Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.
The first event I went to
was a Saturday Singabout Night held at the Y.W.C.A. on the corner of
Wentworth Avenue and Liverpool Street. I worked with Alan Scott at
the P.M.G. and he invited me to come along.
Back cover of Singabout Vol. 2, no. 3, Dec 1957
This was in 1955 and as a
result I started going every Tuesday to the Workshop Nights which in
those days were held at Milsons Point. We rented a room from the
Fellowship of Australian Writers. I usually sat in a corner and sang.
I was eventually approached by Gay and Alan to join the club as I’d
been coming for about a year. I joined in 1956, at about the same
time as Duke Tritton.
Frank Maher, Sam Ramsay, Alan Scott, Jamie Carlin
(Ann and Frank Maher Collection, undated)
Tuesday nights consisted
of going around the room and everybody contributing an item :
singing, playing or maybe a recitation. Then we would go to the
latest Singabout magazine and learn some of the new songs.
After interval there would be request time for songs from earlier Singabout magazines, and also bush dancing.
Singabout Night at BWIU. Ann in shawl, Frank with money tin.
(Anne and Frank Maher Collection, undated)
After we had moved with
the Fellowship of Australian Writers to rooms in Clarence Street in
the city, Noreen Grunseit joined us on Tuesday nights and taught us
some new dances. Coffee at Repins in George Street became the
traditional end to the night. The beauty of Tuesday workshops was
that they were held every Tuesday, not once a month, so you didn’t
need to think which Tuesday, just turn up, which I did for many years
until the move to Marrickville.
Dancing in Noreen Grunseit's backyard. (Ann and Frank Maher collection, undated)
As a consequence of
knowing all the words I was invited to join the Concert Party and my
first away engagement with the group was to Orange for the Banjo
Paterson Festival. Members at that time were Gay and Alan Scott,
Jamie Carlin, Jack Barrie, Jan Jones, Sam Ramsay and myself. Jan had
been teaching me to play bones and lagerphone.
Concert Party at Orange at Lake Canobolas Regatta, Banjo Paterson Festival -
Jamie Carlin, Jan Jones, Frank Maher, Gay Scott, Alan Scott, Jack Barrie, 1960 (BMC archives)
We used to dress for these
occasions: Girls : long skirts usually blue and long sleeved white
blouses. For the boys : moleskin trousers, long sleeved shirt and
waistcoats. Also hats and elastic sided boots.
Some members decided that
Sam didn’t look knock about enough and wanted to alter his collar.
Sam refused and he and I moved off together, with the others coming
up in the rear. We got to where there was an art show with two women
out the front with a cash box charging to go in. We heard one women
say to the other: “Put away the cash, Gladys. Here come the
With the Concert Party our
biggest audience ever was a performance at Bringelly for a World
Jamboree of Scouts. There were 5000 Scouts in the audience.
The role of MC at the
Tuesday night workshops was shared over the years by John Meredith,
Alan Scott, Jamie Carlin, Rex Whalan, Chris Woodland and myself.
Mug given to Chris Woodland when he left his role as MC in 1968 (Chris Woodland collection)
Singabout, Vol.6, No.2, 1967 (BMC Archives)
Singabout nights were held
on Saturday nights every 3 or 4 months at the B.W.I.U. Hall in George
Street. This was a family night and and regular invitations to
perform were sent to Silvia and Tom Salisbury, Coral and George Dasey
and Denis Kevans. We would operate the Concert Party around these
entertainers and Ronda would put on the supper which was the best in
Sydney considering that the entrance fee was only two shillings.
Collection of Ann (nee Banks) and Frank Maher
One day in the early
sixties Dale Dengate introduced John to the Bush Music Club. He wrote
songs all the time and was invited into the Concert Party as second
guitarist to Sam Ramsay. We had just done a gig at the I.O.O.F. Hall
and I told Sam that the next date was in a fortnight’s time at the
Y.M.C.A. I think that Sam got his initials mixed up and ended up
again at the I.O.O.F. As Sam was getting married shortly, he dropped
out and John was elevated to lead guitarist.
John Dengate, Singabout 1966 (BMC Archives)
We celebrated our 10th
birthday in 1964 with a variety of concerts, and also a family
weekend away at Currawong on Pittwater where amongst campfire
cooking, singing and dancing, club member Brian Loughlin led a
discovery bushwalk to the Aboriginal rock engravings.
Brian Loughlin, from 1957 picture of The Bushwhackers (BMC Archives)