Burns Library is delighted to announce the availability of a Scottish and Irish music collection from the family of the Scottish accordionist, bandleader, and composer Sir Jimmy Shand (1908-2000). Shand was known worldwide for his musicianship, strict tempos, and devotion to Scottish country dance audiences. In 2017, Boston College acquired the books for Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives from accordionist, bandleader, and composer Jimmy Shand, Jr.
Born in East Wemyss, Fife, Shand Sr. taught himself to play melodeon and other instruments. The sixth of nine children, he left school at 14 to work in the nearby Lochhead Colliery. After the mining strike of 1926 he moved to Dundee, accepting a travelling salesman position in 1933 with J.T. Forbes to demonstrate and sell accordions. His accordion demo skills led to recording opportunities in the studio and on radio. He began making regular solo accordion broadcasts in the mid 1930s, and by 1940 was leading a Scottish country dance band. After World War II, the Shand Band toured extensively throughout Scotland, Britain, and beyond.
The collection’s 88 printed music titles, dating from the 1850s to the 1980s, were part of the family’s personal library and a local resource for the community. A number of the books in the Shand collection are signed by either Jimmy Shand, Sr. or by Jimmy Shand, Jr., who performed regularly with his father’s band and also had an accordion repair business.
The titles offer insights into the family’s musical interests. About half comprise music for Scottish bagpipes. The collection also includes songs, fiddle music, and music for piano. Connections with Ireland and Irish music are evident in titles such as Captain Francis O’Neill’s The Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems, signed by six members of the musical group The Chieftains.
Growing up in County Clare, Ireland, Boston College’s former Sullivan Artist-in-Residence Seamus Connolly recalls the excitement of hearing Shand on the radio:
“The name Shand is synonymous with the traditional music of Scotland. The rock-solid rhythm and strict tempo of master accordionist and composer Sir Jimmy Shand are forever embedded in my mind. Joyous memories of Mr. Shand’s music have remained with me all my life. They take me back to my youth in Killaloe, as we tuned our crackly radio to the Scottish airwaves to listen to the star of radio and television playing with his band.”
Connolly, Séamus. “Dominick McCarthy’s Irish Barndance” by Jimmy Shand, Jr. The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, accessed November 12, 2019. https://connollymusiccollection.bc.edu/document/408
In 1954 Shand and his band made their first tour of Ireland, where they were met with overflow crowds. They crossed the Atlantic in 1955 to tour Canada and the United States, and their first tour of Australia and New Zealand came in 1961. Shand composed over 300 tunes and his band recorded for several labels. His worldwide influence on behalf of Scottish culture was recognized by various honors, including an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1962, an honorary Master of Arts degree from Dundee University in 1985, and knighthood in 1999.
The printed music collection from the Shand family is one of several Irish Music Archives collections with a Scottish component. If you would like to access the collection in Burns Library’s Reading Room or submit a question, we invite you to contact us using Burns Library’s contact form.
— Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian
Also of interest:
- “Bluebell Polka,” performed by Jimmy Shand and his band, YouTube (accessed November 25, 2019)
- A collection of rare volumes from the Shand family at Wighton Heritage Centre at the Central Library in Dundee, Scotland,