Warp & Weft – Kilbarchan Woven in Story & Song

Begun as a dream to bring alive and celebrate the traditions and history of the small handloom weaving Renfrewshire village of Kilbarchan through story, song and music, it was amazing to see it become a reality at the end of 2015.

Guest blog by Anne Pitcher

Begun as a dream to bring alive and celebrate the traditions and history of the small handloom weaving Renfrewshire village of Kilbarchan through story, song and music, it was amazing to see it become a reality at the end of 2015. Having lived half my life in the old Kilbarchan prison and police station built in 1833, I wanted others to encounter this remarkable place too. I also wanted to embark on a personal journey to develop my skills in storytelling – in researching, delivering workshops and producing a performance which told the story of Kilbarchan, including talented locals, involving the younger and the older members of the community.

A few years ago I had talked to storyteller, singer songwriter Ewan McVicar about my idea and he said if I ever wanted to go ahead with it, he would help me. For his father was a “Habbie” – as all folks born and bred in the village are named after Kilbarchan’s 16th piper Habbie Simpson. True to his word Ewan did indeed inspire and help and support me throughout and once we had the go ahead receiving a small TASGADH grant in August ”Warp & Weft – Kilbarchan Woven in Story & Song” began.

I was to find out over the next three months how very demanding and stretching and exhilarating this would be. We decided that there would be a performance which would be part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival on 24th October in the newly opened Performing Arts Centre in the heart of the village. Involving members of Kilbarchan Pipe Band in playing the type of tunes as part of the performance that Habbie Simpson might have played brought an extra dimension to what I was learning. When I discovered that there was actually a “Lilias Day Song” written and performed in 1933, as part of Kilbarchan’s annual festival, I asked “Village Voices” a newly formed local choir to sing this song on the night, 82 years after it was last sung.

I wanted to engage, enthuse and empower Kilbarchan Primary School pupils to embrace the story of where they lived, tying in with the “Dig It 2015” where communities were being encouraged “To unearth a treasure-trove of stories and legends in their community or local area” through story, music and song. So for a month and a half workshops were held in Kilbarchan Primary School, working with one class, P5/6, developing both oral storytelling to retell one of Kilbarchan’s stories run by myself and song writing run by Ewan. Their contributions were part of the performance. This was a wonderful, exhilarating and exciting six weeks resulting in one class totally on fire with enthusiasm and thrilled with their newly acquired oral storytelling skills thanks to my workshops and empowered to create songs thanks to Ewan. Thanks must go to the Head Teacher LizSommerville and class teachers Fiona Crawford and Lynn Kerr for enabling this to be successful.

The performance was hailed as a great success by locals, many of whom contributed to the stories, music and song on the evening. Two off shoots that arose were a mini performance of “Warp & Weft” on November 9th to the whole of Kilbarchan Primary School part of “Dig It! 2015” – with Primary 5/6 pupils playing a role throughout.

Lowland and Borders Pipers’ Society Collogue, Peebles 7th November
I could never have known that an offshoot would be to re-tell Habbie Simpson’s story at the Lowland & Borders Pipers Society Collogue in Peebles with Ewan and piper Pete Stewart in November.

In 2005 Pete drew extensively from Robert Sempill’s “The Life and Death of the piper of Kilbarchan” in his book “The Day It Daws – The Lowland Scots Bagpipe and its Music 1400-1715”. For this event Pete researched the tunes Habbie would have played and played them, wearing Habbie’s costume from the Lilias Day historic parade. Peebles bagpipe making genius Julian Goodacre, crafted for Pete authentic Habbie bagpipes to make the whole event historically and musically accurate.

Anne gave a snapshot of Kilbarchan and Habbie’s place in village life in the past and present and Ewan took the gathered members through the Elegy with Pete playing his pipes. There was a good bit of audience participation with them singing P5/6’s from Kilbarchan Primary School’s funny “Lilias Day” song which produced great hilarity!

From this, Lilias Day Committee are hoping, if funding becomes available, to have a week of piping from some of Scotland’s best pipers in the Performing Arts Centre prior to June 4th with myself and Ewan and “Habbie Simpson” Derek Thompson kicking off the week with story, music and song, and ending with a Ceilidh on June 4th to round it off. What more will come from this project I don’t know but it will be exciting and I’m looking forward to new challenges in 2016!

Ewan McVicar created a website to reflect what happened during the whole project. Please go to You can also see on YouTube the video recording the stage manager took on October 24th.

Anne Pitcher is a Storyteller. You can find out more about her through her website contact her through