Tribute to a Scottish Trio by Jim Stevens


Bob and Alec
Bob And Alec on the steps of the Gramophone Emprium

With the recent passing of the doyen of Scottish record collectors, Frank Traynor, it seems an appropriate time to pay tribute not only to Frank but also to two other "weel kent" and sadly missed faces on the Scottish collecting scene, Bob Monaghan and Alec Vaughan.

All who have visited the Gramophone Emporium in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, will remember Bob and Alec, affectionately known as the 'basement boys', who sadly both passed away towards the end of 2007, only a few days apart.

The Basement, in the Goldenacre district of the city, housed the overflow from the Emporium, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for some ten years, the 'Boys' could be found sifting through and sorting the tens of thousands of 78s, and welcoming visitors with a cheery smile, a joke and a cup of coffee, frequently laced with rum or whisky.... Incidentally, The Emporium, in St Stephen Street, goes from strength to strength, under the ownership of Bill Breslin, and remains one of the few places in Britain where you can still browse row upon row of shelves groaning under the weight of quality 78s from Opera to Jazz.

Alex Kirton-Vaughan, Scottish by adoption, was born in Portsmouth in 1925 to a naval family, He came to Edinburgh at the age of ten, eventually pursuing a career in Sales Management in the field of typewriting and office supplies, and marrying Hazel, an Administrator in Local Government. He was an avid collector of all things Bing Crosby, and brought to the Emporium a wealth of knowledge of 78s across a bewildering range of recorded material. He helped to remind us that the world of 78s stretches far beyond our chosen sphere of opera and serious vocal music.

Like many of us he had a room in the house entirely devoted to records and memorabilia. Hazel wrote to me "I used to say to him....what am I going to do with all this lot when you go...never thinking that day would come ...but alas it did, and he did not the Marie Curie Hospice... a wonderful place". Alec always looked much younger than his years, and with his outgoing personality, his wit, and a ready and disarming smile he brightened up Saturday afternoons in the basement. He passed away on 28 October 2007, and is survived by Hazel.

I first met Bob Monaghan at the Antique Fair in the Assembly Rooms in George Street, Edinburgh. At that time I met rgularly with Frank traynor, who would commute from Glasgow,and he introduced me to Bob. The Fairs became a regular monthly feature and hours would be spent drinking coffee and discussing the merits of singers from Affre to Zenatello, and bemoaning the quality of British shellac, before gravitating to the Emporium.

Bob was a McCormack aficionado, I Caruso, and Frank the sopranos Garden, Sheridan and Lashanska. We all concurred on Schipa. From these meetings stemmed regular visits to Bob's house in Morningside, and reciprocal visits when Bob would come to Mabole, Ayrshire, and stay over for evenings of food, wine, and rcords,usually into the small hours of the morning. When my wife became terminally-ill Bob was a friend in need and a source of great comfort.

We probably played the records of Schipa more than any other, our joint favourites being 'O Natura' from Werther and 'Dolce notte misteriosa' from Marcella. Our favourite McCormack records were 'Swans' and the Victor recording of 'The Snowy Breasted Pearl'. Caruso favourites were 'Vaghisssima sembianza' and 'Tu ca nun chiagne', the latter my particular favourite of all gramophone records.

Bob, a graduate of Edinburgh Art College, was born in 1931. While at Art college he began collecting records ,and at that time first made the acquantance of Bill Breslin as they ferreted out records in the gramophone Exchange Newington. He did his National Service in Somerset and there met his wife, Jennifer, courtesy of Yeovil Art College. Bob taught in several West Lothian schools before settling in Linlithgow Academy, from where he eventually retired. As well as his beloved McCormack records, which he played on an acoustic 'Cascade' machine, he loved the paintings and sculptures of Edward Degas, his favourite being the 'little ballerina'.

Bob passed away in hospital on 8 November 2007, from a massive stroke. He is survived by Jennifer, and his children Paul and Sara.

Frank Traynor, the oldest of the trio, was born in 1914, in the Govanhill district of Glasgow. "Al mio vecchio amico, Franey", so wrote Joe pieri to Frank, I learned, in the copy of his autobiography - Isle of the Displaced - which he wrote as a Scots-Italian who was interned in 1940 for being an Italian born Glaswegian. Frank was one of the true friends. mentioned in the book. And a true friend he was to so many whose lives he touched over nearly a century.

He trained as a chef and spent many years in the Merchant Navy, travelling all over the world, before becoming a chef in the British Railway Central Hotel in Glasgow, where he remained for nearly thirty years. As an employee of BR Frank travelled extensively throughout Europe, and developed and affinity for Spain and Barcelona in particular.

Throughout his active life he regularly visited the flea-markets of Spain, from which much of his collection came. He was befriended by a young Russian who, desperate for pop and jazz records, helped Frank build up a fine collection of acoustic Russian records by exchanging Nezhdanova for Led Zeppelin, His love of opera encouraged hin to learn Italian. He also learned French and Spanish at evening classes

I first met Frank through the friendship I had struck up with the late Dr george Fraser, and many were the evenings we shared with George and his collection of rarest of rare G&T's and blue Zonophones. The jewel in the crown of Franks 's collection was perhaps Santley's "Though art passing hence, my brother".

Frank spent the last seven years of his life in a nursing home, where he was well cared for, and where he seemed happy and content in his final years. Latterly he retreated into a world of his own. finally succumbing to pueumonia on 8 January 2009, in his 95th year. His favourite saying was "our needs are few: our wants are many". How true. He never married, and was interred with his beloved sister, Celia, and his brother, Alec, with whom he had shared a flat for many years. He was one of nature's gentlemen, and a lovely, gentle man.

Requiescant In Pace.

Jim Stevens

The Basement Boys