Jamie Allan was a Northumbrian piper, a border gypsy, born 1734 in Rothbury and who died in the Durham Lock Up in 1810 where he was serving a life sentence for stealing a horse from Gateshead seven years earlier. During his lifetime he became a legendary rogue, but one of immense talent as a musician, often patronised by the aristocracy who, however, became wary of him when his wayward behaviour began to match their own. As he grew older his attraction to them diminished and his struggle to survive intensified along with the other gypsies who were regarded as rogues and scum and treated as such. He retained a few loyal supporters, mostly on the North side of the Tyne, who tried to get him released, but they failed and he died confined miserable in Durham.
For some he represents the spirit of the borders and he retains the affection and admiration of most musicians carrying on the tradition. This opera is written as a celebration and salute to Jamie Allan, warts an’ all.
© 2005 Tom Pickard
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