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Biography

Roy Murdoch Buchanan Williamson (25 June 1936, Edinburgh - 12 August 1990, Forres, Scotland) was a Scottish songwriter and folk musician, most notably with The Corries.

It was in 1955 that Williamson met Ronnie Browne at Edinburgh College of Art, with whom he would team up in The Corries. This meeting started a 35 year long partnership.

The "Corrie Folk Trio" began in 1962 and consisted of Roy Williamson, Bill Smith and Ron Cockburn. After a few weeks Cockburn left. As they had already accepted an engagement at the Edinburgh Festival, Williamson suggested that Ronnie Browne should be brought in to make up numbers. They also added female Irish singer Paddie Bell to become the "Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell".

By 1965, Paddie Bell and Bill Smith left. Under the new name, The Corries, Williamson, a talented multi-instrumentalist, and Browne, the singer, performed at the Jubilee Arms Hotel in Cortachy, Angus.

Williamson was a skilled woodworker. In the summer of 1969 he invented the 'combolins', two complementary instruments which combined several into a single instrument. One combined a mandolin and a guitar (along with four bass strings operated with slides) , the other combined guitar and the 12-string Spanish bandurria, the latter being an instrument Williamson had played since the early days of the Corrie Folk Trio.

Originally conceived as a way to combine several of the many instruments they carried around on tour - the Corries' long row of chairs behind them on stage bearing instruments is legendary - the combolins in fact became an additional two instruments for the tour van. Most often, Ronnie Browne played the guitar/mandolin instrument with bass strings, and Williamson the other, which also had 13 sympathetic strings designed to resonate like the Indian sitar.

The wood for the instruments was obtained from antique hardwood furniture as well as premium grade Tyrolean spruce, and featured Williamson's artistic embellishments in silver and mother of pearl. Ronnie Browne' next album. Strings and Things (1970) was specifically designed to showcase the new instruments and featured detailed descriptions of them on the rear sleeve.

Williamson wrote Flower of Scotland, one of the two unofficial Scottish national anthems. He was possibly the first Scottish folk performer to use the bouzouki, in the song's first live performance at Ruthven Barracks for a BBC television programme in 1968.

From 1987, Williamson's health went into decline and he spent his last years living in Forres, close to where he spent his school years. He died of a brain tumour in 1990.

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