Blog No.47: In remembrance of the 1909 West Stanley (Burns) Colliery mining disaster of 16th February


A tribute to the 168 men and boys (and numerous pit ponies) who lost their lives on 16th February, 1909.

BLOG NO.47 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.46 FIRST, CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window. If you click on the images, larger versions will open in a new window. If you see any typos, pease let me know. Thanks.

(Those getting this via email won’t be able to listen to the music from SoundCloud. Clicking on the title of the blog in the email will open it in a tab of your web browser.)

On this, the 109th anniversary of the West Stanley (Burns) Colliery mining disaster – the largest in my town’s history – I thought I needed to do a blog about this horrendous event, which I have also written a song about in tribute to the 168 men and boys (and many, many pit ponies) – 59 of whom were under the age of 20 – who lost their lives. (The song follows the Wikipedia article.) Stanley was the town I grew up in, but, strangely, I only heard about this awful disaster many years later.

Stanley is in northwest County Durham in the Northeast of England, and was once a major coal producer; in fact it owes its existence to the coal. Before getting to the 1909 disaster, I’d like to play you anther song I wrote, this time about how Stanley – in its present form – came into being. The song is called Stanley’s Dawn.

Stanley had at least 10 collieries in the sprawling town, and 40 within its environs. In 1909 (the year of my coal mining dad’s birth) the various Stanley collieries were employing thousands of men and boys between them. There was plenty of work, but it was dangerous work, and always came at a price; sometimes a very heavy price. On the 16th of February, 1909 this fact would be writ large. To explain more about the disaster itself, please excuse me if I quote in detail from Wikipedia, to which I’ve added images from the event and funeral.

WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE:

“The 1909 explosion occurred at 3:45 p.m. on 16 February. By 2 a.m. the downcast shaft was available for rescue parties to descend. They entered the Townely and Busty seams, and from thence went into the Tilley seam. In the latter they found and brought out 26 men. From the Townley seam four men were found, but one died from the effects of afterdamp after 30 hours. Eventually another 165 bodies were retrieved, two were unaccounted for when the search was called off.[15] In 1933 later workings broke into the Busty seam and two skeletons were discovered. They were identified as the missing men.[16]

BEFORE THE EXPLOSION

By this date a significant amount of electricity was being used underground. Two electrically driven coal cutting machines were used in the Townley seam and one each in the Tilley and Brockwell seams.[17] The largest motors underground were the 100 horsepower (75 kW) pump in the Busty seam near to the Busty shaft and the 100 horsepower (75 kW) haulage motor in the Townley seam. There were also two smaller 25 horsepower motors and three 5 horsepower motors elsewhere in the colliery.[18] To power this a 40 Hz 550 volt 150 amp three phase generator was installed on the surface which delivered the power through insulated (but unarmoured) cables down the Busty shaft.[19]

As well as the motors, there were a few incandescent lamps around the shafts.[20] All other illumination was from Marsaut and Donald type safety lamps. The lamps were lit and locked on the surface, and if extinguished had to be sent back to the surface for relighting.[20] However, following the discovery in 1933 of the two skeletons an inquest was held (as required by law). At this inquest J B Atkinson attempted to present fresh evidence that another type of lamp was in use. This was the Howart’s Patent Deflector lamp which was larger than the standard lamps. As a result of the increased volume the lamp was unsafe; an explosion inside would be large enough to pass through the gauze and ignite the surrounding atmosphere. The coroner allowed him to read the statement, but the jury were directed to disregard it in their determination of the identity and cause of death.[21]

Other preventative measures were watering, control of shot firing and inspections. Watering to keep coal dust damp was performed regularly, however the inspector cast doubt upon its effectiveness having observed pools of water next to dry dust.[22] Shot firing to bring down stone and, in some seams, coal appears to have been tightly controlled.[23] Inspections on behalf of the men were meant to be carried out every three months. The reports from January 1909 could not be produced. Those from September 1908 were produced and were all satisfactory.[24]

THE EXPLOSION

The crowd at Pithead, during the West Stanley pit disaster of February 16, 1909

Five minutes before the explosion the man in charge of the large pump in the Busty seam advised the generator house that he was about to start the pump. This was normal procedure. Five minutes later there was a “burring” noise from the generators indicating an electrical overload, followed by two of the three (one per phase) fuses blowing. Smoke issued from the downcast shaft, in other words moving against the air flow, followed fifty seconds later by a fireball and cloud of smoke. A few moments later the cloud was sucked back down the downcast shaft as the air circulation re-established.[15]

Women and children await news.

Both main shafts were damaged by the explosion. The downcast (Busty) shaft suffered damage all the way to the surface, and then the casing between the pit top and the heapstead[d] was blown down. The upcast (lamp) pit also suffered damage, but fortunately the fan was uninjured and continued to run.[15] Before the district inspector could arrive the shaftmen had already started to clear away the debris from the downshaft. A temporary hospital was established at the pithead. Medical and rescue stores were brought in and by 2 a.m. the cages could be lowered down the pit. The men mentioned above were brought up, but there were no further survivors. Recovery and exploration work went on “unceasingly” until 6 days after the explosion all but two of the bodies had been recovered and brought up. The search for these two (the ones found in 1933) was abandoned due to increasing danger to the recovery parties.[15]

The 26 survivors from the Tilley Seam.

INVESTIGATION

The first step in investigating a colliery explosion is to determine where the explosion occurred. In the case of West Stanley the official report states “in no case that we [ie Redmayne and Bain] have investigated has it been more perplexing than the one under consideration”.[26] The first thought was that the seat of the explosion might have been in or near the engine house in the Towneley seam, but further investigation rendered this unlikely. The Brockwell seam was next considered. There was evidence of some burning; this being the only place in the mine where it was observed. No cause of ignition, accumulation of gas or the presence of a blower[e] was found. Further damage to the props and the separation door indicated that the explosion had swept into the seam (“inbye”) before sweeping out (“outbye”).[26]

The parade through Front Street, Stanley before the funeral. The police estimated that over 20,000 attended the service. Photo care of Beamish Museum

There was no damage to the Tilley seam and the men working there had been saved, so it was not considered further. The only seam left was the Busty coal. The onsetter, Matthew Elliott, was the only man to have survived from the Busty seam and his evidence is quoted at length. Critically the electric lights went out at the time the explosion was heard (“Yes, it was instantaneous”), some time before the cloud was observed by a safety lamp.[26] Two mining engineers who had arrived at 8 p.m. following the explosion were cross examined and agreed that the explosion occurred in the Busty seam and was due to a coal dust. Neither could say how the dust was ignited.[26]

The inquiry then considered how the coal dust might have been ignited. Four possibilities were considered: Open lights (lamps or matches), shot firing, sparking from friction and electricity. No evidence of faulty lights or contraband was found (though there remains the question of the Howart’s Patent Deflector reported at the 1933 inquiry).[27] All shots were accounted for and every shot hole inspected; none was fired at the time or shortly before the explosion.[28] Friction from tubs (coal wagons) against the rails or following a derailment was considered and dismissed.[29]

The resting place of some of the 166 found (Church of England). Catholics and Methodists were buried in their own graves. Photo care of Beamish Museum

Electricity was then considered. The fuses within the mine did not blow, but evidence from the colliery electrician mentioned a previous occasion when sparking had burnt through a cable and not blown the fuses. Dr W M Thornton, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Armstrong College was then called as a witness. He considered three causes but settled on one in particular as the most likely; that a train of coal dust between the terminals of a junction box or switch causes arcing between the terminals which ignited the coal dust causing an explosion within the box. This explosion raised enough dust to trigger a bigger, fatal, explosion which spread throughout the mine.[30]

The report concluded with a number of recommendations including better mechanical protection of electrical equipment (impact and ingress of gas or dust), trip coils in place of fuses and better cleaning.[31]

AFTERMATH

A pit-wheel memorial was erected at Chester Road in Stanley. It shows all of the people who died in that incident.[32] A memorial service was held in 2009 to mark the centenary of the disaster.”

-END OF WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE-

For more images about and relating to this event, take a look HERE. For detailed information on the disaster and the subsequent enquiry, click HERE. (My thanks to Roy Lambeth, Chairman of the Durham Mining Museum for this and other invaluable extra information.)

In Stanley today, as with every 16th February, there will be a remembrance service, and I only wish I could be there. If my extreme travel sickness allows it, I would dearly love to attend next year’s 110th anniversary.

MY SONG – ‘AND FAR BENEATH THEM’

I actually recorded this song, using GarageBand, in 2009 to commemorate the disaster’s centenary. I was recovering from shingles at the time, sitting in an armchair in the living room, so my voice is a little wobbly. Apologies for that. I did try to re-record the vocals late last year, adding in lyrics about the two coal seams l hadn’t mentioned – the Brockwell (where a great many also died) and the Tilley (where the 26 survived) – but it just didn’t seem to have the same feel, so I left it as it was; but those of the Brockwell especially and their descendants are forever in my heart. All I did last year, in the end, was slightly re-mix and remaster the song.

Pitmatic, dialect words used: bairns=’children’; owld=’old’; cracked=’chatted’/’bantered’;

THE END

Thanks, as always, for reading and listening, and please do leave a Star Rating 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 or Question below.

Mak

IF YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE A SKIM THROUGH ALL OF MY 65 FOLK-BASED TRACKS, CLICK HERE.

Blog No.44/Vlog No.4 – A brief blog/vlog


The latest and a thanks.

BLOG NO.44/VLOG NO.4 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.43 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH BLOG NO.42/VLOG NO.3 CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. (Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.)

Just a brief blog/vlog about why I’m not able to do the blog/vlog I wanted to.

THE END

Next will be  BLOG NO.45/VLOG NO.5, which will be a version of My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind, but this time It will be called Encounters & Connection of the SciFi & Sci-Fantasy Kind: A Vulcan, a Dragon, a Doctor and a Vogon. There is a loose music legend connection, and that is to the theme tunes to each of these classics; each now a legend in their own right.

Thanks, as always, for reading and watching, and please do leave a Star Rating 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 or Question below.

Thanks as always for reading and watching,

Mak

Blog No.43: Four #Northeast #Folk of Folk: my current four favourite Northeast England folk ‘bands’


Looking at The Unthanks, The Pitmen Poets, The Young’uns and Megson

BLOG NO.43 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.42/VLOG NO.3 FIRST, CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk tracks and how all this began, then click HERE. (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 videos. Clicking on the title of the blog in the email will open it in a tab of your web browser. Apologies but out of my control. If you see any typos, pease let me know. Thanks.)

Now that I’ve covered the 65 tracks of my excuses for folk music, I thought it time to take a look at some real folk artists. The second lot I’m looking at are all from the same part of the world as me: Northeast England; that is the counties of Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham.

THE UNTHANKS (top of the featured image)

I’ve known of The Unthanks (who were, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset until 2009) for quite some time. Sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank (yes, that’s their real surname), the daughters of a folk singer/songwriter father, are from Ruyton, Tyne & Wear and have made quite a name for themselves in the folk world, and won some coveted awards in the process. Like many folk artists and bands these days, they’re not what you might expect from folk. The style of their music and the instruments used can seem very ‘un-folkie’, but they continue to push the boundaries.

They do a mix of traditional and contemporary folk, into which the sisters might add a bit of Northeastern clog dancing for good measure; very often as a drum-like accompaniment. They will also sing in regional NorthumberlandGeordie or Pitmatic dialects, making some of their work inaccessible to ‘outsiders’, at least language-wise.

Since I’m going to keep a theme of coal mining, I’ve chosen the lasses singing The Testimony of Patience Kershaw by Frank Higgins, although, I have to say, I prefer the Unthanks’ versionThis is one of a number of sessions they did for The Guardian newspaper in 2009.

THE PITMEN POETS (second from top of the featured image)

The Pitmen Poets are named after the famous 19th century pitman poet, Tommy Armstrong, from my original home town of Stanley, County Durham. All four members of this band – Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox, Benny Graham and Jez Lowe – are also either solo folk artists, or part of another band or duo, all very successful in their own right. They come together now and again to be The Pitmen Poets, and sing some traditional folk songs as well as those written by the various members; some of which you’ll hear in the promo video I’ve chosen, below. Billy and Bob also work together and have recorded as a duo at times, with Billy also being part of The Lindisfarne Story duo. (Billy joined the band, Jack the Lad with members of the then recently split Northeast super-folk group of the 1970s, Lindisfarne.)

You will see Benny Graham all over the Northeast folk scene, joining others for one-off gigs or playing and singing at a song and dance Cèilidh. Jez Lowe is a very successful solo artist, and has written many a song for The Pitmen Poets. One of his numbers, about the 1984/85 miners’ strike, is extremely powerful.

All of these Northeast ‘lads’, like me, are the sons’ of coal miners and, like me, none of them went down the pits themselves. Like me, they tell stories about the ex-mining communities of the Northeast of England so their legacies and sacrifices are not forgotten. Of course, these guys have been doing it professionally for an awful long time, and are far more talented than I. Enjoy….

THE YOUNG’UNS (bottom right of the featured image)

The Young’uns – Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes – are from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. They too have won a number of awards, including the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for “Best Group” in 2015 and 2016. They’re a band I only came to know at the end of last year, just as they were getting even more critical acclaim. Having watched their set from what is my local Shrewsbury Folk Festival of 2017 here on YouTube, I was hooked. I love their music, and most of all, their humour.

You may notice (you may not) their soft Teesside accents. This is somewhat different to Geordie and Pitmatic with more of an influence from Yorkshire. Any UK readers will probably know of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, who a similar brogue.

They are master at sining accapella, performing both traditional and contemporary songs, some written by themselves; songs specifically about their native Stockton, such as You Won’t Find Me on Benefits Street (about the town’s reaction to Channel 4’s Benefits Street tv crew. Love this song!) More recently they even tackled (no pun intended) the attack on the Amsterdam to Paris train in 2017 by an Islamic extremist, in Carriage 12.

The lads met when they were teenagers, coming across folk as underage drinkers in folkie bars! They took up the music and joined the Stockton Folk Club. To quote the lads: “One day someone said ‘let’s hear a song from the young’uns’ and we sang this one verse we knew from a sea shanty”, and so The Young’uns is who they became.

The song I’ve chosen is one written by the legendary protest/political folk artist, Bill Bragg, called Between The Wars. This, like many (but not all) of their songs is sung accapella.

MEGSON (bottom left of the featured image)

Megson are another Teesside folk team, composed of husband and wife, Stu and Debbie Hanna. They’re another I only came across last year, and purely by chance as I was looking at different versions of the 1960s’ song, The Old Miner on YouTube and came across theirs. (Click HERE to see it. They also just happen to video this song at The Stables, which is where all my sons went to the Nation Youth Music Camp every summer.)

They’re another folk duo who produce their own music, Stu being the arranger and producer; with Debbie having a lot of say, of course! The duo used to mainly do traditional folk songs, some to their own tunes, but more recently they have started to write their own contemporary folk pieces. One of my favourite of these is Generation Rent from their last album, In A Box.

The song I’ve chosen from them isn’t a coal ming one – although, as I mentioned above, they have done a great version of The Old Miner – but a one about the town I grew up in: Stanley, County. Durham. The lyrics are by the great Pitman Poet also mentioned earlier, Tommy Armstrong. The music is by Stu. It’s called The Old Folk’s Tea (In West Stanley Store). Tommy Armstrong also wrote another called Stanla Markit (Stanley Market). I hope to do a blog on Tommy sometime in the near future.

There are, of course, many other wonderful Northeastern folk artists out there, but these are the four I happen to be listening to the most at the moment.

Next will BLOG NO.44/VLOG NO.4, which will be a version of My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind, but this time It will be called Encounters & Connection of the SciFi & Sci-Fantasy Kind: A Vulcan, a Dragon, a Doctor and a Vogon. There is a loose music legend connection, and that is to the theme tunes to each of these classics; each now a legend in their own right.

THE END

Thanks as always for reading and watching, and please, please, please rate the blog (star rating at the top) or leave a Comment below so I know how I’m doing.

Mak

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

Blog No.42/Vlog No.3 – Part 11 of My Close Encounters of the Music (&/or) Legend Kind: Tippi Hedren (Star of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’)


Third vlog.

BLOG NO.42/VLOG NO.3 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.41 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH BLOG NO.40/VLOG NO.2 CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk 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 videos. Clicking on the title of the blog in the email will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on an iPad, the videos will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies but out of my control. If you see any typos, pease let me know. Thanks.)

If you haven’t read any of these, I always start with a confession: I thought I would do these Close Encounter blogs purely because I knew they would get more people coming to my blog site and, hopefully, listening to my folk music too. Well, I was right on the first count, but, judging by my site and SoundCloud statistics, I don’t think it’s getting many people to have a listen to my musical attempts. Hardly surprising, really, as most of those wanting to read these – include either current or budding puppeteers – are not that interested in folk-type music that is primarily about the history of a specific region of England. Just so you know, I have blogged about the other kinds of music I’ve done – see THIS one for example – and I will be doing more in the future. (I’ve added a couple of songs to the right-hand sidebar.) There, now I’ve done my confessional, on with the blog….

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 Elton John 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 is Part 11 of those encounters….

In celebration of Tippi Hedren‘s 88th birthday, I’ve decided to do a vlog about the three occasions I spent with her. One of these included music, so this is more of a close encounter of a movie legend and music kind…of.

Once again I must make an apology, this time for the sound quality. I don’t know what my Nikon B700 was up to – and maybe it was trying to recreate my tinnitus –  but I wish it hadn’t. I’m afraid I just wasn’t up to doing another take.

Below are some photos of what I’ve talked about….

Above photo: three happy-chappies trying to out-stare the camera on the set of Dinosaurs. Left to right: me, Stevie Whitmire and Alan Trautman.


Above photo: A hug after the final shot of Dinosaurs.

Above photo: We were looking at Tippi’s books of songs as we sat around the fire. From left to right: Me, Tom Fisher (over Bill’s shoulder), Bill Barretta, Cristina Barrette, Dave Greenaway (behind Cristina) Tippi Hedren, Kevin Clash (beind Tippi), and I’m not sure who the gentleman was on the far right.

Above photo: more song choosing. From left to right: my wife Fiona, Me, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta and Cristina Barretta. (I can’t identify anyone else.

Above photo: Bill and I next to our wrap cake.

FEATURED HEADER IMAGE: by Roar Shambala. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

THE END

If you think these stories are interesting, they will be nothing compared to those the puppeteers from The Muppets or Sesame Street could tell. They’ve worked with more musical legends than I’ve had hot dinners. Having said that, I do have more to come, and Part 12 of the Close Encounter Of The Music Legend Kind will be about performing with The Muppets and Right Said Fred at the 1993 Royal Variety Show in London.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and please do leave a Star Rating 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 or Question below.

Thanks as always for reading and watching,

Mak

Blog No.41: Feminine Folk: my current four favourite (solo) female folk artists


Looking at (in alphabetical order) Cara Dillon, Julie Fowlis, Ange Hardy and Kate Rusby

BLOG NO.41 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.40/VLOG NO.2 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk tracks and how all this began, then click HERE. (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 videos. Clicking on the title of the blog in the email will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on an iPad, the videos will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies but out of my control. If you see any typos, pease let me know. Thanks.)

Now that I’ve covered the 65 tracks of my excuses for folk music, I thought it time to take a look at some real folk artists. I’m going to start with my current favourite women, going in alphabetical order. I say they’re solo artists, but none – except for Ange Hardy – play solely on their own, and even Ange sometimes plays as a duet.

CARA DILLON

Irish folk singer, Cara Dillon is someone I’ve only recently come to, but I think my timing couldn’t have been better, as her latest album, Wanderer has had great critical acclaim.

Unfortunately there aren’t any YouTube videos of her singing songs from her new album – although there is one you can see and hear through that previous blue link – so I’ve chosen Cara singing one of my all time favourite folk songs, She Moved Through The Fair, from 2012. Lovely arrangement on this version too.

(It’s a strange and interesting thing about this song that it is almost always sung by women, when it’s actually from the perspective of the man. This isn’t the only folk song where this happens, but it doesn’t occur the other way around.)

ANGE HARDY

Like Cara Dillon, Ange Hardy (bottom left on the top image) is someone I’ve only recently come to too, and that is thanks to SoundCloud and then Twitter, where we made contact. Also, like Cara, I couldn’t have come to Ange’s work at a better time, as her latest album too has had great critical acclaim, and well worth it IMHO; although I had heard her earlier works on SoundCloud, which are also fantastic. She may not be a well known as the other three ladies here, but I have high-hopes that she will be soon.

I do have another reason for thinking Ange is wonderful, and that’s because she played one of my tracks on her FolkFindings internet radio show. (Episode 15, almost at the end.) I was a little surprised at the track she chose – The Peasants Are Revolting – but nevertheless I was honoured and flattered!

The song I’ve chosen is Ange singing the title track from her new album, Bring Back Home. (If you click on that last blue link, you can hear all the track on SoundCloud.) The one thing I love that Ange does, is use a technique used by many a singer-songwriter, but not so much in folk, and that is a loop machine, so she can both harmonise to her own voice or add new instruments; all done live as she performs.

Whilst Ange does sing traditional folk songs, she also writes her own, and in styles that makes them sound as if they were old, traditional pieces.

JULIE FOWLIS

Scottish Gaelic singer,  Julie Fowlis (bottom right on the top image) is someone I’ve been listening to for quite sometime. Her voice is sublime, and singing in Scottish Gaelic gives her song another nuance. You don’t have to understand what these songs are about to appreciate them.

Julie Fowlis is quite a name in the folk world now, and you will see her hosting folk festivals as well as sitting in for Mark Radcliffe on his BBC Radio 2 show. I always enjoyed her appearances on BBC Alba’s (Gaelic BBC Scotland’s) folk show, Port, as well as others.

The song I’ve chosen is from her 2017 album, alterum, and is called Dh’èirich mi moch madainn cheòthar (I arose early on a misty morning).

KATE RUSBY

I’ve know of this Barnsley lass’s work longer than any of the others. I can’t remember how I came across her, but I was so glad I did. Kate Rusby (top right on the top image) has the gentlest of voices.

Her whole production method and record label is a family affair, with her brother being her sound engineer, her dad the overall boss, her mum the accountant and her sister the publicist and tour organiser. There’s a great documentary about all this you can see HERE.

Since she’s from a once proud coal mining area, like me, she sometimes writes and/or sings about it. For this reason I’ve chosen one of these: My Young Man. I love the use of the colliery brass band sound in this arrangement.

There are, of course, many other wonderful female folk artists out there, but these are the four I happen to be listening to the most at the moment. My next blog about folk folk will probably be about three Northeastern England folkies: two duets, and the third a group of four guys who come together now and again. The duets are The Unthanks and Megson, and the latter The Pitmen Poets, who, like me, are all sons of miners.

Before that, BLOG NO.42/VLOG NO.3 will be Part 11 of My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind; although this is another that will actually be about a legend of the screen, Tippi Hedren (star of Hitchcock’s classic The Birds), and singing with her whilst lion’s roared.

THE END

Thanks as always for reading and watching, and please, please, please rate the blog (star rating at the top) or leave a Comment below so I know how I’m doing.

Mak

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

Blog No.40/Vlog No.2 – Part 10 of My Close Encounters of the Music Legend Kind: The #Muppets & Capitol Record Studios


Second vlog.

BLOG NO.40/VLOG NO.2 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.39 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 CLICK HERE. If you’d like to read first why I wrote my 65 folk 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 videos. Clicking on the title of the blog in the email will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on an iPad, the videos will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies but out of my control. If you see any typos, pease let me know. Thanks.)

If you haven’t read any of these, I always start with a confession: I thought I would do these Close Encounter blogs purely because I knew they would get more people coming to my blog site and, hopefully, listening to my folk music too. Well, I was right on the first count, but, judging by my site and SoundCloud statistics, I don’t think it’s getting many people to have a listen to my musical attempts. Hardly surprising, really, as most of those wanting to read these – include either current or budding puppeteers – are not that interested in folk-type music that is primarily about the history of a specific region of England. Just so you know, I have blogged about the other kinds of music I’ve done – see THIS one for example – and I will be doing more in the future. (I’ve added a couple of songs to the right-hand sidebar.) There, now I’ve done my confessional, on with the blog….

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 Elton John 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 is Part 10 of those encounters….

First a few apologies: a had a tickley throat throughout; the ‘camera’ moves at times because I did it via my laptop, which was on my lap whilst I sat on a glider (like a rocking chair); the footage jumps in a couple of places, for some reason. Apart from that, I’m amazed I got through it in one go! Hope you enjoy the stories.

The photo below is to give you some idea off the animatronic set-up I referred to. This one is from Ninja Turtles IIon which I performed the face of Michelangelo.

Below is the Muppets’ version of Under The Boardwalk. Bill Barretta and I even got to do some dialogue on this one as rats. The main vocals were done by Kevin Clash, the same guy who did the Baby in the next video, as well as Splinter from Ninja Turtles. He has an incredibly versatile voice.

Next is the music video we did for the Baby’s song on the Dinosaurs’ BIG ALBUM. (Unfortunately the sync is out a little.)

Below are all the song from the album on YouTube.

Thanks as always for reading and watching, and please, please, please rate the blog (star rating at the top) or leave a Comment below so I know how I’m doing.

Mak

Blog No.39: The story so far….


What’s been happenin’

BLOG NO.39 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.38 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 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.)

Just a short blg to say I’m trying my best to get the next full one done, which will be about my current four favourite female solo folk artists, but it now takes me a lot longer than usual. (Bloody hands!) I may get the VLOG NO.2 (video blog) out before it, but I’m going to have to be a little less tired to do that. (Bloody ME/CFS!) That will be Part 10 of the Close Encounter Of The Music Legend Kind, which will be about singing with the legends that are The Muppets on the Muppet Beach Party album, and being involved in recording the sitcom Dinosaurs‘ BIG SONGS album at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

(I’ve included one of my own photos as the featured image, just to show I’ve been up to something. It a sunrise over St. Oswald’s church in Oswestry, Shropshire.)

Thanks so much for reading, and please, please, please do rate the blog (at the top) or leave a Comment, below. (Grovelling over.)

Mak

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

Blog No.38: From The Earth To The Seas – A Musical ‘History’ Of #Northumberland & #Durham – Part 5 – 1975 to Today – Final Tracks


Tracks 9 to 12 of the ‘album’ covering the latter part of the 20th century – from a mining dad answering a questioning son, to my memories of playing on our local pit heap

BLOG NO.38 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.37 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 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.)

This is the last blog about my 65 folk music tracks, covering tracks 9 to 12 of the final part (Part 5) of ‘From The Earth To The Seas. Now comes the blurb if you haven’t read the other Parts…. There are five ‘albums’, 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 5 covers 1976 to today. 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. Blurb over…now for the tracks….

Track 9 – Why Are They Closing Your Mine? (c.1990) – A humorous look at pit closures…which never was a laughing matter. This is a father replying to his son’s question of why they’re closing his pit if there was still lots of coal down there? It wasn’t as simple an answer I many might imagine. There was more to pit closure than Maggie Thatcher wanting to destroy the Unions; although that certainly was a factor. North Sea gas and oil affected the industry, as did the introduction nuclear power and cheaper coal imports. This did for a huge section of the steel industry too, and this all had a knock-on affect.

I use more Pitmatic in this one, here are the lyrics in Standard England.

Well I’ve got three children of 4, 6 and 10
I put them to bed whenever I can
They’re full of questions as children can be
But one night my 10-year-old he asked me….

‘Cause he’s an inquisitive bugger like (‘bugger’ in the Northeast can be used as a strange form of endearment!)

Father you know how they’re closing your mine
Well how can it be when you say the coal’s fine
You say there’s tonnes of the stuff, if so
Then why close the pit, I want to know?

Fair enough question like.

Well I should have just blamed the politics
It’s those bloody MPs, those lunatics!
But I went and gave him the long reply
It went like this, without a lie….

Right, here we go….

It depends on the coal
It depends where it’s found
It depends on geology of the underground
It depends on the flooding
And the cost to pump it out
It depends where it’s at and what amount

It depends on the cost
It depends on us, son
To how much of the stuff is won (dug out)
It depends on the price
They can get for said coal
It depends on export as a whole

It depends of cost
Of crude oil
It depends
On foreign turmoil
And now that we have Natural Gas
Well we’re just stuffed there and that’s a fact!

Right.

It depends on the coke
We can sell for steel
But we’re stuffed there too
‘Cause of foreign deals
It depends on the cost when they sunk the shaft
‘Cause they still might have an overdraft

There, see.

Well my son just sat and stared at me
So I said, it costs to much you see
There was one long pause, a smile crossed his face
Why didn’t you just say that in the very first place?

Yes, well, I wish I had now. Goodnight son.

The image for the track is by Tom McGuinness, one of the ‘Pitmen Painters‘, and depicts a Durham pit village of 1954.

Created with help of GarageBand both on Mac and iPad.

Track 10 –  The Last Miner (c.1992) – Another song inspired by my nephew, Alan ‘Titchy’ Calvert, who worked at Monkwearmouth Colliery on the mouth of the River Wear, and had to travel 15 miles on a coach each day to get to work at one of the few remaining collieries in the region. (Most of the remaining collieries at this time where on the coast, mining the coal deep under the North Sea. Any coal inland was reached by open-cast mining.) ) In this song, however, I’ve changed to being about the father of the singer.

Pitmatic: ‘me fahther‘=my father; ‘nee crunching boots‘=no crunching boots; ‘The ‘Iron Lady’ had closed the aall‘=Margaret Thatcher had closed them all

Created with Apple Loops.

Track 11 – The Farm Labourer’s Loss (c.1995) – A song from the perspective of a farm labourer. My wife, Fiona – the daughter of a dairy farmer – was tired of me mainly writing about mining, and asked me if I’d try a song about farming. This was the result. I’d like to compose more about this declining and endangered industry, as it is often misunderstood and misrepresented. A lot of folk think all famers a wealthy, land grabbing, anti-environment, animal exploiters, yet from my experience this couldn’t be farther from the truth. WE and the supermarkets are as much to blame for the way agriculture has gone. Ironically, cheap food comes at a price!

All virtually instruments in GarageBand ans Logic Pro X.

Dialect words: ‘aanly‘=only; ‘aall‘=all; ‘nee’=no

Track 12 – The Long Grey Mountain – (Today) – About my childhood and the pit spoil heap (the ‘long grey mountain’) at the end of the street, which was a playground to us…if somewhat a dangerous one! This particular one was the result of the Beamish Mary Colliery, about half a mile to the east of Shield Row where it ended. The Beamish Mary closed in 1966, but the pit heap was still around until the late-1970s, when they began to flatten it. Now you’d never know it had ever been there.

Created in GarageBand on the Mac and iPad.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007, 2009 & 2017

…and that is all the folk music for now folks! If my arms and hands improve I do hope to compose more, this time thinking of a wider audience, rather than just the few family members I originally wrote these for; that and my own creative outlet. I might try to cover a couple of the musicals I wrote and co-wrote in more detail: Leaving School and Jack In The Rainbow in particular. (You can hear the tracks to Leaving School by clicking HERE, and scrolling to the end of that blog.) The former has all the songs recorded to it, but the latter only has a couple at the moment. (I have no surviving recordings to A Dog Called Samson.) The original recordings from the 1980 Jack In The Rainbow with the Cannon Hill Puppet Theatre have been lost.

I hope you’ve enjoyed at least some of the 65 songs and tunes, and the history behind them. It’s certainly been interesting for me, if no one else, and I’ve learned a great deal more about my Northeastern heritage. A heritage I am extremely proud of.

THE END

Thanks so much for reading and listening, and please, please, please rate the blog (at the top)! (Grovelling over.)

Mak

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

Blog No.37: From The Earth To The Seas – A Musical ‘History’ Of #Northumberland & #Durham – Part 5 – 1975 to Today – Tracks 5 to 8


Tracks 5 to 9 of the ‘album’ covering the latter part of the 20th century – from a song about the demise of my home town, to the story of a collier who worked under the North Sea

BLOG NO.37 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.36 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 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.)

This blog is about tracks 5 to 9 of the final part (Part 5) of ‘From The Earth To The Seas. Now comes the blurb if you haven’t read the other Parts…. There are five ‘albums’, 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 5 covers 1976 to today. 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. Blurb over…now for the tracks….

Track 5 – In The County Of Durham (c.1983) – This song is about the town I grew up in – Stanley, Co. Durham – when it was at its lowest ebb in the early 1980s, and unemployment was over 30%. The mines had all but gone, so too had the ship building and Consett Iron Works had only recently shut. It was a very sad time to make return visits, and it seemed from the outside the there was more alcohol than usual consumed at the working men’s club on a Saturday night. Things would only get worse in the next few years, as the next song demonstrates.

This version is slightly different to the original. I recorded it in 2009 in GarageBand using Apple Loops only, and only slightly added to it in 2017.

The photo for the track is the Stanley of today.

Track 6 – Life Has Never Been The Same (1985) – A song about the affects the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85 had on NW Co. Durham. It really did tear families apart, and many ex-miners still won’t talk to or acknowledge those ‘scabs’ who went across the picket lines. Unlike farther south in Yorkshire, there wasn’t quite the same amount of support or unity for the strike, which is what probably caused even more problems. Of course, it all came to nought, and just made prime minister Margaret Thatcher even more determined to quash the Unions, and gave her more ammunition when arguing that the country and their energy industries couldn’t be held to ransom by the coal miners, and they should not rely on coal. North Sea gas and oil, nuclear energy and cheap coal imports had already sounded the death-knell for most of the Northeast’s coal mines long before the strike, along with exhausted coal seams or those too expensive to pursue. Thatcher then finished it off.

The photo I have used is actually from Tilmanstone Colliery, near Dover, Kent, in September 1984. (Credit: PA) The government brought in police from outside of the areas they guarded, and this meant that they didn’t always care about how they treated the miners, as they wouldn’t be around after the strike was over.

I use some dialectic words in this, such as ‘wor‘, which means ‘our’. ‘A miner’s son he stood so proud‘ refers to the National Union of Mine Workers leader Arthur Scargill.A grocer’s daughter‘ is Margaret Thatcher.

Created in GarageBand with the help of Apple Loops.

Track 7 – When You’ve Worked Down A Pit All Your Life (c.1986) – From the perspective of a miner who has lost his job because of the pit closures.

Created with help of GarageBand on iPad.

Track 8 – Half A Mile Down And Three Miles Out (c.1988) – Inspired by a nephew of mine who worked at Monkwearmouth Colliery on the mouth of the River Wear, although the image I’ve used is of Easington Colliery because it also shows the sea that the seams lay under; some three miles out. This nephew, Alan ‘Titchy’ Calvert – whom I’ve written about before – first worked pretty locally to Stanley at Kibblesworth Colliery, but when that closed he had to choose between Monkwearmouth and unemployment.

Pitmatic words: ‘me‘ =my; ‘cyeval’=cavel=place were the face worker worked; bait’=food; ‘marras‘=marrows=work mates

Created in GarageBand on the Mac and iPad.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007, 2009 & 2017

THE END

The next blog is probably going to be a vlog (video blog) because of hand and arm problems, and is most likely going to be Part 10 of the Close Encounter Of The Music Legend Kind, which will be about singing with the legends that are Kermit and Miss Piggy on the Muppet Beach Party album, and being involved in recording the sitcom Dinosaurs‘ BIG SONGS album at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

Thanks so much for reading and listening, and please, please, please rate the blog (at the top)! (Grovelling over.)

Mak

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

Blog No.36: Where do I go after this? Which path should I take?


What do I do after all this?

BLOG NO.36 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.35 FIRST, CLICK HERE, OR TO WATCH VLOG NO.1 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.)

I’ve been wondering of late what to do after I’ve written about all my music, and finished my Close Encounter blogs? They should take another five weeks or so, if I can ever get back to typing. It may all come down to whether I write any more folk music or not? At present I’m unable to play the keyboards, just as I can’t type very much, hence why I am doing this using the dictation software. I may try to do some music using Apple Loops in GarageBand, or Logic Pro X, but that won’t be as satisfy…and still requires me using my hands.

It’s interesting that since taking up photography again I have had more likes for my photos on Facebook and Twitter then I have had for any of my music or blogs, which makes me wonder if I should completely change what I’m focusing on? Having said that, I have always been someone who doesn’t like concentrating on one thing for very long, or changing to something else after getting bored, and then coming back to what I was doing after I get bored with that too. I think it would be a different matter if the blogs were getting lots of followers, ratings and comments. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve all had more responses than I was ever expecting, but if there were a lot more, then the extra effort that my ME/CFS and other medical conditions make them to be, would be worth it.

So I’m not sure what I’ll do yet? What do YOU think?

Thanks so much for reading, and please do let me know YOUR thoughts in the Comments section below,

Mak

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