If ever “not enough hours in the day” applied to anyone it would be Rockin’ Raymondo McQuarrie.
The 50-year-old livewire from Castle Douglas somehow finds time to be a Metropolitan police officer, operate a taxi service and – before Covid – run a mobile disco.
And there’s more – the dad-of-four and grandfather of five is a legend on stage as an Elvis tribute artist.
He’s raised fortunes for good causes at 31 concerts, the first at the then Lochside Theatre back in 1997.
The music hasn’t stopped for the pandemic either – Raymond’s been doing home-a-thon discos live streamed from his living room.
“Before Covid I had raised £360,000 for various charities,” he says. “Every one of those 31 shows was sold out.”
Raymond has his parents John and Wilma to thank for his love of music and song, and Elvis in particular.
“My mum loved singing Scottish songs – Andy Stewart, the Alexander Brothers and Lena Martell,” recalls Raymond.
“She would sing Glen Campbell too and Sacha Distel was another favourite.
“But Elvis – she was besotted with Elvis.
“She always said he was such a great singer because he put such feeling into his songs and sang straight from the heart.
“Elvis was such an amazing singer – he could do anything, gospel, country or rock and roll.
“When he sang ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ she would always have a wee tear in her eye. My dad would say ‘he’s not that great’ – I think he was a wee bit jealous!
“I remember one day when I was six mum picked me up from school and was crying.
“I said ‘what’s happened?’
“‘Elvis Presley has died’, she said.
“She was breaking her heart.
“That was 1977 – he was only 42. Mum was devastated.”
Raymond spent the first nine months of life at Cuil Farm outside Castle Douglas, where Wilma was the dairywoman and John a gravedigger with Stewartry District Council.
“Mum had stayed at home and my grandfather, the dairyman, had her out working on the farm,” Raymond explains.
“When my granny died my grandpa gave up the farm work – that was why we moved into the town.
“My dad dug my granny’s grave, my mum’s mum, Mary McIntyre.”
The new family home in Cairnsmore Crescent was seldom without song – with pubgoers among the many to enjoy John McQuarrie’s voice.
“My dad was a great singer,” says Raymond.
“When I went to bed he would pop into my room and sing Foster and Allen’s Scarlet Ribbons. That was my lullaby.
“Out in the town he would sing on demand in the Bluebell and the Station Hotel.
“One night in 1979 this guy up on holiday heard my dad singing in the back room at the Bluebell.
“He was an agent and tried to get him to go to London and sing in the clubs for £500 a month.
“That was a lot of money then but my dad wanted to stay home and look after his wife and family.
“His other job was the town hall keeper.
“He had it absolutely sparkling and you could have eaten your dinner off the floor.
“He also did Littlewoods Pools and would walk 10 miles round the town taking them out one night and collecting them the next.”
Raymond isn’t quite sure whether singing soothed his father’s demons but agrees that no child should have to witness what John McQuarrie did as a young boy.
“My dad had a very troubled childhood,” he says openly.
“He was six-years old and sitting on his mother’s knee when she was murdered.
“Her throat was cut from ear to ear by this guy who had mental problems.
“He was her partner and had killed her out of jealousy.
“It would be classed as a domestic murder and the man was confined to Carstairs.
“It happened in Gretna in 1941, during the war.
“His mum had been working in the munitions factory.
“My dad never spoke of it. It played havoc in his mind.
“And if anybody put their hand round his neck he would go absolutely crazy.”
The life of Raymond’s mum Wilma was also cut short in tragic circumstances.
“She died at 48, two years after she had a massive brain haemorrhage falling down the stairs in the family home,” says Raymond sadly.
“I was only 15 when it happened.
“After I finished work on the Castle Douglas bypass I used to hitchhike every night to visit her in the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh.
“Sometimes she recognised me but when I sang Ned Miller’s From a Jack to a King to her she would always join in.
“She knew every word.”
The loss of his mother had a profound impact on Raymond and to this day he remains grateful to those who helped him through dark times.
“Eric Montgomery who owns Monty’s Bar in the town was like a father figure to me,” he says candidly.
“He was a massive influence in my life and kept me on the straight and narrow.
“He’s always been there for me through thick and thin.
“And when I was 17 learning to drive my instructor Ian Semple would take me to Dumfries Infirmary to see my mother for the six months before she died.
“He never charged for a single driving lesson. I was truly humbled about that.”
Raymond only really got on the wrong side of the law once – running an errand for his grandpa.
“When mum was in hospital we looked after my grandfather in the house for a while but then he got put into Carlingwark nursing home,” Raymond recalls.
“He liked a wee dram and one night I took my wee brother’s blue and yellow BMX bike to bring him a half bottle from a shop.
“It had no lights or brakes and the police chased me up King Street.
“I was 15 and I think they must have thought I was trying to do a burglary or something.
“When I saw the blue lights flashing I just took off.
“I don’t think they were too happy – I was going like the clappers.
“They didn’t believe I had been at Carlingwark, that’s for sure.
“I got fined £75 for having no lights, improper use of a bike by riding on the pavement and failing to stop for a police officer.
“And if I was out late at 11pm I would get a kick up the backside from PC Eric Scott and told to get home.
“I wasn’t arguing – he was as broad as he was tall!”
Meanwhile, music had become an important emotional safety valve for the teenager, who was already learning how to DJ in the Thistle Inn.
One regular, James “Fudgie” McFadzean, who years later would employ Raymond as an apprentice, had an encyclopaedic memory of chart hits and added many singles to the budding DJ’s playlist.
“I had been going to the Thistle since I was 11 or 12,” remembers Raymond with a smile. A guy called Noky Watson owned the pub and had Noky’s Disco too.
“He taught me how to DJ – I suppose I was Noky’s protégé. Fudgie told me about all the Sixties and Seventies songs.
“‘Play this,’ he would say. ‘This will get them up dancing.’
“His musical knowledge was the best I have ever known.”
From a promising start at Castle Douglas High School – “I was in the top 26 out of 115 in the first two years” – after his mother’s devastating injury, school became an afterthought and Raymond quit at 15.
“I was trying to run the house, help my dad and was doing the disco at weekends,” he says .
“I started as an apprentice at Ballards Butchers but got sacked because I was away at the hospital that much.
“Then I got a job labouring on the by-pass for two years and when that finished I got taken on by Fudgie McFadzean as a plasterer’s labourer.
Remarkably, Raymond was just 16 when he bought the disco equipment he had practised on from Raymond “Curly” White, in 1988.
It went under the name of Big Audio Dynamite but Raymond quickly realised that BAD wasn’t a great selling point and rebranded it as Raymond’s Disco, its title to this day.
Soon the cash was rolling in – despite teething problems.
“I bought the lot for £300 and then bought a Transit van,” chuckles Raymond.
“But soon after I started gigging it broke down. Fudgie gave me the loan of his plasterer’s van which did for a while.
“It was decent money – between £15 and £40 a night, depending on the gig.
“I bought on Cotton Street when I was 25 and the disco money paid for the deposit.”
To begin with Raymond’s Disco packed them in at Castle Douglas, Crossmichael, Springholm and other local halls.
But soon his mobile music machine was on the road across Scotland and over the border as far south as Kent, Essex and Wales.
Gigs usually passed off without too much trouble but a terrifying incident near Dumfries almost cost Raymond his life.
“I had just bought a new van from Haugh’s Garage in CD and 10 days later I got hit by a bore tide at Glencaple,” he explains.
“It was one o’ clock in the morning and I started floating out to the Solway.
“I nearly drowned and the police said if the disco gear had not been in the back I would have been gone. It ruined all my disco gear and the van was written off.”
By his early twenties, Raymond had started a seven-year stint with the Royal Mail.
And he was glad to have the security of a postie’s job when domestic matters were anything but stable.
“I was staying with a married woman and her two kids which wasn’t working out,” he says ruefully.
“Me and my dad had fallen out too so for a few nights I was homeless and slept in the back of the mail van.
“I was speaking to Fudgie one day and he said come and stay with me.
“So I did, and I was there for four years.”
Before the pandemic, Raymond, a PC with the Met for 19 years, would travel home twice a month from digs at his auntie and uncle’s home in Kent to see his family.
A career with the police had been in his mind since boyhood – but his ambitions didn’t get off to the best of starts.
“There’s a big mansion house outside CD called Springfield owned by the Oliphant family,” Raymond says with a smile.
“It was a couple of fields across from our house and I spent a lot of my childhood there exploring.
“One day Mrs Oliphant caught me stealing apples and to make it up to her I cut her grass for ages.
“Her son David was a sergeant with the Metropolitan Police in London.
“Years later he helped me with my application to the force.”
Currently Raymond has been assigned to computer-based duties at home because his COPD places him in the vulnerable category.
He’s remarkably laid back about the progressive and life-limiting lung condition – and has yet to give up the fags.
“It will get worse and worse and will eventually kill me,” says Raymond honestly.
“My doctor says I could have five, 10 or 20 years – who knows?
“I smoked my first cigarette the day my mother died when I was 17.
“I’m still trying to give up and I’m going to Smoking Matters, which is really helpful.
“I told the lung specialist that I was an Elvis tribute artist and he said singing his songs was a great way to expand my lungs.
“So in a way Elvis is keeping me alive.”