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October 31, 2006

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John Armstrong and Joe Hutton

John Armstrong of Carrick
John Armstrong of Carrick (Photograph W.A.Cocks collection)

Although John Armstrong is best remembered as a musican, he was also well known as a stick dresser and huntsman. He worked two large farms in Elsdon, near to the Army firing range. The Armstrong family claims an unbroken tradition of Northumbrian piping going back at least four generations. The Clough family visited the Armstrong family home at Rylee just after the First World War. It was here that John often played duets with Tom Clough. He also played with Billy Pigg. John owned a magnificent collection of pipe tunes, including original manuscripts by James Hill, Tom Clough and Robert Whinham. He provided many tunes for the Chorlton Memorial Tune Book. A series of accidents to his hands, resulting in a stiffening of his fingers, forced John to concentrate on the fiddle in later years. He is featured on the Topic Album 'Bonny North Tyne' (12TS239) and was known to many amongst the older Northumbrian musicians as Carrick, a name taken from his dwelling place and a useful device to differentiate him from the many other John Armstrongs who live along the borders.

John Armstrong started playing duets with Joe Hutton in 1972, transfering arrangements for two pipes, to pipes and fiddle. This recording was made on the 15th August 1973 and features John Armstrong and Joe Hutton playing together at John's house. The melody played is the well known hunting song John Peel. A few weeks before this, the pair had taken first prize in the traditional pairs competition at Newcastleton festival. There was talk of the duo recording an album and playing more widely. The project never came to fruition, John's ill health and untimely death taking precedence.

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