Musician Jimmy Ritchie was well-known in the world of Scottish Dance Music as ‘The Fiddler of Glenshee’.
Jimmy’s playing career spanned nearly 60 years and included lengthy spells with Bobby MacLeod and Jimmy Shand during the period when Scottish Dance Music reached its peak.
Apart from being one of the country’s finest fiddle players, Jimmy earned a considerable reputation as a composer, a leader of fiddle playing and a teacher, and, add to this his ability as a piper, and it is easy to appreciate that he was a dedicated musician.
Jimmy started playing the fiddle at the age of eight with lessons under James Ogilvie of Blairgowrie – walking ten miles every Saturday with his fiddle. Later Jimmy traveled to Dundee by bus for lessons from Harry Ogilvie (James’s son). Involvement in competition did not take long, and at 11½ he was Junior Fiddle Champion at Perth (with Honours) out of 16 competitors. About this time he started practising with a button-key played called Donald Ferrier. They practiced a lot, and used to listen to Shand records. They started playing together at local concerts. From there Jimmy progressed to his first dance band experience with Wull Cameron of Blackwater, in the Glenshee Hall. Army service came after this, and Jimmy was responsible for organizing dancing for the Officers. He was the fiddler, with a pianist from Oban called Ian Stewart. On leaving the Army in 1947, Jimmy then became involved with the Hawthorne Scottish Dance Band. He stayed there for three years before joining Bobby MacLeod in 1951. In 1956 he left the MacLeod Band. He was then invited to join Jimmy Shand, and stayed with Shand until 1962, when he decided to have a rest at home for a year. Jimmy was always on the lookout for new musical experience, so decided to try his luck in Clubs in Manchester. He took a job doing security in The Grand Hotel, and played in Clubs in the evening as a solo fiddle player.
Itchy feet again for Jimmy in 1967 led him to visit his old friend, George Clark at Bonar Bridge, where he stayed until 1973, entertaining people in George Clark’s hotel with his fiddle, lively wit and humourous stories. It was during this time that Jimmy developed his love for the pipes and came under the influence of Angus McPherson ‘the great old man of piping’. It was while at Bonar Bridge that Jimmy started composing tunes e.g. Helen Black of Inveran and many others.
Jimmy returned to Blairgowrie in 1973, and once again started playing with Shand and MacLeod.
For a while Jimmy moved into teaching and met with a great deal of success. In a period of five years, his pupils won fifty major prizes, including awards at Perth Music Festival.
Jimmy started the popular Sunday ceilidhs at The Dulrulzion Hotel in Glenshee, and these continued for nine years. He was also involved in many of the Shand and MacLeod recordings over the years, and also took part in the immensely popular Jimmy Shand video, where he had a solo part. In 1992 he brought out his cassette entitled The Fiddler of Glenshee with his band – Ian Anderson (accordion), Ian Wilson (piano) John Delaney (double bass) and Patrick Gilmartin (drums). This tape contained many of his own compositions.