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Latest (August 25)
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.