Singing the Fishing – the radio ballad as a film

I really don’t know how this series of Youtubes came about. There seems no question that the soundtrack is based on the 1950s radio ballad Singing the Fishing about about the rise and decline of the herring industry on the east coast of Scotland and East Anglia made by Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker in the 1950s.

The radio ballads were artistic pieces created using a mixture of songs and authentic working people’s speech made to create am impression of an aspect of their lives, and Singing the Fishing is perhaps the best known example of the genre.

If I’m right, the songs are sung by McColl, with music by Seeger, concertinist Alf Edwards and others, including a jazz clarinettist – I guess that last element is the 1950s equivalent of the rock band lead guitarist (tell that to kids today!) but it sounds simultaneously pleasant and bizarre now. I think I also recognise Bert Lloyd’s voice in the mix.

I gather the visual material is footage is made up of archive photos and clips from various films including John Greirson’s film Drifters, Harry Watts’ North Sea, and Campbell Harper’s Calling Herring.

My thanks to Chris Brady for spotting this one.

4 thoughts on “Singing the Fishing – the radio ballad as a film”

  1. Another great find ! – thanks for sharing with us. I first heard the radio ballad in the early 80’s and recorded in on a casette (long since gone) – and last year i found it on i-tunes – so its now on my ipod ! shame about the counters on the videos though

  2. Hi Gavin.
    Nay No Never was quite common here but the down and out is a shearer. I guess the songs came either with immigrants or collectors.

  3. Sadly the film time codes were on the only known extant copy of the film. This dates from about 1972 as per the credits.

    The other two Radio Ballard films are:

    The Fight Game



    The Big Hewer


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