Musician, Guitarist, Singer/Songwriter, Composer, Cabaret Comedic Entertainer, Record Producer, Film Maker, Writer, Archivist and Folk Music/Social Historian.
A Short History.
I was born in Glasgow and attended various schools finally finishing my education at St. Thomas Aquinas Senior Secondary School which I left in July of 1962 for my first job as a butcher’s apprentice and delivery boy. Riding a huge old fashioned bike with a large basket on the front and loving every minute of the euphoric, liberating feeling it gave me sailing along with the wind in my hair, cycling the city streets in the fresh air after being confined for the past few years in dull and dreary school rooms. Now I felt I was a man and a worthwhile member of society contributing as I was to the family purse with my paid employment. One particular incident in this part of my life is worth mentioning here and that was when returning to the shop on my bike after making my home deliveries, I turned onto the main road from a side street and was amazed to find the pavements lined with people waving small Union Jack flags many of whom began laughing and cheering me as I rode past them in bewilderment and wonder. Suddenly I was roughly seized by a huge policeman and the bike and myself were bundled in to one side just as a huge black limousine sailed past with a smartly dressed couple inside who were gaily waving and smiling at the assembled throng! It was only The Queen and Prince Philip on their way to their next function after opening the new Clyde Tunnel! I still swear to this day that The Queen herself caught my eye and smiled just at me which is why I remain unabashed to claim that my delivery service had Royal Approval! Happy, carefree, youthful days!
In 1963, encouraged and sponsored by my Master Tradesman father, I began an apprenticeship in the building trade as a Tile-Fixer employed with Youdens, a Glasgow firm, working alongside my father on occasions. However I found no real satisfaction in this line of work and left after a few years to pursue my dreams of becoming an engineer and working with aircraft.
I followed my elder brother Tony into the R.A.F. in 1965 and after Trade Training at R.A.F. St. Athens in South Wales I qualified as an Aircraft Mechanic (Airframes) with the rank of L.A.C. (Leading Aircraftsman) and was posted to R.A.F. Leuchars in Fife, Scotland rising through the ranks by my own abilities and studying to become, first S.A.C. (Senior Aircraftsman) Aircraft Mechanic (Airframes) then, after even more intensive studying, sitting the required exams to qualify as an Aircraft Fitter (Airframes) with the rank of J.T. (Junior Technician). This astonishing feat was achieved in just 18 months from enlistment, making me the first ever mechanic to gain this achievement at Station level without resorting to the six month long training course held at R.A.F. St. Athens. Initially I was employed in the Station Hydraulic Bay servicing aircraft wheels, brakes and tyres. However when I was seconded to 74 Squadron and detached with them to R.A.F. Akrotiri in Cyprus for a three month tour of duty. Now I was physically involved in servicing, changing the wheels, tyres and brakes on the squadron’s fabled Lightning Mk6 Jet Fighters and this experience woke a longing in me to be permanently involved in this much more exciting and satisfying work. The lure of working on the aircraft handling areas, the so-called aprons, and working hands-on with the aircraft became more and more irresistible.
As I gained advancement in rank I sought a position which would bring me into much closer contact with aircraft and applied for a posting as a mechanic on a Squadron, any Squadron! I was duly accepted by the Adjutant of 228 O.C.U. Squadron (Operational Conversion Unit). Here I worked on routine first line servicing of the Gloster Javelins which the Operational Conversion Unit used to convert piston prop pilots onto jet fighters.
When I became an Aircraft Fitter (Airframes) I applied to join the illustrious 74 (Tiger) Squadron and was delighted to be accepted. I served with this historical squadron under Wing Commander Ken Goodwin, first at Leuchars in Scotland then in Singapore at R.A.F. Tengah. Now I was working in the so-called Second Line Servicing which involved much more major engineering in the repairing and servicing of the highly exciting and amazing English Electric Lightning MK6 jet fighters. I was delighted to be commended with a framed certificate from B.A.C., English Electric’s successors, for an ‘in-the-field’ custom repair on the spine of a jet which had had been damaged after being
arrested by the runway crash barrier following a brake parachute failure.
When I was repatriated to England in 1969 I was then posted to, and served all over England with, 32 M.U. (Maintenance Unit), based at R.A.F. Bicester, near Oxford. We were a major repair and salvage speciality team who worked independently out from their base onto various Camps and Station tackling the larger, more difficult, repairs that were outside the range and skills of the home Station’s engineers.
During my time with the R.A.F. I got more and more interested and involved in Folk Music and learned to accompany myself on guitar, visiting folk clubs to contribute and learn wherever and whenever an opportunity presented itself and through this exposure and those experiences my skills and repertoire grew exponentially.
After being demobbed in 1970 I moved to Cornwall and was employed as an aircraft engineer with Airworks who sub-contracted services to the R.A.F. I was living in a billet on the base at R.A.F. St. Mawgan, near Newquay, working with Canberra bomber airplanes and associated target towing equipment. From here I began to visit the fabled Folk Cottage which had recently moved from Mitchell to Rose, near Perranporth.
My fascination and passion for Folk Music in all its many forms developed and grew as did my musical abilities and I soon I was invited to become Resident Singer at many of the West Country Folk Clubs further developing my skills thanks in no small part to the lessons, influences and advice imparted with patient generosity by the enormous wealth and talents of the nationally known and respected ‘names’ who came to perform and often stay over for a few days in the Summer months. These were the Professional Folk Musicians and Artists such as Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, Wizz Jones, Clive Palmer, Noel Murphy, Alex Atterson, Tony Capstick, Derek Brimstone, Mike Silver, Allan Taylor, Barry Dransfield and many, many more, who toured folk clubs around the country performing their many varied and eclectic arts. I formed deep and lasting friendships with many of these generous and gifted folk.
When I left Airworks somewhat abruptly after an unfortunate altercation with senior management, I also lost my accommodation on the base and so spent some months living in a tent on a Caravan Club site in St. Columb Major in extremely desperate financial straits until I finally found employment and crucially, a place to live, with John & Jill Battensby and their family at Perranwell Station near Truro. I worked sporadically with John as a landscape gardener and also at a variety of other jobs including, TV aerial erector, van driver, general labourer etc., and auxiliary nurse which I liked so much that I applied to and was accepted by Treliske School of Nursing in 1975 to train and qualify as a professional nurse and worked within the N.H.S. for many happy years.
My love of all sorts of Folk Music continued though now I also branched out into experimenting with Folk Rock influenced by bands such as Steeleye Span, Five Hand Reel and Fairport Convention. Several collaborations ensued and I joined and fronted a few local RnB bands: Creepin’ Jane, Sensible Shoes and lastly Big Dick and The Deviants, all of whom became hugely popular on the local pub and club circuits.
Sound Logic Studios.
When I married and settled down to begin a family I left nursing to open, operate and manage an Audio Recording Studio with the help of a Government Incentive Scheme and a loan from The Royal British Legion! I acquired and began renting premises on a local mushroom farm near my home in Camborne. This was a complex project; making the rooms ready with wiring, sound proofing etc., and buying the specialised equipment required for such work. Once the building was ready and fully equipped Sound Logic Studios was brought into existence and I began accepting commissions from clients and the business grew slowly but steadily. I augmented my income from these endeavours with entertaining in pubs and clubs as a comedic musician/entertainer. A downturn in the economy eventually and sadly put paid to this venture though, undaunted, I have continued to provide this recording resource from my smaller, home based, and now fully digital 24 track Studio, to local musicians and from here I have also produced more than few records, including Niall Timmins, ‘Dark Moon Rising’ – Larry Law & Fiddler Jennings, ‘To Air Is Humane’ – Hunter’s Moon – ‘Ripe & Bearded’ – Thorn & Roses, ‘Across The Bridge’ – and, perhaps the most notable of these, Noel Murphy’s retrospective double CD ‘The Quality Of Murphy’ in 2006/7. There are also some live recordings of my performances with other artists which can be found listed elsewhere on this site.
My musical career took a sudden and wholly unexpected upturn after I deputised for some friends in a hotel cabaret gig. The owners liked me so much they hired me immediately and put the word out that I was a ‘first class act’ so I became a very successful cabaret comedian/entertainer in hotels & clubs all over the South West and beyond all year round.
Gradually after more than five years of performing sometimes 6 nights a week in summer seasons I let things relax and began to collaborate with old friends as an outlet for my unused musical skills so very soon I was happily and productively involved in an acoustic trio: ‘Bisquitry’ with Adrian O’Reilly and Dick Reynolds who performed in folk clubs, pubs and clubs and festivals. This was disbanded after 18 months and I then formed ‘Hand Picked’ again with Adrian O’Reilly and bass player John Martin.
Lately I have also developed a film production facility: Whole-In-One Productions as part of my Sound Logic Studios and to date have produced several Music Videos of myself and others which can be viewed on my YouTube page and I have also made six full length films. The first of these was produced by me in 1980/1 for P.H.A.B. using real 16mm film stock and on this I learned the skills required for the process of literally physical cutting and pasting film, recording and dubbing audio for soundtracks and was kindly given complete use of The Video Editing Suite facilities at Cornwall College, Camborne free of charge for this project.
The second film was produced in the digital domain. This is the professional full length DVD product: ‘Niall Timmins, A Celebration Of His Life And His Arts’ filmed by myself and Marty Fitzpatrick copies of which can be still be obtained through this website. Other full length DVD releases have followed and details of these are listed under “Shop” on the Home Page.