Tom was born in Aberdeen, the town where his mother was also born, in 1947. His father was from the village of Maybole in Ayrshire.
His mother’s side of the family had a great love for singing and they sang anything and everything – from traditional Scots songs to Frank Sinatra’s popular ballads. His father’s side of the family was distinctly less musical, to the extent that an annual ritual around Hogmanay was to hide his “moothie” in the hope that the family would not have to listen to him – his father usually managed to find it though!
Tom started attending Aberdeen Folk Song Club in 1962, not long after it had started, and played fiddle in a group doing a mixture of folk styles from Bluegrass to Scottish Traditional. After that, he started singing along in the chorus: initially without the fiddle, and latterly with the fiddle, without really thinking about it.
He was encouraged to learn traditional material initially by Arthur Argo, and then by Peter Hall, who invited him to join a new group he was forming; this group later became The Gaugers.