The seeds of Head North were sown after a chance encounter at a highland wedding. A brace of exiled Scots, Roddy Watt (accordion) and Hamilton Gross (fiddle), met over a dram in Hampshire with Michael Holgate (banjo/mandolin), an Englishman steeped in the Scottish tradition through years of living in the North Isles and Orkney. A lively jamming session ensued and the band was born.

The trio were then joined by Andrew Rose on guitar and Rob Sword on piano and arrangements, as well as three talented singers- siblings Rachel and Simon Thomas, and Rachel Reed- who completed the line-up.

With a base in Hampshire but strong Scottish roots, Head North is a quirky mix of old and new/old and young. Our repertoire comprises an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary Celtic music. Traditional reels, jigs, airs and songs are complemented with modern additions to the genre and original material.

The infectious rhythms and melodious sounds of Head North will enthuse and energise audiences! We hope you will enjoy…



A virtuoso fiddler from Scotland who spent many a teenage summer busking, Ham brings his precise, lilting violin tones to a variety of traditional tunes. He also has a wonderful ear for ethereal accompaniments to the slower vocal numbers.

MIKE HOLGATE: Mandolin and Banjo

Sailing elegantly into his sixties, Mike is the senior member of the band and an ever practical source of wisdom and advice. An environmental engineer by trade, he lived in the North Isles and Orkney for many years. With bags of energy at his fingertips, Mike shows a good turn of speed when the jigs pick up pace.

RACHEL ‘REEDY’ REED: Vocals, Flute, and Bodhran

Reedy has a pure and distinctive voice which brings the best out of any traditional or contemporary folk number. She also adds flute and bodhran to some of the instrumental numbers, infusing the music with extra lyricism and rhythmic drive.

ANDREW ROSE: Acoustic Guitar and Harmonica

A finance director by background, Andrew is a pillar of the band’s rhythm section, laying down a solid and percussive guitar backing for the band. He also plays a Dylanesque mouth organ from time to time when taken by the muse…

ROB SWORD: Piano/Keyboard, Guitar, and 5 String Banjo

‘Robs’ is our piano man and musical director and keeps our tunes sounding fresh. A
graduate of Music and Literature from Cardiff University and a professional film/stage composer, Rob crafts the unique Head North arrangements and transcribes new repertoire. He started ‘vamping’ on the piano for the band a few months after it formed and has not looked back since.

RACHEL THOMAS: Vocals, Whistle, and Bass Guitar

Brought up in Scotland and educated at Cardiff University, Rachel has been well steeped in all things Celtic from an early age. With an alarming tendency to learn new instruments in a matter of months, Rachel brings her rich vocal clarity, multi-instrumentalism and keen ear for haunting harmonies to Head North.

SIMON THOMAS: Vocals, Bass Guitar & Acoustic Bass

Simon’s mellifluous tenor voice and quirky percussion lines are characteristic elements of the Head North sound. His teenage years were spent playing bass for a Hampshire-based punk band, which explains the rhythmic vitality of his playing. Now studying Oceanography at Cardiff University, Simon continues to bring his innate musicality to the band.

RODDY WATT:  Accordion

Roddy is the founder of Head North. ‘Highland’ to the core, he traces his musical roots back to the West Coast of Scotland and an upbringing invigorated by the odd dram in Ballachulish where his parents ran the hotel for many years. Roddy’s accordion playing brings out the lyricism of the slow air but he is no stranger to the breakneck speed of our reels and jigs. Living the dream and re-living his youth with some success…