1932 - 2011

Anna Ottilie Patterson was born here in Comber, Northern Ireland, on 31 January 1932 died Ayr, Scotland, 20 June 2011.
One of the greatest Jazz and Interprative singers that has ever been. She studied the piano from the age of ten and trained as a classical pianist.
She studied art at the Belfast College of Technology and formed her own band Muskrat Ramblers. Sometime on or about 1954 she was a teaching at Ballymena Technical College. She joined the Barber Jazz band full-time on 1st January 1955, making her first public appearance at the Royal Festival Hall on 9th January 1955.
Known internationally as Ottilie she produced a vast list of recordings on a considerable number of record ladels with some of the greatest British Jazz exponents such as:- Humphrey Littleton, Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Chris Barber, to drop but a few names from her illustrious career. Here is a few of the tracks she recorded there are many others:-

As Long As I'm Moving,  
Baby Please Don't Go,  
Backwater Blues,  
Beale St. Blues,  
Blueberry Hill,  
Careless Love,  
Don't Fish In My Sea,  
Heavenly Sunshine,  
Hello, Dolly!,  
I Can't Give You Anything But Love,  
I Love My Baby,  
I Shall Not Be Moved,  
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,  
Jailhouse Blues,  
Jealous Heart,  
Kay Cee Rider,  
Let Him Go Let Him Tarry,  
Lonesome Road,  
Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,  
Make Me a Pallet On the Floor,  
Mean Mistreater,  
New St. Louis Blues,  
Poor Man's Blues,  
Salty Dog,  
Shipwreck Blues,  
Spring Song,  
Sweet Georgia Brown,  
'Taint No Sin,  
Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred,  
The Bitterness Of Death/ Spring Song,  
There'll Be A Hot Time In Old Town Tonight,  
Trombone Cholly,  
Trouble In Mind,  
Ugly Child,  
Weeping Willow Blues,  
When Things Go Wrong,  

Fame did not go to her head and she remained a very private and reserved lady. Ottilie retired during 1984, She lived in Ayr, Scotland for thirty years latterly moving to a private care home where she died at the age of 79. It was her own wish that she lived in quiet anonymity and her family did not make public her passing. Ottilie chose the Rozelle Holm Farm, Care Home, in Ayr knowing that her privacy and rights as an individual would be respected.
She was laid to rest in the private family plot in Comber.

23rd February 2012

The Reverend Ian Gilpin                 Reverend Father Martin O'Hagan

John Andrews          Councillor Mervin Oswald          Lisa Watson.

A plaque commemorating the life of Ottilie Patterson was unveiled at the home of her birth No 26 Carnesure Terrace, Comber, Co Down on 23rd February 2012. .

      Mayor Councillor Mervin Oswald addressed the gathering of fans and friends, he introduced John Andrews, whose great uncle Thomas Andrews was drowned in the sinking of the Titanic. It is interesting to note that Joe Patterson Ottilie’s father was chauffeur to the Andrews family. .

He also introduced Lisa Watson who was Ottilie’s care worker and friend during the last twenty or so years of her life in the Rozelle Holm Farm, Care Home, in Ayr, Scotland..

Also amongst the crowd which numbered at least 100 The Reverend Father Martin O'Hagan a member of the internationally acclaimed trio of male vocalists known as “The Priests” was in attendance with the Reverend Ian Gilpin and Canon Jonathan Barry.

      Later that same evening in the La Mon Hotel, Gransha, Castlereagh, just outside Comber Erskine Willis together with John Andrews and Drew Hogg had arranged a gala evening to remember Ottilie’s life and times. Walter Love was also involved in arranging the concert, unfortunately Walter was in hospital and was unable to attend the gala evening.

The music for the occasion was provided by the Linley Hamilton band with Patsy Melarkey singing in the style of Ottilie. The evening was an outstanding success everyone tapping feet, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere and the music. The attendance was expected to be about 200 but at least 500 Ottilie fans turned out to remember Ottilie the International Jazz legend from Comber. There is a strong ongoing Jazz scene here in Ulster with the official launch of the Brian Dempster book 'Tracking Jazz - The Ulster Way'. This book was selling like hotcakes in the reception area of the La Mon Hotel. It was a great day for the Ottilie fans and a night that will be long remembered.

Newtownards Chronicle, Thursday 27th October, 2005
Ottilie still a big hit with blues and jazz fans

The story of Comber born Ottilie Pattersons rise to fame in the 1950s/60s including her marriage for a time to jazz musician Chris Barber, will perhaps have faded from ageing memories but not so local jazz enthusiasts who still hold the former blues singer in high esteem.

          Towards the end of 1958 Ottilie had a notion to make an album of her own with some of her Irish friends. She had this to say at the time: "Some bright comedian once said that there were no Irish people left in Ireland anymore, that they were all abroad singing about it. While not actually true, such a statement is very near the truth, for after four years as a singer with Chris Barber's Jazz Band I myself began to feel the pull of "The Oul' Country". I just wanted to forgot jazz and city life for a while. and nave the pleasure of singing a few of the old songs that all Irish people like to sing when they get together, and also to sing one or two which might all too soon be forgotten."

          To enable her to make this record she sought the help of George Boyd back in Newtownards. "Ottilie was looking for a drummer and an accordionist. Although I was learning drums with the CLB Band I didn't think I was good enough. However, I did manage to get two musicians from Holywood, Norman Connor and Martin Fitzsimmons who went across to London." The LP was called Ottilie's Irish Night which includes such numbers as Hello Patsy Fagan, Inniskilling Dragoon and The Oul' Lammas Fair. George is pleased that his name is credited on the sieve of the LP.

          George Boyd of Glenbrook Road. Newtownards doesn't hand out musical plaudits readily However, make mention of Ottilie Patterson and the knowledgeable follower of traditional jazz music will credit her as having been one of the best in the business. "For me she was the epitome of female singers of her era. and her deep voice also enhanced the Barber Band to make a really good outfit."

These remarks arc borne out in a 1955 edition of the musical magazine Melody Maker which describes Ottilie as Britain's Bessie Smith (the great American blues singer who died following a road accident in 1937). while no less a person as Louis Armstrong is quoted as saying; "That gal puts me in min' of Bessie Smith."

          Ottilie was born at Carnesure Terrace, Comber in 1932 to Joe and Juliette Patterson. Her mother was Latvian who met her Newtownards soldier husband during the First World War. Juliette's escape from the Germans in 1915. the 'Turks in 1917, her marriage and then honeymoon m Constantinople is a wonderful story all on its own. Also born in Comber were Ottilie's two brothers, John and Jim, also sister Jessie now all deceased. On leaving Comber the family lived for several months at Scrabo Road, Newtownards before moving to Avondale Gardens in the town. After an early education at Regent House, where she showed a flair for art, Ottilie (named after a Latvian cousin) qualified at Belfast College of Art as a teacher and subsequently look up several temporary positions.

          It was during her spell at college that she began to take an interest in jazz music, George explained how he got to know her around 1950: "A group of us including Ottilie and her sister Jessie would travel regularly to the Cavehill Road home of the late Gerry McQueen. who had a fantastic collection of jazz and blues records. Ottilie liked what she heard and her natural talent came through as a singer with bands at venues such as Chalet D'or and the Fiesta Ballroom, both in Belfast."

          It was from the latter venue that George recalled a story: "I had been accompanied to the gig by fellow jazz enthusiasts Reggie Armstrong and Ivan Patterson (no relation to Ottilie) in a car borrowed by Ivan (still very much an entertainer today). We decided to offer Ottilie a lift home to Newtownards which she accepted. All went well until we readied the then garage at the top of Bradshaw's Brae where we ran into thick fog. Ottilie suggested we stop the car for she didn't want to end up like Bessie Smith! So the car was abandoned and between the three us we chair-lifted her down to Conway Square." In 1952 Ottilie had teamed up for a time with two former college friends, Al Watt and Derek Martin who had formed The Muskrat Ramblers which was a chance for her to sing only the pure blues - something for which she had formed a taste during her debut with the Jimmy Compton Band in 1951.

          The young local artiste made several casual appearances in London in 1953 but she had to wait until the beginning of 1955 before her career realty took off. George (an electrician all his working life) was employed in Birkenhead at the time. He frequented a jazz venue called the Picton Hall in Liverpool which regularly hosted bands of the calibre of Mick Mulligan. Freddy Randall. Ken Colyer's Jazzmen and Humphrey Littleton. "1 knew a guy there called Albert Kinder who was a kind of promoter. He let me in for free because I put his posters up in the shipyard where l worked. It was at one of these evenings that I mentioned Ottilie to Humphrey Littleton, However he didn't want a singer but suggested that she should try Chris Barber. Towards the end of 1954 Barber had left Ken Colyer along with Monty Sunshine to form his own band and the rest as they say is history."

          It was after only eight days with the Barber Band that Ottilie made her first appearance at a major London jazz concert at the Royal Festival Hall where she created a favourable impression and as time went by so too did her reputation as an outstanding blues singer. Chris Barber and Ottilie married in 1959 in what turned out to be less than an amicable relationship. The early 60s saw George Boyd in employment in Southampton. He recalled travelling to London's Royal Festival Hall for a Barber concert to an invited audience. At the conclusion of the evening lie was mistaken by a young bloke as a member of the band but the affable Ardsman had no hesitation in signing the autograph book anyway! On another occasion George was invited to accompany Chris and Ottilie to a gig in Slough. George takes up the story "Barber was a great man for racing cars and I think it was an Aston Martin he had at the time. It was only a two-seater so 1 had to share the back with a trombone and other equipment. I thought it was wonderful being there and it's a favourite memory of mine."

          Another happy memory for George was an impromptu musical evening at Avondale Gardens in Newtownards at which both Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan were present: "Joe. Ottilie's father, was a great melodeon player and during the course of the evening Barber had a go. He was such a great musician that in no time at all had mastered the instrument," said George.

          The Chris Barber Jazz Band and Ottilie travelled extensively in the 60s and were particularly appreciated in Germany and America. One of Ottilie's proudest moments in fact was at the President Kennedy Washington Jazz Festival of 1962 when she was rapturously received singing the blues to a mainly black audience,

          Because of ill-health Ottilie performed less frequently in the 70s and for a time resided at Drumhirk, Newtownards, and later with her mother at Ballycrochan, Bangor. She did however, make a successful comeback in 1979 after a seven-year absence from the stage when she appeared at the Magnus Jazz Festival in Wembley. A jazz critic wrote of the event; "Ottilie Patterson, the little lady with the big Bessie Smith voice, rescued the first night of the Magnus Records Jazz Festival at Wembley Conference Centre. In her first appearance in the United Kingdom for seven years she dominated the audience just as she did in the 50s and 60s. sometimes sombre and sometimes just plain gutsy. The Chris Barber Band, with whom she has been appearing on and off for two decades, gave her excellent backing."

          George, now retired, still enjoys his jazz and blues collections although nowadays also has a leaning towards good folk and good country music. He rates Portaferry's Rosemary Wood highly in folk circles. His last word however, was for Ottilie Jeger Patterson: "She was a great singer with, and still has, a great sense of humour, and if pushed for a favourite song of hers it would have to be Trouble in Mind which does everything for me." Ottilie (73) now lives quietly in retirement in Ayr Scotland but keeps in touch with many of her music friends ail around the world including her good friend, George Boyd in Newtownards- We thank you Ottilie for songs like Shipwreck Blues, Jailhouse Blues, New St Louis Blues, Careless Love ......


          Its perhaps not generally known that Ottilie sang the title track for the 1964 film, Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? The movie stars Warren Mitchell in his pre Alt Garnet days and was also the first major role for John Challis, who became known as Boycie in Only Fools And Horses It has been reported that the first 10 minutes of the movie have been lost to the film trade for whatever reason which is unfortunate for it is in the opening that Ottilie appears singing in a night dub. All is not lost however, for it is thought a collector does have a copy of the full version of the film.

Words from the lady herself from the back of her 1966 album Ottilie's Irish Night
        Some bright comedian once said that there were no Irish people left in Ireland any more, that they were all abroad singing about it. While not actually true, such a statement is very near the truth, for, after some years as a singer with Chris Barber's Jazz Band I myself began to feel the pull of "The Oul' Country". I just wanted to forget jazz and city life for a little while, and have the pleasure of singing a few of the old songs that all Irish people like to sing when they get together, and also to sing one or two which might all too soon be forgotten. Once this idea got into my head, I was unable to think of anything else, and I eventually coaxed Denis Preston, my Recording Manager, to give me his support in the production of an Irish record. He agreed, or rather capitulated, submerged under the wave of my enthusiasm. Having now gained permission to go ahead with the plan, I found myself lacking in one thing — the right kind of accompanying music; but after a distress signal George Boyd (a trusty friend at home) I was able, on his recommendation, to obtain the services of an accordionist and a drummer — Norman Connor, and Martin Fitzsimmons. These two courageous gentlemen agreed to free themselves from their commitments for two days, and set out for London to have a shot at recording with me. And they were courageous, too, as this was their first excursion beyond Ireland's shores, to the somewhat "Great Unknown" Consequently, there I was, on a dull Thursday in November, at Euston station, looking for a man with an accordion case, for I had never before met either Norman or Martin. The instrument case was my only means of identifying them among the other passengers alighting from the "Shamrock Express". Well, I wasn't mistaken, I did find them; and that afternoon at my flat, when they first played to me, I discovered that my friend had not been mistaken about them either. He had found me two great musicians, who to me, were nostalgic reminders of Christmases and happy Saturday evenings spent with my whole family, in the little white-washed County Down farmhouse of my grandfather — himself a skilful melodeonist and fifer. My plans for recording were at first no more ambitious than to sing a few plain vocals with musical accompaniment, and to bring along my sister and two Irish friends, to help counteract the paralysing effect that the studio always has on "First-timers" and perpetually nervous people like myself, However, when I heard Norman's first few bars on the day of his arrival I knew that I couldn't let them go back to Ireland without giving a few more of my compatriots a musical treat. So, after some hurried last - minute telephoning, other friends were rounded up, and invited to join us the next evening in the studio. At seven o'clock then, on Friday, we all trooped into a big bare studio, which seemed to us more like an operating theatre — just a handful of us, some microphones and a piano. It was enough to intimidate even the most blasé professional. But the thoughtful Denis Preston, anticipating this, had kept something on hand for those of us who needed warming up, and for those others who "liked a wee taste" anyway. Thus the evening began. Te record apparatus was switched on and left to run without let or hindrance, for the next two hours, while we had a really "Irish-night", as it indeed turns out to be: for no sooner had the music struck up, than everyone immediately forgot to be overwhelmed by the disquieting atmosphere of a studio and started to have some fun. I am glad to say that any spontaneity captured on this disc is completely genuine and we did not re-record things time and time again, in order to "get them right". Voices can be heard singing out of tune, and certainly my own voice could not have held out a minute longer than the time allotted to the recording, owing to all the singing, squawking and shouting I contributed during those two mad hours. Yes, there was plenty of hilarity with plenty of Irish rowdyism, and after all what could be more truly "Irish" than to start off the whole proceedings with a Scot's Tune! Well that was my Irish night out, and I hope you'll enjoy joining us.
Ottilie Patterson