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October 31, 2006

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Will Atkinson (1)

Will Atkinson
Will Atkinson (Photograph Johnny Handle)

Born in 1908 and known throughout the world of traditional music as a virtuoso of the mouth-organ, Will Atkinson was also President of the Alnwick Pipers' Society for many years and was a founder member of the Alnwick Branch of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society in the 1930s. Although best recognised as a 'moothie' player, Will initially played the melodeon, but switched to his greater love, the mouth-organ, fairly early in his musical career. His undoubted talent not only as a musician but also as a composer of such tunes as Glen Aln Hornpipe and Redeside Hornpipe, has provided pleasure and enjoyment for many thousands of people of all ages wherever traditional music is played. It is thanks to Will Atkinson and his fellow musicians of the time, such as Joe Hutton and Willy Taylor (who all sadly are no longer with us) who played and performed in village halls and schools, at dances and concerts, often walking or travelling by cycle to do so that our heritage of the traditional music from Northumberland and the Borders has survived. Billy's son George is also a musician of some note.

On this recording we hear Will Atkinson playing the Shetland Reel Da Tushkar. The tune was composed by Shetland accordion player Ronnie Cooper. A tushkar is the name of a tool in Shetland for the cutting of peat, and Cooper got the inspiration for the melody at his local smithy, watching the forging of the instrument by the owners of the establishment, the famous Shetland fiddlers Willie Hunter Senior and Junior. The tune has become popular throughout Britain and especially among Scottish dance bands. Billy Atkinson is here heard in typically fine form playing the tune as he learnt it from listening to the wireless.

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