Blog No.26: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 4 – 1946 to 1974 – Tracks 1 to 4

Tracks 1 to 4 of the ‘album’ covering the middle of the 20th century – from the story of a miner’s widow, to a joyous song about a miner’s freedom on a Sunday afternoon

BLOG NO.26 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.25 FIRST, CLICK HERE. 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 Part 4 of ‘From The Earth To The Seas’. Now comes the blurb if you haven’t read the other Parts…. There are five ‘albums’ (now 66 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; Part 4 covers 1946 to 1975. 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.

The dates by the track are either just where I have placed them (e.g. c.1900), 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.

Blurb over…now for the tracks….

Track 1 – Without Her Man (c.1946) – A song about a fictional event…although, undoubtedly, such a story occurred at some point in the history of mining.

This song began life in 1978 and was meant to be sung by a woman. Since I didn’t have a lady to do the honours I had to change the lyrics and sing it myself. I would love to hear someone else perform it; man or woman.

Used GarageBand on the laptop.

Track 2 – The Pitman Painter (c.1947) – A song based on the lives of the Pitmen Painters of Ashington colliery, Northumberland; also called the Ashington Group. Let me quote from Wikipedia:

Ashington Group

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Ashington Group was a small society of artists from AshingtonNorthumberland, which met regularly between 1934 and 1984. Despite being composed largely of miners with no formal artistic training, the Group and its work became celebrated in the British art world of the 1930s and 1940s.


The Group began as the Ashington branch of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), which first advertised a class on ‘Evolution’ in 1927; after a further seven years of evening classes in various subjects they turned their attention to art appreciation.[1] The WEA and Durham University organised for a tutor, the painter and teacher Robert Lyon (1894-1978) to come and instruct the group, but its members, mainly miners from the Woodhorn and Ellington Collieries, quickly grew dissatisfied with the course. Lyon suggested that the group members instead try creating their own paintings as a means to develop an understanding and appreciation of art.

Critical success

By 1936 the group – many of whose members were committed to the principles of the Independent Labour Party – had drawn up an extensive list of regulations, by which all members had to abide, and named itself the Ashington Group; it also held its first exhibition at Armstrong College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.[2] A further exhibition was held in 1938 as an extension of the Mass Observation project.

By the early 1940s the Group had exhibited in London, and continued to thrive after Lyon left to teach in Edinburgh, though he remained in contact with the Group’s members. Over the next few years the work of the Group was noticed and praised by a number of prominent British artists and critics, such as Julian Trevelyan and Henry Moore.


After World War II, critical interest in the Group waned, but they continued to meet weekly, producing new art and taking on new members. The critic William Feaver met one of the Group’s central members, Oliver Kilbourn, in the early 1970s, and began a renewal of interest in their work, which was restored and featured in several touring exhibitions. In the 1980s, the Group’s “Permanent Collection” became the first western exhibition in China after the Cultural Revolution.[2]

The Group’s meeting hut was finally demolished in 1983; Kilbourn, the last of the Group’s founder members, arranged for the paintings to be put in trust prior to his death in 1993, and they are now kept in Woodhorn Colliery Museum.[3] Feaver’s book about the Group, Pitmen Painters: The Ashington Group 1934-1984, has been adapted[4] into a play by Lee Hall.

The paintings can be seen at Woodhorn near Ashington, Northumberland.

Prominent members of the Group

  • Oliver Kilbourn (1904-1993)
  • George Blessed
  • Jimmy Floyd (1898-1974)
  • Harry Wilson (1898-1972)
  • Len Robinson
  • John F. Harrison (1904-2004)

Other artists relating to the Group

  • Tom Lamb (3 May 1928 – 24 February 2016)

External links



There is also a fabulous play about them by Lee Hall, which has played at the National Theatre, London, and Broadway, but started life at the Woodhorn Museum’s theatre near Ashington.  Take a look HERE for a video of highlights of the play when it was on Broadway. I’m amazed they understood most of it!

The image I’ve used for the track, which is the same as that on the front cover of Lee Hall’s book of the play, is by Pitman Painter, Norman Cornish. If you click on that blue text link, it will take you to his website. You’ll see just how his first naive style changed as he developed his art.

My music created with GarageBand.

Track 3 – My Causey Burn (c.1947) – The story of a man working at the Causey Mill Drift* Mine near Stanley, Co. Durham – between the famous Causey Arch Bridge (which I wrote a song about in Part 1) and the maginifcent Beamish Museum – and what the washing of the coal had done to the nearby stream called the Causey Burn. I remember it being this horrible tea-brown colour with a nasty odour when I was a child. Now it is crystal clear once more.

*A ‘drift mine’ is a mine that is accessed via a sloping tunnel from the surface, rather than by a vertical shaft. Usually for access to coal seams nearer the surface.

Created with the aid of GarageBand.

Track 4 – Over The Fields On A Sunday Afternoon (c.1950) – This expresses the joy that miners could feel at being out in the fresh air, away from the ‘gaping black hole’. I wrote this back in 1977 (I think) and it was a favourite amongst the mining community then, and it has been amongst the miners of a couple of coal mining Facebook groups since.

Used GarageBand on the laptop.

Below are the Standard English lyrics:

Over the fields on a Sunday afternoon
Racing your pigeons away from the town
Lungs full of fresh air, no dust and no coal
Of it’s good to get away from the gaping black hole

Oh it’s good to get away from the gaping black hole
It’s good to get away from the dust and the coal
To watch a hare fly like a dart over ground
It’s good to get away from the hole in the ground

You can mine ’til you cry, you can mine ’til you die
You can mine ’til you go to that pit in the sky
Where the ground is so soft and you dig for white coal
But still at weekends you get out of the hole!

Oh it’s good to get away from the gaping black hole
It’s good to get away from the dust and the coal
To watch a hare fly like a dart over ground
It’s good to get away from the hole in the ground

I suppose I’ll be stuck in a mine ’til I die
And I hope that I go to that pit in the sky
Well as long as they pigeons and whippets to race
Then it must be like heaven to be in that place!

Oh it’s good to get away from the gaping black hole
It’s good to get away from the dust and the coal
To watch a hare fly like a dart over ground
Oh it’s good to get away from the hole in the ground


Photo by Patrick Ward of a miner from Hordon Colliery, Co. Durham. (See Daily Mail article HERE.)

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


Thanks so much for reading and listening, and please, please, please rate the songs (below – the polls are anonymous) and the blog (at the top)! (Grovelling over.)


Blog No.27 will be Part 8 in My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind series. We’re now up to 1991/92, and these legends will be Kermit, Miss Piggy and Co., and recording an album for a tv series I worked on in the States at Capitol Records Studio in Los Angeles.




One thought on “Blog No.26: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 4 – 1946 to 1974 – Tracks 1 to 4

  1. Track 1 – Without Her Man (c.1946) The story behind the Pittman Painters is amazing. Left a comment about this beautifully sung song on the other site. So sad a tribute. Look forward to hearing the other music and checking out the links you’ve provided. Love Anne Terri

    Liked by 1 person

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