Article MT100 - from Musical Traditions No 7, Mid 1987

Johnny Doughty

... an interview with Vic Smith



On 19th June 1984 Johnny Doughty came into the BBC Radio Sussex studios in Brighton to talk to Vic Smith for the station's folk music programme, Minstrels Gallery.  Photo by Derek SchofieldHe was with Eddie Upton, one of the programme's producers with whom he had just spent the weekend at the National Folk Festival at Sutton Bonnington.

Vic Smith - Welcome to Minstrels Gallery, Johnny.  It's a great pleasure to have you here.

Johnny Doughty - Thank you.

And to welcome you back to Brighton, which is, in fact, bringing you back to your birthplace.  How long ago was it you were born here?

I'm eighty year old now, I shall be eighty-one on the 1st September.  So I'm waiting to hang on to it see, 'cause I wanted to get to eighty.  They were all waiting to come round to our house for the 'Flanagan', see.  We always has a 'Flanagan' on our birthday.

That's a big celebration, is it?

Oh!  Not 'alf.  There's all my Guinness and they can have all the other stuff they like.  I has a Guinness, and I shake a drop of rum in it, and it's beautiful.

Lovely!  That's what keeps you going, is it?

It do!  I had some last night, you can ask him (indicating Eddie).  He took me out.

Eddie Upton - I didn't have any of the rum.

No, but you drunk all the bloke's whisky!

Johnny, I want to take you back to your early years in Brighton.  You were born into a fishing family, weren't you?

Yes, I was always on the beach along with the fishermen, but I lived with my grandmother.  She took in washing.  And my father's sister.  She was married to Abraham Stapleton, he was a contractor, a big contractor.  You'll have heard of Abraham Stapleton.  He supplied the horses to pull the lifeboat around the town.  Anyhow, see, me living with my grandmother, I was away from the others and, of course, I was always with the fishing people, see?  I went to St Paul's School, down at the bottom of Russell Street and the schoolmaster said to me, "Doughty," he said, "How would you like to be in the choir?"  I said, "Yea, yes.  That'll be all right."  So I was in the choir and they was nearly all Brighton schoolboys in the choir.  But I got the sack!

I was down on the beach on the Sunday because I used to be down there, helping the fishermen when they was all boating, see?  You had ... a few bob off that one and a few bob off that one and it was all right, and the old gel, she was waiting up at the top of the steps for me when I come up.  she wanted to go up the "treacle shop".  That was my mother, anyhow, I hadn't got no boots on, nor stockings, see?  And I went up there and I shall never forget the ... well, he wasn't the vicar, he was the church bloke that was there, like.  I forget his name.  Anyhow, I was only a young'un.  How old would I have been?  Six, probably, or five, and he said "What do you mean coming up here ?"  And I'd got me cassock on.  I was all ready to march in with the others, 'cause I'd been there getting on for three months.  I was doing all right.  And he say, "What d'you mean, coming up here with no boots or stockings?"  I got the blooming sack!  So they never had me in there no more.  Well, didn't go down there.  That was the end of it.  Well, I couldn't I had too much to do.

'Cause when I was a kid, I was always doing something to earn a shilling.  Always.  I always bought all me own clothes.  My Gran saved all the money what I earned, twopence here, threepence there.  A couple of bob ...  Then when the boats started going, herring catching, the small boats, they used to go off and we'd be down there after school, shoving them off ... pulling all the slides up and getting the rope ready for when they come back, and then we'd stop down there all night 'til they were coming ashore.  Perhaps they'd come ashore twelve, one o'clock, perhaps four o'clock in the morning, but we was there.  And then when we hove them up, you got, as a rule, well, you never got less than four herring each, see?  Then you carried their fish up and it was all ready to put on the barrow for the market in the morning.  Then, back you'd go, turn in again in one of the boats.  Then one of them who was looking out, he'd sing out, "Here you are!  Here comes one of them now".  And we all used to say when they come in, "Who is it?"  "Old Tiler."  "Right".  Then you'd give him a flashlight and he'd see where you was and in he'd come and you'd heave him up.  Then you got your fish.  Now, before you went to school, when you'd got your fish, you went round and sold them, see?  Then you had to run all the way down to school.

You must have been ready to fall asleep by the time you got to school.

I fell asleep in school ever so many times and there was a bit of a rumpus about it.  They were going to stop us.  'Boys ashore' we was.  They was going to stop our lark about going down there, but it never happened, 'cause as you got older you was in a position where you could go and get a few more bob.

The first boat I went herring catching in was an old boy, he was one of the nicest old men that God put breath in.  He never swore.  If any of us ever done anything, you know, messing ...  "What you at?  God bless my Soul!"  And that was his nickname - 'Spare me Days' - 'God Bless My Soul' and you never heard him say any other.  Never heard him swear and I went herring catching with him, sailboats it was.

And that was straight from school?

Yes.  And I went with him and we earned a few bob, but I think he went a bit queer ...  I forget now, it's a long time ago.  I think he sold the boat in the finish.  But old 'Spare Me' ...  When I used to come home on leave ...  I went in the navy when I was fifteen.  Photo courtesy John CollyerWhen I used to come home, I always used to go down and see him, down the net arch.  Always used to take him a bit of 'bacca and "God Spare me Days" he said, "Look!  Why it's young Jack!" he used to say, "how are you getting on, my cock?"  'Cause he knew he was going to get something off me!  But he was a nice old feller.  His grandson, he married my cousin.  My mother's brother.  He only had one daughter.  Yea.  'Tiddley', we called him, 'Tiddley' Martin.  Anyhow they got married and they went to live up Zion Gardens, up by the Clock Tower.  My cousin Martha's mother lived there too.  They lived in one of them big high buildings, they was six floors up, but she fell over, hanging her washing up and she busted her hip and she died up the County (Royal Sussex County Hospital).  And he went to live with his son in Crawley.  He's there now and he's eighty-six.  I had him down for a fortnight last week.  Cor!  We didn't half cut a dido, too!  Yea.  He was a fisherman, too and up Zion Gardens, there was seven cottages, they had a bit of a garden in front.  There was a milkman in the first one, but all the others was fishermen.

Well.  I was in the navy and I came out when they didn't want me any more, and then I went on the beach again and I went fishing.

Now you've mentioned fishing for herring.  One of your best known songs is about ...

Oh yes!  Herrings Eyes.

How about singing that one for us now?

JD Well, let's have a look.  Hold hard.

Sings Herrings Eyes

That's lovely - smashing singing.

That's the beer-shop song, that is.

Is that what it is?  I've heard some people say that it's just a piece of nonsense and other people say that the words really mean something.  What do you think?

Well, I've got an answer for you for that.  I was at Loughborough and we had Herring's Eyes and a lot more ...  And a postman comes one day and he gives me this parcel and I said to my missis "I wonder what that is?" She said, "Well open it."  So I opened it and ....  what was his name?

EU - Roy Palmer.

Yea, he's the headmaster of a college somewhere.  Well, my missis said she remembered him but I didn't and I'd been having a yarn with him and all that lark.  And he wrote this book of songs and I believe he says somewhere in it, about how it came about so when you get it you'll be able to know.

Can you remember where you learned it?

Yea, in the net arch, where the old ones was mending their nets, like, and one would start in and then they'd all start in and all us youngsters, we was allowed in there to fill their needles, see?  And of course, when they started singing, like, we had it.  That's where we learned a lot of our old sea songs, because they knew them.  But they'd beat us sometimes; they'd be mending a net and they'd start singing, you know, and they'd get so far and then, swell, I'm going up Lowins(?)"  And up they went, up across the road to Marlows, the pub just up Russell Street and then perhaps they wouldn't come back no more that day.  But you'd take a long time before you got it properly, see?  To get it off them.  Otherwise, I can't tell you nothing about it.

Did they all sing songs about the sea and fishing or did they sing all sorts of other songs.

Yes, there was a lot of them they sung all about the sea.

Can you think of another one?

Mmm.  Wait a minute ...  If I could remember that one, that would be the best one, yea.

Sings Windy Old Weather

There's more of that but I can't think of it just now.  I sung it to him (Eddie) the other night.

You were singing about fishing off Dungeness there.  Was your fishing just in the Channel, off Brighton or did you go further afield?

No, you went up the other side of Dungeness.  I came back into Rye and I took a boat there and very often I went up the other side of the 'Ness and then towed away all the way up here on the flood.  Oh!  yes, I've been up that way a long time.

And was it mainly herring and mackerel you were fishing for?

No.  Plaice and cod and all that flat fish.  But here's one and this is a true one.  There was a vessel called the 'Northfleet' and she's coming down through the Channel, but the tide's got too strong on her, a sailboat, a big sailing vessel and she's let her anchor go just the other side of the 'Ness and then when the ebb started, of course, the flood was running hard there.  When the tide started ebbing, away they'd go and they could sail right up the Channel.  Anyhow, so she's laying there at anchor, and this is how it goes:

Sings The Wreck of the Northfleet

That was quite a popular song in it's time?

Oh!  If you was to go over Dungeness anytime and you went into a pub there and it was in the evening, I'll bet you there's somebody singing that song, 'cause all the 'Nesses, they all sung it.  But I learned it when I was aboard a ship.  I was on the 'Powerful' at the time and we was scrubbing the mess decks.  And this kiddy, we was working together, scrubbing the mess decks and the tables and this kid was singing this song.  So I said, "Where did you learn that, then?"  His grandfather, this is what he tells me, was a coastguard and he was stationed down at Dungeness when this happened.  Well, then his grandfather came out and he died and his father was a coastguard and when he died this young'un started singing the song.  He was in the navy; he came from down in Cornwall, all his people had been seafaring people, but anyway, that's where the song came from and that's how I got it.  I've sung it in ever so many pubs.  (N.B.  This conflicts with the inset notes of his record where he told Mike Yates that he learned the Northfleet in the Brighton net arches).

You said that you joined the navy when you were fifteen.

Fifteen years and three months.

That must have been right at the end of the First World War.

Just at the finish.  Born in 1903, I was.  The war had stopped and that's how I got in the Navy.  I joined ...  They used to have a coastguard just underneath, just down on the front and when I said to him, I went to see him, I said I wanted to join the navy.  He said, "You don't want to join the navy".  So the sailing 'Skylarks' what was running then off the beach.  They belonged to a man called Captain Collins and he had a relation, a brother or a cousin or something.  He was Bob Collins and he always worked on the winch, heaving the boats up.  And I heard this coastguard go up to Bob Collins and he says, "Bob.  Young Jack's just been over here."  "Has he?  What's up?"  "He says he's going to join the Navy!"  'Cause all the Brighteners called me Jack down here.  It was only when I came to Rye that they called me John, but anyhow he said, "Swell, what do y'want me for?"  He said, "Well, he wants a character off you.  He's got to have a character."  So he said, "Swell, honest and trustworthy" and he put down a lot more words that he didn't know what they meant and he said, "Well, come over and sign this paper, then." So he went over there and he signed this paper.  I was practically in the navy then and I went round there next day.  I'd heard all this being said over there.  So he said, "Do you know - you're going to come back on leave" he said "and you're going to say, 'I hope your bollocks drop off!'" he said, I shall never forget him.  "You'll want my left hand to wither." and a lot more things I can't tell you about.  But I went to see him several times after that, right up until when he came out of the coastguard.  'Cause they were in naval rig, they was then, coastguards.

It's funny you mentioning Collins and the 'Skylark'.  I heard mention of the boat and its captain from an old chap that used to come to Brighton and when people were queuing up to get on the boat, he used to play the concertina to them, busking along ...

Yes.  I know him, I know him.  I told him (Eddie) about it today.  There was two of them.  One used to sit up in the bows of the 'Skylark' if she was on the beach and they was helping them aboard and one was playing the fiddle and the other was playing the squeezebox.  Yes, yes, I knew'em.  I won't forget them.  What d'ye say his name was?  He bought his first concertina up St James' Street.  Photo by Brian ShuelAnd the bloke wanted, I can't think now what he wanted for it in this second-hand shop.  So he said "You can't have it." So this other bloke said, "Well, you can't have this squeezebox then.  "Swell," he said, "That's all I got".  And I can't remember now what it was he gave him, but he gave him it and he got the squeezebox.

Well, we must be talking about the same man because I've heard the same story from him.  Scan Tester was his name.

That's the bloke.  That's it!  Yea, they had to pay a licence to do it, the busking.  Oh, yes, they had to pay a licence.  I know when they finished up on the beach they liked a drop of treacle.

He also may have bought your fish.  He lived in Horsted Keynes and they came down by train and bought fish in Brighton for their fish round.

Horsted Keynes, up there by Haywards Heath.  Well, I'll tell you who told me all about that, Bob Fry (Bob, who has lived in Horsted Keynes all his life, has always taken a great interest in traditional musicians and singers in Sussex.  He frequently drove Scan Tester to the places he was going to play in his last few years).  D'you know Bob Fry?  I went up and had a weekend with him me and my missis.  We been up there once or twice.  He asked us to go up there and Cor!  we had a lovely turn out!  Out there on the lawn, singing and all.  He married a Chinese.  A nurse.  Well she's a matron now.  Oh, yes.  But he knew all about that Scan Tester.

Yes, when he was bringing us home after the weekend, he said, "Come on.  I'm going to take you out to dinner."  I said "No, I don't want no dinner."  "Come On." he said.  Anyhow, we ended up going in there.  It was a cafe and a pub and it sold grub, like.  It was right up the top of a slope.  So, me, Bob Fry and that, we went up there.  Me missis went in first and she says "Here, go down and have a look at that menu."  I said, "What menu?"  She said, "Beyond that board down there, have a look."  "What is it, then?"  She said, "Go and look!"  Down I went and there was smoked mackerel on the menu and they was a pound each.  A pound!  For a mackerel!  I said to this bloke there.  Manager, he was, or something, I said, was that price right out there?" He said, What's that, sir?"  "Don't 'sir' me for Christ's sake!  It says something about mackerel."  He said, "That's right, sir.  Pound each."  "I've got a smoke hole full of them down home." I said, "if you'd like to come down there you can have them for three pence each."  Yea, you can ask Bob Fry about that.

How long were you in the navy?

Well, I did me time first off, like.  I did three years as a boy.  I could have stopped in and done me twenty-one but I was longing to get back on that beach!

That was the life for you?

Yes!  That was the best part of it.  I came out, was back down on the beach and then started fishing again.  That was right up to this last war.  I had a fine boat at the time, too called 'Ocean Reaper'.  She came from Cornwall and this Rye fisherman, he's retired.  It was going cheap and he bought it and he asked me if I'd take her.  She had a new engine put in her.  She was a fine boat.  And I went in her to earn a few quid.  But his son went in it.  I hope he's listening to this.  He always found some excuse that he didn't go.  No, because he kept on getting a sub off his father.  But I'd been in another boat before that and I earned some money, but I gradually knocked it all out 'cause when you weren't at sea you were in the net shop.  You had your net mending to do and it ain't long knocking it out.

Were you still in Brighton at this time?

No, I was fishing out of Rye harbour.  That's where I met my missis.  I came into Rye.  I brought this boat from Shoreham, the first one, called the 'Esme'.  She was a converted Shoreham lifeboat, forty foot long she was - she wasn't half a fine boat, she had an eleven ton self-righting keel.  Forty foot long she was.  Anyhow, I brought her here.  The bloke sold her and made a nice lot of money out of her.  Then there was a woman run a net works in Rye and her husband came down and said "Any chance of buying that boat?"  I said, "I don't know.  It's nothing to do with me," I said, "you'd better go and ask your old woman if she wants to sell it."  He said, "You go and ask her."  I said, "I ain't asking her!"  I didn't want her to buy it.  But anyhow, I earned a nice lot of money with her and then this woman bought it.  They never had her long.  She wasn't making much money out of it, and she sold her.  "She went as a pilot boat to Hale so that's how I came to lose the 'Esme'.

But when I came in with the 'Esme' and stopped up on the quay tied her up on the quay by the slipway.  We had a look around and I see'd this bit of crumpet.  I said, "No, we ain't got no fish, duck, we ain't shot no nets yet, we've only just got her."  And she looked at me, never said nothing, and this was her (Johnny's wife Meg), and this is our song:

Photo by Derek Schofield With me hand in me pocket and a few extra bob,
Rye Harbour village, I was right on the job,
When someone said, "Johnny," I'm turning around,
The loveliest crumpet in the village I've found.

Oh Rye Harbour girl, oh Rye Harbour girl,
And I thought she was sweeter than any.
She had jewels and pearls and her hair hung in curls
And on her I spent all my money.

That dear little miss, she gave me a kiss,
She set my poor heart in a whirl.
I'll never forget the first time I met,
That dear little Rye Harbour Girl.

Now, the pub down the harbour, it was changing hands.  The other bloke there, his wife was born in the pub, but they was getting old and they was getting out.  Then this bloke came from Norwich.  He bought it.  I looked after a lot of the yachts over there then, see.  I used to do all the wire splicing and sail making.  I packed up going to sea.  We were in this pub, like, cutting the dido, like, having a sing-song and this new bloke what was there, oh, he was made up with it, he was.

Anyway, the water was ebbing then and it was big tides, the water was flowing hard and I had my dinghy what I used to go across with and I goes in this dinghy and they said, "Don't you try to get across, John , you'll never get across there."  I said, "You don't know me.  I can't get across there?  That'll be the time.  Anyhow, I went over and I got over there and I'd got the yacht and I chucked out the painter over the head-rope what the boat was tied to, and out I went into the water and there I laid ... 'cause, incidentally, I was blowed up once or twice in the war.  That's how I came to get invalided out the merchant navy.  And I used to have these turns and they came ever so close, but eventually, touch wood, they got further and further apart, but this is what I'd had.  Full of treacle and the ebbing sea in the harbour.  One of them ran for an ambulance.

The harbour master ran along and he got down there and he made the dinghy fast.  And another one comes across 'cause the tide's easing all the time and they said, "Get him aboard and we'll pull him up the slip".  They rows the boat over with me laying in the bottom of it and pulled me up the slip, as a result, when we got up there and the ambulance arrives.  Well, I'm telling you this as it come to me.  One of them there was an old fisherman.  They called him 'Old Salty' but he wasn't as old as me.  He come and he looked down at me and he said "He's had a bloody fine time while he's been here," he says, "chuck a lump of canvas over him." he says, "He's had it!  But I tell you - that old boy's been up the Churchyard now ten year!  But, anyhow, when the ambulance bloke got there, he said, "Cor!  Turn him round," and jumped over me.  They pumped me out.  Well that's what Matilda (indicating Meg through the glass panel) says along there.  They pumped me out and then they said "He ain't got no bloody water in him running down the slipway!  She told them this story when we were up there (Sutton Bonnington) the other night, didn't she?  The bugger!

You've always enjoyed singing in pubs?

Oh, Yea!  As soon as I got in there it'd be, "Come on, Johnny, give us a song ...  What you gonna sing?"  We'd have the piano going and Cor!  we couldn't half cut a dido!

Give us a song that used to go down well in the pubs.  What one would you think of?

What one are we going to give 'em?

EU - That one that Jack used to sing.

Oh!  We haven't had him for a long time, have we?  I shall sing that one if I don't forget it.

Sings The Fish and Chip Ship

Here's another one we used to sing in the pubs.  This is The Sailor Come Home from Sea, or The Sailor's Return, it's called:

Sings The Sailor's Return ( a version of The Saucy Sailor)

That's a lovely one Johnny, do you remember where you learned that one?

My mother, I think.  That's who I learned it off.  Or my Gran.

They were both singers, your mum and your grandmother?

Oh!  They was always singing, When they were doing the washing they were always singing.  This is one of my cousin's ...  Martha's.  Her mother was always singing this, too.

Sings Martha the Watercress Girl

My mother, when she was three-parts bevvied, she could always sing that one 'cause her name was Martha.

You mentioned the merchant navy, Johnny, I didn't know that you were in the merchant navy as well.

Yes, I was in the merchant navy ...  We had some naval ratings aboard us and we was ...  When Jerry was coming across and sinking these boats as they went to come up the London River, see, they blocked the harbour up, so we had to go out there and clear them.  Well, all those other blokes that were there was these navy blokes.

This would be during the last war?

Yea, this last turn out.  And these divers went down put charges on them and blowed them up.  Well the skipper said, "We ain't going into the harbour today.  We want coal."  She was an old coal ship.  "And we're going to go out and put another couple of charges down that one.  We'll finish that job off," he said, "and then we'll go in and coal and then we've got several jobs to be done down below.  So I'll see if I can manage to get some of you some leave, you know, for the week."  I says to my chum - I was bo'sun on her.  I said to my chummy, I said, "Here, d'ye hear that?"  The skipper was telling the mate this.  That's how I heard it.  I said, "I'm gonna have a wash and bath and change," I said, "and I've got an old boiler suit.  I'll put that on and then I'll have all my clean clothes to put on when we get home."  So I said, "I'll go down and get ready, then I'll come up and let you go down."

So I got down there.  I only had a bucket.  I brought this bucket of water up from the galley.  All I had on was an old pair of flannel trousers.  I don't know whose they were.  They weren't mine.  Anyhow, I gets started in this bucket of water and the ladder that went down into what was supposed to be our bathroom.  It went down straight, like that.  (vertical).  And then there was such a bloody bang!

The week before I'd been giving them some work to do 'cause they had no work to do, blowing up, see?  And they were such a bloody nuisance.  You couldn't think where to put them to give them something to do.  So the mate said, "I'll tell you what you can give them to do, Bos."  I said, "What?"  He said, "Get them to take them ... (ventilators).  Cor.' What are they called.  Anyway, I had them up there and left them these and they were putting some grease around them, see, so you could turn them easier.  They hadn't been used and it was only for something to do, but they was all stiff, we couldn't use them.  Anyhow, I had them doing it and I was standing there blowing me pipe.  They couldn't bugger off and hide themselves up somewhere, because they'd have to come by me.

But anyhow, that's all finished and this next day when we were trying to shift these turn-outs and then get the anchor up and get this coal aboard, I got down there and there was such a bloody roar!  And it went up ...  And as soon as the skipper hove on that anchor, see, to give it a bit of a pull up to help to get the anchor up.  As he went to pull it up, there was a bloody atomic (magnetic) mine underneath us and as soon as he turned the screw to push her out a bit ... up she come and it hit her hard under the arse, just above the propeller.  Boomp!  And, Oh!  We had a turn-out!  And this ladder what come down straight, I run along it!  That'll tell you how she went!  What tilt she took.  Then she gradually set.  There's all my clothes down below.  I can't get 'em.  No, the mate wouldn't let nobody go down.

And there was two tugs that was coming in the harbour.  They came over and they took'em aboard.  So the mate said to me, he said, "Bos," he said, "Take that tow-rope and make it fast on the winch." he said.  And the bleeding boat's sinking!  So, anyway, this bloke that chucked it off the tug - he never chucked it far enough.  I said, "Sod this!  I ain't gonna stay here and go down with her!"  'Cause she'd have took us with her.  I said to my chummy.  He was a bloke the name of Joe Buthley, I shall never forget him.  I said, "You can swim Joe, can't you?" and he said, "Yea, I can swim."  And we both stood on the foc's'le and I said "Right!  Come on then."  And in we went and we swam to this tug and they took us aboard.  They brought us in.  We got a month's survivor's leave, and a new set of clothes and Christ knows what we didn't have.

Yea.  We done all right.  But I got another problem ...  we got out of her, but ...  I'd gone ...  You know ...  all your nerves was gone to Greenwich Dock.  And the mate says, "You'd better go up and see the doctor.  See if he can give you anything."  I says, "I ain't going up there."  But if anybody upset me, I was ...  you know (Here Johnny adopts an aggressive stance, fists up).  I did go up there and Doc Sleet (?) he says you've got to go to Doctor Gough (?), The Minories in London.  I had a bloody job to find it, I did.  A bloke like me going all the way around bloody London!  But anyhow, they took us round and I went over to see him and do you know what he said to me?  He said "You ain't fit to be an air-raid warden!"  So I said, "What's the matter?"  He said, "You've got tachycardia."  I said, "What the bloody hell's tachycardia?"  He said, "Your heart's wore out."  I said, "What's going to happen then?"  He said "You're finished," he said, "but if you look after yourself, you'll get better."  He said, "Don't run upstairs, don't run here, don't hurry there.  Don't get in no fighting tactics." he said.  A little old boy, he was, grey haired old boy.  So then they invalided me out.  They chucked me out.  They wouldn't have me back no more.  I'd had the bloody navy and now the merchant navy don't want you!  But I got over it.

Well you've lived forty years since then, haven't you?

I should think so.  I shall carry on now.  I'd like to see ninety, but it wants a lot of doing, you know.  But now, well, there ain't nothing the matter with me.  I was going up there with him (to Sutton Bonnington, with Eddie) and I had a trawl.  I ain't quite finished it.  I got stuck into it, I did.  Every evening I was at it.  I got this bloody trawl done.  I done it in three weeks.  And I pulled it out there and when he came down to pick me up I said, "Come here.  I'll show you something - the trawl I've made."

You wouldn't be able to pull it out in here, would you?

EU - No, it's much bigger than in here.  (20 feet by 15 feet approx.) You've made a nice job of it.

Yea!  All I want is that bloke to bring me the ackers now!  I made one for a copper once and Cor Blimey!  I never did get paid.  Still, I've cut a bloody fine dance, but I've done all right.

Well, Thank you very much indeed, Johnny.

(This seemed the obvious point to finish the interview, but with the tape still running ...  )

How did you first get involved with all these folk singing people?  Was that through Mike Yates?

Mike Yates, yes.  He came down to my house one Sunday afternoon.  I'd finished making that film (for ITV - a lunchtime series some 8 or 9 years ago).  Well, I wasn't making it.  I was in it.  I didn't do a lot, I suppose and that was 'Sounds of Britain' and it came over the television and Mike Yates was going up the M1 or the M2 or some other 'M' and he heard about it on his wireless, so he went straight up to Tony Engle at Topic ...

He said, "Yea, let's record him.  He'll go down a treat." So he did.  He came down there and he said, he knocked on my door and he said, "Do you know where I can find Mr Doughty?"  I said, "Yea, he's up the churchyard."  "No, wait a minute," he said, "Are you Mr Doughty?"  I said, "No, I'm Johnny Doughty" I said, "there's two more Johnny Doughty's up Rye, but their name's Jack."   That was my son and my grandson.  So anyway, he says, "Can you give me a few of your songs?"  I said "What, now?  Sunday afternoon?"  He told them all about this up there, didn't he?  (Mike Yates at Sutton Bonnington).  So he said, "When can I come up, then?"  I said, "Come up when you like, but not bloody Sunday afternoon!" I said.  I said, "No.  So Long.  I'll see you.  You come up some other time." - and I shut the door.  Or the wind blew the bloody door shut.  Well, a couple of days or a week afterwards.  Cor Blimey!  he came down there and he took some songs.  'Course, then I started hacking them out, you know, and trying to work out how they went and if I thought of something when I was in my shed, I had an old book and I'd say "Oh, yes.  I remember that one" and so on.

But old Mike, he used to come down to my house two or three times a week sometimes and he made me laugh, good old boy.  He gets all ready to tape, see?  So he said, "One minute."  I said, "Now what the bloody hell's up?"  Photo by Doc RoweI'm up the other end of the room, see?  So he says, "It's that clock."  So we took the clock off the mantle-shelf, put it on the sofa and covered it up with some cushions.  Right, start again.  So I'm ready and I've got my Guinness there, see?  I finished me Guinness and I put the pot down like that, see?  So he said, "All Ready?"  Right, so I started and then he says, "Wait a minute." I says "what the bloody hell's up now?"  He says, "It's that pot."  He said the sound was going over the top of my Guinness pot.  "Cor!  Spare me bloody days!" I says.  So he says, "All right.  We'll get rid of that then."  So we got rid of that and then we had it again.

And then he says, "We can't have any of that!"  I says, "What's up now, then?"  Where I've got the table, there's a wide window above it.  We was under this big window and Meg had opened it, you know, like she does in the morning and she'd left it.  "What's up?" I says.  He says, "There's a train here."  I says, "What?  In Camber?"  You'll be saying there's bloody Red Indians here in a minute!"  He says, "there definitely ..."  I says, "Don't be so bloody daft!  There ain't no trains in Camber."  Well, you see, there's our back way and then there's the main road and then the shore.  I said "Are you sure it ain't the sea running up the beach?"  "No" he says, "that was a train."  "It wasn't a train, I tell you!" but it was this window and the sound of the cars and lorries going along the main road.  Oh - that's settled.  So we had to shut this window and bar it right up.  Then the old woman came walking in with the dogs!  And the dogs started.  They came out on that record, too.  We chucked them out the back.  I chucked the old woman and her pal out in the kitchen!

EU - She's listening, you know.  Be respectful!

I know.  I chucked her out.  Are you all right, Lovie?

Vic Smith

Article MT100

As reported in the last issue of Musical Traditions, Johnny Doughty died in September 1986 at the age of 83.  Those who knew him will never forget him.

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