The ukulele was not something I had ever given much thought to. I have never been very musical and have always been reluctant to sing out loud (except when I’m alone in the car). Now I cannot believe how much richer my life has become because of the ukulele.
I was born in the Scottish Borders. We moved while I was still quite young to North Wales and then on to the beautiful Lake District in Cumbria. I lived in several other places but ended up in the historical city of York.
Coming to Australia
In 1991, in my late 20’s, I came to Australia for a 6-month holiday (which turned into 12 months), to visit my sister who had emigrated a couple of years earlier with her family. She loved Australia and was desperate to show off this great new country of hers.
As fate would have it, I met my husband here and Australia became my permanent home too. I am very fortunate as my other sister and family emigrated here as did my father. I am still happily married to John and we have two grown up children whom I adore.
Finding the ukulele
Linda Gough (from the Ferny Grove jam) and I have been great friends for many years. She lived in my street and gave my children guitar lessons.
Linda wanted to teach ukulele and asked me to give her a hand with some admin in setting up and running the group. I was looking after my elderly father at the time and jumped at the chance to escape for a couple of hours and meet new people.
This is when I first discovered that ukulele players are fabulous people!
I had no intention of playing but the students had other ideas and I wasn’t allowed to sit quietly at the back and listen. Linda miraculously pulled a spare uke out of nowhere and my ukulele adventure began. That was more than six years ago and Linda’s Uke’N’Sing is going from strength to strength. I am still helping and playing.
The natural progression from being part of Linda’s Uke’N’Sing was to also become a BUMS member. I have been involved in quite a few group performances with Linda’s two performance groups Daytrippers and Nightriders. We love to perform at Age Care facilities and have been to quite a few different ones. It’s great to see people singing along with us, some join in with a tambourine or a shaker and even dancing along to the music.
Our two groups get together at Christmas to perform at the Hill’s Carols in the Park (at Ferny Hills) and that is always lots of fun.
You might have seen me at the Ferny Grove jam where I help set up the room and the stage and, of course, enjoy the jam.
While I was at a ukulele festival, I was introduced to the D’Jembe. I did a workshop out of a mild interest while there and I loved it! I couldn’t help myself and had to buy one. I now have two and for someone who doesn’t like to be noticed it’s certainly out there. Loud and proud!
We have a couple of people in the groups who also play the D’Jembe and so it’s become part of our performances.
Linda invited me to go on a cruise a few years ago on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a wonderful opportunity help Linda teach ukulele. It was a ten-day cruise and we only had to teach on sea days. But it was so much fun we found ourselves doing impromptu jam sessions most days.
While in Cairns we got together with the Cairns equivalent of BUMS, CHUG, for a jam.
It was a fabulous experience in many ways. I had never been on a cruise nor had I been snorkelling or to some of the places we visited.
To me, it isn’t about the talent or skill, but my enjoyment comes from being part of something, where everyone is having a great time.
I’ve found the ukulele community to be very accepting. People don’t judge you, but encourage you to give it a go, take part and have fun. I am still not terribly musical nor a particularly good player (probably my own fault as I don’t practice enough).
But through the ukulele I’ve found wonderful friendships. I’ve been inspired to try new things and uplifted by people around me taking on the challenges of life. Making music is great exercise for the old grey matter and my stiffening hands – and brings me such joy!