MT logo Letters 2008

Dave Ruch


I saw your enthusiastic review of the Dave Ruch album on MT and then I received it to review for fRoots and I understand why.  Then I get an email from Peter Shepheard drawing my attention to an American Public Broadcasting concert by Dave Ruch which can be heard on line at:§ionID=3286

I am listening to it at the moment and enjoying it very much. You may want to draw people's attention to it on your website.

Best wishes

Vic Smith - 20.11.08

Travellers in Heaven author?


In the notes to the MT album Here's Luck to a Man, the booklet notes say about the final track: 39 - Will There Be any Travellers in Heaven? (Roud 5214) Written and sung by Derby Smith ... which I always thought was the case, but I've just seen in Travellers' Times issue no 33 page 5 (on-line at there's a claim that it was in fact written by his cousin, Ambrose Smith.

The article says: 'Ambrose's best-known song, Will There Be Any Travellers in Heaven, is a good example of how he creates music, but gets no credit for it.  His late cousin, Derby Smith, is often quoted as the song's creator.'

Any idea on the real truth of the matter?

Vic Smith - 30.8.08

Song help?

Dear Rod

I remembered another song from my childhood - it was sung on the radio, on a comedy programme, I think, but I cannot remember who sang it.  Can anyone help me out?

"Tell me, Mr Tram Conductor",
The grey haired old lady said,
"If I tread upon the tram lines
Will the current strike me dead?"
"You need have no fear, madam",
The cheeky tram conductor said'
"Unless you raise the other leg and put it
On the power lines overhead!"
I think the tune is something like When this Lousy War is Over


Patricia Lovell - 13.4.08

Cyril Tawney recordings?

Recordings of Cyril Tawney's concert and club appearances are needed for inclusion in his Archive, which will be held by the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London, and I wonder if any of your readers can help.  I have already received several very useful items, but there are still some gaps to be filled, particularly by the many traditional songs in his repertoire which were not recorded commercially.  Even if the songs you have are covered elsewhere, Cyril's introductions were very much a part of his performances and the live sessions will help to complete the record of his career.

Thank you very much

Rosemary Tawney - 25.3.08   01392 426 055
10 Sivell Place, Heavitree, Exeter, EX2 5ET, UK.

Folkways podcasts

Dear Rod,

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but there's a stupendous series of 24 one-hour podcasts available to download from Smithsonian Folkways, recounting the Folkways story - Click here.  The information would be well worth posting on the MT site.

All the best,

Geoff Wallis - 19.3.08


Dear Rod,

I ordered the new Bobby Casey CD in my local Woolworths at a very reasonable price and it arrived through my letter box only two days later!  I was surprised they even had it listed.  Very useful for someone like me who likes to pay cash on the nail for anything.


Phil Heath-Coleman - 19.3.08

Re: Lunatic song

Dear Rod

Trying to remember a song for a friend, I came across a version on your website.  The following is what I remember from my childhood in the 1940s, with 'buggers' transcribed to 'blighters' for my young ears!

I worked at the lunatic asylum
My job was a-picking up stones.
One day a lunatic says to me
“How-do Mr Jones?
How much a week do you get for doing that?”
“Fifty bob a week’, I cried.
“Fifty bob a week
And a dozen kids to keep?
Come inside you silly blighter, come inside!”

“Come inside you silly blighter, come inside,
I thought you had a bit more sense!
Fifty bob a week and a dozen kids to keep,
Why don’t you come inside and become a lunatic?
You get your meals quite regular
And two new suits beside -
Fifty bob a week and a dozen kids to keep
Come inside you silly blighter come inside!”
You will see my Mr Jones was paid more - but he had a lot of children to provide for!

Your article about Ruby Cracknell mentions some 'dirty' songs.  I did pick up a few, probably around the piano in the evenings when the family got back from the pub, but I cannot share them with my grandchildren as my daughter would kill me.  One was (to the tune of The British Grenadiers):

There was a little Scotchy boy
Who went to Waterloo
The wind blew up his petticoats
And he showed his cock-a-doodle-doo
His cock-a-doo was dirty
He showed it to the Queen
The Queen was so disgusted that
She had it painted green
I flew up in a penny balloon
The penny balloon went pop
I fell down in the deep blue sea
And a fishy got hold of me
Cock-a-doodle, cock-a-doodle
Lost the leg o' me drawers
Cock-a-doodle, cock-a-doodle
Won't you lend me yours?
One, less 'dirty' was (to the tune of Home Sweet Home):
The corporation dustcart
Was full up to the brim
The driver he fell backwards
And found he could not swim.
He sank down to the bottom
Just like a little stone,
He heard the fishes singing
There's no place like home!
Glad to have been able to pass them on to somebody!


Patricia Lovell - 18.3.08
Ryde, Isle of Wight

Re: Irish Music Anthology

In the review by Roger Johnson of the Irish Music Anthology he writes that Barbara Mullen was a Scottish actress - which needs a minor alteration.  She was not Scottish; she was born in Boston, Mass, USA.  Her parents both came from the west coast of Ireland, and Irish was her first language.  She left the US before she was twenty for the west of Ireland, before coming to England and her career here.

Hope that's useful,

S Gibbard - 19.2.08

Blind Jim Howard


I just ran across your review of Yazoo's 7 cd set of Kentucky Mountain Music.  You were generous enough to make some kind comments regarding my grandfather Blind Jim Howard.  Mr Lomax recorded "Pappy" on at least two different occasions.  The recordings were made on the front porch of the house with family looking on.  Mr Lomax's highly sophisticated, state of the art sound equipment was having trouble with Pappy's foot tapping on the wooden porch and a pillow was brought in, an attempt to mute the unwelcome added sound effect.  Pappy made a couple of records, and he had a weekly radio program at WHLN radio in Harlan.

Alas, time, numerous floods, and relocation of family members have claimed these tidbits.  I still have one of his fiddles.  It is in pieces, having endured the flood of 77.  The Library of Congress has 9 or 10 of the recordings that Mr Lomax obtained, but as you are already aware the quality ranges from not so good, to down right awful.  Anyways, on behalf of the family, thank you again for your kind remarks.

Jim Howard - 19.2.08

Pub Entertainers

I'm writing a book about traditional pubs around the UK (due for publication by Orion in September '08), and the people who populate and entertain in them.  Essentially, it's about sticking up for the traditional pub, and what it stands for, really, without getting too hi-falutin' about it!

I was very intersted to read the article on your site about the pub singer Ruby Cracknell.  Would you know of anyone who might have photographs of Ruby, and/or know of singers in a similar vein who are still singing regularly today in pubs around England?

Needless to say, any/all info will be printed with full credits, links to your site etc.

Paul Moody - 19.2.08

British Mountaineering Songs

I am a PhD student at the New Zealand School of Music doing research into 'tramping songs'.  Tramping is the general New Zealand term for recreational hiking.  In the 1930-70s era an important part of tramping for many people were singsongs, held in huts, round campfires or in truck-transport.  The repertoire included popular songs of the day, bawdy student and soldier song traditions, scouting songs and other assorted material.  Specific tramping songs were also created, setting humourous or sentimental words to well-known tunes.  These songs became known by trampers throughout the country, being passed on through word of mouth or spread via little tramping club songsters.

One interesting facet of this tradition were British mountaineering songs, apparently learned by New Zealanders visiting the UK and/or brought by British migrants.  Songs in this category which are known in New Zealand include Oh My Big Hobnailers (Tune: Oh Dem Golden Slippers), The Climbers' Clementine (Tune: Clementine) and The Barroom Mountaineers (Tune: Various).  There were presumably quite a few other such songs.  My father brought a mimeographed songster back from England in the mid-1950s which has another twenty or so climbing parodies, along with various other ditties.

While I've been able to gather some information from older climbers in New Zealand, I am curious about what is known of such mountaineering songs in Britain.  There is a chapter by Robert A Lambert in the book The Ballad in Scottish History (East Linton, 2000), dealing with Scottish mountaineering balladery of the 1850-1960 era.  Lambert describes how climbers in the Cairngorms during the 1930s would sleep rough in caves, barns, bothys and 'tramp's howffs', holding lively sing-songs and storytelling sessions in the evenings.  But, apart from this chapter, I can find little else in the way of published work about the Scottish tradition.

Nor have I found much about the English and Welsh mountaineering song traditions, which appear to have been going at least into the 1950s.  I would be grateful for any leads.

Best regards

Michael Brown - 8.2.08
New Zealand School of Music, Wellington

Re: Lizzie Higgins review (2)

A little more information on the subject of the puzzling words in Lizzie's third verse of MacCrimmon's Lament, discussed in Ray Fisher's excellent review (which reminded me that I needed to order a copy).

James Porter and Herschel Gower (Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1995, 169-170) note that Lizzie adapted those lines from Walter Scott's English-language verses, originally written for Alexander Campbell's Albyn's Anthology (II, 1818, 54).  I quote the original half-stanza here from The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1858.

Macleod's wizard flag from the gray castle sallies,
The rowers are seated, unmoor'd are the galleys;
Gleam war-axe and broadsword, clang target and quiver,
As Mackrimmon sings, "Farewell to Dunvegan for ever!"
The sleeve insert to Lizzie Higgins: What a Voice (Lismor LIFL7004, 1985), incidentally, includes a transcription almost identical to the first three lines quoted above.  It isn't clear who made the transcriptions, but I suspect that they may have referred to Scott where Lizzie's pronounciation was ambiguous.

'MacLeod's wizard flag' is presumably an allusion to the famous 'Fairy Flag' of Dunvegan.

Best regards

Malcolm Douglas - 26.1.08

(In case the fame of the Fairy Flag has not yet percollated to your area, do a Google search on: "Fairy Flag of Dunvegan"   It's a fascinating story (or stories) - Ed.)

Re: Chris Holderness' review of Keith Summers in Suffolk 1972-79

I have many memories of the Ship (properly Sheep) Inn Blaxhall during the mid-sixties, and can also recall both Lings and Mr Poacher.  They made a considerable impact.

For the record, although the singing and step dancing in the small Public Bar was overwhelmingly male, it did not need a 'special event' for women to attend.  I clearly recall there being at least two women who would be there, but they did seem to be considered as rather on the fast and disreputable side (one with bright red dyed hair).

My regards

Brian Felton - 25.1.08

Re: Echoes of Erin database

Hi Rod

First, a big thanks for the publicity for the discography in MT - got quite a few responses as a result.  Best one from Keith Chandler who supplied me with masses of information.

An updated version is now on the OaC website (, plus a preliminary draft of the US-recorded UK/Ireland re-releases - would apreciate a mention.

Thanks again for your help.

Barry Taylor - 15.1.08


Rod Stradling - e-mail:  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos  GL5 2HP, UK

Top of page Home Page Articles Reviews News Map

Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services   Updated: 20.11.08