Bon Scott

Big Nation, from The Herald Magazine

LIFE in the nebula of administrative impotence otherwise known as Scottish local government occasionally throws up a mote of gumption.

Somewhere the odd industrious soul can be found beavering away. David Milne, for example, is probably the only community councillor in Scotland to have volubly extolled the pleasures of thrush while strumming a tennis racket.

A 34-year-old maintenance worker for Tayside Contracts, his days are spent replacing bulbs in street lights and cleaning council vehicles across Angus, Perth and Dundee. In the evenings he contributes to the modest work of Kirriemuir Community Council. Hard rock really shouldn’t enter the equation.

A week today, though, Milne will assume the mantle of Harvey Goldsmith and shake up the town, until now revered for gingerbread and Peter Pan, by paying tribute to its most infamous son – Ronald Belford “Bon” Scott, the late singer with the rock band, AC/DC, born to Chick and Isa in Kirriemuir on July 9, 1946.

Ever since a friend gave him a tape of AC/DC in primary school, Milne has been a fan. Having moved to Kirriemuir from Dundee five years ago, he’d heard talk in pubs of Scott’s links with the town. After further research and a “tooth and nail” fight with his fellow community councillors, his grand plan is taking shape.

Next Saturday, on Bon Scott Memorial Day, a specially commissioned plaque will be unveiled in tribute to the “world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll legend”. Local bands will play the town hall, and in the finale, Volts, a Scottish AC/DC tribute band, will perform their “live non-stop two-hour rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza”, that will, it is said, “blow your head of (sic) your shoulders!” Their guarantee, not mine.

Scott’s family were well known in Kirriemuir during the 1940s through their successful Bank Street bakery, churning out the town’s beloved gingerbread. A young Bon was first exposed to music there, courtesy of his father’s involvement with Kirriemuir Pipe Band.

At the age of six, though, he emigrated with his family to Fremantle, near Perth, Australia, never to return. Even so, Milne is convinced the cause is a worthy one. Earlier this year, the National Trust of Australia decreed Scott’s grave a classified heritage site and Milne is keen to follow in their footsteps.

“Bon never took himself seriously, but he was a star, an inspiration, ” says Milne. “It’s about getting the young bands involved and raising Kirriemuir’s profile. Not everyone agrees with the way Bon lived his life, but we can do good from this event.”

The “way” Scott lived his life, for those not in the know, resembled a Catherine wheel. His days and nights were a wayward drift of liquid excess. To have experienced his onstage performance – his larrikin pomp and stentorian squall – was like witnessing a sermon of rock.

Bare-chested and with a mullet pulpy with sweat, he was, recalls Milne, a “scuzzy” helmsman who spat couplets laced with innuendo and rancour through jagged riffs. At just 33, Scott was found slumped lifeless in a car in a London street after a raucous drinking bout. “Death by misadventure, ” recorded the coroner. It would have made a fine album title.

All in, he’s not the kind of chap you’d expect Major Roland Proctor to admire. The 61-yearold chairman of the community council and curator of the Black Watch Museum in Perth is more familiar with Royal Stewart tartans than codpieces and leather chaps. “I’m more of a Cliff Richard man, to be honest, ” he confesses.

But the major readily recognises that, apart from a modest display last year in the town’s Gateway to the Glens museum, Scott’s legacy has not been maximised. “Fortunately for us, David’s a big AC/DC fan, ” he says. “Old duffers like me wouldn’t know where to begin.”

To date, only around a quarter of the 400 tickets for the all-day event have been sold, but Milne and his fellow organisers have faith. And across the mesmerising spectrum of AC/DC websites, the plans have not gone unnoticed.

Glenn Robertson from the nearby village of Newtyle, runs www. crabsodyinblue. com – a Scottish fansite complete with “virtual graveyard”. He shares Milne’s view that the event will boost the economy, and ensure that a “long overdue” tribute will be paid. Gilly, a regular poster to www. acdcpower. net, isn’t convinced: “Local kids’ bands playing? Shitty sandwiches made by grannies with pishy knickers? Won’t be going to that one.”

It is, at least, a reaction. A few days ago, I telephoned the headquarters of Epic Records in New York. The spokesman was neither aware nor keen to hear more of next weekend’s happenings in Kirriemuir. The only upcoming AC/DC event of note, it seems, is the impending release of a “deluxe boxed” set featuring a model of the band, accessorised with guitar, mic, bass and large cannon. As even the major could tell you, that ain’t rock ‘n’ roll. Kirriemuir Community Council, we salute you.




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© Martyn McLaughlin 2007 – 2021 unless stated otherwise

Portrait by John Devlin

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