Stoney loses musical Betty

The Strawberry Bank Strathsprey and Reel Band
The Strawberry Bank Strathsprey and Reel Band

The last surviving member of the ‘Strawberry Bank Strathspey and Reel Band’, Mrs. Betty Michael, has died at Mowat Court Nursing Home.

Her death on Saturday, March 7, was just three weeks short of what would have been her 93rd birthday.

She was a keen bowler and involved with the Women’s Guild of Dunnottar Church, before suffering a severe stroke in 2006.

Betty’s uncle, Mr William Potter - who at one time was a critic for the Mearns Leader - was a violinist and composer who not only wrote the music for his pupils, he also made some of the instruments as well.

The band played around the Stonehaven area before World War Two.

Betty’s influence has helped created a musical dynasty. She played the violin and the piano, passing on her love of music to her two sons, Richard and William, both of whom became professional musicians.

Betty Michael

Betty Michael

Her late husband, John, was a ‘weel-kent’ face in the town, through his activities with his concert party.

William, who died in 2008, was named the most outstanding amateur jazz piano talent in the UK after winning the final of the Pianists Competition in 2007.

He was presented with his award in front of a sold-out 800 capacity audience at Cadogan Hall, London.

William’s son, Paul, is a bass player working in the London jazz scene.

Richard was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2012. The jazz pianist was the first boy at Mackie Academy to make a career out of music when he left in 1968 to go to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Today, he is honorary professor of jazz piano at St Andrews University, and a regular broadcaster on Radio Scotland.

He said: “Thanks to the encouragement we received from our parents, both Will and I carried the experiences we gained playing in our Dad’s concert party into our professional lives.

“Mum heard our practice at home, and then we went out with Dad and his concert party, playing all round the Mearns and learning the art of communication through playing.

“Before Will’s untimely death, we were able to do some high-profile gigs together in London’s Wigmore Hall and Royal Festival Hall, and would come off the stage with a deeply-felt heartfelt thanks for all that our parents had done for us.”

Betty spent the last years of her life being well cared for in Mowat Court, enjoying visits from her family.

Her funeral is in Dunnottar Church on Monday, March 23, at 11.30am at which many of the Michael family will pay a musical tribute to her life.