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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, 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.

Pat joined Derek in this theme with The Gresford disaster. The Gresford Disaster occurred on 22 September 1934 at Gresford Colliery, Gresford near Wrexham, in north-east Wales when an explosion killed 266 men and boys. The cause was never proved but an inquiry found that a number of factors such as failures in safety procedures and poor mine management contributed to the disaster. Gresford remains one of Britain's worst coal mining disasters and mining accidents. Only eleven bodies were ever recovered. The remains of the other victims were left underground in the permanently sealed damaged sections of the mine.

Keith H entertained us with his guitar compositions, drawing this week from older parts of his repertoire. The tunes he played were An evening in Spring, Cissbury rings, Up on the downs and Spring mornings.

Colin's first song took us in the direction of an different industry; the song being Colour-bar strike credited to Charlie Mayo and Ewan McColl. MacColl published the song in The Singing Island (Belwin - Mills Music Ltd 1960) and says "Since folksong is concerned with the daily stuff of people's lives, it is not suprising that social and political matters are, from time to time , used as themes. Charlie Mayo, a locomotive fireman at Kings Cross Loco Depot, wrote this hardhitting so
ng immediately after the colour-bar strike of the Kings Cross railwaymen in 1957. We publish it as an interesting example of contemporary song in the folk idiom".

There was some discussion about Pat's next song, which came from the same root as May Song / Northill May Song / The First of May / Arise, Arise (Roud 305). Derek suggested that it could be a Sussex version from Shirley Collins' aunt. Interestingly a Google search for "Sussex May song", which was Derek's suggestion of a title, brings up only two results, both pointing to Derek's own report of Pat singing the same song on a previous occasion. I'm not saying Derek is wrong, and this proves nothing, I just find it interesting. The nearest I can come therefore for an example recording is Shirley Collins singing the Bedfordshire May carol which seems moderately close to what Pat sang.

More discussion followed Mike's singing of Tom's gone to Hilo (Roud 481). This surrounded the location of Hilo. Was it near Valpara√≠so which is in Chile? No, apparently, Hilo can refer to a City in Peru called Ilo, or to Hilo, the largest settlement on the island of Hawaii. According to this link, AL Lloyd went for Ilo in Peru.

A late arrival was Keith G who only had a chance to sing one song, which was J J Cale's Carry on.

Following Keith G's arrival there was a late flurry of songs from the North East of England since both Keith G and Pat come from that area. First was Derek, singing from outside his repertoire, with Byker Hill, followed by Pat singing The Gateshead lass.

Mike finished off the evening with The female drummer (Roud 226)

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

(Number of people present -10 of which 9 performed)

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