Born Edinburgh 14 March 1953.
Died Edinburgh 2 June 2013, aged 60
A traditional folk singer’s farewell took place at the Queen’s Hall on 10 June following cremation and a memorial service at St Peter’s Episcopal Church. There was a large turnout from the folk music world for funeral of the former member of the McCalmans and unofficial songwriter laureate of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with the Fringe anthem ‘Festival Lights’.
Nick Keir was born into an established Edinburgh family business, David Keir and Sons and was educated, as his father and elder brother had been, at the Edinburgh Academy. He was never cut out to be a businessman and resolutely pursued his life as a poet and dreamer. He never met the profile of the rugby playing sporting boy, but was delighted to have returned to the school in recent years as guest of honour at the Edinburgh Academy Burns Supper, where he delivered some heart-rending versions of Burns songs.
He was one of the first intake at the new University of Stirling in 1971 and it was there that he developed his performance as a folk singer. He formed the folk-rock band Finn McCuill in 1972 and was recently delighted to find that their two vinyl albums are nowadays rare valuable collectibles. With the Finn McCuill Folkshow he toured Scotland with the poet Norman McCaig and had many wry anecdotes of those times. He then joined the leftist theatre group 7:84.
In 1982, he was invited to join the McCalmans and remained with them for the next 30 years until the band dissolved, touring all over the world as one of the best known and most successful Scottish Traditional acts. In 2004 , together with the group, Nick was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame on the occasion of being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Prize at the Scottish Folk Awards, and in 2005 the group received the Danish Folk Music Prize at the Skagen Festival.
After the McCalmans, Nick performed across Europe with the acclaimed Tolkien Ensemble, presenting a musical spectacular with Sir Christopher Lee in The Lord of the Rings. He also played with the Holbaek Ensemble of Denmark playing an exciting mix of Scots and Irish Traditional music laced with the Baroque of Correlli and Vivaldi.
At the same time, he developed a solo career as a singer-songwriter, his tenor voice featuring beautifully on the collected works of Robert Tannahill and producing 4 CDs, Rumours of Snow, All Over this Town, Fishing Up the Moon and latterly in 2012, while already ill, The Edge of Night to considerable critical acclaim, being named the Album of the Week on Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson Show. His Edinburgh Fringe shows were regular sell-outs, as he beguiled his audiences with captivating portraits of Edinburgh in song and tale, delivered with his irresistible twinkling charm.
In 2012 he was diagnosed with a serious illness and courageously battled on, delivering his final masterly performance in the Spring of this year at the Queens Hall, the McCalman’s home venue and within yards of where he had grown up and lived nearly all his life.
A modest and infinitely courteous man, his songs and music could capture the spirit of Edinburgh through the eyes of an unashamed romantic. That so many came to the funeral to bid him farewell and then sing together with laughter and tears bore testament to the passing of a gentle , kind soul, a true poet and devoted lover of Edinburgh.