Folk tunes kept music legend Phil happy even as a tot

Legendary Scottish folk musician Phil Cunningham tells Scottish Field about his introduction to music and his Edinburgh childhood.

I was born in Simpson Memorial in 1960, which I think was part of the Old Royal Infirmary on Lauriston Place.

My mum and dad lived in a council housing estate in Magdalene down near Portobello. It was a plain, working class upbringing in Magdalene Gardens.

My parents said that when I was a baby I wouldn’t stop crying until they put on Jimmy Shand records. They would park the pram beside the radiogram and stack up maybe eight or 10 Jimmy Shand records on the spindle to keep me quiet as a youngster.

When I was four years old, my parents put a toy accordion in my Christmas sock and mum said that within two or
three hours of taking it out of the box, I was playing Oh Susanna and these type of tunes on it.

I was a member of Edinburgh Zoo from about six years old. There used to be lectures in the big house and I would go and listen. The next phase of zoo visits will be going with my god-daughter.

The Queen’s Hall has been a friend for a long, long time. Myself and Aly [Bain] play the Queen’s Hall, and I also do it a couple of times a year when I do my Christmas show, The Christmas Songbook.

I live out in South Queensferry now. Where I live is kind of like living in the country but it’s only 20 minutes from Edinburgh.