It is one of my great regrets in life that I cannot play a musical instrument of any kind. Granddaughter Abbey was only five when she played Old Macdonald had a Farm on the piano at the Wark First School Christmas concert many moons ago – a feat I am still unable to achieve – and her sister Elise and brother Alex are also dab hands on the ivories.

However, their musical accomplishments have certainly not descended to them from my genes despite the efforts of a succession of school teachers to teach me how to knock a tune out of a recorder.

It began at primary school, where there was a collection of those instruments of torture stored in a galvanised bucket of distinctly iffy disinfectant. Everyone in school was supposed to be able to play the recorder before they left, and I suspect I was the only one who couldn’t.

Even then, my chubby fingers were always reluctant to do what my brain was telling them to, and there always seemed to be more holes to cover than I had fingers. Even the school dunces were able to coax a recognisable tune out of the instrument, whereas I could only manage a tortured squeal. As I was considered one of the brightest pupils in the entire school, my total lack of musical ability was an enormous embarrassment.

The school was chosen to provide the musical accompaniment at the town hall for a mayoral reception. The chosen piece was Johnny Todd, which Everton fans and fans of pioneering television series will know was the theme music for the eternally popular cop show Z Cars. The older children had to play the tune on their recorders, while the infants tapped out the rhythm on drums. I was the oldest drummer by about five years – and managed to drop one of my drumsticks on to the floor.

On my first day at grammar school, I sat next to a young lad who turned out to be a musical maestro, who would fill in time between lessons by knocking out most of the Top 20 on the school piano. Even the teachers would stand open mouthed as his fingers danced over the keys with dazzling dexterity, before throwing a blackboard rubber at him for “skylarking in school hours.”

He went on to become a music teacher himself before becoming an examiner for the Royal Schools of Music. He did try to teach me how to play the piano, but my stubbornly stubby fingers failed to rise to the challenge.

My father was a noted pub singer, who could wring a tear out of a glass eye with his renditions of lachrymal Irish ballads, but he could also play a merry tune on his tin whistle, especially after consuming a bellyful of Boddington’s bitter.

He called it his kerpootler, and we, his children, genuinely believed that was its name, doubtless baffling teachers when writing essays on what we did at the weekend, by noting that “Dad made us watch while he played with his kerpootler.” Doubtless social services would be informed now!

The Irish Washerwoman was a particular favourite, along with the British Grenadiers and various other military airs. He was therefore much taken when a party of Scottish soldiers, taking part in a training exercise on my uncle’s Cumbrian farm, dropped in to the farmhouse one evening for light refreshments and brought with them a set of bagpipes. He couldn’t get a sound out of them, but a burly pipe sergeant was soon lifting the roof tiles with a skirling Black Bear. My sister appeared at the bottom of the stairs, rubbing her eyes owlishly, and the piper guffawed: “Did the pipes waken you, hen?”

She responded solemnly: “I didn’t hear them – I just heard you talking!”

Another painful memory is my father playing the Stylophone, an instrument causing untold suffering, promoted by a hirsute Australian entertainer whose name is no longer spoken in polite company. It was a tiny electronic keyboard played with a stylus, and in my dad’s hands it was about as tuneful as a dentist’s drill.

My elder brother also fancied himself as a musician, and acquired an ancient acoustic guitar, on which he would painfully pick out a tortured version of the Shadows classic Apache. Father was less than encouraging particularly when suffering an adverse reaction of excessive Boddington’s ingestion.

He would yell: “Oi, Segovia, put that bloody thing down before I stuff it up your nose, big end first!”