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Obit: Alistair Hulett (1951-2010)

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GUEST,Onny 24 Jan 10 - 08:54 AM
Dennis the Elder 24 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 24 Jan 10 - 01:29 PM
Declan 24 Jan 10 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,999 24 Jan 10 - 07:29 PM
Susanne (skw) 24 Jan 10 - 08:12 PM
GUEST,Gerry 24 Jan 10 - 08:15 PM
GUEST,ifor 25 Jan 10 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,Gordeanna McCulloch 25 Jan 10 - 04:56 PM
akenaton 25 Jan 10 - 06:58 PM
GUEST,Onny 26 Jan 10 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Onny 28 Jan 10 - 06:07 AM
akenaton 28 Jan 10 - 02:03 PM
GUEST,EKanne 28 Jan 10 - 04:35 PM
oggie 28 Jan 10 - 04:59 PM
GUEST,Andymac 28 Jan 10 - 05:21 PM
BusyBee Paul 28 Jan 10 - 05:27 PM
GUEST,Onny 28 Jan 10 - 05:36 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 28 Jan 10 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,999 28 Jan 10 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Tom 28 Jan 10 - 05:51 PM
SylviaN 28 Jan 10 - 06:13 PM
treewind 28 Jan 10 - 06:37 PM
JennieG 28 Jan 10 - 06:50 PM
GUEST,Gerry 28 Jan 10 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,graham& alexis 28 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM
Dennis the Elder 28 Jan 10 - 08:13 PM
GUEST 28 Jan 10 - 10:52 PM
GUEST,Helen Rowe. Brisbane, Australia. 28 Jan 10 - 11:27 PM
cloudstreet 28 Jan 10 - 11:48 PM
Sandra in Sydney 28 Jan 10 - 11:57 PM
rich-joy 29 Jan 10 - 02:51 AM
GUEST,Natalie Gould 29 Jan 10 - 04:51 AM
GUEST,Niamh Parsons 29 Jan 10 - 04:58 AM
freda underhill 29 Jan 10 - 06:08 AM
Cuilionn 29 Jan 10 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Brian Preston 29 Jan 10 - 09:21 AM
henryclem 29 Jan 10 - 09:22 AM
alex s 29 Jan 10 - 09:29 AM
GUEST,jimmy 29 Jan 10 - 10:25 AM
RoyH (Burl) 29 Jan 10 - 10:31 AM
Murray MacLeod 29 Jan 10 - 10:57 AM
MoorleyMan 29 Jan 10 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Lonnie 29 Jan 10 - 12:15 PM
HipflaskAndy 29 Jan 10 - 01:07 PM
akenaton 29 Jan 10 - 02:19 PM
Mick Tems 29 Jan 10 - 02:27 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 29 Jan 10 - 03:06 PM
GerryMc 29 Jan 10 - 05:16 PM
rich-joy 29 Jan 10 - 06:45 PM
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Subject: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,Onny
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 08:54 AM

From Fatima.

From Fatima:

Dear Friends
You may not have heard the news, so I'd like to share with you that Alistair has been critically ill in hospital here in Glasgow for the last three weeks. He's suffering from liver failure and is in urgent need of an organ transplant.
Until now he hasn't wanted people to know but as the news has started to spread, already the messages of hope and encouragement are pouring in from friends and fans alike. This is proving to be really beneficial for Alistair's spirits and we know that if he is to beat this dreadful illness he needs to be in as positive a frame of mind as possible. If you feel like sending him an email message, please write to alistair.hulett@gmail.com, as I have access to his account and can print out the emails for him. If you prefer to send a card or letter, his address is:
Alistair Hulett
Ward 26a
Southern General Hospital
1345 Govan Road
Glasgow G51 4TF


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM

Hi Fatina,
I am very sorry to hear of Alistairs illness and hope all goes well. Lets hope that a suitable liver is found for him.
I managed to see and hear him on Otley, West Yorkshire and in Adelaide and found him both interesting and entertaining with a wide variety of songs, a man of conviction and one who empathises with those who need and deserve help.
He has earned recovery and we need him.
Please give him my sincere regards
Dennis


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 01:29 PM

Have passed the message on and written to Ally.

This is a REAL bummer considering it was Ally who inspired, initiated and guided the SwarbAid project, which raised a boatload of dosh for Dave when he was down. It started as a cheer-up gesture before Dave knew he was getting a lung+heart transplant - which was all over before the last of the cash came rolling in.

This hits home for three reasons. First Ally is an absolutely wonderful chap, a truly great writer, player and singer, with more integrity in his little finger than the rest of us have in all our houses. Second, I've had a few problems in the liver areas myself, and third, only last week we went to see the Imagined Village at the Leeds Irish Centre. It was the first time we'd been since the biggest and best of our SwarbAid gigs, and we were saying how well it had all turned out for Swarb.

And now here's Ally in this situation. Not fair.

Raise your glasses (water only please) in recognition of one of Scotland's finest.

Ally - this is just a blip. 'I wish I could give someone else me liver - on a Monday morning' (Tawney). I'd offer you mine but it's not much better than yours!

love to Fatima too

Tom

Alistair Hulett


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: Declan
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 07:26 PM

Very saad to hear this.

Lets all hope for a speedy recovery.


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,999
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 07:29 PM

I e-mailed him about a half hour ago. He's one of my friends on Myspace. Sorry to hear this, but thank you for posting, Fatima.


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 08:12 PM

Sad news, but I wish him the luck and determination needed to get through this. Keeping my fingers crossed!


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 08:15 PM

I've sent email to my friends here in Sydney, I'm sure they will all express their concerns. I've also sent him my best wishes.


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,ifor
Date: 25 Jan 10 - 03:20 PM

get well soon Alistair!
A wonderful singer, great songwriter and a fabulous guitarist...and much ,much more!
ifor


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,Gordeanna McCulloch
Date: 25 Jan 10 - 04:56 PM

One of the most warm and genuine people I have ever met. I wish you all my very best Ally and hope that you're up, out and back singing as soon as is possible.


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: akenaton
Date: 25 Jan 10 - 06:58 PM

Bugger it! Ah suppose it'll need tae be auld Ewan himsel' then.

Best wishes Alastair, we're aw rootin' for ye....up in the hielans!!


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett.
From: GUEST,Onny
Date: 26 Jan 10 - 11:20 AM

Perhaps a timely reminder about getting yourself on the organ donor register won't go amiss.

Demand still vastly outstrips supply.


http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt/default.jsp

Onny


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett - critical illness (January 2010)
From: GUEST,Onny
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 06:07 AM

Thanks to whoever altered the thread title.

Onny


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett - critical illness (January 2010)
From: akenaton
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 02:03 PM

So very sorry to hear the latest news on Alastair's illness

For American friends who may not know of Alastair, one of Scotlands finest and most committed singer/songwriters is seriously ill.

His work and committment can be seen on you tube under his own name or with "roaring jack". I hope you will all join us Scots in wishing Alastair strength to fight and win

Alastair has fought for workers and the dispossessed all his life,so
now is the time to return a small part of the favour in thoughts and prayers.

Best wishes to Ali and Fatima!


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Subject: RIP Alistair Hulett
From: GUEST,EKanne
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 04:35 PM

So sorry to intimate that Alistair has passed away tonight, according to a posting on Footstompin site at 20.18pm (UK time).
A passionate advocate for the dispossessed and the disadvantaged, Alistair will be sadly missed.


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Subject: RE: Alistair Hulett-critical illness -OBIT 28 Jan 2010
From: oggie
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 04:59 PM

Unfortunately confirmed from another source.

A great talent who will be sadly missed.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Andymac
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:21 PM

I just read this on footstompin while on my way home from canada. I don't want to repeat a post but I'm to stunned to comment articulately. We've lost a great voice and great fighter for the underclass...all too soon..

RIP Ali


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: BusyBee Paul
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:27 PM

The Cons Club session at Otley Folk Festival will not be the same.

Sad news.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Onny
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:36 PM

A bonnie fechter, he won't be forgotten.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:45 PM

Indeed not. A man I'll always be proud to have known.

God Speed big fella

Tom


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,999
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:48 PM

I am sorry. I e-mail him and mentioned that any friend of Tom Bliss's was a friend of mine. I am sorry for your collective loss.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:51 PM

This is your man


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: SylviaN
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 06:13 PM

Really sorry to hear this - a great man with a good heart.

Our condolences to Fatima and his family.

Sylvia and Keith


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: treewind
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 06:37 PM

Very sad to hear this. A fine fellow who I never met, but was in frequent email contact with over the Swarbaid project - his enthusiasm was infectious and I'm sorry that we'll never meet now.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: JennieG
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 06:50 PM

So sorry to hear this. Several years ago Alistair performed at a thank-you party for volunteers at the Oz National Folk Festival - he gave generously of his time, and still remember his performance. While that wasn't the only time I saw him it's the one I remember the best.

Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 07:03 PM

Kate Delaney asked me to share the following message. Kate and her late husband Gordon McIntyre were among the first to record Alistair's songs and to bring his work to the attention of Australians.

"Fatima rang me from Scotland this morning and sadly Alistair had died a couple of hours before - I think about 6.30 am our time. It turned out he had cancer and under the circumstamces his death was very sudden. She told me that there will be a memorial in Sydney in a couple of months or so - she will most likely come here for it. She will also, obviously, be sending out an email.

"Needless to say I'm devastated by the news - Gordon had known him since he was 19 and he was very much a part of our lives - as I know he was for many others in Australia and worldwide.He, his music and his passion for social justice will be sorely missed."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,graham& alexis
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM

ditto to all above sentiments. ally will be missed by us all as a consistant fighter for the rights of people.. and a really great writer, singer and interpreter of songs. i well remember his gigs here in ayrshire and will treasure the memories.

g&a

sadly missed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 08:13 PM

Goodbye Alistair, your wisdom increased my understanding of life and its complications.
Your departing leaves me sad, but, thankful that I had the honour of meeting you.

Dennis


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 10:52 PM

We share in everybody's sadness. We met Alistair in 2003 in Scotland and then again when he came to tour here in Brisbane (Australia) on several occasions. His songs were a great homage to working-class people and reflected his own humility and sensitivity as well as a lovely feel for a good tune. May his songs and memory live on for the rest of us.
Sue and Lachlan


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Helen Rowe. Brisbane, Australia.
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 11:27 PM

I am having trouble believing that he has gone. I thought that Alistair would live forever, like his songs. He will not be forgotten by all of us who sing his songs and pay homage to a remarkable man, an authentic voice of the people, whose songs are so real and stir so much emotion - he will live still for me, Helen.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: cloudstreet
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 11:48 PM

A great man is gone from us. The power of his music and his spirit will be with us still.
A sad day.

John Thompson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 11:57 PM

I only met Alistair a couple of times in the past few years on his visits to Australia.

On his last visit we'd arranged for him to appear at my folk club "The Loaded Dog" when he came back to Australia, probably later this year. It had been years since he'd played at The Dog as his return visits always drew large crowds, and he was looking forward to appearing in that great acoustic space.

condolences to Fatima, & their families & friends

sandra


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: rich-joy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 02:51 AM

John and I had no idea that Alistair was so ill, so notice of his death has come as a shock and we send sympathy to Fatima.

We share the sentiments of Helen Rowe who :
" .... thought that Alistair would live forever, like his songs. He will not be forgotten by all of us who sing his songs and pay homage to a remarkable man, an authentic voice of the people, whose songs are so real and stir so much emotion .... "

Dale and John Dengate
(via R-J)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Natalie Gould
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 04:51 AM

I was really sad to hear about Alistairs death, he was a great socialist sonwriter (I can't stop singing He Fades Away), and a Comrade. I will miss him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Niamh Parsons
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 04:58 AM

Very sad at the news, I didn't know him long, nor did I spend much time with him, but when we toured together with James and Nancy, Graham and myself, with the Shamrock, Thistle and Rose tour, he would light up our days every day, talking of songs,of injustice, or of his happiness in his life with Fatima. I am honoured that he let me record some of his songs and very very sad at his passing.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: freda underhill
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:08 AM

He was a fine singer and songwriter, and a very fine man, a great man who left too soon.

Amalina


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Cuilionn
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:20 AM

He must be causing a joyful ruckus in The Great Beyond. I imagine he and

Howard Zinn are up there singing union songs at the pearly factory gates.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Brian Preston
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:21 AM

Adieus my old comrade,
Missing you already. A great man, a tremendous human being who wrote and played some wonderful music.
Much sympathy to Fatima, family and friends who's lives he touched.
All our love at his time of great sadness.
Brian Preston & Family


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: henryclem
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:22 AM

Ally was someone I wish I'd met sooner in my life - he'd a rare passion which he brought to everything; the songs he performed (not just his own), the causes he fought for, the friendships he made.
I didn't know him long but have reason to be grateful for the time and effort he put in for my benefit.

Unforgettable - his songs, his spirit, his commitment.

My condolences to Fatima, and to everyone close to him.

Henry


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: alex s
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 09:29 AM

I remember him telling me that one of his most frightening experiences was having to sit in the window of a beautician's IN GLASGOW, having his nails done!
RIP bonny lad.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,jimmy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:25 AM

He was an inspiration to anyone who ever wanted to write songs about injustices and oppressed people in this world, weve lost a man who could truely fight with his songs and his pen. RIP Alistair


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:31 AM

I only knew Alistair from his recordings. A pity, he sounds like he'd be just my kind of bloke. My condolences to his family. I hope that the many mesages of love and respect on this thread will be of comfort to you. Burl.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:57 AM

Sad news, sad news indeed.

I recall seeing Alistair at the Tron Folk Club in Edinburgh (how long ago must that have been ?) and he was gracious enough to take the time in the interval to discuss at length his guitar tuning.

Many years later, he was equally gracious in this thread, when I had the temerity to criticize his choice of rhyme in his wonderful song "Destitution Road". No pricked ego, no huffiness, just laid back and gracious.

RIP Alistair, a wonderful entertainer and a true gentleman.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 11:39 AM

Stunned and immensely saddened to hear this today.

Another lovely warm-hearted guy gone - more inspiration and integrity snatched from our midst. It's just not right.

Massive sympathies to Fatima and condolences to all his family and friends.

RIP Ally.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GUEST,Lonnie
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 12:15 PM

We have lost a voice for the working people, a singer and songwriter of power and deep feeling. Condolences to friends and family, esp Fatima. He has been part of my musical landscape for so long.
Vale


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: HipflaskAndy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 01:07 PM

My thoughts and prayers to Fatima and all his close friends & family.
Rest in peace m' pal.

I will remember, well, all you taught and showed me.
I will remember you, dearly, through such as this...

Aghast, at Otley Festival a few years back, that he and I were cast in a concert to be held in, of all places...
Otley Conservative Club! - he led us in a rousing end-of-concert voicing of the 'Red Flag'
- and, when booked for subsequent Otley Festivals, he asked for that venue to be included in his itinery,
so he could repeat said anthem there, all over again.

That was our Ali! - Duncan McFarlane


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: akenaton
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 02:19 PM

The following was written by Pete Bond, from his lovely song "Joe Peel"

The words could have been penned for Alistair.

The day you left, I stayed outside
With scalding tears no comfort knowing.
We all turned up to say goodbye.
The church was filled to overflowing.
You'd never believed it if you'd seen
How many people mourned your going,
And just how lucky folks still feel
To say they knew Joe Peel


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Mick Tems
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 02:27 PM

We saw Alistair Hulett at Auckland Festival many years ago, when we were touring New Zealand. Ally was living in Australia then, and we didn't know him from Adam; but we listened to his set and really loved it. He was thinking of returning to Scotland then, and we exchanged addresses. Years later, Ally and Dave Swarbrick toured, and Llantrisant Folk Club was packed out to see and hear them. I reviewed their CD for Taplas magazine, and I still go back to it and give it a play - it's an outstanding album.

Thank you, Ally, for giving us your music. Thank you indeed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 03:06 PM

That was a lovely memory, Duncan.

With love to Alistair's family.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: GerryMc
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 05:16 PM

Terrible news

He will be sadly missed at Otley Festival

Great to have known him

All our thoughts to his family

Gerry and Ani


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Subject: RE: Obit: Alistair Hulett (28 Jan 2010)
From: rich-joy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 06:45 PM

" ----- Original Message -----
From: David Rovics
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 3:01 PM
Subject: [David Rovics] Alistair Hulett has died


Please feel free to post and distribute, no permission necessary...


Alistair Hulett has has died
Icon of Scottish folk music, international socialism, and Australian punk rock dead at 57

Today is my daughter Leila's fourth birthday, and while this occasion brings my thoughts back to the day she was born, the past 24 hours have otherwise been full of fairly devastating news.

If the left can admit to having icons, then two of them have just died. Yesterday it was the great historian and activist Howard Zinn, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing many stages around the US over many years. Much has been written about Zinn's death at the age of 87, and I think many more people will be discovering his groundbreaking work who may not have heard of him til now.

And then less than a full day later I heard the news that my dear friend, comrade and fellow musician Alistair Hulett died today. He was thirty years younger than Professor Zinn, 57 years old, give or take a year (I'm shit at remembering birthdays, but he was definitely still years shy of 60). Ally had an aggressive form of cancer in his liver, lungs and stomach.

I last saw Alistair last summer at his flat in Glasgow where he had lived with his wife Fatima for many years. (Fatima, a wonderful woman about whom Ally wrote his love song, "Militant Red.") He seemed healthy and spry as usual, with plenty to say about the state of the world as always. He was working on a new song about a Scottish anarchist who had run the English radio broadcast for the Spanish Republic in the 1930's.

I first met Ally in 2005, at least that's what he said. I seem to recall meeting him earlier than that, but maybe it's just that I was already familiar with his music and had been to his home town of Glasgow many times before I actually met him. His reputation preceded him – in my mind he was already one of those enviably great guitarists who along with people like Dick Gaughan had done so much to breath new life into the Scottish folk music tradition. I had also already heard some of his own wonderful compositions, sung by him as well as by other artists.

In 2005 the Scottish left was well mobilized, organizing the people's response to the G8 meetings that were happening in the wooded countryside not far from Edinburgh. Alistair was involved both as an organizer and a musician, and we hung out in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, outside a detention center somewhere, and out by the G8 meetings in an opulent little town with an unpronounceable Scottish name.

I asked him then if he wanted to do a tour with me in the US. He took me up on that a year or so later and we traveled from Boston to Minneapolis over the course of two weeks or so, doing concerts along the way. Many people who came to our shows were already familiar with Alistair's music, while many were hearing it for the first time and were generally well impressed with his work as well as his congenial personality, despite the fact that many people reported to me discreetly that they couldn't understand a word he was saying.

Americans aren't so good with accents at the best of times, and to make matters worse Alistair was largely doing songs from his Red Clydeside CD, which is a themed recording all about the anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist rebellion that rocked Glasgow in 1917. Naturally the songs from that CD are also sung in a Glaswegian dialect which can only be understood by non-Scottish people in written form, if you take your time.

Alistair was determined to retaliate for my having organized a tour for us in the US, which he did three years later in a big way, organizing a five-week tour for us of Australia and New Zealand from late November 2008 until early January of last year.

Our tour began in Christchurch, New Zealand. This turned out to seem very fitting, since Christchurch is where Alistair moved as a teenager, along with his parents and his sister, in the mid-1960's. He resented having to leave Glasgow, which was at that time a major hotbed of the 1960's global cultural and political renaissance -- a renaissance which had decidedly not yet made its way to little Christchurch, New Zealand. Alistair described to me how the streets of this small city were filled with proper English ladies wearing white gloves when he moved there as a restless youth.

The folk scare came to Christchurch, though, as with so many other corners of the world at that time, and at the age of 17 Alistair was in the heart of it. Our tour of New Zealand included a whole bunch of great gigs, but it was also like a tour of the beginning of Alistair's varied musical career. All along the way on both the south and north islands I met people Alistair hadn't seen for years or sometimes decades. I cringed as someone gave us a bootleg recording of Alistair as a teenager, figuring wrongly that it would be a reminder of a musically unstable early period, but it turned out to be a fine recording, a vibrant but nuanced rendition of some old songs from the folk tradition.

After two weeks exploring the postcard-perfect New Zealand countryside, smelling a lot of sheep shit, and getting in a car accident while parked, we headed to Sydney. Upon arriving in Australia I discovered a whole other side to Alistair and his impact on the world. Though his Scottish accent never seemed to thin out much, he lived for 25 years in Sydney and was on the ground floor of the Australian punk rock scene, playing in towns and cities throughout Australia with his band, Roaring Jack. The band broke up decades ago but still has a loyal following throughout the country, as I discovered first-hand night after night. In contrast with the nuanced and often quite obscure stories told in the traditional ballads which Alistair rendered so well, Roaring Jack was a brash, in-your-face musical experience, championing the militant end of the Australian labor movement and leftwing causes generally, fueled by equal parts rage against injustice, love of humanity and alcohol.

Since the 90's Alistair has lived in his native Glasgow, while regularly touring elsewhere in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. He's played in various musical ensembles including most recently his band the Malkies, but mostly his work has been as a songwriter and solo performer, also recording and occasionally touring with the great fiddler of Fairport Convention fame, Dave Swarbrick. His more recent songs have run the gamut from a strictly local Glasgow song written to support a campaign to save a public swimming pool to the timelessly beautiful song recorded by June Tabor and others, "He Fades Away."

"He Fades Away" is about an Australian miner dying young of asbestosis, from massive exposure to asbestos, a long-lasting, daily tragedy of massive proportions fueled by, well, greedy capitalists. It is surely more than a little ironic that Alistair was taken from us at such a young age by the industrial-world epidemic known as cancer, so much like the subject of his most well-known song.

The song is written from the perspective of the wife of a miner who is dying of asbestosis. The melody of the song is so beautiful that quoting the lyrics can't come close to doing it justice, and I won't do the song that injustice here – just go to the web and search for "He Fades Away," it's right there in various forms.

It is undoubtedly a privilege of someone like Alistair that he will be remembered passionately by people, young and old and on several continents, long after today – by friends, lovers, fellow activists, fellow musicians, and many times as many fans. And he will long be remembered also as one of the innumerable great people, including so many great musicians, who died too young.

On our last tour, so recently, he was meeting new friends and renewing old friendships every single day, so very full of life. Among the friendships he was renewing was that with his elderly parents, who came to our show in Brisbane, a couple hours from where they retired on the east coast of Australia. Though the exact causes of Alistair's illness will probably never be known, it seems to be a hallmark not just of war, but especially of the industrialized world's ever-worsening cancer epidemic, that so many parents have to see their children die so young.


David Rovics
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Mudcat time: 23 January 9:53 AM EST

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