Farewell to a man with a song in his heart ...

Dennis Alexander
Dennis Alexander

Tributes have poured in following the death of Kirkcaldy music man Dennis Alexander at the weekend.

Dennis (60), passed away peacefully at his Kirkcaldy home with his fiancee Sophie McInnes, son Lewis and daughter Jill at his side.

One of the most familiar faces in town, he performd countless shows to audiences of all ages – delighting them with his music, storytelling and warm, gentle humour.

Dennis was well known as one half of Scottish folk duo Crooked Jack, which he formed with bass player John Gray back in 1989, and they went on to play gigs all around the world over the past 20 years, with New Zealand a particular favourite.

Several generations will recall his famous songs, including ‘Sam The Skull’ and the tongue-twisting ‘Pheasant Plucker!’

But he was also an accomplished solo performer and, just last year, cemented 20 years in music by embarking on a new children’s show ‘Scotch Broth’, which toured many of the big Scottish festivals.

He also launched ‘Songs, Stories and Downright Lies’ for adults and performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

And he was a great supporter of the local music scene, getting involved in many projects from the acoustic club at Betty Nicol’s to supporting ‘Rock The Rovers’ and gave his time to many community events and initiatives – from performing in the High Street to portraying Adam Smith at the inaugural dinner of the Adam Smith Global Foundation.

In between times he also ran the town’s Chicken Shop fancy dress and joke shop as well as the Pancake Place, selling them both in 2011 to concentrate on his successful music career.

Dennis was born in Aberdeenshire and was the youngest of three brothers.

From an early age, he enjoyed singing and took part in many family concert parties. He learned to play the guitar to expand his repertoire and, after seeing Cilla Fisher and Artie Tresize at an army base in Germany, he started planning his own programme of Scottish music and joined his first band, Friends and Neighbours.

While still at RAF Leuchars he frequented St Andrews Folk Club and began gigging around Fife.

He finished the RAF in 1981 and settled in Auchtertool where, a few years later, he met John Gray at a local gala day and Crooked Jack was born.

The duo’s popularity spread quickly and their music was soon going further afield, as they went on to tour Thailand, Bahrain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where they were firm favourites. In 2009, David Vernon took over from John Gray to keep Crooked Jack going.

Tributes have been pouring in to Dennis’ facebook page from all over the world.

His funeral will take place at Kirkcaldy Crematorium on Tuesday at 2.15 p.m., when guests have been asked to wear something Scottish. It will be followed by a celebration of his life at the Kingswood Hotel in Burntisland, featuring lots of music and storytelling.

A kind, caring man with so many wonderful, creative ideas ...

Sophie McInnes, fiancee: He was the most positive person I know. He didn’t see anything as a problem and he just got on with it and made it work. I have been amazed by the number of messages, cards and calls I have had from people from all over the world.”

Gordon Brown MP: “Dennis was tireless in his community activities, selflessly contributing his time and energy while maintaining his business and music commitments. He will be sorely missed by the people of Kirkcaldy and beyond.”

John Murray, radio DJ and friend: “Whether it was as Shaky Jake, Leslie Milnathort, Scotch Broth, Scotia’s Hardy Sons, Crooked Jack or as a soloist, Dennis was the very definition of an entertainer. No-one gave more and, in our marketing and events projects, he was never short of ideas and creatives.”

Jackie Storrar, Kirkcaldy musician: “Dennis was such a talent, had such a generous heart, and someone who always made you feel that little bit better for being in his company.”

Janey Kirk, country singer: “Such a very sad day . An extremely kind, caring man, and many a great gig we shared. Loved his sense of humour and his strong spirit. He fought a very hard battle, such an inspiration to us all.”

Ally Gourlay, chairman of the Raith Rovers Former Players Association: “It’s the latter years that we really got to know each other – one of the funniest times being the Raith Literary Dinner, which I hosted and you performed at, when we managed to persuade Ian Rankin to get the Pancake Place into his latest novel in return for a donation to the Rovers.”