The Dingwall 19 (and the Elgin Marvels)

The chief frocker has been travelling around the country more than usual over the past month with a trip to London to meet up with friends and family, as well as several jaunts to Edinburgh and Glasgow, so it was a nice change to head for the Highlands this week where she had been invited to speak at an event in Dingwall town hall (on a subject quite far removed from fashion, vintage or otherwise).

dingwall station

Having never previously visited the town, it was a pleasant surprise to find some interesting independent shops, a couple of charity shops (which no self respecting frocker will ever walk past unless closed!) and probably one of the few remaining Wimpy bars in the UK, whose fare was sampled by two of the conference party for purely nostalgic reasons (and the fact that the Indian restaurant had burned down).

The town hall itself took a bit of locating, but with assistance from some friendly locals, we finally found it tucked down a side street behind the museum. It was a surprise to find this plaque on the building commemorating the Beatles' visit there in January 1963, shortly before they achieved super stardom, and the caretaker volunteered lots of interesting facts about the night the Fab Four played to an audience of only 19 locals.

beatles plaque

dingwall town hall

Now the chief frocker has a friend who is an ardent Fab Four fan and whose knowlege of everything Beatles related is legendary; and sure enough, he knew all about the Dingwall gig, commenting: "They played Elgin the night before. I visited the location. There should be a plaque wherever they breathed."  Yeah yeah yeah, he is obsessed!

Look what else he sent us!

beatles elgin gig

He also shared a link to BBC news coverage of a tribute evening planned for Dingwall in 2011, and a follow up article featuring local businessman Billy Shanks's efforts to trace the original gig goers. It was reported that 24 had come forward, the five 'extras' apparently being staff members who hadn't had to pay to attend.

He [Mr Shanks] said some who turned up thought the music was rubbish and left to join an audience of 1,200 watching a local band (The Melotones) in nearby Strathpeffer. He said there were also people who paid for a ticket but later walked out and got a refund.

In the weeks following the Dingwall gig, The Beatles went on to have their first top 10 hit with Please Please Me. Within a year they were the most popular band in the world.

Mr Shanks went to the town hall himself to look in on The Beatles, but had second thoughts after doorman David Murray told him the music was not good.

Olive Lees, who was one of the 19 paying audience members, recalled that

"The Beatles were late in arriving and when they came on stage one by one they were wearing three-quarter-length leather jackets, long scarves - one was trailing his on the ground behind him - and winkle pickers. 

"Everyone was laughing at them. But they were brilliant and they chatted with the audience between songs."

 According to the North Star, the 2011 reunion proved to be a bigger hit than the Fab Four's performance back in 1963, attracting a much more respectable turn out of locals, including 15 of the original 19 paying audience members.

Highland Councillor Margaret Paterson, whose idea it was to bring the Upbeat Beatles to Dingwall, said: "It was a fantastic concert and it was attended by more people than was at the original Beatles concert in 1963!

"The tribute band was superb and had the whole place rocking. It was like a step back in time. People travelled long distances for the gig and it was tremendous for Dingwall."

 As it happens, our own modest event attracted nearly three times the number mustered by the Beatles back in 1963, which we were quite delighted about!

And then it was back to the National Hotel, where a fiddlers' rally was in full swing, for a welcome bed, hearty breakfast and some truly fabulous Highland hospitality.

national hotel

The chief frocker was, however, greatly relieved not to have been allocated Room 101!

room 101

We all thoroughly enjoyed exploring Dingwall and hearing about its 'mod' history; and, unlike the Beatles, we'll definitely be back for a return visit!