John Watt - Heroes 

"The red man rides for the white manís fee,
Better than a grave at Wounded Knee,
I better he never thought heíd see,
The spires of the auld grey toon."

John Watt,
The Wild West Show

One important strand in the enduring cultural legacy of Buffalo Billís 1904 Scottish tour comes in the form of John Wattís Heroes CD, which contains two songs about the showís visit to Dunfermline: The day that Billy Cody played the Auld Grey Toon, and The Wild West Show.

John, a singer/songwriter of considerable acclaim, is a highly respected figure on Scotlandís thriving folk scene.

Heroes was released in 2000 and contains seventeen tracks in all, most of them songs written by John in homage to his own personal icons. On the cover we find Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull in fine company with the likes of Joe Corrie, the Fife poet; John Thomson, a young goalkeeper who tragically died in 1931 as the result of an accidental clash with a forward during a football match between Rangers and Celtic; the Keltie Clippie; and Johnís own father, Gordon Watt (1891-1983).

Towards the end of his fatherís long and eventful life, John made a tape-recorded interview with him about his many and varied experiences. It was his recollections of Buffalo Billís visit to Dunfermline which brought the inspiration for the two compositions which provide the greatest focus of attention here. Among the extensive sleeve notes, we find the following pronouncements:

Bill Cody aka Buffalo Bill played Dunfermline, Fife on August 16th 1904 and paraded in Kelty, Fife on the 19th and Cowdenbeath, Fife on 23rd

Well, Buffalo Billís show certainly did appear in Dunfermline on the date stated and in Kirkcaldy on the 17th for that matter. However, the bit about the parades in Kelty and Cowdenbeath is, sadly, apocryphal. The full story of how this confusion arose will be revealed in due course.

The two songs are mutually complementary in presenting a stark contrast with one another. The Wild West Show is strictly realist in tone, while The day that Billy Cody played the Auld Grey Toon offers a grand piece of poetic licence. The wild and fantastic lyrics of the latter composition adeptly underscore the fact that onlookersí perceptions of these colourful strangers in their midst would in a great many cases have been far more fanciful even than the admittedly sensational reality.

This fine recording is certainly highly recommended, and for anyone who is interested in acquiring a copy, further details can be obtained from

Back to 1904 main page


Buffalo Billís Wild West in Scotland