Peter Mallan, who has died aged 80, was a former firefighter who became one of Scotland’s leading singers and broadcasters. A stalwart of shows such as the White Heather Club, he was the first person to record the song These Are My Mountains.
It was written for him in 1966 by the actor Jimmy Copeland – father of James Cosmo – for the television contest A Song For Scotland. Although it did not win, coming a close second to another Copeland composition, it became one of the most popular Scottish songs of its time, recorded by the likes of the Alexander Brothers and Daniel O’Donnell. However, Mr Mallan’s original version, which became his signature tune, is generally regarded as the best.
He performed it around the world, everywhere from Hong Kong to New York. He later became a radio presenter, cutting his DJ teeth on the pirate Radio Scotland before moving to the nation’s first commercial station, Radio Clyde.
Later still, he went into teaching and was, for a while, principal teacher of music at Scotland’s biggest comprehensive, Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow.
He was born in Glasgow and brought up in Gorbals. As a youngster he was always singing, his tuneful voice echoing up and down the close where he lived in McNeil Street. His talent was recognised by Canon Sydney MacEwan, the renowned Scottish tenor, who took him under his wing and tutored him in interpretation.
He left school at 15 and, after a variety of jobs, joined the Glasgow Fire Service at the age of 21. He was among those on duty on the night of March 28, 1960, when 19 firefighters were killed while tackling a blaze at a whisky warehouse in Cheapside Street, Glasgow.
Music was always his first love and, in his early 20s, he set off for London, where he studied and gained a degree from the Royal Academy Of Music.
As his singing career took off, he performed in clubs and variety theatres all over Scotland alongside acts such as Jimmy Shand, Eric Robinson and Kenneth McKellar. He also started making records, firstly on the Parlophone label with George Martin, who would go on to produce the Beatles.
His first broadcast was on the BBC Home Service’s Children’s Hour with Kathleen Garscadden, known as Auntie Kathleen to a generation of youngsters. He went on to appear in a variety of radio and TV shows including Jigtime, The One O’Clock Gang and the White Heather Club.
He appeared at the Edinburgh Festival with his own one-man show, Loons, Lochs And Leprechauns, which was later adapted for the small screen by Grampian Television.
At one point in his career, Mr Mallan sailed on the RMS Queen Mary to New York, where he played in the Waldorf Astoria and Carnegie Hall.
His presenting career began with his own show on pirate radio with Mallan’s Medics, a Radio Scotland request programme for people in hospital. Much to his regret, however, he never became part of the station’s off-shore DJ crew since his show was always pre-recorded in a studio in Glasgow’s West End.
It was during this period that Mr Mallan’s recording of These Are My Mountains really took off, eventually reaching the top of the Scottish charts. The record was largely ignored by the BBC and he always put its success down to the number of airplays it received from the pirate jocks at Radio 242. He joined Radio Clyde in 1979 and remained there as a presenter/producer for many years.
A strong supporter of the SNP, he stood as a candidate for the party in a parliamentary by-election for the Glasgow Queen’s Park constituency in 1982. Labour held the seat but Mr Mallan came a respectable second.
His job as principal teacher of music at Holyrood Secondary was a true labour of love for him. His distinctive classroom style made music a joy for the children he taught.
In 2006, in his early 70s, he suffered a stroke. It came just a few months before his beloved daughter Jennie Brown, a music teacher like both her parents, died suddenly on her son’s first birthday.
Peter Mallan, who died suddenly but peacefully in hospital, is survived by his wife Helen, son John, son-in-law Lindsay and grandchildren Heather and Thomas.