Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Ivor Cutler

Ivor Cutler has died.

Ivor Cutler was an achingly funny Scottish poet, singer, harmonium player and sayer of things, and was one of my heroes.

It has to be said that he was an acquired taste. To be honest, most people had never heard of him, but I was by no means alone in my admiration for him. Others who admitted to feeling the same way included Billy Connolly, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and John Peel – oh yes, and my daughter Gillian.

Although he was Scottish, he came from a Russian-Jewish ancestry (like Leonard Cohen). It was suggested in some quarters that this mix of ethnic origins accounted for some of his strangeness.

It was the Beatles who first brought Ivor to public gaze, when they asked him to play a part in “Magical Mystery Tour” – he played the coach driver, Buster Bloodvessel (yes, the name was later used by the lead singer of Bad Manners). Also in the film were the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, led by my schoolmate Vivian Stanshall.

I first became seriously aware of Ivor Cutler when one of his songs (I think it was “Go and Sit Upon the Grass”) was featured on a compilation album. I quickly went out and found his then current album “Dandruff”, quickly followed by “Jammy Smears”.

“Surreal” is a word often bandied about today, but it could be fairly used of some of Ivor’s work. His songs included “Gooseberries and Bilberries”, “I Worn My Elbows Down to the Bone for You” and the jolly “I Believe in Bugs”.

He was an absolute master of the one-liner. These amazing little sentences included “Two balls rolled down a hill – one landed on its side, the other upside down”, “You cannot erase a love letter with a nipple, no matter how rubbery” and the sublime “If your breasts are too big, you may fall over – unless you wear a rucksack”.

Some of his stories were quite long. There was a series entitled “Life in a Scotch Sitting Room”, and the tale of his relationship with a sparrow named Fremsley.

He was, however, an intensely private man who was a stickler for good manners. A story is told of an eminent rock singer who chanced to see him in the street one day. “Hello, Ivor”, he called cheerily. The response was severe. “We’ve not been introduced”, he replied, “it’s Mr Cutler”.

Ivor Cutler died on 3rd March (by chance, the eleventh anniversary of Viv Stanshall’s dreadful death). He was 83.