Ian D Green

Born: January 29, 1934;

Died: March 10, 2024

OF the many affectionate tributes paid to Ian Green, the founder of the esteemed Greentrax traditional music record label, one stood out, testimony to his wide-ranging knowledge of music and his boundless encouragement of musicians.

Writing on Facebook, Raymond Weir disclosed he had spoken to Ian on a number of occasions a few years ago after Greentrax released an album of his father’s songs.

Mr Weir wrote: “He came across as a nice man who was passionate about music and about promoting under-the-radar talent. I will always be grateful to Ian for the joy my late father got from having his album released by a record company and being available to buy in a ‘proper’ shop like HMV.”

Other tributes described the legacy of Greentrax recordings as a “priceless treasure to humanity” and Ian as “a very dear and decent man who contributed so much to the Scottish Folk Scene. It feels like the end of an era”.

Ian Green was presented at the 2005 Scottish Trad Awards with the Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award, which ensured him a lasting place in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. The citation began: “It seems beautifully appropriate, somehow, that Ian Green’s original apprenticeship was as a gardener. For as the founder and director of Greentrax Records, Ian has done more than almost any other individual to cultivate the flowering and fruition of Scottish folk music over the last two decades”.

Greentrax was launched in 1986 and went on to release an estimated 500 albums, a considerable feat for any small independent label.

Its all-time top sellers’ list is truly diverse, ranging from the captivating 2018 CD Far, Far from Ypres: Songs, Poems & Music Of World War One to Barbara Dickson’s album of Gerry Rafferty songs, To Each and Everyone (2013), former Runrig singer Donnie Munro’s Heart Of America: Across The Great Divide, and Thunderstruck, a 2003 album by the pioneering piper, Gordon Duncan.

The Greentrax catalogue also includes such familiar names as Dick Gaughan, Eric Bogle, Brian McNeill, Christine Kydd, the McCalmans, Daimh, Archie Fisher and Kathleen MacInnes. The Greentrax Recordings catalogue includes the Greentrax, G2 and Celtic Collections labels, plus Grian Music Publishing.

Small wonder that the Greentrax Records entry takes up nearly seven pages of Martin C Strong’s authoritative 2002 book, The Great Scots Musicography.

Ian David Green was born in Forres, Morayshire, in January 1934, the youngest of three children born to John Green, a Highland piper and head gardener on a local estate, and his wife, Mary, who was employed in domestic service. Green snr moved the family around a number of estates before settling in Edinburgh.

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Ian attended Tynecastle School before being apprenticed to his father, who at that time was head gardener at the Sacred Heart convent at Craiglockhart.

His national service took the form of three years as a vehicle mechanic with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) including two years in Korea, where he came under fire on several occasions.

At length, once demobbed, he joined the ranks of what was then the Edinburgh City police (later, Lothian and Borders police), and eventually retired in 1985, having attained the rank of inspector.

His father had staged informal ceilidhs at the family home in Forres, and it were these that fostered what Ian would much later term an “obsessional” interest in traditional Scottish music.

While serving with the police force he set up, under its auspices, the Edinburgh Police Folk Club (popularly known as ‘Fuzzfolk’) during the British folk boom of the Sixties. The presence of what now would be rather an unusual club did not escape the attention of folk musician historian JP Bean, who refers to it in the introduction to his book Singing from the Floor: A History of British Folk Clubs.

In September 1973 Ian and a small handful of other folk enthusiasts, including Kenny Thomson and John Barrow, established the Edinburgh Folk Club, which opened in the basement of the Chaplaincy Centre in George Square. The club continues to thrive today. During his time with the force Ian had also launched Discount Folk Records, a mail-order and festival stall business, but it was soon overtaken by the growing demand for records issued by Greentrax, which he established in 1986 from his spare bedroom in his Edinburgh home. At length he ran the operation from a business park in Cockenzie, East Lothian. Its albums were bought by enthusiastic music fans in countless countries overseas.

In 2006 Ian was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) in Glasgow; four years later he wrote his entertaining memoirs, Fuzz to Folk: Trax of My Life, published by Edinburgh-based Luath.

In a May 2021 interview with the Sunday Post to mark Greentrax’s 35th anniversary he remarked: “I wanted Greentrax to have a reputation for providing good, traditional music and for treating artists properly and honestly.

“I feel we were so different from so many other record labels as we paid the acts their royalties and looked after them as best we could. I am not hard-nosed, never have been, so I was never going to be a millionaire. I’ve been really happy not chasing millions of pounds and listening to some of the best Scottish traditional music ever as part of my job.”

Ian’s funeral in Edinburgh last month,

a well-attended affair, saw several people who used their singing voices and musical instruments to bid him an affectionate farewell. He was pre-deceased by his wife June in 2007 and he is survived by their children Linda, Andrew and Stephen.