpers - more happy memories of the post Festival Purple Army parties at Butterworth Towers laid on by Stuart and Linda.
More Festivals followed, but after the 2019 Festival Stuart and Linda decided that they needed to cut back a bit on the workload, and not plan a Festival for 2020. With hindsight, this was a brilliant decision, for in March 2020, the pandemic struck, and we had no live sessions for 18 months.
A huge thank you to Stuart, not only for his role as our intrepid leader and inspired teacher over 11 years, but especially for the way he kept DUKES alive during lockdown with the live Monday night online sessions and the countless one-minute wonders and special arrangements and audio clips to help keep us strumming, singing, and learning.
Last, but very much not least, heartfelt thanks to Linda. She often misses out on the plaudits, but I know that Stuart would be the first to agree that none of this would have happened without her phenomenal management skills which she always applies with a wonderful smile and calm disciplined control. She is the power behind the throne.
Thank you for reading. DUKES has enabled me to really enjoy this last phase of my life, and I know it has helped others through difficult times too. Long may the DUKES family continue.
"Great workshop! These are great tools. It's not just what you did, but how you did it. Beautiful for different levels of players.
Thank you! - I Learned much."
"Best workshop so far this festival."
"Thank you. Fab pace, I learned loads. Loved the fact that you don't let people ping and pluck (when you are talking/demonstrating). Most enjoyable workshop."
"Fantastic workshop at a fantastic festival. Thank you so much!"
"Thank you! Great materials, very clear tuition and a whole lot of fun - I felt like I achieved a lot in a short time. Brilliant. More! More!"
"Well planned, well delivered, fun and informative."
"Great fun and learnt all the five techniques. Enjoyed the singing with the riffs etc. added in. Very good handout too made it easy to follow." Jane Nash - Australia
"Excellent workshop - fun and informative - Thank you!"
"The absolute best workshop ever. Great explanations. Great fun. Learnt loads. Can't wait until next year!"
"Stuart - you are an excellent teacher!" Larry - USA