Obituary: William Purves, folk singer, 76

Bill played many city venues, including the Empire
Bill played many city venues, including the Empire
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William Purves, a well-loved folk singer, has died at the age of 76.

William Purves, known as Bill, was born in Haddington in December 1935, the son of Helen and Andrew. When he was four his father moved the family – Helen, Bill, his brother Andrew and sisters Jane, Helen and Mary – to a farm in Oxton, in the Borders.

Bill attended Oxton Academy, where there were only three other pupils.

Bill began to lose his sight at the age of eight and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.

He became a pupil at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, and lost his sight completely by the age of 16.

After completing his studies he took a job as a wire worker at the Royal Blind Asylum workshops in Gillespie Crescent, winning awards for the machine safety devices he invented.

At 24 he met his future wife, Anne, the niece of his landlady. In 1961 they married and the following year son Andrew was born, followed by Roy in 1963. The family lived in Tollcross.

Bill learned to play the violin as a child and in his twenties taught himself the guitar. His instrumental repertoire eventually included the banjo, the mandolin and the accordion.

Bill played in many groups over the course of his life; Mike and Sandy (Sandy being Bill’s stage name), Molly Maguires, Jinglin’ Geordie, The Creel Men and Sandy, Susie and Shuggie.

He could regularly be seen in some of the best known folk venues in the city, including Sandy Bell’s and the White Hart Inn.

He was also once featured singing on STV news.

His music brought him in to contact with musicians such as The Dubliners, Paddie Bell from The Corries, and Phil Cunningham.

Well known for his sense of humour, he once responded to the news his guide dog had relieved itself against a newsagents display with: “The fags were too dear anyway.”

After taking early retirement Bill developed a love for woodwork and is responsible for many bird tables dotted around Edinburgh.

In 2001 he won a landmark anti-discrimination case after being refused entry to a restaurant with his guide dog.

Bill continued to play live music up until he became ill three months ago.

He died on July 4 and is survived by wife Anne, sons Andrew and Roy, and grandchildren Connor, Kirsty and Megan.

His funeral takes place at the Mortonhall Main Chapel at noon tomorrow.