Gotell, Hugh | Bowing Down Home
Hugh Gotell grew up with fiddling in the family. His grandfather Jack Gotell played, as did his father John Charles (b. 1893). When Hugh was young, his father didn’t own a fiddle of his own and had to borrow one in order to perform at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Concerts.
Hugh started playing at about 11, often using a makeshift bow that he carved himself from a scrap of wood and wound with white thread. He played on borrowed fiddles until he was 16; then his father bought him an instrument of his own through Eaton’s Catalog.
Gotell learned his first tunes – such as St. Patrick's Day in the Morning and Wearin' of the Green – by watching his father’s fingers. After that, he added to his repertoire mostly by listening to fiddlers on radio; he also had the opportunity to hear and learn from numerous local players: notably Fred McCullough, George Boudreau, Jack Webster, and Hector MacDonald. When he learned a new tune, Gotell would often dress it up or otherwise change it to suit himself: a process that Islander’s call putting your twist on a tune.
Hugh played frequently for dances and weddings for a few years, but then gave up playing regularly while serving in the military during World War II. He didn’t pick the fiddle up again on a consistent basis until the 1970s.
Another fiddler in the family is Hugh’s younger brother Wilfred Gotell.