Friday, 30 November 2012

Jig Dolls, Mr & Mrs White of Blacktown, article by David Johnson,


This article was written by David Johnson and originally published in Singabout #58, December 1986, p. S1. Photographs are by Bob Bolton.

Mr & Mrs White of Blacktown

 

The beautifully crafted dancing dolls in the photographs were made by a farmer by the name of Charles Mill, probably when he lived on the South Coast of NSW in the 1890s. They were made by carving solid cedar blocks and finished elaborately in the style of the "Minstrel" shows that regularly toured the country at that time. He referred to them as "Mr. and Mrs. White of Blacktown".









Each doll is held over a sound-board by a curved steel rod and the whole structure is held on a wooden base. The base is strapped firmly to the player's knee and then, as the foot is tapped in time with the music, the dolls "dance", springing on the steel supports, with their feet making a rhythmic clacking on the resonant sound-board.


The dolls were shown to us by the maker's daughter, Miss Pearl Mill. Miss Mill explained that her father played the concertina for the regular round of "house parties" that made up the social life of many of the small towns on the South Coast where the family lived, at the time. However the dolls were never used in public performances and only rarely shown to the family.


 Charles Mill played for the Lancers, the Waltz Cotillion and the Alberts, among other dances, and all without reading a note of music. The popular American tunes such as "Marching Through Georgia", "Battle of Gettysburg", "Old Black Joe" and "Take Me Back To Old Virginny" were all played in strict dance time. 


Pearl remembers his playing for the send-off, for World War I soldiers, at the School of Arts Hall in Jilliby (near Wyong, north of Sydney). 


I was surprised to learn that Pearl and her sister were not allowed to go to the dances at which her father played, nor were they allowed to touch the concertina, which is a Lachenal metal-ended two-row 'Anglo' (in Bb and F) and must have cost their father a lot of money to buy in the first place, but they were allowed to play the cheaper accordion and Pearl was quite proficient at "God Save The King" and several hymns.


The dancing dolls are a fine example of traditional woodcarving and toymaking. They and their costumes are a valuable historical record.


Thanks to our host David Harris and to Pearl Mill for showing us the dolls and telling us about them.


David Johnson      Photos: Bob Bolton


 

Bob Bolton added the following background commentary:

These dolls extend from the well-known British tradition of "Jig dolls", Incorporating a number of significant improvements. The "jig doll" is usually made of flat wood, with fairly limited articulation of limbs and with clothing and features merely painted in. The doll is fixed to a rod and played by jiggling it on a board (which is anchored by the player sitting on it).

These dolls are far more detailed, better dressed and have the great advantage of being able to be played by the movement of the knee, as the player taps his foot, in time with his concertina or accordion.



This illustration, from an old music shop cover for a 78 rpm record in the collection of Malcolm Clapp, shows an original (if ad hoc) approach to the problem of playing an accordion (in this case, a Flutina, an ancestral melodeon) at the same time as a pair of "jig dolls".

Bob Bolton


Other References

Project Gutenberg has the following image of dancing dolls in an engraving from the book 'The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings With Descriptions, and a Comment on Their Moral Tendency' by John Trusler.

the dolls are being operated by the piper in the lower left corner.

Wikipedia lists them as Limberjacks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limberjack,
and as Jig dolls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jig_doll.

These entries are proposed to be merged, but there is current discussion as to which title is to be the primary one.

Chris Brady has a page on them too: http://chrisbrady.itgo.com/jigdolls/jigdolls.htm.



Monday, 26 November 2012

The Bushwhackers (Some recollections - Chris Kempster, February 2002)

This article was published in Cornstalk, (Folk Federation of NSW monthly magazine), in 3 parts in March, April & May 2002)

Thanks to Alison Jones for permission to reproduce these articles



It was well into 1952 that John Meredith wrote saying he had these two new musical instruments that you could pick up and play almost instantly. He and some friends were having a party and I could come out and try them. This sounded wonderful. I'd been struggling, happily but slowly, with the guitar and John and I had spent some hilarious nights playing recorder together. And I've always reckoned it helps, whatever you're learning, if you can see someone else doing it, but so scarce were guitars, that, several times I'd heard blokes in road gangs yell out, "Hey, give us a tune on y' banjo, mate". I'd mutter (quietly), "It's not a bloody banjo, it's a bloody guitar". I'd had some help to get started from the wonderful Jeff Way and apart from him, and Barbara Lisyak from a distance, no other gut or nylon strung guitars had I seen. 



Jack Barrie on bush base in Reedy River 1953/54 (BMC Archives)

So then - musical instruments you could play sooo easily - wow! The night came and there they were, the bush bass and the lagerphone - the "rabbiter's gift" John later called it. His brother had copied it from what he'd seen an old rabbiter playing at a Red Cross "Amateur Hour" concert in their home town of Holbrook. He also gave it the now famous name. John played the button accordion, Brian Loughlin had grabbed the lagerphone and wouldn't let go, Jack Barrie looked very much at home on the bush bass and I finally got my guitar in tune to accompany A Starry Night for a Ramble and many other tunes. 





Brian Loughlin on Lagerphone in Reedy River 1953/54 (BMC Archives)

A memorable night, but not quite the start of the Bushwhackers, as John, Brian and Jack had already played a couple of times earlier that year. In the next year or less came Harry Kay, Alex Hood, Cecil Grivas and Alan Scott, to make the full eight, of which just five now remain.





Bushwhackers reunion, 2002 - Chris Kempster, Harry Kay Jr, Alex Hood, Jack Barrie,
recorded by Rob Willis. Absent - Cec Grivas
(Bob Bolton photo)

I'm sure we weren't anything special musically or technically, but we sang and played Aussie songs and music in a time when few knew anything of them and those who did declared them all "derivative". We must have been fulfilling some need as, from our first full performance at the Rivoli Hall, Hurstville, late '52, we got good receptions. We wore work boots and simple clothes to match, felt hats and a red handkerchief tied around the neck. When a British MP out here on a lecture tour wanted to hear Australian Folk music, the Dept of the Interior somehow got in touch with John and along we went to some very posh rooms above the Rural Bank in Market Place. Heads turned and I think I remember some audible gasps as we thumped in carrying our gear. 




Bushwhackers without John Merdith  (John Meredith photo, BMC archives)

Brian introduced us, explaining that some people said there was no Australian Folk Music - only parodies, to imported tunes from Ireland or such. If so, said Brian, then we're all the same, everyone here, we're all from the same sources as the music and we're all parodies, the only Australians are the Aborigines. The audience hushed and listened and Cecil's voice rang good and true. I think what helped was that we didn't just sing songs, but sang of our culture, too long ignored. And a big part of this belief came from our Left wing backgrounds. The only place I'd heard Australian songs before this was at Eureka Youth League camps and meetings. I don't remember John singing at the camps, but even then he was known for his knowledge of Australia - few knew much about Aboriginal rock carvings, but John did. It was also at those camps that I first enjoyed The Irish Washerwoman and many other dances I was not to see again until the boom of the Bush Dances, over twenty years later.

The play Reedy River was put together by a similar bunch of Lefties in Melbourne New Theatre. They took a slab from Rigby's Romance and bits from Such is Life, gathered as many songs as they could find, nutted out a plot and Dick Diamond rounded the whole lot out and the finished play went on in early 1953. Included in the songs and central to the plot, set in the aftermath of the shearers' strike, were 1891, Helen Palmer's poem with Dee Jacobs (Doreen Bridges) music, and my 1949 setting of Lawson's Reedy River, (for the romantic lead), and which had "travelled" there as a folk song. 



After the standard 6 to 8 weeks session the play was brought to the Sydney branch of New Theatre, and the Bushwhackers were invited to lend a hand with the songs. We, (John, Brian, Jack, Harry and myself), agreed to join the cast and, thoroughly entranced, I asked to be given a part. I've always suspected I was only accepted through being the composer of the title tune! Cecil was given the part of the swagman. At the first rehearsal I heard my line come up but, determined not to jump in too soon, gave it the dramatic pause it deserved. A voice from the back of the hall barged in wanting to know what happened to "What's that y' got there, Thomo - whose line is that"?

They ignored my wisdom and told me I had to jump in quick. They were bloody hard to satisfy, as next, despite my shouting, they reckoned they couldn't hear me! Still, with Stanislavski classes and hard work, I left a sort of "legacy" for later performances. I could still get both legs up behind my neck and balance on my hands, and, in the final Lazy Harries chorus, Brian and I did a sort of prance-bit where I used that flexible backbone to get up a fine bum waggle-walk - sometimes it even got applause and I have to say, was shamelessly copied in later performances.... nawww, I was honoured to have made at least some sort of contribution!

In the Melbourne production a small off-stage ensemble of concert instruments provided all the music. They played an overture, introduced and accompanied the songs, and played the dance tunes. In Sydney that format was modified, with us playing on-stage for some of the songs and the dances. With full houses for two and three nights a week, the play over-ran its time. Months went by and the off-stage ensemble, with other jobs beckoning that paid money, ceased to be and we played on-stage as a functional part of the play, for all of the songs and dances. The change remained. Would it have evolved that way anyway? - dunno!



The Bushwhackers, Feb 1954 - Chris Kempster, John Meredith, Harry Kay, Brian Loughlin, Jack Barrie 
 (page from A.M. for Feb 16, 1954, BMC archives)

New Theatre was branded, right or wrong, as a hot bed of Reds, and despite Reedy River being about the most successful amateur production of the time and breaking the record for the longest playing amateur show - continuous for nearly a year - only one brave reporter gave a, very scant, review of the play in the Press. The success was "underground". For months before opening, "Reedy River is coming", appeared in chalk and paint, rivalling the "Eternity" signs. People learnt the songs and came repeatedly to sing 'em. A woman wrote in to say she'd been twelve times and brought her dog to ten - we wondered if it sang too. We toured to far off places, there was a reception or two and there were Sunday afternoon parties that we'd travel to all herded into an open backed truck. It became a sub-culture for us and the original Reedy River Songbook featured our photographs. But New Theatre itself suffered as the play tied up just a few of its actors, leaving the bulk with no parts to play.




Reedy River (BMC Archives)

The study of Australian History, was/is mostly centred on governors and explorers - the "folk" tended to be absent. Lloyd's opening lines in The Singing Englishman describe this, quoting Bertolt Brecht:

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates? In the books you will read the names of kings. Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock? In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live? Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Teachers increasingly have tackled this and the syllabus leads more to helping kids to picture the life of the ordinary people. I like to imagine the drama of the start of the shearing season, with, in today's numbers, over 100 000 men setting out with some sort of a swag, "on the wallaby", looking for work. Converting the 1891 numbers into today's figures that's how it comes out, but there was none of the flesh and blood of history in my school education.




Hughenden Strike Camp, Queensland, 1891. In early 1891, central Queensland shearers 
went on strike. From February through until May, central Queensland was on the brink of civil war. Striking shearers formed armed camps outside of towns. The culmination of the strike came at Barcaldine, when the colonial administration ordered the arrest of the shearers' leaders on charges of sedition and conspiracy.(Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

One of the legacies of Reedy River is that it opened many hearts and minds to our Folk History - well, white history at least! - the Black story is emerging.

After an encouraging first year, with growing interest and I think sparked by the continuing success of Reedy River, John and Alan, plus Brian, with Edgar Waters and others in 1954, found their organisational skills. With the enthusiasm of Rod Shaw, of Edwards & Shaw, Broadsides appeared. The Bush Music Club was formed with us as the steady core, the basis was laid for other folk organisations and also some of the material was developed for the first magazine, Singabout, Summer 1956. In the US, there were Sing Out nights - a great idea where singers, dancers and instrumentalists got together for an informal night of whatever happened. Through Jeff Way, we'd heard recordings of them and, in our version of it, we had some great Singabout nights with many more to follow.



For the first few years of the Bush Music Club nights we rented the same rooms as June Dally-Watkins (Deportment for young ladies). I was co-opted as M.C. and relentlessly dogged people to "do something" - sometimes we were a scant few! John Greenway's plea, (he was out here from the US on scholarship), that he'd "already sung last week" was ignored, "Well, you can sing again this week". Maybe this accounted for the adverse report he wrote when he got safely back! However, as I was saying about the problems of learning guitar in a near vacuum, he taught Alex Hood and me, just by demonstrating on his guitar, what we reckoned was about two years progress, in just a few nights. We saw and we did!


Merro was already involved in the hunt against time to find and record the Folk Artists and Keepers of Memories from past ages when no means of recording existed. He lugged about a big tape recorder and I was privileged to go with him to Mudgee a few times. Sadly I soon saw I wasn't cut out to be of value where fine details were involved such as a few words changed between one person's memory and another in pages of typing, but I helped with some transcriptions and got at least an insight into the mind of a collector. People trusted John and went out of their way to point him to new contacts - a special gift. He met people - many! He brought Duke Tritton to New Theatre to give the Reedy River cast a "feel" of what it was to be a shearer in 1892! I remember Hoop Iron Jack Lee and his brother singing songs and recording memories of the itinerant workers, when those massive numbers of men humped their blueys and followed the wallaby tracks in search of work, as in Time Means Tucker; memories, all too soon to be lost.





The concert for the centenary of Eureka stands out. I was given a song about a bloke arriving off a boat at the Quay in the middle of the Gold Rush. In the crowd he recognised a friend named "Joe". #1 Unknowingly he called his friend by name only to be arrested and thrown into jail! Halfway through I forgot the start of the next verse, and John and the others played through the tune while I, searching for inspiration, took off my hat and pretended to peer into it. By next time round I'd remembered and all was well. Again, no mikes, but the Margaret St hall, (now deceased!), had special acoustics.

We met Doc Evatt who seemed pleased to meet us and spoke with passion of Eureka. We met him again for Dame Mary Gilmore's 90th birthday - she tried to get hold of a very big cake he was "presenting" to her. She didn't know, but The Doc knew it was far too heavy for her and kept repeating ".... and I am holding the cake ...", throughout his speech. There were Lawson memorials at the statue in Hyde Park, concerts at the Lithgow Workers Club, Harry Kay's wedding, Wool Promotion Weeks at David Jones - we got paid for these and had a microphone too, unlike the Smith Family job in the wide open Showground, with hundreds of kids!



 
Dame Mary Gilmore with Reedy River cast at New Theatre (BMC Archives)



David Jones Wool Promotion Week, with the Shearers Band, aka Concert Party, 1958 (BMC Archives)

At Mudgee John had met a group in the Methodist church who were rejecting the old oppressive social strictures and welcomed us in our interest in Folk history. We took the train and gave a prepared thing on The Dog - just how many miles from Gundagai was it that the dog did "it" and, to cause so much strife, it must've been a bloody sight more than just sitting on a tucker box.

There were recording sessions, (10 inch 78s), with Edgar Waters and, in the stone dungeons of his house, Peter Hamilton. Alan's clear voice got The Drover's Dream onto the charts in Queensland - 50 000 sales, I'm told. We did a pilot show for ABC pre-TV, and several nights for Radio Australia, and then - there was the film 3 in 1. Cec Holmes had directed a film version of Frank Hardy's depression story, The Load of Wood. This was the show-piece to get money to add in two more segments, one in the 1890s mainly on Lawson's The Union Buries its Dead, with the Bushwhackers, and a "modern" segment in the late 50's - three stories of mateship in one show.


The film set sure was something: the rail tracks for the camera, a fireplace that looked as if it had a fire in it the night before, the actors who could switch into characters in some outback pub. Someone called on "Longun" to "Give us Lazy Harries" and our bit began. Lazy Harries finished and Brian threw himself into Click go the Shears as only he could. By the time the hearse came back we were all a bit "drunk". I confess, at age twenty one, I'd never really been that way and had to imagine how I'd behave. Boy, I sure rolled out of that pub in fine style, hitchin' up me pants and ... well, maybe you've seen the film at the National Folk Festival at Easter! I was O.K. in other parts and the clip in the ABC History of Australian Films, late 1990s, was of one of my few spoken parts! Trudging behind a hearse in the summer heat out Bourke way, a foppish Englishman turned to me with, "Bless my soul, it must be 110 in the shade". I had to give him a withering look and say, "I wouldn't know mate, I ain't IN the bloody shade". They made me say is about five different ways. I thought I'd fully exhausted every possible slant on it and, "OK, well, ..... keep that one"!

Though the film didn't have a slick commercial style, it was good and I've seen far lesser films get a prolonged showing where 3 in 1 didn't. The simple thing was/is that the theatres were, with only one or two exceptions, owned by a big few, and surprise! not Australian. We can all fill in the detail after that.

Time went on as it does, I heard Bert Lloyd's records of the songs he'd heard when he was here in the 1920s and 30s. They had such vitality in the presentation and accompaniment, (and I grew to really enjoy his singing). There were great new songs and Lloyd's versions of the words often had a better ring to them. We all looked for ways to enhance our presentation. I'd learnt a little of harmony at the League camps, Reedy River and the choir "Unity Singers" where Dee Jacobs, (Bridges), bashed us into shape, and I began to add some harmony in the chorus of our songs.

John had met the bushies who sang the songs and, for him, the ‘Bushwhackers’ was a medium to pass them on as near as possible to the way he'd heard them. But the singers he'd met were all solo and unaccompanied - there were no "groups" out Bush, as far as we could tell. Harmony and arrangement, I felt, mainly grew out of continued group presentation to an audience. In the life of an itinerant worker, this was not a likely number! Smaller instruments like violins and concertinas were about, but who would lug a lagerphone or bush bass over those long tramps, and how often would an organised group repeatedly "present" songs?

Our scene was already changed from the solo unaccompanied singer, we were possibly the first permanent bush band, and we had to reach a different audience. There were arguments, not fierce, but ultimately John decreed that all songs should be solo singer in the verse, all in unison on the choruses, and all the instruments playing ALL the time! Some formula, and silly, in hindsight. Maybe it was that we'd come to some sort of hiatus, maybe it was the desire of Alex, Harry, Cecil and myself, and Brian too, for more imagination in presentation, but, at a special meeting, (in 1957 by Alan's recollection), and out of the blue to me, John formally disbanded the group with the undertaking, which we all agreed to, that no other group should ever use the name "Bushwhackers".

Alex grabbed Harry and myself, and later with Barbara Lisyak and Denis Kevans, formed The Rambleers, Cecil, with his brothers, formed The Galahs, and, later, a re-constituted Bushwhackers did appear. I was a little surprised but felt, "Well, if anyone was entitled to, it's John!" - I could wear that, and I'm told the name wasn't kept for long.







There were judgements made and, though I felt I was treated with respect at Bush Music Club functions, there were dark mutterings, I'm told, of 'certain people who wanted to sing in harmony and destroy the Club'. In some of the later Singabouts there was a letterhead mentioning The Bushwhackers, but of a later group, as four of us were excluded from the drawing. No great shakes and all a long time ago, but when Cornstalk, April 2001, carried a cover photo of the "Original Bushwhackers" but showing a different group, I felt it worth a mention. True, Jack, Brian, Alan and John were there, and I guess the aim was to distinguish this group from the electronic "Bushwackers", but they certainly aren't the original group and I'm sure Cornstalk will sort it all out. #2

What about the name, then? We heard, and with some pleasure at the time, of groups being formed with names such as, "The Moreton Bay Bushwhackers" or the "something or other Bushwhackers", and as Bob Bolton muses, "I tend to think that the late 1950s came very close to moving the term 'Bushwhackers Band' into public domain". Maybe time will tell.

There it is, something of our story. There's always more, of course - John's prodigious output of books, the collecting done by Alan and Alex, and I'm sure most groups have similar tales to tell. But thanks to John's insight and contacts and the energy and enthusiasm of its members, we were the first, and I believe we had at least a catalytic effect in the stimulation of so much that followed. Maybe also, like Reedy River, we happened along at the right time.

Chris Kempster, February, 2002, With thanks to Bob Bolton for helpful suggestions and archival material.





Bob Bolton photo




Notes

#1
"Joe", after the Victorian governor Charles Joseph La Trobe, was the call on the goldfields warning that the police or traps were on a licence hunt. Illegal on the goldfields - it's perhaps stretching it a bit to be arrested at the Quay in Sydney for calling out "Joe", but the call was well-known and this was part of the humour of the song.

#2

In May 2002 Cornstalk editor issued a correction for using a 1958 photo of the Shearers Band (aka Bush Music Club Concert Party) labeled as the original Bushwhackers (1952-1857)



...........................................................................................................................







Tuesday, 20 November 2012

BUSH MUSIC CLUB NEWSLETTER Vol.1, no.1, October 1955

Bob Bolton has been searching through our Archives & scanning items of interest. It is amazing what our founders & founding members accomplished in the first 12 months.

The newsletter was not illustrated but pictures of relevant items have been added.



.........................................................................................



BUSH MUSIC CLUB NEWSLETTER

Vol. 1. No, 1 ___________ October, 1955.__
The Bush Music Club is one year old this month. in that time we have helped set up several singing groups and folk music ensembles; we have published a dozen “BUSHWHACKER BROADSIDES”, and. our affiliated groups have performed at many functions. To celebrate our birthday we have decided to bring out two new regular publications. “SINGABOUT” will be our new club magazine. It will appear quarterly, beginning in January. In between issues of “SINGABOUT”, our “BUSH MUSIC CLUB NEWSLETTER” will keep you informed of all our activities.
____________________________________________________________________________
BUSHWHACKER BROADSIDES”
Our series of illustrated songsheets with music has proved so popular with our audiences and subscribers, that we have difficulty in keeping up supplies.
Those published so far are:
1) The Old Man. Kangaroo; (2) The Old Bark Hut; (3) Jim Jones at Botany Bay;
4) The Rabbiter's Song; (5) Ho, Give a Fair Go; (6) Hungry Jim the Miner;
7) Wally the Weatherman; (8) The Black Velvet Band; (9) The Bold Kelly Gang;
10) Bound for Darling Harbour; (11) Farewell to Greta.
Numbers 1, 4. and 5 are out of print. Numbers 2, 3, 6 and 7 are in their second edition. Others in preparation are:- Australia on the Wallaby, The Bullockies Ball, Cane Killed Abel, Ye Sons of Australia, The Kellys, Byrne and Hart, Stringybark Creek, Kelly was their Captain etc.. “BUSHWHACKER BROADSIDES” cost 3d. each, or 2/6 a dozen, They are obtainable from Alex Hood, 19 Hughes Street, Potts Point, N.S.W,


____________________________________________________________________________
NEW SINGING GROUPS
More and more people are finding that it is more fun to sing and play as a team than to give solo items, “Bushwhacker” type groups are flourishing in Brisbane, Melbourne and Newcastle. The Lithgow ‘WOMBATS”, with their imaginative style and live wombat mascot, are achieving fame on the western coalfields, and a new group has just started on the south coast. In Sydney, the “ROUSEABOUTS” beginning to steal the show from the “BUSHWHACKERS”. For those who like choral singing, the PEOPLES’ CHOIR, led by Paul Wi1liams and the WEST SYDNEY SINGERS, led by Ken Hansen are providing a good field to work in. Some of the groups have already affiliated with the BUSH MUSIC CLUB. Has yours? The Affi1iation fee is 10/- per year per 50 members. Send your application to the Club
Secretary: Alan Scott, 57 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo, N.S.W.
____________________________________________________________________________
SONGS FROM THE KELLY COUNTRY
Our first song book was such a success that it sold out in a few weeks.
We have decided to produce them regularly, and the next one will be six “SONGS FROM THE KELLY COUNTRY. It will consist of six special “BUSHWHACKER BROADSIDES” of traditional Ned Kelly songs, with foreword, bound in a colourful illustrated cover. It will be issued. in an edition of 250 copies on November 11th, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the death of our national folk hero. The price is 2/6 and advance orders may be placed with our broadside distributor.


____________________________________________________________________________
FRIDAY NIGHT WORKSHOPS
Every Friday night Sydney members of the Club gather at Video Studios, 149 Castlereagh Street, for the purpose of learning and trying out new songs and rehearsing old ones. There is usually an unusual collection of musical instruments, and informality is the key-note. In addition to the musical items there are always plenty of volunteers with recitations and yarns, Traditional bush songs are interspersed with modern topical and work songs, and we learn at least one new song a week, Visitors are always welcome.

____________________________________________________________________________
SINGABOUT - IT’S ON THE WAY!
Twenty pages of songs, old and new, complete with music - articles, features, parodies, photos, folk and square dance tunes and calls, competitions and news! It’s all yours for two bob • SINGABOUT is your club magazine, Send news, articles, songs and photos of your group or yourself, to the editor:-
John Meredith, 5 Henry Street, Lewisham, N.S.W.

Send your cash donations, subscriptions and bulk orders to the manageress:-
Karin Winter, 15 Chelmsford Ave., Lindfield, N.S.W.

The deadline for material for the first issue is November 30th.
SINGABOUT” will be on sale the first week in January. Prices: - Single copies, 2/-; per year 7/6. Bulk orders 18/- per doz.
____________________________________________________________________________
SPECIAL! SPECIAL! SPECIAL! SPECIAL! SPECIAL! SPECIAL!
SINGABOUT” TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! “SINGABOUT”
The first five hundred subscribers will receive a free copy for each one ordered - one for you and one for a friend,
____________________________________________________________________________
£5/5/- “SINGABOUT” FINDATUNE COMPETITION £5/5/-
On page two you will find the words of a ballad by Mick Lawson, popular coalminer poet. We want to print it in the first issue of “SINGABOUT”, as a song. All you have to do is write a tune, or set it to a traditional tune. The prize? £5/5/-. Closing date November 30th.
____________________________________________________________________________


“IT’S LOVELY DOWN THE PIT, LAD” - by Mick Lawson,

The miner is a happy lad, he lives a lovely life.
He dearly loves the owners so he never gets in strife.
The miner is a 1ucky lad, he lives a life so free
And now each morning, with his crib, he gets a pot of tea.

Chorus:
So hasten to the pit-head lads, and let’s go down the mine.
For a miner’s life is a lovely life, oh a miner’s life is fine.
So drop us down the pit winder, drop us down below

We’ll pick and drill and shoot and fill then homewards we will go.
It’s lovely down the pit my lad, there’s nowt so much to do
Save drill a hole and shoot the coal and shovel all day through.
And if tha’s feeling tired lad, why don’t get in a rage.
Just think that in a few hours more you’ll ride up in the cage.
So give three cheers for the Coal Board and the men who own the mine.

For a miner’s life is a lovely life, the job is really fine.
He drops down in a lovely cage and when he’s in his bord
He just fills twenty ton or so and rides up like a lord.

Of course, at times, we have a ‘fall’, we don’t care much for that
For several tons of rock or coal will smash you rather flat,
But on the other hand. lad, it’s really only fair
To say we’re safe from hailstones, so we’ve got something there.

It’s lovely down the pit lad, but in spots it’s rather dark,
But if we fall flat on our face we treat that as a lark.
It’s lovely down the pit lad, a really bonzer show.
Oh a miner’s life is a lovely life - why don’t you have a go?

Last Chorus:
So hasten to the pit-head lads, and let’s go down the mine
For a miner’s life is a lovely life, oh a miner’s life is fine.
So drop us down the pit winder, drop us down below
We’ll pick and drill and shoot and fill then homewards we will go.
Then homewards we will go lads - at least we’re hoping so.

Rules.
Melody line only of one verse and chorus, plus last line of last chorus is required. The tune may be original or an arrangement of a non-copyright traditional tunes. The executive of the Bush Music Club shall be the judges and their decision will be final. The winning tune will become the property of the BUSH MUSIC CLUB. There is no entry fee. Fill in this form and enclose it in a sealed envelope, bearing your pen name,
Attach to MS which must only bear the pen name of the entrant.

Send entries to: Editor, “SINGABOUT”, 5 Henry Street, Lewisham, N.S.W.
Name ……………………………… Address ………………………………………………….
Pen Name ………………………………………………………………………………………
I agree to abide by the above rules,
Entrant’s signature ……………………………………………………
CLOSING- DATE: November 30th, 1955.
____________________________________________________________________________

Published for THE BUSH MUSIC CLUB by A. Scott, 57 Crown St., E. Sydney,





Monday, 5 November 2012

Let’s Hear It For Merro! by Alan Scott, Mulga Wire No. 14 August 1979




Recently I was trying to write down a tune I remembered and couldn’t decide what time signature it should have. I knew it was in the same time as the tune we played for The Flying Pieman. That dance was called The Flying Scotsman till John Meredith re-named it when he introduced it to the Bush Music Club. I found the tune in the Complete Book of Australian Folklore  for the dance Thady You Gander. While searching in that book I found “The Victorian Folk Music Club uses the following combination of tunes: Kelvin Grove; Muckin’ O’ Geordie’s Byre; Bonnie, Bonnie Banks Of Loch Lomond.”

And I thought, “Yes, the V.F.M.C. may use that combination of tunes but it was John Meredith who worked out that they would fit the dance, with the option of repeating the last line of Loch Lomond if the set was a bit slow.”

I got to thinking, then, of all the things the Folk movement in Australia owes to Merro. In the early Bushwhacker Band days when our audiences asked, “Where can we learn these songs?” it was John who proposed we form the Bush Music Club and became our first M.C. The Bushwhackers were as busy then as any Bush Band these days, with three or four performances a week, rehearsals and radio broadcasts and John was the driving force in that group. He was busy in the Folklore Society and in library research at the same time as he continued searching for and recording folksingers and musicians.

 
You might think, on reading his Folksongs of Australia, that he was lucky to find so many valuable informants but it required dedication, perseverance and sheer physical endurance. His tape recorder, unlike today’s transistorised models, weighed about thirty pounds and he relied mostly on public transport. I recall going with him to the flatlands of Maroubra one Saturday afternoon when we had a quarter mile hike from the tram to the singer’s home, I carried the recorder The cool sea breeze blew sand in our faces and my arms were stretched longer by the time we got there. After a couple of hours we went back to the tram and that night performed with the rest of the Bushwhackers over on the other side of Sydney.

 
Folksongs of Australia is John’s outstanding achievement but he did things many people are unaware of, ie finding the music given in title only for Plains of Emu, Where’s Your Licence and Ned Kelly’s Farewell To Greta. He altered the words in Banjo Patterson’s Bushman’s Song from: “Eight or ten dashed Chinamen” to the more acceptable “Eight or ten non-union men” and when he set Henry Lawson’s A Word to Texas Jack to a traditional tune, he changed Lawson’s words too. When he recorded The Bullockies’ Ball it was short of two lines so he wrote a couple that fit so well that I, who know they were added, have difficulty distinguishing them. He searched out the music that was given as the tune for Jim Jones At Botany Bay and, I suspect, added two lines to complete an unfinished verse.



The idea of Singabout magazine was his and he was its first editor with all the work that such a venture entailed. He conceived the Ned Kelly seventy-fifth anniversary song book and supplied traditional tunes for those songs that lacked them. 

 
When he had the idea for the Lawson Songbook he contacted the composers of the music used, arranged for Dame Mary Gilmore to write the introduction and asked Clem Millward to illustrate it.

 
He by no means held aloof from the mundane work that had to be done in the Club. I remember the working bees at his home making hundreds of crepe paper waratahs used to decorate the B.M.C. float in the Waratah Festival procession. Merro went out to the circus to hire an elephant for us and would have done but it was too late to get a council permit. So we used a horse drawn dray instead and gave the waratahs away to the crowds at the end of the procession.

This immersion in Australiana and Bush Music did not destroy his perspective. He was and remains, an enthusiastic expert, not a fanatic. So let’s hear it for Merro, Australian folk music probably owes more to him than to any other individual.

Alan Scott.

Mulga Wire No. 14 August 1979

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Bob Bolton's comments after scanning this article

* Hmm…I had a good look at my reference copy of Bill Scott’s “Complete Book of Australian Folk Lore” (Ure Smith, Sydney 1976) … and I can’t find that quote at all. I don’t think there was any ‘second edition’ … so Alan may have been looking at some other comprehensive ( … but Victorian-biased … ) book of Australian Folklore

I also checked various versions of the Ron Edwards’ Big Book of Australian Folk Song … and I did find this on page 765 of my on-line (10 volumes) version. The reference to the renaming of “The Flying Scotsman” to “The Flying Pieman” – by Noreen Grunseit is what I have always believed … but a smart idea is a smart idea … and lots of people get credited with primacy of the same idea … depending upon ‘by whom’ and ‘whereabouts?’

FLYING PIEMAN, THE
see also THADY YOU GANDER
(Tune ; The Flying Dutchman)
1. ‘Twas the close of a heavy drinking bout on port and sherry cape.
2. (Dance tune)
1. Noted by Warren Fahey in The Colonial Magazine 1869, the tune being given as The Flying Dutchman.
2. Collected and arranged by John Meredith from Herb Gimbert, Sydney, no date given. 
*Folk Songs of Australia Vol. 1, page 157 1967; reprinted *Australian Tradition 30/14 Dec 1972 with title THADY YOU GANDER or THE IRISH TROT; *Australian Tradition 34 June 1974, notes on p.29, tune on p.52.

In Tradition No. 34, Shirley Andrews explains:
“One member of the Bush Music Club, Noreen Grunseit, adapted a Scottish dance called The Flying Scotsman for dancing by other club members. They altered the name to ‘The Flying Pieman’ to give it an Australian name as this was the name of an eccentric character in early Sydney. The tune used is an untitled Irish jig tune collected from Herb Gimbert by John Meredith”.

*Take Your Partners 56 1976; *Bush Dance 20-21 1984; *Collector’s Choice Vol.2 49 1987.
It will be seen that versions 1 and 2 have nothing in common, the title FLYING PIEMAN in version 2 being a modern addition, the title being given to an old tune.