Jimmy ‘Scout’ McBeath was born in Portsoy on the 30th August, 1898. At the outbreak of WWI Jimmy enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders and fought in France and in Flanders.
On leaving the Army in 1920, Jimmy didn’t seek permanent employment, choosing to travel around, seeking casual work wherever he could. During this time, Jimmy heard and began to perform the songs of the North East, the farm bothies and the barrack rooms. Carrying a wide repertoire of ballads and folk songs, he sang at hiring fairs, markets and in the streets to augment his other earnings. With his distinctive voice and pawky sense of humour, Jimmy became an easily recognised character.
In 1951 Alan Lomax, came to Scotland from the United States to research and collect folk songs. He and Hamish Henderson, first heard Jimmy busking in Elgin. They encouraged Jimmy to perform for them and recorded much of his music.
Jimmy McBeath became recognised nationally as an important tradition bearer of Scottish music, along with such well known figures as Jeannie Robertson, Belle Stewart, John Strachan, Willie Scott and Davie Stewart.
Many of his songs such as Come aa Ye Tramps and Hawkers, The Wind Blew the Bonnie Lassie’s Paidy Awa, The Bonny Lass o Fyvie and many many more, have been adopted by internationally known folk singers, and are still valued and sung around the world.
Jimmy never settled down and continued to stay at the Model Lodging House, in Aberdeen, until his death on 6th January 1972. Jimmy’s songs remain popular, frequently performed at traditional music venues all over the country. Jimmy is without doubt, one of Scotland’s most memorable and talented personalities. He has bequeathed a priceless treasury of songs, both serious and comic and is recognised for his vital and important contribution to Scottish heritage.