There will be a very special moment on Saturday evening in The McMillan Hall when Fay Norris takes to the stage at the Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival as she will be following in the famous footsteps of her mother, Mona Stewart.
Mona, now retired, lit up many a social event with her band for over half a century, playing at 155 local weddings, appeared on television and cutting a record to back the Scotland team heading to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Recalling those days singing with her dance band, Mona says that her success would not have happened had she not met her late husband Bobby. When the fifteen-year-old Mona Marr needed a drummer for her band, someone suggested the nineteen-year old Bobby Stewart and a lifelong partnership began. The band were then further boosted by the arrival of John Mason, the violin player and composer and Ivor Brown, a fine accordionist originally from Colonsay. Their lyrical, foot-tapping traditional music saw them, as Mona puts it, “playing at every hotel in Galloway”.
As their fame spread, Border Television came calling. This in turn led to the arrival on the scene of Hamish Henderson, the poet and folk song collector, who documented the traditional songs Mona sang. Next, the Mona Stewart Dance Band was off to the Blairgowrie Festival. That saw them get bookings all over Scotland, then Canada. In 1978, there was a competition to compose a theme song for the Scotland world cup bound football squad, so Mona composed and recorded the song “We’ll Bring the Cup Home”.
Mona has passed her wonderful singing talent onto youngest daughter Fay.
Fay said: “I was very nearly born at a gig Mum and Dad were playing at the Kirroughtree Hotel. Labour started while mum was singing and playing the piano. Like a true trooper, she managed to finish the gig, and dad got her to Cresswell in time - I’m not sure how calmly he drove though! The Mona Stewart Dance Band was really hitting it’s prime when I arrived, and I was taken along to gigs from a very early age - I remember sleeping on Mum’s big green coat, under the piano, with my head on her foot, tapping along in time to the music. It’s hardly surprising I suppose, that I have such a love for music and have gone on to perform with my own band down in Surrey, where I now live. It is a great privilege to be invited to sing in my home town, and I am looking forward to singing just a few of the songs I learned at home from mum and dad, although I am very conscious mum’s reputation as such a wonderful singer casts a very long shadow!”