It’s time for Fife to make more of Johnny Cash connection

Ancestral tourism is a growing market with visitors from all over the globe travelling to our shores to trace their roots.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 4:30 pm

And the latest edition to the Fife festival scene taps directly into that market.

Johnny Cash’s links with the area will be celebrated when the inaugural Cash Back in Fife is staged at the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour from March 6 to 8.

The Man in Black was immensely proud of his family’s Fife roots and was a regular visitor to Falkland following a chance discovery that his family name was indelibly linked to the area and the neighbouring settlement of Strathmiglo.

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Cash fan...Dean Owens had long wanted to hold a weekend to celebrate the music legend and he found the ideal venue when he played the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour last year. (Pic: Neilson Hubbard)

Johnny even played a special televised concert at Falkland Palace in 1981.

Following a gig at the Woodside last year, musician Dean Owens, his manager Morag Neil and hotel owner John McTaggart decided it was time to celebrate the legend’s local links.

John and his wife Lis took over the Woodside in November 2017 and have since built its reputation as a music venue, with the likes of James Grant having already performed there.

Now, they are preparing to welcome well-kent Fifers for Cash Back in Fife and audiences from both home and much further afield.

The Countess of Fife will pllay the inaugural Cash Back in Fife festival in Aberdour in March 2020. (Pic: Liz Tainsh)

Explaining how the idea took shape, John said: “Dean really enjoys Americana and country music and played the hotel last year.

“He’d never been here before but loved the village and, like a lot of artists, stayed overnight with us.

“Over a coffee the next day, he mentioned that he’d done a Johnny Cash covers album a couple of years ago and had always wanted to stage a weekend, celebrating his music.

“When he discovered that Johnny had Fife roots, he decided the Woodside would be the ideal venue.

“I later sat with Dean and Morag and we organised Cash Back in Fife.

“The aim is to offer something for everyone. It’s not a tribute weekend but it does pay homage to Cash, via a host of artists, many of whom are from Fife.

“There’s not a headliner; the aim was to offer a weekend, packed with events that people could enjoy. It’s a great package.”

Since taking over at the Woodside, John and Lis have tried to cater to a market that is often overlooked.

He said: “At the end of March, we’re having a weekend, celebrating The Blue Nile.

“It gives people a chance to spend a weekend here, enjoying the coastal path as well as a host of entertainment.

“It’s a bit like T in the Park for older people who enjoy music but don’t want to rough it in a tent!

“It’s an area of the business we want to build up, particularly outside the tourism season. We want to make our mark as a music venue and Cash Back in Fife will help us build on that.”

Tickets are being snapped up fast; there is still some availability for shows but only a handful of weekend passes left.

It shows there is an appetite for the festival and John is keen to build on that. But he has been surprised by the number of people who did not know about Fife’s Cash connection.

He added: “It’s been a labour of love for me because I’m a big Johnny Cash fan and have always known about his local connections.

“It has been overlooked by a lot of people though and I’ve been shocked at how many people I’ve spoken to about it who didn’t know.

“It’s great to let more people know about it and to celebrate his legacy.

“I don’t think Fife has made enough of the Johnny Cash connection – if we were in America, there would be a statue of him up already!

“Maybe that’s something we can look to do in future.

“As for the festival, it’s been a big hit and we’d like to develop it in the future but how we do that will be decided, after this year’s.”

VisitScotland is delighted to promote and support Cash Back in Fife – as the tourism organisation knows just how lucrative the market is.

Caroline Warburton, the regional leadership director for Fife who also lives in the Kingdom, said: “The Cash clan originally hail from the Strathmiglo area and he came back and visited the area several times in the late 1970s and early 80s.

“It proves the pull Scotland has for people whose families have left and gone overseas.

“It’s a key market for us and a growing one, thanks also to shows like Outlander helping to put us out there.

“The festival is a great way to help promote those links and put Fife on the ancestral tourism map.

“I’ve not got my ticket yet but I hope to get along!”

Cash Back in Fife calendar

Woodside Hotel

High St, Aberdour KY3 0SW

Fri, Mar 6, 8pm

Dean Owens & The Celtabilly Allstars and Martha Healy as support (with Al Shields) and a special guest.

The Celtabilly Allstars are Dean with his former Felsons bass buddy Kevin McGuire, who currently lives in Fife, with guitarist Craig Ross and acclaimed fiddle player Amy Geddes. Tickets: £18.

Sat, Mar 7, 2pm

Join celebrated Scottish author Ian Rankin as he talks about his favourite record by celebrated Fife singer songwriter Jackie Leven: Elegy to Johnny Cash. Tickets: £10.

Sat, Mar 7, 8pm

The Ring of Fire - Songwriters Circle with Rab Noakes, Hannah Rose Platt and Dean Owens. Nashville style Songwriters Circle with participants trading songs and banter. Tickets: £18.

Sun, Mar 8, 1pm

Sunday Afternoon Coming Down with David Latto

The Marriage (Kirsten Adamson and Dave Burn)

The Countess of Fife (ft Fay Fife). Grab yourself a lazy brunch in the Woodside’s atmospheric restaurant, then chill out for a couple of hours with three of Fife’s finest. Tickets: £12

Weekend passes are also still available, priced £45, covering entry to all the events or tickets can be purchased separately for individual gigs.

To get tickets or find out more, visit the Cash Back in Fife website at

Cash Back in Fife is curated by award winning Scottish singer songwriter Dean Owens in collaboration with Scary Biscuits Promotions and the Woodside Hotel. It is not a tribute weekend; artists will perform their own material with some Cash tunes mixed in.