The concertina at sea

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Dan Worralll article Concertinas at sea

This weekend I was lucky to meet Dan Worrall, an anglo concertina player from Texas who has written a series of fascinating articles about the instrument.

His latest paper examining the widely-held perception that the instrument has a strong connection with sailors is required reading for those of us with an interest in sea songs and music!

For some years there has been a widely held view that the ‘tina-playing sailor was a myth – they might bring a concertina bought on the quayside home as a present, but they would be impractical instruments on a boat because steel reeds would be subject to corrosion. With no real evidence to work from, I tended towards this view myself.

However, from the evidence Dan has found, it turns out that sailors in times past did play concertinas. In a way, that should be no surprise when one considers the limited options sailors have had for entertainment during their precious leisure hours at sea – askĀ a ex-merchant navy seaman over fifty years old who remembers voyages made before video players were widely available, and he’ll usually tell you how important music making was on board ship.

That being so, then why shouldn’t an instrument as popular as the anglo concertina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries be an important part of the music-making scene on board ship, if a way can be found of keeping the instrument dry? After all, many types of instruments are susceptible to damage from damp and salt, not least the fiddle.

For shanties and other sea songs, see Stan Hugill’s books at ABE Books

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From Norfolk – the distinctive singing and melodeon playing of Tony Hall

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Yarmouth, engraving by William Miller after Turner

A 19th century engraving of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, by William Miller, after a
typically drama-packed painting by Turner. Image from the Wikimedia

For the last few days I’ve been listening to the melodeon playing of Tony Hall, a musician I’ve admired since the 70s. Tony plays the melodeon, a kind of push-pull accordion that came to dominate the music of much of England, when cheap models arrived in large numbers from Germany in the 19th Century.

Of course, it’s commonly been a seaman’s instrument – just think of old Bob Roberts, skipper of the last working sailing sailing barge, the Cambria. I’m glad to say I was lucky enough to hear him perform not so very long before he passed away.

Now, since one of Tony’s recently recorded songs, Down on the Hard, has some dreamy boatbuilding references, I thought I should share it – with the CD label’s permission, of course. Click on the link for a little song that I think will make many of you smile.

And for a bonus, here’s Tony again, this time playing his version of The Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance.

For more of this stuff, order a copy of Tony’s new album, One Man Hand on the Wild Goose label.

Follow the link for more references to songs and singing at

Light Trow Onawind Blue has her photo taken – and is readied for a 50-mile cruise

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Light Trow Onawindblue

Onawind Blue is ready for an exciting and demanding new season

Ben Crawshaw of The Invisible Workshop has had some posh photos taken of his boat for both his friend Mr Mushroom and his sailmaker. He’s also getting ready for his first 50 mile cruise along his section of the Spanish coast. Why not drop by and wish him luck?