Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

School’s (nearly) out

Those of us (this is the Substitute Scribe speaking) who work at the chalkface are already getting twitchy at the thought of the approaching holiday, and the twitchiness was increased by the emergence of a theme relating to the teaching of and attitude towards folk music in school, along with recollections of teachers telling children with ‘distinctive’ voices to confine themselves to mime.

Songs sung in this category ranged from genuine, if bowdlerised, folksongs learned from BBC broadcasts, to dubious parodies. These included The Keeper [Roud 1519], Mrs McGrath [Roud 678], Green and Yellow [a version of Lord Randall, Child 12, much favoured by Pam Ayres], Life Presents a Dismal Picture [to the tune of Scarlet Ribbons, though often sung to Hark the Herald] – all by Mike – Soldier Soldier [Roud 489], Prickle Holly Bush [Child 89] and (whilst on the subject of schools) Keith Gregson’s Steelworks Song –all Derek.

At some point the school conversation ran to a mention of the ancient school celebration of Empire Day and precisely when it changed to Commonwealth Day. The change was actually announced in 1958, but only after that year’s celebration (24th May); so the first Commonwealth Day was actually in 1959 (changed to 3rdMonday of March). Our attempts to relate the change to that of the Empire/Commonwealth Games were doomed to complex failure since they were entitled the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958 and 1962.

Whilst the school theme wended its way onward we were also entertained by:

Colin – Two Good Arms [Charlie King’s tribute to Sacco and Vanzetti], Chitterlings[Adge Cutler], Handsome Molly [Roud 454], Coalhole Cavalry [Ted Edwards] and, aided by Geoff and accompanied by the creaking sound of standards being lowered, a version of Mademoiselle From Armentieres which even Roud wouldn’t touch with a bargepole!

Geoff – King of the Road [Roger Miller], Memphis Tennessee [Chuck Berry], Pearl’s a Singer [Elkie Brooks], Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde [Mitch Murray/Peter Callander] and Seasons in the Sun [Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen].

Finally there was considerable discussion on the superstition of whistling aboard ship. I know it may lead to a thousand objections, but I want to state what I believe is correct in most cases:

Sailors were allowed, indeed encouraged, to ‘whistle up the wind’ when there was not enough wind to sail on.

Occasionally ships cooks were required to whistle while cooking to prove they were not eating the food.

At all other times sailors were banned from whistling, for two reasons: a) they might whistle up the wrong wind b) their whistles might lead someone to think it was the boatswain’s whistle giving an order.

All sailors knew the boatswain’s signals. On shore sailors, since they knew rigging, often worked in theatres and whistled the signals to each other. Actors became superstitious about whistling themselves in case a rigger thought it was a signal and dropped a flat on the unfortunate actor!

(4 present, 4 sang.)


On Friday 20th July we will have our usual session. There is the possibility of roadworks in the vicinity, so consider setting out a little earlier than usual.

On Friday 27th July The Bridge is having a large-scale ‘do’ and need the Back Room – so NO CLUB for that night only.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The official record

In the absence of the usual scribe and the regular deputy scribe, this report of last weeks session comes in a simplified format from the official record of the Dragon Folk Club.

Colin: The apprentice song; Back home in Derry; Dutchmans trousers; across the line; Eddystone light.

New visitor, Jan Miller from Bude in Cornwall ,visiting her son sang unaccompanied the following: Sheep stealer; Pinjarrah dreams; Charlotte Diamond; the recruiting sergeant; John Conden.

Tom - Buddy can you spare a dime; Autumn Leaves; Sweet baby Jane; Lasoo the moon; White trash.

Kath played her concertina and did: Salmon tales; Planty Irwin; Winster gallop: Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór; Loch Lomond.

Mike sang: The Transports song; Fred Wedlock's version of English country garden; Able Rogers (wave over wave).

Chris: She's like a swallow; The water is wide; Idle ways and sunny days; Shenandoah.

Roger: Henry the eighth I am; Autumn leaves (with french words which Tom whispered to me was named as les feuilles mortes); Woad; Sloop John B.

Geoff arrived with John after the footie.

Geoff: The ships that do sail; Fully fledged guard; McAlpines fusiliers.

John: Marco Polo; Across the hills; I am going (Shane MacGowan)

Normal service will return shortly and in the meantime, please come along to this week’s session.

(Number present: 9 of which 9 performed)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Give me that old time religion

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
It'll be a concise report of last week's session but I hope it will still give you a flavour of what happened.

There was a tongue in cheek note at the end of the previous week's blog report that there might be a theme of carrier bags. Colin started us off with his one plastic bag song: Benledi Street Ballad. Apparently Coin found three other songs about bags but hadn't been able to prepare them for performance.

I don't think Derek's Lake of Coolfin (Roud 189, Laws Q33) had anything to do with bags of any kind and neither did Geoff's first: Master McGrath (James Custer, Roud V32683).

Mike refused to sing Streets Of London, which of course mentions carrier bags but instead gave us a parody: McDonald's Kitchen (Seamus Kennedy). Simon claimed to have misheard Mike saying "plastic bags" and sang Richard Stilgoe's Little Plastic Packs.

This was followed immediately by Colin with Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah which Derek took as the call to a religious theme and gave us The Volunteer Organist by WB Glenroy (William B Gray) with music by Henry Lamb (Henry Spaulding). Simon's religious offering was The Unicorn Song (Shel Silverstein). Derek followed his theme with Dives And Lazarus (Roud 477, Child 56).. Mike joined in with The Vicar And The Frog (Stan Crowther). Colin found a pretty good fit for a follow-my-neighbour with The Frog's Courtship (Leslie Haworth). Derek's continued on this theme for two more songs: The Bitter Withy (Roud 452) and They're Shifting Father's Grave To Build A Sewer.

Geoff sang Golden Brown (Hugh Cornwell, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Dave Greenfield, Jet Black) and Mike found a good match for the title with Shallow Brown (Roud 2621).

It fell to Geoff to finish off the evening with Roger Whittaker's The Last Farewell.

(Number of people present - 5, of whom 5 performed)

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The Songs People Sing

Appleby Horse Fair (Photo: Bryan Ledgard)
A brief traditional riddle for readers to solve: what did the following people do on the specified dates, which on 22nd June 2018 gave the Substitute Scribe 20 minutes respite from scribing, while the others argued about the answer?- Joe South (1968), Freddy Weller (of Paul Revere and the Raiders 1969), Dolly Parton (1969), Conway Twitty (1969), Don Gibson (1970), Sami Jo (1974), Dick Gaughan (1983), Tesla (1994), Inner Circle (1994) and Don Williams 1995.

The answer is that they all recorded The Games People Play (Joe South), which Colin sang in the course of the evening. As far as I am aware Colin has not recorded it, but 'Basement' tapes may begin to appear soon. And I need to point out that two other songs – but with the same title - were recorded by The Alan Parsons Project (1987) and The Spinners (1975). Sorry, not those Spinners, but an American R&B group [Ed: known in the UK as The Detroit Spinners to avoid just such confusion].

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The bag of wind

(Photo: Marco Verch)
Last week's session was a bit thin on the ground for bodies but with some ad hoc themes we made it a worthwhile evening. Being the start of the football World Cup, "the beautiful game" (let me go off and be sick for a moment) and Russia were obvious candidates.

Colin, being MC, started us off with The Old Man Who lived In The Woods (Roud 281, Laws Q1).

Derek was the first to address the subject of the bag of wind with Little Sir Hugh (Roud 73, Child 155) - "...the lads of merry Lincoln, when they play at the ball".

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The stories behind the songs

Coffee Culture (photo: Simon Meeds)
Last Friday some flyers for Whitby Folk Week had arrived, so the first part of the evening involved a communal inspection of the leaflet. It seemed that many on the long list of performers were from the folk old guard, and so several stories, both fond and bitter were told. I won't recount any here for fear of accusations of libel.

The session proper was MCed by Colin who kicked off with Captain Coulston (Roud 1695).

The previous week's discussion of Eniskillen/Inniskilling Dragoon (Tommy Makem [this version], Roud 2185) was continued by Geoff. While I don't claim Wikipedia to be the fount of all knowledge, this article gives a little more information which seems plausible. And yes, Tommy Makem called the version in the linked video Fare Thee Well Enniskillen and refashioned it to describe the Peninsular War.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Another One of Those Nights!

Bob Hart
This is the Substitute Scribe speaking. Firstly may I make it entirely clear that no one made a sustained attempt to actually sing The Purple People Eater (sorry, I don’t know its Roud number!) Colin however did sing Down by the Dockyard Wall. Derek then queried a similarity in the tune to that of Dave Webber’s Watch and Chain. Colin pointed out that both tune and words of Dockyard Wall were by Shep Woolley. Geoff proceeded to identify him as a regular actor in Rawhide and as the singer /composer of The Purple People Eater. However, as subsequent research reveals, the latter was actually Sheb Wooley[1]. The Southampton-based Shep was given his nickname (even a long thread on Mudcat nearly 10 years ago failed to reveal his real name) because he was rather more agricultural than Sheb.

Yes, folks – it was another of those Dragon nights when the craic in between is more interesting than the actual songs! And by the way did you know that the English ‘crack’ was the original word and it was only Gaelicised into ‘craic’ later? If so, please make an effort to get to the Bridge – we need your brains.