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.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Should I sing this?

Cotton Bales, Savanna, Georgia
It was almost two weeks ago that the Dragon Folk Club last met. Last week was a fallow Friday for us and this is the somewhat belated report of the session from the previous week. Seven was a decent turn-out for us in recent weeks and it was good to see Richard for the second time recently (not Richard G, who has left the area but Richard who is apparently a regular at Folk Around Fishponds and is known to Colin from that club).

The parish notices, as placed in the previous short blog post involve a number of themed nights coming up, so you are encouraged mainly to come and be part of the fun, but if possible to dig out some songs and tunes to match the themes:

  • 20 October - Session with no theme
  • 27 October - Halloween session
  • 3 November - Campfire, Guy Fawkes, etc.
  • 10 November - Remembrance

Back to the session of 6 October; there was no theme but the one I've extracted from the songs sung is "Should I sing this?". As you will see there are a number of reasons you might ask the question but notable among them is whether a song or the story around it is "politically correct". On this particular matter it should be known that we don't care, not because we are insensitive to current mores nor because we wish to offend anyone but because we reserve the right to keep alive songs that have been sung however unacceptable the song or the original singer might be today. In some cases we might do it because we believe "PC has gone mad", in others because we want to remember the unacceptable practices of the past, and in others simply because it's a bloody good song. You can decide in each case which applies.

Colin was MC and he started off the night with Richard Digance's slightly icky Sink Song. This was followed by Richard with All For Me Grog (Roud 8234) which far from being a celebration of excessive drinking was, we are informed by Mike, written as a temperance song.

Geoff stuck his neck out slightly by singing Rabbit (Chas HodgesDave Peacock - better known as Chas and Dave). It's not often we have "Rockney" in our repertoire at the Dragon but Geoff gave it a go although he chickened out of the fast sections - yes, anything can be heard at our sessions and probably will be as long as it's acoustic. At the end Derek admitted or maybe proudly proclaimed that he'd never heard the song before.

Derek brought up infanticide with The Cruel Mother (Roud 9, Child 20) and seemed to get away with it.

Mike sang a less common version of Haul Away Joe which has it Haul Away For Rosie (Roud 809). This led to discussion of what they were hauling, bales of cotton being one good candidate with its connotations of slavery. This led to an impromptu singing of Pick A Bale Of Cotton (Roud 10061) with contributions from Mike, Derek and Richard.

Simon sang two songs written by Michelle Shocked, who was ostracised when she came out with an apparently anti-gay tirade at a gig. We won't suggest whether she was taken out of context, misunderstood or expressing her views however unpalatable but the songs stand here on their own sung by others in these recordings: Memories Of East Texas and The Ballad Of Patch Eye And Meg (sorry about the quality of the latter recording but it is by far the best performance of the song on YouTube so I think it's worth it).

I'll make a very brief mention of a song sung by Geoff which was The Ones Who Got Lost In The World which he knows from the singing of Noel Murphy. Geoff challenged me to find anything about the song on the web. I certainly found mention of it being on one of Murphy's records but there was no trace of a recording or even lyrics I'm afraid.

Derek challenged us to name the writer of his second song, which turned out to be a rare love song by Jock Purdon, better known for his mining songs. In fact, so rare is it that I have been unable to unearth any evidence. In fact I'm not sure Derek would have believed it himself had he not heard Jock sing it. On the next rotation, Derek sang a better known Purdon song, Easington Explosion. Derek mentioned that Jez Lowe's father was one of the men who worked on the rescue at Easington Colliery but happily was not one of those killed in the rescue attempt.

If that last paragraph seems familiar, it is because Derek was quite right that he had sung these songs together before. It was in fact in April 2015 and I have copied almost word for word from the original report.

Simon's next song possibly not to sing may have no black marks against it apart from the fact that he got sick of the first bar or two being used during his youth as the ident of BBC Radio Lincolnshire which caused him to get fed up of the tune. Keen to exorcise this particular devil he sang The Lincolnshire Poacher (Roud 299).

Richard sang a song which he said was one of the later ones sung by his famous great uncle. The song was You Are My Sunshine (Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell) but he seemed initially coy about the identity of his notable relation. When pressed he said it wasn't very PC. His great uncle was George Henry Elliott who was born in Rochdale and was taken to the USA by his parents where he later performed on stage in plays and eventually with the Primrose West Minstrels before returning with his family to the UK in 1901 and continuing to perform "blacked up" under the brand of "The Chocolate Coloured Coon". Here is a clip of him singing.

Derek's next song was apparently one of two or three hunting songs he used to sing. Since he disapproves of hunting he had intentionally forgotten all but one, and that he holds onto just because he likes the song and it is what he calls The Old John Peel (Roud 1239) being not quite the same as the popular version.

Colin's non-PC contribution involved child abuse in the form of The Shaver (Roud 9534): a young cabin boy mistreated on board ship. Next Richard took us to the red light district of Dublin: Montgomery Street or Monto (George Desmond Hodnett).

After all this daring stuff, Derek's final song was relatively safe except that there was a twist. Derek was inspired to sing it because it is usually sung to the same tune as Colin's The Shaver but Derek dug up his preferred, different version of Paddy Works On The Railway (Roud 208).

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

(Number of people present - 7, of whom 7 performed)


  1. 'Chickened out of the fast sections' be fair mate, there were two of them Lol!

    1. Just an attempt at humour. Please don't take offence. I will remove that section if it's an issue.

  2. No issue at all! I just can't sing as fast as two people in tandem.