PADDIE Bell, who has died after a long illness, will be remembered as a lovely, sweet woman with a lovely, sweet voice.

The elfin singer fronted The Corrie Folk Trio with Paddie Bell, forerunners of the hugely successful Corries in the mid-1960s. In her day, Bell was idolised by emerging singers, adored by her audience and seemed to captivate everyone who came into contact with her.

Her run with the Corries-tobe only lasted three-and-a-halfyears but the impression she made in that time extended to the US, where the group's early records were released on Elektra Records, then a hugely prestigious folk music label, and original domestic copies on the Waverley label are now prized collectible items.

Bell was born and grew up in Belfast, where she bought her first guitar for GBP2, and began singing around the city's folk clubs and pubs. She met and married an architect from Edinburgh and settled down there, initially working as a secretary.

She was still a secretary when, in 1962, a group comprising Bill Smith, Roy Williamson, Ron Cockburn and herself started playing at the Waverley Bar, one of Edinburgh's legendary folk music haunts still operating as a pub in St Mary's Street. Cockburn dropped out and Williamson invited Ronnie Browne to take his place. The Corrie Folk Trio with Paddie Bell was born.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe that year saw them take over the Tryst Coffee Bar for a run which began with an audience of eight on the first night.

Word quickly spread, however, and soon they were turning people away. The following year the group was invited to appear on a BBC TV series called Hoot'nanny, and so began a schedule of television appearances that made them household names.

An album of the show followed, with Ray and Archie Fisher and Gaelic singer Dolina McLennan among the guests, and proved so popular that the following yearVolume 2, again recorded live in Edinburgh, was released.

These were heady times. The group turned professional.

EMI - imagine: a major, London-based record company with a Scottish imprint - signed the group to Waverley Records and released the album The Promise of the Day, which after its US release was cited as an influence on the Irish Ramblers, a popular Chicago-based group in the Clancy Brothers tradition, whose sometime musical director was Jim McGuinn, later known as Roger McGuinn of the Byrds.

Busy though she was with the Corrie Folk Trio, Bell found that a lot of the songs she wanted to sing didn't really suit the group. So she began making solo records, firstly with English guitarist Martin Carthy on Paddie Herself, which was recorded in a day in 1965. This, in part, led to her going solo soon afterwards. She was also about to become a mother.

Although she continued singing while her daughter, Morven, was an infant, and made the acclaimed album I Know Where I'm Going with her fellow Irishmen Finbar & Eddie Furey - later of the Fureys - in the late 1960s, by the time Morven grew up Bell had long since ceased to perform and Morven didn't actually know her mother had been a well-known singer until much later.

By 1971, Bell had developed a drink problem. As she said later, she hadn't realised it was a problem because everyone on the folk scene was indulging in after-gig parties followed by after-party parties. She was found to have slight liver damage and diagnosed with depression. A strong sedative was prescribed and Bell was given repeat prescriptions for almost 20 years.

Apart from keeping the house tidy and cooking for her family, she did virtually nothing but watch television during this time. Her weight increased to almost eleven stones - and Paddie wasn't a tall person.

Then, in 1991, her psychiatrist retired and his replacement called a halt. Bell was off the tablets within five weeks.

After suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms, she realised how much she had missed singing. She practised in the house for a year, accompanying herself on a Martin guitar given to her by Ian McCalman, a long-time friend and leader of the McCalmans folk group. She took guitar lessons because, she admitted, she'd never been any good anyway and in 1992 she took her first tentative steps at singing in public again at a session in The West End Hotel, in Edinburgh.

It wasn't a comeback - that was too big-time a term, she felt - but her bonus career, as she called it, flourished. She recorded three albums, including the well-received Make Me Want to Stay, and while not enjoying anything like the profile of previous days, she became a familiar figure on the folk scene. She'll be remembered most fondly for her annual Edinburgh Fringe shows, at which many old musician friends dropped in as guests, which makes the timing of her death all the sadder.