Manny Aldous (Suffolk)


(photo: courtesy of Mrs Aldous)


        Manny is one of the few singers I have recorded who almost discovered himself. At least, a phone call from his daughter-in-law, who had heard of my folk-song collecting activities, put me on his trail and a meeting was arranged at her house in Needham Market.
        Maurice Sidney Aldous was born at Lower Farm, Offton in 1906 and after leaving school at 12 he had many jobs including working on farms, on the roads and in the local tannery, iron foundry and sugar beet factory, finally working in the kitchens at RAF Wattisham.
        Like many singers who had sung all their lives, Manny was a song collector himself. He told me, "When I was right young, when I used to go to Offton Limeburners, 'Hay' Plummer was there, he sang, The Sages from Somersham, they also had lots of songs and they played accordeons there. You used to get a lot of old boys and they used to sing one against the other. That's where I got a lot of my old songs."
        Another pub he visited frequently was Whatfield Horseshoes. "I used to sing in the Horseshoes. There was a man named Thorpe there then. Before the war that was. As soon as I got in the pub the old landlord would say "We'll have a song tonight. There's a pint as soon as you sing a song! The old stagers they used to really love those old songs. In fact in that time, them that couldn't sing in the old pub, they'd pass around a hat and they'd have to put something in. I never had to put anything in!"
        Manny told me that he had a list of song headings in a little red book which he used as a reminder. He had unfortunately mislaid it and I only had the chance to meet him three times before he died in 1988. I am pleased I was able to record some of Manny's songs so they will not be lost.  (John Howson)


Manny Aldous can be heard on: VTC2CDVTC3CD




































Norman Alford (Cumberland)


    (photo courtsey of David Hay)

(Norman Alford on the left)


        Born at Low Hesket, south of Carlisle, Norman and Robert Forrester were friends from boyhood and were apprentices together in an art studio in Carlisle before going to the local art school to study painting. Norman joined the army as an artillery officer during the Second World War and was wounded in Normandy. After the war he and Robert Forrester got together again, biking around the countryside, fishing, drawing and painting, and hunting out singers and songs in the many pubs they fetched up in. Gauging the right moment to take up their instruments, playing quietly at first, until the old men chose to join in: according to Forrester "Norman had a nose like a bloodhound. He would whisper to me "I think we'll be reet tonight." In the recordings he plays the tin whistle on a number of tracks. Tragically, Norman died of leukaemia in 1954 aged only 39. (Sue Allen)


Norman Alford can be heard on: VT142CD
















































Bert Allen (Suffolk)


 (photo: John Howson)

I met the singer Bert Allen in Wade House, a care home in Stowmarket, Mid-Suffolk. He was born in Thurston and grew up in Tostock, and sang in the Gardeners' Arms and the Woolpit Wheatsheaf where he stepdanced to local accordeon player Jack Balaam, who was known for playing hornpipes. Bert moved to Drinkstone when he was twenty three and worked at the windmill, where he said he used to sing all day.


Bert Allen can be heard on: VTDC8CD







































Clifford Arbon (Suffolk)


 (photo: John Howson)


      Clifford Arbon was born in 1908. I first heard of him when singer Tony Harvey rang to tell me of an old boy who had turned up at one of the regular Tuesday night music sessions at the Earl Soham Victoria. He'd sung a couple of comic songs and really impressed and amused everybody there. Tony had found out his name for me and off I went on his trail, to the remote village of Monewden. Clifford was in fact well known in the area, and not just for his singing and starring role in the film 'Akenfield', but because he was the local wheelwright for most of his life: an important job when most of the traffic on Suffolk lanes was horse-drawn. His workshop was still intact, complete with the tools he had used for many years, situated at the bottom of his cottage garden: the cottage he had lived in since he was two. As Clifford said, "I was born just the other side of this garden so I haven't moved far in my life, have I?"
        In his early days he was a keen melodeon player and played in many pubs in the area, including Ashfield Swan where he met up with the renowned Alf Peachey. "Cor! he could play. A champion."
        He learned several songs around the pubs in those days, and he also learned several for village concerts, which were an important feature of the village year. It was often the comic songs which appealed most at such events. (John Howson)


Clifford Arbon can be heard on: VTC3CD & VTDC11CD











































Andy Austin /Jimmy Gladwell's Band (Suffolk)


     (photos: courtsey of Andy Austin)

Andy Austin origanlly play melodeon but changed to piano accordion. He was born in Hessett in Mid-Suffolk in 1916 and moved to Tostock when he was about nine. His father, Frank Dore Austin, played both one-row and two-row melodeons and Andy followed in his father's footsteps. As a young man he would gather with his friends on the street corner and play. Later he played in Tostock Gardeners' Arms, Woolpit Swan and Woolpit White Elm and for four or five years he played regularly in Badwell Ash White Horse. When he started playing in dance bands he took up the piano accordion. He remembered they played the Veleta, the Barn Dance and the Boston Two Step and he was proud that he never played from written music. The earliest band was known as The Tostock Dance Orchestra, then The Harmony Brothers, then The Rhythm Stars, but the band he played with longest was Jimmy Gladwell's Band with whom he sometimes played three or four times a week.

Jimmy Gladwell's Band was based in Stowmarket, although their popularity meant they were asked to play in village halls all over Mid and East Suffolk including as far afield as Southwold and Halesworth. Jimmy Gladwell led the band on piano and the rest of the line-up was: Andy Austin (piano accordion), Russell Kellas (trumpet), Charlie Gladwell (saxophone) and Bob Levitt (drums).


Andy Austin and the Jimmy Gladwell Band can be heard on: VTDC8CD




































Ernest Austin (Essex)


(photo: courtesy of Topic Records)

In November 1973 when Ernest Austin was recorded by Tony Engle for Topic Records he was 83 years old. The recordings were made in his home at Great Bentley, half way between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, and were released the next year on the LP (12TS243) 'Flash Company'. The sleeve notes on this album tell us that he left school at 12 to work as a kitchen boy in a farmhouse, earning 3/6d in return for a 60-hour week and for most of his early life he worked on the land as a farm labourer until, with experience, he became an agricultural engineer, retiring at the age of 70. Some years later Phil Heath - Coleman visited Ernest in a retirement home at Greenstead, Colchester and Ernest told him how when he was young he and his friends would walk to Colchester to the Hippodrome and sometimes come home with printed songs they had bought. He also mentioned that he used to sing in the local pub (probably The Plough) until he was in his forties when his wife became ill.


Ernest Ausrtin can be heard on: VT135CD








































Reg Bacon (Essex)


(photo courtsey of Neil Lanham)

Reg was said to be about 68 when he was recorded in 1959, so he was born around 1890. The family originally lived at Redoaks Hill, Essex and his father Elijah played the fiddle. They then moved to Radwinter, near Saffron Waldon, Essex where Reg lived in Water Lane until his death.

He was always known as a true countryman who was very proud of his garden, offering vegetables to anyone who visited him. He sang in the Plough in Radwinter and was always a popular character there. His songs had come from many sources but those from the Music Hall probably came via gramophone records, and there are family memories of him playing records over and over again to learn the words and then going down to the pub to sing his new song to the gathered crowd. Apart from Sam Steele, other collectors also visited Reg,including Russell Wortley and Neil Lanham.


Reg Bacon can be heard on: VT150CD































'Sugar' Bailey (Essex)


(photo Miles Barrett)


Herbert Bailey was born in the hamlet of Shellow Bowells, near Chelmsford in December 1923. His nickname 'Sugar' comes from the Essex dialect pronunciation of his surname 'Old Barley (Bailey) Sugar'. He worked at the local farm until 1951, when his already poor sight failed totally. Sugar then took to factory work, travelling daily by public transport to Barking, and then working in Ongar until retiring in 1991. Although blind he was a good darts player, played dominoes and was the captain of his local pub's crib team. After matches he would be persuaded to sing from his repertoire of over 150 songs. These ranged widely from old songs learnt from his grandfather and father, to music hall to country and western. A number of these songs, including the two on this CD, were recorded at The Compasses in Littley Green in 1989 and released on a private label cassette called ‘Who’s Going to Hold My Horse?’


'Sugar' Bailey can be heard on: VT135CD






































Bampton Traditional Morris Dances (Oxfordshire)

  (photo: John Howson)


        Bampton Morris Dancers are one of the few sides who have an unbroken tradition of dancing, which they can trace back for hundreds of years. Members of the team still have to live in the village to be able to dance. When this recording was made the squire of the morris was Francis Shergold who had taken over after the death of their renowned fiddle player ‘Jinky’ Wells. Francis has now retired himself and has been made the honorary president of the team. The present squire is Tony Daniels who comes from another family of dancers within the village. The musician on the recording is in fact Francis' nephew, Jamie Wheeler. (John Howson)


Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers can be heard on: VTC1CD & VTC4CD

and archive recordings of Bampton Morris can be heard on TSCD66 & TSCD657


































Cyril Barber (Suffolk)


  (photo: John Howson)


        Cyril was born into a large family in 1922 and his three brothers Sonny, Rip and Royal all played, danced and sang. The eldest brother, Sonny, was first to have an accordeon. As Cyril said, "When he was out of the way we'd all steal a tune on his music." Many of Cyril's songs he grew up with, as both his mother and father sang. The family home was Wingfield and it was around that area he first started to sing, play and stepdance. He told me, "Yes there was a lot of singing in the pubs around Wingfield. There was one old man who lived to be a hundred and he used to sing about 'shot and shell flying across the battle field' from the 1914 war. The folk used to sit there and tears came into their eyes."
        He would often keep company with the Whiting family, "Old Charlie Whiting, he could dance and sing a song!" and favourite pubs in those days would have been the Hoxne Swan and the Ivy House at Stradbroke.
        Cyril worked mainly on the land and he moved around quite a lot to find farm work, including a period in Cambridgeshire. In the sixties he moved to Felsham and worked for the council before retirement. In these later years he had almost stopped playing and singing: "Nobody wanted to hear those old songs any more" he told me. I'm pleased to say that many people are still interested in the old music and Cyril is always pleased to oblige with a tune, a step or a song.  (John Howson)


Cyril Barber can be heard on: VTC2CD VTC3CD VT130CD OH1CD & VTC10CD VTDC11CD 
































Sonny Barber (Norfolk /Suffolk)


  (photo: John Howson)


        Sonny was born in 1908 in Wingfield, Suffolk but moved to Briningham, Norfolk in 1950. He was the oldest brother of Cyril Barber who is also featured in this collection. His was a musical family with mouthorgans and melodeons being the chosen instruments and their father had a host of old songs, some of which Sonny learned. Apart from picking up tunes from other musicians he met in local pubs, he also had an old gramophone and learned jigs and hornpipes from 78 rpm records. When he moved to Norfolk he soon met up with other local melodeon players like Pat Chesney and Billy Smith as well as stepdancer Dick Hewitt from Melton Constable. He said the The Hastings Arms in Melton Constable was a regular haunt for music and stepdancing until they put in a juke box.


Sonny Barber can be heard on: VTDC11CD 


































Mark Bazeley (Devon)


(Mark with Bob Cann - photo:John Howson)   


(photo: Maggie Hunt)


        Mark Bazley is the grandson of the one of England's greatest melodeon players, Bob Cann. He grew up with his grandfather love of their native Dartmoor in Devon and with his encouragement to the play the concertina and melodeon and Mark became the fifth generation of family players. In 1988 when Mark was just 15 he recorded many tunes with Bob which can be heard on VT138CD.

        Apart from a large family repertoire Mark has continued to learn new tunes and in recent years has teamed up with accordion player Jason Rice, himself the grandson of another Dartmoor legend Jack Rice. They along with banjo player Rob Murch now lead the Dartmoor Pixie Band who play village halls all over their region. And increasingly the three 'lads' venture to venues all over the country gaining them a well deserved national reputation for their own traditional music led by Mark's powerful melodeon playing. (John Howson)


Mark Bazeley can be heard on: VTC1CD VTC4CD VT138CD VT139CD VT144CD  VT146CD & CDMM001

















































Billy Bennington (Norfolk)


 (photo: John Howson)


        Born in Norfolk in 1900, Billy spent most of his life as a gardener. His father kept the King's Head public house at Barford and it was he who gave Billy his first dulcimer. In 1912 he went to Hingham show and Billy Cooper was playing dulcimer there. Cooper's father was the bandmaster of the Hingham and Watton band, and Billy Bennington took lessons from him. 'Old Cooper's' rigid discipline made Billy practise hard.
        After the First World War, Billy Bennington teamed up with Billy Cooper and they played in Barford King's Head. It was there they joined up with fiddle player Walter Bulmer. On Saturday nights they would play in village pubs all over Norfolk, travelling around on a motorbike combination which had a basket on the front, where they would carry the two dulcimers and the fiddle. Later, Billy played with a banjo player and he busked at Great Yarmouth, which he described as "the best paid game going!" After the war he entered a national talent competition and reached the eastern region final. Unfortunately, he caught a hammer on a bridge and it landed in a judge's lap, thus preventing him winning! (John Howson)


Billy Bennington can be heard on::

 VTDC12CD (6 tracks on CD & 9 on DVD) 

 VT152CD (24 tracks)

























































Bob Blake (Sussex)


   (photo: Mike Yates)


        Bob was born in Tooting, south London, in 1908. Holiday visits to an uncle in Gloucestershire soon made Bob realise that he preferred the countryside to the city and he moved to the area around Horsham in Sussex when he was nineteen. He began working as a coach trimmer in a garage before he was able to work as a farm labourer and a gardener. Later he became a bee-keeper, with hives in Sussex and the New Forest.
        During the 1930's Bob began to spent his holidays cycling throughout southern England, picking up songs and tunes - he also played the fiddle - whenever he could. A quiet, thoughtful man, he sang mainly for his own pleasure (and, no doubt, for the pleasure of his bees!) although he did sometimes visit local folk clubs in company with Bob Copper, Bob Lewis and other Sussex singers. (Mike Yates)


Bob Blake can be heard on: VTC4CD & MTCD311-2
























































David Blick (Gloucestershire)


        The Roy Palmer book 'What a Lovely War' (Michael Joseph 1990) aimed to show the songs that were actually sung in the forces during war time and he collected songs from ex-service men and women to include in the book. David Blick was one of his sources. He lived in Newent, Gloucestershire and served in the REME in Germany in the late 1950s. (John Howson)


Bob Blake can be heard on: VTC1CD

























































George Bregenzer (London)

      George came from a Shoreditch family. He learned a number of songs before 1939 from a friend who was a T.A. member of the Royal Engineers. So, curiously, George took them into the army with him when he was called up. A tape he sent me (now in the British Library National Sound Archive) contains The Codfish, Hurrah for the CRE, a couple of fragments: A Soldier and a Sailor and I'm the Ghost of John James Christopher Bing plus two songs George learned in the 1920s, Maidstone Football Song and Vote, Vote, Vote. (Roy Palmer)


George Bregenzer can be heard on: VTC6CD
























































Brian & Darren Breslin  (Fermanagh)




Brian Breslin was born in 1931 and his grandson Darren Breslin was born in 1985 and they live in Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, where Darren was born. Brian was born in Rosslea, and his father always had a fiddle in the house. His first influence was the renowned piper Sean McAloon who wrote out some notes for him. In the late 1950s Brian played with the Pride of Erin Ceili Band, then after a break he got back into playing, mainly at pub sessions. The fiddle he plays now was made locally for him by an old fiddle maker called John Gunn from Derrylin.Darren has been playing tin whistle and then the button accordion since he was eight. Apart from his grandfather, who was probably his strongest influence, he also greatly admired two local players Sean Nugent from Fermanagh and Sean McCusker from Tyrone. Darren comes from a large musical family and his father Tommy would play tunes with him every evening. Darren has won many provincial fleadh medals and in 2008 he won the Senior All-Ireland button accordion competition. He can also be heard on his solo CD 'All Ireland Champion'.


Brian & Darren can be heard on: VTC10CD 





























































Charlie Bridger (Kent)


(photo courtsey of Andy Turner)


        I was taken to meet Charlie in Kent by Andy Turner, a good singer in his own right. We recorded a number of songs from Charlie, including 'The Birds Upon the Tree', 'Little By Little', 'The Folkestone Murder' and 'The Zulu Wars'. Charlie had worked for most of his life in a near-by stone-quarry and had picked up his songs from his parents and work mates. (Mike Yates)


Charlie Bridger can be heard on: VTC4CD  VTC6CD


































Jumbo Brightwell (Suffolk)


  (photo: Mike Yates)


         William ‘Jumbo’ Brightwell was one of Velvet’s eleven children, born in 1900 in Little Glemham. It was there he met an old sailor called Jumbo Poacher from whom he got his nickname. After the war in 1919 he returned to Leiston where he worked as a bricklayer’s labourer and then eventually started at Garrett’s and served twenty years as a shunter before retirement. He rarely missed a Saturday night in the 'Foot', where he would go with his father and brother, Bob. He learned his songs from local and visiting singers as well as, of course, from his father Velvet, although he told Keith Summers that 'The False Hearted Knight' came from his mother. E J Moeran seemed to think that Jumbo was not allowed to sing ‘out’ until he was fifty, but local thinking is that this was a wind-up and many remember him singing as a young man in the pub. He was also a champion quoits player and he would hear songs when playing at other pubs in the area. There is some confusion about the 1939 recordings as the BBC credited 'Pleasant and Delightful' and 'The Indian Lass' as being sung by him while it is clear that it is actually Velvet singing. Also, Jumbo does not appear on any of the 1939/40 photographs. Jumbo had a vast repertoire of songs and his wife Cathy (whom he married late in life) talked about a large book of songs of which he knew every one. He was visited and recorded by several collectors over the years, including Peter Kennedy in the 1950s, Neil Lanham in the 1960s, and Keith Summers and Tony Engle (Topic Records) in the 1970s. (John Howson)


Jumbo Brightwell can be heard on: VT140CD  VT154CD TSCD652   TSCD653  TSCD660  TSCD662  TSCD664   TSCD670  &  RCD1741









































Emma Briggs (Suffolk)


 (photo: John Howson)

When writing about Gordon Syrett in Mendlesham Green I mentioned the name Ted Thorpe and I met his daughter Emma Briggs in Thwaite. She learned to play melodeon by borrowing her father's when he was out, but it was her mother, Betsy Cooper from Battisford, who taught Emma the songs she sang, although they only ever sang at home. Emma's husband Harry Briggs also played mouthorgan and melodeon in several local pubs including another lively pub, the Thwaite Buck's Head.

Emma Briggs can be heard on: VTDC8CD
































Velvet Brightwell (Suffolk)


(photo courtsey of Keith Summers)


         William ‘Velvet’ Brightwell was born 1865 in Little Glemham, he went to sea for a year or two in his early days but moved the family to Carrs Cottages then Archway Cottage, Leiston, in 1916 and worked as a plate-layer on the railway. He was a well educated man compared to his colleagues and could read and write very well, soon becoming foreman. He told Peter Kennedy that he had done forty-eight years and ten months ‘on the line’. He got his nickname of Velvet because of the velvet waistcoat and suit he favoured. He was a member of the ‘Royal Order of the Buffaloes’ and it was at their meetings that he enjoyed singing. He had a large repertoire of songs, was a regular at the Eel’s Foot, and at the centre of the 1930s recordings. Apart from these BBC recordings, the only others seem to be those he made at the age of 91 by Peter Kennedy in 1956 when he sang "Scarboro", "The Faithful Plough", "The Foggy Dew" and (learned from his father Robert), "The Loss of the Ramillies". Velvet died at the age of 95 in 1960. (John Howson)


Velvet Brightwell can be heard on: VT140CD



































Tom Brodie (Cumberland)


(photo courtesy David Hay)


        Tom "Copper" Brodie, born at Cargo, near Carlisle, in 1906, sang 'The Birds Upon the Trees'. He was a fisherman and later a water bailiff on the rivers around Carlisle, until his retirement in the late 1960s. He learned from one Jack Hind of Rockliffe, another great fisherman. (Sue Allen)


Top Brodie can be heard on: VT142CD





































Percy Brown (Norfolk)


  (photo: Dave Arthur)


        Percy, a one-time woodman, chimney sweep and level-crossing keeper, had a large repertoire of song tunes, stepdances, polkas and other dance tunes and hymns. It was a hymn 'Here we suffer grief and pain', which Percy first learned to play as a small boy alongside his mother on an old single-row, four stop 'music', which he later discarded for his two-row Hohner melodeons. Percy always said that he liked 'to find the corners of a tune'. In common with the vast majority of traditional musicians, he learned all his music by ear and felt that written music 'flattened out the tune'. (Dave Arthur)


Percy Brown can be heard on: VTC5CD  VT150CD VTDC11CD TSCD659 & TSCD664






































Alec Bloomfield (Suffolk)


(photo courtsey of Keith Summers)

        Alec was a tall man who worked as a gamekeeper. He lived in Westleton, then Benhall and then moved away to Nottingham. He became a favourite singer at the 'Eel's Foot' at Eastbridge, and a story that is still in circulation recalls the night when some ‘boys’ from Leiston were in the pub and landlady Mrs Morling couldn’t get them to leave. Alec was outside and she explained the problem. He went in, rolled up his sleeves and said, “Now who’s going to leave by the door and who’s going to leave by the window!” He was also recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1950 when he sang 'The Old Couple in the Wood', 'Stand You Up', 'The Old Mole Catcher', 'Burlington Fair', 'The Poor Little Soldier’s Boy', 'Bold General Wolfe', 'The Highwayman Outwitted', and 'The Ship that never Returned', Kennedy also recorded him for the BBC at Benhall in 1952, when he sang 'The Foggy Dew', 'The Cunning Cobbler', 'The Wild Rover', 'Young George Oxbury' (which came from his father, George). (John Howson)


Alec Bloomfield can be heard on:  VT140CD & VT154CD
































Charlie Buller (Norfolk)


  (photo: John Howson)


        Charlie was born and lived all his life in Erpingham, Norfolk. Growing up in the heart of a melodeon playing area he reckoned every village would have someone who could play one and he could rattle off a list of local players: Ernie Barstead, Percy Davidson, George Sandle, one called Wickmere and one called Scarfe. Then there was the highly regarded players like Albert Hewitt and Percy Brown. Charlie and his brother-in-law played together and they bought matching melodeons to take around the local pubs. He also travelled out on a Saturday night with an old singer called Billy Cook who would sing in every pub they visted, like Trimingham Crown & Anchor, Mundesley Ship and Bacton Duke of York. Other outings ended in Cromer where he would play for the fishemen to stepdance and he reckoned Dick Davies was the best. In village halls in his locality he would also play for the Long Dance and other old dances like the Veleta, ‘The Boston Two-Step’ and the old Schottische.

Sonny Barber can be heard on: VTDC11CD 










































Walter & Daisy Bulwer (Norfolk)


(photo courtesy of  Reg Hall)


        Walter Bulwer was born in 1888 in Shipdham, Norfolk and following an apprenticeship he worked as a self-employed tailor. He also cut hair and was well known for his taxidermy! His father played the fiddle and Walter was taught to read music at the age of four and played violin, viola, cello, piccolo, clarinet, tin whistle, trombone, mandolin and drums.

        He became heavily involved in the musical life of Shipdham and was a member of various bands. He also played in all the pubs in the village, sometimes with another fiddler called Brown. From an early age Walterpreferred to play by ear and enjoyed improvising and playing second parts.

        He liked to have piano accompaniment and when he met and married Daisy Hart, who was from the neighbouring village of Bradenham, she accompanied him on the piano. Over a period of forty years they played for hundreds of weddings in their locality. In later years they mainly played at home and it was there that Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall took Bill Leader to record them in the 1960s. Those and other earlier recordings made by Mervyn Plunkett and Paul Carter can now be heard on TSCD607 ‘English Country Music’ and VT150CD 'Heel & Toe'





































Edgar Button (Suffolk)


(photo courtesy of  Keith Summers)

        Edgar came from Middleton and then lived in Theberton and was a regular at the 'Eel’s Foot', Eastbridge. He was a strong singer and was recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1956 when he sang 'Blow the Candle Out', 'The Oak and the Ash', 'The Larks they sang Melodious' and 'The Foggy Dew'. That visit led to Edgar being invited to sing in London, taking the place of Jumbo Brightwell who would not go as he thought that he would be made fun of. Neil Lanham also recorded Edgar when he sang 'Ramble Away', 'Female Cabin Boy' and 'Swinging in the Lane'.  (John Howson)


Edgar Button can be heard on: VT140CD


































Jack 'Dot' Button (Suffolk)


  (photo courtesy of Wilf Goddard)

        Lenny Button said that his father could play for hours and knew hundreds of songs. In early life Jack worked in insurance and then as a gardener at Lower Abbey Farm, near Leiston. He had a damaged leg, giving him a limp which accounts for his nickname. One of his daughters was recorded by Keith Summers under her married name of Aline Stollery (Topic 12TS375) and her son Eric recalled that Jack used to wear long leather buskins and ride a high old bike with his walking stick tied to the cross bar with a pair of boot laces and his accordeon on the back. He died in1955 aged 83. (John Howson)


Jack Button can be heard on: VT140CD





































Packie Byrne


  (photo: Brian Shuel)  


(photo: Doc Rowe)


        Packie Manus Byrne was born on 17th February, 1917, on a farm in Cockermore near Ardara, County Donegal. “Aye”, says Packie, “I was born in the heart’s blood of the mountain, seven miles from the nearest village or town.” He was the youngest of four children.... “We’d to walk four miles over the mountain to get to school, and my feet didn’t see a pair of shoes till I was nine!” The farm was one of few in a small community of Gaelic-speaking tenant farmers on land ravaged by brutal winters. “If they’d squeezed the water out of our land we’d have but ten acres out of thirty.”

        Music was the main form of entertainment wherever people gathered together. “Well, there was little else to do to keep you out of trouble. I remember going away over to my sister’s farm to see the cattle. I took Charlie Waters with me expecting to be but an hour or two. We were holed up for four days in a deserted house 'till I had every damn song he ever knew, and vice versa!”
        Packie’s life was filled with the songs and stories of those around him. His mother was a fine singer, as was Gran-Uncle Pat and Gran-Aunt ‘Big’ Bridget Sweeny. Every household had a musician in those days and there’d be a sooty, blackened fiddle hanging on the flag across the wall over the hearth. Packie’s father, Con Byrne was a matchmaker and would often be called across the mountains to discuss the merits of a suitable woman over a drink. “He was bred into compulsive talking and could always persuade any listener of the virtues of a particular wife: ‘That woman’d take music out of a fresh loaf!’ he’d say.” He was himself a fine singer though he preferred comedy songs and supplied plenty of comic material for Packie’s stories. He gave Packie many songs, amongst them a marathon with twenty four verses to it that Packie had once sung as slowly as he could while his dad was waiting to get away to a Poteen gathering, until he leapt up saying, “That’s not a song, that’s a bloody endurance test!” (John Howson)


Packie Byrne can be heard on: VT132CD TSCD653 TSCD656 & TSCD667








































The Cantwell Family (Oxfordshire)


The Oxfordshire family the Cantwells came from the village of Standlake and were well known locally for their singing. Raymond and Frederick Cantwell were recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1956 when Frederick was 73 years old and a recording of them can be heard on RCD1778 ‘Songs of Seduction’. The next generation, John and Aurbrey Cantwell, have continued the family tradition and Gwilym Davies recorded John in the 1970s. (John Howson)

The Cantwell Family can be heard on: VTC7CD







































Chagford Merrymakers (Devon)

  (photo courtesy of Ruth Askew)


(photo courtesy of Ruth Askew)


        Chagford is a small Devon  town on the edge of Dartmoor. Each year, in common with many other rural towns around the country,  they had a carnival. Originally known as a Jazz Band, the carnival was the reason  for the creation of the Merrymakers after the second world war. Peter Kennedy recorded them in the 1950s. Two of the key player were Jack and Les Rice, playing along side other local musicians like Ruth Askew, George Allen and Bob Cann. In  the 1980s a revival of the the Merrymakers took place with several of the original members including the Rice brothers. (John Howson)


The new Merrymakers can be heard on: VT144CD

























































John Campbell  (Co. Armagh)


(photo: Pete Heywood)


John Campbell was born in 1933 and lived most of his life in Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh. He was brought up by his grandfather, gaining his early inspiration from the older generation of storytellers who gathered in his house. At fourteen he started work as a barman and then took a clerical job, rising to site manager, only to be made redundant in 1980. He also kept sheep and took first prize at the Royal Dublin Show. Apart from his exceptional storytelling he was also a fine singer, expert lilter and played the Jew's Harp. In the mid 80s he teamed up with traditional Armagh singer Len Graham and together they made two CDs, 'Ebb and Flow' (1998) and ‘Two for the Road' (2001). John died in 2006 and obituaries appeared in the Guardian and the Independent newspapers.


 John Campbell can be heard on: VTC10CD (1)
































































Bob Cann (Devon)


  (photo courtesy of Mark Bazeley)


  (photo courtesy of Mark Bazeley)


        Bob Cann was born in 1916 and spent his early years on a farm mid-way between Whiddon Down and Drewsteighnton on Dartmoor. His final home was in South Tawton, a small village four miles east of Okehampton, where his widow Joyce still lives.

        He started playing melodeon at a very early age, and by the time he was three he could play 'Now the day is over' with one finger. Many of his tunes came from his uncles, who had learned them from Bob's grandfather. Uncle George lived locally and played concertina regularly for stepdancing. Uncle Bob was a master on the mouthorgan, and Uncle Jim played the melodeon. They lived at Dunchideock and Bob loved to spend his holidays with Uncle Jim, when his father could afford to send him, particularly because Jim had different tunes to Uncle George. Bob's first melodeon came from an uncle in the navy who would bring him back a new one after every trip.

        This was a large family: eleven on his father's side and twelve on his mother's, and there was music played whenever there was a family gathering, particularly at Christmas. They also made up informal bands with melodeons, concertina, mouthorgan and Jews harp, to play for Harvest Suppers and Barn Dances. Music was also required for step-dancing and in particular, the step-dance competition.

        These competitions were held at village fairs and would be the main event of the day after the greasy pole, skittling for a pig, pony racing and tug-o-war. A horse-drawn flat-top wagon would be used as a stage and on top of this would be a board, about four inches high and fifteen inches square. Each dancer would have to get up three times in turn. Each time they would first 'set' (keep time) to the music and then perform a step, so three different steps would be performed by each dancer. The musician (usually playing concertina) would sit with his back to the dancers so that he didn't know who was dancing and there wouldn't be any favouritism. The same tune was played for all the dancers and it was always a hornpipe.

        Bob Cann's Dartmoor family is one of the few in England whose music making tradition spans five generations. He was always keen that one of family continued their musical tradition and when his grandson was ready he wanted them to be recorded together. At the time Bob was seventy one and his grandson, Mark Bazeley just fifteen years old. Mark continues to foster the family traditions and he now leads the country dance band Bob formed, the Dartmoor Pixies. (John Howson)


Bob Cann can be heard on:  VTC1CD  VTC4CD  VTC9CD  VT138CD  VT144CD  TSCD657  &  TSCD659



















































Charlie Carver /'Gypsy' Charlie (Suffolk)


 (Charlie Carver - second from the left -photo: courtsey of Freda Largent)

Charlie Carver was recorded by Desmond ans Shelagh Herring in 1960, inging in his local pub the Garndener’s Arms in Tostock. As we have been unable to contact any members of his family, we know little about him except that he worked on the land. Another Tostock family, the Everitts, did have memories of him and Charlie was a contemporary of Alfred Everitt who used to sing regularly in the Gardeners' Arms. His son George remembered Charlie singing one about ‘boring a hole went the cobbler, then up the wall went the painter and in and out went the tailor'. George’s sister, Freda Largent, who played the melodeon in the pub, also had memories of the old boys singing, particularly another local songster 'Shucker' Clarke' and her memory of Charlie was singing 'The German Watchmender' - including the rude bits! The Gardeners' was, like many pubs in the area, a lively hostelry on Friday and Saturday nights, and when the Herrings visited, there was another singer they recorded who was unnamed, as well as a stepdancer and singer who was known only as ‘Gypsy' Charlie.


Charlie Carver and 'Gypsy' Charlie can be heard on: VTDC8CD






































James Carty


(photo: John Howson)


        James Carty is the son of one of the stalwarts of the London Irish music scene, flute player John Carty.  James is one of those rare musicians born in London, who feels strongly about home in Ireland and who feels equally strongly about the old-style traditional music. Born in Whitechapel in the East End of London in 1969, he has the strongest of attachments to his father's home in Knockroe near Boyle, Co. Roscommon, where his brother John now lives, and his mother's place in Rosrue, Cashel, Connemara, Co. Galway. As a child he was brought up with the sound of his father and his elder brother John playing the flute and banjo at home, but he reckons he only began to take notice when he was about seven. He had a few tin whistle lessons at Brendan Mulkere's class in Whitechapel, and then he gave up playing for years, though as a teenage he hung about where the music was played. At twenty-three, at a significant point in his life the day after his mother died - Gregory Daly gave him a boxwood flute - a bag of gold dust - and, like many sons of flute players, he worked out how to play on his own. About seven years ago, he was taken down to the Crescent, and it was Joe Whelan and Liam Farrell who really got him going and had him playing there regularly for a couple of years.  James plays every Sunday in one of London's finest Irish music session at the Auld Triangle, Finsbury Park. (Reg Hall)


James Carty can be heard on: VT141CD








































Harry Chambers


(photo: John Howson)


        Although born in Laxfield, Harry Chambers is a Dennington man, having lived in the parish for over fifty years, where he worked on various farms before retirement. He actually lived in Owl's Green (which is a couple of miles from the centre of the village) not far from the famed melodeon player, Dolly Curtis's old cottage, and the Dennington Bell pub. Years ago, in most rural singing pubs, not everyone had a vast repertoire of songs but many of the company would have a couple of items ready in case they were called upon. Harry filled this role well with his classic drinking toast ' The Barley Mow' which was often used to end an evening. He told me that he learned the song "a lot of years ago at a farm worker's Union meeting held at Saxmundham.” (John Howson)


Harry Chambers can be heard on: VTC2CD


































Ted Chaplin


(photo source unknown)

        Ted was born in Eye but then made his home in various parts of the county. After living in Cranley Green he spent thirty years in the Henley and Barsham area, where he worked as a horseman and then as a farm manager. His next move was to Bacton, where he operated a coal business for twenty years, followed by a couple of years in Mendlesham and four in Wingfield. He finally settled in Mellis, although he didn't stop working as he spent a lot of his time at Tony Harvey's stables. From there he drove parties of vistors around the lanes in a horse-drawn carriage to sample a couple of hostelries and then back to Tannington for a meal.

        Ted sang a lot in his younger days, as he told me, " Well we used to get down to old Redlingfield Crown; what else was there to do? There was an old boy there used to come and play the accordeon: Wallie Harpie. He weren't an expert at it but he'd play a tune or two, but one night his boss came in and we said, 'Come on Wallie, strike up!' but he wouldn't play in front of him so that's when we started singing a song or two. The first song I ever sung in there was 'Nellie Dean', and I haven't sung it since. Then I moved over to Henley and got in with a chap there, worked at Cobbold's brewery, and I used to go about with him, down in Ipswich and about. Then village pubs we'd go sing a song in, like Coddenham Duke, Coddenham Crown and I suppose Henley Cross Keys was the main pub where we were known.

        There used to be an old boy, Herbert Page used to get in there with a fiddle and he'd sit in a corner, and rasp away. Well he couldn't play and I'd encourage him and everyone there would curse me. 'Play up Herbert: that's beautiful!' I'd say. Now I was in Swilland Half Moon and two chaps came in and sang several funny songs and the next night I went into Coddenham Duke and I sang those songs!"

        Ted's singing career then lapsed for thirty years, and I was fortunate enough to meet him just as he was starting again. That was in Brundish Crown: somebody said, 'Old Ted'll give you a song!' Up he got and gave us. 'The fellow that played the trombone' and he never looked back. (John Howson)


Ted Chaplin can be heard on:  VTC2CD  VTC3CD  VTC7CD & OH1CD






































Jack Clark


(photo courtesy of Eileen Morling)


        Jack was a thick set man and over six foot tall. He lived up the ‘Drift’ in Eastbridge and worked as a builder’s labourer, including several years working for Read’s of Aldeburgh. Eric Stollery worked with him and he said, ”Yes big Jack, he’d sing at work, we’d often have a rendering in the shed!” (John Howson)


Jack Clark can be heard on: VT140CD





































Charlie Clissold


(photo courtesy of Mrs E Clissold)


        Charlie was originally from Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire. His father was a farmer and when Charlie was left the farm he rented it out and then worked for the council. He was famed locally for his version of the song 'The Ledbury Clergyman', and, incidentally, for the quality of his home-made wine. His sister-in-law, Eileen Clissold remembered that wherever he went he would entertain everyone. A real character! (Mike Yates)


Charlie Clissold can be heard on: VTC4CD


































Ted Cobbin (Suffolk)


(photo courtsey of Richard Cobbin)


      Ted Cobbin was born in 1906 in Parham but spent most of his life in Great Glemham. The family originally lived at the timber yard which was opposite the village pub, the Crown. Ted’s working life was spent as a general stockman on Lord Cranbrooke’s estate at Great Glemham where he tended the pigs, cows and sheep. Then in later years he looked after the horses, a job he continued with even after retirement. He was thought of very highly on the estate and when he died in 1975 they named a barn - ‘Cobbin’s Barn’ after him. Ted Cobbin played melodeon with Peter Plant in Great Glemham Crown and sang several songs sometimes, accompanied by Peter. He didn’t play anywhere else much, very rarely played at home and never sang there. His son Richard remembers: “My earliest memories of Dad’s music was when I was a boy. He’d be in the Crown here in the village and he’d ask me to get his accordion from home, because he didn’t want to see my mother ‘cos she wouldn’t want him to go back with it.”

Ted Cobbin can be heard on: VT154CD



































John Cocking
(South Yorkshire)


(photo: John Howson)


        John Cocking was born in Marsden, near Huddersfield in the South Pennines on 25th February 1938 and has lived there all his life. He was brought up to hill farming as a boy, where his greatest pleasure was working with heavy horses. He has for many years made his living as a dry-stone waller. He has also been the kennelman for the Colne Valley Beagles and hunted with them and with the Holme Valley Beagles.
        The old tradition in the area of making one's own entertainment at Hunt Suppers and Shepherds' Meetings also appealed to John, and soon he began making regular contributions, singing mainly hunting songs and performing comic monologues, particularly those he heard on the radio as a boy, performed by Stanley Holloway.
        Locally he was influenced by Arthur Howard of Mount Farm near Holme village. Arthur had a large repertoire of songs and monologues and although it is said that he was ‘discovered’ too late in life for the public at large to have the best of him, John met with him frequently at various gatherings and remembers him and his friend Frank Hinchcliffe (also of Holme village) bringing the house down at the end of evening after everyone else had done their bit. The other local performer of monologues teller was Ernest Dyson whom John met some thirty years ago and who continued learning new material into his seventies. (John Howson)


John Cocking can be heard on: VT143CD  VT147CD & EFDSSCD02




































Albert 'Diddy' Cook (Suffolk)


(photo courtesy of Wilf Goddard)

        ‘Diddy’ lived in Eastbridge in a cottage next door to Edgar Button and was one of the best known singers in the 'Eel's Foot', being highly rated by Jumbo Brightwell. He was a horseman and worked on Ropes Farm. He was once leading a pair of Suffolk Punches and was struck by lightning. He survived, although in a ragged state with the soles burned off his boots. Both horses were killed. (John Howson)


Albert Cook can be heard on: VT140CD






































Harry 'Crutter' Cook (Suffolk)


        ‘Crutter’ (not directly related to the other 'Eel's Foot' singer ‘Diddy’ Cook) was described as a short fat man, who looked after the sluice gates when they were operated manually down at the marshes at Eastbridge. He lived in the sluice-man’s cottages and walked up to the Eel’s Foot every Saturday night. Apart from 'Duck Foot Sue', he was also remembered as singing 'Ramble Away' and 'Blow the Candle Out'. Also, Jumbo Brightwell said that he had learned 'Newlyn Town' from him, and Tom Goddard remembered him stepdancing. (John Howson)


Harry Cook can be heard on: VT140CD







































Billy Cooper


(photo: Eastern Daily Press)


        William Frederick (Billy) Cooper was born in 1883 in London but his family moved to Hingham, Norfolk when he was one.

        His father Frederick William Cooper became the bandmaster of Hingham and Watton Band. He also played euphonium but it was dulcimer playing for which he was particularly renowned. He taught Billy to play and when he had learned a couple of tunes, bought him a dulcimer of his own. Billy spent some time living with his brother in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk and played fiddle with his sister-in-law for local dances. He also played one-string fiddle, auto-harp and anglo concertina. In 1915 he joined the Suffolk Regiment and was put in charge of the fife and drum band and played the dulcimer for army services.

        Over the years he teamed up with other local musicians including fiddle player Walter Baldwin, auto-harp (later, guitar) player Jack Bunn and the younger Billy Bennington who had also been taught to play the dulcimer by Billy Cooper’s father.

        He was brought together with Walter and Daisy Bulwer by Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall to record for Bill Leader and the recordings were released on a limited edition LP in 1965. Those recordings can now be heard on
TSCD607 ‘English Country Music’ and solo recordings of Billy made by Russell Wortley between 1961 and 1963 can be heard on VTDC12CD ‘I Thought I Was The Only One’ and recordings made by Sam Steele can be heard on VT150CD 'Heel & Toe'.






































Dinks Cooper (Suffolk)


  (photo courtesy of the Walberswick Bell)

(Dinks Cooper - left)

        ‘Dinks’ Cooper was born in Walberswick in 1914 and was a longshore fisherman working in Sole Bay. He would sing in the local pubs particularly the Harbour Inn, accross the river in Southwold, which attracted many visiting musicians and singers.
        As he told Keith (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “Those Seamans used to come down from Darsham here to Southwold a lot. They used to record down at the Harbour Inn by the BBC. We often used to hear them on the radio - Wilfred Pickles, that sort of programme. When they had the big flood (1953) I got stranded in that pub. The water was up to the top window and there was me and Ernie and a couple of others. When the water came in we only had time to grab twenty Woodbines and leg it upstairs. That's all we had between us for four days. I used to go round with them quite a lot at one time - all round Halesworth, Yoxford and up to the Buck (Rumburgh) - Ernie's cousin kept that.”
        He is still well remembered in his village as a local character, particularly in the bar of the Bell where, after he died in 1988, a brass plate was attached to the wall, which proclaims ‘Dinks' Leaning Post!’


Dinks Cooper can be heard on: VT154CD




































Bob Copper (Sussex)


(photo: John Howson)


        Born 80 years ago in the village of Rottingdean, Bob is rightly regarded as one of the most important of England's traditional singers, coming from the countries foremost singing families. His own life story is well known through his books and his many radio and television broadcasts, but he remained a very approachable, down-to-earth man who was an inspiration to all who come in contact with him. His many talents also include painting and poetry and he could still be seen seasonally as Old Father Christmas in the Rottingdean Mummers. Since his retirement, he has even taken up musical instruments, playing concertina and melodeon. Former Life Guard and policeman and barber, Bob was a publican for most of his working life, mostly in Sussex, but briefly in Hampshire.  Bob Died in 2004. 


Bob Copper can be heard on: VT131CD  TSCD600  TSCD534  EFDSSCD02  RCD1471  CSCD2   CSCD3  &  CDSDL405 




































John Copper


(photo: John Howson)


        John must have been one of the youngest traditional singers to be collected from as there are recordings of him aged 8 singing 'Hey He Sing Ivy' in the BBC Archives! By the time he was 16, he was able to start singing the bass line in the family's songs alongside his uncle Ron. When Ron died some 11 years later, John started to lead the bass line to his father's "treble". On the Coppersongs album he is joined in turn by his own children Ben, Lucy and Tom. As a solo singer, John is best known for spirited and beautifully timed interpretations of the humorous items in the family's repertoire, but he plays a leading part in the famous Copper family harmony singing, which these days is usually John with father, Bob, sister Jill and brother-in-law, Jon Dudley. John took over the running of The Central Club in Peacehaven after his father's retirement. (John Howson)


John Copper can be heard on: VT131CD  CSCD2  CSCD3        

































Harry Cox (Norfolk)


  (photo courtesy of EFDSS)     (photo courtesy of Reg Hall)


        Harry was born in 1885 at Barton Turf, Norfolk and was a farm worker in the Barton and Catfield area all of his life. He was best known as a singer but he also played fiddle and melodeon. His grandfather stepdanced and his father, who sailed as a fisherman out of Yarmouth, played fiddle in local pubs, often being paid by the landlord to draw in the customers. Peter Kennedy and Alan Lomax recorded Harry’s playing in the 1950s and his repertoire included polkas, schottisches, waltzes and hornpipes. The recordings of his meldoeon playing were made three years before his death in 1971.


Harry Cox can be heard on: RCD1839  TSCD512D  TSCD651  TSCD652  TSCD662  TSCD667  EFDSSCD02  CD-SDL405  RCD1776  RCD1778 VTDC11CD






































George Craske (Norfolk)


        George lived most of his live in Sustead, Norfolk. George learned to play melodeon from his father who was said to have several unusual tunes. When these recording were made he no longer played at home, but still kept a melodeon in the shed on his allotment and another at his friend Frank Ward’s house in the village. Frank was a good stepdancer and he and George would bike to pubs like Erpingham King’s Head and Alby Horseshoes or sometimes to Cromer. He played in village halls in his locality for dancing, usually along with a drummer, and had wide range of polkas, waltzes and barn dance tunes. He played the ‘Keel Row’ for a dance involving a poker or a rope laid flat on the floor and had jigs for the Long Dance and a score of hornpipes for stepdancing.


George Craske can be heard on: VTDC11CD





































Bob Cross (Gloucestershire)


        A retired business man from Gloucestershire hardly fitted the perceived stereotype of the country singer - modern house, the latest expensive car. But, as a young man, Bob had learnt a number of songs, including a version of an ancient song that Cecil Sharp called 'Balaam and Egg', and which Bob called 'Green Lived Upon the Green'. As well as singing, he was also adept on the electronic keyboard, although I never heard Bob sing and play at the same time. (Mike Yates)


Bob Cross can be heard on: VTC4CD


































Dolly Curtis


(photo: John Howson)


        Dolly was the queen of Suffolk melodeon players with a very rhythmic style and an usual repertoire of tunes.. Dolly was discovered by Keith Summers during his researches in 1977 at Owls Green, Dennington, where her father used to keep the Bell Inn. It was there, as a young girl, that she heard the regular Saturday night music in the bar. The sources of her tunes were such notables as blind melodeon player Walter Read, and the Seaman family. Often added drive was provided by the pounding piano accompaniment of Brian Felgate who played regular engagements with her in various pubs all over the county.


Dolly Curtis can be heard on: VT130CD VT154CD & VTDC11CD



































Charlie Cutmore (Essex)


  (photo courtesy of Neil Lanham)


        Charlie kept The Plough at Belchamp St Paul, Essex and learned the tune on this CD from his father, who was a step-dancer who had a square board with a cross in the centre and he would cross his feet over in various patterns while stepping. Like Monty Chapman, Charlie was a valued entertainer at local concerts.


Charlie Cutmore can be heard on: VTDC11CD
































Dartmoor Pixie Band


(photo: John Howson)


        Bob Cann led his own country dance band for many years in the 1950 and in the 1960s it became known as the 'Dartmoor Pixies' with an early line-up of melodoen, mouthorgan, drums and banjo doubling on Hawaiian guitar. A couple of decades later Bob was joined by his grandson Mark (Bazeley) on concertina. The line-up seen hear is Kath Mortimer (accordion), Bill Murch (mouthorgan), Bob (melodeon), Cyril May (drums), Mark (concertina) and Rob Murch (banjo). Rob was actually taught by the Pixies original banjo player Tom Barriball. (John Howson)


The Dartmoor Pixie Band can be heard on: VTC1CD  (The current line-up of the Pixie Band can be heard on CDMM001)





































Bob Davies


  (photo courtesy of Richard Daives)


Bob was born in Cromer, Norfolk and lived there all his life. He was a fisherman and a member of the life boat crew in the 1940s when the coxwain was the famous Henry Blogg. He was taught to play melodeon by his uncle Jack and his cousin Taffy Thompson also played. Bob regularly played for the stepdancing which was a popular pastime with the Cromer fishermen in the Albion pub and the Lion and Bath Hotels in Cromer.


Bob Davis can be heard on: VTC5CD & VTDC11CD





































Harry De Caux (Essex)


  (photo: Simon Ritchie)  


        Harry was born around 1910 in Norfolk and he learned to play melodeon from his mother when he was seven years old. Unlike many of the players in collection he player far and wide and became involved in the International Dance Scene in London and played at the Albert Hall in the 1920s. He moved to the Thaxted (Essex) area in 1960 and played for morris dancing as well as social dancing, when he would call the dances while playing. Harry also played in the pubs in the town, particularly for the carol singing. He played a Hohner Corona III melodeon which was claimed to be the first to come into Britain in the 1950s.

Harry De Caux can be heard on: VTDC11CD



































Johnny Doughty


(photo: Doc Rowe)


        Johnny was born in Brighton, Sussex, in 1903, where he was brought up by his grandmother. Most of his early life was spent on the beach, rather than at school, where he helped out on the cockle and whelk stalls before he was strong enough to help the fishermen unload their catches. Johnny felt an affinity with the older sailors who spent their time net-mending at the St. Margaret's Net Arch, close to the Palace Pier. Here he learnt navigation rhymes and the rudiments of sailing, as well as many of the songs that he was to sing for the rest of his life.
        Johnny left school when he was thirteen and began herring fishing until he joined the Royal Navy in 1919. Leaving the Navy, he was forced to spend six years working in the Portslade gashouse - there being little work available at sea - until he had saved up enough to buy his first boat, the 'Lady Ethel'. Johnny had a succession of boats which he used for fishing in winter and for taking holiday trippers around the bay in summer.
        After the Second World War, Johnny was asked to take a boat to Rye Harbour and, liking the place, he stayed and made Rye his home. There he fished from his two boats, the 'Ocean Reaper 'and the 'Helen Mary', until he was no longer able to work. He did, however, continue to make shrimp nets and he even built a small smokery at the back of his house where he continued to smoke all manner of fish.
        During the last few years of his life Johnny was discovered by the folk revival and, having made a solo album for Topic Records, was invited to any number of festivals throughout the country, where he became something of a celebrity. (Mike Yates)


Johnny Doughty can be heard on:  VTC1CD  VTC5CD  VTC6CD  VTC7CD  TSCD600  TSCD652 TSCD657 TSCD662 TSCD664 & MTCD311-2

































Lucy Farr (Co. Galway, Ireland)

 (photo courtesy of Rambling House)    (photo courtesy of Reg Hall)  

                                                                                                                   (Lucy Farr plays a session with Joe Whelan)

        Lucy Farr was born in Ballinakill, County Galway and it was there she took up the fiddle. Between the mid-1930s, when she left home, and the early 1950s she stopped playing due to the demands of bringing up a family and working as a nurse. Then with the encouragement of her husband she re-discovered her musical interests and subsequently, figured prominently in London Irish music circles from  the 1960s on. She was thought by many to be one of the inspirational music to come out of these times. (John Howson)

To read Roly Brown's extended article on Musical Traditions web site.: Click Here

Lucy Farr can be heard on VT123DR: VTC1CD  VTC10CD & TSCD603

































Liam Farrell


(photo: John Howson)


(photo courtesy of Reg Hall)

(Liam with the Raymond Roland Quartet)


        A complete account of Liam Farrell's musical activities would cover just about every social aspect of Irish traditional music-making, not only in London but in Ireland and America, too. It would be no exaggeration to say he has known and played with pretty well every musician of note during the 1960s, seventies and eighties, and perhaps just as importantly, everybody has known him and held his music in high regard. Set against a life of hard physical work on the buildings and in civil engineering, while priding himself that he has never failed to turn up for work in the morning, he has always found time for the informal session, a singsong with his work mates, a wedding here, a tune with a visiting musician there. Always ready to appreciate and praise other musicians to their face and behind their back, he has great tales and he knows how to tell 'em. He has hardly ever missed the annual Fleadh Ceoil in Ireland and, like Joe Whelan, he has kept up with what's going on in the music through Irish radio and television, the latest cassettes and CDs and generally keeping his ear to the ground. Concert hall tours of Ireland and America with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann presented opportunities for him to associate with the top musicians in New York and Boston and so on, and, though there wasn't any money in it, the after-hours craic was wonderful. There were invitations up north to play with the Liverpool Ceili Band and the fiddle player Jimmy Power chose him as his partner for his trip to Australia. Back in the 1970s, Liam was part of Le Cheili, a group of powerhouse musicians including Danny Meehan on the fiddle, P. J. Crotty on the flute, and the accordeon player, Raymond Roland. They made a couple of long-playing records, and Liam made other records with Bobby Casey and Vincent Griffin. It is good to have their artistry saved on vinyl, but it was all transitory; there's a great time to be had today and there's another session tomorrow.


Liam Farrell can be heard on: VT141CD
































Hockey Feltwell


 (photo courtesy of Keith Summers)


        Arthur ‘Hockey’ Feltwell, was born in the Fens near Southery, Norfolk and later moved into the town. After leaving school at ten he worked first as a horseman with his father, then with steam traction engines, but for most of his life he was a lorry driver.

        He learned songs from his father and other horsemen, and his five brothers sang and his eldest brother, Piper, also played the melodeon. He sang, often at darts matches, in all seven of the pubs in Southery but the Nag's Headwas his pub. It was the gathering place for singers in the town and Hockey was usually the leader. He was a great singer, but would change key during choruses! Sam Steele thought this was to confuse the other singers, and so remain the loudest. It was in the Nag’s Head that the recordings on this CD were made. Hockey also once sang on the radio from the BBC studio in Norwich, but there is no record of when this happened.

        Hockey Feltwell can be heard on: VT150CD. Sam Steele first recorded Hockey in 1959 and in 1962 Sam’s friend Russell Wortley took Bill Leader and Reg Hall to record him. The song Four Horses from that session is on TSCD655 ‘Come all my lads that follow the plough’.


























































Septimus Fawcett  (Teesdale)


Septimus Fawcett was born in 1928 at West Birk Hatt Farm, Balersdale, Co. Durham. His grandfather had moved there from Swaledale. Septimus was the seventh of eight surviving children and his grandfather and father (Simon, known as Sam) played the English concertina. They had a family band which played for dancing and included his brother Dick who still plays piano accordion around the Dales. Their grandmother used to stepdance and she taught one of their uncles who stepped in fell boots. Sam was recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1953 and the family are mentioned in the 1973 book 'Hannah' about the isolated life of Hannah Hauxwell. When Septimus started playing, his main source of tunes was his father’s repertoire and several of these tunes are now rarely heard elsewhere. Now in his eighties, he still plays in his local pubs.



Septimus Fawcett can be heard on: VTC10CD
























































Cecil Fisk (Suffolk)

         Cecil was born in 1920 in Bedingfield, where his family ran a building firm. When the Second World War broke out he was not called up, as building was a reserved trade, but in 1939, he volunteered aged 19, for military service. His army career was an eventful one which included travel to Nigeria and Sierra Leone, seeing action in Egypt. While in Libya he was captured and spent 2 years in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp before he and a friend escaped, crossing the Alps into Switzerland. The whole remarkable story can be found on
         In 1945 Cecil married his childhood sweetheart, May, while he was stationed in Aldershot. When they returned home they lived for many years in a cottage on Southolt Green before moving to a council house in Worlingworth.
         Locally, Cecil was best known for playing the drums which accounts for his strict timing with a dancing doll. He mostly played in Southolt Plough with piano player Eddie Stevenson, but also played in Brundish Crown, Dennington Bell and Worlingworth Swan with other local musicians.


Cecil Fisk can be heard on: VT154CD









































Robert Forrester (Cumberland)


  (photo courtesy of Pam Forrester)


        Born in 1913 near Carlisle, Bob lived in the city and worked as a commercial artist for the Metal Box Company. He painted and sketched all his life, exhibiting in London as well as in Cumbria. His best known works locally are his two large, dramatic mountain murals, one showing 'Ancient Britons' at Castlerigg stone circle and the other a railway scene at Carlisle's Citadel Station, which are both exhibited prominently at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle. His songs and tunes came to him from his grandfather Joe, a well-known fiddler in the Bewcastle area at the end of the 19th century. Joe apparently enlivened the proceedings at many a wedding, christening and kern supper in that remote part of Cumberland. Robert Forrester died in 1988. (Sue Allen)


Robert Forrester can be heard on: VT142CD



































George Fradley (Derbyshire)


(photo: Mike Yates)


        George was born at Woodstock Farm in the village of Goldenhill, near Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, in 1910. When he was seventeen the family settled at Cubley Carr Farm, near Sudbury, in Derbyshire. Just about all of his family were musical and during the 1920's and '30's they had their own concert party, which performed throughout the neighbourhood. George learnt 'The Two Sisters' from his Aunt Bessie, who would sing it while milking the cows, and 'Last New Year's Eve' from his father. George first came to the attention of the folk revival through Roger Watson and John Tams and their group Muckram Wakes, who had performed at Sudbury Hall in 1972. In 1978 he teamed up with Tufty Swift and appeared at several Festivals before his death in 1985. (Mike Yates)


George Fradley can be heard on: VT114DR VTC1CD  VTC4CD  VTC6CD  VTC7CD &  VTC7CD















Eli Frankham  (Norfolk)



Eli Frankham was born in 1928 in a horse-drawn vardo at Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex. For much of his young life, he travelled in southern England, until his family bought land in the Hampshire village of Horndean, which is close to Petersfield where in 1908 a Mr E. Frankham sang the 'The Ups and Downs' to folk song collector George Gardiner (Marrowbones p.97 EFDSS 1965). Eli became a professional boxer, starting his career in fairground boxing booths and he
kept and traded horses all his life. The family moved to the Wisbech area of Norfolk and Eli founded the National Romani Rights Association. He became known to Travellers across Britain and Europe, being a gifted linguist with a fine command of the Romany language. Eli enjoyed singing and telling stories and collected and wrote poems about Romany life. He died in 2000 aged seventy two and an obituary appeared in the Guardian.


Eli Frankham can be heard on: VTC10CD

























Hubert Freeman


 (photo: John Howson)


        Hubert was born in 1925 at Ashfield in mid-Suffolk and moved to Monk Soham at nine. At twenty-three he married and moved to Bedingfield where he worked as a farm manager until his retirement in 1990's.
        He comes from a family of singers: his father and mother both sang, as did his uncle 'Hack' who used to be landlord of Bedfield Dog. Hubert's father Jim sang in many pubs in the area and one of his favourite songs was 'I came home one night' (Seven Drunken nights'). When I asked Hubert how he started singing he told me, "Well I used to sing at different parties and that, but I never sung in the pubs. The only time I used to sing in the pubs - well I'll tell you what happened. I knew several little songs and when I was about fifteen or sixteen I used to go to Monk Soham Oak on a Saturday night. I used to have half a pint, and I was only a little old short boy, and they'd say, 'Stand old Hubert on the table.” (John Howson)


Hubert Freeman can be heard on: VTC3CD & VTC4CD







































Louie Fuller


(photo: Maggie Hunt)

(Louie in the Volunteer Inn Sidmouth with George Withers)


        Louie was born in Woolwich in 1915 and came south to Copthorne after being bombed out during the second world war. She is a singer of great spirit and style and her enthusiastic, smiling delivery of her songs won her admirers wherever she chose to perform them. As Louey Saunders, she was collected from in 1960 by Ken Stubbs and her version of 'Hopping Down in Kent' enjoyed enormous popularity. She remembed her yearly visits as a youngster to the hop-fields as great place for singing and story-telling as well as family parties and other celebrations. She learned her songs from both her parents and always looked for any opportunities to share them with a range of audiences, from between the bingo games at her local old people's club to pub sessions and folk clubs and festivals. (John Howson)


Louie Fuller can be heard on: VT131CD TSCD600 TSCD663 TSCD665 & MTCD309-10

































Charlie Giddings (Cambridgeshire)


     (photos courtesy of Viginia Smart)




        Charlie Giddings was born in Scaldgate near Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire in 1875. He moved to Fen Drayton in the 1930s where he became horseman on a land settlement. This was a scheme that enabled unemployed people, particularly miners from the North and Wales, to have three acres of land to work on. There were 54 holdings in Fen Drayton.

        Charlie sang mainly in the village local, The Three Tuns. He had his own seat which nobody else was allowed to sit in. He would visit the pub most nights for a couple of beers and that was where he did his singing. He did sing at home, but his wife was very religious and not keen on drink and would say ‘Drink comes in and wit goes out!’

       He was a real ‘fen tiger’ and knew all the well known fen skaters like Turkey Smart, Fish Smart and George See. During the winter, water was let out of the dykes to flood the fields, leaving the silt on the ground to act as a fertiliser. When the water-logged fields froze over, Fen men (known as ‘Fen Tigers’) put on their special skates, and held speed skating
competitions. For most of the year, in order to visit Peterborough they would have to walk, but in the winter, when the dykes were frozen, Charlie would skate from Whittlesey to Peterborough. They would also make the trip competitive with a prize of a hundredweight of coal or a bag of oranges: an exotic prize in those days! Charlie died in 1964.


Charlie Giddings can be heard on: VT150CD








































Fred Ginger (Suffolk)


 (photo courtesy of Brian Ginger)


        Fred maternal grandfather Mr Rous kept the Eel’s Foot in Eastbridge from 1906 to 1922, and Fred’s mother met his father when she was working in service in London. His mother and father kept the pub for seven years before the Morlings took it over. Fred was born in 1910 and married one of Velvet Brightwell’s daughters, Dora, and lived in a cottage in Eastbridge. He worked for the river board and then on the railway at Leiston as a plate-layer. He didn’t seem to have many songs but his star turn, 'The Old Sow', was the only song broadcast by the BBC from the 'Eel's Foot' in both 1939 and 1947. Fred died in 1984. (John Howson)


Fred Ginger can be heard on: VT140CD





































Tom Goddard


  (photo courtesy of John Goddard)

        Tom, who lived on the common at Eastbridge, was a poacher cum gamekeeper whose last job before retirement was as a rat catcher for the council. He told Keith Summers that he had learned some songs in Lowestoft when he went fishing. “I like a good fishing song!” Alec Bloomfield learned 'Buttercup Joe' from him, and mentioned that he also sang an American song called 'Swinging in the Lane'. Jumbo Brightwell remembered him singing 'Three Hebrews' and 'Australia'. Tom died in 1977 at the age of 75. (John Howson)


Tom Goddard can be heard on: VT140CD







































Archer Goode (Gloucestershire)


        Although resident in Cheltenham for the last forty-odd years of his life, Archer Goode - 'Goode by name and nature', according to his friends - had been born in Abergavenny and was a farm-worker for most of his life. He had loved to work with horses and had many fond memories of his days in rural Wales. During the 1930's Sam Bennett, the well-known Morris Dancer from Ilmington in Warwickshire, would visit Abergavenny. Archer became friendly with Sam and soon picked up a number of Sam's songs, including 'Jan's Courtship'. (Mike Yates)


Archer Goode can be heard on: VTC4CD







































Watty Graham


        Wat Graham was a native of Longtown in the north of Cumberland, almost on the Scottish border. The border country is full of Grahams, and when recorded Watty tells about the clan and plays the 'Cumberland Reel' on his melodeon. (Sue Allen)


Watty Graham can be heard on: VT142CD










































George Green  (Cambridgeshire)


  (photo courtesy of W. H. Palmer)


        George Green was born in 1895 and died in 1975 and lived in Little Downham, Cambridgeshire.

        George Frampton’s booklet ‘Necessary to Keep up the Day’ tells us that George Green never married and worked as a farm labourer. He also trapped linnets and finches, which were sent live to London, probably for sale as singing birds. He and his brother were also engaged in ‘trammelling’ larks at night-time, by sweeping across the fields with a net held between two poles, a light being used to frighten the birds into flight and into the nets. The light would also disturb hares, and needless to say, these were bagged as an added bonus and also dispatched to London. During the Great War he was employed to dig acres of fruit gardens for local grower "Daddy" A.W. Chambers.

        He was the melodeon player for the Little Downham Molly Dancers and was photographed with them in 1932. Molly dancing was usually conducted on Plough Monday (the first Monday after Epiphany) and was at one time widespread in the Fens. It was usually danced by men but with of the team dressed as a woman who was known as the molly. The
other dancers wore ordinary working clothes which were decorated with ribbons, as the photograph shows. The dances were quite simple compared to Cotswold morris dances and the music was what you would expect for country dancing.


Watty Graham can be heard on: VT150CD & VTDC11CD







































Harry Green (Essex)


             (photos courtesy of Chrissie Andrews)


Harry Green was born in 1874 and lived in Essex all his life. In 1899 he moved into the farm cottage in Tilty where these recordings were made, and it was there that he died. He and his wife married on the same day as one of his sisters and each couple had nine children. His last surviving daughter Chrissie looked after him for 32 years after her mother died in 1937. Chrissie told me that in his younger days Harry used to travel to Chingford with his father, to mow the grass. He used to say that he'd been to 'hay country'. After that he worked on a farm before working for the council for forty years. He would trim the sides of the road and clear out the gulleys and ditches with a set of rods and the gang he worked with were known as 'Lengthmen'. He would have a sing-song with his old friends mostly in 'The Rising Sun' at Duton Hill and if was there that he learned The Merchant's Daughter and the Highwayman from an old boy called Bill Patient. Harry rarely sang at home, he was a pub singer and Chrissie remembered that the two old mates he used to go out with were 'Hunch' Legerton and George Perry. Occasionally there would be an accordion player and somebody would get up and stepdance. Then there was 'Buster' Brown who used to sing lots of songs particularly when there was a coach outing. When Fred Hamer visited to record his songs, Harry would limit him to five songs each visit almost as if he was rationing them out so that Hamer would return. Harry told him that The Nutting Girl came from old 'Singing Jimmy' around sixty to seventy years ago (in 1967), but he wouldn't sing it if there was a lot of women about, particularly as he would often sing the last line as: 'Perhaps he'll make your belly swell and break your apron strings.' Harry Green was obviously a real old character, and you can almost see the sparkle in his eye when he recites The Pear Tree or the epilogue to Down in the Fields and Ladies Won't you Marry. He is still fondly remembered in the Great Dunmow area and it is good to know that some of his songs are being sung once more.


Harry Green can be heard on: VT135CD




































Glynn Griffiths (Suffolk)


 (photo: John Howson)

Master of the chromatic mouthorgan Glynn Griffiths was originally from Wales before settling in Cockfield Green, Mid-Suffolk. He played in Thorpe Morieux Bull and Felsham Six Bells, where on a Saturday night he would meet up with Tom Williams as well as lots of local singers including Billy Goddard, George Gooch and Jack Smith. The Bells was always a lively pub and it is, of course, where the title of ‘Many a Good Horseman’ comes from.


Glynn Griffiths can be heard on: VTDC8CD













































Charlie Griggs (Suffolk)


 (photo: courtsey of the landlord of the Unicorn)

The best known four stop one-row melodeon player around the pubs of Stowmarket in Mid-Suffolk was Charlie Griggs. He worked for much of his life as a farm labourer and played in just about every pub in the town, although his favourites were the Greyhound, the Walnut Tree and the Unicorn. He started playing at home at an early age for sing-songs with his
brother Frank, who played violin. Their father, Tom Griggs, stepdanced and played melodeon and Charlie apparently learned dance tunes such as jigs and hornpipes from him. Charlie's daughter Mrs Miller, who gave me information about him and provided the recordings, remembered that he'd be playing in the pub, then he'd stop and play 'How Dry Am I?' and someone would get him a pint. He died in 1975 when he was in his early eighties.


Charlie Griggs can be heard on: VTDC8CD





































Gordon Hall (Sussex)


(photo: John Howson)


        Gordon Hall, the son of Mabs Hall, was born in south London in 1932. Seven years later the family moved to Leeds, then Swansea, before settling in Horsham in Sussex, where coincidentally, their first home, (34, The Bishopric) had once been home to Henry Burstow, one of the great Sussex folksingers. Old Henry would, I'm sure, have been smiling in his grave had he known that another singing family had taken over his old house. Gordon's love of singing was nurtured in Horsham and he picked up songs wherever he could. In 1984 Gordon and Mabs met Bob Copper, who encouraged them to sing in public. Sadly, Gordon died in the year 2000 and is missed by all who knew him. He was, as Bob Copper has said, "a one off...(who was) absolutely irreplaceable." (Mike Yates)


Gordon Hall can be heard on: VTC4CD VTC5CD VT131CD  CDCD095 & VT115CD





































Mabs Hall


(photo courtesy of Mike Yates)

        Mary Josephine Hall (Mabs, as she was always known) was born on 12th October 1899 at Cheal Cottage, Wivelsfield, West Sussex. Her earliest memory of singing in her family was her mother, who sang snatches of hundreds of songs and her father, who knew many long songs: the first songs she remembered them singing were Cecilia and Come Write Me Down. Then there was her Uncle Dick, who played mouthorgan and mandolin and Harry, her sister’s husband, who played accordeon. Dick was not really an uncle but a lodger with her sister and Mabs first heard A Sailor from Dover sung by him, and Harry would sing McCaffery. Another singer she remembered was an early boyfriend of hers called Sam Starr who lived on a farm at Ripe, near Lewes, East Sussex. When Mabs visited him he would sing ‘There was a country blade who loved a country maid’ usually in the barn while cutting chaff.Mabs had a remarkable memory but reckoned that she had forgotten more songs than she could remember. She spent her life singing, whether it was at work, at home on her own or even walking down the street. She often remarked that when she was younger if she heard a song once, she could sing it. Mabs died on the 16th November 1992.

Mabs Hall can be heard on: VTC4CD  VTC5CD & VT115CD



































Reg Hall


(photo: John Howson)

(Reg Hall playing piano with Joe Whelan, Liam Farrell, and James Carty)


(photo: John Howson)

(Reg Hall -with sound restoration expert Charlie Crump)


        Reg Hall has lived most of life with some sort of involvement in traditional music. He played melodeon with Sussex concertina player ScanTester and with other influential English traditional musicians in Norfolk like Walter and Daisy Bulwer and Billy Cooper. He plays fiddle for Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers and is a musician for the Blue 'Oss May Day dancers in Padstow Cornwall. In the 1950s he was at the core of the vibrant Irish music scene in London, becoming known as a rock steady piano player. He was the editor of the important Topic 'Voice of the People' series working closely with the sound restoration expert Charlie Crump who he knew through his other great interest in New Orleans Jazz. In recent years he has been a visiting research fellow at the University of Sussex from where he has now been awarded  his doctorate. (John Howson)


Reg Hall can be heard on: VT141CD TSCD603 TSCD607 BH001CD & FECD122

































Ray Hartland (Gloucestershire)


       Mike Yates was taken to the village of Turley by Gwilym Davies to meet Ray Hartland: a true Gloucestershire character, he had a broad local accent and ran a dairy farm. He also made cider and the local delicacy ‘Plum Jerkin’. On a Saturday afternoon his friends, including local singers Roger Lewis and George Boucher would meet in his cider house and sing songs while sampling his wares in horn mugs. Ray had a repertoire of about twenty songs and he enjoyed writing parodies of songs. One of his best known was about fishing for elvers (eels). Ray died in the 1980s and the cider business continues but unfortunately the singing doesn’t!  (John Howson)


Reg Hall can be heard on: VTC7CD











































Charlie Hancy


(photo: John Howson)


        During a discussion about old singers in an Oulton Broad pub I was told that I should pay a visit to Charlie Hancy in Broad Street, Bungay as he would sing me some songs, and he certainly did. In fact within minutes of me entering his home he was singing to me with that wonderful rich voice and immaculate pacing. Apart from singing me some interesting and unusual songs he also told me much about his life:
        "I never did live anywhere else than Bungay. I was born in Bungay in the next street from here in 1899. Well the town's changed, like when I was going to school there was only about two bicycles, old penny farthings. Then motorbikes came along. I knew the first motor car in Bungay, old Doctor Ransome had it.
        "My people were in the hay trade, they did nothing else only in that trade. Well we supplied Norwich, Lowestoft, Yarmouth or Southwold. Where ever we needed to go to. I've been to the barracks in Norwich and all the brewers in Norwich. I used to drive a horse then, I'd drive three. We'd sometimes leave at one o'clock in the morning. I used to sing like hell in the morning. I was done seven times for being asleep in charge of the horses. Bloody policemen would wait up for you, they'd wait in one of these old cart sheds.
        "I've been to just about every fair in England after horses. That's where you used to hear old songs from the old gypsy boys. Then there would be ploughing matches and afterwards they'd get up and sing a song and someone else would get up and sing one. That is how it used to be. There used to be one regular at St James' White Horse; all around the villages, Rumburgh - they had drawing matches. There'd be prizes of money or a spade or a fork and the old farmer would get his bloody field ploughed up for nothing!
        "In the pub opposite here they used to tap dance on the tables. I remember one old boy would take a watch out of his pocket and dance over it and never break it. They used to call him old 'Lively' Hood. Then there was those old boys the Parravani, the Italian ice-cream people. Their father first came about here in the thirties. He'd play accordion and go from one pub to another. Then Walter Nobbs, he was real good on the accordeon. He had an old squeeze box first, then a piano accordion."


Charlie Hancy can be heard on: VTC2CD  VTC7CD  VTC3CD




































Tony Harvey


 (photo: John Howson)


        The Harvey family have lived and farmed in Tannington since the turn of the century on what became one of the largest farms in the county. Tony has been keen on singing all his life and he used to love to hear his grandfather sing to him. In may ways he has been a song collector himself, but always in the belief that songs are for singing. I have often heard him say of a song he's never heard before, "Now there's a good song", and I'd know he would want the singer to write the words out for him. If it had not been for Tony's enthusiasm I am sure many of the songs sung locally would had been lost. Several of his local pubs have been good for singing, like Brundish Crown, Dennington Bell and Laxfield Low House, but the nights I will never forget were those he organised at Framlingham Hare and Hounds in the days when the late Jimmy Finbow was landlord. Well into his nineties, Jimmy would sit in his old chair by the fire surveying a gathering of some of the finest local singers crammed into his tiny bar.
        Apart from singing, Tony's other great love is for his horses: he has been the master of the local hunt, Easton Harriers, and for many years has collected horse-drawn carriages, carts and gypsy caravans, undertaking several charity drives in them to Appleby horse fair and to the Derby at Epsom He has run a business providing horse-drawn outings from Tannington Hall. Several local pubs would be visited and if you were lucky you might have got a song or two from the driver! (John Howson)


Tony Harvey can be heard on: VTC2CD  VTC3CD & OH1CD







































Mary Ann Haynes


(photo: Mike Yates)


        Mary Ann Haynes was born in a caravan behind the 'Coach and Horses' in Portsmouth, Hampshire, in 1903, the daughter of a horse-dealer. As a young girl she travelled throughout southern England with her family to fairs and markets, and as she told Mike Yates, "We used to go to the vinegar and pepper fair at Bristol, then to Chichester, Lewes, Canterbury and Oxford, then up to Appleby and back down to Yalding." Later she settled in Brighton, Sussex, where, following the premature death of her husband, she brought up a large family single-handed on her earnings as a flower-seller. Mike Yates recorded nearly a hundred old songs from her and, while precise details of where she learned and performed them is not known, it is almost certainly within the close-knit traveller community. (Reg Hall from the 'Voice of the People')


Marry Ann Haynes can be heard on: VTC1CD VTC6CD TSCD651 TSCD652 TSCD655 TSCD656 TSCD657 TSCD661 TSCD670 & MTCD320



































Len Heyward (Gloucestershire)


     When Mike Yates visited Gloucestershire in 1975 he was taken by Gwilym Davies to meet and record Len Heyward who was then well into his eighties. Mike remembered that Len lived in a house which was in imminent danger of flooding from the rapidly swelling river Severn. Wassail was the only song that was recorded. (John Howson)


Len Heyward can be heard on: VTC6CD
































Dick Hewitt


  (photo: John Howson)


        I first met Dick Hewitt at his home in Briston, near Melton Constable, after some trusty advice given to us by Anne Marie Hulme and Peter Clifton about whom we should visit on our first sortie into North Norfolk. Within minutes of entering Dick's house a tape was playing of his late father Albert Hewitt, a great melodeon player who had been recorded by the BBC in the 1950’s. Dick got the step-dance board out and away he went! He was probably the best East Anglian stepdancer I ever saw. (John Howson)


Dick Hewitt can be heard on: VTVS05/06  and VT150CD and can seen dancing on: EFDSS VID1     



































Ivor Hill


Another Gloucestershire singer introduced by Gwilym to Mike Yates was Ivor Hill of Bromsberrow Heath. The Hills were a singing family and they favoured local carols. They can be heard singing The Holly and the Ivy on another of Mike’s recordings, ‘The Birds Upon the Tree’ (MTCD333). The village of Bromsberrow Heath was also known for morris dancing and the Hill family certainly had associations with it. Sadly Ivor was killed on his bicycle just after these recordings were made.  (Gwilym Davis & John Howson)


Ivor Hill can be heard on: VTC7CD & MTCD333









































Frank Hinchliffe (Yorkshire)


(photo Mike Yates)


        Frank was born in 1923 at Fulwood, near Sheffield in south Yorkshire. He had a large repertoire of songs and local carols. The songs came originally from his family and his community. He was a quiet, introspective singer, his gentle voice almost hiding his mastery of vocal story-telling. According to scholar Ian Russell (who has written much about him) his singing had an appealing, almost plaintive quality that reached out to his audience. This recording was made late at night, after Frank had spent the day gathering hay, when he must have been quite tired. Nevertheless, it does show a true a craftsman at work. He was, I think, one of the finest singers that I have met. (Mike Yates)

Frank Hinchliffe can be heard on: VTC7CD






































Mrs Howard


(photo courtesy of Eileen Morling)

(Mrs Howard 2nd from the right)


        Louisa’s father was a sailing fisherman from Thorpeness known as ‘Khedi’ Wilson, who always wore a fisherman’s jersey and was said to tar his feet! He was a renowned stepdancer and had two other daughters, Maud and Nora who could also step, but that was mainly at weddings, not in the pub. The melodeon player who plays for Louisa on the 'Eel's Foot' recording was not identified by the BBC but it couldn’t be Jack Button as he had moved to Hampshire to live with his son in 1946. Louisa Howard’s daughter, Flo (now Flo Ling) suggested that it was her father Ernie Howard playing.
        Louisa also sang and Peter Kennedy recorded her in Thorpeness in 1956 singing "The House of Ill Fame" and "Scarboro". On that occasion she was accompanied by Ernie on melodeon. She died in 1972 aged 79. (John Howson)


Mrs Howard can be heard on: VT140CD







































Ray Hubbard (Norfolk)


(photo courtesy of Ray Hubbard)


        Ray Hubbard was born in 1933 at Langmere, South Norfolk, a true countryman who has spent his life playing music, singing songs and entertaining across East Anglia. Ray remembers lots of music at home, “Well it was in the days before television.” His father played the accordeon as did his mother. They also both played the mouthorgan, and his father could play the mandolin. “So it was Saturday nights, not so much during the week. It was get the musics out and have a sing-song. I suppose I wanted to play from just about when I was born.”

        Some of Ray’s earliest musical memories were when he visited his grandfather and grandmother on his mother’s side. His grandfather played the concertina and was also a steel quoits player and would often take his concertina with him for an after match sing-song, particularly to Oakley Green Man and Billingford Horseshoes where the quoits bed was just behind the pub next to the windmill (see cover photo). Ray remembers being taken as a youngster by his mother to see his grandfather play quoits. His grandmother played the mouthorgan and he recalls that it was kept in the knife and fork drawer underneath the table. It was always, “Come on Granny, get the mouthorgan” and she did, and that was that”. His grandfather took more persuading however, and wouldn’t get up and get his concertina from the cupboard behind his chair - grandmother would have to get it out and then he would play it.

        Ray’s grandparents on his father’s side weren’t musical as far as he was aware but his uncles were, and so there was always an accordion there standing on the top of the chest of drawers alongside the gramophone and it was that accordion that his father learned on, alongside his brothers. Ray remembers that they would go up to their house and his uncle would play the accordion and then he would put a record on the gramophone and would dance Ray around the table. His grandmother, who was getting old then, would say, “Now you can cut that out now George, he don’t want that, he’ll hurt himself.” But he carried on and would say, “You’re all right, ain’t you boy?”

        In 1954 Ray wed his childhood sweetheart Pamela, who had lived just up the road from him in Langmere. In fact she was the daughter of the retired horseman at Langmere Hall he'd worked for. Ray and Pamela started the Concert Party that was known as ‘Norfolk Bred’ and which of course gave us the name for his album.

 Ray Hubbard can be heard on: VT155CD

































Stan Hugill


(photo: David Williams and Beryl Davis)


        Stan Hugill was born in 1906 at Hoylake in the Wirral, where his melodeon playing father was coastguard. Stan inherited from his seafaring grandfather the texts of the shanties he had noted down, forming the starting point of the collection that Stan subsequently made.
        His first ship, a steamer, was wrecked, whereupon Stan vowed to transfer to sail! His voyage on the 'Gustav' made him a Cape Horner for the first time, and a passage on the Liverpool registered 'Garthpool' in 1929 became his first as a shantyman, the man for the job being the one confident enough to do it and able to gain the respect of his shipmates. The 'Garthpool' was a very leaky ship and Stan's rendition at the pumps of 'Fire down below', shortly before the ship was wrecked, gave him the honour of being the last man to sing a shanty in action on a British vessel.

        Stan's formal education ceased at 14, though he never stopped learning, teaching himself at least nine languages and writing or compiling numerous books and articles, including 'Shanties of the Seven Seas', the shantyman's bible. (Tony Molynieux)


Stan Hugill can be heard on: VTC5CD






































Len Irving (Cumberland)


        Len Irving, who sings 'The Lish Young Buy-a-Broom' on VT142CD 'Pass the Jug Round', was born at Wreay in 1889, and was station master there for 12 years.  (Sue Allen)

Len Irving can be heard on: VT142CD







































Fred Jordan (Shropshire)


(photo: Doc Rowe)


        Fred Jordan was born on 5th January, 1922 in Ludlow, Shropshire. He was one of England's finest singers of traditional songs, and his ability to tell a story through song was second to none. He first came to the attention of the folk revival in 1952 when only thirty years of age, and over the following fifty years he entertained audiences from his native Corve Dale in Shropshire to concert halls throughout the country. He learnt his songs from his family, from his work-mates and from travellers, and he sang them in the pub on a Saturday night. Then he was invited to sing in folk clubs, concerts and festivals, and his repertoire grew as he heard more songs and singers at these events. His occupation, his life-style and his songs were of the nineteenth century, yet his singing context became the twentieth-century folk revival. (John Howson)


Fred Jordan can be heard on: VTD148CD TSCD600 TSCD652 TSCD653 TSCD657 TSCD663 TSCD670  EFDSSCD02  RCD1775 & MTCD333



































John Kennedy (Co. Antrim)


(Photo: Dave Humphreys)


John Kennedy was born in the townland of the Craigs in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland on 31st August 1928. His mother was a very fine singer as was his grandmother and it was from her that he learned his first two traditional songs at the age of eight. In the area around the small town of Cullybackey the rivers  tumbles down the hill side into near by Lough Neagh providing power for the flax and other mills. The people who lived there were obsessed with music and song and it continued in both the home and in the factory. Not only does John have a wide and varied repertoire of songs he is also a masterful fife and whistle player and many of his tunes are from the strong tradition of Orange marching bands. (John Howson)


John Kennedy can be heard on: VT137CD

































Jimmy Knights (Suffolk)


(photo: Mike Yates)


     Jimmy Knights was born in 1880 in the same house in Debach where his father and grandfather had been born. When the First World War erupted he spent four years in France. Returning unscathed, he travelled the country particularly Scotland and Yorkshire, as a stallion leader, a job he did for twenty years. Keith described his first meeting with him in 1975: ‘Holy Jim’ is Suffolk's answer to Charlie Wills - a tiny, red-faced man with a white moustache and trilby hat, Jimmy, well into his 90s, still enjoys his beer at his favourite pub, still has an eye for the girls, and can still give out with some great songs in a beautiful clear voice. I first met Jim on a bitterly cold day, thumbing back home. I noticed this little old chap walking down the road followed by his pet duck, and we soon got chatting. I told him I had just recorded a singer in a nearby village. "Cor blast" he said "I've forgotten more songs than he knows". At this point my first lift in two hours arrived and I had to go. Luckily the driver knew Jimmy and told me where I could meet him, which I shortly did. Jimmy played a banjo which he had bought in Hull during his travels. He had learned to play fiddle a bit as a boy and then found he could knock out local tunes he knew on the banjo like Jack's the Lad, Devil and the Tailors, but it was his songs he was best known for. He sang in many of his local pubs like Bredfield Castle, Clopton Crown, Charsfield Horseshoes and Hasketon Turkey (Turk's Head) and said that he had first visited a pub when he was ten. He met and heard a lot of the older singers and it was from them he gathered his large and unusual repertoire of songs; singers like Charlie Stiff, Charlie Chaplain, Harry Finch, Lom Archer, Jim Baldry who had been recorded singing Radcliff Highway by the BBC in 1956. When asked about songs like The Dark-eyed Sailor and The Foggy Dew, he said, “Well, every bugger used to sing those round here - I used to, but I prefer to sing something different - something people haven't heard before.”


Jimmy Knights can be heard on: TSCD656  TSCD668VT154CD







































Roy Last


(photo: John Howson)


        When Roy was recorded he rarely sang out in company, but in earlier days he was a regular at Stonham Brewer’s Arms (known locally as the Tap) and the Green Man at Mendlesham Green. His grand-father was a singer and Roy learned 'William Rufus' from him: Roy’s father, Fred used to sing every Saturday night in Rickinghall Cross, and Roy learned 'Botany Bay' from him. 'The Costermonger’s Song' came from an old uncle on his mother’s side who moved from Suffolk to London to work on the railway. 
        One of Roy’s father’s sisters was also very keen on collecting songs and used to write them down in an exercise book. It was she who bought 'Peter the Paynter': a true story from the 1840s, on a broadsheet from a man who used to sell them in Walsham-le-Willows. When Roy was a boy, she used to sit him on her knee and sing 'Little Cock Sparrow ' with the emphasis on the naughty” as Roy recalled. Roy’s excellent version of 'John Barleycorn' was learned from Bill Lockwood, who used to sing it in the Needham Market Three Tuns and the Creeting King’s Head in the 1920s. (John Howson)


Roy Last can can be heard on: VT130CD & VTDC8CD


































Ted Laurence (Norfolk)


  (photo: Eastern Daily Press)


        Ted Laurence was born in East Bilney in North Norfolk in the late 1890s. His fatherwas the groom for the carriage horses where he worked and Ted was brought up amongst horses, often helping his father by taking the horses around the estate to exercise them. He worked with his father until he was fourteen when the First World War broke out, and he joined the Irish Guards. After the war he moved to Billingford to work as a stallion leader with Shire horses, then to Langmere where he looked after Suffolks. When the first horse there died on the way to the Suffolk Show, the owner, Mr Raynham took Ted to get a replacement stallion and Ted chose ‘Admiral John’ (see cover photo). In the 1930s Ted moved to Winfarthing, again as stallion leader with Suffolks, but eventually he changed to the French bred Percherons. Ted stayed there until he retired, when he moved to live at Shelfhanger, where Keith recorded him. Ted gave all of his stud books and horse paraphernalia to fellow horseman, singer and melodeon player, Ray Hubbard of Dickleburgh before he died and Ray has fond memories of Ted. “I heard him sing years ago and then when we had the Concert Party and we were going his way near Shelfhanger, we’d pick him up, and he’d join us and sing on the stage. That would be 1955 to about 1965. He’d sing the Dicky and Cart and I’d play for him and some times he’d bring his accordeon and play that. He sang in whatever was his local pub at the time like the Winfarthing ‘Old Oak’. He’d sing here in the Crown in Dickleburgh when he was at Raynhams. My father, when he was a young man, heard him sing there. He sang several songs but it was Dicky and Cart that stuck in my mind and he wrote that one out for me.“Three weeks before Ted died in 1981 I went over and he got the accordeon down: that used to sit on top of the chest of drawers. Then he said ‘I can’t play now, so you play it; and I played seven waltzes like Believe me if All Those Enduring Young Charms and he sung the words to every one.


Ted Laurence can can be heard on: TSCD670 &  VT154CD


































Sophie Legg (Cornwall)


  (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)


  (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)


        Shopie Legg was born in 1918 into one of the best known West Country travelling families, the Orchards. She is Vic Legg's mother and was source of many of his songs as were her two sisters (Vic's aunts) Charlotte and Betsy Renals.

        Their father Edwin was born in 1879 and was married to Susan (also an Orchard) when he was twenty and she was sixteen. At that time they run a coconut shy at local fairs until Edwin became a fairground bare-knuckle fighter, taking on all-comers for three weeks. He earned good money, in fact he earned enough to buy themselves a wagon, enabling them to give up the fair life to go on the road. They hawked  haberdashery and when they stopped at night they would often meet up with other Gypsy families and songs would be shared around the camp fire.

        Sophie continued travelling with her parents until about 1936 before settling with her husband George Legg who was from Gloucester. (from Pete Coe's notes)


Sophie Legg can be heard on: VT119CD




































Vic Legg


    (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)               

(Vic with his aunties Betsy and Charlotte and his mother Sophie)   


     (photo:  Maggy Hunt)

 ( Vic and Chris Ridley's in the Volunteer Inn, Sidmouth)


        Vic Legg was born in Launceston, North Cornwall but has lived a little further west in Bodmin for most of his life. Over the years he has become renowned as a fine singer of traditional songs who seems to have the right song for every occasion.

        Vic comes from travelling stock, and music, especially singing, has always been in his family. His maternal grandparents who travelled the Cornwall-Devon border hawking haberdashery, were both singers, and his grandmother was a fine stepdancer. Their children were, of course, reared in a singing environment: they would meet uncles, aunts and cousins at weddings and fairs, and singing would inevitably be the outcome of the gathering. Some more of the family songs can be heard sung by Vic's mother Sophie Legg and her elder sisters Betsy and Charlotte Renals on the CD VTll9CD 'Catch me if you Can'. (John Howson)


Vic Legg can be heard on: VT129CD
























































Viv Legg


(photo Glynn Masters)

(Sophie & Viv Legg)


(photo courtsey of Viv Legg)

(Viv, Vic, Sophie and George Legg)


        Vivienne Legg comes from a long line of traditional singers in her extended family of Orchards, Leggs, and Renals. Her brother Vic Legg first brought to a wider audience the songs that their mother Sophie and aunts Charlotte and Betsy sang. The three sisters were recorded by Pete Coe in 1978, and these records were subsquently released on VT119CD as ‘Catch me if you Can’. In 1994 Vic recorded some of their family songs and these were released on VT129CD ‘I’ve Come to Sing a Song’. Sophie now lives  with Viv and has encouraged her to sing some of the family songs which have never been recorded. Viv is the next volume in this fascinating story.


Viv Legg can be heard on: VT153CD









































Bob Lewis (Sussex)


  (photo: Mike Yates)


  (photo: John Howson)


        Originally from Midhurst in West Sussex, Bob learnt most of his songs from his family and friends. For some reason, "Many of the singers (there) were either builders or undertakers! Don't ask me why, though." He also has a great interest in local customs and traditions.

        Following a spell of national service, Bob worked with engines for many years, servicing cars and all manner of agricultural machinery. He has now retired to East Sussex and is a regular stalwart at many folk clubs and festivals. (Mike Yates)


Bob Lewis can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC4CD  VTC5CD  VTC6CD  VTC7CD  VT131CD & Rust105




































Geoff Ling (Suffolk)


(photo John Howson)


        The Ling family of Blaxhall must be one of the best known singing families in the county, and Geoff has certainly kept that tradition alive. His mother Susan and father Oscar were singers and his older brother, George became known as 'a rare old singer'. George moved from Blaxhall to Croydon, but as Geoff relates, "If George came back to the Ship, say on holiday, there were certain songs that the rest of the family wouldn't sing because they were his, although we would sing them the rest of the year."
        This is how it has been for years with song ownership. How often have I heard someone say, "You don't sing that one if 'so-and-so' is here: that's his. " What is interesting now, is that Geoff is able to sing many of the family songs and much of the local repertoire because he is now the main carrier.
        Geoff worked mainly on farms, and he told Keith Summers that he started singing in pubs when he was eighteen. "I'd go around with Dad to steel quoits games at pubs like Marlesford Bell, Aldeburgh Mill Inn and Eastbridge Eel's Foot. But the most singing was at the Ship in Blaxhall, and that's how we'd pick up those old songs, by hearing them so often." (John Howson)


Geoff Ling can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC2CD  VTC3CD  VTC6CD  VT154CD & TSCD660







































George Ling (Suffolk)


(photo from Sing, Say or Pay))

(George Ling with his wife Rose)


        George Ling who was known as ‘Spider’ was born in Blaxhall in 1904 and was the elder brother of Geoff Ling. His grandfather Aaron, mother Susan and father Oscar were singers and everyone in the family had a go at stepping. George told Keith (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “All those Smiths and Picketts and Taylors originated from Blaxhall. They used to make pegs and work as tinsmiths down at Camel’s Pit. We used to play there as boys and I'd help them make those pegs out of reeds. One old boy from Tunstall, Obediah Taylor, he played the fiddle and he taught me to step when
I was nine. I used to spend more time in that caravan with him than at home. He'd say "Come on, my son, I'll play Pigeon on the Gate" and off I'd go. Me and brother Geoff used to dance together down the Ship ‘in reels’, we called 'em. I could dance very well at one time of day but I could never beat those Smiths nor Bensy Hewitt - they were the masters.

        George’s first job was with his mother stone-picking in the fields, then at twelve he went to work with a dairy herd, then went to work at Snape maltings, where he did a bricklaying apprenticeship, with singer Bob Hart as his labourer.He moved to Croydon in 1926 and although he did play (melodeon) and sing in some of the back street pubs, when he returned to Blaxhall on holiday, he still took his place as one of the senior singers there, always remembering his early days:(From ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “We were a happy-go-lucky lot those days - sing a few songs, have a dance, and wherever we went someone would bring an accordeon with a red spotted handkerchief around the stops. There was me, Freddy Ling, Johnny
Richardson, Mike and Geoff Keble, and we all had mouth-organs and if we all walked out somewhere to a pub, you'd hear us for miles in those quiet old villages and they'd say "Here come the Blaxhall boys" - used to sound all right too.”
        Apparently it was not always so friendly: “There were more fights than halfpennies that time of day. The pubs weren't supposed to open all day, but there was only one copper for miles and if he stopped by he'd come in for a drink. One night a bloke said to Wicketts (Richardson) "I can't, dance or recite but just to keep the company amused I'll fight the best man here.” Cor, there was some blood flying, I'll tell you. If ever a stranger came in the pub - oh dear, all eyes would be on him.”


Geoff Ling can be heard on: TSCD652  TSCD662  VT154CD






































Fred List (Suffolk)


   (photo courtesy of Lennie Whting)


  (photo courtesy of Lennie Whting)


        Frederick John List was born at World’s End Farm, Saxtead, in 1911 and was brother to Billy List. He sang lots of songs with many coming from his father, Harry List, who was recorded by Peter Kennedy for the BBC in 1951. After Harry died in 1962, Billy’s mother lived with George Bloomfield, Alec’s father. Fred told Keith how he learned to play (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “I first started playing the mouthorgan when I was at school - I lived at Saxtead then. Our family wasn't very musical, but my grandfather (John Ling) was a rare stepdancer. I never knew him - he died when I was only three - but I heard people say he could bring 'em both in. Well, when I was about 12 my sister sent off for an accordeon from Hastings - a three-stop one for 14/- and she got so she could play a few songs and I could play several hymns - Now the Day is Over - that sort of thing. Then a chap called George Scott, a bit older than me, he moved to Saxtead and he was a pretty good accordeon player. I was 15 and we'd play our accordeons round his little hut and in the summer we'd get on the street corner with a board and have a step. We stuck together and got so we'd start playing around the pubs - Charlie Page's (Railway Inn, Framlingham) was our regular Saturday night spot. George, he was friendly with Walter Read because they were both boot repairers, and sometimes we'd go round for Walter and go to Monk Soham Oak or Saxtead Volunteer, and Walter was the best playerI ever heard and a good singer, although I have played with Alf Peachey down Cretingham Old Bell and different places. He could play a good stepdance, and marches, that was his speciality - Cheer, Boys, Cheer, that sort of thing.”“Some of the best musicians I heard were some Irish chaps. They'd come over cutting sugar beet and get down Southolt Plough or Fram Queen of a night. One of them played the fiddle, holding it across his arm. All sorts of tunes they'd play and dance. I picked up some of my jigs from them. That was about 1938 and these chaps were all about 50 - then scruffy old bunch but good company. ”In later days Fred List became the house musician at Blaxhall Ship and was featured on the 1974 Transatlantic LP ‘The Larks they Sang Melodious’. Fred died in 1994.

Fred List can be heard on:  VT154CD & VTDC11CD










































Billy List (Suffolk)


(photo courtesy of Lennie Whting)


      William Pearl List was born at World’s End Farm, Saxtead, in 1909 and was brother to singer and melodeon player Fred List and son of singer Harry List. Billy lived in Brundish and was remembered well by Charlie Whiting’s nephew Lenny Whiting: “Billy was a universal chap; he drove a steam engine, a steam road roller, and he drove one of those big old chain bucket cranes. He’d work round here or he’d have to go away to work for maybe two or three months and he’d work a sugar beet team. My old man and me used to meet up with Billy and his lad and we’d go rabbiting, that was when the hedges were twenty foot wide. That was Saturday and Sunday regular - well it was bit of extra spending money. They’d take them to the pub at night and raffle them off. I did hear him sing, but not a lot, because he was a Blaxhall Ship man, well in the later part of the time, because Fred List played accordeon there.” Billy got most of his songs from his father Harry and told Keith (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “Once Dad got started you couldn't stop him. He'd do Banks of Sweet Dundee, With me Navvy Boots on, Knife in the Window. I learnt that one Paddy and the Rope from Bob Scarce - I used to see him in Blaxhall Ship when I'd go with Fred, and that one Murder of Maria Marten - I got that from a book, 'cos that really happened somewhere round here. Old Charlie Hinney, he was another good singer. He had hands as big as pails. He used to live near by me in Brundish. He was 90 when he died (in 1974). He'd sing All that Glitters is not Gold and The String Around me Old Pyjamas."

Billy List can be heard on:  VT154CD
















































Harry Litherland  (Lancashire)


Harry Litherland was born in 1931 in Aspull near Wigan, Lancashire. His father Tom had a concertina and played by ear, often in local pubs. Harry had been playing violin but his father wouldn't let him touch the concertina until he was thirty. He showed him the basics but it was an old chap called Silvester Halliwell who taught him most. Harry's concertina is a McCann system duet and although Halliwell's was a Crane system he was still able to put him on the right path. At one time the concertina was very popular in the Wigan area and Harry particularly remembers two brothers called Rigby who played the local music halls. I first met Harry when he was busking in Leigh in Lancashire and he spent many years making his living this way, often travelling hundreds of miles to find his next audience.


 (photos: John Howson)


Harry Litherland can be heard on: VTC10CD













































Ernie Lyas (Suffolk)


 (photo: courtsey of Ernie Lyas)

Although the melodeon was extremely popular in Mid-Suffolk, some people who started with it later switched to the piano accordion and one such musician was Ernie Lyas of Stowmarket. He recalled that he used to play what he called a 'windjammer' but always wanted a piano accordion and bought his first one in 1939. He also played jew's harp, tin whistle and mouthorgan and at one time he played saxophone with a Haughley band led by Johnny Ransome. He mainly played in the Stowmarket Railway Tavern or Onehouse Shepherd and Dog usually with a drummer and piano players Billy Eaton or Vicky McClean and he was also a member of the Stowmarket British Legion concert party, along with Doddy Thorndyke.


Ernie Lyas can be heard on: VTDC8CD





















































Jimmy Lynch - (West of Ireland)


Jimmy Lynch was born in the west of Ireland. His mother played melodeon and the concertina and his father sang, particularly at threshing parties. He was one of five children, three brothers and one sister but only one of his brothers played music and he tragically died when he was just fourteen. Jimmy's mother played for crossroad dances which would start at four o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and continue until it was dark. In more recent years Jimmy lived in Worsley Mesnes, near Wigan and had a large collection of musical instruments. He took up busking and was a familiar figure with his rack of foot-operated dancing dolls which he transported in an old pram, often travelling by train or on visits back to Ireland, by ferry.


       (photos: John Howson)


Jimmy Lynch can be heard on: VTC10CD
































































John & Tim Lyons - (Co. Cork)

      (photos: John Howson)

      John Lyons was born on 31st October 1933. Tim was born on 8th December 1937. Both were born in Evergreen Road in Turner’s Cross, a suburb of Cork City. Their grandfather (whom they never met), was a stone-mason living in Mulcarthy’s Bridge, near Banteer, Co.Cork. He was a member of the Irish Land League, a political organisation which sought to help poor tenant farmers. As its aim was to abolish landlordism in Ireland, the family was evicted from their home and local people took them in to stay. John and Tim’s father, also called Tim, was fourteen years old at this time. One night, he and a friend made a plan. They packed a bag, climbed out the window, and walked to Cork city. There they signed on with the British Navy and their father, Tim Sr. became a gunner, fighting in The Battle of Jutland in 1916. On leaving the Navy, he met and married a Cork woman called Kathleen Buckley.

      As young children, John and Tim were known as Jackie, (a popular name in Cork) and Tadhg (Pronounced ‘Tige’ – Tiger without the ‘r’). They had two brothers, Richie and Patrick and a sister Nora. After his Navy service, their father got a job in Henry Ford’s motor works in Cork city as a machine operator, making con-rods. Later, as work became scarce, he tried his hand at anything he could, including photograph framing. He usually worked at home, but also visited people’s houses, carrying his carpenter’s tools and a large mitre block on the back of his Raleigh bike. At home, he also cut hair, turning the sitting room into a barber’s shop with a striped pole outside over the gate.

       The family moved to north Cork, near Banteer, the area where their father had been brought up. They rented a gate house on an estate in Dromtariffe owned by Captain Leader, which was named ‘Rosnalee’, situated between Mallow and Millstreet on the road to Killarney. The first music John and Tim remember was when their first cousin Paddy Kelleher visited the house and played piano accordion. They were actually living a short distance from Sliabh Luachra (The Rushy Mountain), an area rich in music, but were too young to realise it at the time.

      In 1946, their father moved to England in search of work and as an ex-Navy man he was able to get a council house in Wolverhampton, paying a rent of just 10d.  He eventually moved the whole family there. John moved over in 1949 when he was coming up to sixteen years old and his father got him an apprenticeship as an electrician with the Electric Construction Co. A year later,     Tim followed him over. He was then twelve and continued his schooling in Wolverhampton until he was fifteen. His father wanted him to become a tool-maker and he got him an apprenticeship at the Wolverhampton Die Casting Company.

      Whilst in England, the only music they came across was on the radio. On Sunday mornings, they would listen to ‘As I Roved Out’ with field recordings which had been recorded by Seamus Ennis and Peter Kennedy. Another favourite programme of theirs was ‘The Jimmy Shand Show’ on Radio Luxembourg, which was the nearest they could get to Irish music. Irish National Radio reception was very poor in those days as it was broadcast from Athlone (the centre of Ireland) and they couldn’t receive it in England.

      They would buy mouth-organs and try to imitate what they heard on the radio. On a Saturday afternoon, they would play music in their bedroom. Tim can remember that John made a set of drums out of Tate & Lyle tins (sugar containers) with some canvas stretched over them. Later, the brothers  clubbed together and bought a Hohner one-row melodeon between them.

      While they were all living in Wolverhampton, they still kept the house in North Cork, which they would return to for summer holidays. In 1954, John received his enrolment papers for the army, as conscription was still in place. His father had not had a good experience in the British forces and he told John to leave England. John moved back to Ireland and lived in the house in North Cork with his sister Nora. Tim spent his teenage years in Wolverhampton and then the same scenario arose. After finishing his apprenticeship at 21, he too received his conscription papers. Tim then, using a false name, left the factory where he worked and sought work elsewhere; he worked for a time on building sites in Birmingham but as he could not reveal his correct tax details, he had to use an emergency tax code, which left him financially crippled, so in 1959 he too went back to Ireland.

      By this time John was beginning to get involved with local musicians. There was a dance platform near to the house where they lived, under a large spreading chestnut tree. On a summer’s evening, musicians would arrive and play local polkas and slides for the dancing. John had bought a Paolo Soprani button accordion and was playing with Sean Lynch’s band from Kanturk. Around this time, he was meeting several Sliabh Luachra players including fiddle players Dennis Murphy known as ‘The Weaver’ and Morris O’ Keefe from Kishkeam, nephew of the legendary Padraig O’Keeffe. Also accordion player Johnny O’Leary from Maulykeavane, and he remembers John and Julia Clifford were also with them. When Tim returned home, in 1959, they both played with Tommy Doocey’s band from Banteer, and later with Mick Williams’ Duhallow Céilí Band which played all around North Cork and parts of Kerry.

      Irish railways were bringing in new diesel engines and John found work as a maintenance electrician in Dublin. Because of the erratic shift work, John soon left and started work with Unidare, maker of electric cables. Tim, now in Cork, trudged around the area looking for work, but to no avail. Eventually John managed to get him a job at Unidare also, working in the tool room and they lived together in digs in Dublin.

      They found lots of music in Dublin and were regular visitors to the Piper’s Club in Thomas Street and sessions at St Mary’s Music Club in Church Street. They remember this as being one of the great venues for traditional sessions. They were in self-catering digs and one day whilst buying some cutlery, they got talking to the shopkeeper, and got onto the topic of music. He turned out to be the great Clare fiddle and concertina player John Kelly, who had moved to Dublin in 1945. They remember him as one of the stalwarts of the Dublin traditional music scene along with flute player Dessie O’Connor, accordion player Sonny Brogan, Galway fiddle player Joe Leary and banjo player Barney McKenna. At that time, Barney was also playing jazz in a bar in Howth, County Dublin. He was soon to join the Ronnie Drew Group which later became the Dubliners.

      Ireland was building its first oil refinery at Whitegate in County Cork and advertised for electricians. They were offering high wages. John and flute player Mick Kelly found employment in Whitegate. However, after 6 months that job finished so they moved to England to find work.

      Tim had stayed in Dublin still working for Unidare until that job came to an end. He got another job in a small sheet metalworks but that didn’t last either, so after three years in Dublin, in 1963 he also decided to hit the road and headed for London. He wasn’t married then, but had met his future wife Anna and she went to London around the same time.

      While in England, John met his first wife Marian with whom he had six children; Martin, Dominic, Katie, Kieran, Eoin and Liam, all of whom are now adults and some of whom are following in John’s footsteps playing traditional music. John and his young family eventually moved to County Clare where work was plentiful. They rented a house in Newmarket-on-Fergus as there was work in Shannon and music nearby as well. Newmarket was close to Shannon which was booming, with an increasing number of factories being built. John recalls that they used to go to Clare before they actually went to live there, often to fleadhs and the festivals on the west coast. This was when Willie Clancy was still alive so it was, of course, before the famous Willie Clancy Week was going then. They loved Clare because of the great music, so when John decided to settle back in Ireland it was not his home county of Cork he chose, but County Clare where the work and the music were.

      Shortly after John arrived in Newmarket-on-Fergus, the Bunratty Cottage sessions started and for a number of years John became a regular member, together with Martin Talty, Paddy O’ Donoghue, Jimmy Flynn, Denis Doody and Tony Lynch.

      Meanwhile Tim was enjoying life in London where he spent the next eight years. He had found the Irish pubs and the folk clubs, in particular The Singers’ Club where he met Ewan McColl. Once it was realised that Tim had songs, he was regularly asked to sing and eventually he started getting bookings at the club. McColl invited Tim to his house in Kent where he was introduced (via McColl’s recording collection) to some of the great Irish singers like Elizabeth Cronin, Robert Cinnamond, Joe Heaney and Nicolás Tóibín. Around this time, Tim was also asked to join a group of singers, The Exiles, alongside Enoch Kent, Gordon McCulloch, Bobby Campbell and Paul Lenihan. They didn’t play together very often but Tim recalls a memorable open air ‘Ban the Bomb’ concert in Trafalgar Square and an unforgettable trip to the Isle of Arran to play at a midnight rave where he thinks the pop group ‘The Monkees’ also appeared. Tim was featured on the Exiles’ 1967 Topic LP “The Hale and The Hanged” (12T164) playing button accordion.

      He continued to keep in touch with the London-Irish scene attending  Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann meetings in the Greyhound, Fulham Palace Road. At a Fleadh Cheoil in Cecil Sharp House in Camden, he met Jim Doody, a singer and teacher who asked him to go on tour with him and that was Tim’s first foray into the English folk clubs. Their first bookings were in Devon and although they didn’t do much after that, the folk scene were starting to hear of Tim and he was getting solo work all over the country such as another ‘Ban the Bomb’ concert in Exeter Town Hall with Julie Felix and the Ian Campbell folk group, The Beaford Festival with A.L. Lloyd and Dave and Toni Arthur and in 1967, an appearance at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in Devon. In 1969, he was also included on a Topic compilation LP (12T184) ‘The Breeze from Eireann’ where he played alongside tin whistle player Festy Conlon.  During this time, he still had a full time job on a building site in Brixton. The young foreman there was a follower of folk music and a fan of Luke Kelly’s. When it was necessary for Tim to leave the site to catch an afternoon train to a venue, he would cover for him in return for a fiver in the pub on a Friday night. Tim remembers that the money from folk clubs was good then. He would get fifteen pounds for a night singing which was to him a week’s work in London. He had particularly gained a following in the North of England and came to know The Watersons, staying at Mike’s house when he sang at Hull. But it was the North East that took him to their heart and Tim often stayed with his good friend Tom Gilfellon. When he told them that he was going back home to Ireland in 1970, they organised a farewell concert for him. The night was a sell-out and Tim remembers he got a fee of £30, his highest ever fee in those times. Tim had, by then, decided to move to County Clare.

      John was certainly enjoying the local music in Clare with regular Ennis sessions in Hogan’s (now Brogan’s), Kelly’s and Paddy Arthur’s where he met a lot of local musicians and singers including John Joe Casey, Dessie Mulcaire, Séamus MacMathúna, Johnny Galvin, Paddy Murphy and Carl McTigue. He also made many trips west to Miltown Malbay and Doolin where he met and played with the Russell Brothers: Packie, Gussie and Micho, and he remembers that in those days it was a quiet little session with just the local musicians, usually in O’Connor’s pub. In Miltown, he would meet and play with Jimmy Ward and Willie Clancy and also J.J Talty, Martin Talty and the singer Mick Flynn. It was lively times, mainly in Queally’s pub. There was a little snug in the back where Willie Clancy would play, until he moved to Lynch’s which was then owned by Willie’s friend Tom Friel. This became a stronghold for traditional music in the town.

      Regarding the source of his songs, John remembers that they came from everywhere. He learned them from the radio, from singers he met and from books. Before he moved to Clare, he would cut songs out of the Cork Weekly Examiner (Carbury’s Column) which had a traditional song every week, and stick them in a scrapbook; he was always looking for new songs. He started entering singing competitions at the fleadhs and became Munster Champion, and he succeeded in coming 2nd at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Boyle in 1960.

      Tim’s move to Clare in May 1970 gave him work in Shannon and the local music scene was of course a great attraction to him.  He recalls that there were sessions at the drop of a hat, often on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with great local musicians. John was well ensconced in the music scene in Clare by the early 1970s, visiting fleadhs and festivals in Scarriff, Tulla, Feakle, Ennis and Ennistymon. In East Clare, sessions he would never miss were in Donnellan’s in Kilkishen, and the Blacksticks in O’Callaghan’s Mills where he would meet and play with Martin Rochford, Vincent Griffin, Paddy O’Donoghue and Eddie Duggan. John was also a co-founder of the Shannon Folk Club which booked many new and exciting acts that were emerging on the folk scene such as Paul Brady, Joe Burke, Stockton’s Wing, De Dannan and Stoker’s Lodge. At this time John didn’t travel much outside of County Clare but he remembers a coach load of musicians including Willie Clancy, Quilty tin whistle player Joe Cunneen and P.J Downes going to Dublin to do a television programme for RTE called ‘Bring Down the Lamp’.

       Around this time, Tim was playing music with singer, tin whistle and flute player Micho Russell on a weekly basis in O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin which was at that time the heart of the west Clare scene. This resulted in the duo being invited, by Leon Lamal the agent for the group ‘Rum’, to tour Belgium for two weeks including three gigs in France, two in Paris and one in Orléans. In 1972, Tim recorded an LP for the Leader label called ‘The Green Linnet’ (LER3036) and John was also recorded in 1974 for an LP on Topic called ‘The May Morning Dew’ (12TS248). There were few paid bookings in Ireland then. Although John recalls in earlier days when he played at Hogan’s in Ennis, the musicians were each given a bag of sandwiches at the end of the session which they ate outside under the archway of the pub before travelling home.

      The Topic LP that John made provoked an awareness of John in England and he was invited to do some folk club tours. In 1976, John went to America for three weeks. This was for the bicentenary celebrations of the United States and the party of twenty five who travelled there reads like a Who’s Who of Irish traditional music; it included Ollie Conway, Willie Keane and The Mullagh Set, Junior Crehan, Tom Munnelly, Ciarán MacMathúna, Denis Doody, Donal O’Connor, Paddy Tunney, Micho Russell, Maeve Donnelly, Sonny McDonagh, Sonny Murray and De Danann.

      Tim recorded another LP for the American label Green Linnet which was released in 1978 and called ‘Easter Snow’ (SIF1014). In the same year, Tim was asked to join De Danann, and they toured England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Holland, Belgium and Germany before embarking on a massive eleven week tour of America.

      In the 1980s Tim became very active musically. Gigs where his traditional songs were wanted started to increase, particularly in Dublin where new folk clubs were starting up, like the one at Slattery’s on Capel Street. Tim had tried to write songs when he lived in London but found himself too influenced by Ewan McColl. He recalls writing a song about the 1966 Aberfan disaster but after examining it, he realised it was a carbon copy of the song ‘The Gresford Disaster’. He didn't start seriously writing songs until 1985, twenty years later, and when he was increasingly getting bookings to sing his own, often comic, songs.

      In 1988, Tim and Anna moved to Galway and became involved in the music scene there. Then while on a visit back to Clare in 1989, Tim had a chance meeting with flute player and singer/songwriter Fintan Vallelly. It was in Friel's bar in Miltown Malbay, and after a little friendly altercation about one of Fintan's songs called ‘The Moving Statues’ which Tim sang, but thought it to have been written by Belfast singer, the late Brian Moore. Tim and Fintan got on very well. Fintan was intrigued that they were both writing similar satirical songs but in different styles and he asked Tim to join him on a tour of Scotland the following April. It went very well and in 1989 they released a cassette together called ‘Knock Knock Knock’ (UFMA tapes001) and in 2000 a CD under the name ‘Schitheredee’ called ‘Big Guns and Hairy Drums’ (WHN002) which concentrated on their own humorous songs. They also got themselves an agent, Frank Bechhofer, who organised tours all over England and Scotland which they continued  to do until around 1995.

      In 1997, Tim appeared on an American CD called, ‘Celtic Mouth Music’ (Ellipsis Arts CD4070) and in 1998 on a compilation of music and songs from 1798 uprising against British rule in Ireland called, ‘The Croppy’s Complaint’ (CRCD03).

      Back in Clare, John was playing on a regular basis with local musicians around the Shannon area including Pat Mullins, Pat Costello and Martin Breen. They were known as ‘Tradaree’ and toured in Ireland and in Brittany. John was recorded on two Shannon based tapes called ‘Down Our Street’ and ‘The Artful Dodgers’ and in 1993 he recorded a solo singing cassette called ‘The Troubled Man’ (WWOO2). This was the same year that John met his second wife Ann, also a singer, at the singing festival in Ennistymon. The following year he was included on a French compilation CD called ‘Voyage Musical – Irlande’ (YA225704). Around this time, the Ennis Singers Club was founded by the late Peadar McNamara and John was included on a compilation recording of the Club called ‘Clare Songs, Rare Songs, and Quare Songs’. In the early 2000s John played and sang with the late Haulie Moloney in Malachy's Bar in Quin and they recorded a CD appropriately titled ‘Malachy's Men’.

      As well as playing with local musicians, John continued to make occasional appearances at some of the English folk festivals such as Sidmouth and the National Festival Folk Festival at Loughborough, and English folk clubs such as the Swindon Folksingers Club.  In 2001, John performed with Sean Talty (son of the late Martin Talty) and Eamon McGivney at The Beethoven Festival in Bonn, Germany.

      John still lives near Newmarket-on-Fergus with his wife Ann. They have two children Aisling and Sean, who are award winning traditional musicians in their own right. Aisling plays harp and concertina and Sean plays tin whistle and uilleann pipes. The family are members of the Tulla Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and John is a Patron of Cnoc na Gaoithe the new Tulla Comhaltas Cultural Centre.

      Tim and Anna now live in County Galway and Tim still sings and plays at various gatherings around Ireland. Recently he has been involved in an Irish Arts Council funded song writing project called ‘The Wild Bees Nest’, and has recorded his latest, and first serious, song on the CD which is the culmination of the project.

      After spending their lives criss-crossing the Irish sea for work, singing and music have been, and are still a very important part of what these two remarkable brothers do. Yet amazingly, apart from playing in so many sessions together, they have rarely shared a stage. The good news is that in recent years they have started to appear together and long may they continue to do so.

John & Tim Lyons can be heard on: VT158CD

































   Sean MacNamara Eamon Coyne & Peggy Peakin (Liverpool)

Liverpool Ceili band (late 1960s)Ceili Band - Mid 80's





    Liverpool Ceili Band 1960s                                                                                 1980s - Sean (middle), Peggy (left)          Eamon, Kit Hodge, Sean

        Sean MacNamara was an original member of the famed Liverpool Ceili Band, a band that had four fiddle players in it's front line including Eamon Coyne, Charlie Lennon and their original leader Kit Hodge. During the sixties they won the 'All Ireland' ceili band competition two years running and they visited America and appeared on the television show 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium'.  Peggy Peakin is Kit's sister and she has also been playing fiddle in Liverpool for almost half a century but didn't join the band until she became their regular piano player, replacing Peggy Atkins.

There is still a vibrant and continuing Irish musical tradition in Liverpool and these two musicians have influenced and inspired it. (John Howson)

To read Sean McNamara's extended article on the Liverpool Ceili Band.: Click Here

To read Fred McComack's  interview with Sean McNamara on Musical Traditions web site.: Click Here

Sean McNamara Eamon Coyne and Peggy Peakin can be heard on: VTC1CD & VT125DR





































Jim Matthews

        Jim Matthews, born in 1878 at Chalkfoot near Dalston, was a retired rural overhead linesman with the GPO. He sings the nonsense song 'My Uncle Pete' on VT142CD 'Pass the Jug Round'. (Sue Allen)

Jim Mathews can be heard on: VT142CD



































Bert Mayes (Suffolk)

(photo: John Howson)

        Bert was born in Monk Soham, Suffolk in 1904, and never moved far from his home village. He worked on farms, first at Kenton Lodge, then at Kenton Hall and was not very keen on horse ploughing. He maintained that farm work today is like play compared to his time. Bert played a ten key melodeon for nearly thirty years, then moved onto a two row. He played a lot in local pubs, like Bedfield Dog, Worlingworth Crown, Brundish Crown and particularly the two in his own village the Oak and the Elm. He was friendly with Kenton fiddle player Fred Whiting and said that if anybody played a dance tune slowly Fred could ‘dot that down on paper’. “A clever old boy!” he said. Bert would also meet up with fiddle player Harkie Nesling, the Gifford brothers Walter and Sam and melodeon players Alf Peachey and Walter Read.

Bert Mayes can be heard on: VTDC11CD


































Geoff Mayes (Suffolk)

(photo: John Howson)

        Geoff was born in Hepworth, Suffolk in 1924, and he worked on a local farm and lived in the same house all of his life. His first instrument was a mouthorgan which was bought for him by his mother in Bury St Edmunds where she would bike to do her shopping. When he was sixteen he bought his first melodeon, a ‘Viceroy’; at the time he was earning 11/4d a week. He stopped playing for many years until he met up with Ernie Chapman from Stonham who encouraged him to play again. Geoff recalled a time when every pub in the area had a melodeon player but his fondest memory was of the old Black Horse in Hepworth, there he remembered several melodeon players including Will Beals, known as Will ‘Woopsie’ and Edgar Howells who was the local saw sharpener. He particularly remembered him playing for the annual Slate Club payout night when all the family would go to pick up what they had saved for

Geoff Mayes can be heard on: VTDC11CD









































John Mitchell (Suffolk)

 (photo: John Howson)

I met John Mitchell in Forward Green, Mid-Suffolk where his family had lived there for many generations. His father, Albert, had played melodeon in the village pub, the Shepherd and Dog. John learned to play many of his father's tunes but never played in the pub himself. He was in the army for four years and continued to play by buying a mouthorgan when he was in Germany.

John Mitchell can be heard on: VTDC8CD





































Douglas Morling

 (photo courtesy of  Ethal Morling)

        Douglas was born in 1910 and died in 1993 and was a quiet man of medium build who worked as a plasterer. He was Eileen’s (ex landlady of the Eel's Foot') brother-in-law and was married to Ethel, who was photographed by 'Picture Post ' magazine singing in the Eel's Foot' when she was a young girl. Douglas himself was not a regular singer in the pub. They lived in three places in Eastbridge: first in the ‘tin houses’ (near the sluice, now demolished), then in a cottage opposite the Eel’s Foot, and finally opposite the shop in Lydon Cottages. (John Howson)

Douglas Morling can be heard on: VT140CD
































Tommy Morrissey

 (photo: John Howson)

 (photo: John Howson)

(Tommy Morrisey at the helm of his fishing boat the' Girl Maureen')

        Tommy Morrissey was born in 1915 and always had a preference for songs about the sea, which was hardly surprising as he worked every day out of Padstow harbour. He was one of the last of the old style fishermen who fished in just about every way possible: pots for crabs and lobsters, hand-lines for mackerel and a trawl off the side of his tiny boat the 'Girl Maureen', for plaice, skate and the like.
        Several years ago storyteller Taffy Thomas spent a season fishing with Tommy and he still has fond memories of the evening song sessions: "Visitors to the tiny North Cornwall port of Padstow any weekend may well find one of the pubs packed with locals raising their voices in song for the sheer joy of harmonising together. "At the heart of the session in all probability, would have been two men; one a fisherman ruddied by the sea winds singing as though his life depended on it whilst egging on the other, Charlie Pitman, a sharp featured landsman enacting the songs in gestures whilst singing like a linnet. Both are renowned local characters'. The crack is fierce as they josh each other along. "Come on Pitman, give us the one that made you famous!" Then where appropriate, sources are acknowledged: 'That's one from Charlie Bate,' or 'That's one from the Callie,' (a long closed harbour-side pub called the 'Caledonian').
"But Tommy's singing should by rights be accompanied by the throb of a marine diesel engine, as he could frequently be heard singing whilst heading down the Camel estuary towards the Atlantic waves." (John Howson & Taffy Thomas)

Tommy Morrisey can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC5CD  &  VTC9CD



































Mickey Moscrop

(photo- courtesy of David Hay)

        Mickey Moscrop, who sings the hunting songs 'Pass the Jug Round' and 'John Peel' on VT142CD 'Pass the Jug Round', was born in the Bewcastle area and was well-known as a singer around the pubs and village halls of north Cumbria. (Sue Allen)

Mickey Moscrop can be heard on: VT140CD












































Rob Murch

 (photo: John Howson)

        Rob received his first banjo as a Christmas present when he was 11 years old. He had already been playing the ukulele for 2 years, when his father Bill noticed him picking notes and thought he would be more suited to the banjo. Bill happened to know an excellent banjo player called Tom Barriball from a period when they had played together in the Dartmoor Pixie Band. Tom was happy to teach Rob and a close relationship between the two of them began.
        Tom himself was taught first by Eddie Orchard (the uncle of Cornish singers Vic and Viv Legg) of Launceston and then, as he progressed, by Joe George of Plymouth, the composer of 'Kissing Cup Waltz'. Rob started performing at an early age with the Dartmoor Pixie Band (of which his father was still a member), sitting in at the back of the stage. He began by just playing chords, but as he improved he adapted the classic fingerstyle Tom was teaching him, to play the country dance tunes themselves.
        Rob still performs regularly with the Dartmoor Pixie Band and it is through the band that he first met Mark Bazeley (grandson of the band’s founder Bob Cann) and Jason Rice. They now often play together as a trio around the West Country, and also further a field at festivals and folk clubs.

Rob Murch can be heard on: VT139CD   VT146CD  &  CDMM001














































Maggy Murphy
(Co. Fermanagh)

(photo: John Howson)

        Maggy Murphy was born in Tempo, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland and has lived in and around that area all her life. Her singing was first recorded in 1952 by Peter Kennedy at the house of Mr Bob Woods at Bellyreragh where she was working in service. Peter Kennedy was taken to record her by the Irish folk-song collector Sean O'Boyle. As Maggy says, "Sean was married to the daughter of Mrs Woods and he had heard that I sang while I was milking the cows and coming away from work."

        She spent her working life in service so it's maybe not surprising that she has several songs which feature serving maids /boys. Maggy says of her days in service, "That time you were hired at a hiring fair. Tempo fair wasn't a hiring fair - Trillick was a hiring fair and Enniskillen was a hiring fair. It was 10th of May and 10th of November, every six months and you worked then for six months in a place and if you left before the six months then they kept your wages. So you had to stay there whether you were starved or not. "

        Maggy left work at Bob Woods' to get married and was married for thirty years until her husband died in 1981. She remembers: "He (her husband) was a good melodeon and spoons player. My maiden name was Chambers and Sarah was my niece. She would have been just 16 or 17 when she sang the chorus of 'Linkin' o'er the Lea' with me. My father was a good singer surely, but he wasn't as good a singer as my mother and you could never learn a song from him, but I learned the whole songs from my mother singing them, and that was at home. She'd sing them, then I'd sing along with her. Then if I'd get them wrong she'd write them down for me. She got her songs from her mother but I never knew my Granny. Now all the Chambers they could sing but only my brother Ed had songs like 'Clock striking nine'. They called him Ned. He's been dead 27 years now and he was also a terrible (good) dancer. Honest to God if he was dancing you'd swear it was drum sticks. That was dancing the old-time reels and things like that. Then my uncles on the Chambers side; one also called Ned, he was in the army and he used to go to country houses and he used to sing and lilt for people to dance to, and my Uncle Paddy he was also a terrible (good) dancer and he played the mouthorgan. I used to be great at picking up songs from other people singing them but I never sang in pubs and after I got married I only sang occasionally in country houses."

        Maggy Murphy was 72 years in October 1996 and she found a new audience for her songs and not only in her own locality, but she was also invited to several singing weekends including Inishowen, Derrygonelly and Forkhill and she has appeared on 'The Pure Drop' on RTE television! (John Moulden)

Maggy Murphy can be heard on: VT134CD  &  MTCD329-0






































Buster Mustoe (Worcestershire)

      Buster was the landlord of the Vale of Evesham pub ‘Round of Grass’ in Badsey, Worcestershire. The pub takes it’s name from the locally grown asparagus. Mike Yates was taken to see him by Gwilym Davies who knew of Buster through recordings made by Charles Menteith. Buster had also sung The Tree on the Hill, Here we come a-Wassailing and Marriage to me has been a Failure to Menteith and the recordings can be heard in the British Library National Sound Archive. (John Howson)

Buster Mustoe can be heard on: VTC6CD






























Harkie Nesling (Suffolk)

  (photo: Mike Yates)

        Harkie (Harcourt) Nesling was born in 1890 in Bedfield although his father’s family were from Westleton. In 1910 Harkie moved to London for a short period, to work as a wheelwright, and at night played in a pit orchestra for the silent movies, before an accident at work forced him to move back to Suffolk, where he married. He told Keith of his first musical experiences (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “My first instrument was a concertina. I got it when I was only about five or six. My dad's boss had a brother called Sidney Curtis, a crippled chap. He had two or three concertinas and he knew I liked music, so one morning I got up to go down the bottom of the garden to have a wee y'know, and when I came back there was this box on the doorstep. I was real pleased with that. It weren't an English concertina, no, a German one. After that I mucked about on a 5-string banjo and a mandolin but never on an accordeon - I preferred string instruments. I didn't get on the violin till I was about 14 just after I left school.” After the Great War, Harkie reunited with fiddle player Walter Gyford and melodeon player Walter Read to form a country dance band. They played for weddings and village hops, in pubs such as Monk Soham Elm and Bedfield Crown, and rather intriguingly played every Thursday (pension day) at Bedfield Post Office! (From ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “We played all old country tunes - polkas, waltzes, hornpipes. Walter Read was a master of step-dance music. And on Sundays I played in the band in Monk Soham church with Tom Chapple (violin) and his wife - she played organ and piano lovely. Every Christmas I'd walk to Earl Soham with a couple of mates and play carols in the pubs - we used to get back home about five in the morning with two or three quid in our pockets; and in August our band was always at the Galas - Debenham on Monday, Framlingham on Tuesday and Dennington on Wednesday, one after the other. We had some damn good times then!”In later years Harkie teamed up with fellow fiddle enthusiast Fred Whiting and it was at Harkie’s cottage that Keith first met Fred. Harkie died in 1978. As Keith summed him up him, “wheelwright, barber, carpenter, wart-charmer and local musician all his life!”

Harkie Nesling can be heard on: VT154CD






































Jen Newson (Suffolk)

(photo: Carole Pegg)

(Jen - left , with Oscar Woods)

        Jen (John) was born in 1952 in Woodbridge, Suffolk but has lived in the village of Easton for many years. He has worked in engineering and is now in the building trade. He was Oscar Woods son-in-law and spend many hours with Oscar, learning to play the melodeon. As you can hear from his recordings he has picked up Oscar’s style completely.

Jen Newson can be heard on: VTDC11CD



































Harvey Nicholson

        Harvey Nicholson of Wreay, who sang 'The Copshawholme Butcher' on VT142CD 'Pass the jug Round' was born at Sebergham in 1892 and after spending his early life being hired out on farms, later became a plate-layer on the railway. Harvey was killed in an accident on the railway shortly after he was recorded. (Sue Allen)

Harvey Nicholson can be heard on: VT142CD








































Jim Nixon (Cumberland)

        Jim Nixon sang 'The Keach in the Creel' on VT142CD 'Pass the Jug Round', a song he says he learned from his grandfather. He was a farmer at Peastree Farm in the valley of the River Caldew, which runs from the Caldbeck fells to Carlisle, where it joins the River Eden. Jim was born at Linstock, just north of Carlisle, in 1902. (Sue Allen)

Jim Nixon can be heard on: VT142CD






































Will Noble
(South Yorkshire)

(photo: John  Howson)

        Will Noble is a builder, drystone waller and stone mason and has lived all his life in South West Yorkshire. He became known all over the country as a part of the Holme Valley Tradition along with John Cocking, Barry Bridgewater and Ernest Yates.
        Will's family sang, particularly his two uncles, and it was probably from them that he learned his first song whilst on the farm as a boy. His father, Arthur, also sang, although his repertoire was mainly made up of fragments. Although it was the family that gave him a taste for singing, Will's first regular singing was at the local hunt meetings, particularly those of the Holme Valley Beagles. Although not a huntsman himself, he would go to the 'do' after the hunt for the singing, and it was here that he started to learn songs. At Christmas he visited 'The Fountain' at Ingbirchworth and joined in the local carol-singing sessions. This strong tradition is still active in several South Yorkshire and Derbyshire pubs. Will is now the carrier of the songs of many fine local singers, and in his ample hands his local singing tradition is surviving very well. (John Howson)

Will Noble can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC4CD  VTC6CD  VTC7CD  VT147CD  EFDSSCD02













































Ernie Nunn (Suffolk)

 (photo: John Howson)

In Wetheringsett, Mid-Suffolk the Nunns were the famous musical family and Ernie Nunn, who was born in the parish in 1908, continued the tradition. He played melodeon in the village pubs, the White Horse and the Trowel and Hammer along with his brothers George (known as 'Ninny') and Walter (known as 'Hood'). Ernie's cousins stepped and they would attract others who stepped like Elijah Parker (Smith) from Mendlesham Green and musicians including Reg Pyett. He recalled that the women would also dance in the pub, in particular the Heel and Toe Polka.

Ernie Nunn can be heard on: VTDC8CD




















































Sarah Anne O'Neill  (Co. Tyrone)

Sarah Anne O'Neill was born in Derrytresk, Coalisland, County Tyrone in 1919. She came from a large family of ten children and three half-brothers from her mother's first marriage. Her father sang and played the fiddle and would gather other fiddle players to the house for some tunes. There was also lots of singing in the house and this encouraged herself and her younger brother Geordie (Hanna) to learn songs. Sarah Anne continued the tradition of house singing parties for many years in her own home. In 2009 she was awarded the TG4 Traditional Music Award, one of the highest honours in Irish traditional singing circles.

Sarah Anne O'Neill can be heard on VTC10CD  TSCD654  & TSCD660
























































Tom, Jean and Ashley Orchard (Devon)

  (photo courtesy of the Orchards) 

Tom, a young Ashley and brother Richard

(photo courtesy of the Orchards) 

Jean and her mother Amy Birch

(photo Katie Howson) 

Tom steps to Mark Bazeley's melodeon

     Tom, Jean and Ashley Orchard come from true Gypsy stock and they now live at Holsworthy, north Devon where Tom runs a roofing business. They have a strong family tradition of singing, stepdancing and making music and members of the family including Jean’s mother Amy Birch and Tom were recorded in the 1970s and some of those recordings appeared on Topic and Folkways LPs.
     In recent years they have taken their music out of their family circle to new audiences at festivals and gatherings up and down the country. Theirs is a fascinating family story is told by Jean in the booklet of their CD 'Holsworthy Fair' VT151CD  (John Howson)




































Padstow Carol Singers (Cornwall)

  (photo courtesy Doc Rowe)

        Sacred songs, hymns and carols held onto a regional identity until the appearance of the Victorian hymn books such as 'Hymns Ancient and Modern' (1861). After this date, for the most part, carols became standardised nationally.

        Fortunately examples of earlier regional forms still exist in small pockets around England. Fisherman's choirs in North Yorkshire perform there own fishermen's hymns (see VTC5CD) and Christmas carollers sing a local repertoire in village pubs around Sheffield. This is also the case in North Cornwall where each Christmas the people of Padstow tour the houses and hostelries of their town to sing their own special repertoire of carols. (John Howson)

The Padstow Carol Singers can be heard on: VTC1CD









































Freda Palmer (Oxfordshire)

(photo Derek Schofield)

Freda Palmer with Mervyn Vincent, Padstow

       Freda Palmer came from the village of Leafield in Oxfordshire although she was living in Witney when I met her. Leafield is, of course, the home of the traditional Fieldtown Morris and must once have had an active singing tradition. Freda had quite a large repertoire of songs and was very happy to sing, although many of her songs had to be teased out of her memory over quite a period of time. As a girl, Freda had worked with an aunt making gloves and to pass the time, the pair would swap songs, singing to each other across a communal workbench. The songs heard here came originally from her aunt. Other recordings of Freda Palmer can be heard on MTCD311-2 ‘Up in the North, Down in the South’. (Mike Yates)

Freda Palmer can be heard on: VTC7CD












































Ernie Payne (Gloucestershire)

      Ernie Payne was another Gloucestershire singer who was introduced to Mike Yates by Gwilym Davies. Ernie lived in the village of Hawkesbury Upton and Mike recorded him singing The Seeds of Love in 1975. Gwilym subsequently recorded over two dozen songs from Ernie but these were mainly Music Hall songs. (John Howson)

Ernie Payne can be heard on: VTC6CD











































Walter Pardon

(photo John Howson)

        Walter Pardon became one of the most famous folk singers of the 20th century. Born in 1914 in the village of Knapton, Norfolk, he spent all of his life working there as a carpenter. Both of his parents were singers, as were his many uncles. During the depression of the early 1930's, Walter spent much of his time with his Uncle Billy who worked on a golf course as a groundsman. When times were bad he'd be laid off... "We'd sit of an afternoon in one of the (garden) sheds. He'd keep a bottle of something or other under the floorboards and he'd get that out and we'd sit there, the two of us, him singing and me listening. And that's how I got most of my songs."
        Like many country singers he also sang songs associated with the sea including: ‘The Bold Princess Royal’, ‘The Wreck of the Ramillies’ ‘The Dark-eyed Sailor’ and ‘Jar Tar Ashore’. In 1974 Walter was discovered by Peter Bellamy and, having made a number of record albums, was soon appearing at festivals all over the country. In 1976 he was invited to Washington to appear in the American Bicentennial celebrations. (Mike Yates)


Walter Pardon can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC5CD   VTC7CD  TSCD514   TSCD651  TSCD652  TSCD654  TSCD656  TSCD660  TSCD664  TSCD665  TSCD667  TSCD668  MTCD305-6  &  MTCD311-2


































Alan Pate (Cambridgeshire)

  (photo courtesy of Martin Pate)

        Alan Pate was born in 1895 at Clare Farm, Witcham, Cambridgeshire. The land had been bought from Clare College, Cambridge by his father George Pate, who moved from Little Downham, Cambridgeshire. Alan lived on the farm all his life and his grandson still does some farming there.

        He was a self taught piano player and read music a little. He also played fiddle for local dances in the 1940s along with Mildred Harrison on piano. This was particularly popular after the monthly whist game which was held in the village school hall. Their repertoire included waltzes, the barn dance and other dances of the period. Alan was known in the village for his comic monologues, as was his elder sister Olive, who was the infant teacher in the village school. He would be asked to recite them at Mepal (the next village) over sixties club as well as at functions in his own village. He told his stories from memory and never had them written out. He died in 1982.

        Other Items from Alan Pate in the Sam Steele collection are The Farmer’s Boy, Johnny Sands, It Don’t Seem a Day Too Long and the monologues Watching the Hole and The Student.

Alan Pate can be heard on: VT150CD





































Billy Patterson (Norfolk)

        The only information we have about Billy Patterson is that he lived in a council house in Chedgrave, Norfolk and that he was an old man when Steve Shipley recorded him in 1975.

Billy Patterson can be heard on VTDC11CD
































Fred Pearce (Suffolk)

(photo Mike Yates)

        Fred was born in Eyke, Suffolk in 1912, and moved to Blaxhall in 1938. He played mouth-organ as a child but he didn't start on the melodeon until he was twenty-four. He was self taught although there were several good players in Blaxhall to teach him and he reckoned that he had played in about forty pubs in his time, travelling mainly by bike or bus, including Darsham Fox with Ernie Seaman and as far afield as Ilford in Essex. One of his proudest memories was playing for twelve hours nostop on Coronation Day (1953) at the Waveney Hotel, Oulton Broad. Eventually he became the resident melodeon player at the Blaxhall Ship where he was expected to play a mixture of stepdance tunes, polkas, waltzes and song tunes every Saturday night. He took over from George Leek and when Fred retired in about 1960 he was followed by Bob Melton, Fred List and Oscar Woods and although he become slightly deaf he would occasionally relieve one of his successors and could still play extremely well.

Fred Pearce can be heard on VTDC11CD & MTCD339-0




































Cecil Pearl (Suffolk)

(photo: John Howson)

        I was contacted by Cecil's grandson and recorded Cecil at his house in Claydon near Ipswich when Cecil was in his eighties. He spent his working life on the land and used to operate a steam threshing machine on his father’s farm at Henley. He has a light flowing style on his Hohner two-row, and a repertoire gleaned from a lifetime of listening to some of the best local players: people like Dick Iris from Hadleigh, Charlie Rookyard from Helmingham and Tom Bayham from Otley, who used to play in Coddenham Duke’s Head, Witnesham Barley Mow, and Swilland Half Moon. Then on Whit Monday Cecil would visit Debenham Fair, knowing that he would find the highly-acclaimed Alf Peachey playing in one of the pubs there. (John Howson)

Cecil Pearl can be heard on: VT130CD  VTDC11CD


































Clement Pearson (Suffolk)

 (photo: John Howson)

Born in Wickham Skeith, Mid-Suffolk, Clement or 'Tiner' as he was known (derived from Clementine!) had vivid memories of lively Saturday and Sunday nights in the Swan during the 1930s and he also visited other local pubs like the Brockford Griffin, Thwaite Buck's Head, Thornham Four Horseshoes, Stonham Brewers' (The Tap), Westhorpe Crown and Mendlesham Fleece and King's Head. He learned to play from his brither Jack and liked to vamp on the mouthorgan and once had a chromatic one, but said he gave that up as he nearly cut the end off his tongue with the button.

Clement Pearson can be heard on: VTDC8CD












































Jack Pearson (Suffolk)

  (photo: John Howson)

Jack Pearson was a musician who mastered the rare art of playing bones and mouthorgan together. Although I recorded him in his retirement home in Felsham, he was actually born in Wickham Skeith where at one time he lived at Mill Hill in a hut. He said that he learned his first tune, 'Now the day is over' when he was seventeen, from a man who was over eighty. He often played for social evenings in the village hall with his mother playing the piano. He had a large collection of instruments bought from catalogues, and played them all by ear. In earlier days he played in the Wickham Skeith Swan along with local melodeon player Ethel Collins and taught his younger brother Clement Pearson to play.

Jack Pearson can be heard on: VTDC8CD









































Norman Perks

        I went to Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire looking for Ernie Payne who sang a version of 'The Seeds of Love'. Norman Perks was in the bar and, overhearing me ask for Ernie, said that he knew a good song. I recorded Norman's one song just before Ernie arrived and, sadly, never had time to ask Norman anything about himself, his song, or even whether or not he knew any other songs. (Mike Yates)

Norman Perks can be heard on: VTC5CD







































Charlie Pitman

(photo: John Howson)

        Charlie Pitman was born in 1914 in St Ives and his father was a lighthouse keeper and so he spent some years away from Cornwall at Fairlight, on the South Downs. After returning to Cornwall, Charlie worked on the land and in later years became the green keeper at the local golf course in St Merryn. He enjoyed fishing from the rocks on his native North Cornwall coast, sometimes with Tommy Morrissey and he entered many competitions. His other great interest was bell ringing and he regularly rang the bells at St Merryn church, but it was singing in the pub on a Saturday night which he really loved, especially comic songs, which he performed with a wry twinkle in his eye. Charlie died in 2003.

Charlie Pitman can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC9CD










































Peter & Charlie Plant (Suffolk)

        The Plant brothers were from Framlingham and again there has been very little written about them. There is David Nutall’s sighting of them in Saxmundham Railway (see his piece on George Woolnough) and Carole Pegg’s recordings at Great Glemham Crown, where again they had just turned up, although Peter was actually a regular at the pub, where he would meet up with local melodeon player and singer Ted Cobbin. Keith Summers recorded them there in 1975 and in his piece at the beginning ofthe booklet he mentions that Peter Plant was in much demand by local landlords to play in their pubs.

Peter & Charlie Plant can be heard on VTDC11CD & MTCD339-0


































Monty Chapman (Cambridgeshire)

  (photo courtesy of Neil Lanahm)

(Monty (centre) on a night out)

        Monty was born at Weston Colville, Cambridgeshire. He was known firstly as an entertainer and would sing and accompany himself on his single row melodeon often with the opening line, 'I used to be a good singer ‘till they brought out music'. In the 1950s he worked for Baldock’s Steam Engine Company of Haverhill and drove a Garrett engine. When Baldock’s closed he worked for Burton’s Coaches as a coach driver and would have his melodeon behind the seat, which would be brought out to entertain on every possible occasion! When he retired from this he became a lollipop man. He was sadly missed by the community for his quick local wit and sayings.

Monty Chapman can be heard on VTDC11CD



































Mr Potter (Cambridgeshire)

        Unfortunately we have no information about Mr Potter except that he lived in Weston Colville, Cambridgeshire and that he played his father’s country dance tunes on a single row melodeon.

Mr Potter can be heard on


















Reg Pratley  (Oxfordshire)

  (photo courtesy of Jamie Wheeler)

(Francis Shergold with Reg at the back right)

Reg Pratley was born in 1909 in Leafield, Oxfordshire. His father Frederick was the landlord of the Potter's Arms wherehe encouraged singing on a Saturday evening and sang songs himself. As a young boy Reg would stand on a table and sing, and he remembered that he would often get 8d or a shilling  for singing. Frederick kept the pub for thirty years before handing it over to his eldest son who kept it for a further seven years. Reg continued this family tradition and after moving to Bampton he became landlord of the Jubilee where again he found “a lot of people who could sing a song or tell a story”. He kept the pub for thirty years and died, after retirement, in 1996.

Reg Pratley can be heard on  VTC10CD




















Reg Pyett (Suffolk)

 (photo: John Howson)

One of the best melodeon players in Mid Suffolk was Reg Pyett. He was born in 1899, into a large family in Mendlesham. He was eighty-one when I met him, and he told me that he started playing when he was eight and used to meet up with a local melodeon hero, Alf Peachey, when he was eighteen. He remembered playing a lot for stepdancing. Reg worked on the railway and was able to get privilege tickets which came in useful when, in 1925, he started courting a girl in Notting Hill. On one occasion the landlady where he stayed arranged for him to play at the London Hippodrome. He had gleaned tunes from all sorts of sources, including fair ground steam gallopers.

Reg Pyett can be heard on: VTDC8CD


































Ted Quantrill

(photo: John Howson)

        I didn't meet Ted Quantrill too many times but what an impression he made on me when we did meet! He was amongst the last of the Lowestoft fishing folk who had worked the North Sea under sail and he remembered those days vividly. He was one of the few singers who sang to me whilst accompanying himself on the melodeon. During his later days at sea he had lost a leg and when I met him he was confined to a small flat in the back streets of Lowestoft. I'll let him tell his own tale:
        "I went in a ship called the Crystal T1275. Oh Yes! There aren't many of us left now that went in the sailing smacks. It had a beam trawl and two short heads rather than an auto door like they have now. All depending what time of the year it was we'd go… well, in April we'd be in old Cromer now, that way, north about. When the summer had set in we'd go what we called up and along. Up to the Hinder almost as far as the Wash, and get the big whiting with the roes in them, and we used to sell those separate. We nicknamed them dust: ‘I wonder how much dust we're going to get this week’, we'd say. "Now when it comes to music where can I start? Yes, my poor old father, he was the skipper of a smack, not a five-hand but a four-hand. In fact he would take four in the winter and three in the summer. Now you didn't need a ticket for one of them but a five hand-smack you did, and he always had an old accordeon; he was always a good player. Now, my ambition was to play one and every night when he came in from sea, I used to sit on that chair and watch his fingers. Now, I used to play in the pubs and give them an old song. I can't read a ha'penn'orth of music - I don't want to - but I could go from one song to another." I once asked Ted why he sang so few songs about the fishing. His reply, "Well you've been out there, out in the wind and squall, that's the last bloody thing you want to sing about when you get home!" (John Howson)

Ted Quantrill be heard on: VTC1CD  &  VTC5CD


































Billy Rash (Cambridgeshire)

  (photo courtesy of Peter & Alison Rash)

        Billy Rash was born as a twin in 1880, and lived in Gable Cottages, West Wratting, Cambridgeshire. He worked as a pigman and cowman for a Mr Frost and then worked in Pettit’s bakehouse in the village. He was also a grave digger and church bellows blower!

        He sang songs and played melodeon in the Chestnut Tree, West Wratting and was described as a short tubby man who was always jolly. Russell Wortley recorded him playing and his repertoire seems to been mainly song tunes. When Billy died in 1962 his son George came home with all his belongings including his accordeon (melodeon) and a squeeze box (concertina) and the young grandchildren squabbled so much over who should have the melodeon that George put an axe through it.

Billy was a member of the ‘Ancient Order of the Foresters’ and was a cricket umpire for Fulbourn near Cambridge and West Wratting. When there was a village fete he would wear fancy dress to umpire (see photograph) and when he got older they would take a chair out onto the pitch for him.

Other songs from Billy Rash in the Sam Steele collection are The Banks of the Sweet Dundee and the Dark-Eyed Sailor.

Billy Rash can be heard on: VT150CD







































Betsy Renals (Cornwall)

  (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)

  (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)

        Bestsy Renals was born in 1900 into one of the best known West Country travelling families, the Orchards. She is Vic Legg's aunt and was source of many of his songs as were her two sisters Charlotte and Sophie (Vic's mother).

        Their father Edwin was born in 1879 and was married to Susan (also an Orchard) when he was twenty and she was sixteen. At that time they run a coconut shy at local fairs until Edwin became a fairground bare-knuckle fighter, taking on all-comers for three weeks. He earned good money, in fact he earned enough to buy themselves a wagon, enabling them to give up the fair life to go on the road. They hawked  haberdashery and when they stopped at night they would often meet up with other Gypsy families and songs would be shared around the camp fire.

        Betsy and her sister Charlotte married brothers Jack and Bob Renals, on the same day in 1924. They went on the road and although the boys were Gorgios (non Gypsies) they took to travelling life for the next seven years. (Pete Coe)

Betsy Renals can be heard on: VT119CD





































Charlotte Renals

  (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)


 (photo courtesy of Vic Legg)

        Charlotte Renals was born in 1902 into one of the best known West Country travelling families, the Orchards. She is Vic Legg's aunt and was source of many of his songs as were her two sisters Betsy and Sophie (Vic's mother).

        Their father Edwin was born in 1879 and was married to Susan (also an Orchard) when he was twenty and she was sixteen. At that time they run a coconut shy at local fairs until Edwin became a fairground bare-knuckle fighter, taking on all-comers for three weeks. He earned good money, in fact he earned enough to buy themselves a wagon, enabling them to give up the fair life to go on the road. They hawked haberdashery and when they stopped at night they would often meet up with other Gypsy families and songs would be shared around the camp fire.

        Charlotte and her sister Betsy married brothers Bob and Jack Renals, on the same day in 1924. They went on the road and although the boys were Gorgios (non Gypsies) they took to travelling life for the next seven years. (from Pete Coe's notes)


Charlotte Renals can be heard on: VT119CD







































Jack Rice

  (photo courtesy of Elsie Rice)

(Jack with Chagford Merrymakers)

(photo: Bob & Jaqueline Pattern)

(Stepdancing to the music of Bob Cann)

        Jack Rice lived in Chagford on the edge of Dartmoor were he was the local postman. He was a quiet man who would get involved in any local gathering including the local carnival band known as the Merrymakers. In later years he played piano accordion but it was his mouthorgan playing that he was renowned for. He was described as a brilliant player by many and collector Sam Richards once described him on a local radio programme as the best traditional mouthorgan player he had ever heard. His forte were hornpipes particularly those for stepdancing, which is hardly surprising as he was a champion stepdancer himself. (John Howson)

Jack Rice can be heard on: VT144CD




































Jason Rice

(photo: John Howson)

        Jason Rice is Jack Rice's grandson and is carrying on the families musical tradition on piano accordion. He met up with Bob Cann's grandson Mark Bazeley some years ago and found they had many tunes in common. They had in fact both learned them separately from their respective grandfathers.

        Jason and Mark are now two of the best exponents of English dance music (in the Dartmoor style of course) and along with banjo player Rob Murch they are now travelling to festival and clubs all over the country.

Jason Rice can be heard on: VT139CD  VT144CD   VT146CD  &  CDMM001







































Les Rice

(photo: Maggy Hunt)

        Les Rice lived in Chagford on the edge of Dartmoor and was cousin to Jack Rice. He was far more flamboyant than Jack and was never happier than when performing in one of the towns inns to an audience of visitors or locals. He played mouthorgan and anglo concertina and was well known for his old songs. He was also a excellent stepdancer and would vie with his cousin Jack for the coveted Dartmoor championship.

Les Rice can be heard on: VT144CD














































'Lubidy' Rice (Suffolk)

 (photo: John Howson)

Many singers also played instruments and a real 'jack of all trades' was 'Lubidy' Rice who was born in Gislingham, Mid-Suffolk but lived for many years in Finningham. He was known locally as a bit of a character, a keen poacher and a champion runner. As well as singing, playing melodeon and mouthorgan, he also stepdanced, as did his wife Ethel, and they were known for stepping together, face to face. Over the years his regular haunts were Finningham Black Horse and White Horse, Wortham Dolphin, Thurlow Arms, Rickinghall Cross, Thornham Horseshoes, and Walsham-le-Willows Six Bells and Blue Boar which is where he learned the song ‘21 Years on Dartmoor'.

'Lubidy' Rice can be heard on: VTDC8CD













































Rob Say (Northumberland)

  (photos John Howson)

     Rob Say was born in Norfolk in 1975, spending his first ten years in the market town Wymondham. When Rob was ten, the family moved to Witton Gilbert in Durham. There his father Barry, who was from the North East, renewed his interest in the Northumbrian pipes. The family also became involved with a local morris team and it was a meeting with them that first got Rob interested in the concertina. Two of the morris musicians, played English concertina. Rob was intrigued by it and wanted to know how it worked. He borrowed a concertina and amazingly, he took to it like a duck to water and, using local tune books and his parents' recordings of Northumbrian music, he quickly started to learn tunes. Several months later he met Alistair Anderson at an event in Darlington where he also met Joe Hutton, Willy Taylor and Will Atkinson, who really impressed him although at the time he couldn't say why. This was probably the moment that confirmed to him that this was the quality and type of music he wanted to play.     

     He was now also realising that there was a lot of similarity between the pipes and the concertina. Once over the initial stages of learning the concertina, he became interested in the set of pipes his father played. After school he would take the pipes out of their case and have a go, but then put them back before his dad got home from work. Again he became intrigued: they were a very different beast to play, compared to the concertina.  At eighteen he got his first set of pipes but it was also the same time he started university in Sheffield. He was suddenly 130 miles away without anyone to play with.    

     He would return home as often as possible, meeting up with the likes of Andy and Margaret Watchorn in Alnwick and Adrian Schofield who, at the time, was regularly in the North East. On each visit Rob would make sure there were as many sessions to attend as possible. The most memorable ones were often at the house of Annie Snaith, who had played piano with Billy Pigg and John Armstrong of Carrick in the Border Minstrels and so was a direct link with that generation of musicians. She would have sessions with fifteen pipers crammed into her sitting room, with a roaring fire at one end and an old piano at the other. There would be old chaps with old sets of pipes in battered cases arriving through the door. The session would start in a somewhat subdued way at first, then at ten o’clock there would be a fantastic tea and everyone would let their hair down and create amazing music

     It was at university that Rob met and married Ali Courtice who is a dancer and dance musician. After his graduation they moved south to Hampshire to find work and for almost three years there, Rob didn’t meet any musicians. His playing became seriously reduced although he did make sorties back to the North East as often as he could. On one of his trips back to the North East Rob arrived at Bellingham Show, where he was asked if he was considering entering the piping competition that was about to start. He had not thought of entering but he took out his pipes  and won the novice competition. Then at the Alnwick Gathering a couple of years later the Watchorns asked him to enter, pointing out that there were only two competitors and rules stated that there had to be three.  Rob then won his first intermediate prize. He continued to enter competitions sporadically, entering open competitions, which gave a much wider choice of tunes and encouraged the use of classic variations. He went from not being placed to getting thirds and then seconds. Then he reached a stage where he was consistently coming second to Andy May, the acknowledged leading piper of his generation.

      Then in Rothbury in 2000 he finally won his first open class competition. This proved to be a turning point in his fortunes, as he entered more competitions and experienced more success. Rob has now semi-retired from competitions but still maintains an interest in this important institution which also provides opportunities to meet other pipers. He is now based in Northumberland, in the village of Wall near Hexham, where in 2006 he was asked to organise a village dance, so he and Ali formed The Wall Star Village Band, consisting of musicians who all have some sort of link with the village. They continue to play for local dances as well as now travelling further a field. Rob is now also a sought-after teacher of the Northumbrian pipes and the concertina.     

      Over this time many of the older generation of players have passed on, but Rob still has vivid memories; of going to the very last dance played by the Cheviot Ranters in the Guest Hall, Alnwick and an occasion when he was performing the ‘Seven Stars Hornpipe’ and Willy Taylor came running to pull his fiddle out and join in half way through, as he was so glad to hear the tune. Then, the unforgettable moment when Will Atkinson leant over and said, “Keep playing like that and you'll be alright.”

     Wise words indeed!

Rob Say can be heard on: VT157CD







































Bruce Scott (Liverpool)

     (photo courtesy of Bruce Scott)

Singing in the Liverpool Irish Centre

(photo courtesy of Bruce Scott)

Bruce (second from the right) with a demolition team

      Bruce Scott was born in 1941 in Everton, Liverpool, an ‘FBI’ or foreign-born Irish: his maternal grandparents were Dublin Catholics and on his father’s side the family were Derry Protestants. The oldest of six children,  Bruce recalls hearing his mother’s mother singing Irish ballads and Percy French songs and other family members singing too: “I suppose the first song I ever got was Kevin Barry. I must have been a bit political when I was a kid - that was off my mother, she always sang it. I would have been about twelve maybe. In those days people would have dos in their houses and I’d be listening in. They used to have what they called ‘Jars Out’ after the pub, because the pubs shut at ten then, so they’d bring some drink back from the pub and the kids stayed up. There was no records or anything like that, it was always singing.”

      From there on he learned songs from local Irish workers like Kerryman Noel Scanlon and mixed with visiting travellers like the Dorans. He travelled Ireland extensively in the early 1960s with Barry Halpin and came back with many songs that are rarely heard in Ireland today. More recently he took to writing his own songs and in 2004 he won the All Ireland Newly Composed Ballad competition with 'My Colleen By the Shore'

Bruce Scott  can be heard on: VT149CD























































David Savage  (Suffolk)

David Basil Savage was born in 1921 in Blaxhall, east Suffolk, He was one of ten children (one sister and nine brothers) and attended the village school, where he was allowed to leave early at the age offourteen, as he had secured a job on a local farm. He worked at Stone Farm, Blaxhall for most of his working life. His father, Robert, was a shepherd and known as a local character. His mother Priscilla sang songs and was recorded by George Ewart Evans in 1956. David sang mostly in Blaxhall Ship, often alongside his brother Len Savage and his cousin Geoff Ling who can be heard on VTC2CD ‘Songs Sung in Suffolk' and VTC3CD ‘Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk'. David died in 1997

David Savage can be heard on: VTC10CD

















































Francis Shergold (Oxfordshire)

  (photos: John Howson)

       Francis was born in 1919 and as a young boy the family lived at the toll-bridge at Swinbrook, near Eynsham, on what was then the main Oxford to Cheltenham Road. The family moved to Bampton, Oxfordshire in 1932 and he worked for most of his working life at Weald Manor where he eventually became head gardener. He soon joined the village morris team (Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers) and was initially taught by the then squire and fiddle player ‘Jinky’ Wells. Francis first danced on Whit Monday in 1935 and eventually became squire when Wells retired. Francis danced for 60 years and held the role of squire for 50 of them before retirement in 1995. His songs come a variety of sources including his mother and the one time landlord of the Jubilee Inn in Bampton, Reg Pratley. More of Francis’ songs can be heard on VTC7CD ‘It was on a market day -Two’. (John Howson)

Francis Shergold can be heard on: VTC6CD   VTC7CD












































Sam Sherry

  (photo: John Howson)

        Sam Sherry performed for most of his life. His father Dan Conroy was a well known Music Hall artiste in the 1890s and all of Sam's brothers followed in their father's footsteps becoming known as the 'Five Sherry Brothers'. They performed in Variety theatres throughout the country. Topping the bill from Glasgow to Great Yarmouth and from Blackpool to most of the major London theatres.

        On retirement Sam settled in Galgate near Lancaster, with a new career repairing and fitting out narrow boats. It was then he visited the local folk club and sing some of his Music Hall songs. A chance mention that a clog dancer was need for a local function set him off on his next venture. He had learned the Lancashire clog steps, as a youngster, from his father. Soon he became known as one of the finest exponents of the Lancashire clog dance. Even appearing on 'Coronation Street!. (John Howson)

Sam Sherry can be heard on: VTC1CD & can be seen dancing on: EFDSS VID3




































Albert Smith (Suffolk)

(photo: from Sing, Say or Pay))

        Albert Smith was born in Butley in 1914. He was a forestry worker and when he married he moved to Chillesford and lived there until he died in 1982. His cottage was small but had a large kitchen garden of which he was very proud. He was said to have fed the whole village with vegetables!
        Albert’s local local pub was the Butley Oyster where singers like Ciss Ellis, Crump Snowden and Percy Webb sang regularly. He played mouthorgan and Jews Harp as well as reciting comic ‘ditties’ to amuse the crowd and was often called upon to play Pigeon on the Gate for
stepdancing as Percy Webb told Keith (from ‘Sing, Say or Pay’): “All my uncles were good singers and stepdancers, especially when those Smiths were there or Dick Woolnough. Fred Pearce could play well or Albert Smith - he'd play mouthorgan in Butley Oyster and I'd dance.”

Albert Smith can be heard on: TSCD664  & VT154CD













































Bill Smith (Suffolk)

  (photo: John Howson)

One particular local hotbed of mouthorgan playing in Mid-Suffolk was Walsham-le-Willows, where I met Bill Smith. He was born in the village in 1898 and learned to play mouthorgan and melodeon by the time he was eighteen. He played mostly in the Six Bells where there would be three or four mouthorgan players including Alfred Barham and George Hubbard as well as local songsters like 'Dilgy' Pollard. Bill often lamented that music-making and singing stopped when the jukebox came in.

Bill Smith can be heard on: VTDC8CD



































Hubert Smith

(photo: John Howson)

        Hubert's main audiences for his singing in latter years were the cows he looked after. He was a stockman for most of his working life, with days which could stretch from four o'clock in the morning to ten o'clock at night: "I wouldn't do anything else!"
        He came from Tannington originally, but lived at Thorpe Morieux for most of his life. In earlier days he worked with melodeon player Font Whatling, and his sister married the renowned stepdancer Wattie Wright. Thorpe Bull was usually the venue for a good sing, where Hubert would meet up with Tom Smith (no relation) and play melodeon or sing a song or two. "If I gave them a song they'd often be a bit dirty!" he told me. (John Howson)

Hubert Smith can be heard on: VTC3CD & VTDC8CD




































Phoebe Smith

(photo courtesy of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library)

(Phoebe stepdancing with Bob Roberts)

        Phoebe Smith was born in 1913 in Faversham, Kent, was the daughter of Bill Scamp and Ann Jones of Crowborough in Sussex, who earned their living partly on fruit farms in East Kent. She married Joe Smith, a scrap-dealer who played the fiddle, and they lived in Ickham Kent, then Tilbury in Essex and finally in Melton in Suffolk.

        She sang and stepdanced from childhood and she learned many songs from her paternal uncle, Oliver Scamp, who was a horse-dealer. Phoebe visited several folk clubs in the sixties and seventies, particularly in London, and became known for her dynamic performances. (John Howson)

Phoebe Smith can be heard on: VT136CD  TSCD600  TSCD653  TSCD656  TSCD661  &  TSCD660






































Tom Smith

(photo: John Howson)

        Tom Valentine Smith (yes, born on 14th February!) has lived all his life in Thorpe Morieux, apart from a brief spell (about six years) away. "We had to move back!" he said. His working life was split between twenty-five years on the land and twenty-six working for Suffolk County Council. Without a doubt, it was Tom's father, Bert Smith, who encouraged him as a singer, and it is mainly from him that Tom's repertoire is gleaned: "He could sing from morning to night."
        Thorpe Morieux Bull was the place where the 'old boys' would gather for a Saturday night sing. Along with Bert Smith, there would be Tom's brother George, Herbert Game, Briar Crick and Truby Reynolds from Brettenham. "They've all gone now, but in those days you would turn out at ten o'clock, so at half past eight the dart board used to come down off the wall. Then singing for the last two hours!”
        Tom has never really been a pub singer himself, preferring to concentrate on the piano accordion, for which he was always in great demand in many of the pubs in his area. The songs he sang to me, had been written out when his father was alive, and I must say I'm glad they were. (John Howson)

Tom Smith can be heard on: VTC1CD  VTC2CD  VTDC8CD & VTC10CD



































Harold Smy

  (photo: John Howson)

        It was in a pub in Ipswich that the name Harold Smy came up, "Old Harold the bargeman, he'll give you a song. You'll find him down in

the docks most days not far from Tolly's Brewery." And it was there that I met him. He was in his eighties and still helping around the repair yard and supervising the piloting of sailing barges up the river Orwell, the river he had known all his life. There in a little dockside office, he sang to me and told me of his life.
        "You see my father, my brothers, my uncles, my cousins, they'd all been on the water. Even on my mother's side; all her brothers and father, but they were all in steam; channel boats. I worked with sail. I'd sail anywhere. I've been on trips to the continent on the 'Ena'. Then going back some time I had one called the 'Frederick and Mary'. I was bombed out of the 'Boy Joe' in 1940. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I don't think I could do anything else if I had my time over again. I mean I haven't done any harm in the world and I might've done some good!
        "Most of my songs are about the water and they come from my father. My old father he could sing, I can remember him getting up and singing 'Scarborough in the Castle'. Well I've been singing all my life. I love singing. Oh, I used to get about and give a song; the best pubs were the Tankard, the Beehive and the Spread Eagle, but any old pub with a piano you could have a bloody good sing. The bargemen; one or two used to play concertinas. That's what I ought to have done. I used to stepdance, though, on a tray, and there used to be one old boy and he'd have leather boots, and he had a hole bored in the heel and had farthings put in there. He'd do a heel and toe and 'cor they'd rattle." (John Howson)

Harold Smy can be heard on: VTC5CD











































Emily Sparkes (Suffolk)

 (photo: courtsey of Mrs Rumsby)

Desmond and Shelagh Herring recorded Emily Sparkes in the late 1950s, at her home Rattlesden, Mid-Suffolk. It was there she did most of her singing. She had a repertoire of old and unusual songs which she had probably learned from her father and grandfather. Her father’s name was James Poole, known as 'old Sootpole', who was a well known pub singer who played concertina and danced on the tables. Emily's daughter, Mrs Rumsby, who gave me this family information, remembered that her mother also played mouthorgan and sang and told stories to amuse the children and she might have sung at the Women's Institute when it was formed in the village. Emily died in 1968 or '69.

Emily Sparkes can be heard on: VTDC8CD






































George Spicer

  (photo courtesy of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library))

        Although thought of as a Sussex singer, George Spicer was, in fact, born in the village of Little Chart in Kent in 1906. He worked as a herdsman in the area between Dover and Deal, picking up most of his songs there from his parents, in-laws and friends who sang in pubs such as The Wheatsheaf Inn at Martin and The Rose at West Langdon. In 1940 George and his family moved to Selsfield in Sussex and soon became friendly with singers such as Pop Maynard and Harry Holman. (Mike Yates)

George Spicer can be heard on: VTC4CD  VTC6CD TSCD663  TSCD664  MTCD309-10  &  MTCD311-2






































Ron Spicer (Sussex)

(photo: John Howson)

         Although he has been a musician all his life, playing melodeon, accordion and electric organ, Ron has only started singing in recent times, years after the death of his famous singing father, George. Ron sangs some of his father's songs but also sang a wide range of other songs, sometimes to accordion accompaniment. He had a gentle but winning way with his songs and he quickly became one of the most popular figures at singing venues in the south-east. He and his wife, Doris, must have been amongst the most ardent supporters of folk clubs in their area, often going as many as 5 or 6 times a week. Born near Dover, Ron lived with his parents on farms where his father worked in various parts of Kent until moving to his final farm, not far north of the Andingly Show Ground as an 11 year old. (John Howson)

Ron Spicer can be heard on: VT131CD














































Walter Stevens (Gloucestershire)

         When Mike Yates and Gwilym Davies visited the Gloucestershire village of Bisley they made enquiries at the post office and other places in the village to see if anybody knew of any singers and the response was, “Go and see old Walt!” Unfortunately when they tracked him down he said that he had forgotten all of his songs, but just as they were leaving he said, “Have you ever heard of the Wonderful Musician?” and here it is! (John Howson)

Walter Stevens can be heard on: VTC7CD

























































Jack Stannard  (Suffolk)

  (photo: John Howson)

Jack Stannard was born in 1917 in Bedfield, Suffolk. He left school at the age of fourteen to work on the land for ten shillings a week. He then developed a particular love of Suffolk horses, becoming an expert horseman. He spent most of his working life in the employ of Robert Nesling of Bedfield. Jack’s large family were known for their singing and he has sung in most of the pubs in his locality, and at the age of ninety four, is still happy to give a song from his repertoire of country and comic songs, whenever the company is right.

Jack Stannard can be heard on: VTC10CD





























































Staithes Fisherman's Choir
(North Yorkshire)

(photo Maggy Hunt)

        The fishermen of the North Yorkshire coast have for years had a tradition of hymn singing and sang not only at Sunday services, but also at sea and in the village pubs at night.
        In Staithes there were three chapels and a church and each had its own choir. In the late 1950’s a fishermen's choir, led by Mr Verrill, was formed and they gave concerts all around the district, as well as once travelling to Manchester for an industrial service. The old choir gave its final performance at Sleights in 1980, and the choir heard today was formed in 1985 with four of the old choir as members.
        The Staithes Fishermen's Choir sing the traditional repertoire of fishermen's hymns and sacred songs, some of which are rarely heard outside this area. Along with the fishermen of Filey and Maske they continue this strong North Yorkshire tradition. (John Howson)

Staithes Fisherman's Choir can be heard on: VTC1CD  &  VTC5CD















































Stan Steggles (Suffolk)

 (photo: courtsey of Charlie Steggles)

Desmond and Shelagh Herrings recorded Stan Steggles in 1958. Then he lived in Rattlesden, Mid-Suffolk but was originally from Woolpit. Stan's son, Charlie Steggles, told me that his dad would sing whenever he could, particularly at weddings, and often after tea he would sit by the fire and rattle them off. He was a bricklayer by trade, as was his father and his grandfather (and Charlie continued the tradition). Stan was in the East Surrey Regiment during World War One and had a knee-cap blown off and then learned shoemaking but he never kept it up. Stan had a rich repertoire of old and unusual songs.

Stan Steggles can be heard on: VTDC8CD










































Charlie Stringer

(photo: John Howson)

        I first heard Charlie Stringer when Clement Pearson, a mouth-organ player from Wickham Skeith, brought him to a music session in Finningham Railway Tavern. "Charlie'll give you a song," and he certainly did. Born and bred in Wickham Skeith, he lived there all his life apart from one year when there was a fire at his house. Charlie's working life was spent on the land, and he became an expert horseman. He told me, "I started work at thirteen and come harvest time, I had to harness the horses, that was my job. I got a pound for that for the month. While they mowed in the fields, they would sing all the time. I picked up some songs then."
        Wag Stringer, Charlie's father, was the local blacksmith and a fine singer himself, and Charlie learned many songs from him. He told me, "I used to go to the pub with him when I was five years old. Wickham Skeith Swan that was, and he used to sing in there, that's when I learned my first song. 'Cranky Sue', that was." Another of Charlie's memories went like this: "I used to sing a lot: when you got a singing gang out, I'd sing two or three, then somebody else would sing. Ted Sykes, he'd sing; David Mayes, he used to know some old songs. I used to sing with him, but I never used to sing his songs, and he never sung mine." (John Howson)

Charlie Stringer can be heard on: VTC2CD  VT130CD  VTDC8CD

















































Gordon Syrett  / 'Tinker Parker (Suffolk)

(photo: John Howson)   (photo courtesy of Colin Hart)

One of the first and finest singers I met in Mid Suffolk was Gordon Syrett. His family had moved to Mendlesham in 1665 and Gordon was born in 1887. He was a wise old man when I met him, with a classic East Anglian singing style. I was first taken to see him by Elijah Parker (known locally as ‘Tinker’) who lived in the same village as me and who took me on Sunday morning sorties to his old family stamping ground: Mendlesham Green and it was Gordon's cottage which was a regular stopping off point for us, particularly as many other locals would call in there too. Gordon and Tinker would sit yarning about times gone by and in particular about the now closed local pub the Green Man just a few houses from Gordon's. This pub had been a hotbed of singing where Gordon met up with other local songsters such as Pom Hart and Bug Stannard. Ted Thorpe, who lived at the end of Tan Office Lane, played melodeon, and it was halfway down this lane that Tinker's family caravan stood. His mother, known as 'Ma' Parker sang and she would also give a step when Ted had wound up into a couple of hornpipes. Tinker's cousins Arthur and Walter Loverage were also renowned stepdancers as was his uncle Elijah Smith. Gordon died in 1983 and Tinker in 1984.

Gordon Syrett & 'Tinker' Parker can be heard on: VTDC8CD





































Wallie Syer

  (photo: John Howson)

        I met Wallie Syer in the west Suffolk village of Bildeston but he was actually born just up the road in Hicham in 1906. It was there he started work driving a tractor on a local farm, and throughout his working life he turned his hand to many jobs including portering at Stowmarket Railway station and at a local hospital.

        He didn't sing out until later in his life but a couple of songs he'd learned from his father enabled him to join in when there was a bit of singing going on at a wedding or in a local pub.

Wallie Syer can be heard on: VTC3CD








































Phil Tanner

  (photo courtesy of Museum of Welsh Life)

(Phil Tanner sings for the BBC)

(photo courtesy of Museum of Welsh Life)

        Phil Tanner was undoubtedly one these islands’ greatest traditional folk singers as well as the custodian of local traditions such as Wassailing and Bidding Weddings, where he would perform his remarkable mouth music for the guests to dance to. He had sung all his life, yet it was not until he was ‘discovered’ in the 1930s, when he was in his seventies, that his fame spread from the small south Wales village of Llangenneth where he was born in 1862.

        In 1936 he was taken to London to be recorded and appeared on the BBC radio programme ‘In Town Tonight’. In 1949 the magazine ‘Picture Post’ published an article entitled ‘The old singer of Gower’ by John Ormond Thomas, who lamented that Phil Tanner was living in an old people’s home with only uninterested elderly residents to listen to his songs. He ended with a plea for more of Phil Tanner’s songs to be taken down. This was probably the spur that encouraged the BBC in Wales to visit Phil Tanner later in the same year and make some more of the recordings we have here. Phil Taner died in 1950. (John Howson)

Phil Tanner can be heard on: VT145CD










































Lorna Tarran (Essex)

  (photos courtesy of the Mersea Island Museum Trust)

Lorna Corolene Tarran (nee Mills) was born in West Mersea in 1920. She learned songs from her grandmother Bertha French and her father Jim Mills who was a Rowhedge man. He was a yachtsman and a self-taught chef who often worked as ship’s cook for millionaire yacht owners including the royal family. On Regatta Day, Lorna, along with the rest of the family, often spent the day on her uncle Dubbie French's smack the 'Waterlily' and he was another source of songs for her. Lorna worked in local grocery shops and joined the WAF during the Second World War and it was then she met her husband. After the war she worked at the yacht chandlery shop. She was always keen on local history and when Basil Slaughter visited her in the 1970s she recorded a piece about her memories of Mersea Island as well as songs, recitations and even her father's recipe for whelks cooked in Bovril! The trac