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'Shanties and Sea Songs from the Mersey Shantyman'
Hugill with Stormalong John
(click on the artistes name to see a photo and /or a short biography)
recordings were made in the lounge of a small boarding house in Stan’s home
village of Aberdovey, during an informal session as part of a celebration of
Stan’s 85th birthday, in the company of his friends and regular chorus:
Stormalong John’ from Liverpool.
Stan’s death a few months later deprived us not only of a great character,
raconteur, researcher and academic, but also of a fine traditional singer and
the last authentic shantyman.
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. Stan’s formal education ceased at 14, though he never
stopped learning, teaching himself at lea5t nine languages, and writing or
compiling numerous books and articles, including of course ‘Shanties of the
Seven Seas’: the shantyman’s bible.
His first ship, a steamer, was wrecked, whereupon Stan vowed to transfer to
sail! His voyage on the Gustav’ made him a Cape Homer for the first time, and
a passage on the Liverpool- registered
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. After World War 2,
during which Stan had been a POW. (leading his German captors a merry dance!) he
became bosun of the Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey. Here he started on
his monumental collection ‘Shanties of the Seven Seas’, followed by ‘Sailortown’,
being an account of life ashore around the world, from the viewpoint of the
During the 1960’s and 1970’s Stan became involved In the British folk scene,
appearing and leading workshops at EFOSS festivals, and visiting folk song
clubs, in the process making a couple of now deleted LP records.
Everywhere he went Stan commanded respect and affection, looking every inch the
old salt — twinkling eyes, grey beard, pigtail, ear-ring, trusty briar, striped
shirt and ‘North Atlantic Roll’ as he walked. His great skill as a storyteller
and communicator, allied to his superb singing style, incorporating Negro-like
‘hitches’ or ‘yelps’, made him a major figure. He was always willing to pass on
his knowledge, often chiding those he considered to be straying from
authenticity, whilst encouraging those who showed genuine potential and
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