The voice of Runrig’s later years, Bruce Guthro, left us early in September. Simon Jones remembers and pays due homage.
It’s 1997 and Scotland’s endemic rockers Runrig are without a singer. The man whose voice was described “as big as a Highland mountain,” Donnie Munro has found a new groove in politics. Runrig are determined to continue but despite a long list of hopefuls to fill the post none of them feel right. Names are whispered and rumours fly around. Wanted, someone with a strong, powerful, melodic voice, who can sing in Gaelic and English, who’s in sympathy with the band’s insprations and ethics, who can hold a huge crowd in the palm of their hand for nigh on two hours a night and commit a good proportion of the year to touring hither and yon. Not as easy as it seems. In the end Runrig have to look beyond these shores and follow the diaspora of Scottish emigration.
Bruce Guthro came from Cape Breton stock in eastern Canada, a place where people held onto the roots of their ancestors and played the music that had been passed down the generations. Already a singer songwriter back home with a couple of albums under his belt, Guthro may have seemed an unlikely fit yet a triumphal set at the Tonder Folk Festival in Denmark cemented his place in the band, they knew they’d found their man. From then on through ‘In Search Of Angels,’ ‘The Stamping Ground,’ and ‘The Story,’ Bruce Guthro not only amplified the songs and writing of band founders Calum and Rory McDonald but he added significantly to Runrig’s modus operandi through his compositions and performances. He remained with them for a further twenty years of glorious music until their final curtain call at Stirlling in 2018. The show was released on DVD / CD as ‘The Last Dance.’ Alongside his Runrig commitments Bruce also kept up his solo career issuing albums on EMI, MCA and Runrig’s label Ridge between 1994 and 2012.
He had been ill for sometime but characteristically modest as ever he wanted information kept quiet and low key. He finally passed on September 5th. His funeral service and subsequent memorial concert were streamed on the net, tributes have constantly poured in from around the globe. His former bandmates said it so appropriately, ” Bless you Bruce, a rare gift that came into our lives to help transform Runrig in our hour of need. We miss and mourn.”
The best way to remember is to play his music often… that’s just what I intend to do. Bruce Guthro 1961 – 2023, taken far too early.