The Firth of Forth fishery dreg songs come to life

The photo above is one of Bob’s and was borrowed from his weblog. Click on it to visit his site

Crews from three Scottish Coastal Rowing clubs, Boatie Blest, Newhaven and Portobello this week dressed up in old fashioned clothes, assembled on the beach at Porty and sang the traditional dreg songs as recorded and noted in the 1930s by US folklorist James Madison Carpenter.

The result was captured by BBC radio programme-makers – you can hear it here, for as long as the BBC keeps it online. The relevant segment starts at 1:18:45, and in it US folklorist Bob Walser explains how the songs work.

There’s also some video here.

Academics from Edinburgh Napier University including Graham Weir recorded the singing. There’s a sample here.

Bob found the songs while studying Carpenter’s material, and it was originally his dream that they should be sung in their proper setting by authentic voices.

He and the rowing clubs organised it all to coincide with Bob’s visit to Scotland to perform at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy last weekend.

Bob seems more than delighted with the results – his weblog makes it clear that it was a great night with lots of singing.

There’s a report also at the Scottish Coastal Rowing website.

I’m so glad it all came off. I couldn’t be at the event, but did manage a small contribution of my own.

When Bob asked whether I could tell him anything about the dreg songs I couldn’t help directly but suggested local rowers might be interested in learning and using them. I’d already had a communication from coastal rower Osbert Lancaster in the old Firth of Forth oyster fishery area enquiring about rowing songs… So I put the two gentlemen in touch and they got to organising. The rest, as they say, is hard work by Bob and the clubs to bring it about, a memorable night of singing, a good story… and history. Fabulous stuff!

The City of Baltimore – a tale of on-board bullying

This comes from a recording of a kitchen concert that took place at our friends Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison’s home this weekend, and I think it has a ring of truth about it.

Having observed human nature over many decades now, I’m quite sure this kind of thing happened on board sailing ships, as well as on the steamers and motor ships that came later.

The image is of the packet ship Montezuma and is taken from the Wikipedia, which has more on the packet ship trade here.

Paddy Lay Back sung by shantyman Chris Roche

The capstan shanty Paddy Lay Back, sung by shantyman Chris Roche at a sea songs session at Frittenden, Kent in March 2012.

Chris is very modest – but he must one of the most committed singers of sea songs around, at least that I know.

The brains and energy behind The Shanty Crew (established 1976), he has studied these songs, their history and their proper purpose for decades, including using them on a square-rigged sailing ships rounding Cape Horn. He was also privileged to learn from the legendary Stan Hugill – the last working shanty singer.

There are two more recordings of Chris’s singing here and here.