Songs in the key of Robin's life

A musician brought up in Wigan has created a personal musical treasury of the most meaningful songs in his life for his young grandson.

Friday, 22nd December 2017, 11:04 am
Updated Friday, 22nd December 2017, 12:10 pm
Guitarist and singer-songwriter Robin Higham

Guitarist and singer Robin Higham has collected more than 60 tracks across four CDs as a legacy project for two-and-a-half year old Sydney Levene.

He went into the recording studio after his daughter Kelly Levene said she was having difficulty remembering the folk and traditional songs he had sung to her when she was little.

He decided to ensure the rich musical heritage he has picked up throughout his life, which began as a young boy hearing Irish music sung by his mother and godparents, will be preserved for the next generation.

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Robin, 71, said: "My daughter rang me up one day and said she kept getting all the songs mixed up. We spent a day straightening them out and she then said it would be nice if I put them on a CD.

"I started getting all my favourite songs together and then squeezed it down to 61. It could easily have been 100.

"The first album is for my grandson, it’s got things like Puff the Magic Dragon and Be A Child Again on it.

"It’s also got Nancy Spain because of a story about my grandson at the folk festival near my house. One Saturday afternoon it got cold outside so everyone went into the pub.

"A guy started singing Nancy Spain and my grandson ran over, grabbed his leg and said: ‘Stop! That’s my grandad’s song!’

"There’s also one by Gil Scott-Heron which is unusual because it’s about the Ku Klux Klan but my daughter has always been fascinated by it. He actually wrote it in the 1960s so he must have been a brave lad. The second one is all Irish songs and songs written by Irish people. You don’t have to go far in Wigan to find some Irish heritage in most people.

"The other two are called Odds And Sods and Bits And Pieces, they’re just songs I like and have been singing for years."

Robin first got involved in music organising folk events at pubs around Wigan and, despite initially believing getting up on stage was not for him, was encouraged to start singing and learn to play guitar.

He played in a group called Whittle Mill Folk for around four years before embarking on gigs as a solo performer, including finding his way to the Ennis Trad Fest in the Republic of Ireland where he has been a guest performer many times.

Not even being confined to a wheelchair following a serious accident which saw him spend a year in hospital could dent his enthusiasm for the Clare roots music bash, which he has been attending for the past few years and was invited to sing at the 25th anniversary festival.

His CDs were compiled with the help of fellow Wigan musicians Jon Brindley and Jan Hough, who gave him lifts to the studio between his home in Coppull and Chorley and offered encouragement throughout the recording process. His network of friends have also been taking his renditions of the songs far and wide, with the versions committed to CD going to Switzerland and North Carolina among other places.

Robin ended up in his current location just north of the borough’s edge after moving to Heskin when he got married. He was brought up in and around Wigan and moved to Standish when he was 25, with his family taking up residence at a farm which had belonged to his grandfather.