Hello. This is the website for Jim Eldon, fiddler & singer from Hull.
My contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org Jim and Mossy’s Fiddle Duets album now available. Click One Row Records
Latest (January 18th)
Goathland Plough Saturday
Things got moving quite promptly at 9.30 for the parade from the hut down to the green. I’d been getting my boots on and my tunic and sash so I ended up chasing along the side of the parade to catch up with the other musicians as they moved off along the track. I caught up O.K. before they reached the road. I’d been joining in John Peel as I hurried after them. It was a big turn out so it was as long procession. I fell in alongside Mike, the piccolo player, I think. Mossy and Steve and Andy Smith were on melodeons. Plenty more too.
Up at the green, the new juniors team started a first dance on their own. I went across to where their musicians were playing and joined in. Steve and Mossy and Martin did too. Martin was on his banjo. Other musicians came across too. The juniors did a good performance of figures one and three. They all had new tabards. Their show put a happy mood onto the whole occasion. I think they were maybe only meaning to have a run through before things began but they ended up with a full band and a full audience who responded enthusiastically to their properly made locks and well danced figures. William has been one of their tutors and he was keeping an eye on things and giving a bit of direction as the dances went along.
When it was time for the first massed dance, there were five teams dancing. We played from the green side instead of our usual position with our backs to the shop fronts. I was stood next to Andy Smith. He was playing melodeon. So was Melanie’s Mike and there were Wendy and the juniors’ other melodeon lady too. Eliza was on fiddle. Vince on squeezebox too. I’ve probably missed a few out. Dancing, there were three men’s teams, the ladies team and the juniors.
After the first dances and photos, Moss went off with the team doing Green End. Martin, Steve and myself got with Richard’s team, doing the top tour and the others went the other way. I don’t know whether the juniors did any more or just the first two dances. I think they finished early on.
With Richard as our captain and Callum as our door-knock-man we got plenty of dance opportunities from the off. Our team had all the Goathland figures at their command plus the Helmsley dance so we got to play all the tunes in the course of our day. Numbers one, three and five are always going to be the mainstays but we did numbers two and four several times each as the day went along. I got to play all my seconds for the tunes. Steve is quite used to the counter-melody lines now and was encouraging me to use them. He responded favourably to my Yankee Doodle seconds early on in the day.
Our first refreshments stop was at Ian and Sue’s house. They invited us all in and gave us tomato soups, mulled wine, biscuits and cups of tea and coffee. Sue thanked me for singing The Christmas Ploughboy song at the plough blessing last Sunday. I sang it again for them at the house after we’d received their hospitality. I think it was in their garden, after the wine and soup, that we did today’s first performance of the Helmsley Sword Dance. I have two different seconds for that – one that goes down on the back strings and one, that I think of as the E minorish seconds, that moves around the two middle strings. I also sometimes play the low octave melody line too. There was plenty of room to give all those a go several times over as the Helmsley dance takes at least nineteen times through the tune.
We carried on around the village, stopping to perform one or sometimes two figures each time Callum got a positive response from a household. It was a clear sunny day. It was only a few degrees above freezing but the bright sunshine and lack of wind made it pleasant for people to stand outside their homes to watch their dance.
As we made our way along our route, a visitor from North Cave stopped us to ask who we were and what was going on. We explained a bit about the plough stots and he was interested and followed us into the next big house on our tour and watched the interplay between our door-knock-man and the residents and our dance and chatter then thanked us as we came out and went on his way.
At the Mallyan Spout Hotel, where we made our lunch stop, a family in the bar asked me when we were going to dance. We were about to go through to the other room but, with them asking, Richard said we should do them a dance. He fetched two or three dancers back through from the lounge and we did them two figures in the bar. They and the other people in the bar were smiling and pleased with what they were seeing. After the second figure, Richard kept the lock aloft and led the team and musicians out of the bar and through into the lounge at the back. Steve and Martin went back for their bags but the dancers were ready to dance straight away for the people in the lounge. I asked whether they wanted to wait for the other musicians but they said fiddle on its own was fine so off we went again. The others soon joined us and picked up the tune.
The Mallyan provided us all with a drink and two big platters of sandwiches.
We danced again outside before we moved on and the family from the bar joined the little crowd outside the pub to watch us again.
More house calls. More hospitality. More dances. Whiskey tots. Soups and a show of longsword cricket from Chris and Ben and Chris’s dog.
The afternoon finished with the annual massed gathering down at Beck Hole where we played for the dancers to dance the full sequence of five figures with all four adult teams taking part.
After the dancing, Steve and Martin and Mossy and I played a handful of tunes together before saying our farewells. The Zodiac was one of them. Billy Harrison’s Father’s Polka was another.
New Year’s Day and Old Christmas Eve
The New Year’s Day event was at The Oddfellows Arms in Nantwich. The Mad Dog Davies Band were hosting and I did three support spots with Croz Crosbie. Bryn and the band kicked things off with a set of rock ‘n roll numbers. Joss, on lead guitar, played the songs in with neat versions of the Chuck Berry intros and suchlike. Amongst those early rock ‘n’ roll songs, they included Orchestral Manoeuvres’ Elona Gay. Joss’s guitar-picked delivery of what were originally keyboard licks and Phil’s light touch on the drumming made it a high spot of their set. They welcomed joining in from other musicians so I did a fair bit of playing. There were a couple playing jigs and reels too – Paul and Sue on whistle and fiddle. They played two different McLeod’s reel settings. One Irish and the other Scots. For my contribution, I did everything duetting with Croz, We played tunes from our old shared repertoire like Tom Dickinson’s jig and the one that’s similar to Jenny Lind. We did Burton Stather Broom Dance and Burton Hunt. I sang a couple of Christmas songs – Acre of Land and The Christmas Ploughboy and songs I thought would encourage a bit of chorus singing like I Wish there was no Prisons and Windy Old Weather and Father Had a Knife. Sheila played concertina too. The whole thing went on all afternoon so we did about four hours playing between us. Jimmy Matthews was there on banjo and Gavin Lewry on accordion. As well as Tim on electric bass in the Mad Dog Band, there was an upright double bass player. It was fun busking along to the band’s pieces because they play a lot in A and odd ones in E. I think Will the Circle be Unbroken was in A. In their later sets, they included a lot of Irish songs – The Irish Rover, Fairy Tale of New York, Wild Rover an so on. I think the whole afternoon ended with their Whiskey In The Jar. At some point, I sang Tom McVicar’s grandad’s Derry Gaol. Bryn and I did a couple together too – Little Boy and Teenage Kicks.
The Old Christmas Day party was actually on Old Christmas Eve so as to put it on a weekend day. Mossy and I played The Christmas Ploughboy here too. We started the music off with that. Jerry and Judy led Three Jolly Sheepskins and we joined in. They changed to a second tune of the same title. Martin Clarke played some jigs he’d learnt from a particular Irish musician he’d met at Stowmarket. We played The Adelphi Polka and JB Milne and one or two other tunes from Leeds Band days. Steve Peirson was on his digital accordion so he was able to flick a switch and change to keys he wouldn’t normally have available. That came in handy when we did The Seven Joys of Mary in F.
For us to play the full Millington While Shepherds, Jerry and Judy played the seconds from my hand written dots. Steve clicked himself into C for that one.
Moss led Double Lead Out. Jerry thought it was what he’d call Highland Mary and played what he calls Double Lead Out. That sounded familiar to me as it has a Step and Fetch It phrase that I would associate with the Double Lead Out title. All good music, whatever its title.
When everyone else had gone home, Dan and Bev played Werewolves of London on guitar and ukulele.
Boxing Day, 2019, at Flamborough
The sword dancers made a prompt start at Bempton, outside The White Horse. Mossy, Steve and Sue were there as the main sword dance musicians – Sue on whistle, Steve and Moss both on melodeons and six of us sawmilling along in support – me on fiddle, Bernie on mandolin, Simon on guitar, Frank on triangle, Andy on beer-barrel bass and Diggy on washboard. Lynette had unfortunately had to stay home with a cold so we didn’t have her on tambourine this year. There was a good crowd of villagers out in support for that first dance, plus a sprinkling of visitors, including Kate and Bob and Mike and Lillian who we would normally see at Goathland. The dance went well. Steve took the lead and prompted us all into the changes with clear gestures as he played.
The Sawmill Sidewinders were made welcome in the pub after the dancers had finished and left for the lighthouse. A family shuffled themselves along from the seats at the corner table and made space for the musicians. They said they like to hear us play every year. There was plenty of joining in from the crowd. We’d started with Putting on The Style. I was sparing my voice as I’m only just over a cold. I started us into the verses but was careful to hang back on the choruses and the people joining in made that work fine. I even hung back on the verses once Diggy and Andy got going.
We did Davy Nick Nack and Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel second so that was another rest for my voice. Andy and Dig led Windy Old Weather. Dig led it off, starting with the conger eel verse. They did the mackerel verse, the mermaid verse, the fearnoughts verse and maybe one or two more. There was a funny moment when Dig started to sing the skate verse but shied away from completing it out loud. I think it was because there was fairly good order for a moment or two. People sat close by were laughing, either because they knew the words he wasn’t singing or because they guessed, from his manner, the nature of what they were missing. After two or three more verses, the background noise picked back up to its normal level so Dig sang the skate verse anyway. I did a bit of leading on Acre of Land with Andy and Dig giving good support on the verses once I’d got each first line going. Bernie and Simon knew all the songs from years of sawmilling so there was only a bit of calling out keys. At one point, when I was hesitating over what to do next, Simon shouted, “Haircuts?” That was all that was needed. We did it, with its three key changes per section without any key calls at all. Dig led us off for Heave Away the Trawl Warp and for Drunken Sailor. I led Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie for our finisher. Afterwards, Andy told me that Young Andy told him yesterday that he sings Heave Away the Trawl Warp and Windy Old Weather as lullabies for their little Frances.
We headed on down to Flamborough to meet up with the dancers at Rose and Crown. We got there in time. The juniors were out now too. We all played for the dance again. The musicians stood on Rose and Crown corner, the senior team danced on the main street and the juniors danced on the side road that leads in from the green. The sawmillers played for every dance location except the lighthouse this year and we were on time for them all.
Mossy and I played Billy Harrison’s Bells of Hell Polka together on fiddles on the street outside Rose and Crown after the dancing. I’ve been practising my seconds for it every day recently and it was the first time we’ve played it together properly. We played inside Rose and Crown too, after the dancing. I think we started up with Grey Cortina and I remember we did Should I Stay or Should I Go. We did two or three at one end of the side bar then had a move down to an empty table at the other end and did a few more. Dig led Dirty Old Town when we’d sat down. I led Roll the Old Chariot and Be Bop-a-Lula.
Next was the dancing outside Seabirds. We’d been given our customary big pork pie for the sawmillers and we had a feed on the street whilst we waited to play. We had Lynette’s tin of mince pies too.
Before the dancing at Victoria Club, we played a couple of tunes in the smoking shelter of the club. Pete Bolton and Janey and Polly of The Whiskey Dogs were there. Pete played a bluegrass tune on Simon’s guitar. Steve Peirson led Log Cabin and Mossy and I were playing fiddles. Pete and I sang the Jesse James Ballad to it until Steve’s medley moved on to a different tune.
When we played for the dancing there, I missed nearly every tune change. I was still playing Old Johnny Walker when everyone else had moved on to Bobby Shaftoe. Martin caught my attention and got me back on track – only for a brief spell though because I did the same thing when we came to Nick Nack Paddywack.
After the dancing, we stayed on the street playing for quite while. We played Huntsman’s Chorus first. Cock of the North was another we did there. I forget what else. Sally from RSPB had introduced me to a visiting photographer earlier – Barry Pitman. He was there moving around amongst us taking a lot of photos as we played.
As always, The big finale was the dancing on Dog and Duck square. Richard Traves danced at least one of the times. The team danced twice for the final spot. We did a load of socializing on the square afterwards. Richard said some kind words of appreciation.
Carols at The Gait Inn, Millington.
Wednesday night was a delight.
For several years, Pikey and I have been saying we ought to take the Billy Harrison carols back to Millington village. On Wednesday, thanks to the organising efforts of Liz and Paul at Millington, it happened. It was in the Gait Inn. That was Billy’s local – just across the road from Manor Cottage. They’d had the idea of combining the event with showing slides and swapping reminiscences.
We arrived forty minutes before the start time to set up and found the pub already buzzing with conversation. The screen was set up and the first slide, that was on show until things got going, was a lovely photo of Billy sat on the pub’s old settle with fiddle in hand. By the time we started, at 7.30, both rooms were full and there was a request from the landlord for people not to stand against the bar because folks in the other side needed to see through.
We were The Billy Harrison String Quartet for the night. Lee and I were on fiddles, Mossy on viola and Pikey on cello. Lynette was standing by, shod ready for clog-stepping and she and the two Zoës were primed, ready for chorus and part singing.
I welcomed everyone and gave a bit of background on Billy and his daughter Bridget who had made us so welcome back in the nineteen eighties. I explained that the evening was something of a tribute to Bridget’s memory as well as Bill’s. Liz and a friend had brought up the idea of the evening when we talked together after Bridget’s funeral earlier this year.
I explained that we were doing two sets, the first of social and dance tunes and the second, after the slides and talk, of the Harrison family carols.
We kicked of with The Christmas Ploughboy. Billy had talked of plough-ladding happening around the villages. The song is one I learnt from Robert Leng at Flamborough. Next, we gave the quartet rendition of Keel Row and Cuddle In, Cuddle In. Those are two tunes that Billy used to play together. The response from the crowd was enthusiastic. Next came Billy’s Father’s Polka. I explained to the company that that is a tune that is now played around the country thanks to the recordings of Billy reaching the ears of such musicians as Brass Monkey and Martin Carthy who took up the tune and made it more widely known.
For Billy’s Old Time Waltz, Lynette came to the stepping board. We played it first twice through in C to take its low note right down to the instrument’s bottom register, as Billy enjoyed doing, then we changed key to G. At this point, Lynette joined in and danced her clog waltz routine as we played it three times through in that key, which takes it right down to the bottom of the fiddle’s register.
Billy’s Bells of Hell Polka was next. Since our last practice, I’ve made up a second fiddle part for this one. I gave it a go on the second time through but it is tricky and I hadn’t got it well enough yet to keep it going so I dropped back into playing melody after a few bars. The couple of bits I did manage worked though. The final item of the first set was Billy’s Freddy Archer. I set that off with the two verse ditty, sung unaccompanied and then the quartet came in with Lee playing his strummed fiddle, accenting the galloping rhythm and, on the third time through, Mossy brought in his shuffle bowing, adding yet another texture to the sound.
We had our break now, whilst the slide show was shared. There was input from villagers remembering faces and recognising buildings still around or now replaced.
Billy’s farmer neighbour was called upon to recite three or four dialect poems. They were a treat.
At about quarter past nine, we took to the floor again for the carols. The pub was packed and with more background conversation by now. The landlord called for order for us.
The two big carols came first – While Shepherds to Billy’s octave drop tune and Billy’s father’s For Unto Us a Child is Born, the St. Matthew carol. The exchange of conversation over the photo display had relaxed people so there was a fair bit of joining in on While Shepherds with its familiar words. Lynette and Zoë and Zoë took parts, along with Lee and Mossy singing the responses whilst they played. It made for a big sound with the quartet in full flow. I had messages the following day saying how moving it was to be there for it.
On For Unto Us, we did three instrumental verses; one after verse two, one after verse four and one at the end. That gave my voice a little rest. I was pleased because I’d given it big licks on While Shepherds. We’d planned to do a full instrumental verse at the beginning too but I forgot and led off after just a one line intro. When Christ was Born of Mary Free was another of Billy’s carols. We did that third. It has plenty of repeats of “In Excelsis Gloria!” to be joined in on. Next came The Seven Joys of Mary. I learnt that out of an old book that Jessica Davies gave me after she found it at a car boot sale. By now, my voice was getting quite tired so I was really pleased that the next carol, Chiming Bells, was very familiar to the villagers because they sing it with their carols choir. With their joining in and our lot singing parts too, it was another really strong one.
That was nearly it.
We closed the evening with Acre of Land, with its “Yan Ch’ismass Day at Morning” refrain. Lynette stood ready to dance, her cue being to come in on the instrumental after the ‘bumblebee’s wing’ verse and there were calls of encouragement from the crowd for her to give another step and join in. Mossy was ready to give vocal support as the noise level picked up with the clogging. I think Lee joined in the singing too.
There was plenty of socializing afterwards and everyone was full of how much they’d enjoyed it and suggesting that it should happen again in future.
The new CD is out now. Jim Eldon & Mossy Christian, Fiddle Duets is released on One Row Records
We recorded at Limbo Studio with Phil Snell engineering the sessions. The album is also available as a download on Bandcamp.
Sutton Methodists’ Annual Barn Dance
Last night we did a first Straylarkers barn dance. The band was me, Mossy, Lee, Steve and Lynette. We arrived at the Sutton Methodists Church Hall to the sight of a big poster for The Straylarkers Barn Dance Band and the event details. Steve provided his PA, supplemented with a small guitar amp that Lee brought along to keep the guitar sound separate from the mix.
From the very ‘Off’, we had a whole load of people up to dance.
We started with the Circle Waltz to Dog Whipping Day. I called the dance and, soon into starting, it was clear that I should have given more time to explaining both the passing on in the circle and the way to do the valeta-like section. I stopped the dance to go over those things. There was a happy atmosphere with everyone ready to enjoy the busy mayhem and sort out the details of who was meant to be a man in the two-girl couples and suchlike. The restart saw the problems largely ironed out and, when odd dancers were left without a partner, they waited patiently for things to resolve themselves as the dance progressed. The band made a good job of playing the tune at a steady waltz tempo. It made me think we should try playing it much steadier when we are using it as a listening piece.
I called the second dance too. That was going to be the Kenwood Mixer but, so that the dancers would get to do the whole dance with their own partner this time, I opted for Cottagers instead. We played Sid’s Twist for it.
Mossy called the next two. Maybe Yorkshire Long Eight was his first – to No Man’s Jig. I don’t remember what the whole order of things was but we alternated dances between us, in ones or twos as appropriate. I do remember that No Man’s Jig went well and that I played my seconds at one point and bottom octave at another. It needed to be in 2As, 2Bs form to fit the dance so I also tried splitting my playing to:- first A melody, second A harmony, first B harmony, second B melody. That worked too. For a lot of the dances, we used a single tune throughout the dance.
One of Moss’s calls was Johnny Fetch your Wife Back. That was danced to The New Rigged Ship played in 2As, 2Bs, AB form to make it work as a 48 bar jig. We got it right all the way through. That was one where Lee was playing guitar, I was playing fiddle, Steve was playing melodeon and Lynette playing tambourine. Moss was calling throughout the dance and put his fiddle aside.
For The Officers’ Polka, we had a three fiddle line-up – me, Mossy and Lee – with back-up from Steve’s melodeon and Lynette’s shakers.
Mossy called Old Joe Clark to its own tune. Steve, Corona and myself had to refresh our memory of it whilst Moss explained the dance and, by the time it started, we were able to play it with confidence. During the course of that dance, I occasionally sang verses and choruses (off mic) to add a bit of variety to the sound.
We did do one singing-call dance. That was Buffalo Girls, which I called. It’s a square dance that I picked up from Malcolm McClaren’s 1980s scratch cut-up version of it. I told the dancers that, locally, the tune is the Flamborough Sword Dancers’ Old Johnny Walker.
For one of Moss’s dances, Steve led us in Log Cabin and Li’l Liza Jane and, at the end of the evening, for the Circassian Circle, in Major Mackie and Nellie the Elephant.
I made a mistake in signalling the tune change to Nellie the Elephant eight bars early. It put us out of sequence with the phrasing of the dance. Moss eventually put us right.
Congress at Laceby worked well for the Oxo Reel, as did Tom Dickinson’s Jig for Bridge of Athlone.
We were well fed at the interval with Helen Siddle’s home-made pasties and baked potatoes, beans and peas on offer. Robin kept us supplied with mugs of tea throughout the dance.
There were compliments a-plenty, in all directions, at the end of the evening.
Whitby Folk Week, 2019
Yesterday was the final day of Whitby Folk Week and both of our jobs for the day were ones I’d been looking forward to.
In the morning, I was doing a presentation, up at The Rifle Club, about the re-release of the Flamborough fishermen’s songs and tales – the recordings of Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize and Robert Leng. In the evening it was our final concert at the Rugby Club.
The night before, I’d had an evening off and went for a drink and an informal sing with Andy and Diggy Howarth and Bernie Reed. I’d mentioned the Flamborough fishermen event that was coming up in the morning and told them they’d be welcome to come along and that I’d get them up to sing a song or two if they did.
They did and, after I’d been talking about how Robert and Jossy’s songs were still being sung around Bridlington and Flamborough, I invited them up and introduced them as surprise guests. They sang Heave Away the Trawl Warp. It was a pleasure to have them share it with the festival audience. I asked them to stay close by whilst I continued the talk. I spoke about the time Robert first sang that song for me, when Ivy, Robert’s wife, had told me to ask Robert what it was he’d been singing in the bath before I arrived. The first verse and chorus of the song were what Robert sang for me that day.
I went on to talk about Robert’s years of service as engineer in the Flamborough lifeboat. That led to me calling Bernie, Andy and Dig back up, at the end of the talk, to sing the lifeboat hymn, Pull For The Shore. We sang together, with me leading, where necessary, and then dropping back once they were off into the fullness of the verse and dropping back even more when any of them led a verse or chorus. Right at the end, I called on Dig to lead us all in singing Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight.
Them being there made for it being a memorable event.
The final concert had Lynette, Mossy and myself on with Sara Grey and Keiron Means, Anahata and Mary Humphries and Martyn Wyndham-Reed and Iris Bishop. Mossy and I played several of our duets and sang Forty Miles and All For The Grub together. Our finisher was Acre of Land with both of us fiddling and singing and Lynette stepping. Martyn Wyndham-Reed was complimentary afterwards. Others too.
Back at the beginning of the week, Lynette and I started our contribution to the festival with an appearance at the ‘Traditional Night Out.’ I sang Robin Hood and the Three Squires as my first song. I heard someone give a little cry of affirmation when, at the end of the song, by Robin Hood’s trickery, three hundred and ten of his men come to the rescue. Another little moment of audience involvement came moments later when I sang The Winlaton Cock fight. There is a particular word in that song that I often wonder whether to explain when introducing the song. On this occasion I gave no introduction at all and was pleased to hear little laughs from listeners who understood the humour of the verse for themselves.
Lynette did two dances there, in the Stakesby Arms. She danced to the Old North Skelton Sword Dance Tune and to my Stottlebink.
On the Sunday, my daytime was spent with the Flamborough Sword Dancers. The first two dances were run-throughs, to remind three of the youngsters of the dance. They’ve been up at their new schools a long time now so days of rehearsing the dance at the junior school are behind them. They haven’t been dancers in the junior team for Boxing Day or Michaelmas Fair either, for the same reason. We practised on the street outside the venue for the longsword workshop. That was where they were to showcase the dance. The workshops were ones that Mossy had been leading. Twice through the dance was all it took. Faces were smiling with the fun of recalling the moves and, when we went inside, the team gave a confident performance of their village dance. It was a treat to be a musician for it. An extra bonus for Mossy and myself was that we included the Oh to Squeeze My Little Darling tune in amongst the Rinks verses. There were just the two of us playing so we could play it without confusing anyone. Through the rest of the day Flamborough shared danceout spots with Goathland Plough Stots so I got to play for both teams.
On Sunday evening, Lynette and I had a concert spot at the Coliseum. Tony Wilson was MC and set up a comfortably welcoming atmosphere. Coupled with that, the sound man used all-round mikes so we could play back from them in a relaxing situation. I started off with Oh What a Windy Night and I did the two Jack Smith songs, Bold Princess Royal and Dogger Bank. I mixed up the tune for Princess Royal with the Nasty Black Eye tune but managed to sing through my mistake OK. I told the audience about visiting old Jack, when Steve Gardham, Mike Waterson and I first tried collecting songs back in the early folk club days. I linked other pieces to the personal links they have too – two tunes I learnt from Lynette’s dad’s fiddle playing and Queen of Tavendor, a song I learnt from Bryn Davies. It was a half hour spot and we did a dozen items altogether. Lynette danced to my singing and playing Still I Love Him for a finisher. Tony asked us for an encore and I sang Three Jolly Tugboatmen.
Lynette stayed at the venue whilst I went off to shift the car. When I got back she was full of enthusiasm for Frankie Armstrong’s set. She commented on Frankie’s total commitment to every song she sings.
We were really done for the day but we went on to The Brunswick Centre where Mossy was a guest at Taffy’s Tunes and Tales. Mossy got me up to join him on one number. We did Eazum Teasum. I blanked on my seconds but we still made a good sound.
On Monday, I was up to the ballad session. One of my ballads was The Old Man in the North Country. It’s an East Yorkshire version of The Two Sisters. Sometimes I condense it a bit by singing two verses to once-around-the-tune instead of doing all the repeats. Lynette persuaded me to do it in full this time and it went well. Mike Tickell was another of the performers there and he sang a comic song of Mike Waterson’s. It includes a joke about meat and tatie pie that I once told to Mike. I said that I was touched to hear it in the song and I let it prompt me to sing Mr. Waterson’s Clock in return. That is a droll tale that Mike Waterson told to me, with the suggestion that I make it into a song. This was right at the end of the session and it went down a treat. It was a happy moment.
Lynette and I had our own appearance at Taffy’s Tunes and Tales that evening. The line-up made it a good night out. Ron Plant told his Jar of Pickled Eggs story. Kevin Mitchell mentioned Derry in the introduction to one of his songs and that gave me a cue to sing the Derry Gaol song that I learnt from Tom McVicar thirty or forty years ago. It was a lovely informal atmosphere by then and that set the song up to be well received. I sat on the rail in front of the row of performers to sing it. I wanted to be in earshot of Lynette for a prompt in case I forgot any of it. I didn’t; but sitting there to sing added to the informality of the moment. Taffy told us a great story about a cat burglar and a mina bird and another about a magpie. That gave me the idea to sing The Maid and the Magpie. Ken Watson was musician in residence and, at Taffy’s suggestion, we played together to herald the beginning of the second half. Ken led us in The Officers’ Polka and Burton on Stather Broom Dance Tune. Lynette joined in with some freestyle stepping. I did Thunnerin’ Lie too and Lynette danced to Stottlebink.
Tuesday was the day for me and Mossy to do our showcase of our fiddle duets and to talk about our approach to duetting. That took place in the Coliseum. It’s the same venue as we’d been in for our Sunday night concert. It is a small theatre space, ideal for an acoustic performance as our showcase event was. We played very nearly everything we’d planned. It was an hour and a quarter programme. We started with Cuddle In, Cuddle In. I began by singing the two verse ditty I learnt from May and George Haley and then we struck up with the tune, first in unison, next with me taking the harmony, third time swapping to Moss taking the same harmony and fourth time with Moss returning to the melody and me dropping to chopped chords on the back string for the A music and then chopped chords on the middle strings for the B music. We were pleased to see Rod Straddling in the audience and Peter, the Folk London journalist. It was an appreciative crowd.
We did Officers’ Polka next – with the lyrical free timing on the A music, in the manner of Bill Pennock. That one was played all in unison, as were the Tom Dickinson tunes that we played later. Everything else was with first and second fiddle parts – Waltz Vienna, Helmsley Sword Tune and so on. Dog Whipping Day has our two different harmonies – mine that I developed playing with Lee as Two Straylarkers and Moss’s harmony. Moss’s harmony started out as a part that I composed for him but he has moulded it to his own playing now with fresh ideas. Black Jack was in the set as an example of a duet that uses straightforward three chord structure to provide a solid rhythmic second part. Farewell to Culture and The Brickmakers showed some of the more unexpected seconds we use and I talked about how I seek around for different ideas like the chromatic half scale steps that I utilised in making the seconds for Farewell to Culture. I think we did eighteen duets altogether.
Lynette and I had to make a fairly quick departure and nip across to the Captain Cook Museum for a half hour lunchtime spot. We had a good turn out for that too and Joanna at the museum made us welcome and coped with a last minute move indoors when a rain shower came along.
I did all nautical songs for that job – many such as Oh What a Windy Night that we’d done elsewhere around the festival but one or two different ones such as New Zealand Whales and The Wreck of the Brownlow and Walmo.
Tuesday was a busy day for us with a third event, a concert at the Rifle Club, in the evening. Memorable up there was a short set that compere Ken did. He was filling in because of one performer having had to pull out but his short set, before we went on, was a little jewel. He started with Long Life and Success to the Farmer and followed it with a marrying together of Hurrah for the Khaki and the Blue and If You Want to Find the General. His piece set us up well for our slot. Lynette had made several suggestions that made our dozen items a different sort of a mixture than if I’d have picked them. A Nobleman Lived in a Mansion and Bonny Labouring Boy are two that Lynette likes a lot. They are both local, East Yorkshire versions. She asked me for The Merry Cuckold too. That came from Les Smith at Aldborough on the Holderness coast.
Thursday’s two jobs for us were Half a Day at the Bay, at The Dolphin, Robin Hoods Bay and a spot in the children’s ceilidh at the Spa Theatre. We shared the Bay job with Anahata and Mary Humphries, Arthur Knevett and Vic Gammon. We just swapped songs, tunes and dances back and forth and brought in contributions from around the room. I did Rap Tap Tap for one of mine. I think Lynette did four dances there including the Westmorland routine to Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel. At one point, I suggested we do a back and forth of daft ditties. The others picked up on it and chipped in their own bits of nonsense. I set it going with My Dear Belinda. I did Major General Worthington too and I Was In It.
At the Spa, we did the puppets. Lynette had the children shrieking with laughter at Donalds antics. Donald is my jig doll. He step-dances on a vibrating board. Lynette operates him with all her knowledge of dance so she leans him gently to one side to get him stepping on one foot then tips him the other way and so on. She realised it was his arm-swinging that got the laughs so she figured out how to make Donald do more of that. I was operating Gerald, my fiddle puppet, and singing and fiddling myself. Herring’s Heads went well but it was Donald who stole the day.
Danby Show is a village show in the Esk Valley of the North Yorks Moors. There were all sorts of livestock there and vintage motor cycles. All kinds of stuff. It’s a big show for a small village.
We were playing in an open sided marquee-type stage area with our audience seated outside the covered area. There was a Punch and Judy at one side of us and a farmers’ meat market stall on the other.
I’m still not quite sure who we were. I’d thought we were The Woollybacks but then, when I announced that at one point, Steve corrected me with “Moorlanders”. For one of the sets, Martin, Steve and Andrew were The Bay Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Their local at Cherry Burton is The Bay Horse). They played a full set of Martin’s songs.
Well, whoever we were, there were Steve and Reg on melodeons, Andrew on an electric bass ukelele, Anne, Mossy and me on fiddles, Val on guitar and Martin on mandolin and guitar.
Lynette says it was a lovely country fair atmosphere.
Reg and Anne took the lead and we all mucked in, playing on just about everything, whether familiar tunes or ones we had to pick up as we went along. We made good use of the sword dance medleys we know from Flamborough and Goathland. Barn dance tunes we’ve played together before were a good stock of shared repertoire too – Oyster Girl, Major Mackie, Hexam Races, Muckin’ o’ Geordie’s Byre – all such as that.
One new item was Dead Skunk, the Louden Wainwright song. Martin sang that. Steve had sent us a message in advance of the gig saying that one was in the set-list and that it would be in E. I improvised. I’d heard the song before, long ago and I guessed it wouldn’t stray far from E, A and B7. At one point, Anne glanced across with an approving smile at what I was doing. That was quite a boost because it came just as was wondering whether what I was playing fitted at all.
I was asked for a song or two in the later set. I’d suggested The Farmer at South Dalton and run through that a bit with Moss before we started. We did that and Lynette told me it was received well.
For another, I’d told the others about the tone drop in the opening line of Acre of Land. It’s in G and they were ready with a D minor in the first half of each verse. That was as much preparation as there was on those two and it was enough.
There were several song tunes in Reg and Anne’s sets – Red River Valley, Coming Round the Mountain, Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny, Nellie the Elephant, Putting on the Style – many more. Both Mossy and I chipped in with the odd sung verse to those as they came around. Moss did a bit of mouth organ here and there too.
Bridlington Sailing Coble Festival
This year, as well as singing and fiddling for the Sailing Coble Festival, I was the harbourside commentator. I’d had a few days to study the list of visiting vessels and locally based cobles.
Saturday started dry. Dave from the church group had set up the PA but it fitted better for me to work acoustically at first. The cobles were all moored alongside New Road and there was a general bustle of activity with crews boarding and then preparing to set sail. I sat on the bin-piece up above where Imperialist was moored and played a waltz, keeping things fairly quiet. Then I opted for the Pugwash tune, the Trumpet Hornpipe. The first song I sang was Oh, What a Windy Night. I did that as the first of the cobles dropped ropes and made a move. It fits well for setting off because it begins, “We sailed down the river, tide on the ebb,/Set our course for Flamborough Head…..”
A lot of the boats were triple berthed so there was plenty of interesting manoeuvring for harbourside lookers-on to watch. I moved back and forth along New Road as I saw vessels about to get going from various spots in the mêlée. I played a mixture of fiddle tunes and songs. I sang the Bridlington Fishermen’s Song at some point and The Candlelight Fisherman. I used the Old North Skelton Sword Dance Tune a time or two and Waltz Vienna and Old Joe, the Boat is Going Over. It was easy and relaxed and took a fair old time to get them under way.
There were a dozen or so cobles, the older locals like Three Brothers, Imperialist and Madeleine Isabella, the newer ones, Gansey Lass, Free Spirit and Bethany of Bridlington. Grace was down from Staithes and Avail from the North East and other North East boats from the Harrison yard at Amble – Royal Diadem II and Providence. Gratitude is from that yard too but she is now one of the Bridlington Coble Preservation Society’s boats. Julie B was down from Scarborough. She was built at Ruswarp, up near Whitby.
After a while, I moved onto the mics and started naming boats and giving a bit of info about them and interspersing the commentary with the odd tune and song.
The rain held off for the first hour or so but, when it did come, it soon got to the point where we had to cover the sound equipment and give up on the amplification. I had a wander up to the boat shed at the top end of Clough Hole where there were stalls under cover. I sang and played three or four things in there to keep things going. Heave Away the Trawl Warp was one of the songs I did there.
Back along at the Harbour Museum, we waited and around 12.30 the rain eased up and Dave and I cleared the tarps off the gear. I made a restart and did another bit of performance. I was singing all the East Coast fishermen’s songs – many being the ones I learnt from Jossy Pop Mainprize and Robert Leng at Flamborough thirty years ago – Roll the Old Chariot, Pull for the Shore, Grace Darling and Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie. Those and more. I’ve recently corrected my own singing of Grace Darling. I sing it in F. There was a phrase in the chorus where I always used to sing a C when I arrived at the end of one line then begin the next line on a C too. It meant I would sing the same phrase twice for “She pulled away o’er the raging sea”. I’ve listened to my recordings of Robert, Joss and myself singing it and realised that Robert would drop back to an A from that C and then the first half of that line can be lower and the following phrases can rise and build the melody at that point. I remembered to do it that way this weekend.
After my restart set, Dave and his church musicians and singers did a long set.
Later in the afternoon, as in previous years, my friend Bernie Reed took me out on his rowing pebble, Our Betsy, and he rowed and sang choruses whilst I sat aft with my fiddle and played and sang. Bernie rowed us between vessels that were coming and going around us.
Sunday was better weather. Both days, there were loads of familiar faces around from my days working on the Bridlington pleasure boats and that gave rise to some prompts for song choices. One regular passenger always liked Herrings Heads. He mentioned that and so I sang it. I did it with fiddle accompaniment for this event although I often sing it unaccompanied elsewhere. Seeing friends from the RSPB cruises reminded me to sing There’s a Puffin in My Pint. That’s another that I usually do without fiddle theses days but I used a light choppy fiddle accompaniment on this occasion.
There were presentations of plaques to all the skippers first thing.
I did a long stint from about 10.30 to 1.15 mixing commentary with songs. The main church singer, Rachel, was off doing stuff at church in the morning so there was only me for quite a while. I did give myself breaks though. I’d wait till there’d be another vessel coming into harbour then say a bit about it and sing a ditty or two.
In the afternoon, after the church group had done a good long session, I did a short, more concentrated performance and then went off being rowed across the harbour with Bernie again. This time, Andy Howarth joined us and filled out the choruses even more.
Barnsley Folk and Acoustic Night
It was good company at Barnsley Folk club last night. Numbers were just nine of us but the atmosphere was friendly and inclusive from the off. We started the evening with a shared instrumental play for quarter of an hour. Dave Bottomley played mandolin. The man sat next to him played guitar, Sarah played fiddle – having made a gallant effort to come along despite having lost her voice with laryngitis. I played fiddle. Dave suggested we play stuff we’d all manage so I struck up with Salmon Tails up the Water. I didn’t know the titles of all the tunes but we managed fine. A couple of the tunes were ones that Sarah and Dave had learnt from my playing in the past – Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel and Stephen Baldwin’s Schottische or Strand Hornpipe. I had to adjust to playing Herbert Smith’s in D and remind myself to play The Strand with Stephen Baldwin’s key change from the G first part to D for the second part.
Jack, the keyboard player set off the floor spots with a Queen number. Dave sang Bonny Ship the Diamond with Sarah accompanying him.
I started our first spot with Oh, What a Windy Night and Puffin in My Pint. I did quite a few fishermen’s songs in the course of the evening – Herring’s Heads, Grace Darling, Windy Old Weather and suchlike. Lynette danced four times – to Old North Skelton Sword Tune, to Stottlebink, Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz, Now Mrs. Wilson and, at the end of the night, to Still I Love Him.
I enjoyed singing Robin Hood and the Three Squires. I told the crowd that that was recorded by Percy Grainger from a man called Dean Robinson at a song competition he set up at Barton-on-Humber. I did the Wager and Murder Riddle that I learnt from Nancy Grey on Harland Way Traveller’s Site. I was pleased I did that too.
Memorable amongst the floor spots was Dave’s rendition of the stunning Tom Waits song The Ballad of Georgia Lee.
The guitar player man sang a song about going off to sea at a young age. That reminded me about Jack Smith, friend of Lynette’s family and my own when we were growing up. Jack, who lived to be a hundred, started on boats at ten years old. I sang his Dogger Bank and Bold Princess Royal.
Wedding Ceilidh at Shiptonthorpe
Things got going right from the soundcheck. Reg was checked first. Reg, Ann and Steve Peirson are the backbone of The Woolybacks (‘Woolybacks’ because the Peirson family farm at Goathland is a sheep farm) with both Reg and Steve playing melodeons and Ann playing fiddle. Reg played Jimmy Allen whilst Steve set sound levels. Ann was next along the band from our left. She took up the same tune and, already, there were several people up, dancing. Mossy was next along the line, on second fiddle, and he continued with the Jimmy Allen idea. Steve was setting up just one instrument at a time so each was dropping back out as their own check was finished. I was next, on third fiddle, then Martin Peirson on my right on banjo and guitar and then Rob Peirson on bass guitar. There were still a few of the wedding guests, keen to dance, up on the small dance floor section of the marquee as Steve soundchecked himself. We then all struck up together for a massed Jimmy Allen whilst Steve adjusted levels within the band. The dance floor filled right up, without a word, as yet, from our caller, Ian. There was an enthusiastic round of applause from the whole room when the soundcheck ended.
A lot of the tune selection for the dances was of song tunes. Blaydon Races was the first dance. Reg couples the title tune with MacNamarra’s Band for that dance. Next up was a dance called Snowball. It starts with just a right hand turn and a left hand turn by the top couple. The snowball effect is that it then builds. The top two couples do a four-handed star, then top three couples making a circle of six and so on. There was a savage feedback episode whilst Ian was explaining that one. He carried on with his explanation of the dance acoustically whilst Steve and Martin sorted it out. We played Log Cabin and Li’l Liza Jane for that dance. I think the next dance was to Buffalo Girls – or Old Johnny Walker as we call it – coupled with Little Brown Jug, I think, or perhaps that was later. I forget. Circle Waltz was another. Again it was to song tunes – The Ash Grove, Sweet Jenny Jones and Daisy Belle. There was a dance to Coming Round the Mountain and Putting on the Style. Ann was acting as go-between, passing on information from Reg to the rest of the band. She kept us in touch with what the tune choices were and in what keys they were to be played. At one point, Ian asked for a tune from the band between dances. I didn’t pick up on what the first tune was but I played along as best I could. The second was Mari’s Wedding. It was all very good-humoured and, again we got a good round of applause.
The whole evening was good-humoured. It was raining quite heavily and several times, between dances, helpful wedding guests shuffled around the wet dancefloor with towels on their feet to mop up some of the wet and keep it safe. It was to good effect. Nobody fell. Moss and Martin said to me at one point when four or five of them were at it, “We should have been playing for this – it looks like a dance.” Martin said it should be something like Wilson, Kepple and Betty’s Sand Dance.
We played a ninety minute set. Maybe it was nearly two hours in the end because we started early and overran at the end. We finished with a strip-the-willow dance to Muckin’ o’ Geordie’s Byre and Rosin the Bow.
There had been some jigs and reels along the way too. Oyster Girl and Hexam Races, played as 48 bar tunes for one dance and Huntsman’s Chorus for another.
Goathland May Weekend
Saturday was a dance-out around the village at Goathland, in the manner of the Plough Monday weekend dance-out in January. The difference was that there were visiting teams along with the Goathland Plough Stots. We led the procession from the hut, playing John Peel as we marched. Behind us were the other teams – The Ironmen, Penguin Rapper, Severn Gilders and White Rose Morris.
We marched up to the green and played for the stots to dance two figures in front of the shops. All weekend, the Plough Stots stuck to just three of their figures so all our dance playing was The Keel Row for figure 1, Cock of the North for figure 3 and Yankee Doodle for figure 5. Steve, Mossy and I were the musicians, with Wendy joining at some of the spots. Steve was on melodeon, Moss moved between melodeon and fiddle and I was on fiddle. Wendy was on melodeon too.
Members of the team were busy with helping marshalling the other teams and stopping traffic so we didn’t have a chance to dance at all the spots. We still did a fair few though and, as well as playing for the dancing, we played quite a few tunes as we walked on around the village. Black Jack was one Moss and I played early on. I’ve had a problem remembering the start of Black Jack until just recently. To help myself, I make up words to get tunes into my head. Thinking about the Black Jacks sweets that used to be a cheap purchase in my childhood days, a week or two ago, I came up with, “Four-a-penny, I’ve eaten so many; My tongue is the colour of coal dust or ebony…” and that precisely matches the meter of the first four bars of the tune. It has solved my problem. Walking with Moss between the first two stops, I started Black Jack off confidently with that rhyme to remind me.
There was a good opportunity for playing at the lunchtime stop. We were outside in the beer garden at one of the pubs. Moss, Steve and myself got things going with a series of the local, Goathland tunes. We played Goathland Square Eight first, at Mossy’s suggestion. I think we followed that with the Goathland Speed the Plough. Mary and Nick from the White Rose musicians took out instruments and started to take an interest. Moss and Steve and I stuck with the Pennock family tunes and played The Officers’ Polka. Musicians from the other teams who knew the tune joined in. When that tune finished, I explained that all the tunes we’d played so far were from the Goathland repertoire and, to make it more inclusive, I told them that the ‘standard’ version of New Rigged Ship was sourced from the Pennock family. That gave the visitors the chance to join in confidently with one of our local tunes. I rounded off the Goathland selection with The Sylph then took a step back to let the visitors bring in tunes of their own choice. I joined in where I could and Steve and Mossy did the same.
More dancing followed.
At the end of the afternoon, we all made our way down to Beck Hole to dance there. Whilst Steve and I were playing Lass of Dallow Gill before the final dancing began, one of the fiddlers from the Iron Men’s band came across to listen and complemented us on the sound of our playing. He is a guy whose background is in orchestral playing and he is full of enthusiasm for what he is finding on the folk dance scene. The Iron Men’s music was a highlight of the whole weekend for me.
Sunday morning began with a train journey on the steam train from Goathland to Pickering.
The Iron Men kick-started the day with a rollicking musical performance from the overhead passenger bridge at Goathland station. They played up there, despite light rain, for both their men’s team and their ladies’ team, The Severn Gilders. Their saxophone player takes off into ingeniously crafted seconds whilst the strong band of melodeons, fiddles and drum provide a rock-solid melody on the dance tunes. The fiddler who talked with me down at Beck Hole on Saturday explained to me later that, whilst the others hold the melody line, he harmonises with the saxophone line. It’s a compelling mix.
We played for the Stots to give a dance on the platform and then, once we’d boarded the train, I led off a train themed start to the on-board music. I sang and played The Runaway Train. Musicians from all the teams joined in. Nick picked up on the idea and after playing on into other tunes – Nellie the Elephant was one – he kept bringing it back to The Runaway Train as a sort of chorus. A good idea. We did manage some other train songs. I did The Ballad of Jesse James and Steve made a good job of Wreck of the Old 97. He knew the words too but doesn’t sing whilst he plays so he recited them afterwards. Moss did well picking up Chatanooga Choo Choo off-the-cuff when someone started singing that – Aubrey maybe – but whoever it was made more of the fact that he’d changed key than bigging up his quickness with tunes so it fizzled when it could have continued. We moved on from train songs. Moss played some really strong stuff when a more general tune session got going.
The weather faired up when we got to Pickering and we did plenty of dance playing – inside and outside at two pubs, out on the main street and up on the top of the castle.
In the beer garden of the final pub stop, Moss and I played a few of our duets – Dog Whipping Day, Stottlebink, The Brickmakers and one or two more. The one that really caught other musicians’ attention was Burton Hunt. We were called on to play it a second time for Nick of White Rose to record it on his phone as he seems keen to learn it. Moss suggested he should buy our CD and learn it off that. Perhaps we’ll make one, then we’ll be able to sell him a copy.
Flamborough Lifeboat Day
The sun shone for the Flamborough Juniors sword dance team. This was after a week of cold rainy weather so the turn-out for Flamborough Lifeboat Day was good. It was on the village green at Flamborough. There was maypole dancing as well as longsword so my experience of maypole dance playing has gone from zero to two in the space of a fortnight after last week at North Newbald.
This afternoon, Maypole dancing came first. There were three of us playing – Steve on melodeon, Martin on banjo and me on fiddle. For the first dance, we had Rob holding up a little portable CD player to Steve’s left ear so he could play along with the tune that the children had practised to at school. We all recognised the tune but none of us could think what it was. Once we started playing, only Steve could hear it so there was some fairly ragged time-keeping from me. I was on Steve’s right, and Martin, who was on my right, was doing his best to keep time via my irregularities. We managed, in what Martin later described as a tempo equivalent of Chinese Whispers. The children danced fine despite us. For the second maypole dance figure, we played a tune of our own choice and abandoned the CD player. We played The New Rigged Ship.
The first dance the sword team did was announced as a practice that the crowd were welcome to stay and watch. As always, it was a real pleasure to play for the youngsters. There was one place where they got a bit jumbled up – the reason for the practice was that one or two of the dancers had been drafted in at the last moment – but they were still ace. There are so many village kids who know the dance that they are well able to put together a re-shaped team at short notice.
We had a twenty minute break for a cup of tea and a piece of fruit cake in the W.I. Hall by the green and then it was time for the main dance show.
We were joined, in the band line-up, by a girl on tambourine, by Stormy Sam, the lifeboat mascot and by Rob Traves holding up the sword team banner.
The youngsters danced smashing and we got all the tune changes in the right places, courtesy of Steve’s visual prompts. He has taken time to watch videos of the late Eric Storey playing for the dancers so we can be sure we are putting the changes where Eric used to put them.
The maypole was set up again after the longsword and we played again, this time playing Salmon Tails for the walk-on and The Keel Row for the dancing.
Two Bank Holiday Impromptus
On Saturday, Corona Smith (Lee) and I went up to Filey and busked with the puppets. It was Filey Folk Festival weekend so there were quite a few musicians and music followers around. It was a breezy day with rain showers never far away. We found ourselves a place to set up at the gateway to a small garden area off the side of the main shopping street. We played our fiddle duets with me operating Gerald, my fiddle puppet, and Corona operating his fiddling dog puppet, Kip. The two puppets are quite different in the way they work but both are on a similar scale so they look well together. Kip is powered by a converted drum pedal that Lee operates with his foot, whilst Gerald hangs on a strop from my arm and his bowing hand is powered by a thread that runs across from his elbow to his fiddle then up through a hole in his fiddle and up to my left hand that is supporting my own fiddle. It goes through a ring on that ring finger, where it changes direction again across to another ring on the forefinger of my bowing hand. It is tied off there. Now a down stroke from my bow causes an up stroke from Gerald’s bow and so on. We played our two parts versions of Cuddle In, Cuddle In, The Keel Row, Waltz Vienna, The Brickmakers, Battle of the Boiling Water, No Man’s Jig, B Shuffle, Dog Whipping Day, Billy’s Dad’s Polka, Cock of the North, Battle of the Pigeons and Spin the Tortoise. We played a few unison tunes too. We weren’t doing any songs at all, then, Diggy, Bernie and young Danny and another Brid guy came walking along. They must have been there doing a bit of Flithering. (They perform as The Flithers as well as being Sawmill Sidewinders along with me on other occasions). As soon as they came up, Bernie started singing Pull For The Shore so I picked it up on the fiddle and Lee started picking it out on his fiddle too. We sang that right through. Dig had his washboard and joined in on that as well as singing. Danny, Dig’s son, asked for his favourite, I Wish There Was No Prisons. We sang that together and then they took their leave and set off to find a pub. Corona and I did two stints, breaking for a rest when it started to spot with rain. We only did about an hour and a half altogether but it made a different day out and got the tunes out in public instead of sitting at home practising.
On Bank Holiday Monday, at Steve Peirson’s invitation, Lynette and I went along to the North Newbald Vicarage Garden Party for me to play along with the Beverley Garland Dancers’ musicians. That got me playing some tunes I don’t know. I didn’t drop out at all. Steve was taking the lead on melodeon – or sharing it with Tom, the concertina player. Sue Storey was playing concertina too. On some numbers she was on whistle. There was a saxophone chap too and a third concertina man – Pete, I think. There were familiar tunes too: Cock of the North, Huntsman’s Chorus, Salmon Tails and British Grenadiers. I found out that the tune they call Washing Day is the tune I call Wind Blow the Turnips Up. That’s the title I learnt from Lynette’s dad in years gone by. They alternated it with Lady in the Boat. That’s a tune I haven’t played for years so it was good to revive it from my memory. It was familiar enough because it used to be the theme music for David Bean’s evening news magazine programme on BBC radio in the North-East when Lynette and I lived in Sunderland in the early 1970s. Linconshire Poacher was another garland dance tune and Portsmouth. We played for maypole dancing too. That was fun. The garland dancers were helping volunteer dancers, children and adults, to do the maypole dancing. It all went well. They did three figures and without any major tangles.
Morpeth Gathering 2019
This past weekend was Morpeth Gathering. Lynette and Sue were up there to do a clog dance workshop and to judge the clog competitions. I was booked to do street entertainment with fiddle and puppets and to do an old folks home and a concert. Mossy Christian shared the billing with me on most of the work. Saturday started with two half hour outdoor spots. The first was in the Sanderson’s Arcade and the second on the market square. Mossy and I played a whole bunch of our fiddle duets – Sid’s Twist, Goathland Square Eight, Waltz Vienna – that sort of thing. I had Gerald, my fiddle-puppet on my arm most of the time and Moss operated Donald, my jig doll a time or two. I made sure we included some of the trickier duets, including Farewell to Culture and Helmsley Sword Dance Tune and The Brickmakers. I can’t remember which tunes we played at which spot. We did five shared spots in the course of the two days and I did one on my own on Saturday afternoon when Moss was off busy winning the fiddle competitions. Farewell to Culture showed itself to be a good piece for outdoor work. We used it as a finale number four or five times. When I composed its counter-melody, I thought I was pushing the limits of what would be acceptable to Moss as well as what would be acceptable to an audience. It turns out it feels comfortable and good fun in public.
The care home on Friday afternoon was one of the ones I did last year. Sue, my contact there, welcomed us back. There was a bit of a gathering of an audience in one of the lounges for us to start up with and we launched into a few tunes for them then we took the puppets around the lounge so the ones at the other side of the room got to see them. Reactions were good. We did a song or two as well as the tunes. Some of the residents showed very little response but Sue was quick to point out to us the success of small reactions that we would have otherwise missed. She was very keen for all the residents who stay in their rooms to get a chance to see the puppets and hear our music. We left the lounge and made a tour of all the rooms. At every room, Sue asked if the person would like us to come in. Some did and some didn’t. Sue is very sure to make certain everyone gets the chance. No-one gets pressured and those who she knows will enjoy it are encouraged to give it a go by her cheery manner. Sue also operated Donald when we wanted his step-dancing. That gave Moss and me the chance to keep playing together and it gave the residents the chance of a bit of fun with their own Sue joining the show. A great success. She told us, at the end of our visit, to tell Kim that she’d like us back there next year.
In one of the rooms, we’d done Freddy Archer. Our arrangement on that is for me to sing the two verses unaccompanied and then launch into the fiddle tune with both fiddles. When I play it with Lee, he strums a chordal fiddle accompaniment. With Mossy, we both bow the melody and, about the third or fourth time through, Moss adds some vigorous galloping bowing in keeping with the horse-racing theme. Later on we brought that into our outdoor sets too.
Saturday started with the parade. I shortened the strop on Gerald and shortened his bowing thread too. That makes it possible to parade with him on my arm without having to hold my arm higher than usual to keep his feet from dragging on the ground as we march. Mossy and I played through all the Goathland Plough Stots tunes and all the Flamborough tune as we marched. We played other stuff too but those eight or nine tunes give a good basis without having to keep calling out titles. We played some tunes to join in with girls with whistles behind us who were marching with the storyteller – Salmon Tails and Jimmy Allen.
On Saturday afternoon, I did an opening spot at the family show at the New Life Centre. The main performance was to be the Ashington and District Male Voice Choir. So that they could stay on stage during my bit, I performed from the side of the front of stage space. That way, I could direct my performance at both the audience and the choir. It worked well. I started with Herrings Heads. That begins with a recited bit – “A man was taking his son out fishing for the first time…” and so on, then launches straight into the first verse. I gestured for a bit of joining in and got some from both the audience and the choir. I followed up with the Flamborough version of Roll The Old Chariot, another chorus song, again with a bit of joining in from both directions. There were children in. I climbed up on a speaker beside the stage to do a tune with Gerald – Tom’s Jig (Lynette’s father’s tune) and rounded off with another easy-to-join-in song, Acre of Land, still up on the speaker with Gerald fiddling away at my feet.
I couldn’t stop and listen to the choir. My next Market Place spot was just quarter of an hour later. That final spot, on my own, was different again. There weren’t a great many people around but I got two or three quite concentrated sessions of performance where Gerald and I held an audience for several minutes before thanking them and letting them get on their way.
When everything was done and I’d been to say my farewells at the office, Lynette, Sue and myself were making our way along Sanderson’s Arcade back to my car. A man I didn’t recognise at all spoke to me as we were passing and said, “That was really good. Great music.”
Gringley on the Hill
Lynette and I went to the English traditional music session hosted by Jerry Oakes at Gringley on the Hill near Gainsborough. It’s in the Blue Bell pub.
We got there half an hour early so Mossy and I could have some time to play a few of our tunes before things got going properly. Mike, who I know from Sheffield clubs was there early too and he picked up on several of the tunes that Moss and I played. We’ve been working up a newly shaped duet on my Stottlebink tune. We played that. Lee and I have duetted on it in the past with Lee playing double stop chords on the back two strings. It was a bit shapeless with, for him, it being just a case of memorising the chords that didn’t really stand up on their own. More recently, I’ve made a counter melody cum back-strings-riffs accompaniment that is more fun for the second fiddle to play. Moss is playing it confidently and Lee is working on it too now. I’d been round at Lee’s working on it earlier in the day so playing it with Moss at the Gringley session was its second showing within a few hours. Moss and I played half a dozen or more tunes in that early half hour. We played a fresh major/minor duet on Cock of the North that I’ve developed this year. It couples the Cock of the North melody (which is pentatonic) with an upside-down pentatonic minor mirroring of the same tune. It’s fun to play. We played Eazum Teasum. Sheffield Mike asked about it and I explained that it is shaped around a little Christmas begging rhyme and chant that I learnt off Edith Annie Grey at Cottingham. I said I knew that there is an Eazum Teasum character in at least one of the Lincolnshire Plough Plays. He told me that the same name crops up in some other part of the world altogether. I forget where he said. Anyway, this was all before things really started.
Jerry arrived just after eight and got things properly under way. He played a great selection of stuff through the evening. John Lock’s Polka – or possibly Hornpipe – was one real belter as was his Sheepskins. Those are just two I happened to ask after so I know their names. There were loads of others I enjoyed hearing and many I was able to join in with. Moss and I led on several tunes in the main session – Tom’s Jig was one and Waltz Vienna was another. Sheffield Mike asked us for the Goathland Speed the Plough and we obliged. On my own, I volunteered Stephen Baldwin’s Strand Hornpipe, or Schottische as he called it, and its 2nd Schottische companion. Lynette danced several times throughout the session. I think her first bit of stepping was to Mossy and me playing No Man’s Jig early on. Later, when she danced to one of the tunes Jerry was leading, she danced for ages and Jerry just kept it going. There were melodeon players too, including Zoë. They were restrained in their playing so the fiddles had good space. So much strong music. Moss played a solo with a title involving a moustache.
The Dancing England concert was at Nottingham Playhouse. Flamborough Sword Dancers were on early in the first half. They nailed it. The lock that they raised at the end of the dance was as regular a lock as I have ever seen. Lynette was in the auditorium and her reaction was the same. It was a clean-as-a-whistle, no-messing performance.
The day had started with an anxious wait for half the dancers who’d been delayed by a flat tyre for Jonathan’s car on the drive down. It included them having to be hauled away on a flat-bed truck to somewhere more suitable for the tyre change operation. Our rehearsal slot became a musicians’ sound check instead but that went well and we learnt what our walk on was to be and so on.
At four o’clock, with everyone now present, we got our full rehearsal in. We didn’t wait for the sound man to set us up for playing because we were already sound-checked. We just stood by the one mike that was in position and played more or less acoustically so the dancers got the full amount of available time to be sure they knew how to orientate the set for the dance and for the lighting guys to see where their moves took them.
There were no problems.
Between that final rehearsal and the show, we went off to a pub. We were keen to have a sing together and, after an unpromising start to our search, Rob Traves found us a suitable small pub room. We all fitted in round a big, round table. I’d been reminding Craig and Mossy of the run-down to Craig’s grandad’s Good Luck to the Barley Corn. We started off with that, singing it quite gently to ourselves so as not to impose ourselves on the other people in the room. I got Craig going on I Was In It. Rob pointed out that we’d missed out I’m A Happy Young Man so we sang that too. Craig asked, “What about Windy Old Weather?” I led that. Once I’d got it going, I looked to Craig to lead a verse or two. The first he led was the conger verse. Talk about the beck verse led me to reminisce about the summer when Rolo and his dad caught masses of becks, lining or netting from their salmon boat. Rob Traves gave us the old Methodist hymn, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll be There. He used to sing it with Filey Fishermen’s Choir. We sang the responses, which included a bit of merriment over the way ‘resurrection’ is repeated.
Pull For The Shore followed and I chipped in with The Bridlington Fishermens’ Song. It has a line “…the place you’ll find them fishing is the Londsborough public house.” Rob told me the Londesborough is gone. It burnt down not long since.
Someone suggested Roll the Old Chariot. We sang that too. All this was unaccompanied. I had my fiddle with me at the pub but I left it in its case. We made our way back to the venue in plenty of time.
Once the show got under way, it was only minutes before we were called to the Green Room and then to the wings ready to go on. Steve, Mossy, Sue and myself had to go across, behind a curtain, to the other wing, ready to enter there. When we received our cue, we took our places at the mikes whilst the MC introduced the team. Steve was on my left, on melodeon, I was on fiddle, Mossy, also on fiddle, was to my right and Sue, on whistle, was to the right of him. Steve had asked me to lead the tune. I set us off into Old Johnny Walker and away we went. The dancers were all prepared and marched on to the B music of the tune and then straight into the dance. It all benefitted from a practice we’d had a week or so ago with all the same dancers and musicians. We’d had a good discussion of when the tune changes should come and we were all prepared for them. There was a moment when lead dancer, Rob Kemp, lost his cap but he was able to retrieve it as the figure took him to where it lay. He retrieved it to an appreciative little burst of applause. I was concentrating on looking out for the ends of the figures where the tune changes come so I didn’t think of putting in any of my seconds till we were nearly through Rinks. That’s the third tune. I managed to slip the seconds in on the final time through that tune. I fluffed it slightly so reverted to the melody as Rob Kemp and Craig got back to the top of the set in the ‘rolls’ figure. That’s when we change to This Old Man. I did manage my seconds to Old Johnny Walker though. The reprise of that tune comes as the dancers line up for the long reel. I waited till we’d gone once through it then played the counter melody on the second time through, then back to unison playing. After the reel comes the final lock, which I described earlier. Rob led the team off with it held aloft and we played till they were all off stage then finished neatly together and left the stage. The audience response was great.
We watched the second half of the show from the back of the circle where seating was reserved for dancers. I was proud to have been part of the Flamborough set.
Plough Stots Village Dance Day
We got off promptly on the parade down to the green from the hut. Lee was with us at Goathland for his first time on a Plough Stots village dance day. He’s been involved at Goathland before though. He was there for a hunt singing event a couple of years ago and for the Pennock Family Tunes presentation last year.
We played John Peel all the way down to the green. Lee had only learnt it a couple of days ago but that gave him plenty of times through to get more familiar with it. There were three men’s teams and a women’s team dancing. Bob the banner man headed the parade, followed by the team pulling the plough then the other dancers. The musicians brought up the rear. The teams danced figures one, three and five together outside the shops at our first stopping point. Steve and Martin Peirson played melodeon and banjo; Mossy played melodeon instead of his fiddle; Mike played piccolo; Lee and I played fiddles; Wendy and Anne played melodeons. I think the whistle playing chap whose name I don’t know was there too. Vince had melodeon with him but I think he was dancing at that point.
After the usual photo call at the Malcolm Worley memorial bench, we split up into the different tours. Steve offered Lee and myself the choice of either the top or bottom tour. I opted for the bottom tour. Moss went off with another team to do the Green End tour. The women’s team doubled up with the top tour men’s team.
Our first house call was one with a tray of drinks brought out – Jackie Fearnley’s house. There was a spicy hot fruit punch bowl with the option of spirits to add. It made a welcome warmer for both drinkers and for people who were driving later, as I was. It was a cold morning. There was quite a lot of snow on the ground early in the day. At that house, we had to wait for Alan and Ian as they’d been waylaid for an extra photo shoot. Lee and I sang Acre of Land and Christmas Ploughboy to keep the show going till they arrived.
Just Lee and I were playing for the dancing at that house and for the beginning of our next dance, which was out on the roadside. Mike was captain of our dancers and he called for the number four tune. That was another that Lee had only learnt at our practice on Thursday. We launched off into it. Whilst the dance was in progress, Eliza Carthy arrived and started to unpack her fiddle. She joined in with us and strengthened up the sound. We played The Oyster Girl for number four. It is a choice between that and The Wearing of the Green (I Wish They’d Do It Now) for that figure.
With Mike having called for Number Two (Pop Goes the Weasel) at the first house, it meant that Lee had already got to play for all the figures and do all the tunes except for I Wish they’d Do It Now in just the first three stops.
We made our way round our section of the village, dancing one or two dances at each positive knock. At one of the big houses, Eliza was called on to put aside her fiddle and take a sword. With a quick bit of tuition to remind her of the moves, and with a bit of helpful pushing in the right direction during the course of the dance, she made a good job of it and was full of smiles at her achievement.
With the three of us playing fiddles, there was a good chance to make the most of the available sounds. I played my seconds on The Keel Row and Pop Goes. Eliza played her variations and improvisations on Yankee Doodle and the other tunes. Lee put in his low octave playing of Cock of the North. He was able to do that strongly because he is more used to playing it in A. Consequently, he can easily drop to low octave G by just shifting his usual fingering across to the back strings.
At one of the stops, the three of us finished our playing of Cock of the North early on figure three. I was watching the dancers and they had formed the lock and were walking it round prior to the captain raising it aloft. I hadn’t been paying sufficient attention and thought, instead, that they had already raised it and were now walking it around prior to drawing the lock at the very end of the dance. At the end of the musical phrase, I played emphatically to a finish. Elisa and Lee either took their lead from me or each made a similar mistake of their own at exactly the same moment. All three musicians stopped and all six dancers kept going.
Vince joined us with his melodeon at some points in the day. That gave me a chance to try out my own Yankee Doodle seconds. I’ve only worked them out recently so the bigger sound of the melodeon gave me something to hide behind and try them without risking putting off the others.
We were given generous hospitality in the Goathland Hotel, where we made our lunch stop. They provided hot snacks – bacon, sausage and black pudding rolls and cheese toasts. Lee and I started up some tunes and, when we struck up with Waltz Vienna, Eliza was quick to take out her fiddle and join us. We went through it four or five times times, moving between unison and parts. We got a round of applause from the company. I asked Eliza whether she was familiar with Neswell Pennock’s Goathland Square Eight. She wasn’t but she gave me the nod to set it off anyway and she’d pick up what she could as we went along. She did. Lee and I got hold of it well to give strong lead. I told Eliza about the reason for the slide note from C sharp to C natural in the second part and she twigged both the value and the fun of it. It gives respect to both Mr Pennock and to Mr Sharp. Cecil Sharp accurately noted it from Neswell Pennock as a C sharp but with the written remark “This is clearly a mistake”.
We did a lot more houses after lunch and, at one point, our paths crossed over with Moss’s lot. I nipped along to join Moss. I think it was Yankee Doodle that we played for his dancers. This was whilst our lot were tucking into mince pies and tots of whiskey just along the road, where another good lady of the village had brought out a tray for the stots. The same lady does so every year. I hurried back to play for our lot. They were ready to do a second dance for the lady. Eliza had gone off to sort out some dry socks for her daughter who’d got soaked playing with the snow and Lee and Vince and myself were keeping things going. When we were part way into our tune, I noticed that Moss had dashed across from his lot to join us and return the favour. Moss was playing melodeon instead of his fiddle.
At the end of the afternoon everyone made their way down to Beck Hole as usual. I sat outside the shop door of the pub with Mossy and played. Doc was looking across our way and either photographing or videoing us. Martin and Steve came across and we did the Flamborough set together. We were about to set off into the Helmsley tune when the landlady came out with warm sausage rolls and I was tempted away.
Everyone was milling around, talking, drinking and socializing. Eventually, sets of swords began to appear and dancers grouped together from amongst the mêlée. The musicians gathered on the opposite side of the road from the pub. The big, final dance came around. Steve asked me to be on his right – that’s his treble side – and Eliza was on my right. Lee got in behind us. Moss and Martin and the whistle man were off to his left. I’m sure there were other musicians too but I can’t remember who or where in the line. Someone gave the OK and Steve led us into the lift chords. The four teams danced. They went through all five figures with just a short pause after each one. For number four, Steve led us in Wearing of the Green. Like me, Eliza knew it better as I Wish They’d Do It Now. That made it the full set of tunes for Lee in the course of the day. The four teams finished pretty much together on each dance except Number Five when Mike fell over. He’d stepped off the edge of the metalled road surface. He got up again OK but the team finished behind the others after his recovery. All the teams hung their locks up on the hook above the pub door except maybe our lot. Mike had his raised lock knocked from his hand by one of the dancers from another team.
Old Christmas Day
Nearly everyone turned up around 12.30. Moss and family hadn’t properly made it through the door before Steve Peirson arrived and Steve was only just settled in when Jerry and Judy Oakes came in. I’d looked up some Old Christmas customs and they included visiting wells. Lynette suggested that, as we don’t have a well, we could dress the outdoor tap. I’d stuck a branch of holly through the ring that’s for the cloth we keep there and then criss-crossed that with two sprigs of ivy. Zoë added a twig of rosemary to it and Steve put a twig or two from the bay tree into the mix. That was it for well dressing.
We started straight into playing as soon as we’d got cups of tea and other drinks sorted. Mossy and I struck up with Sid’s Twist. I was playing the fiddle Roy the Boatman gave me. It’s a fiddle that got badly smashed and I went to restoration classes to repair. Moss and Jerry were on fiddles too, with Judy on mandolin and Lynette on tambourine and Steve on his digital accordion.
Jerry led the next couple of tunes. I didn’t know the names of them but he and Judy had picked ones that were easy enough for me to join in on. We passed tunes around that way, Moss leading something, me leading something and so on.
When my turn came around, I remembered the Old Christmas theme. I started into the Christmas Ploughboy. I’d got half way through playing it instrumentally, as an intro, when Martin and Ros showed up. I abandoned it to greet them.
When they’d settled in with cups of tea, I struck up again with The Christmas Ploughboy. As we finished it, I called, “Number one!” to Moss. We went straight into The Keel Row. I’d no chance to tell Jerry that we do it with a two As beginning and then in singles so there was a bit of settling to that but it soon levelled out to where I was confident I could put in my seconds without putting Judy and Jerry off. I put them in twice because we played it through five or six times.
Martin was shy of leading anything at first but he got his melodeon out and I asked him for the Adelphi Polka. That’s a tune that Martin and the late Don McKay made up and that Martin, Jerry and I used to play back in Leeds Band days. Young Mossy and I had had a go at it not long ago, with me struggling to recall it but getting there eventually. We all played it fairly confidently. It’s a good tune to play, shifting, as it does, between the keys of D and G. More Leeds Band tunes followed. Park Hotel came back to me, with Jerry and Martin leading as I slowly recalled it. Follow On felt less familiar but they led so well that I was able to get there.
I asked Jerry how he was on sight reading and he said he was O.K. I gave him the dots for the seconds on the Millington ‘Octave drop’ While Shepherds. I swapped onto Billy’s fiddle and explained that the fiddle was Billy Harrison’s. Billy was the old Millington musician who taught me the big carols and their seconds. I launched into the carol and tried to put in some of the responses myself, in my fiddle playing. Lynette joined in, singing the responses and Ros looked over Jerry’s shoulder at my hand-written score. She is used to part singing in a choir. Moss was picking it up by ear from my playing. Judy too. Between us all, we got a good grip on it for a first time of playing it together. I sang the full carol as I always try to do.
After lunch, there was more playing of tunes I hadn’t thought about for years, plus playing ones that I often play but knew they’d have to pick up as we went along. Martin led Pipe on the Hob. I played fiddle and was pleased with how I got along. It’s a tune that I used to play on the flute. I asked Steve for something from the Woolybacks dance tunes and he led Click Go the Shears and Waltzing Matilda. It was a day of many tunes long unvisited. Martin sang a strong Irish song that he remembered from a particular woman who sang it years ago. He sang Please Let me Sleep on your Doorstep Tonight too, inviting me to join in, and he recited his spoonerised Cinderella party-piece. We played a set of Leeds Band forties singalong songs – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Taking a Chance on Love, Rainbow Round my Shoulders, Sitting on Top of the World and You are my Sunshine. Moss and I did Acre of Land and Don’t Fly Away Robin and Eazum Teasum and Farewell to Culture. We got a “Good tune” remark from Martin for that.
New Year’s Day at Nantwich
The New Year’s Day bash was at The Oddfellows Arms in Nantwich. Bryn Davies was hosting. He and Joss set things going with Folsom Prison Blues. At first, Joss’s electric guitar was the only amplified instrument. Bryn had a mike set up but none of us used it till later. Bryn was on acoustic guitar. I was on fiddle with Lynette on tambourine. Croz and Sheila were on fiddle and melodeon and concertina. The Boat Band were there – Greg on guitar and banjo, Kate on fiddle and Mark on melodeon. Tony Wetherall and Neil Brookes were there too – Tony on melodeon and Neil on fiddle. Jimmy Matthews was on banjo. Bryn’s neighbour, Terry, was on guitar and there was a chap on bass some of the time. I’ll maybe have missed one or two out. It was busy with musicians.
Bryn and Joss kept the country and rock and roll songs coming, I brought in English traditional songs and tunes. Greg sang skiffle and old timey songs like Wreck of the Old 97 and Sloop John B and Kate and Mark and he all did Cajun songs too. Mark brought in popular Irish songs such as The Rocky Road to Dublin and Black Velvet Band. Tony and Neil and Croz played their Shropshire dance tunes and everyone crossed back and forth between those various areas of music. Bryn sang his Queen of Tavendor. He and I sang When I Was a Little Boy. Croz and I played Lynette’s dad’s jig and his untitled tune that’s like Jenny Lind. I sometimes call it Tom Fool’s Hornpipe. One highlight was Kate singing Corinna, Corinna. Another was Bryn and Joss’s rock version of Whiskey in the Jar. An instrumental highlight was a set of tunes that Neil, Croz and Tony played. I thought the first was a quirky, solid, little old village tune from their neck of the woods. When I asked about it, they told me it’s a tune made up by Chris Bartram. The tune they couple with it was from the Billy Ballantine record that came out years ago on Topic. I’ve asked Croz to try and send me the dots for them both.
I enjoyed singing Poor Old Horse. Croz joined me, accompanying it on our two fiddles. I don’t remember playing it together before. It was Croz who, many years ago, lent me the tape I learnt the song from in the first place. He recorded it from the late Jimmy Feeney.
Lynette told me afterwards that she’d really enjoyed watching Jimmy making a good job of accompanying me when I sang Windy Old Weather. He was smiling when he recognised it and quickly picked up what key I was in and fitted his banjo in with my fiddle.
Towards the end of the session, when things had quietened down a bit, I was talking with Croz about the Poor Old Horse refrain lines and, because of a linguistic link, it led me on into singing The Pear Tree. It turned out that none of the people sitting around were familiar with The Pear Tree so the joke of the song was fresh to them.
Boxing Day at Flamborough
Dancers and Sawmillers all met up at Bempton before noon. Simon Silverwood was there with his guitar and Bernie with his mandolin. Andy had brought a cajon because his tea-chest base has been left upside down in the wet and gone rotten. Lynette was on tambourine and me on fiddle. Diggy was on washboard. Frank was away in Thailand so we had no triangle player this year. Steve, Mossy and Martin were the dancers’ main musicians but we all played tunes together several times through the day and, in fact, the sawmillers ended up playing for nearly all the dance spots too. We all played together on the carpark at Bempton while the dancers were getting ready. We played Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz. There was a really big crowd out at Bempton to watch the first dance of the day. We all played for the dancers. Rob Traves gave us the nod and I set us going. Steve said afterwards that it was a good steady speed. He was pleased I’d started it off because he thought he’d been thinking it over-fast in his own mind. They set off to dance at Lighthouse and said they’d be at Rose and Crown at one or one fifteen. We went into the White Horse and sorted ourselves out to play as soon as we’d got drinks in. We played just inside the doorway of the busy room. I think we started with Windy Old Weather. I sang the first two verses then looked to Andy or Diggy to come in with verses. They picked up on it straight away. I think Andy came in first with “There’s a splash on our leeside and up jumped the beck…” then, between them, they did the Mermaid verse, the skate verse and the mackerel. I did a couple more too. I forget who sang what but they were both in good voice and both remembering verses. We did Acre of Land and then Be-Bop-a-Lula. Diggy led Rare Old Mountain Dew. Simon was remembering songs he hadn’t played since last boxing day. Mostly, I’d just call a key and he and Bernie would work out what they were doing as the song went along. Just a call of “A” and off we’d go into A Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie. Andy and Dig and Lynette were giving strong support on all the choruses. I made sure we put in an instrumental tune or two to give my voice a rest. My voice lasted out well all day. There were a lot of familiar faces amongst the pub crowd so, part way through our set, I’d made an announcement about the Robert and Jossy Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head CD. We wished them all a Happy New Year and drank up before setting off to join the dancers in village. I sold some CDs there, in White Horse, and more in village later.
We were a bit over-leisurely making our way to Rose and Crown. I could see the dancers had started as we made our way up the street. I put my case on top of a wall that we were passing and got my fiddle out. Lynette and Bernie told me to go on ahead and join in. They’d see to my fiddle case. I did and they weren’t far behind so we were all playing in the band before the dancers were half way through the dance. When the dance was finished, Moss and I played Farewell to Culture. The others joined in a bit even though it was an unfamiliar tune to them. I set it off very steadily. I’d been playing it at home recently and realised I think it’s a much stronger tune at a quite stately pace. Lynette told me afterwards that she’d heard Diggy singing it to himself after we’d stopped.
The Junior team had joined the seniors at Rose and Crown so there were two teams dancing for the rest of the day. We played for all the other spots – Seabirds, Victoria Club and Dog and Duck. In between, we sawmilled Rose and Crown and the smoking shelter of Victoria Club. We did The Codfish at one of those and Trawl Warp and Windy Weather and Grey Cortina and Putting on the Style and Should I Stay or Should I Go.
The dancers performed their dance twice in Dog and Duck Square. The second time, Richard took a sword for himself and danced.
After the final sword dance session, we all went into Ship. We started sawmilling in the back room and did maybe eight or nine numbers in there then Richard and one or two other sword dancers came and persuaded us to move through to the bar. Dick Pop came across and said hello. I’d been looking out for him. I gave him the complimentary copy of his Uncle Joss’s CD that Rod had given me for him. Between the two rooms there, we did Jailhouse Rock, Windy Old Weather twice, Heave Away the Trawl Warp, Great Uncle Sep’s Reel, Grace Darling, Pull For The Shore, Teenage Kicks, The Bridlington Fishermen’s Song, Three Day Millionaire – Oh, and Andy led a beltingly strong La Bamba and Let’s Twist Again.
The final songs of the day were Happy Young Man and I Was In It. Craig had asked me a couple of times earlier if we’d done them and we hadn’t. They were his grandad’s songs. Now, just as we’d decided we’d done enough, Craig came across again. The room was getting very noisy so it was a good time to stop but, together, we launched into them full throttle. We sang them without instrumental accompaniment but with vocal support from Andy when he saw what we were doing. Andy said to Lynette what a great way it was to end the day, seeing and hearing Craig up with us, as Andy put it, “….singing his own family’s songs that would have been forgotten without those recordings we made back then.”
Third Week of Beamish Christmas Fairs
Thursday (18th) and Friday (19th) were this year’s final two Beamish Christmas Fairs. During last week’s Beamish work, I had cramp in my hand during one of the evenings. Other times, I have noticed my fingers changing colour. I thought it was caused by the strop that Gerald, my fiddle puppet, is suspended from. The strop is fishing line and it takes all the weight of the puppet. He hangs from my left forearm. My fiddle is on the same arm. I guessed that the strop has been having a tourniquet effect when I’ve been playing for an hour or so with Gerald on my arm. This week, I pushed a piece of cardboard from a box lid up my sleeve to spread the weight. It feels better. It has the added bonus of slightly widening the gap between the two lines, which makes the puppet less prone to spinning in any breeze.
Some of the mini shows within the hour or so of street performance that we’ve been doing, mid-evening, each night have been drawing bigger crowds than ever. I noticed, last night, during one in particular, one woman looking delighted at the song Acre of Land. She seemed to be taken with both the song and the reactions of the host of children caught up with it.
We had a dancing grandad stepping along with Lee’s Dan Leno jig doll on Thursday night. Last night, one girl who joined in was doing shuffles as she stepped along with the music. I complimented her and asked her whether she went to dance class but she said not.
This week, Lee has properly become familiar with the Dan Leno song. I have been joining him on singing it a lot of the times we’ve done it. He suggested last week that it works better sung unaccompanied before the fiddle comes in. I play it as a tune for his Dan Leno jig doll to dance to. We used the same strategy we use with the Freddy Archer song – that is to sing it unaccompanied in whatever feels like a comfortable key, then, when the sung verse ends, the fiddle comes in, in G. The resulting key change, whatever it may be, has never yet felt like a clash. Lee has been giving me the nod when he feels that a Dan Leno moment is a good choice. I have been announcing him as “the champion clog dancer of the world” and saying he is “stepping to the stage” as Lee puts down his fiddle and lifts up Dan Leno to his stepping board. On Thursday evening, Lee lost Dan’s piece of wood. It is the piece that sticks into a hole in the puppet’s back and supports him as he dances on his board. He whittled a new one from a piece of firewood from the fireplace in the dentist’s parlour early in the evening.
In our parlour playing at the start of each evening, we have included the Keel Row among the tunes we’ve been using for the peg doll dancers. Lee has been learning it ready for playing for Goathland Plough Stots on Plough Monday/Saturday. By yesterday he had got it well and I was able to play my counter melody for the Keel Row as Lee led it. We played Tom Dickinson’s Jig and Great Uncle Sep’s Reel, Congress at Laceby, The Bells of Hell and many more. I had a longish spell operating my own jig doll, Donald, so Lee started bringing out tunes he plays alone. The Devil’s Dream or Devil Among the Tailors was one. Another was the Rochdale Coconut Dance. Both those worked well for dancing Donald. Little Redwing was another. When I played on my own for Dan Leno, Lee asked me for Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel. We played Battle of the Boiling Water with it’s counter melody together and, on my own, I played Goathland Speed the Plough. We spent a fair bit of time on Corn Riggs. I’m trying to improve my timing on that.
On Thursday, instead of doing the puppets right through the dentist’s parlour session, we split it and changed over to singing the big carols for the second half of our time in there.
Like last week, in the hour from eight o’clock, we joined Nell and Rick in the tram shelter to play together. There was a moment, before we all struck up last night, when several of the children waiting for the next tram noticed me standing ready with Gerald. I started to play for them and did a whole little show on my own.
Earlier on last night, when we’d done the street shows section of our evening, we kept going longer than we’d meant to. The puppets had attracted a succession of quite big crowds and we were about to finish. We had done about an hour and a quarter out there and were ready for a tea break. We had announced an item as the last one and completed it. Then, when we looked around, it was clear that we’d drawn yet another keen group of visitors around as an audience. Lee looked up from the chair he sits on to do Dan Leno. He smiled and raised an eyebrow. He suggested Don’t Fly Away, Robin and Eazum Teasum. We did them. They went well. I felt we played them both as well as we ever have.
Our final bit last night was back in the dentist’s parlour for the last half hour. We’d put the puppets away and just performed by the fireside with our voices and our two fiddles. We went right through the old carols – the Millington While Shepherds with its octave drop tune, with Lee singing all the responses as I sang the verses, the Millington St Matthew carol ‘For Unto us a Child is Born’, with me leading and Lee playing the harmony line and singing it too in some verses, When Christ was Born of Mary Free, with me playing melody and Lee playing harmony throughout, The Seven Joys of Mary, again played in melody and counter melody on our two fiddles, with me singing, and On the Birthday of the Lord, with Lee giving strong vocal support in harmony on the choruses, “God is born of maiden fair; Mary doth the Saviour bear; Mary ever pure; Mary ever pure.”
It turned out Carol and Steve’s folk-at-home was Carol’s musical birthday get-together. We got there fairly early and Moss and family were already there. There were several others there too. There was a chap with a tenor banjo and a fiddler sat with him. They were playing mostly reels and jigs. Mossy was joining in with them. I just listened at first. Steve was playing guitar and Carol was busy welcoming people and picking up her fiddle when she could. There was a man who accompanied himself singing a song or two. He sang a song I didn’t recognise and, later on, sang Elvis Costello’s Let him Dangle. There was a whistle player and a young woman playing ukulele. Soon after we arrived, a chap with a bodhran and a melodeon turned up.
Someone asked Moss to play a tune. He looked to me to see if I wanted to do one together. I encouraged him to do one of his own. He did and I got my fiddle out whilst he was playing. There was plenty of giving people a chance to play their own choice. When our chance came around again we played Sid’s Twist. Others joined in with their own Rakes of Mallow type tunes but they let our chunky, simple shape of the tune hold its own.
Soon into the proceedings, two stepping boards were laid out in the middle of the room and Lynette and Wendy got their clogs on and did some freestyling.
Moss and I did plenty together. We did The Christmas Ploughboy quite early on, both of us playing fiddles and me leading the sung verse and chorus but with Moss singing along on most of it too. The whistle chap played a lovely steady waltz at one point. Lynette was all the while listening out for tunes suitable in tempo for her and Wendy’s stepping. They did a lot. Carol led The Bear Dance. They stepped to that. I joined in on fiddle on that one too. Mostly I stuck to only playing on tunes I knew properly though.
Moss and I played the Sylph. It seems to be a tune regular session goers aren’t familiar with. Carol said what a good tune it is and asked about it.
I was thinking of leading off into Tom Dickinson’s jig but then the melodeon man led Merrily Kiss the Quaker and I decided it’s too similar to Tom’s jig. I went for Tom Fool’s Hornpipe instead. Moss knows that well now. It’s the one of Lynette’s dad’s tunes I’ve left alone a lot because I’ve found it difficult to play on my own. With Moss’s duetting support, it has gained a new lease of life. We played a couple of our parts duets – The Brickmakers and Cuddle In – oh, and Waltz Vienna too.
I enjoyed watching Lynette and Wendy communicating with each other as they danced, using the names or their own nicknames for steps that they have as they worked out, mid-dance, what moves to put in next.
When I had replied to Carol’s invitation, I had mentioned one or two things that may be of interest to her in her search for pieces for her archive of local songs, tales and customs. Don’t Fly Away Robin and Eazum Teasum were two songs in particular that I had mentioned so I made sure that Moss and I sang them both. Moss had only learnt Don’t Fly Away Robin in one busy learning session last time we had a practice day. We did them both together in the same arrangement that Lee and I use on our Two Straylarkers performances. We did Acre of Land too.
Lynette asked for a waltz from me and Moss for her to dance to. I started into Bonny Tyneside, forgetting that it is one I usually play on my own. Moss joined in fairly confidently anyway. Maybe we had played it before and I’d forgotten or maybe he was learning it as he went along.
Two More Beamish Fairs
For the second two Beamish Christmas fairs, we had settled into a formula of splitting the evening’s work into four sections. Both days, we did a long indoor sesson with the peg dolls in the parlour doorway to start. We followed that with a long session on the street outside the hardware shop with the bigger puppets then a massed play with the other small combos at the tram stop and a final session on our own, back in the parlour but sitting at the fireside doing our East Yorkshire carols and the other old carols.
Lee has taken on more of the vocals to help me pace my voice and also to add interest to what’s going on vocally when we both sing. He sings the harmony and responses on While Shepherds as he did before and the harmony on For Unto us a Child is Born. The new things include taking the lead on The Christmas Ploughboy and the Dan Leno song and he’s close to taking over the vocal on Acre of Land too. One of the times we did it last night, I only sang the first line of each verse then he took over the second line as a response. He kept on going right through to the end of the refrain so I could join back in or leave him to it as I saw fit. This had a practical purpose because I was nursing a bit of a cough. The addition to the sound is the main thing though. His harmony to On The Birthday of the Lord gives it a much fuller appeal. That song works well in every way we approach it. It works as an instrumental with its lilting change of rhythm. When we are doing the puppets at the same time, that lilting change picks up really well in the movement of the peg dolls. When we are doing it along with the big carol set, the harmony fills it out as a sung piece – Lee sings the same harmony line as he plays and I do likewise with the melody line. With each approach working well, any time when we are singing it, I can opt for an instruments-only verse at any point.
Mid evening last night, I happened to drop in at the parlour when the Ran Tanners were playing in there. I recognised one of the parts of the tune they were playing as being the same as the melody for As I was Walking on Bollington Sands. That is a version of Herrings’ Heads that Steve Gardham and I collected in the 1970s from Ethel Grinsdale of Aldborough on the Holderness coast. I joined in with my fiddle and sang two or three of the verses when that section of the tune came around. Ian and Paul told me theirs is a tune from the Lawrence Leadley manuscript. That’s a collection from Helperby in North Yorkshire. Aldborough is not so far away, in East Yorkshire.
We have several times combined Rosetta Smith’s Don’t Fly Away Robin with Nancy Grey’s Eazum Teasum. Don’t Fly Away Robin is a short, slow, haunting song that combines a Christmas robin verse with a lament for a mother who lies in the graveyard. Eazum Teasum is a jaunty Christmas begging verse that seems to have come from a plough play into their family repertoire. I have developed it’s one verse chant into a three part fiddle tune with melody and countermelody.
We played The Brickmakers two or three times last night. Lee suggested it when he was taking the lead. I’m getting more used to the harmony I made up for it now. It’s tricky though.
Shiznitz at Beverley Festival of Christmas 2018
We were on an up from the start at the Beverley Christmas Market. That was because we’d just happened to chance on a free parking space. The town was swamped with traffic, all looking for somewhere to be. We got parked about fifty yards from where we were to perform on Butcher Row all thanks to good luck and a very helpful traffic marshal.
The Whiskey Dogs were performing as we arrived. Their good-time Americana was as appealing as ever. They gave us a friendly mention to their audience as they finished their set and handed over to us.
This was my first gig as a Shiznit. I’ve several times guested with them in the past but this was new.
We were already a rather reduced Shiznitz line-up because of members’ conflicting commitments and then, at short notice, because of banjo player Gary being taken ill, we were down to a trio for today. We were two fiddles (Lee and me) and upright bass (Max). Lee and Max had practised a dozen or so items from the Straylarkers’ duo repertoire yesterday and we made full use of the Straylarker puppet line-up. We set them up in the half-hour hand-over time.
The setting up had drawn a little crowd to watch us start and the Whiskey Dogs had come back as audience too. We fired up with everything in our favour then made a hash of the opening number. Lee had suggested God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. I play harmony from the start in that. I forgot my first line and also hadn’t found my pitch well yet as all our instruments were responding to the cold weather. Max told us later that his bass wouldn’t stay in tune. We soldiered on and the visual of the puppets – Gerald, my fiddle puppet, Kip, Lee’s fiddling dog and one pair of the peg-doll dancers – bailed us out.
From there on, things soon shaped up and we started to gel as a trio. In the first set, we stuck to items that Max had gone through at the practice. We did No Man’s Jig, Speed the Plough and Jingle Bells, Acre of Land, Waltz Vienna, Goathland square Eight, Dog Whipping Day, The Christmas Ploughboy and Dan Leno’s Hornpipe. Lee operated his Dan Leno jig doll for that one. I think he was also operating Kip and the peg dolls at the same time. I was operating Gerald throughout the whole set as I played.
By the time the second set came around, it was clear that Max was comfortable with us doing anything we wanted if we just called out a key so things like Congress at Laceby and The Clog Hornpipe started to come in. The second set was more fun from the off. There was plenty of interest from passers-by. All the focus of their attention seemed to be on the puppets then they’d surprise us with a really keen enthusiasm for a particular song or tune or compliment our music in general. One chap was particularly taken up with The Christmas Ploughboy. He was asking what it was called and where it came from. He was interested to hear that it was a verse I’d learnt from Robert Leng, one of the old Flamborough fishermen. I explained that Robert had remembered the verse but couldn’t recall the tune and that I’d made up the tune to give it a fresh lease of life.
There was a point in the show when one little toddler in particular seemed to be completely taken up with Kip, the fiddling dog. The little lad kept trying to get to Kip and his mum was keeping pulling him back to give us space. He was determined to get to the fiddling dog and off he’d go again.
We saw lots of people we know, including Bobby Briggs who used to crew with us on The Flamborian early on in my Bridlington pleasure boat musician years.
Beamish Christmas Fairs
Lee and I have done the first two of this year’s Beamish Museum Christmas fairs on Thursday and yesterday, Friday. Both days, we started off playing in the doorway of the dentist’s house parlour. That enables us to get the puppets and dancing peg-dolls set up before we begin. For the first stint, we both rigged up our dancing peg-dolls so they were dancing down in front of us as we sat playing. Lee also set up his fiddle puppet Kip, the fiddling dog. That proved a good choice because Kip is bigger than the peg dolls. This drew the eye of people looking in at the doorway and they then noticed the little peg doll couples dancing there too.
We played through all the newer part of the repertoire, almost all without singing during that first hour and a quarter. I wanted to save my voice and also to settle in playing the new duets. We’ve added On The Birthday Of The Lord to our list of carols. I found it in the old carol book Jess Davies gave me. It’s the book we learnt The Seven Joys of Mary from. It also has When Christ Was Born of Mary Free in it. That is one of the old carols I learnt from the late Billy Harrison whose old East Yorkshire carols are the backbone of our Two Straylarkers carol repertoire.
Lee has put a lot of work into learning the second fiddle parts. On the Birthday of the Lord proved to be a pleasure to play. It shifts between four time on the verses and three time on the choruses. We got hold of it straight away. We haven’t usually done the big carols along with operating the puppets in the past but, on this occasion, just working instrumentally, we did. The time change on that one looked effective with the peg-doll dancers altering their movement accordingly. We did a long stint out on the street later. There, we did sing. The street show incorporated more performing to the crowds that gathered and we made good use of the lighter songs like Acre of Land, The Christmas Ploughboy and Twelve Days of Christmas.
Yesterday is clearer in my mind than Thursday. On Thursday, we had finished the whole job with Two Straylarkers, The Ran Tanners and the Sunderland lads all joining with the harmonium lady, Nell, and her partner, Rick, at the tram stop shelter for a combined farewell play for the departing visitors. It had gone so well that, yesterday, Nell suggested we do it earlier, before the visitor numbers begin to dwindle. We passed the word around for an 8 o’clock meet-up there and everyone turned up for it. It’s good. She leads it and selects keys that suit both us and Nick’s clarinet so we aren’t always in familiar keys. It means we do stuff we don’t normally play. Together, we played the Sweet Chimings Bells ‘While Shepherds’, the Ilkley Moor ‘While Shepherds’, Twelve Days of Christmas (where I have to remember that she sings a different final run down from ours), We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells. More I expect. With our own performances including the Octave Drop ‘While Shepherds’, that makes three different settings to that carol in our performances.
On the way home last night, Lee said that our own street performance session, mid evening, had been the best session we have ever done there in the years we’ve been doing the Beamish fairs. There was one bit of that where we were working with Lee’s new Dan Leno jig doll along with my fiddle puppet Gerald and Lee told the children gathered round that we were looking for new dancers to match Dan Leno. When we played the Dan Leno tune, four or maybe five of the youngsters joined in and there was a really happy atmosphere and that drew more passers-by. Good fun all round. We used the Dan Leno tune several times. I remembered the first part properly because it’s the same as the song tune but I had to improvise on the B music.
Our end to the evening last night, after the mass-gathering at the tram stop, was back at the dentist’s parlour. We put the toys away and sat by the fire and played through all the big carols with their first and second fiddle parts; the grand carols that Billy taught me – While Shepherds, For Unto Us a Child is Born and When Christ was Born of Mary Free and the ones from Jess’s book – The Seven Joys of Mary and On the Birthday of the Lord. We sang them all in full.
Wollybacks at Cherry Burton Ceilidh
Tonight I played with the Woollybacks. It was a fund-raising ceilidh at Cherry Burton village hall. The Woollybacks are Reg and Ann Peirson’s Goathland based barn dance band. Tonight’s band was a scratch version of the band. Regulars were Reg, Ann and Steve Peirson on melodeons (Reg and Steve) and fiddle (Ann). Sitting in were Martin Peirson on banjo, Robert Peirson on guitar, Andy Kneeshaw on electric bass, his friend up visiting from Warwickshire – Jim, I think – on drums and me on fiddle. Ian Morrison was the caller.
We’d had a recording of the band’s previous gig to familiarise ourselves with the repertoire. I’d put work into three sets of tunes that I didn’t know – Major Mackie and Nellie the Elephant, Three Meet and Oats, Beans and Barley and Uncle Reuben and Boil ’em Cabbage Down.
Only one of those sets got a showing tonight but I’m pleased to have them in my repertoire now for future use. It was the Major Mackie set that we did play. I got it right all the way through; Nellie the Elephant too. I’d busked along with that before but I’d got it worked up properly for tonight’s play.
Ian started the dance with Blaydon Races. The Wollybacks double the title tune with MacNamara’s Band. There were plenty of couples up to dance straight away. Next, we played Hexham Races and Oyster Girl for Bridge of Athlone. I can busk Hexham Races pretty well because it’s very similar to the tune I know as Billy’s Scotch Jig (Billy Harrison’s). I was sat next to Ann so the two fiddles were together. Reg was leading from the left end of the line (stage left). Ann and I were next along and Steve was in front of me. Martin was on my right and Robert and Drummer Jim were across at stage right. Andy was a bit to Martin’s right but forward towards the front of the stage, next to Robert. Jim, the drummer was taking his lead from Reg and kept steady rhythm without getting noisy. There were one or two tunes that were new to me. One was Harper’s Frolic. That was an easy one to pick up, helped by the fact that Ann had put up the dots for it on her music stand. The one that went with it was Bonnie Kate. That was trickier to pick up but I was able to join in.
I enjoyed the whole thing. It was good to be playing The New Rigged Ship with Reg and Ann and Steve because it’s a Goathland tune from the playing of Billy Pennock via the collecting of Peter Kennedy who used Bill Pennock’s tune in his seminal books The Fiddler’s Tune Books No’s 1 and 2 and in his community dance manuals. Steve has childhood memories of Bill Pennock playing tunes in their cowshed with their dad, Herbert Peirson. Reg and Ann now work that same farm.
During one of the breaks between dances we played the Flamborough Sword Dance tune medley. In another break, later on, Steve asked me to sing a song or two. I did Mutton Pie, referring it to the pie and pea supper we’d all just enjoyed and Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie.
Other tunes that were used in the course of the evening included Huntsman’s Chorus, Waltzing Matilda, Click go the Shears, Oyster Girl, Coming Round the Mountain, Click Go the Shears and The Irish Rover.
I got a kick out of playing The Mucking of Geordie’s Byre. I know that from all the time I spent in company with Hull’s great Scots singer, the late Ian Manual. I think we doubled that with Rosin the Bow.
Yesterday was the Michaelmas Fair at Burton Agnes Hall. Flamborough Sword Dancers were there dancing, as they do every year. I was pleased to see Mossy and family on the car park as I arrived. I knew Moss has been busy with exams so he’s had to miss the last few sword dance events. Steve Peirson and Martin Peirson and Sue Storey were there to play too, not to forget Richard Traves, with his tambourine. Richard was pleased to see that a full team had turned out as he really prefers not to be drawn into dancing these days. It reminded me what a treat it had been to see him dance at Whitby earlier this year.
When we played, Sue led on the changes. I was all ready to change halfway through Rinks, as sometimes happens, but, when she gave the nod, everyone else kept on to the end of the tune so Sue stayed with the majority. I went off into Nick Nack Paddywack all on my own then corrected myself just about in time to change back into it anyway. There were one or two other moments when changes came a bit unexpectedly but we won through in the end and I doubt the dancers noticed.
Craig was amongst the dancers so I was pleased to give him the complimentary copies of the re-release CD of his grandad, Robert Leng’s songs and yarns. (See below).
Others of the dancers and musicians bought copies.
The receiving of the record reminded Graig to tell me that he had been singing two of the old songs himself at a music night he and his lady encountered by chance whilst across in Cumberland. Craig told me he’d been wary of putting himself forward to sing when they arrived but when the chance passed him by as they went around the room, he put up a hand and called them back. He gave them his grandad’s ‘I Was In It’. It went down well and they asked for another so he gave them his Flamborough version of ‘Windy Old Weather’ too.
Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head
The re-release of the recordings of the late Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize and Robert Leng is up and going! The new album, Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head – Robert Leng and Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize with Jim Eldon – is available now as a CD or download from Musical Traditions Records. Here’s the link: Songs and Tales from Flamborough Head.
Robert was a lifelong fisherman, lifeboatman and egg-climber. Jossy, who was lame from childhood, made his way by any manner or means around boats and rabbit nets and crab pots and salmon nets. They were old men when I met them but their tales and songs were delivered with a vitality that made them able to move effortlessly from entertaining a handful of friends in the pub or boathouse to stepping out with myself and my wife Lynette on concert stages at major folk festivals. The new album gives you both field recordings made in the shed at the bottom of Robert’s garden and studio recordings made at BBC Radio Humberside. It is a combination of two previous Stick Records cassette albums, ‘A Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie’ and ‘Let’s Haul, Boys, Haul!’
Rod Stradling, who runs Musical Traditions records (and the associated Musical Traditions magazine), took on the project of bringing about the new release about a year ago. Phil Snell at Limbo Studio, Otley, volunteered help on the re-mastering for CD.
I’m grateful to them both. People around Flamborough village have asked me often over the years if there was any plan to bring these recordings out on CD. The Musical Traditions ‘adoption’ is the ideal outcome.
Steve Peirson and I went up to Goathland on Saturday evening and played for the Plough Stots to dance at the Harvest Home at the Hub. They danced figures one, three and five. The room was quite full with people who were connected with the community choirs that were performing. Alistair Russell was compère. He gave the stots a really good introduction, letting the audience know that the team are a traditional team. He explained how, when he first got involved with folk music, there were lots of keen revivalists getting teams going but that, as he put it, “This lot have been doing it forever.” It created a lovely, receptive atmosphere.
Steve and I were the only musicians on this occasion – melodeon and fiddle. We marched the Stots on from the back of the room to John Peel.
I played my seconds on Keel Row just once – the third time through, I think – and dropped to the bottom octave once on figure three, Cock of the North. On Yankee Doodle, the figure five tune, I tried going to my new harmony. I’d practised it several times earlier in the day. I hadn’t got it well enough yet though so I skipped straight back to the melody as soon as I wavered on the seconds. The dances all looked great. It was a mixed team – Jack, Dan, Nick, Helen, Stephen and Mike.
Whilst we were playing, I got a welcoming smile from Alistair. He hadn’t realised I was there until I came up the room with the stots. As we were marching off, I quickly stooped down to tell him that I’d give a song later if it fitted in with the planned evening.
As soon as we were off and out of the door, the dancers all started laughing at what had gone wrong, which I hadn’t noticed, and which I still don’t know now.
Alistair came straight out after us and told me he’d like me to do a bit to finish off the first section of the evening. I told him about the upcoming re-release of the Flamborough fishermen’s recordings onto CD through Musical Traditions Records. I had a small parcel of pre-release copies with me.
I sang A Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie and Heave Away the Trawl Warp. Those are two of the songs I learnt from Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize and Robert Leng. It’s Jossy and Robert’s songs and yarns that are to be featured on the upcoming release.
I got my first three sales.
Longsword Dance Competitions at Sowerby Bridge
The Sword Dance Union meeting this year was at Sowerby Bridge. We met there, at the Hollins Mill venue, on Saturday. Flamborough team didn’t go this year so my involvement was all with Goathland Plough Stots. Chris and Jack were organising the dancers and had got the young, mostly local team out for the day. It was a great, friendly atmosphere and they were all up for fun and for dancing. They danced well all day, working their way through a good selection of figures at the three venues we visited before the competitions. The weather was mostly dry but with occasional showers so it was good that each of the venues had suitable indoor space available for the teams to put on a good show for the general public. Steve Peirson was leading the Stot’s musicians. He was on melodeon, I was on fiddle and Brian was on mouth organ. I was confident to put in my occasional variations and counter-melodies as Steve is familiar with them now. The only one that went adrift a bit was my counter-melody for figure two (Pop Goes the Weasel). It is mostly thirds but an octave down. I find it tricky to hold the thirds into the tune’s second part because the first part’s thirds lead just as easily to the G that starts the second part’s melody as to the B that keeps the thirds going. It doesn’t matter to anyone else. The tune just keeps going. I wish I could get a better grip on it though. The Keel Row seconds, by contrast, are solid as a rock now and I included them each time we did figure one. Later in the day, Vince joined us on his melodeon too. I don’t know the names of all the other teams – Redcar were there and in good form. Their musician was great to listen to as always and, in the afternoon, won the musician prize in the competitions. Sullivan’s is another team. They won one of the prizes. We came third in the traditional dance category. The Stots danced really well. It was a pleasure to play for them. There was a young team there who danced in the youth category at the competitions. They’d danced with us at each of the venues earlier and were good to watch. They danced rapper as well as longsword. I think it was them that danced a four-man longsword dance, with a four sword lock at the end. I hadn’t ever seen a four sword lock before.
Pennock Family Fiddle Tunes at Goathland
Lee, Mossy, Lynette and I did the new version of our ‘Fiddle Tunes of the Pennock Family of Goathland’ presentation this afternoon. We’ve done it before, first at Sidmouth Festival with me and Mossy, then at Whitby with the four of us. Today we were taking the music back to its Goathland home. It felt good opening up that rich store of distinctive dance music for a Goathland audience. Some people had come from further afield but there was a good core of locals there.
The way I’ve structured the talk is around my own stage by stage discovery of the Pennock Family’s music. I start with the handful of tunes from the Hudlestone collection noted as ‘mouth music’ in Songs of the Ridings, then bring in the sound recordings of Peter Kennedy with their different selection of Bill Pennock’s fiddle playing and mouth music. I relate these to Steve Peirson’s memories of Bill playing in their cowshed with his dad, Herbert Peirson. Steve was present today at the talk. He said his brother Reg would have liked to be there too but he was very busy on the farm.
Next into the talk comes the revelation that Cecil Sharp collected tunes from Nesswell Pennock, Billy’s father. That was back before the first world war. All along the way Lee, Moss and myself were playing examples. Some we play in unison. Others we’ve developed parts for. On The Brickmakers, for example, Moss played viola. We started out in unison, then, second time through, I played a low harmony line whilst they played the melody together. Third time through, when I went back up to the melody with Lee, Moss stayed with melody but dropped a full octave, taking advantage of the viola’s lower register. Fourth time through, Moss shifted back up to the top octave with Lee and I repeated my low counter melody.
Lynette has developed clog stepping routines to two of the tunes. Her first bit of stepping was to Now, Mrs. Wilson and the second to Goathland Square Eight. Goathland Square Eight is one that the three of us fiddling play in unison. I started it up on my own so as to best feature the slide note in the B music whose presence in our rendition I had explained to the audience before playing. Moss came in second time through and Lee came in third as Lynette started into her stepping.
Bryony Griffith was there in the audience. She sang Forty Miles for us. That is a song of Nesswell Pennock’s. Moss had been going to sing it but suggested we invite Bryony up to perform it. It was her who guided us towards it in the first place at Whitby a couple of years ago. She does a very interesting fiddle accompaniment as she sings.
There were two tunes new to the set since we last did the show. One was our ‘two generations’ arrangement of The Six Reel. Moss and I alternate the two different Six Reel A musics, Nesswell’s and Billy’s, around their shared B music. The second was Billy’s New Rigged Ship.
The whole thing was well received.
As we were leaving the village, we had to slow down for a flock of sheep. It turned out to be Reg Peirson, driving them with his quad bike up through the village. We exchanged greetings and he asked if the talk had gone OK.
Lee said, on the way home, what an experience it was, listening to the recordings of Billy Pennock there in his home village and sharing them with interested people, many of whom were hearing the tunes and Billy’s voice and his fiddle playing for the first time.
Whitby Folk Week, 2018
We got home today from a week at Whitby Festival. I was there as a sword dance musician this year. Last night, we finished off our commitments with a ceilidh spot at the Spa Ballroom. It went well with dancers and musicians in good form and well practised after a solid week of dance-outs and workshops. Through most of the week, the band had included Mick on piccolo and Brian on mouth organ but they’d left by Friday evening and it was Steve Peirson on melodeon and Mossy Christian and myself on fiddles for the ceilidh spot. Richard had been captain of the dancers and was complimentary about our playing. He told us he feels very comfortable leading the dancers out to our music. Moss and I have had loads of practice at our counter-melodies and we’ve had chances to make Steve familiar with them now so we can use them in the dances without fear of them taking the other musicians by surprise. At that final ceilidh, we did figures 1, 2, 3 and 5. Both one and two have counter-melody lines established now. I played my seconds just once in Keel Row, about two thirds of the way through the figure. In figure two’s tune, Pop Goes The Weasel, I twice went to my seconds.
The parts that have had most use through the week though, are the variations for the Helmsley tune. Every day from Tuesday, the Stots have been teaching the Helmsley dance at their longsword workshops. Moss and I have worked out a method of signalling each other when we are about to change to one of our variations. That way, we make sure that one of us stays on the melody line at all times. Because Moss and I had done the lion’s share of the workshop playing, Steve had encouraged us to play with just the two of us duetting for the Workshop Showcase event earlier on Friday. We put all our different lines into that performance – the straight melody, my low harmony line, Moss’s new high harmony line, Moss’s chording part and my E minor inflected line and the octave drop.
The workshop showcase also gave us all a good chance to catch up on what each other had been doing. Lynette and Green Ginger Clog had been teaching an intermediate level clog routine and I got to see that there. It was great to see Green Ginger member Becky taking a tutor’s part in that after a fifteen year break from dancing. Moss had been doing a junior longsword workshop too and Tiffany Walker and Beat It, who we’d shared dance-outs with, had been taking a different level clog workshop.
On Wednesday evening, Green Ginger were on at the Traditional Night Out at the Football Club and did three stunningly good dance performances. Festival guest Arthur Nevitt had lost his voice and had to call off his performance there so Ken Hall asked me to do two songs in the first half. I went for two strong unaccompanied songs – Fair Ones are Shining (The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter) and Queen of Tavendor. I was pleased I made that choice. I’d deliberately avoided the option of following up a serious song with something light-hearted. The two big songs went well and I had compliments the following day from two different people both saying how much they’d liked my song choice.
Between our programmed events, Lynette and I dropped in at Pete Shepheard’s ballad session. Before things started, Pete asked if we’d both do a bit – a ballad from me and a dance from Lynette. With time to think about it before we were called on, I came up with the idea of borrowing a verse from the end of Bold Archie that mentions step-dancing in celebration of the prisoner’s escape. I adapted it slightly to be the final verse of Robin Hood and the Three Squires. It worked out well. After Robin had come to the rescue of the three squires, I waited for a moments of applause for the ballad, then recited, “They hired a fiddler, they hired a room,/Robin Hood and that fair lady,/And the very best dancers there were in the room/Were those prisoners now set free.” I then picked up my fiddle and played straight into the tune for Lynette to step.
I had one other sing. That was in The Black Horse. I went in there with the Plough Stots after we finished the dance-outs on Tuesday. The stots make it a tradition to always go and give a dance in the tiny bar of The Black Horse whenever they are in Whitby. They did the dance successfully with only one minor glass breakage. There was some singing too. I started it up with Windy Old Weather, accompanying myself on fiddle and I did several other songs too – The Codfish, Father Had a knife and a couple more I think. The one that went down best was The Irish Hop Pole Puller. I hadn’t sung it for ages but, after Brian had sung a song in strong Geordie dialect, a chap said, “Well, they wouldn’t understand a word of that in Kent!” It just seemed a natural cue to sing The Irish Hop Pole Puller because it begins, “I’m Coster Joe from down our street/My heart it’s nearly broke/I lost my blooming doner,/My coster cart and moke,/I’ll tell you how it all occurred from the time we left the road till we got to those lovely fields in Kent.” Then the chorus goes, “She was a modern laundry girl/Was blue-eyed Mary Fuller,/Till she went and sloped from Kent/With an Irish hop pole puller.” It’s a cracking song. It’s from the repertoire of George Spicer, the same man from whom I learnt I Wish There Was No Prisons. I never met George Spicer but I did meet his son once when I was singing down at Horsham in Sussex.
August 4th & 5th
Bridlington Sailing Coble Festival
Saturday started with reunions on the harbour side. I got a chance to say hello to a whole bunch of friends and fellow workers from my days on the Bridlington boats. Happiest of all was a reunion with Robert Rollison from whom I first learnt Oh, What a Windy Night. It was great just to see him out and about on his mobility scooter and, then, greater still to have him sing a couple of the verses when I mentioned that I still sing it wherever I go.
There, on the harbour side, he sang, for me and a couple of his friends standing round, “Oh, what a windy night,/Skipper won’t shoot his lines tonight,/Oh, what a windy night.//We passed Tom Shippey,/He was hauling fine,/He’s got four fish on his offmost line,/Oh, what a windy night!” He then pointed along North Pier and said, “I’ve just seen two Shippeys up there.”
Mr. Rollison – Rolly – followed me along to the performance area by the harbour museum and listened to my short introductory set. I started it with my own rendition of Oh, What a Windy Night. I’d reminded him, when we were in conversation, that it has more verses now because other Bridlington men have chipped in with different words when it has cropped up in our sing-songs around Brid. The extra verses all came from people Rolly knows or remembers – two from Ted Newby, one from Trevor Silverwood and one from Digby Howarth.
At the end of that brief set, I announced the times of the two main miked-up performances I’d be doing later.
I wandered along to the Sailing Coble Festival gazebo on Clough Hole Carpark at the top of the harbour. I performed two songs and a tune acoustically there, where the volunteers were handing out leaflets and such-like.
As well as those brief impromptus, I did two half-hour miked-up sets, and a twenty minute on-the-water set being rowed around near the visiting cobles by Bernie Reed in his pebble ‘Our Betsy’. She is in fine fettle now. Bernie has done a lot of work getting her watertight and neat in appearance. When we did the same sort of thing last year, Bernie spent a good deal of the time baling, in between his rowing and singing choruses.
Through the day, I sang Bridlington songs, like Rolly’s Windy Night, Flamborough songs that I learnt from Robert Leng and Jossy ‘Pop’ Mainprize, like Heave Away the Trawl Warp, Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie and The Wreck of the Brownlow and Walmo, Hull songs from Jack Smith – Bold Princess Royal and Dogger Bank and a whole heap more. On board with Bernie, I’d started up with the Pugwash tune – The Bugle Hornpipe and then followed up with Pull for the Shore, with Bernie pulling on the oars and singing strong choruses. Through all the performances, I kept putting in tunes between songs. Tom Dickinson’s Jig got played at least twice, maybe three times and Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz and his Polka got a showing – Old North Skelton Sword Tune and Stottlebink too.
Sunday was different again.
Glen, who had been doing the Sailing Coble Festival commentary from the same PA system as me on Saturday, took his leave early in the day. With Bernie’s help, I set up the hired-in PA that the event had organised, and worked from that. I did the commentary as well as my tunes and songs. It was all very easy-going. With efficient boat-spotting and prompting from Harbour Museum volunteer Ryan, I’d name whichever vessels were coming in or leaving at any point and then sing or play an item or two between the comings and goings. For instance, when the Northumbrian coble Grace came alongside New Road just a few yards from where I was working, I took it as a cue to suggest she was probably named for Grace Darling and sang the Grace Darling song that I learnt in Flamborough and used to sing with Jossy and Robert. When the Emerson family’s Madeleine Isabella moored a few yards further along, I introduced her with a brief outline of the facts about her from the event programme then sang Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie because that song mentions an earlier generation member of the Emerson family “I heard Bobby Emerson shouting out, “It must be our old Rags!””. When Simon Silverwood came up to say Hello, it was a moment to revisit the song Oh! What a Windy Night with its verse from his late father as mentioned above.
I linked things together that way from ten-thirty through to twenty past twelve when it was time for the presentation of plaques to all the skippers.
After the presentations, I went out with Bernie again on board Our Betsy, playing fiddle and singing as he rowed us around and amongst the departing ‘Parade of Sail’. We were able to make ourselves useful to Imperialist as she had got a rope fast to one of the steels below her waterline. Crewman Stu McKie and skipper Chris Traves were grabbing ropes that we passed up and handing down ends where they’d cut through to free her and I was able to tie them back together so the line was still in place between its buoy and the quay.
After that little drama, as Bernie rowed us back in towards Crane Wharf Jetty, I noticed a Newcastle skipper I’d been speaking to on Saturday had come out on deck of his vessel and was playing a set of bones along with us. We pulled alongside and played Tom Dickinson’s Jig together before we moored alongside him and climbed over his boat to get to the ladder up onto New Road.
After a late lunch break, during which musician’s from the church had been playing a set, the PA had packed up so I did an acoustic set in company with The Whiskey Dogs (who were really just there to listen but ended up giving good vocal support on my choruses) and a guitar player called Keith who’d come up and asked to do a song or two.
Ackworth Steam Fair
Yesterday was the Straylarkers gig at Ackworth Steam Fair. Ackworth is near Pontefract. John Brook, the organiser had been trying to book us for three years or so since enjoying what we did at Hooton Pagnell Fair a few years ago.
We did several fresh items. We were working in a space between stalls on the grassy lane of stalls that surrounds the main arena.
I’d practised up the Old Farmer at South Dalton song that I learnt from farmers Austin and David Bell forty years or so ago. It’s a version of Mutton Pie and it has a final verse that makes it properly suitable for the Steam Rally job:-
Now there’s threshing by steam and water to lead,
Yan takin’ hosses for to feed;
Yan up on stack and yan down below,
Yan makin’ fogginfuls and t’other jackin’ straw.
It has a fol-de-riddle chorus too. Lee (Corona) and I had rehearsed it a lot with the two fiddles accompanying. It has a two line tune that fits the first half of the verse, the second half of the verse and the chorus so it rolls along very simply. We play melody and just two chords. I’ve made up an arpeggio fill to put in after every two verses and chorus.
When we’d practised it round at Lee’s, we’d spent a fair bit of time dropping in an extra couple of beats at the start of each verse to give me more thinking time and to stop it seeming rushed. However, between the practice and the event, I’d decided to try to learn it well enough that I could dispense with those extra half bars and keep the rhythm rolling along. It worked. The first two times we did it, I got all of it right without stumbling or rushing. We did it again later in the afternoon but, by then, I’d gone and jinxed myself by mentioning to Lynette and Lee how well it had gone each time. The third delivery had several stumbles.
Also fresh to the show was the debut of Lee’s new Dan Leno dancing doll. It looks a treat with its Dan-Leno-style parted hair and its dapper suit and button-hole. Its clogs are unusual too, with high arches that make its stepping look distinctive. Lynette had practised up the Dan Leno song that she learnt from Johnson Ellwood. As it turned out, we decided against using that because the event was noisy with arena announcements and commentary going on all the time. We did use the Dan Leno tune though. I had found a version of it on Folktunefinder. Its first part is very similar to Lynette’s song tune so I put in the phrases I preferred from Lynette’s way of singing it and used the B part more or less as from the internet notation.
Lynette dancing clog steps to the Straylarkers Waltz Vienna duet was new too. Lynette danced to several of our Straylarkers tunes. I think we only did one of our Jim and Lynette routines. That was Old North Skelton. Corona and me playing Congress at Laceby was one that Lynette freestyled to. Now Mrs. Wilson was another and Billy Harrison’s Polka. It was a first time out for that as a Straylarkers duet too.
Yet another new item was The Rattling Old Black Mare. Lee and I had worked that up from scratch at our recent practice. Steve Gardham and I recorded it from John Hodson at Aldborough on the Holderness coast very early on in our collecting activities. It’s great to have it back in the repertoire. I used to do it solo in years gone by. Corona is plucking the verse melody then switching to bowing on the chorus and he and Lynette were singing on the chorus too.
It was a long day’s work. We did three or four sessions at our position on the stalls area and one long walk-around session where we made our way all the way round the arena perimeter, stopping and playing with our two fiddles and Gerald, my fiddle puppet, for families and groups of people that we met on the way. At the stalls lane, we had two dancing dolls – Dan Leno and Donald, Gerald the fiddle puppet, two sets of peg-doll dancers and Kip, Lee’s fiddling dog puppet who sits in his rocking chair and plays. Lynette operated Donald as well as doing her clog dancing. It was mostly a tunes job but there were a couple more songs too – Acre of Land and Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie.
John Brook has asked us if we’d like to do it again. We all think there’d need to be more thought given to where we could best be seen and heard. It’s a big event that spreads over two or three fields.
Up the Dale with Toronto Women’s Sword Team
The Toronto Women have been visiting the Stots at the Goathland Hub on their British tour. We set off bright and early yesterday on our coach tour. Steve, Moss, Wendy and Anne and myself were playing.
Lynette and I were hoping that we may know one or two faces amongst the Canadian visitors from our Toronto visit many years ago. My first enquiry with one of the younger dancers didn’t get any positive response. She didn’t recognise either of the two names I asked after. She said one or two of the older dancers might though.
Chris and Jack were organising and everything got under way promptly and in good spirits.
We all piled on the coach and set off, first to the Ryedale Folk Life Museum at Hutton-Le-Hole.
We were early but, as soon as we arrived, the teams did an unscheduled dance on the green opposite the museum entrance. The stots did figures one and three. I played my counter melody on the third time through of the Keel Row tune during figure one. I was pleased I remembered it and pleased too that it fitted in O.K. The Toronto ladies were a bit surprised to be asked for a dance before the museum opened but soon picked up on the mood and gave a good dance to the Lass of Dallow Gill tune. It finished with a triangular lock.
Inside, Moss and I had a bit of a play to ourselves in the spare time before the dancers’ scheduled performance. I tried to play a couple of fresh things I’ve been working on – one was playing thirds (an octave down) to Pop Goes the Weasel. That’s the tune for Goathland No. 2 dance. I couldn’t manage it at a first attempt. Neither did I succeed with the seconds for The Brickmakers that I’ve been working on. We were in a public place so I didn’t keep at it. We’ll have a go at them when we next practice.
When showtime came around, the Stots marched on from inside the manor house out onto the green where a little crowd of visitors had assembled. They marched on to John Peel as usual then danced figures one, three and five. The first two of those finish with them drawing the lock then waiting for the lift notes to begin the next figure. Figure five finished, as it often does, with them marching off with the lock held aloft by the captain, Jack on this occasion, and then they drew the lock back inside the manor house. The visitors did their version of the Papa Stour dance and another – maybe Kirkby Malzeard. Chris was master of ceremonies and Bob was standard bearer.
Back to the bus and on to the next one. That’s the way the day proceeded. I can’t remember all the stops. Lunch was at The Lion Inn at Blakey. At some of the stops we danced inside the pubs with all the fun of the dancers avoiding low ceilings and fittings.
On the bus again, the Toronto visitors sang a song about Canada and its noteworthiness for being very big. They all sang. It was funny. When they finished, one of them asked if we had a song about England being small. After a moment, I sang It’s Only England. I hadn’t thought about that song for a long while so I was pleased to have it brought to my mind. (I’ll put it on my Songs and Tunes page so you can check it out). Later on, Bob sang The Bog Down in the Valley-O.
At one of the stops, the Stots danced Number Two so I got to try again with my new harmony part to the tune but it was still very shaky. I think I put Steve off a bit when I went astray but he kept us all going with no hesitations.
In another of the pubs, the Toronto women found a room with a wooden floor so they were able to show their rapper dance to good effect.
There was one of the stops – maybe the Dales Centre – where our team did Number Four. That has the new tune (Oyster Girl) or the old tune (Wearing of the Green/Rising of the Moon/I Wish They’d do it Now). This time we went with the old tune. We used that tune for the march-on at one place as well.
Late on in the afternoon, Lynette heard one of the Toronto dancers calling another ‘Shona’. Lynette recognised the name and said that it was the name of one of the dancers she taught steps to in Toronto. I asked who was Shona. There was a moment of puzzlement then, quickly, they recognised each other and there was a happy reunion. Another lady who’d been at the Toronto workshops was called across and joined all the excitement. They both then remembered me too. They said they’d do a step dance at the next stop to celebrate the reunion.
The next stop was back at the village at The Mallyan. By now the coach had departed and socialising was coming to the fore. Keith Thompson was there. When the drinks were in and the atmosphere had warmed, Shona and another of the Toronto ladies got up and announced that, having renewed acquaintance with Lynette, they were going to do a step dance. They explained that, as well as Ontario’s competition style stepping that they do, they also have more informal and less showy steps from the lumber camps of Ontario. The steps they were going to do were all from one man – a lumberman I think. They said his name but I didn’t learn it.
They did a smashing understated routine. I could hear Bob at the table next to me quietly explaining to some visitors to the pub that the stepping they were looking at was similar in some respects to Suffolk step-dancing. The Toronto ladies asked for a step from Lynette. Whilst Lynette was putting her clogs on, I announced again what was going on and said that Lynette was going to dance to a different version of the Lass of Dallow Gill tune that the Toronto Women had danced to earlier in the day. It’s the tune as Cecil Sharpe collected it at North Skelton from James Coates and Barthy in 1912.
Lynette did her dance to me playing the Old North Skelton tune.
We’ve had two musical birthday dos. The first was on June 8th at the Queens at Bridlington. It was mostly a plugged in sort of a do for Andy and Chris’s lads and their friends playing for family and friends. We were celebrating Chris’s birthday mainly but it was also a bit of a celebration for Andy being back in circulation after recent hospital time.
It was great to be up on stage with Andy, Lynette, Bernie and Frank having a lively Sawmill session as an opener for the evening of live music. We were making do with just a couple of mikes so the fiddle wasn’t making much of an impression. That didn’t stop us. We opened up with a Happy Birthday for Chris, then straight into the Sawmill birthday song. I didn’t leave much of a gap between numbers – we followed up quickly with Haircuts and Windy Old Weather and Grey Cortina. Bernie was strumming chords on mandolin. As usual, I kept forgetting to shout what key to him but he found his way as he always does. Lynette was keeping rhythm together with tambourine and Frank has his way of making the triangle count. Andy was on tea-chest bass and sharing vocal leads with me. Lynette and Frank gave support on backing vocals. We slipped in a couple of instrumental bits. First of those was Davy Nick Nack and Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel. Usually Diggy would be rattling out washboard on those. He was there but he hadn’t known we were having a go so he hadn’t brought washboard. We did about twenty minutes or so. Napoleon Crossing the Alps was a second instrumental. That’s the wolds waltz I learnt from Sid Martin. I think we maybe played Sid’s Twist too. Should I Stay or Should I Go was another song we did and Heave Away the Trawl Warp.
We made way for the youngsters then. Sam Howarth led one set and Andy Joe led another.
Late in the evening, Andy got back on doing his rock set with Pip on guitar. Pip was on storming form. As we were about to leave, Andy got me and Frank back up with himself and Pip and a bass player and cajon player to do Pervert from the Jack and the Elations repertoire. That’s in E so I was on the limits of my improvisational abilities but made some sort of a job of it, including a fiddle solo at Andy’s call.
Today, June 20th, was Zoë Christian (Moss’s mum)’s birthday. We had a stick fire in our garden and sat round it playing. It was just me and Moss playing. Lynette, Zoë and James were company and fire keepers. We played masses of stuff. The No Man’s Jig duet with its new harmony is really taking shape now. Moss encouraged me to try my harmony against his playing the tune on the bottom octave this time as well as against his top octave rendition. James said that it is one of those things that has the effect of sounding like more than two instruments.
We played Cuddle In with our usual swapping back and forth of first and second fiddle parts but rounding it off with melody against choppy chords. We played every one of the Goathland tunes – No Man’s, Square Eight, The Sylph, Officers’ Polka, Speed the Plough, The Brickmakers, Black Jack, Mrs. Wilson. All of them and every one of the counter melody duets. Waltz Vienna sounded good with the counter melody more practised now and Battle of the Boiling Water felt rock solid. We start in unison. The closeness of the two fiddles brings out the differences between Boiling Water and the standard Brighton Camp tune and then, when the harmony comes in, the tune keeps its character against the second part and the chopped chord section. It was a long play. We got through a lot of firewood.
Moss got hold of Billy Harrison’s Dad’s Polka very quickly and B Shuffle came together well. We played Burton Stather Broom Dance Tune and Burton Hunt and Congress at Laceby and The Wesley Jig so the Lincolnshire tunes got a good showing too. And, of course, another rendition of Happy Birthday to You.
Ken Wilson, of the singing Wilson Family of Teesside, has sent me a sketch he has done.
Sketching is a hobby of Ken’s that he has returned to after a 25 year or so lay-off.
The sketch’s arrival took me by surprise. I’m pleased to be one of Ken’s subjects.
The Wilsons have been supportive of my singing and playing over many years. Their own input to the folk scene was rewarded with EFDSS gold badges last year at Hartlepool Festival.
There’s another artwork too. At last year’s Big Malarkey event in East Park, Hull, the children’s writer and illustrator Shoo Rayner was the artist in residence. He did a pen and ink sketch of me and Lee (Corona Smith). We were there as Two Straylarkers.
There’s Gerald down at the bottom. We were there doing the puppets.
The Cellar Upstairs and Highams Park Folk-at-Home
Highlights, for me, of the gig at The Cellar Upstairs last night were Jim Younger’s reaction to hearing me sing Bryn Davies’s Queen of Tavendor and all going really well with the clog routines. Lynette signalled me to steady the speed of her first dance as we started and, once that was on song, she danced faultlessly and I was confident with my playing. I knew we were both enjoying it.
The evening had begun well with the arrival of several very welcome old friends, including Bob Wakeling who performed floor spots, one being the ballad Babylon.
The floor spot before we started was from a young chap who sang a song about fieldfares. I picked up on its bird theme and started with There’s a Puffin in My Pint. After a couple of chorus songs, I did the Napoleonic set that I’d done at Hull Maritime Museum. As at the museum, I set it up by playing Napoleon Crossing the Alps then read the verses my ancestor Captain Robert Williams wrote in 1805 on the backs of pages in his log during his imprisonment and march across France with his own crew and the crew of another merchant vessel that had been captured at the same time by the same French vessel.
Different from the Hull performance, was that we followed it up with Lynette dancing to the other version of the tune that I learnt from Billy Harrison. The audience enjoyed hearing about Billy being lifted in spirits when he heard me playing the Sid Martin version and calling to his daughter Brigit, “Brigit, he’s playing my dad’s waltz – Bring me my fiddle!”
Mike Waterson’s joke in my song Mr. Waterson’s Clock got a great reaction.
For a big song, I went with Six Pretty Maidens I Drowned Here Before (The Outlandish Knight). It’s the ballad of an abducted maid getting the better of her abductor by drowning him then being saved from trouble by her pet parrot speaking up in her favour. I enjoyed singing that.
The one that got the big shout of approval from Jim Younger though was Queen of Tavendor. It’s a magnificent song and I think I’d managed to get across, in a brief introduction, my own excitement at first hearing Bryn sing it and being startled at what I was hearing.
Thankyou to Sheila Miller for the invitation to play the club again and to Jim and Gail, our hosts for the weekend.
We’d enjoyed great hospitality the night before at their ‘Folk at Home’, sharing music and songs with invited friends. Gail William’s singing of The Wife of Usher’s Well was a top moment there and sharing tunes with banjoist Ken Lees and fiddler Frankie was a treat. Gail asked me for The Deserter and I sang The Laidly Worm too when that came up in conversation. Frankie and Ken and I played Waltz Vienna with me playing my new counter-melody.
Stockton Folk Club
Last night’s visit to Stockton Folk Club was a pleasure from start to finish. The residents’ tune session that sets the evening off there was fronted by a melodeon player and concertina player with an ace repertoire of English country tunes. They welcomed me joining in and I did my best to pick my way along with some unfamiliar tunes. They all had good accessible sections that were reasonably easy to learn as I went. I held back a lot though because the music was good to listen to being played by those who knew the tunes properly. A great start to the evening. That was followed by their opening stage-to-audience dialogue that makes a happy nod to the memory of Ron Angel who ran the club for years and years.
Every floor singer did a good job and the stand-out pearl in the opening song set was Helen Pitt’s measured and touching rendition of Married the Lassie that had the Land.
I started our first set with my dad’s Trinity House version of A-Roving. That started a thread of family pieces including my mum’s The Roguie and Lynette’s dad’s Mutton Pie, with its Wack for the Diddlum chorus, and his untitled jig. Lynette’s first stepping routine was to Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz and I made reference, in introducing her dance, to the fact that her great-uncle Sep used to step dance to his own fiddling. I moved on from family stuff into family friends’ songs – Jack Smith’s Bold Princess Royal and Dogger Bank and Bryn Davies’ Queen of Tavendore.
That was just the beginning. At the end of the night, amongst the thankyous and closing words, it was mentioned that the lady at the back of the room always makes a note of all the titles that have been performed. Evidently, in our two sets, we’d done more that forty items, which was more than they’d had performed by a guest ever before.
I doubt that I could remember what they all were. I know that Lynette danced to Old North Skelton Sword Tune and to Now, Mrs. Wilson. I got tangled up with that one but Lynette held it together all the same. I did three songs off the Golden Arrows album. I’d practised them up all week and they went well. They were Rocking at The End of Time, Haircuts and There Isn’t Any Superman. I did a few others of my own too – Agency, There’s a Puffin in My Pint, Mr. Waterson’s Clock and It’s Still Around Somewhere. Mostly, though, it was an evening of traditional songs and tunes. I did one or two of the Bridlington and Flamborough songs – Oh What a Windy Night, Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie and The Codfish. I did the double Farmers Boy towards the end of the first half when Lynette suggested I should do a big chorus song. I double up the parlour ballad version of the song with the animal noises version, alternating a verse from one with a verse from the other. It’s something I first did off-the-cuff at Bob the Banner Man’s 70th at Goathland last year. I sang the big ballad The Laidley Worm of Spindlestone. We finished off the second set with Lynette stepping to Still I Love Him. I played it faster than usual and missed any sign from Lynette that I should slow down so it was a victory for her that she got her beats in. Somewhere in the proceedings I sang Neswell Pennock’s Forty Miles. Mossy has learnt it too for our upcoming Pennock presentation and duetting jobs.
When we were asked for an encore, Lynette suggested Brian O’Linn. That’s a Holderness song that I learnt in Aldborough village from Ethel Grinsdale and Les Smith. I sang it unaccompanied. I used to do it with fiddle but have started to prefer it with voice alone.
There were plenty more. A memorable night.
My input at the Morpeth Gathering was on Friday and Saturday. This year, I had two care home performance visits to do as well as street performance slots similar to the ones I did last year.
The two care home jobs were quite different from each other. At the first, the East Riding Care Home, all the performance was done on a face-to-face basis. I played a tune or sang a song along with a performance from Gerald, my fiddle puppet, for each of the residents who wanted a visit. There were a couple of small gatherings of residents in the lounges too and we spent a little bit longer in there with a handful of the livelier residents. It was fun and the response in the rooms was rewarding too. Joan, the organiser lady was really chuffed with it all. At one point, I had her operating Donald, my jig doll, whilst I did Gerald.
The first street performance was in the arcade. Mossy had come along to share in the job. We did that performance together. A chap from Morpeth News TV came up and interviewed us there. Here’s a clip. Morpeth News TV. He’s an easy man to talk to – Terry Hackett. He told me he’d seen me there the year before.
At the second care home, Riverside, the staff had gathered together an audience in the main lounge. There were maybe twenty or more people all sat ready for a show.
We did a whole mix of stuff and got a good response throughout. We used the puppets on nearly every tune and song. We sang Acre of Land and Still I Love Him from the traditional songs repertoire and a couple of singalong songs too – Putting on the Style and How Much is that Doggy in the Window. Quite a lot more. We did just short of an hour. People were really friendly and applauded each item. We did several sword dance related tunes, both from the Goathland tunes and the Flamborough tunes. When I sang Still I Love Him I noticed the lady nearest to me joining in on the chorus from the very first verse’s chorus.
In order to finish off on something familiar, I closed the little concert with Jailhouse Rock which had one of the resident ladies up bopping. Good stuff. The staff enjoyed it too and I was asked for a contact number as we were leaving.
Saturday started with the parade. Mossy joined me for that too. I marched with Gerald on my arm, playing fiddle throughout and Moss played fiddle until it started raining then switched to mouthorgan. I used my new super-cheap carbonfibre bow through the whole weekend and it showed no ill effects from the rain.
The first of Saturday’s street spots was again in the arcade. I started off on my own, then, after I’d done fifteen minutes, Addison Rapper Sword Dancers took over for a performance of their dance. George Unthank was there as their caller-on. He led them with the calling-on song then did the business of walking around and amongst them making jokes as they dance. I did another song and a tune – Windy Old Weather, I think, and Goathland Square Eight. They did a second dance and, again, I went straight on after them keeping the show going. There was quite an audience at that point. I sang Mutton Pie and played some more tunes. The whole thing went on for three quarters of an hour. Later, when my lunchtime street spot was cut short by the rain, I moved into the lobby/café area of the town hall and played there with Gerald.
My final street spot I did in the covered section of the arcade. I enjoyed that. The bustle of the day was quietening down. I made it quite conversational. As little knots of people gathered, I talked with them. I told them a bit about the tunes and explained how Gerald works.
Filming at Goathland
It’s been an interesting morning of playing and dancing at the Goathland Hub. The Plough Stots were being filmed by a team from BBC TV’s Escape to the Country. The film makers had a couple with them who were the subject of the show and were prospective house buyers being shown the village. The good thing about the job was that the producer/cameraman was good at explaining the reason behind every repeat of the performance. We started with us all playing and dancing. Then they wanted a second run at it with a different camera position, then one with just the musicians so they could focus the sound recording on the players rather than full room sound and so on. They did two alternative takes of us just playing the last eight bars of the tune for the dancers to draw the swords from the lock. Another complete performance of the figure was done with the camera being hand-held and walked amongst the action. There were loads more takes, some with and some without music, because they then went into having the young couple being taught the dance and, finally, two different performances of the whole dance (Figure 3) with the newcomers as participants. They got hold of it really well. It was a pleasure to play for them.
The musicians today were Steve on lead melodeon, me on fiddle, Wendy on second melodeon and Mike on piccolo. The tune for Number 3 is Cock of the North. As usual, I moved from top octave to bottom octave a couple of times during the dance to give a bit of colour to the fiddle sound. Because they were doing alternative takes, I repeated the same top to bottom pattern each time so they’ll have a chance of having the same octave changes each time if they edit between takes.
We played and danced for two or three hours for what will be a five minute section of their programme but it was all interesting stuff. One shot the producer wanted was of Steve’s melodeon stood on a chair to be the in-focus foreground whilst the dancers were moving around at the other side of the room where they would be just a fuzzy presence. For another, he and a couple more of the production team went outside the hut to film in through the window. They gave up on that though, I think because they were getting raindrops on their lens.
I expect we’d have been somewhere scenic out of doors if the weather had been fit but it rained throughout so we were glad of the dry comfort of the hut.
Hull Maritime Museum Free Concert plus the Whittington and Cat Saturday Afternoon Session
I was on second at the Maritime Museum. Spare Hands had started it off with a short set referencing the triple trawler disaster of 1968.
I started my set with Herrings’ Heads. It’s a song Steve Gardham and I collected from Alan Grey of Aldborough in Holderness in about 1972 or 3. I was pleased to hear people joining in strongly – especially Steve who was there at the back of the room. I followed it with Pip’s Among Cod, (Stormy Old Weather, Boys) accompanying myself on fiddle. That’s a song of the fishes warning the skipper of foul weather coming. I learnt the tune and a couple of verses from a chap who sailed with us on the Yorkshire Belle one time. He knew it from either his dad or his grandad. It has a belting strong tune that I’ve not heard anywhere else. I added extra verses of my own. Pete Winters, our engineer at the time, sat up forrard with me one quiet trip, bouncing ideas back and forth to fill it out with verses mentioning our crowd. That’s how come it’s got Pip in it. Mike ‘Pip’ Sayer is a Flamborough and Bridlington skipper who’s a friend. He has sometimes played guitar with us when we’ve been sawmilling and playing for the sword dancers.
Next, I played Napoleon Crossing the Alps. That’s a waltz I learnt from a Wolds villager, Sid Martin. I played it to set down a Napoleonic theme. Our family has an heirloom which is the diary of my ancestor Captain Robert Williams who was master of the brig Lark, out of Poole in 1805 when she was captured by the French. I gave a brief explanation of that to the audience then read verses that my great great great great grandfather wrote on the backs of his diary pages during his imprisonment and march across the breadth of France from Brittany to the German border. I’d practised it a lot in preparing for the concert and it paid off.
I finished my set with the gaol song Derry Gaol, again accompanying myself on fiddle. I learnt Derry Gaol from the late Tom McVicar of Co Fermanagh and latterly of Hull. Tom knew the song from his grandfather. It’s a comic song that goes through the day from “At six o’clock the mugs are laid” in the first verse to: “At eight o’clock we are locked up, / The bugs and fleas do bite us up / And our poor bodies can get no rest / For it is which bug can bite the best”… at the end of the song.
After my set, I left the concert in progress and walked down to the Whittington and Cat where Lee and Zoë were hosting a song and tune session. Lee and I played two tune sets – Don’t Fly Away Robin coupled with Eazum Teasum was the first, then Goathland Square Eight for the second one. Lee asked me for a song too. I sang Commander Cody’s Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues.
Goathland Ploughstots Village Dance-out and Supper
After last week’s plough blessing at St. Mary’s, Goathland, yesterday was the village dance day. There were four teams. We all paraded together, marching the plough from the Hub to the green to the tune of John Peel all the way. I was with Steve and Martin and Des and Wendy Price and her melodeon player friend who explained she has been coming to the village school to help in a project to teach the dances to a new generation. We were musicians for the ladies’ team. They danced a lot, doing two figures at several of the houses we visited. They stuck to the figures they were surest of. Those were numbers one, three and five. This meant all our dance playing was of The Keel Row for figure one, Cock of the North for figure three and Yankee Doodle for figure five. I tried out the new seconds for Keel Row in both the low octave and the high octave. Both worked. On Cock of the North, I slipped into the low octave on the straight melody a few times. The couple who gave us soup and nibbles at their house were the same couple – Ian and his wife – who provided hospitality to us last year. I sang Eazum Teasum for them in their kitchen and played a tune or two.
Down at Beck Hole there was a long gap between our arrival and the mass dance. We played in the smaller of the two tiny bars – Steve, Mossy and I and Des. We had completely unexpectedly run into some family friends of mine there. We played a lot of the Goathland tunes and other tunes too. Pennock family tunes and Billy Harrison tunes and suchlike. That turned out to be a good practice for the after-meal entertainment at the supper later.
When the mass dance did come around, we got to play the number two and four tunes too. The dancers asked for the old number four tune – The Wearing of the Green or I Wish They’d do it Now. That was good. It always pleases Steve when we use the tune he thinks of as the proper one. Oyster Girl has largely replaced it over recent years. Mossy had been on the Green End tour, where just one musician goes with one of the men’s teams. He told me he had been using Neswell Pennock’s The Sylph for number four all day because he couldn’t call to mind The Oyster Girl.
Our championing of the Pennock family tunes continued into the evening when Moss and I played Goathland Square Eight and Goathland Speed The Plough before Steve joined us on a third Pennock tune, Now Mrs Wilson. I did my Micky Dunn’s Tea Party recitation. It’s a good one to drop in at any sort of a beanfeast because it’s a droll tale of a celebratory meal turning into a pitched battle. I think we followed it with Boozing Family. Steve led some singalong songs and I coupled I Wish There Was No Prisons with Jailhouse Rock.
After us, Callum sang John Peel very strongly and followed up with his song of the Goathland Hunt. He was in good voice. Eliza Carthy did a strong impromptu set too. It included Botany Bay and Chickens in the Garden. She did more – Jasper Smith’s King of the Gypsies was one and Bonny Light Horseman was another.
Ian contributed a song and Keith Thompson sang God Speed the Plough and one or two more.
Steve and Moss and I went back to the Mill afterwards and played into the early hours. Moss has quickly learnt Tom Dickinson’s Battle of the Boiling Water with its distinctive flicked C# and drop to E in the first phrase. I fitted fiddle seconds that I’ve developed for it onto it. They are a counter melody for the first part and chopped chords for the B music. It is fun to play.
The Horseshoe, Crewe
I was invited along to a Saturday session (December 30th) at The Horse Shoe, North Street, Crewe. Bryn Davies and his band members Josh and Tim were the hosts. Croz Crosbie and Tony Wetherill were, like me, invited along to join the fun. Bryn was on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Tim on upright bass and Josh, Bryn’s son, on lead electric guitar. They are in mega-good form after another busy tour of the Isle of Man biker’s pubs circuit during TT week and beyond earlier in the year. Tony Wetherill was on melodeon and Croz on fiddle and, on one or two numbers, also on melodeon. There were a couple of other acoustic guitarists at some points. I was on fiddle.
Bryn led a mix of early country, rock and roll, and skiffle numbers – T for Texas, Folsom Prison Blues, Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms, Nobody’s Child and many more. We sang Tom Dooley together. We also duetted vocally on the unaccompanied prison ballad When I Was a Little Boy. We often sing that when we get together. We duetted on the vocals of a couple of others too – The Ballad of Jesse James and Monster Mash. I sang and played The Christmas Ploughboy. Croz and I played fiddle tunes we have in common – Tom Dickinson’s Jig, Burton Stather Broom Dance, Burton Hunt and The Officers’ Polka. Tony is quick to pick things up. He joined in on those and knew Billy Harrison’s Polka when we played that. Josh remembered Acre of Land from when we last played that together. Josh’s lead guitar on Promised Land was ace. It was a great get-together. One of the pub regulars said to me, “It’s a wonderful afternoon. It makes everyone feel good.”
Sawmilling & Flamborough Longsword
Boxing Day at Bempton started with the meet-up at The White Horse. There was a full turnout of the team musicians and half a dozen or more sawmillers. We all played together as people gathered for the first dance. I struck up with Salmon Tails and Mossy and Steve joined in straight away on fiddle and melodeon. Martin joined in too on banjo and Bernie on mandolin and Frank and Andy on triangle and tea-chest bass. Simon played guitar and Lynette was in from the start too on tambourine. Sue Story played her whistle and there were one or two other tambourines too. I think Richard Traves was playing one at that point. We just played that one tune then the dancers were ready. It was just the senior team at Bempton. They danced well. I missed the third change. I thought Sue gave me the nod for the change to This Old Man so I called the key change to Bernie and Simon but Steve stayed on Rinks for another eight bars. We all survived it though; just as well because the same thing happened again later, at Rose and Crown.
We went inside White Horse and sawmilled the pub with a mixture of stuff. We fired up with Haircuts and did Windy Old Weather and Be Bop A Lula, Davey Nick Nack, Four Hand Reel, Good King Wenceslas, Napoleon Crossing the Alps and a bunch of others. We finished with plenty of time to get into Flamborough village to join the dancers at Rose and Crown. They had been doing the dance up at the lighthouse whilst we were sawmilling The White Horse.
The juniors joined us at Rose and Crown and senior and junior teams danced together. A great sight as always. After the dance, Steve and Martin came into the pub and joined us sawmilling in there. I’d already started up. I set off into Buckets of Rain whilst the others were still ordering drinks. Lynette played tambourine straight away and there was another chap I know but I don’t know his name, who joined in on a cajon he was sitting on. Frank and Andy joined in singing from where they were waiting to be served. We played Navvy on the Line and Harvest Home, Thunnerin’ Lie, Heave Away the Trawl. I forget what others. Later, at Dog and Duck, the cajon chap joined us again on twelve string guitar that he must have nipped in home for. We had a good little sawmill in Rose and Crown then Lynette and I set off to Seabirds to join the Sword Dancers there. The others stayed in pub. We went straight back to Rose and Crown after the sword dance finished and then all headed up to Victoria Club, stopping off to share out the big pork pie that Richard Traves had given us for the musicians. We played in Ship after the final dance in Dog and Duck square. There were so many songs and tunes through the day – Grey Cortina and Grace Darling, Acre of Land and Pull for the Shore – some with just one or two of us. That was good – me, Lynette, Frank and Andy in Ship doing Grace and B Shuffle and Brian O’Linn and Red Sails in the Sunset. Simon did Long Black Veil more or less on his own and I joined in quietly a bit in the background on that one and on Santa Sings the Blues that Andy led. Diggy was away overseas so we did Rare Old Mountain Dew ourselves to tip our caps at his usual contribution. There was a big combined set three or four times on the street through the day with Steve Peirson leading his Blaydon Races set opposite Victoria club and Mossy and Steve leading Helmsley Sword Dance tune outside Rose and Crown. We did a skiffle and singalong songs set before the dancing at Dog and Duck Square and we played Now Mrs Wilson and Lass of Dalowgill at some point too. It’s all a happy blur.
Third week of Beamish Christmas Fairs, 2017
The puppets got their biggest crowds ever last night. We were performing proper little shows to crowds that gathered for them every few minutes on the street in the middle part of the evening.
We’d started each evening with an hour and a half in the dentist’s parlour. That was in the doorway, with the pegdolls, for about an hour and then we moved further into the room, closer to the fire, to do half an hour of the big carols. For the pegdolls bit, we engaged with the people who came to the door. We’d play quite a short burst of one of the tunes – Cuddle In or Sid’s Twist or suchlike – then we’d stop to say Happy Christmas and either tell them a little bit about the story of George Evan Mills who made the old pair of pegdolls or suggest a song we could do – The Christmas Ploughboy or a bit of Twelve Days of Christmas or Acre of Land and so on, then see them on their way with another few words. It varies with every set of people who turn up there. Sometimes we’d be singing or playing to one lot and the next ones would be peering over their shoulders to see what was going on. It’s good seeing them thinking they are just watching us sing or play and completely missing the movement of the pegdolls down on the floor – then, one of them will notice the dolls and point and draw the others attention to them. It happens that way nearly every time. A few times, we slipped in a new interpretation of Lynette’s dad’s Battle of the Boiling Water tune. I’ve altered the way I play the beginning of the B part. I’ve made it fit the same small harmonic variation from the standard Girl I Left Behind Me tune that is in the A part. It is what made Tom Dickinson’s way with it distinctive so it is pleasing to give it a showing in both parts of the tune.
For the big carols section of the indoor performance, sitting near the fire, we performed as a living tableau, singing and playing to each other and giving full attention to the carols themselves – the Millington While Shepherds, For Unto Us a Child is Born and When Christ was Born of Mary Free and The Seven Joys of Mary.
Out on the street, for our second stint each night, we took full advantage of the much milder weather. It was a pleasure to be out there playing. We borrowed a wooden chair from the hardware shop behind us. That was for Lee to sit with Donald, the jig doll. The chair is needed so Lee can sit with Donald’s dancing board projecting from the seat of the chair under him, support Donald with his back-stick and tap the tune’s rhythm onto the board with his other hand. That sets Donald dancing. I was doing Gerald, my fiddle puppet at the same time. We did over an hour out there. We’d stop for a moment or two when we’d finished a set and then fire up again, less than a minute later, and get another crowd.
Yesterday, at the end of the evening, we went and joined forces with the harmonium and concertina couple at the tramstop. Together, we played for the people waiting for and boarding their transport home. We played The Leeds Wassail. It was familiar but we’d neither of us played it before. The same with their Cherry Tree Carol. We joined them on their setting of While Shepherds to the Ilkley Moor tune too. I think we’d done that with them last year.
The two days felt like a coming-of-age of the Beamish job.
Second week of Beamish Christmas Fairs, 2017
Very tiring and very rewarding once again!
We made sure we put in several sessions featuring the big carols this week. On the Millington While Shepherds, with its octave drop opening to the tune, Corona is now singing all the responses as well as playing Billy Harrison’s second violin part and we always sing every verse when we do it. This year, we have taken to playing the repeat of the second half of each verse, including all its responses, just as an instrumental, rather than singing the repeat. It seems to work well. Similarly, we have started playing an instrumental repeat of the last line of each verse of For Unto Us a Child is Born. It gives a better pace to the whole piece.
At the beginning of the evening last night, in our first session with the puppets, we had more puppets going at once than we’ve ever done before. I had Gerald, my fiddle puppet hanging from my arm as I played and one pair of the old George Evan Mills peg-doll dancers rigged up to my left foot. Corona had a pair of his own peg-doll dancers rigged to his right foot and Kip, his fiddling dog, rigged to his left foot. He was operating Donald, the jig doll, at the same time, then putting him down to pick up his fiddle to duet on other numbers. We only did that for half an hour or so, just to see if we could manage it and for our own amusement.
Lee (Corona) has really taken to Rosetta Smith’s Don’t Fly Away Robin and we’ve coupled it with Eazum Teasum which I learnt from one of Rosetta’s relatives, Nancy Grey. Rosetta’s song has a slow, mournful tune and we’ve tried a couple of different ways of linking it straight into the lively Eazum Teasum. Both are Christmas money-collecting songs so they fit together. We don’t collect at Beamish because we are on wages there. At the very end of last night’s job, we tried it with a minimal, short setting. We played and sang Rosetta’s song without repeating it as an instrumental, which we’d been doing earlier, then Lee held on the last note whilst I set the pace for Eazum Teasum with fiddle. After one instrumental verse, he came in as I sang the Eazum verse. We then just played the second and third parts in unison and the harmony version of the third part as a tailpiece. We’ll see how it develops through next week’s visit.
First of Beamish Christmas Fairs, 2017
We got back in the early hours from the first two of the six Beamish fairs. The weather has been bitterly cold so the outdoor work, especially on Friday, was affected by that. All the more rewarding last night when Lee (Corona) and I had a considerable little crowd around us when we did a session with two of the puppets on the street quite late on in the evening. I was playing fiddle with Gerald, my fiddle puppet, on my arm. Lee was operating Donald, my dancing doll, on his stepping board. We’d borrowed a chair from one of the shops so Lee could sit there with Donald. We often get a little crowd when we do the two puppets together but when they stayed around from one set of tunes into the next in those freezing conditions, it was very pleasing to see.
Our first long session on each night was in the parlour of the dentist’s house. There is a big coal fire in the parlour so we were lucky to be warm. We had all the puppets set up in there – Donald and Gerald ready to hand and two of the George Evan Mills dancing peg-doll sets rigged up to our ankles and to their stands. New to the line-up was Corona’s fiddling dog-headed puppet, Kip. Kip plays from a seated position in a little rocking chair. Each night we did an hour and a half in the first session, moving between fiddle tunes, Christmas songs such as The Christmas Ploughboy and Twelve Days of Christmas and Acre of Land and carols. When Christ was Born of Mary Free was a new addition to the carols. We’d had a go at it last year but worked it up well for this year with a harmony that works in the low octave and in the high octave. Twelve Days has also undergone great improvement. We’ve shifted it from G down into F and Corona has learnt a harmony for it. It works either as a song or as an instrumental. When we did it instrumentally, I found myself singing odd lines to remind us where we were up to.
We only took two breaks last night and three on Thursday. It’s hard to stop when another expectant face appears at the door or when another little crowd gathers on the street. We successfully added my recent arrangements for the Flamborough Sword Dance tunes to the mix. I’ve made up harmonies for both Johnny Walker and Rinks plus, Johnny Walker works in the low octave without alteration so I’m able to move between octaves on that one. I’ve worked out how to get round the fact that Rinks occasionally drops below the register of the fiddle if you try to play it in the low octave so I’m able to do a modified version of it in the low octave too.
We both had holly and ivy decoration on our hats this year.
Steve and Reg’s 60th Ceilidh
The Peirson’s party – or Reg’s party as Steve would have it – was at Leconfield Sports Hall. Reg and Ann’s ceilidh band, once called The Woollybacks with a slightly different line-up, was the backbone of the impromptu dance band for the event. It was great to get to play with them. Great to play with Mary Newton. Mary was playing dulcimer when we arrived. She played her piano accordion later. Ann was on fiddle and Reg on melodeon. Their guitar player, Val Farrow, was part of the regular line-up. Mossy and Martin and Robert were in the extended band, adding fiddle, guitar and bass guitar respectively. Steve was on melodeon, between socialising, and I sat in with fiddle, between socialising and dancing. Steve asked me to contribute a song. He suggested the double Farmer’s Boy that I had done at Bob West’s do a month or two ago. I sang it after the supper and it was well received. I did all four of the narrative ballad verses, with four of the animal noises verses slotted in between. Martin sang his Keep on Rolling and asked me to join him on fiddle, along with two or three of the other musicians.
The dance tunes were mostly familiar to me, though I didn’t know them all by name. I enjoyed picking them up as they went along. I learnt that the dance tune Log Cabin that Reg and Ann’s band play is, more or less, the Jesse James tune and that Hexham Races has a lot in common with Billy Harrison’s Scotch Jig.
At the end of the evening, Steve played his Shetland Lights Out tune, Da Slokit Light. Martin accompanied on guitar and Mossy joined them on fiddle.
Burton Agnes Michaelmas Fair
William Traves took on the job of getting a Flamborough Sword Dance team together for this year’s Michaelmas Fair. He came up trumps with a full team, all there on time and ready to dance right on schedule. The weather was kind to us. The odd showers of the day missed our spots nicely and we played for the dancing in sunshine. There were four of us playing – me, Mossy, Steve Peirson and Martin Peirson. We seemed to start at a fair old lick for the first one but no-one among the dancers complained of it being too fast. We got the tune changes right, with Steve taking on Sue’s mantle as signaller of the changes. In the time between our dance spots, Mossy and I sat and played at the outdoor café tables. We played an as-yet-untitled tune of mine. It went well. And several other tunes, some my compositions and some Pennock family tunes. The Sylph went very well. We got several smatterings of applause from nearby tables, particularly from a steam punk morris dance group sitting at the next table. Steve joined us and led a couple of different sets. One was Winster Gallop and Donkey Riding.
For the second sword dance spot we got more sunshine and, again, both dancing and music went well – this despite my going, unaccountably, off into a different tune part way through the reprise of Old Johnny Walker. Mossy marshalled me back to the right tune by leaning in towards me and eye-contacting me to pay attention to what I was doing.
A great afternoon.
Two parties in one night
Diggy and I played at two birthday dos at Bridlington last night. We set off out without a clear idea about whether we were playing at either of them. The first was Dig’s niece, Nicky’s at The Telegraph. We went in with fiddle and washboard and just socialised whilst loud party music was the order of the evening. After about an hour, a young chap with a guitar came on and did Brown-Eyed Girl and another song or two. He invited another young chap up and he did a song or two. We were about to move on to the other party when we were asked to play. There was just the one microphone. We started with our Sawmilling birthday song “Happy birthday, Nicky, I hope you’re doing all right….” then went straight into Davy Nick Nack and Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel then finished with Should I Stay or Should I Go. There was a lively reaction and we got called on to do another so we did our dualling instruments version of Great Uncle Sep’s Reel with its frantic speeding up and jokes about Diggy’s fingers catching fire and so on. It was fun. We thanked them for making us welcome then moved on to The Star for Ted Taylor’s 60th. It was a bigger room there and even noisier than Telegragh. A few people asked us if we were playing but I shied away from it because there were quite a few people dancing to the DJ they’d hired and it seemed intrusive to shut that off. We ended up playing outside for the smokers. We started with just three or four people then built up a fair little crowd of people who’d twigged we were having a go. We must have done about half an hour. Bernie was there. He hadn’t brought his mandolin but he joined us strongly on choruses. We did a mixture of fishermens’ songs, skiffle numbers and rock songs and fiddle tunes. Grey Cortina was first and Thunnerin’ Lie and Heave Away the Trawl and Pull For The Shore and Jailhouse Rock. Lots more. A woman I didn’t recognise joined in strongly on Heave Away the Trawl. I went home with a smile on my face.
Hartlepool Folk Festival
The first event was the Wilson Family EFDSS Gold Badge Award presentation and concert. Alistair Anderson was presenting the awards and Mike Tickell read the citation which was written by Kathryn. It was good to see Pat Wilson there with the Wilson menfolk.
When it came to the concert section of the evening, we had just ten minutes in a packed schedule. Lynette danced her clog waltz to Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz and I sang I Wish There Was No Prisons with a backing chorus line of hearty Wilson Family singers. I think they contributed their vocal line to every guest act. I did The Merry Cuckold too.
Our top event of the whole festival was a one hour acoustic performance on board the PSS Wingfield Castle. She is the long-retired Humber Ferry and is moored at the Hartlepool Maritime Museum just along from their proudest exhibit, the mighty HMS Trincomalee.
We performed in the café with a handful of people who were already there using the café plus a load of festival-goers who had come along to see us.
Starting with Oh, What a Windy Night with its first couplet, “We sailed down the river, tide on the ebb, Set our course for Flamborough Head ….” and moving on through the songs of Humber bargeman Jack Smith to the Robin Hood ballad of Dean Robinson from across the river and to Lynette’s Stottlebink dance with its Flamborough Head connection the flow just stayed natural. It was ace being able to refer back to the vessel’s part in our own past.
Jill Pidd was there, with Doc, and had told me earlier about a riotous drunken incident on board the Wingfield Castle, involving our friend Mick McGarry, back in the days when the Humber Ferries took advantage of their exemption from the strictures of licensing hours. I told that tale and it led both to the song Father Had a Knife with its ‘We all belong to a boozing family’ chorus and to Lily Smith’s Adieu to Old England with its extra verse that I learnt from Mick’s dad Joe McGarry. The whole show had natural links to family, friends and locality. We ended up performing twenty items in the hour without once stopping to think what should come next.
Later, for the Late Evening ‘No Folk’ Cabaret, I got to sing aboard the Trincomalee. I went with a Halloween theme for that and sang my own song, Halloween Moon, to set the tone. I followed it with Vampire Bride. Vampire Bride is a parody of I Will Survive. I made it up some years ago. Then I did Screamin’ Lord Such’s ‘Til The Following Night and Boris Pickett’s Monster Mash.
On the Sunday, Johnny Handle was in great form and his and Chris Hendry’s duet in the afternoon traditional concert was a highlight. Another was Johnny’s Galloping Heifers tune and its accompanying tale. Cuthbert and Lydia Noble’s duet version of The Pear tree at the Gold Badge event was a highlight too.
Sword Dance Union Meet, Goathland.
Big disappointment today when Steve Pierson and I turned up at the Goathland Hub late for the Flamborough Juniors competition dance. Whether it was because the organisers had started the competitions early or because we had cut it too fine ourselves getting back, the Juniors ended up starting their competition dance to Mossy playing solo, against his wishes. Steve and I made our way to the front during their dance and joined in about a third of the way through the dance. Sue wasn’t playing either. I am guessing she had been taken unawares by the timing as we had. Anyway, well done the dancers for putting on a good show and Mossy for playing well. We were left thinking we may have done better to leave Mossy to carry the job through alone but we didn’t have time to weigh up our decision. Good stuff happened in the rest of the day but the competition foul-up overshadowed it for me.
Warrington Folk Club
Last night was the gig at the Bull’s Head, Warrington.
It was notable for how easy I felt with playing the fiddle tunes. It was an audience I felt comfortable with so I played all the tunes I wanted to, Goathland Speed the Plough was the first and I was so at ease that I played another tune, The Officers’ Polka, as the next item rather than following it with a song. There were two forty minute sets so I did loads of songs too. Lynette had a bad back so she wasn’t dancing. She did Donald, the jig doll though. I introduced him as the replacement dancer. It’s good when Lynette operates Donald because, being a percussive dancer herself, she has a clear notion of what moves she is trying to get out of Donald and she achieves a lot of them.
I’d started off the set with songs though – Oh, What a Windy Night and Acre of Land were the first two. I know that I did The Merchant in Cheshire at some point because, later on, in his floor spot, Vic Shepherd, the big fellow from Grenoside Sword Dancers, sang, with his wife, a lively version of The Yorkshire Bite and set it up in his introduction as being a story closely related to the Merchant in Cheshire that I had sung.
At one point, I talked a bit about the day I had with Bernie, playing and singing in his row-boat as he rowed me round Bridlington harbour. I used it as an introduction to Pull For The Shore. The audience sang well on the chorus of that. They sang well on all the chorus items.
I told a couple of the Flamborough tall tails either side of Thundering Sort of a Lie – Jossy Pop’s tale about the gun dog and Dick Pop’s one about the low-flying aircraft.
At the end of the second half, I got Gerald, my fiddle puppet, out to play for a second appearance from Donald.
Goathland Hub Opening Event
Yesterday was the grand opening of the new Goathland Hub.
In his speech, Keith Thompson did a great job of summarising the whole development of the project from the initial idea phase to yesterday’s unveiling of the new facility.
We went, after the speeches, to the old Reading Room for the Goathland Plough Stots to have a final dance there. Steve Peirson led the musicians. The Stots danced figures 1,3 and 5. The team led out from the venue at the end of figure 5 as usual but, instead of breaking the lock after the lead-out, they paraded on, presenting the lock all the way along the road and up the lane to the Stots new home at the Hub. On arrival at the Hub, we musicians followed them in, still playing Yankee Doodle, the number five figure tune, as we had all the way up from the Reading Room. Once we were all up to the front of the hall of the Hub, the dancers marched on into their circle formation and drew the lock as the tune finished. They then danced figures 1,3 and 5 again, this time to blood or christen the new venue.
My spot at the evening concert was shorter than originally planned as there were a lot of performers to fit in.
After the ukulele group that followed the supper break, Brian Kell did a punchy little set that set the tone for a lively section of the evening. The Price Sisters followed with four or five well-delivered songs – Yorkshire hunting songs and a shape-note style hymn. Next was a dance set from the Plough Stots. Mossy had joined us by then as a welcome addition to the line up of musicians. Again, the team danced numbers one, three and five. They led out with the lock at the end, with musicians following them up to the entrance door where they drew the lock.
I went briskly back in as I was next on.
I did songs that all related to ploughs, one way or another.
I started with Mutton Pie – “Now my jolly lads, if you want to learn to plough….”, followed that with Banks of Sweet Dundee – “Mary had a ploughboy which she loved so well….”, then Three Men Went A-Hunting – “Oh, a-hunting we will go, to see what we can find,/We came across a plough in a field and that we left behind….”. I finished off with a double song. I sang The Farmer’s Boy, jumping back and forth between the ballad version of the song and the Old MacDonald-style, animal noises version of the song. Both share the “plough and sow, reap and mow” chorus. I think it worked OK for the occasion. Several people told me afterwards that they’d enjoyed my bit. That’ll do for me.
Hull Truck Theatre Folk Revue
I did the same set as the one that went well at the final concert at Stowmarket; Merchant in Cheshire, Pip’s Among Cod, Corn Rigs, Dogger Bank, Bold Princess Royal and Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie. Corn Rigs was the only variation. I’d done Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz at Stowmarket for Lynette’s clog waltz routine at that point in the set but I was on my own at Hull Truck so I opted for the Bill Pennock tune instead.
I’d prepared the set earlier in the day. It had to be within a fifteen minute time slot and I stuck to it. I was glad I did because Corn Rigs went O.K. I’d wavered on the idea in the dressing room before the show but went ahead with it once I was on stage and working.
I enjoyed Lucy Clarke’s set in the first half. She’s a poet. She did three poems, sharply written and sharply delivered.
Shiznitz were on after me in the second half. They included Catgut Jim the Fiddler in their three song set. It’s new to their group repertoire, though Lee has been working on it for a good while now. It came across well. It sounded like it was a settled piece in their repertoire. I’d had a preview of it in the dressing room. I’d busked along with it when they were giving it a final run-through.
Songs and Fiddle Tunes album Reviewed in fRoots
I found out from Vic Smith at Stowmarket that, unbeknownst to me, fRoots did publish his review of my Songs and Fiddle Tunes album. He was surprised I didn’t know. They usually send an email copy of reviews to artists. Maybe they did and I lost the email or something. It was quite some time ago and Vic couldn’t find his copy to send me a scan of it but he has kindly sent a copy of the piece as he submitted it. He says they published it in full. Click fRoots review Vic Smith scan to see it. I don’t know what date it was published but Vic tells me he submitted it on 13/11/2016.
Traditional Music Day, Stowmarket
Traditional Music Day always turns into a full weekend of music.
On the day itself, Saturday 2nd, we had a busy day. We started with a songs and tales event hosted by Vic and Tina Smith in the Old Chapel. They started things off. One of the things they did was a duet version of A Beggar Came O’er Yon Lea. It made me listen to it afresh. Alvar Smith was the other featured artist. He started with his uncle Bob Scarce’s favourite You’ll Never Get Another Mother then followed up with his magnificent Bold General Wolf. Vic’s face was a picture. It was his first meeting with Alvar. Nothing could go wrong after that. I picked up on something one of them had said about oysters and told the tale of helping ourselves to oysters in a port in New Zealand by some of our lot rowing or sailing across the harbour to the oyster beds in one of our onboard whalers. I followed up with the song New Zealand Whales that I learnt there fifty years ago. That’s how the event continued – one person’s song or tale sparking off another from the next person.
We had a one hour concert to ourselves in Edgar’s Farmhouse followed immediately by an hour at the open stepping boards. There was just half an hour gap for a quick cup of tea then across to the stepdance showcase in the Tythe Barn. That was a treat. All the generations from little children to grandparents making a fine show.
Our performance highlight was the final concert. We were on second to last. Everyone had stuck to very tight time slots. We had eighteen minutes to do. I started with Merchant in Cheshire, unaccompanied. It’s a cracking old song with a lass getting the better of a highwayman and ending up stealing all his money, enough to set her up for life. The story rips along with no messing about and the audience warmed to it straight away. I did Mr. Waterson’s Clock next, again with no introduction, and that’s another one that gets the story told very directly in just the space of a verse, a chorus and a second verse. The second verse ends with the punchline of the joke. Lynette danced her clog stepping waltz routine to Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz. That was a relaxed and on-the-target performance too. I did do a little introduction to the next song – Pip’s Among Cod – because I wanted to acknowledge the encouragement of the late Reg Reader. Reg’s was a welcoming, friendly face at Stowmarket in years gone by. I explained to the audience how Reg had told me that he liked that song of mine. I sang it with a nod to that happy memory. Next, I sang two songs I learnt as a youngster from our neighbourhood friend, Jack Smith. I told the audience that Jack lived to over a hundred. He was friend to both my family and Lynettes’s family. I sang his favourite Dogger Bank, accompanying myself on fiddle, and, unaccompanied, his uncluttered version of The Bold Princess Royal. All this took just a minute short of our allocated eighteen minutes. I looked round to see whether to do something else and John was signalling me to do another. I sang the Flamborough song Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie as a finisher for our set.
Priory Bar, Bridlington
The Priory Bar turns out to be down Sawmill Yard, near where we used to sit and play outside Frank’s warehouse when he stored his rowboats down Sawmill Yard in years gone by. The manager was friendly enough and there were a few familiar faces about. Bernie was running the event and Nige Atkin was there, unsure whether or not to play later on. Young Katie Spencer was waiting to play after me. I sat at the side of the performance area and played a tune or two acoustically before things got going. Diggy was ready to do a bit with the Flithers later on. The Whiskey Dogs were there too, and a bunch of people who’d come for the event and sat on the seating around the stage area, looking a bit bemused by the full-on racket from the bar area. It was about ten to six when I started my half hour. I was playing through their PA, cranked up with things already rowdy. I just got on and played songs and tunes. I stuck with my traditional repertoire – Oh, What a Windy night, Brian O’Linn, The Brickmakers, Sid’s Twist, Davy Nick Nack, Pull for the Shore, Tumbled and Cut my Bum, The Codfish, The Sylph, Windy Old Weather. I forget what else. I did Pop Goes the Weasel when the manager’s little girl came and sat with him down at the front, then segued into Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel. I sang Father Had a Knife, I remember, and when I did Sid’s Twist, I did the thing of dropping in single comic verses from My Dear Belinda in between sections of the fiddle tune, singing them unaccompanied then dropping back into fiddling after each dropped-in verse.
Whitby Folk Week
One of the highlights of the job was the success of my presentation on the fiddle tunes of the Pennock family of Goathland. Lee and Mossy and Lynette all helped with it too and so did Derek Schofield, with a couple of additional bits of knowledge given from his presence as an audience member.
It was different from the event I did on the same subject at Sidmouth. There, there had been a significant section of the time given over to teaching a couple of the tunes in workshop form. Here, there was no workshop element. It was a talk, peppered with musical examples from my own playing, from duetting with Mossy and playing in trio with Lee (Corona) and Mossy, with Lynette stepping to Now Mrs. Wilson and with examples from Peter Kennedy’s recordings of Bill Pennock himself.
Lee, Mossy and I had had an impromptu play together the previous day, sitting at the outside tables of the Whitby Seamen’s Mission Café. Officers’ Polka had gone really well as a trio there so I knew, for example, that that was a good one to include in that form at the presentation.
There was loads of positive feedback at the end of the event. I finished our performance and my talking with a good twenty minutes of the programmed time still left. That gave people time to look at the village maps Steve Peirson had sent me and at the examples of Cecil Sharp’s notations of Neswell Pennocks tunes and at the Hudlestone’s notations of Bill Pennocks mouth music and at the family tree research done by Mossy and so on.
That was just one event. Lynette and I had two or three events each day. We had three miked-up concerts, at the Rifle Club and the Rugby Club, acoustic concerts at the Captain Cook Museum (That one was billed as a ‘song spot’ but turned out to be a full half hour performance in the museum yard set out with seating and every seat filled and Joanna, the museum manager, going off to fetch extra chairs) and at the Spa Theatre Bar Upstairs. Lynette did a morning clog workshop one day, teaching six steps she learnt from Ivy Sands. We had spots with Taffy at his ‘Tunes and Tales’ – my Cruel Ship’s Carpenter ballad, ‘Fair Ones are Shining’ was among the items I did there. It was well received and Pete Shepherd talked with me about it afterwards and compared the tune with one he has collected himself to a different ballad. We did a spot up at one of Peta and Ken’s ‘Traditional Nights Out’. The Merry Cuckold was a bit of a hit with the crowd there. Puffin in my Pint too.
We did a couple of youngsters events too and, at one of them, met Bryony Griffiths who, Mossy had found out, sings a Neswell Pennock song she learnt from the Kidson collection. I invited Bryony up to the Pennock presentation and she came up there and sang Forty Miles for us. That brings us back to where I started this account of the festival. Oh, and we did the Festival Folk Club one evening. Matt Quinn, Helen Capes and Thomas McCarthy were our co-guests there. Matt sang his mighty Lord Becket.
Sidmouth FolkWeek plus the McKee Wedding
It’s a month full of music. I just did the McKee wedding job which included playing for the bridal walk-on for a druid ceremony and for the couple’s celebratory dance around the circle after the hand-fasting.
I played loads of tunes, just keeping in the background as people socialised. Top performance moment was playing I Knew the Bride (When she used to rock and roll) after the meal and just before the speeches .
The programming for Sidmouth was ace. We had a full event to ourselves presenting the Songs and Fiddle Tunes album. I did the whole album programme, plus some stepping from Lynette to tunes from the album. We had nearly every evening up at John Howson and Dan Quinn’s traditional song and music nights up at the Woodlands Hotel, sharing the row of guest seats with Thomas McCarthy, Sara Grey and Kieron Means, Alvar Smith, Viv Legg and a host of other good singers and musicians.
We had two concerts at the Bedford, a concert party show at the Manor Pavilion theatre where my Mr. Waterson’s Clock went down a storm, A children’s event where we did the puppets, with Lynette operating Donald’s stepping to my operating of Gerald’s fiddling and where we met Lawrence, the one-man-band and the two girls he works with. It turned out we practically knew each other already, having loads of friends in common from the Captain Kipper shows and the trolls.
Big thanks to Alan Bearman and Tash and all the other people who made it all happen.
Hull Folk Festival
My show was a 45 minute performance, playing and singing from a little stage on board the barge Syntan to a seated audience on the harbourside. There was also a busy coming and going of quayside passers-by. It had just nicely stopped raining when I got on. Linda Kelly was on before me and did a strong set which kept a good size audience, despite the rain that persisted through her show. I enjoyed hearing her.
I got the return of the sunshine.
I started with Mr. Waterson’s Clock for something new, then did I Wish There Was No Prisons to follow up with an old favourite. There were a lot of familiar faces among the audience and that choice worked. First fiddle tune was Old North Skelton Sword Tune. I mentioned that the old version was collected by Cecil Sharp back in 1912 from the North Skelton musicians James Coates and Barthy. I followed that with Robin Hood and the Three Squires, pointing south across the Humber as I introduced it as being collected by Percy Grainger at one of his song competitions across in North Lincolnshire from Dean Robinson. Next was Merry Cuckold and I made a third reference to collectors, saying Steve Gardham, who was there in the front row of the audience, shared with me the excitement of encountering the robust framework for that song from Les Smith of Aldborough, out to our East in Holderness, back in the early nineteen seventies. They were all very brief introductions but led comfortably from one thing to the next. The audience kept growing throughout the set. I enjoyed it. At one point, I did three fishing songs back-to-back; Oh, What a Windy Night, Thunnerin’ Lie and Windy Old Weather. The audience warmed into some chorus singing. I did two of our family songs – Mutton Pie and Robin to Bobbin – and one of the family tunes, Tom Dickinson’s Jig. Pegleg Ferret were following me on. I’d already said I was pleased they were there and I mentioned them again as I introduced The Winlaton Cockfight, telling the audience that I once took Benny Graham of Pegleg to meet the Haley family. I’d collected that song from Geoff Haley when I lived up in their native County Durham for a while. I played Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel too and sang Adieu to Old England, one verse of which I’d learnt from Joe McGarry, father of the Syntan stage M.C., Mick McGarry. I finished with There’s a Puffin in my Pint.
Sailing Coble Festival, Bridlington Harbour
What a peach of a day. The job turned out to be me being rowed up and down the harbour alongside New Road in Bernie’s newly acquired rowing pebble whilst sailing cobles, both local and visiting, came and went around us. I sang and fiddled. Bernie rowed, sang choruses and baled. The boat was taking on a fair bit of water as its timbers haven’t swollen yet since its relaunch. All this happened because the event’s PA hadn’t been set up as planned so I’d started up working acoustically on harbour top. When Bernie showed up and said he had boat in and did I fancy a ride, I had a quick word with Peter, the event’s co-ordinator and got his cheerful go-ahead to give the boat strategy a try. It was well received by the coble festival crowd and general public alike. As we set off from Crane Wharf Jetty, Bernie started singing Pull for the Shore. I picked it up with fiddle and we were off. Oh, What a Windy Night followed and Heave Away the Trawl Warp. Bernie sang strong choruses on all the songs and kept us free from snagging on painters running from mooring buoys. I sat with my feet splayed, doing my best to keep my shoes clear from the seawater sloshing about in the bottom of the pebble. We sang Windy Old Weather, Thunnering Lie, Roll the Old Chariot – I forget what else and I slipped in fiddle tunes between the songs. I did some more on harbour top too, whilst crews and guests were disembarking and a second session in Bernie’s pebble when the sailing cobles made their second departure later. Peter and Paul Arro, the man who booked me, were made up with the way it all worked out and have invited me to go for a second day’s work tomorrow.
The Big Malarkey, East Park, Hull
This was a Two Straylarkers gig – Jim Eldon and Corona Smith duetting on fiddles. We took the puppets. I did Gerald, my fiddle puppet throughout the two hour job. Lee (Corona) did Donald, my jig doll some of the time and pairs of his peg dolls at other times. It was a family event. We played traditional tunes – Goathland Square Eight, Sid’s Twist, Tom Dickinson’s Jig – that sort of thing and some of our original tunes – Dog Whipping Day, Battle of the Pigeons and Spin the Tortoise for example; we did one or two songs – traditional songs such as Acre of Land and self-penned songs such as Corona’s All the Sunshine and my Message From Genghis Khan. At one point, when Corona was doing his skeleton peg dolls we sang Dry Bones. We had children trying the peg dolls and having a go with Donald, the jig doll. That went on for a fair chunk of the time. Attendance numbers were low but we kept ourselves busy with a succession of little knots of people right through the duration of our time there.
It’s half past one in the morning and I just got home from Bob West’s 70th party at the new community hub in Goathland. It turned out to be a top musical do and, on arrival, I found I was performing. Derek Schofield was M.C. and asked me to do the first spot, two songs, after the opening tune from the band. Minutes later, Mike, the piccolo player came up and asked me to be in the band. It turns out he plays tenor sax too and was marshalling volunteers to play Green Onions as an opener. We had a quick lesson/practice in the back room of the Hub.
Half an hour later, we were on. Vince and Andy played melodeons – Wendy too, Mike led on tenor sax, Mossy and I played fiddles, Brian played mouth organ – another chap played mouthorgan too and a man who I think is Dave played whistle or maybe piccolo. We must have played it O.K. because Bob, to whom it was special as it had been the theme tune of a band he played in long ago, recognised it immediately and was delighted.
I sang The Merry Cuckold. The unexpected joke in the final verse went down a storm. I called Mossy up to join me on my second one, which was Acre of Land. I explained that both songs were ones I’d learnt 50 years ago from Les Smith, a farm worker at Aldborough on the East Yorkshire coast. We watched a little film of Bob West and Francis Shergold singing Bog Down in the Valley-O. Others sang – two women who sing harmony duets sang, first together and then with Dave who’d played whistle in the band – and others made tributes to Bob. Friends of Bob’s from Little Rock taught us their local football team’s chant. There was a video of Kate Rusby’s Barnsley Bill, the Yorkshire-Tea-Drinking-Superhero.
After the supper, the impromptu band played again, first two tunes and then to accompany the Plough Stots. It was the local team, with the youngsters strongly represented – Callum, Ben, Dan, Duncan, a lad whose name I don’t know, and Mike Smith captain. They were great. They did three dances; No 1, No 3 and No 5. They got such a strong response that they then did No 2 as an encore.
A masterful performance from Dave Burland rounded off the evening. His songs included Row, Bullies, Row, The Grey Funnel Line, Tom Payne’s Bones, Dalesman’s Littany and Blue Bayou.
Finally, we reprised Green Onions, this time, with Bob playing bass guitar as he had done in days of yore.
There was more impromptu singing firing up as I set off home. Callum had started it off with one of his hunting songs.
Flamborough Jnr Longsword Dancers at Beverley Festival
The Flamborough Juniors gave a great display of their village sword dance on the streets of Beverley. Steve Peirson led the musicians on melodeon. Mossy and I played fiddles. Richard Traves played tambourine. There were just the four of us as Sue Storey is away in Europe. For some of the dancers, it was their last time of dancing with the team as they change schools soon. Rob Traves and his dad, Richard have put a lot of work into getting the junior team up to the standard that won them first prize at last years SDU competitions at Goathland. Steve got us organised on putting the tune changes in the preferred places between figures. We were pretty well together. One change comes after the first clashes, another after the rolls and another as they line up for the long reel figure. There must be another that I’ve forgotten as there are four changes altogether, with the tune going from Old Johnny Walker to Bobby Shaftoe, from that to Earlie in the Morning, from that to This Old Man then, finally, back to Old Johnny Walker. Anyway, with Steve’s gestured prompts, we got them right every time. We had paraded first thing in the day, mostly just marching along and playing but then Rob got the dancers doing little sections of figures when the teams ahead stopped to do their own brief parading show-pieces. After the parade, we did dance spots at The Angel, doing the dance twice, at Saturday Market, again doing it twice, then along to Wednesday Market, where we did the dance once plus a little song set where I sang two of the Flamborough fishermen’s songs, with some of the youngsters helping out on choruses and with Mossy duetting with me on fiddle and singing choruses. The final dance spot was back at The Angel. We did the dance just once there as, with the baking hot weather, some of the youngsters were tired out. It was great to be involved with a young team doing their own village dance and doing it so well.
Ship Inn, Sewerby
We played for Sam and Emily’s wedding reception this afternoon and early evening. We were playing on mics outside on the patio area of the room where we used to go for Pete Bolton’s acoustic nights. There was Diggy on washboard, mouthorgan and vocals, Lynette on tambourine, shaker and vocals and me on fiddle and vocals.
We waited for about an hour before we struck up. Dig went back to the van to change one of the mic leads so Lynette and I started up on a couple of tunes on our own. They were Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz and then Goathland Square Eight. Maybe Sid’s Twist too. One or two people started jigging about a bit. It was O.K. I introduced Diggy as he was finishing off the cable change and he joined us on Marie’s Wedding as an opener. The bride’s dad looked pleased with that choice. Putting on the Style was the next song, I think but I don’t remember the whole running order. I just kept doing whatever seemed best. Tunes and songs. I asked Diggy to do Rare Old Mountain Dew and we played Davey Nick Nack and Herbert Smith’s Four Hand Reel, with the key change from G to A. Jailhouse Rock was in that set too. Part way through Dog Whipping Day, Dig spotted the newly-wed couple were close and brought them on to do a first dance sort of a thing. He asked me what they were going to dance to. I think he maybe meant me to say that the tune we were already playing was a waltz but I altered course and reprised Marie’s Wedding. They danced to that. I only did a once through of the two verses and choruses, then I segued into Teenage Kicks. After that, I led us back into Dog Whipping Day. Sam was waltzing one of the children round to that and picked him up to swing him towards people in a kind of Superman flying dance. Unfortunately, the little fellow ended up in tears because Sam’s buttonhole sprig poked him in the eye. Family were good at cheering him up. We kept playing and when he was calming down, I switched into Pop Goes the Weasel. All was well. Soon after that, it was time for everyone to go inside for the speeches and then it was buffet time. We played another set later. Diggy had prepared a set for that and, when we looked at it, we found that, by chance, we’d only played one item from it in the first set. It was a hard work getting going in the second set as people were getting intoxicated but we strung it together. Dig led Red Sails in the Sunset. There was a young chap thrashing away on a cajon in a different rhythm. Dig asked me to do I Got Stoned and I Missed It. I was pleased I remembered the instrumental break in that. Young Dylan joined us on guitar for two or three – Rinks and Old Johnny Walker (the Flamborough Sword Dance tunes), I’ll Tell My Ma, A Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie ( one of the old Flamborough fishermen’s songs that I learnt from Jossy Pop Mainprize and Robert Leng) and then Haircuts (with me shouting the chord changes to Dylan in between words whilst singing the song). We wound it up soon after that. We finished off with Windy Old Weather.
There were plenty of youngsters waiting to have a play in their various combos.
Wellington Inn, Wolviston
Last night was the Welly gig for the Wilson family’s club. The Wilsons sang individually rather than doing an ensemble piece. It was good to hear them. Mike’s rendition of The Bonny Hawthorn was a particular highlight for me. There is a woman there who sang The Wind That Shakes the Barley. That was another highlight. There is lots of good singing there – all the floor singers, many of whom are performers in their own right. It was good to see them all.
We started our bit with Lynette clog-stepping to Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz. My first song was The Queen of Tavendor. I wanted to be sure to get going with some of the more noble songs and that proved a good starter. I included The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter later and Robin Hood and the Three Squires. The Liner Titanic was another that I did and again was well received. I did several of the Goathland fiddle tunes. No Man’s Jig was well appreciated as were The Sylph and Goathland Square Eight. I played some variations on the Helmsley Sword Dance Tune that I’ve been working on and got those right. I’d speeded up all the way through though. Folk said it was a good job the sword dancers didn’t have to keep up at that speed. I hadn’t realised but I knew I’d got all the parts in that I meant to play. I ended up singing them the little verse I sing inside my head whilst I am playing that tune. It made them laugh. The new song Mr. Waterson’s Clock made them laugh too. The words to that are on my Songs and Tunes page if you’d like to check it out. Lynette did a cracking job on Old North Skelton and on Stottlebink. I was chuffed to be playing Stottlebink for her dancing, as it’s a tune I made up years ago that got a bit sidelined by my using it as an instrumental fill in one of my songs in the past. It feels right for it to have found its place as a step-dance tune. At the end of the first half, I got a frog in my throat when I started into Father Had a Knife and that made me take it carefully on my voice right through the second half but Lynette said she thought I was singing well so I must have got away with it. There were plenty of friendly, appreciative comments at the end of the night anyway.
I’d done a whole bunch of other stuff – The Merry Cuckold, Tom Dickinson’s Jig, 3 Jolly Tugboatmen, Sid’s Twist, Mutton Pie, Great Uncle Sep’s Reel, There’s a Puffin in My Pint, Rap-Tap-Tap, Young Sailor Cut Down, I Was In It, I Wish There Was No Prisons, Freddy Archer, Windy Old Weather (In celebration of The Yorkshire Belle’s 70th Anniversary which was last night) and, to finish, A Message From Genghis Khan.
Our encore piece, at Lynette’s inspired last-minute suggestion, was Now Mrs. Wilson. That is another of the Goathland, Pennock family tunes and it has a sung verse that I drop in part of the way through it. I stop fiddling at that point so, for a single verse, Lynette is stepping to my singing of the ditty, then, back comes the fiddle.
We’re back from the Morpeth Gathering. On Friday, I had four half-hour street performance spots with Gerald, my fiddle puppet, and a one hour presentation/informal concert. Some of the street work was in the arcade across the road and along a bit from the town hall and one was in the market place, right opposite the town hall. The first arcade spot was early, with only a handful of people wandering through. I did Gerald all the time. Nearly all of that was instrumental – Sid’s Twist, Goathland Square Eight, Old North Skelton, Pop Goes the Weasel, Corn Riggs and suchlike and the occasional song tune like Redwing, Grandfather’s Clock, Wooden Heart and so on. I sang Acre of Land a time or two for families who stopped to watch for a while and How Much is that Doggy in the Window, to engage with passing dog walkers.
The Market Place performance was lively with a good response from passers by and from other people involved with the gathering. Mossy Christian joined me for the later ones. We duetted on tunes some of the time and Moss did Donald, my jig doll at other times. He sat on a low stool so that Gerald was more or less on a level with Donald, playing for him to stepdance. We included the Cuddle In, Cuddle In duet and swapped back and forth on that one and on high and low octave for Sid’s Twist.
For the afternoon concert, I was joined by Lynette, who had been busy in the morning, leading a clog stepping workshop in the town hall. The concert was in the town hall too. Mossy joined us for that.
Some of the people who came had children with them. I had realised before the event that the Family Songs, Family Tunes title of the show would be interpreted by some people as ‘children-friendly’ so I played to that interpretation too, featuring Gerald and Donald with Moss’s help.
On the other interpretation of the title, I included items from our own family – Lynette’s dad’s Mutton Pie, my mum’s The Roguie and Lynette’s dad’s Robin to Bobbin. Moss and I played several of the Pennock family tunes – Goathland Square Eight, Corn Riggs and Now Mrs. Wilson, which Lynette stepped freestyle to, maybe others, I forget – and then I played Bill Pennock’s Speed the Plough on my own. I realised, afterwards, that Moss knows that one too and could have joined me on it. It worked well solo though. There were more songs and tunes, all with some sort of family connection – the Sherburn family’s Three Jolly Tugboatmen included and Bryn Davies’ Queen of Tavendor. I sold two copies of the Songs and Fiddle Tunes CD.
I sold another on the Saturday when George Frampton came up when I wasn’t playing and asked if I had any with me.
The Saturday started with the parade. Mossy and I were together for that, next to Taffy Thomas and just in front the Kingsmen. Paul and Ian who we know from the Beamish jobs were there, leading the parade, with Paul on the Northumbrian pipes.
I gave operating Gerald whilst parading a go – for the first time – and it worked well. I shortened his strop so his feet wouldn’t drag on the ground. There were some spells where his legs got going really well, marching along and playing his fiddle. A great success. I had free range on where to do my Saturday street playing and did most of it right by the Town Hall entrance. It was a great place to work with Gerald. There was loads of good interaction with the public.
Mossy won the intermediate fiddle competition that he entered and Demi, Kathryn Tickell’s daughter, came second. There were good numbers of entrants for the clog competitions that Lynette and Sue were there to judge.
The Britannia, Darlington
On Tuesday, I went up to Darlington for the Britannia Folk Club gig. I featured several of the Pennock family tunes – Goathland Square Eight, Goathland Speed the Plough, The Officers’ Polka and Bill Pennock’s Corn Riggs. It was the first time I’ve played Corn Riggs at a gig. I was pleased to do it justice. It’s a bit of a triumph. There were two different versions – the mouth music version that Bill Pennock diddled for Peter Kennedy and the fiddle transcription that Cecil Sharp noted from Neswell Pennock’s playing back in 1912 or thereabouts. I’ve worked on both but settled on playing the mouth music one on fiddle. I started off my first spot with Freddy Archer, singing the two verses unaccompanied, then going straight into fiddling the tune. As I finished, Dave Myers said, “…And I bet that’s all true, is it?” I said that I could tell them the background to it if they’d like. They did so I talked about getting the tune from Billy, whose fiddle I was playing and about Steve Gardham finding the chap who sang him a verse and a half and then the achievement of Ryan Moore that gave rise to my second verse. I sang several songs from the Songs and Fiddle Tunes album – The Merry Cuckold, It’s Still Around Somewhere, It was the Liner Titanic, Good Luck to the Barley Corn, Three Jolly Tugboatmen, There’s a Puffin in my Pint and, right at the end, A Message from Genghis Khan. At the start of the second half, I duetted Shooting Goshen’s Cocks Up with Dave Myers. Someone had asked him to sing it earlier, during the floor spots, and he’d backed off it, saying it was my song. I didn’t know he sang it. We were very close to word-for-word on it. I was glad I suggested duetting it. I played Eazum Teasum straight after it, explaining that that would have been a duet too if Corona Smith had been with me. In one of my shorter spots in the first half, I sang the new Mr. Waterson’s Clock. It’s the first time I’ve performed it in public. It went well. I explained about Mike Waterson telling me the joke and saying it wanted making into a song and that I’d decided to put Mike into the tale when I got to grips with composing it. I did a load of other stuff too – Acre of Land because it came from Les Smith who I’d already mentioned as the source of Merry Cuckold, Windy Old Weather and O What a Windy Night, The Merchant in Cheshire because I learnt it up that way when Dave Verrill took me to meet old Anty Bainbridge, I Wish there was no Prisons because someone asked for it and The Wreck of the Brownlow and Walmo. There were more fiddle tunes too – Billy’s Old Time Waltz, Sid’s Twist and Stottle Bink amongst them.
Dave Kidman was there and I thanked him for the review he wrote for Fatea Magazine. It was good to see John Wilson there. He sang Blackberry Fold. Dave Kidman sang It All Makes Work for the Working Man to Do.
I’ve put the dots for Corn Riggs and the words for Mr. Waterson’s Clock on the Songs & Tunes page of this site if you’d like to go there and have a look.
Stowmarket Traditional Music Day
Katie Howson has asked me to put a link to Stowmarket Traditional Music Day where Lynette and I are performing in September. http://www.eatmt.org.uk/tmd.htm
It’s Katie’s final one as she is handing over the reins. We are chuffed to be doing it. It’s on September 2nd but it sort of spills over sideways into being a weekend event.
Street Life Museum, Hull.
I had twenty minutes to do. I went for fishermen’s chorus songs for the most part. I had been reminding myself of Wife’s in Drydock from some time last night when it came to mind as one I might do. I ended up finishing with it and messed up the final verse so I had to bale myself out by chattering the meaning of the verse after I’d dried on it, then doing the final chorus half sung and half chatterboxed.
I’d started with O What a Windy Night, quickly followed by Windy Old Weather and then Thundering Sort of a Lie. All those were with fiddle, in the usual keys I do them in so it moved from G for Windy Night to D for Windy Old Weather, then to A for Thunnerin’ Lie. It got a good bit of momentum and people joined in well. Spare Hands had started off the event. I’d paid attention to check they didn’t do Mick’s rendition of the Elliot’s Herring’s Heads. They didn’t. That left me free to do our local version that Steve Gardham and I collected from Alan Gray at Aldborough in about 1970. There was some joining in on that one too. It tired my voice so I did a tune next – Stottlebink. I had plenty of voice then for The Wreck of the Brownlow and Walmo. I told the audience about that one and Thunnerin’ Lie coming from Jossy Pop and that Stottlebink was the name of Joss’s street in Flamborough as well as being the name of one of the newks of Flamborough Head. I played Billy Harrison’s Old Time Waltz too. That’s maybe the full list.
My bow felt comfortable. I’d rewrapped its grip last night. I used jewellers’ wire that Lynette had in her workbox and some scraps of leather from her store of bits too. It’s the first one I’ve ever done.
Folk in Hull, Hull Truck Theatre
I only had to do two songs. My bit was in the second half. I’d been asked to pick two songs suitable to fit where the narrative talked about song collecting so I did two that I collected locally, The Merry Cuckold and Mutton Pie. I did Lynette’s family version of Mutton Pie with the “Whack for the Diddlum” chorus. I did them both unaccompanied. They got a great response.
Zoë Bottomley got a great response for her song too. She sang The Recruited Collier. Dave Bottomley accompanied her on guitar.
It was mostly The Hillbilly Troupe’s show. There was a good mix of archive film and stills onto a big screen above the stage throughout all the performance. It was in the Studio theatre. The projection whilst The Hillbilly Troupe did their boisterous and rhythmic All for my Grog was terrific. It was some drummers playing whilst loose limbed young men in demob-suit-type outfits danced with their girlfriends in some sort of a pub setting, maybe from the 40s or early 50s.
Sammy Lloyd’s Cold Coast of Iceland and Dave Hoy’s Weary Whaling Grounds were highlights too. A young chap sang an American version of The Wife of Usher’s Well and Keep it Cash did Folsom Prison Blues. Bill Sowerby was there, playing with Spare Hands. There were other familiar faces both onstage and off.
Raymond Greenoaken reviews Songs and Fiddle Tunes
I received an email yesterday with Raymond Greenoaken’s review for Stirrings Magazine. After referring to me as “the go-to guy for the nuts and bolts of folk music”, it reviews the content of the album in full. Here’s a link: stirrings-review-pdf
The review copy was submitted to Stirrings before Veteran Mail Order took on my CD distribution. If Raymond’s review tempts you to buy, you can use the Veteran link at the top of this page.
Review in Lancashire Wakes
A review for Songs and Fiddle Tunes album in Lancashire Wakes magazine by Pete Bearon arrived through the post today. It’s the first of the reviews to bite the bullet and warn listeners new to my stuff that they may find it “a bit difficult to appreciate”. Anyone visiting here in search of the album, the magazine, whilst giving accurate contact links, has lost the album title somewhere between the reviewer and the printer. The album Pete suggests you approach with caution is Jim Eldon: Songs and Fiddle Tunes.
Another positive review for Songs and Fiddle Tunes
Bob Bolton has sent Lynette a copy of another positive magazine review for the Songs and Fiddle Tunes album. I’ve forgotten which magazine it’s from – Living Tradition maybe. Anyway, it’s reviewed by Dave Beeby and it talks of the album as “a well-crafted piece of work” and finishes off, “Thanks for sharing it, and more please!”
There is more, in the sense that the re-issue of Golden Arrows is now done and I have copies of that for sale from home.
Golden Arrows re-issue
The Golden Arrows album that Phil Snell remastered for CD is off to the printers today. He did the job a year or so ago but we’ve worked together on a redesign of the cover. It’ll soon be available again.
It’s an album of original Jim Eldon songs from 1991 performed by Jim on vocals and fiddle and with melodeon, piano and harmonium accompaniment from Mike Hirst.
Goathland Plough Stots Plough Monday/Saturday
Yesterday was the Goathland village dance day for the plough stots. There were four teams of plough stots out. I was musician for the ladies team tour. After the parade from the hall to the green and the massed dance with all four teams and all the musicians, we went off to do our allocated part of the village. It was the road just off to our right from the green and up one side and down the other. Keith Jackson was our door knocker and collection box man and there was another chap – Ian, I think – keeping us on the right route. I think it was his house where we were given soup and snacks and mulled wine later on. There was just me on fiddle, Wendy on her small melodeon and Helen on whistle, then, later, Sally Atkinson on fiddle too. The ladies did loads of dances in quick succession at the start. I did the Christmas Ploughboy song at the two houses that brought out drinks. It was freezing but I had double layers of thermals plus shirt, jumper and coat under my Goathland tunic so I didn’t feel cold at all. Down at Beck Hole after we’d completed our tour, I played with Moss in the pub. Dave Hunt and Maggie were there too and Dave played along with me on a bunch of singalongs. Bob, the banner man, sang Bog Down in the Valley-O. Moss had been the sole musician for the team that went up to Green End. Jack and his team did an indoor dance with hardly any space. It was a highlight. The final dance through all the figures with all the teams went well. Now it was with all the musicians who’d been on the other tours – Steve Peirson on melodeon, Martin Peirson on banjo, Mike (Mel’s husband) on melodeon, Sally on fiddle, me and Mossy on fiddles, Andy (Sally’s husband) on melodeon maybe one or two others I’ve forgotten. Jeff fell during one dance but was OK.
At the feast in the evening Steve was given a gold watch for long service. Callum sang his Beck Hole Hunt song and John Peel. Keith Thompson sang God Speed the Plough. When Keith Jackson and Callum called on me for a song, I sang I Was In It.
Goathland Plough Blessing
I went up with Steve Peirson to Goathland this morning for the plough blessing at the church. The Jacksons were there dancing – Keith, Callum and Callum’s brother. John Atkinson danced and the two Daves and Daniel. Steve, Mossy and I were the musicians. Bob was there carrying the banner and Keith Thompson was escorting as raggyman.
We marched the plough into the church to the organist and congregation’s We Plough the Fields and Scatter. Raggyman Keith was spokesman for the plough stots in the service. At the end of the service, we were called up to the front of the church to do the dance. I was pleased to be asked to sing the Christmas Ploughboy song as I have been for the past three or four years. Young Mossy joined me on the accompaniment to the song. Straight after the song, the musicians strike up for the dance. It was only as we played the last note of the song that John said to me, “Number Three.” That’s Cock of the North. I’d been expecting Number One, The Keel Row, and had just the time of the two ‘lift’ chords to adjust my thinking. Steve struck up confidently with the tune anyway so we were O.K. Mossy and I had to shuffle along the front of the choir stalls as we played to get from in front of the dancers to behind them. The dance went well with a few smiles as they worked it out between them.
Boxing Day at Flamborough
There were eight of us sawmilling – me on fiddle, Lynette on tambourine, Simon on guitar, Bernie on mandolin, Andy on tea-chest bass, Dig on washboard and mouth organ, Frank on triangle and Christine on shaker bells. We joined the sword dance musicians Steve (melodeon), Sue (whistle), Martin (banjo) and young Mossy (fiddle) to play for the Bempton dancing. There was a terrific turn-out of villagers to watch. The dancers went off to village and we stayed to sawmill the pub. We sang Buckets of Rain first then played Davey Nick-Nack and Herbert Smith’s 4-Hand Reel. We did loads of stuff – Acre of Land, Windy Old Weather, Napoleon Crossing the Alps Waltz, Be Bop A-Lula, Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie – I think we did Good King Wenceslas in there and we did Jingle Bells at some point because that was when Lynette gave Chris the bell shaker and she joined in playing. I know we finished of with Haircuts because the youngsters were in and they like it. They were off to a party at the Sedmans so I was glad we played it for them before they moved on. We moved on to Flamborough to catch up with the dancers at Rose and Crown. By the time we got there, they’d already done the dance. We went in to Rose and Crown and had another great sawmill in there. We moved between the two sections of the bar so we could do a full version of Heave Away the Trawl Warp. We did a good Should I Stay or Should I Go. We went on longer than I realised because we missed the next dancing too – that was at Seabirds but we went straight on to Victoria Club to meet up with the dancers there. The dancers came in to club at same time as us. It was packed. We went up near the snooker tables and struck up. It was noisy but Andy did a big voice announcement of The Sawmill Sidewinders to good effect. After we’d sung and played a few, Diggy said we needed one to get everyone going – a good boisterous one. We suggested a couple but he knew what he was after if he could just think of it and then remembered it was La Bamba ( which Andy always couples with Twist and Shout) that he was after. It was a stroke of brilliance. The whole place got involved. We did Great Uncle Sep’s reel at some point. I forget what else. Richard Traves announced it was time for the Sword Dance and we went outside and played for the dance. It was great with both teams, seniors and juniors, dancing. I sang the Codfish for a family from Sheffield out on the street outside club. I told them I learnt it off a Sheffield man called Harold Holmes on boat at Bridlington years ago. We made our way round to Dog and Duck Square ready for the 3 o’clock final dance session. We played and sang in the street before the dancing. We did Grace Darling and O What a Windy Night and some others. We all played again for both sword dance teams with Sue leading the tune changes. Richard called me up to give a name-check of all the musicians. Lynette had to remind me I’d missed out Bernie and Simon. I went back on mike to put that right. The dancing was good again and they made a fuss of the juniors for their win at Goathland. They presented them with their cup and they then danced a show dance on their own. We had yet another good sawmill session in The Ship. Col was in and got me to sing I Was in it. Chris and I sang Goodnight Irene. There was a terrific rendition of Goathland Square Eight with just fiddle, tambourine, washboard and triangle. We did Twelve Days of Christmas in there too and loads of the fishing songs and Acre of Land. We did Grey Cortina somewhere. It’s a bit of a haze now but it was a top day. We called in on Alec with his mince pies on our way home and sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas when he came to the door.
St. Stephen’s Centre
Here’s the set list for the St. Stephen’s Centre gig we did last night:
Christmas Ploughboy/Tom Dickinson’s Jig; Eazum Teasum; The Seven Joys of Mary; O Little Town of Bethlehem (Just instrumental with the two fiddles); Acre of Land; Stop the Cavalry (Instr); While Shepherds (Played and sung in parts to the Millington octave drop tune); Goathland Square Eight; Good King Wenceslas; Dog Whipping Day; For Unto Us a Child is Born (The Millington St. Matthew Carol); Cuddle In, Cuddle In; The Twelve Days of Christmas (With the 18th century run-down order I found last week); Spin the Tortoise; Father Had a Knife.
It was a Two Straylarkers gig. The stage was set up at the entrance to the St. Stephen’s Shopping Centre in Hull city centre. It turned out the stage was promoting Tribfest. Ed, the guy putting us on, is the man behind Tribfest. We were a contrast to the other things that had been on. We did everything we’d planned. It was a 45 minute set. We’ll have to see if we get a Two Straylarkers gig at Tribfest next year. Ed volunteered the idea of passing our details on to the man who organises the acoustic stage so you never know.
Final 2 Beamishes for this year
We finished this year’s Beamish Christmas Fairs yesterday and the day before. Last night, at the end of the evening, we went into the pub for our final session and did three or four songs we hadn’t performed on the other five days. We started off with Father Had a Knife. Paul and Ian, the Rantanners, came in too and joined in when I did Freddy Archer. I gestured towards the picture of Freddy Archer behind the bar as I sang. We did more or less song-and-song-about with them. I sang Please Let Me Sleep on Your Doorstep Tonight, Acre of Land and Good Luck to the Barley Corn. They did a Wassail song that we joined in on on choruses and similar with First Tree in the Greenwood and a couple of others. When I did The Christmas Ploughboy song, the Rantanners joined in a bit, having picked it up from me during our time at Beamish.
On the drive up on Thursday, I had got Lee to find a reliable early source for the order of the run-down in Twelve Days of Christmas. He found a scan of an eighteenth century broadsheet on line. The top of the run-down is 12 lords a-leaping, 11 ladies dancing, 10 pipers piping, 9 drummers drumming …. then the rest as expected. I got that learnt as we drove. At the event, I sang it along with the harmonium lady and found she sang a different order. I left it to her to sing her order on the higher numbers.
I went and played for the Cherry Burton carollers last night. We had a quick run through of eight or nine carols in the church before setting off to an old folks home. There was Tom, the Beverley Garland concertina man, the vicar, Richard, on guitar, me on fiddle and about ten singers, including Judy Peirson. We did the standard tunes on everything – While Shepherds, O Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Hark the Herald Angels, We Three Kings, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Good King Wenceslas and a quick burst of Jingle Bells. We did four or five with the old folks – quite a few sang along – then went off and did bits in the street and at three or four houses then finished at the pub.
2nd pair of Beamish Fairs
The second two Beamishes had different highlights from each other. The Thursday was a real hit for the peg dolls. We did all the other things too – the Millington carols and such – but it was the response of people to the peg dolls that gave us many of our best moments. On Friday, it was an hour and a half session with Gerald, my fiddle puppet, and Donald, my jig-doll, that stole the day. Before that, we had done an hour and a half, split between singing carols on the street and doing the peg dolls in the dentist’s parlour. I had made myself a stand for fixing the end of my line for the peg dolls and I used a cycle trouser clip to fix the line to my ankle. It was quicker for setting up. We did masses of other stuff too. For the long session with Donald and Gerald, Corona operated Donald and I did Gerald. We gave ourselves a minute or two rest between each flurry of performance. Every time we restarted, we drew a crowd. Loads of people filmed us and lots asked us about how the puppets work and so on.
Later on, we found time to get Paul of the Rantanners to film us singing and playing Freddy Archer in the pub. During the final hour, we spent a fair bit of the time playing and singing carols in the tram stop shelter area with the couple who play concertina and harmonium.
There is a Beamish Youtube from the first week up now. It starts with the brassband, then it’s us, with me doing Gerald. Here’s a link to it. Click here.
Beamish Christmas Fairs
We did the first two days of the Beamish fairs on Thursday and Friday. We did the Millington carols, While Shepherds and For Unto Us as I learnt the tunes and their harmony lines from Billy Harrison of Millington thirty years ago when Billy was in his eighties. It’s great to perform them with Corona playing the seconds and singing the responses. The Seven Joys of Mary was new to our repertoire this year. Jessica Davies gave me Christmas Carols New and Old (Novello) when we were across at Nantwich last New Year. That’s where I learnt Seven Joys. I have an inkling that I sang it at school as a boy. Corona plays seconds that I adapted from the piano score. I’ve got all the verses for Good King Wenceslas in my head now, after years of stumbling after the first two verses.
The peg dolls were a total hit this year. When we’re playing in the dentist’s parlour, we sat with the dolls rigged to hitching points about four feet away from our feet. Corona has his piece of line fixed to a big peg stuck in his sock. Mine was tied to a piece of firewood I stuck in the side of my shoe. The people coming past the door get captivated by the sight of the little dancers apparently dancing of their own accord.
Stop the Cavalry went well with a new, fuller arrangement we’ve worked up for it this year. The new counter-melody for Cuddle In worked great. (That’s written out on the Songs and Tunes page if you want to have a look at it). We performed everything several times, moving between the dentist’s parlour, the street outside the hardware shop, the shelter at the tram stop, the café (where we went all round the tables with Gerald, my fiddle puppet) and the bar of the pub. The job goes from 4.30 to 9.30 and we only took three or four breaks. We played dozens of songs and tunes, including Acre of Land with it’s ‘Christmas Day in the morning’ refrain line and the Christmas Ploughboy song. It’s a long time to play but good for direct feedback from the passers by.
Kim from Addison Clog was there playing for clog and rapper dancing. She asked me if I’d like to perform at Morpeth Gathering next year. Bill Elliot came and said hello. Mossy and family too.
I sang and played Freddy Archer at the Kardomah gig last night. It has come together in a pleasing way. I had the tune the way I learnt it from Billy Harrison as a fiddle tune and words from an East Riding singer that Steve Gardham recorded. Steve communicated them via an enquiry Corona Smith made to the Mudcat forum. His singer sang the same tune as the first half of Billy’s tune. Also I had a verse I’d made up after last years phenomenal Ascot rides by Ryan Moore. I sing that to the second half of Billy’s tune. It comes together like this:
Freddy Archer’s fame lives on;
All the races that he won,
There was no one could say they were his master;
From York to Epsom Downs
He rode those great renowns
That bold and fearless rider Freddy Archer.
For a hundred years and more
Jockeys tried to match the score
That was set upon the heath in Ascot, Berkshire;
Ryan Moore he did so fine
When he rode his glorious nine
But the record twelve still stands with Freddy Archer.
I sing it unaccompanied, then go into it as a tune on fiddle. I’ve been practising it with Corona too in that same form, with the addition of Corona’s strummed pizzicato fiddle chords. There’s a picture of Freddy Archer on the wall in the pub at Beamish where we’ll be performing it next week.
Songs and Fiddle Tunes Reviews
The new issue of EDS magazine arrived this morning. It has a review of my new Songs and Fiddle Tunes album. Chris Metherill wrote the review. He says that the energy in my playing of Goathland Square Eight has him wanting to get up and dance. I know Chris Metherill is a dancer so that’ll do for me.
Yesterday Martin Peirson told me there’s a review in R2 magazine (Rock’n’Reel). Oz Hardwick’s review includes this, “Eldon sings and plays fiddle on a selection of traditional songs and tunes, along with a few of his own compositions. In doing so, he doesn’t mess about, wisely trusting the hand-me-down tradition of which he is a living part to work its old magic.”
Another review, Dave Kidman’s, in Fatea Magazine came on line last week. You can click here to read the Fatea review.
Flamborough Sword Dancers
I’ve just got in from playing for both the Flamborough Sword Dance teams – seniors and juniors – at Burton Agnes Michaelmas Fair. It’s called Michaelmas Fair although Michaelmas was really a month ago. Steve Peirson was playing melodeon, Martin Peirson banjo and Sue Storey whistle. I was on fiddle. The Flamborough teacher lady was on tambourine. The juniors were fresh from their win at the Sword Dance Union meeting. They danced first. They were ace. The senior team were ace too with Richard Traves and a chap who’d just turned up to support doing a great job filling in for two dancers who couldn’t make it because of family commitments. Tim Moon, the biscuit-tin-fiddle chap was there playing for another team. I gave him a copy of Songs and Fiddle Tunes as he told me he’d been playing some stuff of mine on his Bradford based radio show.
Two Straylarkers at Beverley
Corona Smith and I took the puppets out busking in Beverley. We’ve started practising ready for the Beamish jobs in December so we decided to do some in-public practising next to the Side of Beef sculpture on Butcher Gate. We did about four hours. We played several of the Pennock family tunes from Goathland – Goathland Square Eight, Officers’ Polka, The Brickmakers – and Tom Dickinson’s Jig – that’s sounding good now with the two fiddles. We played the original fiddle duets from the Two Straylarkers repertoire too. I got the Halloween puppets out just once to do Monster Mash. I sang Acre of Land. Apart from those two songs, it was all fiddling with Gerald, my fiddle puppet, and Corona’s peg dolls doing the dancing.
A busy day for music
The two gigs went well. I did twenty minutes at the Hull Maritime Museum event. I started with Old North Skelton Sword Tune on fiddle then straight into There’s a Puffin in My Pint unaccompanied. I did The Codfish accompanied with fiddle and Herbert Smith’s Four hand reel on fiddle too. The Gardhams were there with Eileen Sherburn. I did their family song Three Jolly Tugboatmen unaccompanied. It got a good reaction again. I finished off with Windy Old Weather. Oh, and I did Adieu to Old England too. Mick McGarry was there performing and as compère. Adieu to Old England includes a verse I learnt from his late father, Joe McGarry. I was pleased to sing it for Mick.
The evening gig was an 80th birthday for Alec Morriss’s friend John at Bridlington Rugby Club. I know John from the Albion at Brid. He’d asked Alec to get me and Diggy to do him a bit for his family party. Lynette was on the job too, clog dancing, singing on choruses and playing shaker and tambourine. We ended up playing for about two hours with just a short break for supper. Just before we started, Alec told me John’s missus is a Mainprize from Flamborough so, as soon as we’d kicked off with Happy Birthday and a couple of fiddle tunes, we went straight into Thunnerin’ Sort of a Lie which is one of the songs we learnt from Jossy Pop Mainprize. Dig was on washboard and sometimes mouthorgan and taking verses on his own from the off to give my voice a chance. We did a few fishermen’s songs, a few fiddle tunes, some skiffle songs – Putting on the Style and Jailhouse Rock and some singalong things. Lynette danced to Billy Harrisons Old Time Waltz and to one of the 4/4 tunes. In the first session we’d moved around the room to get everyone involved. There was a young lad who the family told us wanted Gangnam Style – it’s his favourite. We couldn’t get anyone to get us started on that so we did a sort of instrumental shuffle version of Grey Cortina and just kept breaking off to say, “Gangnam style” and wave our hands round a bit. It was good. After the supper break, we set ourselves up in the middle of the horseshoe of tables and sat down to play for the next hour or so. Diggy sang the lead on several songs and Alec was in good voice joining in from where he sat. There was a good bit of joining in from others of John’s family on Pull for the Shore. Lynette clog danced on a whiteboard we’d found at the back of the room. It survived. We finished with Goodnight Irene.
Anyway, welcome to the site. There are links to Veteran Mail Order above and on the Albums page and I’ve written out a couple of song lyrics on a Songs and Tunes page. There are now a couple of tunes from my Musescore files in that page too.