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.

Monday, 22 December 2014

In the Christmas spirit

This week's session was rather special since not only was it our Christmas party but also it was the first at what we have now decided will be the new venue for the Dragon Folk Club. Unfortunately we were a few down on the expected numbers due to illness but the seasonal buffet made the evening go well. We hope that the new venue will prove more conducive to lively sing-arounds and that we can persuade more people to join or rejoin us. If you are in the area on a Friday night please do drop by the New Inn in Westerleigh. But not too fast since we are having a week off; there will be no session on 26 December 2014 and we will be raring to go at this new venue on 2 January 2015.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A change of venue - The New Inn, Westerleigh

The New Inn, Westerleigh
I will get round to posting a report of this evening's session but before I even think of that there is a really important piece of news.

There will be no session on Boxing Day, 26 December 2014. The next session will be on 2 January 2015 at our new venue, The New Inn, Westerleigh. Full details can be found on the Location page of this blog.

I hope we have many happy sessions at the new venue. The reason for the change is that we have had several cancelled sessions recently because of double bookings and the pub we previously used has become rather rowdy.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Pre-Christmas lull and important news

Sheila Stewart
Before I get down to telling you what happened at this week's session there is very important news about next week's. Next Friday, 19 December, will be the club's Christmas party. As usual that means you may decide to bring contributions to a Christmas buffet as well as bringing your Christmas songs and tunes. However you need to be aware that the venue isn't The Bridge but is rather The New Inn at Westerleigh. This isn't yet an announcement of a permanent change to our venue but keep watching this blog for news. In the meantime please tell everyone you know in the folk world that our 19 December Christmas Party will be at this different venue.

With the parish announcement out of the way we can get straight into the session report, as Derek got straight into the session the way he meant to go on.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Fine singing this week - come back soon

Jean Ritchie
Apart from most of the usual familiar faces we were very pleased to welcome three new ones this week: Matt, Nonny, and Arian, who proved excellent performers, both with their harmony singing and individually. They have only recently started singing together and this was their first outing. I hope they make it the first of many to The Dragon Folk Club and that it might even become a habit.

Simon started off by pointing out that Monday 8th December is Jean Ritchie's 92nd birthday and singing her song, The L&N don't stop here anymore. Phil continued the railway theme with The runaway train (Robert E Massey, Harry Warren, Carson Robison) and George Allen (the dying engineer).

Matt, Nonny and Arian so far have only three songs together and they quickly got through those. I'm sure Mike would have appreciated their singing of Rolling down to old Maui (Roud 2005). Unfortunately he had just slipped out to calm down his dog. The second song from the trio was My lady's coach (probably Sabine Baring-Gould). The third and final song from their early repertoire was The deserter (Roud 493).

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Saint Andrew and Scotland

Everyone seemed to be in a bad way this week. Maggie was absent with the lurgy of which Mike had a milder dose. Paul was hobbling around and Carl couldn't play his beloved guitar since his left arm wasn't working properly. Nevertheless Colin managed to MC efficiently while Mike managed the whining dog, Indy.

Richard noticed that the following Sunday would be Saint Andrew's Day and started off an impromptu theme of Scotland. Mike noted that Indy seemed to whine more at the Scottish songs than the others. Whether this is significant I'll leave to you to decide.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Thanks from St Peter's Hospice

Patricia Hyett
Both our harvest session and a session we held in celebration of the life of Patricia Hyett raised money in aid of St Peter's Hospice. Maggie has received the following letter of thanks from St Peter's.

Dear members of the Dragon Folk Club,

I am writing to thank you for raising £110.00 which we received on 13/10/2014 from your special remembrance night for Patricia Hyett. It is such an amazing achievement and we are so proud to have such brilliant supporters like you.

As you may know we are the only adult hospice that covers the wider Bristol region, and we play a vital role in the care of terminally ill patients across a huge area. One of the hardest parts of our work is helping the bereaved to deal with the loss of loved ones - people like Tom Drury, aged 20 from Bradley Stoke, who explains...

"St Peter's Hospice cared for my Mum Kate who died when I was 14 years old.

"Then my Dad passed away at the Hospice in March 2010, having lost his own battle with cancer.

"When we had Dad's diagnosis I couldn't believe that cancer was about to tear my family apart again. My Mum and Dad died too young, but St Peter's Hospice gave them both a good end to their lives."

It is only thanks to the generosity of people like you that stories like Tom's are possible so thank you so very much Maggie for your support and I hope that you had a great time fundraising for us!!


Best Wishes

Jo Plummer
Community Fundraiser

A war deferred

Soldier's comrades watching him as he sleeps,
Thievpal, France, during World War I
After last week's abortive attempt at a remembrance session some people clearly wanted to get their war, anti-war and such songs out of their system.

Mike started off this theme and the session with Homeward (words Cicely Fox Smith, tune Sarah Morgan). Gary's contribution was James Keogh (Michael Burns). Simon joined the trend with Jimmy Spoons (Mike Harding). Mike took us into the second tour of the room with Hanging on the old barbed wire (Roud 9618) before Colin, arriving late as forewarned, took on anti-war songs as his theme for the rest of the evening.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Not a night to remember

Tonight was supposed to be our remembrance session where you could all bring out your songs of war, bravery, anti-war and peace. Unfortunately, to Mike and Maggie's annoyance, we were once again ousted from our room by a party. We should be back to normal next week with no official theme, so if you want to sing something you intended to sing this week, that's fine and if not, then that's fine too.

With recent disruption, Maggie is considering a change of venue; there's nothing firm yet, so in the meantime keep coming to The Bridge in Shortwood and if you can't do that, keep looking at the blog for any further news.

It sounds as though there was a fairly good crowd planning to come to tonight's session. Some people Maggie managed to head off by phone, others made it to the pub without any suspicion of what was happening. Sorry to everyone who planned to attend, and especially those who turned up. We hope to see you next week.

Since December 2014, the Dragon Folk Club has met at The New Inn, Westerleigh, near Bristol.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Around the bonfire

Around the camp-fire, men of Company A,
16th Infantry, San Geronimo, Mexico, May 27th, 1916.
There were only eight of us for the gunpower, treason and plt of the bonfire session this week. We don't even have bottle gas fires in the middle of the room since the refurbishment, so any fire was entirely imaginary. Nevertheless, huddled around our metaphorical campfire, everyone present sang.

There was chat before we started about learning songs, and the preference, certainly among those established on the sing-around scene for people singing without words. Simon suggested, with no dig intended, that Derek probably learnt songs on one hearing in a pub many years ago. Derek initially said that this was an exaggeration but then admitted there was at least one song just like that.

Monday, 3 November 2014


Ghost catchers
This week's session was actually on Halloween so there were, as you would expect, lots of ghosties and ghoulies and... things that go bump in the night but in fact it turned out to be quite an eclectic evening.

It was an evening for couples. In a very rare occurrence Colin brought his wife, and even more unusually, Gary (currently unable to drive himself about) brought his wife, Helen. While it's a treat for all of us, since  Helen is an excellent singer, the unfortunate trade-off was that they had to leave at half-time.

Joe and Josci were also present but decided not to sing this time. Joe wanted Simon to sing something with him but I'm not sure it would have worked unaccompanied. See what you think.

Friday, 24 October 2014

England expects... and is disappointed

Today is the nearest Friday to Trafalgar Day, so we were expecting lots of shanties, tales of how wonderful Nelson was and general patriotism, but it wasn't to be. Dragon Folk Club meets every Friday, and I mean every Friday. It takes quite a lot for it to be cancelled. Since I've been going along, which is about eleven and a half years, the only things I can remember stopping the marching certainty of the club were Christmas Day, extreme weather and a murder (really).

Tonight's story though was a rather sorry affair in comparison. Apparently there had been a party at The Bridge which was supposed to finish at 17:30 but by 20:30 they were still occupying our back room as well as the rest of the pub. There seemed no prospect of them vacating, and even if they did the pressure on the toilets would be such that the function room would be like Piccadilly Circus. So, when I arrive, slightly late, I found Mike and Colin in the side bar, ready to inform all comers that the club would not be happening tonight. I could have stayed with them for a drink but I decided to head home and write this little report instead.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


The Lambton Worm
The main story at this week's session was the death this week of our good friend, banjo player and singer, Betty. Her funeral will be on 28 October 2014 at 12 noon at Westerleigh Crematorium.

Another important announcement was that two recent sessions: Harvest and the celebration of the life of Pat Hyett had between them raised £110 for St Peter's Hospice. Thanks go to everyone who attended those sessions and contributed to that fine total.

We were pleased to see a large number of visitors, some of whom have been recently, some new faces, and one long absent friend of Maggie's who has promised to come again.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Betty - RIP

The following message was posted on Facebook by Terry Helyar today (13 October 2014).

Today is a very sad day for those of us who knew Betty McDonald. Betty sadly passed away early this morning surrounded by her loving family. Betty life was filled with a love of music and for all those who carried the tradition of performing it. She was a kind and generous woman who welcomed everyone into her life and home. Betty’s husband Norman was also a talented musician and shared a wonderful life with Betty and their children. Today I am sad and will always miss this beautiful person and friend.

Terry Helyar (on Facebook)

Betty's funeral will take place  on 28 October 2014 at 12 noon at Westerleigh Crematorium.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dogs and absent friends

The early part of this week's session was marked by some wining from Mike's dog, Indy. Mike was intending to leave at the interval anyway but made an early exit when things got too bad. This also influenced the singing, with several dog-themed songs, including Mike's own opener, Noah's ark shanty (Roud 318).

The first of two Steve's (Steve 1) continued the canine theme with Dido Bendigo (Roud 584). Simon's doggy offering was The smuggler's song (Rudyard Kipling). This last song was one of two sung from the repertoire of our late friend Ray Croll, the other being Buddy can you spare a dime (words: E. Y. "Yip" Harburg; music: Jay Gorney), sung by Roger.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

In celebration of the life of Pat (Eades) Hyett

Pat (Eades) Hyett
This week's session was a celebration of the life of our good friend Pat who died recently and it was great to see an excellent turn-out. Proceeds from the evening will go to St Peter's Hospice where she was cared for in the last week of her life. Many people will know her as Pat Eades (or Patricia Eades from her articles in her local parish magazine) but this summer she married her partner of twelve years, Keith Hyett and became Pat Hyett. many people can remember that day spent with Pat and Keith celebrating their marriage, and Pat was on great form.

While Mike and Maggie were definitely present, and Mike's dog, Indy, in fine voice, MC duties were taken up by Richard, who showed his prowess in identifying tunes (most of the time) and kept everyone well in order.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Harvest 2014

Pete Shutler of The Yetties
This week was our harvest session with sandwiches provided by Maggie and most present having brought produce for the raffle whose proceeds will go to St Peter's Hospice.

Speaking of the hospice, I will get an early plug in for next week's session (3 October) which will be in memory of Pat (Eades) Hyett who died there recently. Pat, together with her husband Keith, was familiar on the local folk scene and a regular visitor to the Dragon Folk Club. Please come along and bring your friends and family so that we can celebrate the life of our friend Pat in the best way possible. Any money collected will once again be donated to St Peter's Hospice.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dog Day Evening

Ron Angel
The Dragon this week echoed to the patter of tiny feet. No, no-one gave birth; but there was a massed canine visit by Indy (new pet of Maggie and Mike), Maggie L's new whippet Freddie and grizzled folk-club veteran Gertie, to meet each other and take part in a variety of games such as Lick the Vicar and Drink Colin's Beer.

Indy, having tried hard to join in several songs, needed to take his owners home before the stroke of midnight caused any of them to change back into their secret identities; so Richard acted as MC for the second half, as well as singing Adar Mân Y Mynydd which I think roughly translates as The Small Birds That Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain [The little birds of the mountain]. And on the subject of foreign languages, Lesley performed the Miners' Lifeguard in perfect American!

Derek inevitably began by cheering people down, if that is the correct antonym, by announcing the death of pillar of Teesside folk music Ron Angel. Since your regular scribe (hands up, who guessed this is not he?) had sung Ron's Chemical Worker's Song in the past few weeks, Derek declined to do it again and confined himself to one of the shanties for the singing of which Ron will be remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing him. In this case he chose Cruising Round Yarmouth to the tune of Blow the Man Down. Firstly this caused Jan to suspect that there might be a secondary non-nautical meaning to the song, though I can't see it myself. And secondly it encouraged Richard to sing Erin Go Bragh NOT to the tune of Blow the Man Down.

We were delighted to welcome back Keith for the first time since the sad loss of his wife Pat. As always he awed the guitarists present with his precision and finger control in such pieces as The Causeway. And we also welcomed back our recent visitors Chris (Seventeen Come Sunday – strictly speaking that was her song, not her biography) and Roger who sang songs including Rhinestone Cowboy.

Paul who has heretofore confined himself to playing instrumentals, broke his duck with a song he had written called That's All I Know.

Phil amused the assembled with Plastic Jesus for which Richard and Lesley failed to trace a precise supporting biblical quotation; perhaps they were playing canny after Colin's performance of Sydney Carter's 'The vicar is a beatnik and he ought to be defrocked'. That song immediately struck home to me as one I used to hear a lot, but hadn't heard now for a very long time. Hardly had I thought that than Jan sang Jeff Buckley's Satisfied Mind (Joe "Red" Hayes and Jack Rhodes), which comes into exactly the same category.

May I end with the reminder that next week is Harvest; so please feel free to arrive bearing, for charitable purposes, anything in aid of which the fields have been ploughed and/or scattered, or money to enter the inevitable raffle for the aforementioned produce. And the following week we hope as many friends as possible will attend to commemorate the life of Pat.

Here's a selection of the songs sung during the session.

(Number of people present - 14, of which 11 performed)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Welcome newcomers

Copper Family
Several of us had been to Pat Hyett's funeral earlier in the day. While we were at the wake we heard that another friend of the club, banjo player and singer of Jean Ritchie songs, Betty, is very ill. We send Betty our best wishes.

Mike and Maggie were not at this week's session, so MC was Richard. It seemed that there was multiplication of white goods. The washing machine which had been sitting in the corner of our room for some time had been joined by another large appliance and a microwave oven. I wonder what we shall see next.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sick notes, back spasms and hard work

Addie Laird, 12 years old.
Spinner in a Cotton Mill.
Girls in mill say she is
10 years old, February 1910
There were a couple of announcements from Maggie at the head of this week's session. Following the recent death of our good friend Pat, Maggie announced that there will be a session in her memory on 3 October. Pat was being cared for at St Peter's Hospice so the raffle and any other donations that evening will be for the hospice. The week before, 26 September, will be Harvest, so bring along your harvest songs and produce. Any money raised that evening will also go to the hospice.

Pat's funeral will be at the United Reformed Church, Thornbury at 10:30 on Friday, 12 September with a wake afterwards at The Ship Inn, Alveston. There will of course be the usual Dragon Folk Club session in the evening, which will be MCed by Richard.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Pat - RIP

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death after a long illness of the club's good friend Pat on the morning of Sunday 31 August 2014. Her husband Keith H announced on Facebook:

"Pat passed away this morning, and there is a big hole in my life, she will live on on in my memories of her"

Many messages of condolence and tributes have since been left.

Pat will be remembered at the club for kindness, compassion, enthusiasm and for the singing of songs from her native North East of England.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Festival-style sing-a-long

Carson Robison
At the start of the session Maggie wasn't very happy, having sat down on a wet seat (I assume). She had to swap for a dry one, and in the process found a cigarette that someone had dropped on the floor, presumably while picking up their darts from beneath the dart board. Maggie wasn't bold enough to smoke it but, after some examination to check the brand and to eliminate the possibility of obvious "doctoring", Colin smoked it at the interval with no obvious ill effects.

Mike kicked off the session with The hunting priest [Doctor Mack or Tally Ho! the hounds, Sir] (Roud 1861), but he started with the second verse of his version and while he could remember the third was at a total loss for the the first and gave up, restarting with Haul on the bowline (Roud 652).

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Is this the folk club?

Cyril Poacher
Talk at the beginning of the evening included a number of subjects. Maggie had received a letter from BUST thanking her for the club's recent donation, the raffle money from her birthday party. The donation was of £35.00 which seems worthwhile and will go a small way to the charity's "shopping list".

In another topic we made it absolutely clear that non-performers as well as performers are welcome to the club's sessions. The atmosphere at the club can be quite jokey, and everyone needs a fairly thick skin but no one should feel unwelcome, even if they are on the receiving end of some mild digs. Don't worry, newbies, we are usually very gentle with newcomers.

Finally, there was mention of Richard and Lesley's recent trip to Paris. Apparently it was very enjoyable, and it prompted some of the songs sung during the evening.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Benjamin Britten's gardener

Bob Hart
It looked as though we were going to be particularly thin on the ground this week, causing Mike to joke that it may "come round" once or even twice... every ten minutes. His scepticism was however put to bed when three further people came though the door - not a huge crowd but certainly enough to make a good do of it.

The three welcome latecomers were Carl, now almost a regular, who brought his brother-in-law, Derek (we'll call him Derek 2 to differentiate from our regular traditional singer of Suffolk origin with the same name), and Alison, whose arrival was somewhat sudden and startling but whose presence and singing were definitely more soothing.

Mike started us off with a newly "discovered" Bristol version of Outward bound a sea song, which he had explained on a previous occasion is not a shanty because shanties are either outward or homeward bounders, whereas this song mentioned both directions.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wherefore art thou Maggie?

With Maggie and Mike watching Shakespeare instead of taking charge at The Bridge, Richard took Mike's place for the evening, helped by Lesley on raffle tickets.

Simon arrived at the same time as Colin, and any impression that he may have tried to run him over was definitely unintentional (and didn't really happen at all). An apparently friendly chap standing at the door of the pub suggested that Colin had been less than willing to exchange pleasantries; maybe it was his recent brush with death?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Under fire in the trenches

Thanks to Derek for his report on the first half of this week's session. I (your usual blog report writer) arrived a little after half-time. Here therefore I hand over to Derek...

The title refers less to the content of the week's songs, than to the persistent noise and disruption aimed at us by a group of young yobs who continually 'accidentally' opened the door whilst people were singing, and rattled and banged on the 'stable' doors. Even the saintly and forgiving Gary failed to sing the His Worship and The Pig song (Rough justice) advocating giving them a place in the sun.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Another message from the Substitutes' Bench

SS Orsova (1954)
In the absence of the Head Blogger, may I take the opportunity to thank Simon for all the effort he expends on this blog. The research he puts into linking songs to sites throws up lots of valuable information – some deliberate, some serendipitous. Last week he put up a link to a YouTube performance of the somewhat obscure song Charlie Cassidy's Courtship. I wasn't, in truth, greatly impressed by the performance, but when it finished I was exposed to YouTube's usual selection of 'If you enjoyed that, why not try these'. One of those selections was of a Joe Doherty singing Glenswilly. On a whim (oh all right: I was confusing him with the late great Irish fiddle player John, brother of Michael!) I clicked on it and was rewarded with one of the best performances of that fine ballad I have ever heard. If you do nothing else this week, give it a click!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Maggie's 70th Birthday Bash

This week's session marked the occasion of Maggie S's 70th birthday. You don't usually tell a lady's age but she hasn't exactly been making a secret of it. This event fell on the same day as another big event for regulars at the club. Keith H and Pat got married in the afternoon - congratulations Keith and Pat. That meant that quite a few people had to fit in the wedding, reception or both before coming over to The Bridge. That didn't however stop us having a near capacity crowd of 28. I'm sure we could have fitted in a few more but the hot, humid weather made it rather sweaty until the big carriage door was opened to let in some fresh air - I hope we didn't disturb the neighbours.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Miners' Gala, Bastille Day, and much more

Glamorgan: Derek's cricket team
A better turn-out this week, thanks in large part to the entourages brought by new regular, Joe and old friend, Jan. An encounter with a globe artichoke caused me to be slightly later than I like to be, but not so late as to miss Mike's opening song, Derby Ram.

Derek was the first to find a date-appropriate song, pointing out that if she were present, Pat would no doubt be the first to shout out that 12 July is the day of the Durham Miners' Gala (correctly pronounced "gay-lah"). In recognition of the date he, Derek, sang Jock Purdon's The Cotia banner.

We were pleased to see Paul and Carl for the third time in four weeks - keep it up lads. Paul entertained us with his own guitar compositions, as usual most without title, although "OFG - Old, fat and grey - self portrait" made a reappearance.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

4th July - Independence Day

We've made it to the 100th post on the Dragon Folk Club blog. Granted not all of the posts are session reports but the vast majority are. The session this week took on a largely sateside theme, it being 4th July, American Independence Day.

Opening discussions were wide ranging and not a little seedy. Derek was interested to hear the progress of the Glamorgan versus Somerset cricket match, which was abandoned without a ball being bowled - at least it didn't make Derek quite as depressed as a defeat for Glamorgan but he said his team needed a win, so it wasn't all good news either. It seemed that most other discussions led to 69 and we nearly found out too much information about someone's daughter! I asked Colin what was the obscure song he sang last week about the Potteries. He answered that it was The jolly machine but Kevin misheard and thought he was talking about a contraceptive dispenser.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How did they get away with Summertime?

On a warm summer's evening when the survivors of the Sun Ra Arkestra were performing at Glastonbury, Drogheda United playing Sligo Rovers in the All Ireland Premiership, and Radio 3 doing a live broadcast of Jongen's Harp Concerto, it is scarce wonder that so many Dragon regulars were missing this week. This included your regular Scribe; so again you are subject to the musings of the Substitute Scrivener.

Fortunately our numbers were swollen by a couple of brand new visitors, and a couple of slightly used ones – Roger and Carl who both made appearances last week. And as usual when the singing is Brevis, the craic was distinctly Longa – beginning with a long discussion led by Carl (Grandfather for the first time 3 days ago) and Mike (about to become a first-time Great Grandfather) on the cost of servicing other people's babies.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

England's out but we're still singing

Kate Rusby
Thank fully all facilities at the pub were restored this week so there was nothing to disrupt an entertaining evening of singing and playing.

Mike started off the evening with a "calling on shanty", used when recruiting for a ship to show that the shanty man on board was good enough. It was said that a good shanty man is worth ten men on the rope, since his singing made it easy to keep time, thus making the job easier. The song was poor Tommy's gone, grey goose is dead. I haven't been able to trace it but it seems to me to have elements at least of Tom's gone to Hilo, Go tell Aunt Rhodie and D'ye ken John Peel. Neither Mike nor Maggie seemed to think that its mournful tone would be very good for getting new recruits to come on board - surely something more rousing would be better.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Waulking back to happiness

Engraving of Scotswomen singing
while waulking cloth, c. 1770
Unfortunately the main gents toilet was out of order this week, so as happens on such occasions we had quite a lot of traffic through the function room, though most people were respectfully quiet. Of special note were three young lads who Maggie S asked to be quiet; not only were they quiet but Maggie was very impressed that they thanked her for letting them come through.

Not so happy was the traverse of one well oiled individual, who managed to knock over Alan K's guitar. No serious damage appears to have been done and he was profusely apologetic; not only that, but he stayed to hear the first song, and enjoyed it. Will we see him again when he's a little less relaxed?

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Dodging around the matter of D-Day

A pretty good turnout this week, and 100% singers! However I won't celebrate about that too last part too much since the 100% mark was only reached because Maggie S isn't feeling too well; get well soon Maggie!

We had a brief visit from Ant and Alan (?) of Downend Folk Club which is a new guest club meeting one Friday a month at Frenchay. There's an obvious conflict of interest there but I hope we can get on and be neighbourly. Unfortunately they weren't able to stay long enough to see what we do.

Setting up for a theme, Mike asked us all what happened "tomorrow" (7 June).. I'm still not exactly clear what he meant. Derek, jokingly referred to the third practice and qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Mike went on to theme himself on D-Day but that was 6 June, so I'm still confused but some of us followed that as a theme anyway.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The end of May at last!

Ed McCurdy
There was a relatively large non-performing audience again this week, largely due to second-time visitor Joe's entourage, and they were very welcome too, as was Steve who arrived quietly and unannounced, stayed for most of the evening and left in a similar manner - he seemed to enjoy it and I hope we will see him again in the future.

As usual, Mike started off the evening, this time with Carry the News! We Are All Surrounded.

Joe sang three very popular songs, accompanied by Tom on guitar: Don McLean's Vincent, Donovan's Colours, and Paul Simon's The boxer. Tom made Paul Simon into a mini theme by singing American tune. Tom also said he had found a claim on the web that Paul Simon had written Last night I had the strangest dream; he was quickly put right by Derek who correctly attributed the song to Ed McCurdy; Tom sang it anyway.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A late May miscellany

Frank Kidson
Some people managed to keep up the May theme this week, and even Richard found one May song, having previously given up after spending most of the preceding four months singing them. Apart from that we had somewhat of a miscellany this week.

Mike kicked off proceedings with the Card playing song (Roud 884). According to the sleeve notes of the album Bold Sportsmen All: Gamblers and Sporting Blades on which Ewan McColl sings the song, "Folksong collector Frank Kidson obtained this song from a soldier who learned it in India in the 1850s. Originally, each verse was sung by a different member of the company, who drained his glass midway through the stanza, to give himself inspiration. Other less decorous versions have come to light. This example is offered to would-be singers as a model on which they may make their own improvisations."

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Mining disasters and yet more May

Shirley and Dolly Collins
The May theme continued this week for some people, joined with some mining disasters following the news this week of the disaster at the Soma mine in Turkey.

Mike started us off with Cape Cod girls, which I have also seen called the Codfish Shanty.

The mining disaster theme was taken up by Derek with The Blantyre explosion. This song is about the Blantyre mining disaster, which happened on the morning of 22 October 1877. At Blantyre Colliery, William Dixon's pit, numbers 1 and 2 were both blasted, killing 207 miners of which the youngest victim was a boy of only 11. The accident left 92 widows and 250 fatherless children.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Aussie rules

John Williamson, Australian
country music singer-songwriter
A new feature this week in the blog report: by special request I have recorded the number of people present at the session. I have also back-dated this feature by two weeks, so you can see that we had a bumper week on 25 April, when there were 20 people present, of which 17 performed.

The other piece of news this week is that the club has had some problems with one of the pub's regulars: problems which have been mentioned on this blog in the past. This week Maggie received an apology from that person. We hope that will now be the end of the matter and if it is there will be no further mention of it here.

There was much jollity and wide ranging discussion again this week, often relating to the relative merits of various Yorkshire and Lancashire towns. Being from Lincolnshire myself, I should have had the sense to stay out of it but I am afraid I didn't.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

May at last

Stan Kelly, who wrote Liverpool Lullabye
After last week's bumper gathering this week wasn't as much of a disappointment as it could have been with a good showing of regulars. Being the nearest session to 1 May, May festivals and traditions were in evidence, though, as Derek pointed out, it was surprisingly left to him to be "roving out on a May morning".

Pre-session chat was wide ranging and frank. I won't trouble you, reader with most of it; suffice to say, one strand went from liberty bodices to "going commando" in a few short steps. It was also remarked that the unwanted interloper "the fresian" hasn't made an appearance recently. Anyone who doesn't know the story please understand that I'm not talking about some unwanted folky but a pub regular who has been known to interrupt proceedings sometimes.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A good crowd for St George

There was a superb turn-out for this week's session. I am sure that was thanks mostly to Maggie's efforts in ringing round the regulars and irregulars. Thanks go to all who turned out for this only slightly belated St George's Day session and to give the best possible impression for Neil, who returned to the club to film the first half of the evening.

Neil is planning to make a documentary film about the club. On his previous visit he found our accustomed lighting level too low for his camera, so this time he brought  his own light source and proceeded to shine it at anyone who dared to open their mouth to sing or touch a guitar to play.

There were a lot of people there, and we only got twice round everyone in the evening, so here goes trying to mention everyone present at least once...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Good Friday to Easter

This week's session was held on Good Friday. In the Christian tradition this commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and is therefore a sombre day, preceding his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. We only have one session a week though, so this one has to cover the whole week-end. We had songs representing, more or less literally, the events of the whole weekend, and some with no particular relevance at all.

Mike started off the evening with the Pace Egging song. The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor. The plays take place in England during Easter, indeed the word 'Pace' comes from the old English word 'pasch' literally meaning 'Easter'. They are a tradition that was once widespread throughout England, but is now only practiced in a few areas, particularly Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mainly shanties and death - but keep smilin'

Though short in numbers this week, we were good in voice. Richard and Lesley brought two visitors, I believe they were Lesley's brother and sister-in-law (sorry if I'm wrong). Unfortunately they didn't sing but they provided a very welcome audience. We were told that Richard and Lesley's two sons (and one son's girlfriend) were invited to join us but when they picked themselves off the ground laughing, they politely refused. Well, I suppose we can be grateful they were polite about it! We really don't bite (often) and there is something for everyone, especially if you bring some of it along yourself - a song, a tune, a poem, a story, whatever.

Mike kicked off the evening with what he jokingly called "a very quiet song", Bully in the alley; we all joined in and made sure the start of the evening represented how we intended it to go on.

Robin reprised his performance of last week, singing Rosario in the style of the Young'uns. Another left-over from last week was that Derek had teased us with a snatch of Rigs of the time. He was surprised that Mike hadn't started this week with it, so he took that task upon himself.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Starstruck Folkies

Female drummer (Roud 226)
This week we learnt that Mike, a long-time critic of guitars at folk clubs, has bought an example of that classic famed instrument of folky torture, the banjo! Of course, in experienced hands, such as those of the club's friend Betty, my old friend Richard Holland, or hundreds of other accomplished players, it can be absolutely acceptable but we shall see (or maybe we won't see) what Mike makes of his new purchase.

We were visited this week by Neil, who has been in touch with me for a few days regarding the possibility of filming a documentary about the club. He brought his camera and did some filming, though he hopes to return sometime to do a proper filming session. Capturing each singer involved moving the microphone into position and placing candles close enough to shed some light on the subject. Mike seemed to be looking for a make-up artist but none was forthcoming.

Pre-session discussions were sparked by Maggie handing out copies of the magazine Folklife Quarterly. The main subject was Vin Garbutt, who appeared on the cover in an advert for the Bromyard Folk Festival. I don't remember exactly how, but this eventually led to Derek singing an excerpt from the Rigs of time.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Steeleye, unions and other things

Woody Guthrie
There was no theme this week so everyone sang whatever they wished. Mike kicked off the evening but I unfortunately arrived just after he finished his first song, so its identity remains a mystery to me. Next came Robin with Barbara Allen. Derek's first of the evening was Admiral Benbow.

Both Richard and Simon showed Steeleye Span influences in their first songs: Richard with Thomas the rhymer and Simon with Boys of Bedlam.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Taking the Michael

Cyril Tawney,
who wrote Grey Funnel Line
(I would like to thank Derek who stood in for me as "scribe" at this week's session and provided the following report)

With your regular scribe absent, an exhausted and ashen-faced replacement arrived, having come from running, for Sport Relief, a one mile cross-country in a torrential hailstorm.

With Mike and Maggie lost to the fleshpots of Bognor, reliving their babyhoods in the 1960s, Richard was in charge of a small but select band who met to celebrate the Spring, discuss music, swap anecdotes – but most of all to sing our way through as much of Mike's repertoire as possible before he could get back and fine us.

Mike's musical proclivities therefore led to a lot of shanties, fore-bitters and just general Songs of the Seven Seas being performed, in the certain knowledge that even if none of us could remember his singing the song in question, provided that it had a ship in it somewhere, he probably had dibs on it anyway. So the evening sailed along from the Grey Funnel Line to the Fish of the Sea (the latter being a version remarkably deficient – to my East Anglian ear – in any mention of Happisburg Light!) and from the Shantyman of the Wildgoose Nation to Roll the Woodpile Down (which at my advanced age I always associate with Dave Macon).

Saturday, 15 March 2014

St Patrick's Day

Belfast-born Jimmy Ellis in his
Z-Cars role as Bert Lynch. (Photo: Barratts)
Before the start of the session, and in fact before I had arrived, we were visited by our customary "Fresian", who even if not as drunk as sometimes, was not very pleasant to Maggie S. We have now been promised a lock on the door by the pub. It is important to be aware that it will not be intended to keep out anyone who wants to join us, so if you come along and find the door locked, please wait for a break in the music and knock on the door. You will not only be invited in but you will be made very welcome.

Tonight was our St Patrick's Day session and almost all of the songs were Irish related. The exceptions were Paul, who entertained us with his own instrumental guitar compositions as usual and Derek's second song, in memory of Tony Benn who died this week. When Tony Benn was on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, one of his records was He who would valiant be to the tune Monk's Gate. Derek therefore took the opportunity to sing another song to that same tune.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Seventh of March-ing on to war

Mervyn Penny, the founder
of Swindon's White Horse Folk Club,
who died recently at the age of 90
Before we started the session this week there was much reminiscing by Derek, Mike and Maggie S about the traditional singer, Fred Jordan. Derek in particular remembered a story about him being taken to an art gallery to see works by Constable and Stubbs, showing rural scenes and livestock. Fred took to complaining about the accuracy of the paintings: "that cart will tip over" or "I wouldn't buy that horse". After a short while he had a crowd of people round him lapping up his every word. Soon the word got round that he was an art critic and when he left he was given an appropriately respectful send-off.

We were joined this week by Rose, who we hadn't seen at the club for a while, and a non-singing visitor, Bob.

There was no official theme to the session this week but Derek explained he had searched for "March" to remind himself of what he might sing of relevance to the new month. The issue was that it threw up a lot of songs about marching, so that ambiguous search became the basis for his song selection.

Monday, 3 March 2014

St David's Day

Phil Tanner (www.folkwales.org.uk)
This week's session was held on the eve of St David's Day, so the theme was anything vaguely related to that day, to Wales or symbols of Welshness. Well for the sake of convenience it was also stretched to whales, or rather whaling!

Mike started the evening off with Hob y Deri Dando, even singing one verse in Welsh, while Steve kicked off the pseudo theme of whaling with Bonny ship the Diamond.

Our one Welsh regular, Lesley, despite earlier promises, wasn't able to be with us, but Richard, her husband, filled in ably, singing all of his songs in Welsh. He started off with Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech (Men of Harlech), went on to ffoles Llantrisant (Foolish Llantrisant girls) and Calon Lân (Pure heart) with words by Daniel James and tune by John Hughes). Next came fflat Huw Pugh by John Glyn Davies (link in Welsh), about legendary Welsh sailor, Huw Pugh the captain of a 60 ton "flat" ship named the Ann of Liverpool.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Maritime and mining disasters

Just before we started the Drunken Friesian made her first appearance for a few weeks. We thought she was going to leave us alone without a word but at the last minute turned back, apparently threatening death to anyone who found her lost lighter. That seemed a rather upside down take on the idea of thanks or reward. This sent Maggie S into singing a single chorus of Hev you got a loight boy?

Mike started off the session proper with The twenty-third of February, another version of Bold Princess Royal, sung by Derek last week. Apparently there were several different ships under similar names at the time. Derek's was a merchant ship but Mike's is a man o' war.

We were relatively small in number this week, though not as thin on the ground as sometimes in the last couple of months. What we lacked in numbers we seem to have gained in speed, since the number of songs sung in the evening must have been a recent record. Whether the chat was minimised or the songs short we may never know.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Valentine's Day - no massacre

The date was 14 February, Valentine's Day, so it seemed obvious that we should sing love songs, and so we did but at the Dragon Folk Club things are never quite that simple. Mike started off by announcing that the theme would be anti-love songs, something even he didn't stick to, but we did have some lust among the romance.

As last week, maybe it's becoming a (good) habit, Maggie S started us off with a poem by "Rick from Portishead" called A Valentine. Mike followed that up with Come write me down (The wedding song) (Roud 281).

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Six Nations Rugby and the discovery of penicillin

Sir Alexander Fleming
I arrived just a touch late to this week's session to find people discussing a variety of subjects, some of which were reflected in the later choice of songs. This is a great thing about the Dragon Folk Club; we certainly sing a lot of songs through the evening but we're not afraid to take some time out for some great social interaction. Subjects discussed ranged from the rugby Six Nations Championship to the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming.

Unusually Maggie S, who rarely sings at the club, kicked off on the former subject with a chorus of Flower of Scotland.

The Six Nations provided the inspiration for quite a few songs throughout the evening. Lesley's first contribution was Max Boyce's The Scottish trip. Simon took up the French cause with Chevaliers de la table ronde. Lesley retorted in support of her Welsh homeland with Guide me o thou great Jehovah, accompanied by husband Richard singing bass. Mike showed his contempt as usual for the Irish song Fields of Athenry by singing the parody (Fed up with) the fields of Athenry.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Tributes to Pete Seeger and some other stuff

Pete Seeger (Photo: Anthony Pepitone)
This week's session was the first for a while when we saw some new faces. Actually Kerry and Malcolm weren't exactly new faces since they had been to the Dragon Folk Club around twenty years ago. I think Kerry said it was the first folk club she had visited.

Mike started off the evening with Blood red roses.

Visitors Kerry and Malcolm, who had come from as far south as the Somerset / Devon border on a pretty nasty night, sang both separately and together. Kerry sang Once I had a sweetheart and Malcolm sang Ian Bruce's Too far from she. In the second half they got together for Lord Franklin (Roud 487, Laws K09) and Donovan's Catch the wind.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Maggie L and Gertie - Profile

This article is one of a series on regulars at the club.

Although she doesn't perform at the club, Maggie L is a stalwart supporter of the Dragon Folk Club and has been joining us for sessions since about 2007. Her skills in cooking and laying out a fine spread are certainly welcome on special occasions at the club such as our annual Harvest session.

These days Maggie is accompanied by her canine companion, Gertie the chihuahua, who will always put on a show, often a comic one, and at other times sits in a pouch which hangs around Maggie's neck.

While Maggie doesn't perform, she sings along with others. Maggie has previously sung with choral societies and choirs.

Rose - Profile

This article is one of a series on regulars at the club.

Rose is an occasional visitor to the Dragon Folk Club since she comes quite a long way but she has been coming since 2000. She usually plays guitar and sings, though she is learning bouzouki and banjo.

Rose used to sing in choirs, starting with the school choir, moving on to various choir-type groups thereafter including singing songs from the shows. She first sang unaccompanied folk song in 1999 at the White Horse Folk Club, Highworth: Bushes and Briars, which she learned from Julie Christie playing the part of Bathsheba Everdene in the film Far from the madding crowd.

Simon - Profile

This article is one of a series on regulars at the club.

Simon is the regular scribe for this blog, ably helped by Derek when he's not able to make it along to a

At junior school Simon was a keen singer but the church choir folded at about the time he would have joined. He didn't take up singing at senior school, nor did he formally learn an instrument - though he dabbled with keyboards and guitar. He quietly developed a taste for folk music and many other genres besides. One particular friend introduced him to The Spinners, Mike Harding, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and Johnny Cash.

It wasn't until Simon was at college in Portsmouth that he started to think about attending folky events. The first was supposed to be an evening with Jake Thackray but when Jake had car problems and failed to turn up it transformed into an evening of floor spots. Among other things Simon discovered that Scottish folk music wasn't so bad after all!