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Tuning into the past

Pauline McLean | 15:59 UK time, Saturday, 18 April 2009

My job is nothing if not varied and my week ends with two very different sorts of recording news.

Ian Wilson was a war correspondent here at the BBC in the 1940s.

His discs were recorded right in the thick of it on the state of the art midget recorder - a misnomer if ever there was one since it weighed a whopping 42lbs and was effectively a giant record player to be lugged around war zones.

Ian died in 1963 and his records and notes and other wartime paraphenalia were forgotten until another relative died earlier this year and they were discovered in her loft.

His nephew Ian and great nephew Neil - who both live in Lennoxtown - had no idea what to do with the haul, which they found in an old trunk.

Unable to even play the old 78s, they took them to McTears auction house.

Their military expert, John White, agreed to bring them into the BBC so we could listen to them on an old 78 player.

They include reports from Ian on board a bombing mission, interviewing military personnel in France and reporting on the liberation of Dachau.

Even his test recordings offer a picture of war-time London with queues of people waiting to get into the air raid shelters while Ian listens for the "doodlers" overhead.

I was able to get a CD of the recordings to take to Ian and Neil.

Ian, who remembered his uncle from New Year parties, said he found the whole experience quite emotional.

Neil, who never met his great uncle, was surprised by his "received pronunciation" tones but delighted to listen into a little piece of history.

Both insist their decision to sell was based on the fact they didn't know what to do with the material.

"We just thought at least this way it might go to someone who could look after them, maybe play them, preserve them and let other people play them,"says Neil.

Lot 70 - which includes Ian's scripts, cigarette box and hip flask as well as the records - will go for auction in Glasgow today but the family say if it isn't sold, they'll consider giving it to an interested museum.

And to recordings of a more modern sort.

The announcement that the Mobos are to be held in Glasgow this September.

Not the most obvious location - surely Birmingham or Manchester must have been in with a bigger shout - but the organisers seem sure the ceremony will go down a storm here.
DJ Paul Njie is also convinced.

"The Mobos are more mainstream than they've ever been," he says.

"You look at the top ten, Rhiana, Fifty Cent, Usher. It's commercial music, it's pop music and I think there's going to be a huge market for it."

Details of the performers and the shortlisted artists will be announced shortly, and tickets will go on sale this summer.

Speculation is now rife about who will appear.

Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Amy Winehouse and Justin Timberlake have all dropped in in the past.

And even the oldies will recognise a tune or two. Last year's special award went to Mary Wilson, who joined the Sugababes on a medley of hits by the Supremes.

Not quite as old as Ian Wilson's historic records, but still worth a listen.


  • Comment number 1.

    Another interesting blog entry Pauline.

    Who knows how many more recordings lie undiscovered in lofts around the country ... not much chance of finding stuff like Ian Wilson's spoken words in 50 years. Who records the word and feelings of now? Probably only the BBC.

    On the Mobos, I'm gobsmacked it went to Glasgow, but pleased if it means some local bands ditch the dull guitar rubbish (hello Glasvegas) and experiment with with they hear coming from the SECCCCCCCC later in the year.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good Old BBC for putting the accounts onto CD.

    Perhaps a copy will find its way into a War Museum, if we have such a thing in Bonny Scotland.


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