'Flying Scotsman' Frank Taylor

Wilfred Langmaid- for The Daily Gleaner

For nearly 30 years, Frank Taylor has lived throughout Canada. He has been a furrier, a bar owner, and an entrepreneur. He is, however, most in his element as a touring musician and most at home in New Brunswick, where he and his wife Jane live in their Mactaquac home.

This June, Taylor released his second solo CD Thistledown Thunder. A collection of his heartfelt odes to his adopted Canadian home, interspersed with traditional Scottish and Irish songs, it highlights his strong, passionate voice. While technically folk, it has lots of crossover appeal to adult contemporary formats while never even veering towards muzak.

Taylor emigrated from his native Scotland at the end of 1969. His first Canadian home was in Montreal, and his first work was as a furrier. He soon found a new job as a musician in the Scottish/Irish group The Cotter Folk, but his days in Montreal were to be brief.

October 1970 will go down in history as the time of the FLQ crisis. The recent immigrant Taylor, the son of a Scottish father and an Irish mother decided ''Quebec was not a safe place to be.'' He moved to Toronto, where he soon hooked up with the Irish band the Sons of Erin.

That band often toured throughout Newfoundland, and Taylor was smitten with that province.

''I took a real shine to Newfoundland. I really found an uncanny friendliness,'' Taylor explains. ''Some places have a narrow-minded, unfriendly, unsociable attitude, but I found Newfoundland to be like Ireland and Scotland in its friendliness. It was clear to me that I was going to settle in Newfoundland.''

That move came in 1973, and Taylor supported himself in those days as a solo musician. Then came a call from an old musical friend, Don Paul. They formed a duo called the Excise Men. After playing in Montreal for much of 1974, the Excise Men were a touring unit in Newfoundland for the next three years.

Other changes were happening in Taylor's life, however. Since he had made a personal commitment to ''get out of the travelling part of the music business'' if he started a family, he came off the road in 1977. He went back to the fur industry.

It was not, however, a boom time for furriers.

''The industry was waning. Because of the Greenpeace thing, fur was being frowned upon.'' So, Taylor left the business in the hand of his brother with whom he was a partner, and opened a pub.

''They said I was crazy.'' Taylor recalls. People did not think that a Scottish pub would go over in St. John's, Newfoundland, but the Rob Roy Pub was a huge success.

(If that name rings a bell, it is likely due to the movie with Liam Neeson in the title role.)

''I've always been ahead of my time, I guess.'' Taylor quips, ''but the Rob Roy story was an old Scottish story that always stood out for me. I was being the Scottish outlaw against all odds.''

Taylor augmented his living and his pub's fame by regrouping with Paul. They played weekly from 1977 until 1983 in his pub. The Rob Roy also got a boost by being the venue for after-concert parties scheduled by concert promoters; everyone from Supertramp and Chris DeBurgh to Streetheart and Teaze imbibed after their concerts in Taylor's pub.

Buoyed by this success, Taylor opened other successful pubs in St. John's. He was just getting a restaurant off the ground one floor above Rob Roy's when disaster struck.

That disaster was a nine-month beer strike in 1983.

''It drove me to sell some assets,'' Taylor says. Things might have been worked out but for a betrayal.

Taylor expressed misgivings about a lawyer who worked on his behalf.

''He took me for everything. I lost about half a million bucks, my businesses, my house, my cars everything.''

Taylor resettled in Nova Scotia, but after he declared personal bankruptcy in 1985, his wife left him.

So, Taylor turned to his old standby: a music career. He moved to New Brunswick, eventually settling in Fredericton in 1989. While playing at a concert, he met the woman who would be his wife. He married Jane Taylor, a civil servant with the Department of Supply and Services, in 1993. They lived in Fredericton before buying a ''private and quiet home on the arm of the Mactaquac'' two years ago.

Taylor is still making music. He makes his living by travelling across North America to share his musical passion, but he is thrilled to call New Brunswick home.

''Since I moved to New Brunswick, I've found something that I hadn't found elsewhere: a peace of mind, a kindling spirit.

''I've written more songs about New Brunswick than about any other place I've ever lived.''

Taylor does admit some frustration over New Brunswick's seeming reluctance to promote its own musical talent.

''I wish that the industry was respected as much here as it is in other provinces.

''There is a huge industry here to be developed.'' he explains. ''It's a bottomless pit of millions of dollars if people would promote our terrific musical talent as well as our province's beauty.''

Still, Taylor is content.

''Even though there is a lack of infrastructure in the music industry in New Brunswick, I've achieved more here. It's been good to me.''

While the fall will see Taylor playing much of the time in Ontario, local music fans will get a chance to enjoy his talents next weekend. He is a featured performer at the upcoming Mactaquac Craft Festival from Sept. 4 and 5.

1998 The Daily Gleaner