Angus

It is with deep sadness that we announce that our brother Shoogle, Angus R Grant, passed away last night after a short illness. We would like to thank his doctors and the team from St Columba’s Hospice who enabled him to die peacefully at home surrounded by family and close friends. Here follows a short appreciation …

Angus R Grant

Angus first picked up a fiddle at five years old. He was given a quarter sized instrument by his uncle and the family were amazed when in just few days he had three tunes on the go. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been so surprised. As the son of the renowned left-handed fiddle player and teacher from Lochaber – Aonghas Grant – his destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Not that he saw it quite in the way that Grant Sr intended. In fact, his teenage years were full of filial rebellion, as he gave up the fiddle and took up the electric guitar. It was the time of punk, and a do-it-yourself vibe. Spending hours practising pibroch and puirt tunes seemed less attractive than thrashing away at a guitar. In those days, playing fiddle was decidedly uncool, ironically something Angus did much to change in the next 30 or so years.

It was his school friend Kaela Rowan (now providing vocals for Shooglenifty) who persuaded Angus to dig out his fiddle again and go along to a session. Shortly after, Iain Macfarlane, himself a fine fiddler, persuaded to Grant Jr to join his band Pennycroft with Kaela as third member. The threesome worked their way round the bars of Glenfinnan, Glenuig, and Loch Ailort, not forgetting Fergie’s Bar in Mingarry, a particular favourite.

Angus became a regular visitor to Edinburgh from 1985, following in the wake of his old school friend James Mackintosh, and James’s sister Fiona (both Art College students). Encountering other players in the capital opened his eyes to other musical possibilities, and he persuaded James to take their music to the streets during the Edinburgh Festival in that first summer. As James headed back to college he left with his fiddle for a busking tour of Europe. In that trip he visited Vigo in Spain which inspired one of his most famous tunes Two Fifty to Vigo. On his return Angus joined James and Fiona’s boyfriend Malcolm Crosbie in experimental punk bluegrass combo Swamptrash. Also in the line up were Orcadian banjo player Garry Finlayson and bassist Conrad Molleson.

Swamptrash fitted the late 1980s Edinburgh music scene. It was a time anything could be thrown into the musical pot and musicians from all disciplines jammed together. By the time Swamptrash split up in 1990 it wasn’t unusual to find jazz musicians forming folk bands, trad musicians discovering improvisation and a young piper called Martyn Bennett hanging out in the city’s clubs.

As Swamptrash ran its course Angus, James and Malcolm were at a loose end and took themselves off to Spain for a spot of busking. By this time Angus had begun to embrace his father’s tradition once more. But now the music of the bagpipes and Gaelic song were peppered with a mixed bag of more modern influences: Captain Beefheart, the Fall, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Miles Davis among them.

Returning to Edinburgh the embryonic Shooglenifty found a regular table in Christie’s Bar in the West Port. They drew in Finlayson, Molleson and mandolin maestro Iain Macleod, and, as bigger and bigger crowds were drawn to their stirring tunes they moved down the road to a residency at Cowgate club La Belle Angele.

Shooglenifty’s sound was brewed in those early sessions – Iain’s precisely handled mandolin, Malcolm’s pumping guitar, Garry’s wayward banjo, Conrad’s grooving bass line, James’s tight as a drum dance beats. And soaring above was the, by turns, wild and serenading fiddle of Angus R Grant. They were a rock band. With a fiddle player as a front man.

And with Macleod, the Sundance to his Butch Cassidy, Angus brought the spirited coupling of fiddle and mandolin to the fore. When Iain left the band in 2002, the Shoogle front man formed another dynamic duo with Tasmanian mando maestro Luke Plumb, a warm and inspirational partnership that lasted for over a decade. When Plumb returned down under in 2014 his shoes were filled by Shoogle fan and razor-sharp stringsmith Ewan MacPherson, a pairing imbued with lashings of energetic empathy.

With Venus in Tweeds, Shooglenifty’s first album, the band took the folk world by the scruff of the neck, and they’ve kept on shaking ever since. Through seven studio albums, gigs to a few hundred in small Highland village halls, playing to tens of thousands in festival fields across the globe, and a couple of line-up changes, Angus was there, centre stage. He had never missed a gig until this July when illness forced his hand, but he returned to the stage to complete Shooglenifty’s run of August festival appearances.

In addition to the iconic first album’s title track Venus in Tweeds and Two Fifty to Vigo, Angus wrote some of Shooglenifty’s most memorable tunes including She’s In The Attic, Nordal Rhumba, Glenfinnan Dawn and Fitzroy Crossing, the haunting closing track to the band’s most recent release.

Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’s musical life over the past 26 years. He rarely played in other combos (the Funky String Band with Luke Plumb a notable exception). Latterly, he was happiest playing traditional music in pub sessions in the Highlands and around his adopted home of Edinburgh.

Somewhat bohemian in outlook, Angus was more rigorously unconventional on stage, leading audiences in a merry dance for over 30 years, and influencing a whole generation of musicians. With his rock n roll swagger, he made fiddle playing cool.

The Shoogle front man was a flighty and mercurial figure: he lived on the breeze, loving to disappear on walkabout (or, more often, hitchabout) in the Highlands, to pop up in far flung bars, and drop by for random visits with a legion of much loved friends. He eschewed modern technology, never owning a mobile phone and remained a stranger to social media. He lived without ties and responsibility, but was devoted to his music, his family and his fellow musicians. He was asked recently if he and the other Shoogles were like brothers after so long playing together. He said, “Worse: wives!”

Angus is survived by his father Aonghas, his mother Moira, sisters Deirdre and Fiona, niece Eva, and Shoogle wives Ewan MacPherson, Garry Finlayson, James Mackintosh, Malcolm Crosbie, Quee MacArthur and Kaela Rowan.

Angus Roderick Grant, musician and inspiration, born 14 February 1967; died 9 October 2016.

54 replies
  1. Jenny de Booy
    Jenny de Booy says:

    Angus brought joy to so many people through his music. I remember his sessions at The Shore Bar in the early 90s, as an Aussie working abroad, working the nights the jam session was on is a memory I treasure. Thank you Angus for the good times. I’ll dance a little jig in your honour.

    Reply
  2. Irene Kidd
    Irene Kidd says:

    Your tribute is perfect. Shooglenifty played a gig to support our charity in Fife and it was a pleasure to meet them all. My heart ❤️ goes out to them and Angus’s family. My own son Angus loves their music, and is a great fan of Angus. RIP ??

    Reply
  3. déirdre
    déirdre says:

    “he lived on the breeze” – so true. Where the best tunes are found. Rest in peace dear pal. Thanks for your stunning music, your wicked sense of humour and latterly, those wonderful Tuesday nights in the Reverie.
    The first time I really heard Angus and the band was at Café Graffiti. A Saturday summer’s night, me on the door. The Gypsies of Rajasthan on their magic carpets in the hall, already half an hour over time with no sign of them relinquishing the stage and a HUGE line of Shoogle ticketholders going round the bend outside! “Placate them while we wind up this gig” says Pete Simpson. “You’ll never move them, they’re playing in a trance!” says Frey Le Maistre, just home from a year’s meanderings in India. I stood on a table and promised… what I couldn’t be sure of!!! The Shoogles, needless to say, prevailed and a fantastic night’s music and dancing followed for those loyal fans who wouldn’t give up.

    Reply
  4. Elcio Oliveira
    Elcio Oliveira says:

    His music spread out all over the world…and hit the heart of a musician in Brazil, he was my fiddle hero, and the next time when I play one of his tunes it will be with a deep respect and a bit of sadness…RIP Angus your music still alive.

    Reply
  5. Martin Hadden
    Martin Hadden says:

    I am saddened and shocked in just about equal measures. Spent many’s a Monday night playing sessions with Angus here in Birnam a few years back – and would often bump into him around the village for several days afterwards! He was always such good company, always such fun to be around. I hadn’t heard that Angus had been taken ill. What a tragedy. Goodbye, Angus – you were definitely one of the good guys.

    Reply
  6. David
    David says:

    RIP Angus and condolences to family and band members.

    Very fond memories of a Shooglenifty gig in ballachuilish village hall circa 1995 when I lived a more bohemian live style too…less fond memories of the walk back to Kinlochleven

    Reply
  7. Lindsey Black
    Lindsey Black says:

    I first met Angus in the Swamptrash days, I say met but actually it was more in awe and I couldn’t possibly talk to him. The band I was in was lucky enough to get a support slot with them in the Preservation Hall and I had never seen a Scottish band quite like this who could bring the audience to a frenzy. It was a very positive experience. Fast forward a few years and I then started to go see them do their Thursday night sessions at La Belle….my memory says a Thursday but maybe someone else remembers the day. It was a highlight of the week. They did not use the stage but took some seats and placed them in the middle of the floor and we all sat around. As Shooglenifty was born, I still found myself in complete awe of Angus. He had a mystical aura around him and I was entranced watching him play. I never really got to know Angus until The Bevvy Sisters days where he would always be at our gigs if he could and was also very complimentary about our own penned songs and voices. He was kind and interested in what you had to say…when my brother Steve died of cancer, he and the band let me use one of his new tunes ‘Glenfinnan Dawn’ to play at my brother’s funeral before the album was released. This was such a lovely gesture. He knew my brother had been a Swamptrash/Shooglenifty fan. Angus was a very funny man with a quick mind as we all know but my absolute favourite story I always tell is when I went to see the Shoogles play in a Brewery in Edinburgh as part of the Fringe and Conrad decided to leap up onto the roof beams, hang upside down and play his bass, quite an impressive feat but then his guitar lead came undone and his bass came clattering to the ground and Angus just turned round and said to the audience “We’ll just put that down to youthful exuberance” and then carried on playing and swaying to the music. My favourite one-liner. RIP Angus, I will miss you x

    Reply
  8. Joe Shinkwin
    Joe Shinkwin says:

    Thankyou for this; my involvement with Shooglenifty stretches way bavk to their beginning, amnd have seen them many times live. TRUELY INSPIRATIONAL…

    Reply
  9. Alastair McIntosh
    Alastair McIntosh says:

    That is tragic news. I remember the time, mid 1990s, when Shooglenifty played a benefit gig for the Isle of Eigg community buyout. Spearheaded by Lesley Riddoch, we’d billed the event as “Not the Landowner’s Ball.” It was a pivot time in modern Scottish history, and Angus with his fiddle became the shaman, the cultural magician, who stirred the ancestral spirits from their rest and reconnected so many of us with what we’d long had stripped from our culture. I’m too deaf to hear the music these days, but that night remains forever in my mind as a moment when the underlying cultural carrying stream fed into the making of history, with Angus and Shooglenifty playing again on 12 June 1997 when Eigg finally entered (back) into community land holding. God rest his great, great musical soul.

    Reply
  10. John Willmott
    John Willmott says:

    Òh no. Saw him perform with Afro Celt Sound System at this year’s Celtic Connections. He’s a favourite of my kids too, who enjoyed seeing him and meeting up in sessions in Forres etc.

    Reply
  11. Jane Marie MacGillivray, Duncan, Iain, Mary, Michael, Andrew, Gregory and Annia.
    Jane Marie MacGillivray, Duncan, Iain, Mary, Michael, Andrew, Gregory and Annia. says:

    What a fantastic and noble man, sweet boy. We are going to miss you, your charm, and your wild fiddle playing, Angus jnr. You were always generous spirited, engaging and beautiful. I will miss your face so very much. God rest your precious soul.

    Reply
    • Jane Marie MacGillivray, Duncan, Iain, Mary, Michael, Andrew, Gregory and Annia.
      Jane Marie MacGillivray, Duncan, Iain, Mary, Michael, Andrew, Gregory and Annia. says:

      What a fantastic and noble man, sweet boy. We are going to miss you, your charm, and your wild fiddle playing, Angus jnr. You were always generous spirited, engaging and beautiful. I will miss your face so very much. God rest your precious soul.

      Reply
  12. Derek Smith
    Derek Smith says:

    So sad to hear this sad news. Angus will be missed by us in South Wales, but remembered fondly as one of the greats of Celtic music.

    Reply
  13. Cathy Jordan
    Cathy Jordan says:

    Oh god I’m so so sad to hear this news, I always loved meeting Angus and could sit and chat him for hours no matter how much time lapsed between meetings. I will miss my friend from the road. RIP Angus

    Reply
  14. AA
    AA says:

    As well as Angus’s amazing skills as a musician, he always struck me as a genuine character in the best possible way. I had the great pleasure of hearing him many times as he played in the Shore Bar in Leith over the years, sometimes when he was just jamming for the love of the music. From me as an admiring stranger, sincere condolences to everyone who was close to him.

    Reply
  15. MADDIE JENNINGS
    MADDIE JENNINGS says:

    I just found out, I am SO SO SAD, UPSET, ANGRY AS WELL……..What a SAD SAD time…
    I LOVED ANGUS like so many did, do, and always will.
    What he gave to us all, in many ways, music, spirit, and his humour…:)
    A BIG BIG BRIGHT STAR is in that sky now…I am sure if we look we can see, and even hear it…….XXXXX
    GOD BLESS YOU ANGUS, and ALL YOUR WONDERFUL MEMORIES……..:)

    Reply
  16. Sallie Porteous
    Sallie Porteous says:

    what a huge hole in the music,the Highlands, and personality places Angus leaves.
    We will all miss him and his especial way of being Angus and inspiring us all into dancing our hearts out, our socks off and to complete saturation in music and rhythm.

    Reply
  17. Lachie Mor MacDougall
    Lachie Mor MacDougall says:

    Does anyone remember band practice at what is now Achintee Inn, Glen Nevis ~Jahoo anyone ?when Angus was called Fungus. Swamptrash & then Shooglenifty I started broadcasting on Nevis Radio with the HOOLIE & Angus came by. Pulled a bottle of malt from his coat Pulled the stopper & jettisoned it. Sad loss.,

    Reply
  18. Lachie Mor MacDougall
    Lachie Mor MacDougall says:

    Angus appeared in the film Rob Roy with members of Capercaillie for the ceilidh scene. Most had to spend time in make-up but not Angus and after filming props and gear returned
    ‘Hey’ this is my beard shouted Angus

    Reply
  19. Lane
    Lane says:

    It should be mentioned that Angus taught fiddle in Edinburgh for several years in classes organized by the city, the Adult Learning Project. Many of us got to know him that way initially. I was so happy to learn practically nothing but pipes tunes from him! He will be missed by so many. I am so grateful to have known him, and to have had him as a teacher. Heartfelt condolences to his family and those closest to him. xox

    Reply
  20. Fi Craven
    Fi Craven says:

    A sad loss .. But a great legacy of music left.. Have enjoyed the Shoogs music for years.. My son and I always danced along.. He wassix when he first heard Whisky Kiss.. We can still both do the intro bird noises! He is 25 now.. Loving thoughts to your family Angus.. You will live on through your music.. X

    Reply
  21. Johnny Cunningham
    Johnny Cunningham says:

    Devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully talented musician and fine gentleman. A legend. RIP. To his family and friends, Kia Kaha from Aotearoa.

    Reply
  22. Heather Reid
    Heather Reid says:

    Have just heard the that Angus Grant, of Shoogilnifty has passed away.

    I started trying to play music as a child, first with the tin whistle and later the fiddle becasue when I was very young a friend of my parents called Micky played the whistle in our living room one night. I can recall the memory of watching his fingers move with speed and such seeming chaos across the tiny pipe of metal; this was like a beautiful dance and I couldn’t understand how it could possibly be the cause of the sweet, fast music my ears were hearing.

    Learning how to play music is hard and my struggle cut off in some ways my appreciation that music is actually magic.

    Two years ago I saw Angus Grant give the best live fiddle performance I have ever seen. His energy, charisma and extreme skill transported me back to feeling the wonder I felt as a child watching Micky play the whistle.

    I cannot comprehend how Angus’ hands were capable of the complexities that delivered the fast interlaced notes they did.
    He danced, laughed, played fiendishly fast with ease, eerily high with feeling and simply rocked out in such an unbelievably singular and cool way.

    After the gig I tried to talk to Angus, I saw he was standing a bit behind the bar and I just wanted to thank him for giving me such an experience, that felt honestly euphoric and like time travel, bringing my mind back to the sensation of wonder as a child. He was standing frozen still like a statue and I got very few words out of him. After spending so long moving, dancing on stage, playing like he did it seemed to me as though he had to be still a while for the simple sake of balance.

    I am very sad about his death and what a loss this is to everyone that appreciated what an absolute magician he was. Watching him play was one of the biggest inspirations to me as a fiddle player and I honestly don’t think I will ever understand how he was actually doing what he did without looking much at the fiddle and with only the normal amount of fingers.

    Reply
  23. A Scotsman abroad
    A Scotsman abroad says:

    Sad news. I saw Shooglenifty in Kent some 20 years ago, when I was discovering traditional music.

    Absolutely mesmerising live and A Whisky Kiss will be on the iPod today as a tribute.

    Rest in Peace Angus, you will be missed, you were one of those who brought traditional music to a new punk influenced audience. I seem to remember seeing Swamptrash as well back in the day, but my memory starts to fail me as I get old. See you up there big man.

    Reply
  24. Andrew Kerr
    Andrew Kerr says:

    our deepest sympathies from New Zealand…quite a few years ago now, Shoogle were down here in Wellington, New Zealand and Angus stayed on for a month or maybe more and jammed with our band, Jacky Tar. Many memorable tunes and times – he would say (as there was no rehearsals) “dont tell me the key of the song…it’ll ony confuse me!”
    was summer time in Wellington and Angus would frequently turn up for sound checks and gigs a few hours early to sit outside the pub to “take the temperature of the locals”
    Many more memories – suffice to say the world is a sadder place without the great man but blessed for having him around – from Andy, Nick, Manu, Grant, Mo – Jacky Tar

    Reply
  25. Simon H
    Simon H says:

    It was a pleasure and a joy to host Angus for our gigs at SaltaireLive, and deeply sad that we won’t get another chance. “A man without ties & responsibilities” seems to sum him up perfectly – except the responsibility to make sure he played a great gig whenever he got onstage, which i never saw him fail to deliver.

    I don’t know whether he lived in much peace, but RIP Angus – Simon

    Reply
  26. Bill Barry
    Bill Barry says:

    Will never forget the first time I saw them at Live at the Lemon Tree (Aberdeen) around 20 years ago or more – whatever they were on I wanted it! Tight rhythm with Angus moving every which way, almost menacing but with a such a merry sparkle.in his eyes. RIP Angus R

    Reply
  27. Adam
    Adam says:

    To Jane-Anne, all Shooglies
    I’m so very sad and shocked to hear of Angus’ passing away. I’d seen the Band playing in Comrie here twice and in Perth once and talked with Angus during the intermissions. I was so chuffed when they started one of their tours in Comrie.
    Chan fhois dhòmh carson Aonghas ­Òg a’chaochladh ach gòirtach mo crìdhe an diùgh.
    ‘S mòr, mo brònaich agus measach cho mhòr ris an teaghlach aig Aonghas Òg agus na h-ùile leis Shooglenifty, na còmhlanan eile aig Aonghas agus an t-sluagh cò tha s-aithne Aonghas Òg Grannd.
    Àdhamh, Comrie.
    I don’t know why Angus passed from us but I’m heart-sore today.
    My sorrows and respect to Angus’ family and all with Shooglenifty, the other bands at Angus and all who knew Angus R Grant.
    Adam, Comrie.

    Reply
  28. Himanshi
    Himanshi says:

    What a coincidence it is…last year the same time at Jodhpur RIFF I got a chance to meet him. I got to know about the music band shooglenifty from Scotland for the first time in Jodhpur music festival itself. And from then and now have been continuously following them. Especially Him…next level energy he had. I danced to his beats like a mad girl…loved every bit of it. The way he was interacting to the audience from the stage was maddening. Truly a performer he was. After the festival was over I told my frnds I want to meet him for sure. And ran from Mehrangarh fort courtyard to the place where all the musicians were chilling and meeting people. Finally I met him huged him and told him that “SIR YOU ARE AWESOME” . Told him about how amazing he is and his music. Such inspirational n passionate. I had my fan girl moment.
    .
    .
    Few minutes back was Just going through my facebook page and read about the sad demise of Sir Angus Grant.
    R.I.P Sir Angus Grant??
    I am sure that he’s already entertaining people in heaven.

    Reply
  29. Jenny Grant Jones
    Jenny Grant Jones says:

    I remenber Angus in the early 80’s, spoke to him briefly and realised then he was an “old soul” and was going to shine bright. Good luck in the next life Angus, they will be lucky to know you, as we were. Stand Fast Craigellachie.

    Reply
  30. Me
    Me says:

    He once was lent a bag of expensive designer clothes by a fashion conscious Spanish friend after an airline ‘lost’ his luggage. I will never forget the expression of puzzlement on his face as he looked through the clothes and the relief that it was his clothes that had gone missing not his clothes. I realised that this was someone who had his priorities right!

    Reply
  31. Alistair Murdoch
    Alistair Murdoch says:

    Condolences and best wishes to all Angus’s nearest and dearest. Sad times ?
    A talented player and a lovely human being. Many fond memories of gigs around the globe in his company

    Reply
  32. Dave Rodger
    Dave Rodger says:

    We’re at a “We Banjo 3” gig tonight in Saltaire, West Yorkshire and they are playing all Shooglenifty tunes in the intervals in respect of Angus and we’re all dancing for him xx Whiskey Kiss !!!!!!!!! Xxxxxx

    Reply
  33. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    I stumbled across your band from an Australian singers (Shane Howard form Goanna) Twitter.. Since then I’ve read a bit on Angus, and listened to numerous YouTube vids… The band as a whole – stunning sound! Just beautiful.

    Angus… This was a man who was loving life, and watchin him on stage, was magical! You could see how he owned it and was completely in the moment!

    The complete paragraph beginning with “The Shoogle front man was a flighty and mercurial figure” – makes me wish I was more like him or at least knew the man.
    Good luck to the rest of the band.

    RIP Angus.

    Reply
  34. Jim Sutherland
    Jim Sutherland says:

    Angus

    I feel lucky to have known Angus Grant.
    I cut my producers teeth on the first three Shooglenifty albums. These were heady days and I can safely say that Angus was one of the most free spirited individuals I have met. Not a man of massive ego but a great performer and an open minded musician. There was a wildness to his playing unlike any other but there was also an emotional being in Angus that could deliver an air that would tear the heart out of you. I lived for the great sessions in the shore bar from which I lived around the corner for a while. I hardly missed a night there in those days. Angus, a man economical with words, had a wry sense of humour and a sharp mind. I can’t say I ever really got to know him properly in all those years, however I can so easily recall his enigmatic presence an feel it now as I write this.

    I feel for the family that survive him and for his band mates in the shoogles past and present.

    This is a sad day indeed.

    Reply
  35. Babette
    Babette says:

    What a beautiful person, what an awe-inspiring performer.
    Thank you for the photographs and I’m so so sorry that he’s gone.
    The dawn drone chorus and the choir of “Wow, that’s beautiful…” on Eigg was a highlight of my year.
    I will miss him terribly, I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.
    All my love love love….

    Reply
  36. Joe Reilly
    Joe Reilly says:

    My condolences to Angus’s family and to all members of Shooglenifty. I had the great pleasure of working with Angus and the band several times here in Ottawa Canada. The group always put on an amazing show and lit up whatever location they are playing at. It was always interesting to see how long it would be before Angus shed his shirt! He was certainly the visual focal point and of course an amazing musical powerhouse in the band. His spirit and energy were infectious and I’m sure will be missed most by his family and bandmates.

    Joe Reilly

    Reply
  37. Cheryl Haxen
    Cheryl Haxen says:

    I am sitting here on NewYears eve in a venue at Woodford folk festival, Quènsland,Australia. On the stage Luke Plumb who is mentioned in relation to Shooglenifty,is playing and i am thinking of the loss of Angus with such sadness but am grateful for the two times I saw him perform here. What joy and excitement he created.

    Reply

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