Blog No.5: Aa’m from Stanla, Coonty Durrum


BLOG NO.5 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.4 FIRST, CLICK HERE

…well, that’s how I would have said ‘I’m from Stanley, County Durham’ once upon a time, in my youth. My acting training knocked the accent out of me…although my dad, when he was alive, wouldn’t have allowed myself, or any of my much older seven siblings, using Geordie or Pitmatic dialect words.

I was actually born at Blackhill Hospital, Consett (1957), which is 6 miles west of Stanley; a town once home to the Consett Iron Works. It’s another subject I’ve written a song about (I Used To Paint This Town Red – Part 5). The majority of the jobs in the area would have been at the Iron Works or at one of the many collieries; although, even by the late-1950s, the mines were on the decline. (Blue text are links that will either open in another blog page in a new browser window, or take you to SoundCloud where a track can be played.)

Stanley was once a thriving mining town, which would have been at its height in the 1930s, like most of County Durham and Northumberland. It really started to grow from a small hamlet to the northeast of the current town – hence why West Stanley School and West Stanley colliery were on the east side of the current town – from the mid- to late-19th century, when Lord Joicey (a Shield Row man) began sinking the deep shafts. My song Stanley’s Dawn (Part 2) tells of this growth. There had been plenty of mining going on before his time, but they weren’t reaching the deeper seams. (Stanley Front Street in the 1890s pictured above.)

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My dad’s birth certificate.

My dad – John or Jack Wilson – born 1909, would have seen a very different Stanley to the one even I saw. Luckily for him, he wasn’t born any earlier and worked in the West Stanley (Burns) pit, which had a terrible disaster the same year as his birth, with the loss of 168 men and boys and countless pit ponies. My song, And Far Beneath Them (Part 3) is about this awful event. (The survivors from the Tilley Seam pictured below.)

West Stanley Pit Disaster Survivers

When I was a boy in the 1960s, I witnessed most of the mines in the area closing, usually because the coal seams had been depleted, but sometimes because it had become too costly to extract it. What it did mean is we were left with wonderful – if extremely dangerous in places! – playgrounds, from the old buildings to the pit heaps. Of course, these weren’t our only playgrounds, as we were surrounded by stunning countryside and woodland. It’s strange that one of our favourite play areas, along the length of the Beamish Burn (burn=stream), is now the site of the Beamish Open Air Museum; a museum dedicated to the region’s industrial past. (Entrance pictured below.)

BeamishEntrance
A view of ‘Tiny Tim’ the steam hammer at the Beamish Museum entrance.

My dad – who had been a miner, but then worked and the Ransome & Marles ballbearing factory – died just before my seventh birthday at the age of 53, and when I was nine we moved from South Stanley to the north-side of the 800 feet high hill, to Shield Row; a place named after the shepherds’ ‘shields’, or protective huts, at a area called Beamish South Moor. (It still is, though most won’t know it.) Not to be confused with South Moor on the southwest side of Stanley. I’ve written a song set in the mid-18th century that uses a fictional love story between a shepherd and shepherdess to relate this. (The Shepherds’ Shields Row – Part 1)

I wrote my first ‘mining ballad’ at the age of 15. Or, rather, I composed my first tune. I set to music my school mate, David Hodgson’s poem Family Footstep, which appears in Part 3 as That Shaded Way. It wasn’t until I’d moved to London at the age of 17 to perform with the National Youth Theatre and pursue an acting career, that I started to write my own. Most of these appear in Parts 3 and 4: Through A Tear, The Colliery Infantry CorpsThe Summer Of ’65, The Son Of A Miner, Don’t Send Your Son Down The PitOver The Fields On A Sunday Afternoon, Without Her Man, Oh For A Saturday Night, Half A Mile Down And Three Miles OutWhen You’ve Worked Down A Pit and In The County Of Durham. Many of these songs I used to sing with my two nephew brothers, Dave and Alan (‘Titchy’) Calvert when I was visiting home; both are several years older than me. (My mother  – me mam – Edith Wilson, didn’t have me, the last of eight, until she was 45…BIG surprise!) Alan was the last miner of the family at the time, until a pit accident at Monkwearmouth Colliery forced him to stop mining. He was also known in the region for his fighting abilities, and I recently wrote an American Wild West style song about him called The Shield Row Kid (Part 4). His brother, Dave, was more into art and writing, and has now had several books and articles published. He also has his own blog on the subject of the paranormal.

I may have left Stanley at the age of 17 and lived and worked in various parts of the world whilst on films and television programmes, but my heart still remains in the Northeast – as does most of my huge extended family – even though I have now lived away from the region for almost three-quarters of my life and in Shropshire for over 30 years. Being unable to travel now makes the missing even greater, knowing that I may never get to see it again – and I yearn to be able to walk on the beach at Bamburgh, Northumberland (pictured below) – so, instead, I visit it in music…that and photos, oh, and Google Street View. Thank you technology!

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Beach and Bamburgh Castle, looking south

Blog No. 6 will cover the last 4 tracks of Part 1.

Anyone can give a Rate This star rating at the top of the blog or leave a Comment at the bottom of the page, and you can Like this blog if you’re a WordPress member at the bottom. If you’d like each blog to be posted to your inbox, click on the Follow Mak’s Music Blog tab at the top of the sidebar to the right if you’re with WordPress, or FOLLOW (THROUGH EMAIL) if you’re not.

Thanks for reading,

Mak

PHOTO CREDITS

Beamish: A view of ‘Tiny Tim’ the steam hammer at the Beamish Museum entrance.  Beamish Museum, County Durham, England. This is the south (arrival) side of the entrance arch of the site. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Bamburgh Castle in Bamburgh, Northumberland, England By en:User:Steve nova Category:Castles in England. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Blog No.4: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 1 – 18th Century – Tracks 5 to 9


BLOG NO.4 – CLICK HERE IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.3 FIRST.  If you’d like to read first why I wrote these 65 tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. (Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.)

(Those getting this via email won’t be able to see the tracks. Clicking on the title of the blog will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on a iPad, the tracks will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies.)

Welcome to a blog about tracks 5 to 9 of ‘album’ (Part) one of these five ‘albums’ (65 tracks in all) covering over three hundred years of history – both real and fictional – relating the English northeastern counties of what were Northumberland and Durham, but now Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Durham including Teesside. As such, some of the songs are sung in the old Northumbrian, Geordie or Pitmatic accents and dialects. I’ve included explanations of the words used where necessary, and sometimes give lyrics in Standard English. Part 1 covers the 18th century.

The dates by the track are either just where I have placed them (e.g. c.1710); this is when the traditional song was written; or this is when the historical event they portray happened. Keep in mind the music styles will change greatly from Parts 1 to 5 as they reflect the time they depict.

If any ex- or working miners out there spot any technical mistakes, please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of the page. If anyone else spots typos, please let me know. Thanks.

Anyone can give a Rate This star rating at the top of the blog or leave a Comment at the bottom of the page, and you can Like this blog if you’re a WordPress member at the bottom. If you’d like each blog to be posted to your inbox, click on the Follow Mak’s Music Blog tab at the top of the sidebar to the right if you’re with WordPress, or FOLLOW (THROUGH EMAIL) if you’re not. Please do rate the tracks in the Poll after them.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007 & 2017

Track 5 – The Peasants Are Revolting – Set c.1710,  this track is a comical, and somewhat caricatured song from a lord about his dislike for the smelly peasants of the region. We do have this rather skewed view of the landed gentry of the time, and we know they weren’t all greedy bastards! This one, however, is.

All virtual instruments in Garageband and Logic Pro X.

Track 6 – The Miners Of The Dales – The men, women and children of the lead and iron ore mines in the dales of the region often get forgotten about. (Hopefully this will readdress that.) These were very different mines to their coal equivalents, not least due to the fact the lead seams rose almost vertically.

For those unfamiliar with the dales, they are the valley regions of Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire, where their rivers are flowing out from the Pennines (known as The Backbone of England) and cutting their ways through the high moorland towards the eastern plains. Quite a bleak and challenging territory, especially at this time. When they weren’t mining, they were farming this land.

Created with Garageband and Logic Pro X virtual instruments.

Track 7 – The Ballad Of Ralph Wood (The Causey Arch Bridge – 1726) – A ballad from the three hundred year old ghost of the builder of this, the very first single span railway bridge in the world – 100ft span, 80ft high – who laments the fact that he went and committed suicide thinking the bridge wasn’t going to stay up! His first, wooden bridge had fallen down, so he did have reason for concern. Needless to say, it’s still there, and now a huge tourist attraction.

This song is close to my heart, as this bridge and its stream, the Causey Burn, were once part of our extended ‘playground’. Now it’s all a heritage site with safety rails to stop you falling 80 ft to your death. No such luxuries when I was a lad. It’s also home to a steam railway and very well worth the visit. Of course, when the bridge was first built, there were no steam trains, or iron rail tracks come to that. The huge wooden wagons on wooden tracks were pulled by horses, and the tracks had to be cooled with water to stop them igniting. The Wagon Way connected the Tanfield collieries – Tanfield being more prominent than Stanley at this time – to the main Wagon Way to the River Tyne for export. Over 900 horses and their wagons travelled back and forth would cross the bridge every day. (The Causey Arch bridge is near Stanley, Co. Durham, England.)

(In case you were wondering, the trees of the Causey Burn Gorge aren’t really that colour! 😉 )

Most instruments and choirs are virtual ones in Garageband and Logic Pro X. Strings are from a Korg Triton LE.

Track 8 – The Shepherds’ Shields Row – A romantic and fictional love story, which I’ve set c.1740 based on the shepherd and shepherdess story of Beamish, County Durham, with an explanation of the origins of the local place name Shield Row, which is where I grew up. ‘Shields’ were the sheltering huts for shepherds (or fishermen – hence North and South Shields) and these ones were situated on the Beamish South Moor (now to the east of Shield Row); not to be confused with South Moor to the southwest of Stanley.

I’m sure the shepherds and shepherdesses of the time didn’t look like the romantic painting by François Boucher I’ve used for the track on SoundCloud!

All instruments in Garageband and Logic Pro X.

Track 9 – Fare Thee Well My Darling – A fictional sad story set c.1750 about a boat’s captain – who could have sailed out of any of the region’s main rivers – singing his verbal last ‘letter’ to his loved ones as his boat is about to be engulfed by the waves. It’s incredible enough to think what modern fishermen have to deal with out in the North Sea, let alone those in the 18th century.

This one is my orchestral and rousing than in a folk style, and I used a mix of instruments in Garageband, Logic Pro X and the Korg Triton LE.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE A SKIM THROUGH ALL 65 TRACKS, CLICK HERE.

PLEASE RATE THE TRACKS IF YOU HAVE TIME

Blog No.3: My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind – Part 1 – Harry Nilsson & Stephen Sondheim


BLOG NO.3 (IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.2 FIRST, CLICK HERE)

In my 40-odd years as an actor, puppeteer and movement choreographer in theatre, television and film I was fortunate and honoured enough to meet and work with some music legends – both human and places – from David Bowie to Capital Record Studios in LA. It’s only recently that I realised music has been with me my whole adult working life, in one form or another, and I thought I’d share these close encounters with you. So here goes….

Harry Nilsson in the 1970s

Getting drunk with Harry Nilsson – My first encounter will only be appreciated by those of a certain age or with knowledge of music history. For me, this one was totally unreal! My first job when I left Stanley, Co. Durham for the streets paved with gold that was London, was at the Mermaid Theatre as a printer and office boy during the day, and an usher in the theatre at night. One of the shows playing in 1975 was Harry Nilsson’s musical The Point. Now, Harry Nilsson was huge at the time, and one of his songs, Without You is an all-time great, and I was a big fan. So, imagine my amazement, when one night as I was sitting alone in the bar, Harry came in and asked this (almost) 18-year-old from Stanley if I’d like a drink? Of course, I said yes! Well, he was known for liking his brandy, it’s what help destroy his voice along with the cigarettes, so he kept buying me drinks and we got drunk and started discussing how you weighed a flame…as you do when you’re drunk. Oh for selfies in the ’70s! (Blue text are to external links.)

Stephen Sondheim in 1975

Stephen Sondheim asked me what I thought of his show? – Another unreal encounter at the Mermaid Theatre – where there were many of the non-music kind too – but this one was another strange one. There was me standing at the back of an almost-empty auditorium watching the technical rehearsal for Side By Side By Sondheim, which was a celebration of his music, when I became aware of someone standing next to me in the darkness. Then, this soft American voice asks: “What d’ya think?” Just as I was replying and saying I thought it was fantastic, but I was biased, I turned to see the question was emanating from Sondheim himself. Good job I didn’t say I hated it!  He just smiled and said, “Thanks”.

In Part 2 there’ll be more strange close encounters, this time with Elton John and Paul McCartney.

Thanks, as always, for reading and please do leave a Star Rate it at the top of the Page (good or bad, I don’t mind), or Like it below if you’re a member of WordPress. You can also leave a Comment below. Until next time,

Mak

PHOTO CREDITS

Harry Nilsson- From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Nilsson

Stephen Sondheim: From Wikipedia. Public Domain

Blog No.2: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – All Parts & Tracks


BLOG NO. 2 – CLICK HERE IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.1 FIRST – If you’d like to read first why I wrote these 65 tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. (Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.)

(Those getting this via email won’t be able to see the tracks. Clicking on the title of the blog will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on a iPad, the tracks will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies.)

This is for those who either want to just have a brief skim through all 65 tracks before getting the blogs with an explanation to each one, or for those who just don’t want to wait for all the blogs! There are 13 tracks in each ‘album’, with five ‘albums’ in all, covering over three hundred years of history – both real and fictional – relating the English northeastern counties of what were Northumberland and Durham, but now Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Durham including Teesside. As such, some of the songs are sung in the old Northumbrian, Geordie or Pitmatic accents and dialects, which will be explained in the blogs that cover four or five tracks at a time.

The dates by the track are either just where I have placed them (e.g. c.1710); this is when the traditional song was written; or this is when the historical event they portray happened. Keep in mind the music styles will change greatly from Parts 1 to 5 as they reflect the time they depict.

If any ex- or working miners out there spot any technical mistakes, please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of the page. If anyone else spots typos, please let me know. Thanks.

Click on a track to play it. Your cursor over the track region will also allow you to scroll through the tracks, but move your cursor out of this region to scroll down the page.

Anyone can give a Rate This star rating at the top of the blog or leave a Comment at the bottom of the page, and you can Like this blog if you’re a WordPress member at the bottom. If you’d like each blog to be posted to your inbox, click on the Follow Mak’s Music Blog tab at the top of the sidebar to the right if you’re with WordPress, or FOLLOW (THROUGH EMAIL) if you’re not.

I ONLY RECENTLY DISCOVERED THAT YOU CAN’T PLAY THESE TRACKS DIRECTLY ON AN IPAD, AND YOU ARE DIVERTED TO A BROWSER. APOLOGIES FOR THIS, AND I HOPE IT DOESN’T STOP YOU FROM LISTENING TO THEM.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007 & 2017

CLICK HERE TO GO TO BLOG NO.3, WHICH IS PART 1 OF ‘MY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC LEGENDS‘, THE FIRST TWO BEING MY STRANGE MEETINGS WITH HARRY NILSSON AND STEPHEN SONDHEIM.

Blog No.1: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 1 – 18th century – Tracks 1 to 4


BLOG NO. 1 – If you’d like to read first why I wrote these 65 tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. (Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.)

(Those getting this via email won’t be able to see the tracks. Clicking on the title of the blog will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on a iPad, the tracks will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies.)

Welcome to a blog about tracks 1 to 4 of ‘album’ (Part) one of these five ‘albums’ (65 tracks in all) covering over three hundred years of history – both real and fictional – relating the English northeastern counties of what were Northumberland and Durham, but now Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Durham including Teesside. As such, some of the songs are sung in the old Northumbrian, Geordie or Pitmatic accents and dialects. I’ve included explanations of the words used where necessary, and sometimes give lyrics in Standard English. Part 1 covers the 18th century.

Keep in mind the music styles will change greatly from Parts 1 to 5 as they reflect the time they depict.

If any ex- or working miners out there spot any technical mistakes, please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of the page. If anyone else spots typos, please let me know. Thanks.

Anyone can give a Rate This star rating at the top of the blog or leave a Comment at the bottom of the page, and you can Like this blog if you’re a WordPress member at the bottom. If you’d like each blog to be posted to your inbox, click on the Follow Mak’s Music Blog tab at the top of the sidebar to the right if you’re with WordPress, or FOLLOW (THROUGH EMAIL) if you’re not. Please do rate the tracks in the Poll after them.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007 & 2017

Track 1 Sailing The Men O’ War – I’ve dated this to c.1700, and it’s about the men from

the Northeast region who would have sailed on the Men o’ War ships in the War of Spanish Succession.

This is an orchestral, instrumental piece created using Apple Loops in Garageband and Logic Pro X.

Track 2 – The Trapper’s Song – I’ve dated this to c.1705. It’s sung from a 10 year old trapper boy’s perspective, whose 12 hour day was spent in the pitch black, opening and closing the door for tubs and ventilation. This remained the first job of mining boys well into the 20th century.

This is a time when mining was a family affair. The father would be the hewer, cutting the coal; the mother the getter, shovelling the coal into tubs or corves; the eldest brother the hurrier, pulling the tubs full of coal; the younger brother or sister a thruster, pushing the tubs to help the hurrier, or carrying the corves (baskets) of coal on their heads; and the youngest the trapper.

For this one I used the acoustic guitar in Garageband on the iPad. No real guitar was hurt in the making of this track.

There are some Pitmatic dialect words in this one: dee=do; hurrier=puller of coal tubs; thruster=pusher of coal tubs; getter=shoveler of coal into the tubs; shite=shit.

Track 3 – Over The Hills And Far Away – This original version of the song dates to 1706. The song was made famous by the British television series, Sharpe, but this version, however, predates that one by over hundred years. Mine stays closer to the original tune, and not the one arrange and sung by John Tams for Sharpe. Again it is set in the War of Spanish Succession, but this time it’s about recruiting men. The next track is an epilogue to this propaganda recruiting song.

Created with a mix of Apple Loops and live playing of virtual instruments in Garageband and Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro.

Dialect word: gann owwa=go over;

Track 4 – Over The Hills And Far Away – Epilogue – An epilogue to the previous track. Where that was a propaganda song to get recruits, my version – which uses Tams’ tune – looks at the affects of war on the men who were ‘fortunate’ enough to return home to Northeast England.

All virtual instruments in Garageband and Logic Pro X. This was one of the tracks where my illness affected my voice a little. Sung with a slight Northumbrian accent.

Dialect word: owwa=over; waak=walk; aanly=only affore=before.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO BLOG NO. 2

PLEASE RATE THE TRACKS IF YOU HAVE TIME