logo News and
Comment - No 16

Pete Elliott 1925 - 2000

Readers will have heard by now of the sad death (7 a.m., 14th January, 2000) of Pete Elliott, after a long fight against cancer.

Pete was a member of the Elliotts of Birtley, one of the countries oldest families of traditional singers and who were at the forefront of the folk revival in the late '50s and early '60s.  He began singing with his dad, Jack Elliott and his brothers John & Len, sister Doreen and her husband Bryan and his wife, Pat.  Together they founded the singaround club in Birtley which still meets every Wednesday in the local RAOB club.

In the intervening years, Pete became a leading figure in the North East, well known and respected for his immense knowledge of local songs and dialect and particularly of mining culture.

He was a lifelong socialist with forthright views and often a feisty defender of the working class.  He was, above all, interested in ordinary people, always keen to meet the many visitors who came to the folk club from all parts of the globe and with whom, in several cases, he maintained a lively correspondence.

He was a highly principled individual, who was ever ready to champion the cause of the underdog and never the kind of man to allow an injustice to go unchallenged.  He was also an active humanist and lifelong union member.

However, it will be Pete's contribution to North East folk culture which will be his lasting memorial.  Alongside Pat and the rest of the Elliott clan, he continued to sing until just a couple of weeks before his death.

On a personal note, Pete has been a dear friend and mentor to my husband, Eric and I for the last 25 years.  We were looked on as adopted members of the family and Pete was always there with a word of advice or encouragement and occasional criticism - as those who knew and loved him will recall, Pete did not mince his words and left you in no doubt if he disagreed on a point of style, accuracy or content!  We had many, many happy arguments.

The turnout for Pete's funeral was magnificent and a great comfort to Pat and the family.  Without naming names, everybody who meant anything to Pete and who could possibly make it, was there and we gave him a great send-off.  The dignified and articulate humanist service was a reflection of all that Pete stood for.  The speech by his brother John and the powerful and touching rendition of What's the Life of a Man?, which was sung at Pete's request by his son Paul, was overwhelmingly emotional.  The gathering afterwards, which he had also requested, will stay in the hearts and minds of all those who were there.

Pete was always larger than life.  In life he was always happy to pass on his considerable knowledge of the tradition and he'll never die as long as he remains in our memory, but we're certainly going to miss him dearly.

Terri Freeman

Len Evis dies

Many British readers, and not a few overseas ones as well, will be saddened to learn of the death of Len Evis earlier this week.  Those unfamiliar with the surname will remember him as Len the landlord of The Balfour Arms, Exeter Cross, Sidmouth.  In the heady days of the late-'60s, The Balfour was the late-night retreat for those not ready for bed at midnight, and a centre for some truly ferocious sessions - with Len playing the friendly, welcoming, genial host.  Sometimes things got downright crazy - like the 'cocktail hour' when, at around 4 am, he would decide to serve only cocktails for an hour to the already reeling guests.  And the 'Balfour Breakfast' was a spendid tradition - a Full English, free to anyone who lasted the night right through with him!  Francis Shergold did it in 1971? - surprising few of the Bampton lads.

In later years, things quietened down a bit, got more organised - admission by ticket was introduced! - but Len remained just the same.  Friends with gigs in the area were always offered a late night drink, even accommodation, throughout the year.  Even after he'd retired, he stayed deeply interested in the music - and in the people - to the extent that he would regularly help out at The Volunteer in Festival Week, primarily to meet old friends.

A truly lovely man - his kindness and generosity will be fondly remembered by, probably, thousands of Sidmouth regulars.  The festival will never be quite the same again.

Rod Stradling

Gordon Hall dies

That unforgettable Sussex singer, Gordon Hall, died on Monday night (24.1.00) - inevitably, I suppose, of lung cancer.  I hope to publish an obituary here before too long but, in the interim, as a heartfelt tribute to a rather splendid human being, I have decided to re-publish the interview he did with Vic Smith for BBC Radio Sussex back in 1991  This is to be found on our CD-ROM, but I had intended not to release any of these 'paper edition' articles on the Net for a good while.  However - now does feel like the appropriate time.

Although I heard Gordon sing many times, I only got to really talk to him on one occasion, when my wife Danny and I called in at his home to say "Hello" - were made to stay for tea, and participate in one of the most enthralling three hours' of conversation we have ever experienced.  He will be greatly missed - and not just for his extraordinary singing or his amazing store of 'complete versions' of almost any song you can think of!

Our thoughts go out to his partner Gill, who is also far from well at the moment.

Rod Stradling

Yet another award!

Congratulations on your site Musical Traditions, which has been awarded a Highly Commended rating by Schoolzone's panel of 250 expert teachers.  It is included in our searchable database of educational web sites.

Schoolzone specialises in educational support materials via the Internet.  Our site is at www.schoolzone.co.uk where you will find 30,000 educational websites all selected, described and categorised by teachers.

Shock News!  ECDB CD now actually available to the general public!

Four years after its release, the English Country Dance Band's CD Barn Dance is available somewhere other than bottom-end supermarkets and shady petrol stations.

Having been taken off catalogue by Carlton Sounds, the band's Paul Burgess was able to obtain the remaining stock of 100 records, which are for sale, price £10 from Paul at:

23 Haywards Road, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Glos GL52 6RQ, UK.  Tel: (01242) 518676

Death of Al Sealey

It is with great regret that we pass on the news of the death, just before Christmas '99, of Al Sealey.  He had been unwell for a while with various chest and heart problems, and died in hospital of pneumonia.

Together with his brother Dave, Al performed as Cosmotheka - perhaps the most enjoyable revival of a music-hall act to be seen on the British folk scene from the '70s to the present.  They were most loved, I think, not for their brilliant humour, faultless stagecraft or superb musicianship - but because they so clearly loved the songs and the genre they were celebrating.

Despite not being seen so regularly in recent years, no-one who ever enjoyed a Cosmotheka performance will ever forget them.  Al was also a considerable music-hall historian - he will be sorely missed.

Rod Stradling

British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference

14-16 April 2000, Halifax Hall, University of Sheffield, UK

Fieldwork, Ethnography, Representation

Friday 14 April: Keynote Panel: European and American Perspectives on Fieldwork, Ethnography and Representation. Chair: Peggy Duesenberry (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow)

Saturday 15 April:

Music events and party with Yorkshire traditional music played by the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra

Sunday 16 April:

A booking form can be found at:
Note: unsold block-booked accommodation will be returned to the Hall for potential sale to other bodies on 2 March 2000. Bookings will be taken, subject to availibility, until 7 April 2000.

General conference details are at: www.shef.ac.uk/uni/academic/I-M/mus/staff/js/BFEConf.html

Programme updates will appear on: www.shef.ac.uk/uni/academic/I-M/mus/staff/js/ConfProg.html

Further details: Dr Jonathan Stock - e-mail: j.p.j.stock@sheffield.ac.uk

Bothy 2000

The Bothy Folk Club will soon be celebrating its 35th Anniversary, making it one of the longest running clubs in the country.  To celebrate this and the Millennium, from Friday 28th April until Monday 1st May, they will be holding Bothy 2000, a weekend of song , dance and reminiscing.

The planned programme, at the present time, will start with a ceilidh on Friday night.  On Saturday several dance sides will be performing in and around the town centre, whilst a musicians session and a song session will be in progress at two of the towns pubs. Also several workshops are planned.  In the evening: a concert with Strawhead, Blue C, The Lunchtime Legends and a number of surprise guests.

Sunday morning: pub sessions (and more events to be planned) and the evening Bothy Folk Club meeting at the Blundell Arms, for an extended club night.  Finally, the Southport Swords welcome in the May by dancing at dawn outside the Scarisbrick Hotel, which coincidentally heralds the start of their Beer Festival.  If any performers or ex residents would like to come and haven’t been contacted they would like to hear from you.

To find out more about this event or just about the club, visit the web site on www.bothyfolkclub.8m.com

Contact: Janet Lamb - 0151 3563750, Shelagh Boardman on 01704 566223, or Les Brown on 01704 228717, e-mail alpinefolk@alpinefolk.free-online.co.uk

The First Jimmy McHugh Memorial Concert

The Mitchell Theatre, Granville St, Glasgow - Saturday 15th January 2000, 8pm.


Jimmy McHugh was the mainstay of Irish traditional music in Glasgow for over 50 years, and was still playing his fiddle publicly a week before his untimely death on Jan 12th, 1999.  See News No 12 for his obituary.

The musicians and singers involved in the forthcoming concert (only a few of those travelling up for the weekend) were all personal friends of Jimmy's, and are delighted to demonstrate their great love for him and his family by travelling to Glasgow to play in this, the first of a series of concert to commemorate the music and life of this great Irishman.

Ticket Information 0141 569 3557 or 079799 85043


MT contributor and reviewer, Fred McCormick again presents two 10 week courses at Liverpool University's Continuing Education Centre, 126 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, at 7-9pm.  They are open to all and no musical knowledge or special qualifications are required.

Irish Music and Irish Identity starts on Monday Jan 17.  The course looks at the part played by music and song in the making of modern Ireland, and in shaping Irish national consciousness.  It will also show how the music and song traditions of Ireland came to be re-moulded as a result of that search.  Course Code LV063-879

Early Country Music starts on Tuesday Jan 18 and traces the history of American country music, roughly from the 1927 discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, through to the outbreak of world war 11.  Some later manifestations, e.g., Bluegrass and the Old Time Music revival will also be examined.  Course Code LV036-754

Further details are obtainable from 0151 794 6900/6952

Musical Traditions Club dates:

King & Queen, Foley Street, London W1 - monthly, Fridays


Rod Stradling - e-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk    Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK

Top of page Home Page Articles Reviews News Editorial Map

Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services  Updated: 27.1.03