Mic considers himself doubly blessed at being brought up among a beautiful mixture of both Scottish and Irish cultures having Irish parents but being born in Glasgow, where the family had relocated from Belfast while searching for work, and living among the Scots. His fascination with folk song and music began around the mid fifties when his Irish relatives visited Glasgow and he was exposed to the great expansive resource of Irish traditional songs and stories during the family parties and get-togethers. His Uncle Samuel was an exceptionally gifted singer with a beautiful tenor voice which he used to great effect and Mic very soon learned a large number of interesting songs from him. Frequent trips to Belfast during school holidays and further exposure to the culture simply fed and nurtured his growing passion. His interest grew and developed during the folk boom of the 1960s and was augmented whilst mixing with American, Australian, Canadian, German, French and New Zealand forces around the world while he served in the R.A.F. In this way he gathered songs from many different cultures though his abiding passion however was for the songs of the Scots, Irish and English tradition, especially ballads.
Working with Airworks, an Aviation Services Company, as a civilian aircraft engineer at R.A.F. St. Mawgan, near Newquay, Mic began to visit the famous old Folk Cottage which had relocated from Mitchell, near Truro, to Rose, near Perranporth. Here he was quickly accepted by this very friendly, open hearted community along with his old friend Joe Lappin who was also employed by the same aviation company as Mic, as a duo called ‘Poteen’ whose repertoire was mostly gleaned and copied from the Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners though there were some gentler songs from the writings of the celebrated Scottish Bard, Rabbie Burns too. Some non-folk club bookings were accrued by Poteen, in Village Halls, from Women’s Groups, Working Men’s Clubs and such and, if the resulting gigs were not always strictly in line with their declared folk ethnicity and roots, they did seem to be enjoyed with evident delight by all those who came and attended their performances, enchanted by Joe’s forthright and rumbustious style and Mic’s all too often highly irreverent and sometimes inappropriate ‘comedy’. To say that they enjoyed themselves – and immensely too – would be a superfluous statement in the extreme. Joe however lacked the passion and commitment of Mic for the collaboration so, though they soon parted as musical collaborators, they remained staunch and life-long loyal friends.
Mic then became one of the club’s many so-called ‘itinerant’ singers, i.e. those performers who turned up on their travels from other places or perhaps just visiting during a holiday and those enthusiastic amateurs who attended regularly, but as time progressed and his skills developed, he graduated to Resident Singer i.e. one who was invited to perform at every club night and often functioned as M.C. when occasion demanded. John the Fish was one such Folk Cottage Resident and he actively encouraged Mic to develop his skills with good advice and assistance at every turn. These performers also got paid – just a small sum usually and only ever when spare money was available. Often the organisers, John Battensby, John Sleep and Ella Knight, among others, invested their own money to keep things going and it wasn’t unknown for the Professional Guest Artist to take less than the agreed fee if things were tight financially.
Mic’s weekly appearances at Rose meant mingling with the nationally known and professional ‘name’ acts who toured the National circuit performing in all the established folk clubs. Artists such as Martin Carthy, Alex Atterson, Tony Capstick, Noel Murphy, Clive Palmer, Derek Brimstone, Barry Dransfield, Ralph McTell, Wizz Jones, Ron Gleeson, Allan Taylor and many, many more. These artists not only gave Mic advice on what songs he might consider for his repertoire, songs they were certain would suit his vocal range, abilities and timbre, they also shared their musical skills too and, crucially, they encouraged Mic to believe in himself and his talents enough to get out onto the circuit and tour himself. By now he was also one of the Resident Artist at Pipers Folk Club with Brenda Wootton and John the Fish and as his popularity grew he was soon invited to become a Resident Artist at most other Cornish clubs such as Padstow and St. Columb.
In 1972, while living with John & Jill Battensby at Perranwell Station and working (sporadically) as a labourer for John, Mic formed another duo; this time with singer and guitarist Richard ‘Dick’ Reynolds who were called, among other things: Club Foot – Arkadus – Warm Front. They showed great promise, a publicity photo shoot out on the windswept moors of West Penwith even took place early one very cold, windy and wet morning but, in spite of the promise shown, the photo shoot and all the good intentions, they didn’t stay long together, though neither can tell you why – even to this day!
Later in the same year Mic moved into a winter let cottage with his partner Joy and began writing his own songs and teaching guitar at night school in Further Education classes in Helston School during the quieter times. He was invited to set up and run a Folk Club in the Telestar Café near to Goonhilly Downs and this did quite well for a time before the owners decided they couldn’t afford it anymore and it closed.
Mic began touring in 1973/74 where he appeared in folk clubs ranging from Falmouth to Fort William and Loughborough to London and around this time he began to experiment with arranging music and songs, in particular using modal tunings and unusual chordings to enhance and empathise with the emotion of the story contained in the song lyrics. Taking standard folk songs and tweaking and bending them into more compelling and interesting, he claims, textural creations.
In 1974/5 he joined with Sue Bushnell and John Visick to form Creepin’ Jane, a light acoustic/electric folk rock trio and in this group he learned to play some more instruments taking on playing bass, mandolin and banjo. After around a year of gigging with the band in pubs and clubs, he left the group to return to solo performing.
In the late 70s to the early 80s he was touring the UK and in Europe as a Folk Singer with a side line in humorous stories and gags. He was invited to perform as a Guest Artist at most of the major Cornish Festivals and formed a relaxed, loose and very informal collaboration with Larry Law. They appeared together at many Festivals and were also considered good enough to be invited to perform on the Main Stage at the world renowned Cambridge Folk Festival. His first publishing deal for an L.P. Folk Recording was commissioned by Willy Schwenken of Onsabruck and subsequently: ‘I Know My Love.’ was recorded on a TEAC 4 Track Tape Machine at MacTrax, Mic’s first home based personal recording studio with some musical assistance from John Visick, Larry Law and Niall Timmins. Contractual problems in Germany however meant the LP was not released there and it was eventually shelved. During the recording of this album Mic developed his skills further to include acoustic bouzouki and also acquired one of the newer digital MIDI keyboards which gave him access to a huge range of ethnic instrument sounds.
As activity on the Cornish Folk Scene gradually but progressively diminished Mic found fewer and fewer outlets for his folk music and more demand for him as a pub and club entertainer. Larry’s work had taken him to live in Plymouth and so he was not as readily available as before plus had joined with Chris Maskell, Pete Condor and Fiddler Jennings as: ‘Slip Knot’, a bluegrass and Traditional Folk music group. So Mic branched off into the folk rock genre, influenced by Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. He began to seek collaborations with sympathetic like-minded musicians and to experiment with musical arrangements predominantly folk rock and other similar acoustic genres. This led to the first of his involvements in other bands playing other types of music.