Scotland

Salmond notes female influence on Desert Island Discs

Mary Salmond
Image caption Alex Salmond described his mother Mary as an incredible woman

First Minister Alex Salmond has spoken of the influence of women in his life on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

The politician told presenter Kirsty Young how his mother surreptitiously ensured her son did not leave school and work in the local brickworks.

The 56-year-old also paid tribute to his wife Moira, with whom he has been married for 30 years this year.

He also talked of his time as a boy soprano and described how he missed out on a tour because his voice had broken.

Mr Salmond, who has been Scottish First Minister since the SNP won power in Holyrood in 2007, picked Robert Burns' Ae Fond Kiss as the first of eight tracks that would join him on a desert island.

He said his singing coach was a Burns fanatic, and had introduced his young student to the Scots bard.

"I had a good voice, and could sing four octaves," he said.

The soprano had just turned 13 when the opportunity arose to go on tour in Australia, but fears over his voice breaking scuppered the trip.

"Instead of finding a soaring soprano they had a half-broken tenor so I never got to go," he said.

However, he said the confidence he gained by performing in front of an audience stood him in good stead for his political career.

"If you can sing in front of thousands of people when you're 10 or 11, then speaking in the Westminster parliament is nothing, being a Scottish first minister is nothing in comparison to that."

Salmond spoke of the influence of his mother Mary on his path in life.

"I'd this notion when I was 15 that I wanted to go and work in Steins brickworks and earn some money like so many of my pals were doing," he said.

"So I announced this to my startled parents and my mum never said anything.

"My uncle was a foreman there, I wasn't looking for any great preference but I got the dirtiest, smelliest, most ridiculous back-breaking job in the entire brickworks.

"After about three or four weeks I was really in a bad way and I said to my mum I've had a think about things and after the holidays I'm going back to school after all. She said that's fine.

Image caption Alex Salmond and wife Moira have been married for 30 years

"Of course it was years later I finally found out she'd told my uncle, you make absolutely sure that he doesn't want to stay at the brickworks. That's why I'd got the worst jobs."

He described his mother, who died seven years ago, as "an incredible woman".

"When you lose your mother, nothing in life ever prepares you for that," he said.

The first minister also spoke about his wife Moira, who has stayed behind the scenes for the duration of the couple's 30-year marriage.

He said the role of political spouses was the "most thankless task in the world".

"They have all the down sides," he said.

"Moira and I have been married for 30 years, she has done it with such grace, patience and helpful - I've been so lucky.

"Of course Moira, because she comes from a background outside politics, she always says she's zoomed past me in the political spectrum, she's much more radical than I am now in all sorts of things."

'Keep you going'

He said his other half often kept him right about the presentational issues facing politicians.

"Years ago, before I was in politics, I was a Royal Bank economist," he said.

"I was doing a interview for television and had some hair out of place. My granny turned to Moira and said see that hair, that reflects on you.

"And Moira, every time she asks me to get the shoes polished, she says mind what your granny said."

The politician selected the Complete Works of Robert Burns as the book he would take onto the island, because "there's enough in there to keep you going for years".

And his only luxury item would be a sand wedge, a golf club designed to use in sand bunkers.

"If I get a sand wedge on this desert island, when I'm rescued I'll be Gary Player," he laughed.

Unsurprisingly, many of the tracks selected by the first minister have a distinctly Scottish theme, and include The Proclaimers' 500 Miles and Caledonia, Dougie MacLean's anthem about Scots returning home.

Alex Salmond features on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 16 January at 1115 GMT on BBC Radio 4.

Around the BBC