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Fife Song Project



The Fife Song Project was created by singer/songwriter David Latto as OnFife's Artist in Residence and is funded by the 'Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund' supported by Creative Scotland with funding from Scottish Government


The project involved interviewing four elderly members of the community in Fife about their life experiences and using these conversations as inspiration for four new songs.


The conversations were carried out in January and February 2021 at a time when most of the elderly population had been shielding from the effects of coronavirus for nearly a year. The aim of the project was to use music to help shine a light on people whose ability to get out and socialise had been restricted. The hope is that by telling their stories in song I can contribute through music to making life a little brighter! 


I really hope you enjoy learning about the participants and listening to the music. I would like to extend a huge thank you to the following people and organisations who helped support and make this project a success.

Teresa Naylor at Care and Share Companionship, Kirkcaldy

Mandy Henderson at The Linton Lane Centre, Kirkcaldy

Councillor Judy Hamilton

Raith Rovers Community Foundation

Sporting Memories Foundation Scotland

Louise Andree at LEAD

On Fife Cultural Trust Team

Creative Scotland


And of course a huge thank you to Margaret, Thelma, Danny and Tam for sharing their stories! If you would like to learn more about my music please click here.


If you would like to download the tracks they can be purchased here for £5 with all proceeds donated to Kirkcaldy Foodbank and Care and Share Companionship.

Margaret Lawrence

" Life is a natural process, look at nature"


I had a wonderful conversation with Margaret (93) and it didn't surprise me at all that she was a teacher throughout her working life as I definitely learned a few things. She spent time teaching in the USA shortly after the official end of segregation. This was an alien concept to her when she arrived in the USA. She told me about visiting the laundromat and the signs which read 'whites' and 'coloureds', at first she thought these were for clothes. She loved teaching and was sometimes chastised by white members of the local community for spending time talking with her black students on the street. Margaret loved to travel and has visited many places, she learned to drink tequila in Mexico (which she recommends). Margaret returned to Scotland after the death of her husband and remarried but she was never fond of her new name and so I've used her maiden name at her request. 

Time For EverythingDavid Latto
00:00 / 02:33
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A Time For Everything


Plant a flower in your garden

For years you watch it bloom

When the final petal drops

It always falls too soon 

There's a time for everything my dear

A time for everything

We're all getting older

But there's no use worrying

Board a ship across the ocean

To a far and distant land

Feel the promise of the new

Old as the desert sand 

There's a time for everything my dear

A time for everything

There's a time for going

And coming home again

There's a time for pleasure

There's a time for pain

A time to mourn your losses

And celebrate your gains

A time to fall in love 

Singing all the sweet refrains

To proudly say your name

Somtimes it's a kindness

That cuts a tender sword

To the soft heart of the matter

There's power in your words

There's a time for everything my dear

A time for everything

To stand up for another

No matter what it brings


Notes On the Lyric and Artist Reflections

I initially thought that Margaret's song would be based on her experiences travelling and it took a few days of turning the conversation over in my mind to realise that our chat had sparked a deeper feeling in me.


The first verse of the song is based on how she described life as a natural process and getting older as nothing to be worried about. For me, it was a much needed insight. It made me think about nature and how everything happens just when it's required. This would become the thread that ties the song together.

The second verse takes into account Margaret's travels, specifically to Egypt in the 'desert sands' line. It's the natural ebb and flow of the universe, if you go you must return in some way. It's a simple idea but something perhaps we don't think about a lot in life as we're trying to bend reality to our will. 

The line 'to proudly say your name' is a reference to Margaret's wish to use her maiden name.

The final verse alludes to kindness and how sometimes in life we must stand up for others who have less power and privilege than us even when it's uncomfortable or when we feel like we are being judged for doing so.


Thelma Duncan

" You have to learn for yourself, no one can teach you"


My conversation with Thelma started by her telling me she didn't think she'd have much to talk about, which fortunately wasn't the case. Thelma was born in Ireland and moved to Kirkcaldy when she was 5. Her father found a job down the pit and suffered a debilitating accident in which he lost an eye and broke his neck. Thelma has a strong faith which has lead her to serve some of the neediest people in the community. She volunteers at Kirkcaldy Foodbank and explained to me how important it is to actively practice non-judgement. She says it's something that can't be taught, it can only be learned through experience. We talked a lot about how easy it is to cast judgement on people we don't know and I think there's something to be learned from trying to live in a more non-judgemental way.

Thelma's SongDavid Latto
00:00 / 03:37
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Thelma's Song


My father came here for a job in the mines

Moved the family from Ireland when I was just five

Lost an eye broke his neck, lucky to be alive

Have you ever heard the saying 'he went grey overnight'

Some people live a hard hard life 

Some people live a hard hard life

Some say god has a plan

Most say 'what can you do?'

I say you do what you can

I grew up got married and we did all right

But my heart was always breaking for those without luck on their side

The stories I heard would move me to tears

Out delivering presents because santa's not coming this year

Some people live a hard hard life 

Some people live a hard hard life

Some say god has a plan

Most say 'what can you do?'

I say you do what you can

I've learned, hard earned, to withhold judgement

No one can teach you that

I've seen all sorts, all sorts of suffering

It's never a question of good or bad

Some people live a hard hard life 

Some people live a hard hard life

Some say god has a plan

Most say 'what can you do?'

I say you do what you can

Notes On the Lyric and Artist Reflections.

I wanted this song to reflect a sense of resilience in the face of suffering. The verses reflect snippets of stories that Thelma shared with me. She told me how often, the stories of others had moved her to tears and specifically about the unfairness of children caught up in desperate situations.


Each year, Thelma is part of a group that deliver Christmas presents to kids in poverty. Some of the living conditions Thelma described to me are truly shocking.


I wanted to convey something of the part that faith plays in resilience. It would surely be easier to give up on the suffering and injustice but I really admire Thelma's dedication to helping others. This kind of work often goes unnoticed in society and it's a real privilege to write about someone who is selflessly dedicated to serving others.


Danny Arnott

"Be a friend to everyone"


Danny has lived an exciting life and this song has one of the longest lyrics I've ever written. Danny told me all about his time doing national service in Egypt and Malta. He started off as an apprentice at McIntosh Furniture makers before signing up with the RAF. Upon his return he took a job with his previous employer before deciding to fly to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to work a variety of jobs in construction and on a tobacco plantation. Work was a real theme of our conversation but Danny also enjoyed playing Football for Burntisland Shipyard, watching Fife Flyers Ice Hockey Team and playing golf. Unfortunately Danny was involved in a car accident a few years ago which means he doesn't get out as much as he used to. I asked Danny what his advice to younger people might be and he told me how important it is to travel and meet people from different backgrounds.  

The Ballad Of Danny ArnottDavid Latto
00:00 / 03:31
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The Ballad of Danny Arnott 

They called me up at 20

To serve the post-war cause

I joined the RAF

I’d never been abroad

To Egypt then to Malta

They flew me everywhere

From high up in the tower

I put spitfires in the air 


I stayed on a little longer

Three years instead of two

Found myself back in Scotland

Wondering what to do

I built cabinets for a living

For Mr McIntosh

But a lifetime is a long time

For a handshake and  a watch


One day flicking through the paper         An advert caught my eye 

Rhodesia’s needing labour

And I had a mind to fly 

I wrote down to London

And soon the word came back

Borrowed money for the ticket

Quit my job and packed my bag


Building houses for the locals

Underneath the blazing sun 

I was happy to be working 

Anywhere work needed done

For 2 more years I laboured

But thoughts they turned to home

There’s a job here waiting  for you 

If you canny stand the cold

Notes On the Lyric and Artist Reflections.

This was probably the hardest song to write. The experiences Danny recounted to me were so rich that it was difficult to boil everything down into a 3 minute song. I tried 2 or 3 different versions of the song before this one arrived. I was really trying to avoid a narrative 'series of events' type song but sometimes the song has other ideas and when I surrendered my ideas of what it should be things flowed a lot more easily. I like the way it turned out and this type of folk song feels appropriate for the story and Danny's experiences. My one regret is that I'm not a better Mandolin player!



I worked my way up the country

From London north to Fife

 I can’t say I’ve ever met

Someone I disliked

Played football for the shipyard

On the inside right 

Long drives down the fairway

Flyers every Sunday night


I never saw the police car coming

Til it  smashed into my side

10 weeks in the hospital

The doctors saved my life

I know I wasn’t in the wrong

But I had no strength to fight

They called it an accident 

But that doesn't sit right 


Well the rod they put in my leg

Causes me some pain

And I don’t get out much

Between Covid and the rain

But if you’re looking for it

I’ll give you some advice 

Be a friend to everyone 

Go out and live your life


Because people are just people

Wherever you may go 

It’s a big world out there

So don’t just sit at home

Take chances when they come along

And In your work take pride

Stand up for what you’re good at

And I think you’ll be alright


Tam Frame

"If I was born in the 30's I would've been hopping trains- that's the cowboy in me"


I had no idea when I first spoke to Tam that he is something of a local celebrity or as we might say 'a well kent face' in Kirkcaldy. Tam was the first person I interviewed for the project and it was lovely to speak to someone who is such a fan of music and a musician themselves. Tam's life has been full of music from the very beginning and it still plays a big role in his life today. He can often be found down the high street busking and, pre-pandemic, he was frequently out performing under his moniker 'Tam the Hat'! Tam told me all about the music scene in Kirkcaldy back in the 60's and it really brought home to me just how much has changed since then. He said it wouldn't be uncommon for bands to be playing 6 nights a week and some of the biggest acts in the UK, like Led Zeppelin for example, would make stops at one of the many music venues. Tam, however still insists that the Raith Show Band were the best group he saw at the time. Aside from music Tam has worked in a quarry, a coal mine and as a social worker for many years. Recently he's been interrailing across France and Spain. He takes his guitar and plays on the street but told me that the part he likes most is the conversations he has with passers by. 

Tam The HatDavid Latto
00:00 / 02:43
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Tam the Hat

My record started spinning in ‘51

My parents were a born again daughter and son

Sweet gospel music in the air

Never wanted for nothing no worries no cares


Down at the chip shop jukebox I found out

What rhythm and blues is all about

Jerry Lee, Little Richard, Phats Domino

Kirkcaldy via New Orleans to Chicago


Hi de ho hi de he

Won’t you come and sing a little song with me

Rocking and rolling come rain or shine

Til I’m hoppin’ that train moving down the line


At sixteen I stood transfixed

As the Raith Show Band blasted through the hits

Backing all the big names passing through

Any night of the week they could raise the roof


Hi de ho hi de he

Won’t you come and sing a little song with me

Rocking and rolling come rain or shine

Til I’m hoppin’ that train moving down the line


I know the music of the quarry and the coal mines

I know the music of love and painful times

I’ve travelled the world with a song to give 

And I’ll be singing just as long as I live 


Hi de ho hi de he

Won’t you come and sing a little song with me

Rocking and rolling come rain or shine

Til I’m hoppin’ that train moving down the line

Scooby doo wup Scooby doo wee

Won’t you come and sing a little song with me

Rocking and rolling come rain or shine

Til I’m hoppin’ that train moving down the line

Notes On the Lyric and Artist Reflections.

The minute I was off the phone with Tam I knew what kind of song this had to be. I wanted it to be fun, up-tempo and definitely with a rock and roll flavour. I've always liked nonsense lyrics and I thought this was as good a time as any to work them into a song. 

Tam told me that his 'window to the world' was a jukebox situated in his local fish and chip shop. This is where he discovered all of his favourite rock n roll singers. I knew this was a great image and one I wanted to work into the song

I wanted to make the song feel joyful and singalongable ( is that a word?). I think this is a track that would really benefit from having a full band arrangement with drums, bass, piano etc.

David Latto_Jan 2021-19.jpg

All songs written and produced by David Latto. Mastering by Ben Pike at Rare Tone, Leeds.

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