Maureen Jelks

Maureen was born in Dundee, at 1 Little John Street, and moved to the Overgate when she was three years old. Sadly, the Overgate has been replaced by a shopping centre. Her singing was inherited from her mother, who was a very good singer and would sing any song that took her fancy from Scottish, Irish, Frank Sinatra and Carmen Miranda!! Maureen would join in, even harmonising with her Mother from a very young age. There was always company in the house most weekends, and there would be a singsong where everyone would take a turn at singing songs, which would include anything from Burns, popular ballads and Dundee songs. Maureen was always asked to sing (even getting out of bed to do so) but would only sing hiding behind her Mother or sitting under the table! Most of her family worked in the jute mills, so there would be many songs made up about them.

She moved to London at the age of fifteen and gradually moved through the music scene, from rock and roll, traditional jazz, blues and into folk clubs in the sixties. Even though she loved to sing Maureen was very shy about singing in front of anyone and thought that once she had mastered playing the guitar, she would then be able to sing!

Having moved back to Scotland in 1970, it was a few years before she was to discover the Scottish traditional music scene; this was due to a friendship with fellow Dundonian Christine Stewart who took her to her first Scottish folk festival, which was in Kinross. For Maureen it was a revelation and a rediscovery of her roots. She went on to compete in TMSA song competitions, winning many, which not only gave her confidence but helped to rid her of the shyness which had held her back for so many years. She was forty years old when she entered and won her first competition.

Her love of harmony singing led her to join other like-minded singers and perform with groups such as Tapsalteerie, Palaver, the Dundee Rep’s Women’s Singing Group, and as a duo with Sheena Wellington. In 1996 she went to work with a professional theatre group, Northern Stage in Newcastle, to sing as a traditional singer in a play by Spanish playwright Garcia Lorca (directed by Alan Lydyard), and proved that traditional song can be used as a medium in any setting. She has since taken part in local theatre groups, the most recent being ‘Yellow on the Broom’ by Betsy White. In 1991 she was one of the singers featured in the television series for BBC2 ‘The Jean Redpath Song Masterclass’. In the late 80s she also was one of the singers in a program, ‘The Working Year’, about the fishing industry along with Archie Fisher. She has also been involved in radio programs with Radio Scotland and Radio Tay. In the last few years Maureen has also been involved in teaching traditional songs in schools in Dundee and Fife, work which she enjoys very much.

Maureen was very much influenced by the late Belle Stewart and Mary Brooksbank and felt a close affinity with their singing and their songs. Gordeanna McCulloch was another influence and was one of the first singers Maureen heard at her first Kinross Festival. With her obvious love of the songs, and her great sense of fun, Maureen has proved to be a great favourite at many festivals in Ireland and Britain as a solo artist, and as part of the group Palaver, which includes Ailleen Carr and Chris Miles. They have been joined recently by Pete Shepheard, Tom Spiers and Arthur Watson, all great solo singers and instrumentalists in their own right, to form the group Flash Company!