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Christmas and the folk world seem to go together; don’t they? Every year at this time there seems to be a new album of carols or seasonal songs by someone from the folk scene; Jim Causley being the main one this year and only the other day Emily Smith’s “Songs for Christmas” from 2016 dropped onto my doormat. More and more folkies, especially the younger generation, are putting together special Christmas shows to tour the clubs and village halls and certainly some of our more seasoned performers like Jez Lowe, Johnny Coppin and John Kirkpatrick have been doing this for years.

Of course this isn’t anything new as Christmas was an exciting time around the clubs when I first entered the big bad world of folk back in the sixties; there was always the renowned Birtley Christmas Ceilidh and various other clubs would be putting on something seasonal. Being involved with a band back then was handy as that time of year could be quite busy with various venues looking for a folk group to liven up their event; some actually paid a fee for us to perform, some felt that folk people shouldn’t expect to be paid for their efforts and surely a pint or two would suffice and naturally there were the plethora of charity events.

Of the four of us who made up The Colliers I was the odd one out as I was not a Roman Catholic and it was from that direction that the invitations to partake in various fund raisers came. With the other lads emanating from this environment they were quite familiar with the goings on in St Whoever’s Hall or some Mythical Irish Hero’s Club while I only knew the folk clubs! Doing these particular gigs had both up and downsides and among the latter was that there were no rules preventing talking or moving around when the group was singing, the bawdy or sexually symbolic songs so commonplace in the folk clubs were strictly forbidden in these surroundings and it might be wise to leave out any political items as well.  The upside? Well you could usually get a decent pint at these places and quite possibly I could meet up with either Father Coughlan and Father Corrigan; the former I knew originally from him writing a piece about the Eoghan Rue Ceilidh Band for the Hexham Festival programme one year and he would occasionally visit the CWS Printing Works, Pelaw, where I worked, to order some leaflets or similar and, above all, he read the Sunday Sun folk column! We could begin a pleasant chat only to be always interrupted by some family’s eldest son who had been sent by his dad to buy the priest a drink. The more Fr Coughlan politely refused the more insistent number one son would become until the pater himself would wobble over, at which point we would resign ourselves to the conversation being concluded. Father Corrigan was also an occasional visitor to the printing factory and a regular at these shindigs as he played guitar and sang folk(ish) songs and would tell a few of his jokes. Jokes that even I would think twice about telling in a folk club!! Chances were if we were playing further up the Tyne that Bede and Henry from John Doonan’s band might be there for a bit of crack and even the great John himself sometimes appeared. Towards the end of our time together some of the original Hedgehog Pie might turn up at these gigs.

Anyway the night in question was one freezing December evening as the sixties merged into the seventies and the venue was the concert room of a club somewhere between Jarrow and Hebburn. I am equally vague as to which charity we were supporting but I do know that the room was packed to the rafters. Entire families had turned out, many with their Tupperware boxes of sandwiches and sausage rolls determined to have a good time. The chap who was organising (I use the word loosely) the entertainment informed us that we would be starting and finishing the evening so that we could sort out our set lists accordingly. Quite honestly for all the notice that those assembled took of us at the start of the night we probably could have repeated the same set at the end and nobody would have been any the wiser, but we were dedicated and prepared a selection of lively tunes and chorus songs to finish the night thinking that it would be a doddle and we could leave with our pride intact. We were not expecting the curve ball that was to be thrown our way.

As the clock got round to 10:15pm the compare let us know that there would be one more turn then it was us again and then promptly told the audience “You have been having a great time so far but now you can really let your hair down and have a good laugh with….” Oh no, we were going to have to follow a comedian! We had bitter memories of such occurrences like the night when Al Capone had the all-male audience eating out of his hand while we floundered like fish out of water at a smoker in Sunderland; at the same time as this month’s guest Martyn Wyndham-Read was playing STF&B and performing one of the best nights in the club’s history! (At least I remembered the majority of his jokes and still tell them to this day) Then there was Mike Douglas who had just won one of the TV talent shows of the day with whom we shared the billing at an opening night of an entertainment establishment in Rowlands Gill and he suffered a worst reception than we received only he wasn’t shy in letting them know his feelings.   

However this bloke didn’t seem to be a threat as he entered the stage looking like a replica of Jack Haig (Le Clerc in ‘Allo, ‘Allo) in fact his opening salvo was “Anyone say Wacky Jackie and I’ll stop their beer” (for anyone south of Hartlepool that was a character that Haig played on Tyne Tees Television back in the 50s and early 60s). He was carrying a small watering can and making comments about how many days to water your shamrock before St Patrick’s Day and continued in this vein for the majority of his act which seemed to please the audience. The longer that he trotted out his tepid, unfunny jokes the more that I was smugly convinced that those chorus songs and lively tunes would see us safely home; however I was not prepared for his piece de resistance.

It would appear that a young Irish priest had inherited a new parish and in order to get around it he felt that he needed some sort of transport and a moped would be favourite. Not only that but he decided that it should be funded by subscription by his parishioners and so he set up his own campaign to this effect. Visiting them in their homes he would raise the subject and hopefully persuade them to part with a few quid towards his total; that was until he called upon Mrs Murphy. “Oh I would like to Father but money is very tight just now especially with Patrick being out of work and such”. Noticing a jar on the sideboard that contained two £1 notes he asked “What is the money in the jar for Mrs Murphy?” She replied that she had saved that money so that she could treat herself to a hair – do; “But Mrs Murphy, wasn’t Our Lady the most beautiful of women and she never had a hair- do” he challenged. “True” replied Mrs Murphy “And didn’t Our Lord have a much larger parish and he never needed a moped!”

As the roof came off amid the tumultuous cheers and applause I realised that the most note perfect “Dingle Regatta” or “Rakes of Kildare” wasn’t going to top that one.


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Sunday 2nd December 2018

Martyn Wyndham – Read




Arnold Martyn Wyndham-Read is an English folk singer, who was a collector and singer of Australian folk music. He lived and worked in Australia from 1958 to 1967 and was subsequently a regular visitor to the country. Wikipedia

So now you know; I don't think he'd be pleased if we all greeted him as Arnie, though ... we wouldn't do that. It's Christmas! Spirit of goodwill, etc.; a good time to welcome the mastermind of Maypoles to Mistletoe - well, anytime is a good time to listen to Martyn, one of the finest voices, most accomplished and knowledgeable singers, finest of raconteurs and simply nicest of people around. Our Christmas present to you, our good friends and cherished audience!

Corinne Male




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Sunday 4th November 2018

Dave Goulder

This was one of the nights that we had been keenly anticipating since Dave Goulder’s short tour of our area was first mooted; a local man, although he hasn’t lived on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders since 1960, now ensconced in the Highlands and still dealing with all things concerned with the great outdoors.

Dave, of course, is renowned for his songwriting abilities so it was quite a surprise that he opened his taster spot with two traditional items “Go Away From My Window My Love” and the excellent “Lakes of Shylin”, a personal favourite of mine, before he introduced one of his railway songs “The Day We Ran Away”.  

Accompanying himself on guitar Dave sang a few more of his railway songs such as “Pinwherry Dip” and “Footplate Cuisine” – quite possibly more but as I snapped up the last copy of his “Golden Age of Steam” CD, ostensibly as a Christmas present for my son – in –law’s dad, and, having played it quite a lot to check that it is ok, what he did at the club and what is on the record blur into one another.

What I am sure of is the songs regarding dry stone walling and other rural activities “These Dry Stone Walls”, “Roll the Stone Up the Stone” and “The Falcon and the Farmer’s Son” were performed with just the right amount of explanation and should you have wanted to know more there was a table full of books and CDs to help you extend your knowledge.

We were treated to a few tunes on the Jew’s Harp a rendition of another traditional song the perennial “Bonny Bunch of Roses” a song concerning the history of Kendal Brewery before he performed his masterpiece “The January Man”

It was great to get Dave back down here after so long and great thanks to the two Johns (Bentham from TATT and Chambers from Second Time Around) for making this possible.

From the floor we enjoyed The Benthams John and Sheila, Corinne (Mastermind) Male, Bill Wilkes, Lyn Cooper, John Ledbury, Dave Walters, Phil Hind and a Gaelic song from Dave’s Mrs Mary Goulder.

Dave Sutherland


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Bendle’s Bit

You’ve got to hand it to the fairground folk, they have got it down to a fine art. For at 11 o’clock on Saturday night Loughborough annual fair was still going full pelt but this was the last hurrah. By 11.30 silenced had fallen the dismantling had begun and by dawn not a ride or a discarded candy floss stick could be seen. Admittedly, there were a couple of burgers bars left just off the Market Place but that was because of what was to come later in the day. Now Loughborough Fair is always followed by Remembrance Sunday so it is essential that everything is ready for one of the most auspicious days in the calendar.

As no-one needs reminding, this was a special year and it was reflected in the crowds that thronged the town. The weather for the fair is always “Muck wet” and so it proved this year but Sunday, my what a day, the sun shone from a clear blue sky to welcome all to the centenary Service of Remembrance. Our war memorial is a carillon, one of a handful in this country, furnished with bells from the towns, and England's, only bell foundry, Taylors. All 47 bells are inscribed, many in memory of men who never came back from the war but some in gratitude for the safe return of others. Queens Park has never been so full for many the year as people came to pay their respects and join in the service. During the 2 minutes silence, thousands and thousands of poppy petals showered down from the top of the this mighty edifice and were joined by autumnal leaves shed by the tree as if in sympathy, a truly moving moment. After the service the parade led everyone back down into the centre of town to the Market Place for the unveiling of a plaque. It was to commemorate the muster of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and the Leicestershire Yeomanry in 2014. Something significant but not out of the ordinary you might think and you would be quite right but for Sheila and myself it is a little special. For in that parade was a horse called Songster being ridden by Bert Mee. Now we have done a bit of research into this soldier and his steed for it is a truly remarkable story.

Both Bert and Songster served throughout the war on the Western Front and Bert returned safely to England. Songster was held in such high regard that he too was transported back and auctioned in London. Bert was told of the sale and successfully bid for his old companion. Billeted at a farm on the Charnwood Forest, Songster was seen in and around Loughborough pulling a milk cart and also riding to hounds with the Quorn Hunt. When the Leicestershire Yeomanry held a “Do” at the Old Boot Inn, which was situated in the Market Place, Bert would ride Songster into the pub, up the stairs and having joined in the jolly, Songster would be ridden back down the stairs and away home. The Yeomanry also held a summer camp on the Charnwood Forest and a platoon marched down the lane next to the field where Songster grazed. A bugle sounded and the old warhorse leapt the hedge and followed them to their camp. For years afterwards when the camp took place, they called for their old chum and he went with them. It is thought that Songster went with the years in that he was 14 when he went to war and he was 40 when he passed away peacefully in the field that had been his home for so long. He was buried there with all his medals and remains there to this day and in 2013 the Yeomanry named a reconnaissance land rover “Songster” in his memory.

To celebrate this remarkable horse a life size Songster was fabricated and covered with poppies and took pride of place at the side of the stage erected in the Market Place where people were entertained throughout the afternoon of Remembrance Day. In the Carillon is a war museum and there you can see more about Songster, our own Warhorse.

Incidentally did you know that not only red and white poppies were available but also purple ones to remember the animals lost in conflict?

John Bentham








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