Monday, 4 June 2012

Memories of early days at the Bush Music Club by R. Dale Dengate




Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.


read by Margaret Walters in Dale & John's absence.

As a keen bush walker in the early 1960s, I found the Bush Music Club’s Singabout Songsters in Youth Hostels and met a couple of Club members. They invited me along to their meetings which were held on Tuesday evenings near Wynyard station. The format was similar to Methodist fellowship meetings where you sat around and sang songs. A welcome difference was that at the BMC meetings, we had portraits of well-known Australian writers, such as Henry Lawson and Mary Gilmore, looking down on us as we sang, danced or played.



Bushwhackers singing at Lawson statue in Botanical Gardens, Sydney, c.1956
 (BMC Archives)

Bushwhackers at Dame Mary Gilmore's 90th Birthday in 1955 
(BMC Archives)

There were many keen, nimble dancers, often led by Noreen Grunseit and John Meredith.  Most of the musicians were older men who played concertinas and accordions, except for Frank Maher and Jamie Carlin who were closer to my generation. Frank played the bones, and Jamie played the concertina by ear and didn’t need sheet music, which I found amazing. 

 Concert party   (BMC archives)

In 1961, I encouraged another young teacher from my school, to accompany me to the Club. He was John Dengate, who was learning to play the guitar, and had already written lots of songs about his experiences in Menindee and in the National Service. Alan Scott, Merro and others, encouraged John to bring along a new song every week and to use traditional tunes. (John continues to this day to trace the political history of Australia as an unapologetic supporter of the worker and the union movement, and as a commentator on the follies of our political leaders.)

 Alex Bowker and John Dengate, Singabout 6(1), 1966 (BMC Archives)
  
We often went away with the concert party to places in the bush like Gulgong, Carcoar and Tuena, playing and singing on street corners or on the back of trucks. Everything was much more ‘make do’ and I used to wear a long skirt which was really a curtain.

BMC at Trunkey Creek Festival. 
On the back of the truck from left to right are: Dale Dengate playing bones, Jamie Carlin on concertina with bandaged wrist[ a story to be told], Brian Haylett on accordion, Eric Bolton standing and covering most of John Dengate behind him, Elaine Wood on largerphone with ribbon across her bosom, probably for best float, and Noel Ricketts on mouth organ. Every time we hit a pot hole in the dirt road, we all nearly fell off the truck; it was as rough as the sign on the back of the truck, but it was great fun.  (Dale and John Dengate Collection)  

Members busking at Gulgong. 
Jamie Carlin, Ronda Carlin holding the lagerphone, Dale Dengate wearing  
glasses seated on step (Dale and John Dengate Collection) 

I especially recall Pam and Brian Loughlin, Brian was a very lively fellow who played the bones and largerphone in Reedy River in 1954 – he was a great showman on the bones. Brian worked in the printing trade and told hilarious stories of the boss, Frank Packer, who used to chiack him about his work for the Communist Party and the Union. Brian and Pam brought up a large family in a small worker’s cottage in Rozelle. 

 Frank  Maher, Sam Ramsay, Alan Scott & Jamie Carlin (BMC Archives)
 
There was an occasion when Brian was being bundled into the back of a paddy wagon after a Peace March. Although Pam was eight-months pregnant, she chased the wagon, pounding on it shouting: “You can’t take him away! He has to come home to look after the children or I’ll bring them all down to the cop shop.”

After the first National Folk Festival in Sydney (The Port Jackson Festival, 1972), John and I had a number of folk from Melbourne staying with us at our home in Glebe. They all went to a production of Reedy River at the New Theatre on the Sunday evening and when they came home, I was kept busy making pots of tea. Those were the days when all the pubs closed on Sundays, so there was no grog. But the old lady next door felt the singing, music and laughter around midnight, was too noisy, so she called the police. It was probably Brian who was playing the bones while being upside down on our lounge who had us all laughing that caused the late-night ruckus. However, when the police arrived, they were apologetic as they said they couldn’t hear any noise from the street, but knocked because it was the only house with a light on. They declined a cup of tea and went away. Glebe in those days was known as a very rough suburb and the folkies from Melbourne were thrilled, as they knew they could dine out on the story of being in a house, in Glebe, drinking cups of tea when it was raided by police and probably ASIO! 




Banner made by Dale in 1968, photo of Alex Bowker, 1970s 
(BMC archives)

Pam and Brian were keen dancers, so we were all saddened when Brian had an asthma attack at the bush dance celebrating the end of the Vietnam war. He died on the way to the hospital. Indeed as one looks back over the early decades of the Bush Music Club, one recalls larger-than-life characters - some who are no longer with us - with a range of mixed emotions.

 Banner made by Dale, 2012 (Wayne Richmond photo)



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Sunday, 3 June 2012

The First Few Years by Jamie Carlin.




Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.
 
Dave Johnson spoke about the influence Jamie had on him in his early days at BMC & read the following which was originally published in Singabout Vol 5, No 2, October 1964, pages 12-14.

 The following is a collection of reminiscences culled from memory and diaries, volumes 1955 and later. As my activities over the years have always been linked with musical and vocal performances, the Concert Parties and other entertainment groups figure prominently.

1954 --- Reedy River produced by New Theatre was still playing to packed houses every week end - starring the Bushwhackers' Band led by John Meredith. My father had taken me to see Reedy River in February as a 17th birthday treat and I cannot recollect having ever been so impressed by rollicking music. The results were understandable: within a week I knew every song by heart -- it seemed as if folk music had always been around me and that I had just discovered it. That first impression must have been good - it is still with me.
In conjunction with a few friends, we began practising songs and instrumental arrangements. I had built a lagerphone and with mouth organ and tenor and treble recorders, practised various bush ballads.

(BMC Archives)

In Lewisham, Ken Hansen's group, the West Sydney Singers, were singing folk songs in 4, 6 and 8 part arrangements, and I soon became part of this group, singing songs from Vol. 1 of Bandicoot Ballads.

About October, a foolscap circular headed The B.M.C. was circulated. It set out the intentions of several of the Bushwhackers' Band, to form an organization of the many friends of the Bushwhackers.

The newly formed BUSH MUSIC CLUB met on Friday nights at the Video Studios, Castlereagh Street, and although I have not recorded my first visit, it was quite close to the foundation. The small group at Granville were regularly practising - COBB & CO., DENNIS O'REILLY, THE OLD BARK HUT, CLICK GO THE SHEARS. The personnel were Max McDermott, Jamie Carlin, Bill Berry and Dick Fitzgerald, musical accompaniment as mentioned above. This group dissolved eventually, and I became a more regular attender of the B.M.C. meetings.

Jamie Carlin & Herb Gimbert  (BMC Archives)

In March, 1955, New Theatre revived Reedy River for two week ends, and I took part in my first theatrical performance. It was the intention of the B.M.C. to encourage the formation of small bands in various suburbs, capable of doing work similar to that of the Bushwhackers' Band. However, these small groups did not last very long, and eventually broke apart; some members joined the B.M.C.

The Australian Folklore Society was functioning strongly at this time (Secretary, John Meredith). A monthly meeting was held on a Saturday afternoon at the Y.M.C.A., where tapes and records were played and notes and discussions exchanged. It was at these meetings that I first met Duke Tritton, Joe Cashmere and Sally Sloane. Meetings were normally followed by a party at one of the members' homes.

On 30th March, '55, three B.M.C. members, Alan Scott, Jamie Carlin and Patricia Burke, attended a social at Sutherland School of Arts. This is probably the first attendance of a group on behalf of the B.M.C. other than the Bushwhackers, who were a separate organization.

Following this event, the group met for practise at Joy and Claude Durst's home in North Sydney, and later at the home of Madge and Harry Glendenning. A film night was held at the Video Studios, 3rd June, to see Captain Thunderbolt, a film about the bushranger and featuring a composed N.C.B. tune. Several weeks later, 24th June, an A.B.C. Broadcast consisted of Songs of the Shearers, by Nancy Keesing, starring the Bushwhackers.
The B.M.C. were currently singing SOUTH AUSTRALIA, THE RABBITER, GIVE A FAIR GO, ANDY, THE DROVER'S DREAM, THE LITTLE SPARROW, WALLY THE WEATHERMAN and other songs from the Bushwhacker Broadsides.

On Friday 8th July, it was suggested that a magazine could be a desirable feature of the B.M.C. and that a party similar to those of the Folk Lore Society could be held.

The group from the B.M.C. (who later adopted the name of Rouseabouts), performed at several functions, a House party at St. Kilda Flats, at the Barnardo Homes, Normanhurst, etc. Nancy Keesing had written a new script, A Poor Convict in Chains for the A.B.C., and this was broadcast, starring the Bushwhackers, on 29th July, 1955.

During ten years of bringing Australia's songs to the public, membership of the Club's Concert Group has been constantly changed. The group above are, from left (standing) Alan Scott, Jamie Carlin, Marietta Stratton, Janice Jones, Frank Maher, Ann Banks, 
(seated) Herb Gimbert, Tony McLachlan. (photo in original story)

 On Sept. 3rd the first Australian Folk Lore Festival was held at Federation House, organized by the F.L.S. This event was a resounding success with a programme of traditional and local singers. The event received a lot of favourable publicity in the newspapers, particularly in the "People" magazine, which devoted several pages to the spread.

 Leaflet for 1959 Folk Lore Festival (Ann & Frank Maher collection)

The day following the Folk Lore Festival was the pilgrimage to the Henry Lawson statue in the Sydney Domain, where the B.M.C. performed and were eagerly photographed by the newspapers.

 Bushwhackers at Lawson statue (BMC Archives)

In Sept. '55 it was decided to regularise club proceedings, and membership was defined at 5/- per year.

The open air concert at Como, which was to become an annual event was first held on Sunday 18th Sept. '55, at this function the Bushwhackers' Band performed, together with items from the children at the local high school.

The "concert group" from the B.M.C., now known as the Rouseabouts, performed at various functions round Sydney.

On 11th November a "Ned Kelly Night" was held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the death of Ned Kelly.



Another A.B.C. broadcast, script by Nancy Keesing, named On the Wallaby Track starred the Bushwhackers (25th Nov.)

On Sat. 26th Nov. a function called Singabout was held. As far as I can determine, this is the first occasion that this name was used.

The B.M.C. now moved to the Seamen's Club, 36 Pitt Street, Monday nights from 12th December, '55.

In 1955 the Bushwhackers were: John Meredith, Alan Scott, Cec Grivas, Chris Kempster, Brian Loughlin and Alec Hood.

The Rouseabouts were: Alan Scott, Jamie Carlin, Patricia Burke, Harry Glendenning and Arthur Newell.

7th January, 1956 was the 2nd birthday party of the Folk Lore Society, and the cake with two candles was piped around the hall of the Carlton School of Arts to the tune of THE BALL OF KERRYMUIR, played on recorder and mouth organ.

The B.M.C. decided to hold a mystery picnic, 22nd January, destination unknown, a bus was hired and a load of people were taken to Garrie Beach.

On 6th February, there was an election of officers, and I was elected librarian.

On 11th February, the first Conference and a Singabout Night were held. This was approximately the same date as the appearance of the first Singabout magazine.



Saturday, 2 June 2012

A few comments on John Meredith by Chris Woodland




Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.

I have called this short talk on this larger than life man A Few Comments on John Meredith because in the allocated time that is all we can do. The National Library of Australia in conjunction with Gay Scott has already produced the book John Meredith – a Tribute, and the full story of John Meredith will appear sometime in the not-too-distant-future, we hope, written by Keith McKenry.

For now I will just contribute a diverse array of memories of Merro, as he came to be endearingly known.

He was born and died in Holbrook, NSW. His father died when John was quite young. His father had been a violent man when drunk and treated Merro brutally.

As we are aware he became known, in his time, as the greatest collector of Australian folk songs and music; without him, and a few others, a whole tradition would have been lost.

 Merro with the original Lagerphone made by his brother Claude (Rob Willis photo)

He was also an author of about twenty books, was a poet and reciter, musician and singer.

 Merro playing Pop Craythorne’s accordion (Rob Willis photo)

He was good with children. He enlightened and entertained them in an easy but mature manner, treating them as sensible human beings.


adults - Chris, Mero, Tom  Pahuto, children - Jack, Dan & Abbie Barton
in Salt Lake kitchen with yellowbelly caught by Merro & Chris in
Numbardie Tank, June 1993. (Chris Woodland collection)

He was more than a collector. He was, among many things, a knowledgeable man of many cultures, varieties of music and literature. In my collection I have six books he produced of Japanese Haikus.

 Merro launching his book on Frank the Poet (Bob Bolton photo)

His weekend home near Balmoral Village - later to be his residence after retirement - he called Walden, after Henry David Thoreau's book of the same name. Thoreau's publication introduced the idea of passive resistance to oppose aggressive regimes, and was eventually taken up by the likes of Mahatma Ghandi. Mainly the book described Thoreau's experiences in sustainability on his farm called Walden. Merro was greatly impressed by the publication.

He also had a wonderful knowledge of botany and horticulture, collecting seeds and cutting from far and wide over the years – a rose cutting from an Araluen graveyard in the mid '60s, seeds of the western Kurrajong at Mt Gunderbooka, south-west of Bourke, in the early '90s, and some self-sown Silky Oak seedlings a few short months before he died. Two of those western Kurrajong seedlings grew into proud trees at the Wirrimbirra Native Nursery near his home at Thirlmere, where he moved after leaving Walden. One of those little Silky Oak seedlings is now called the Merro Tree and stands about forty feet high in view from my office. (That is 12.2 metres for the unknowing in our midst.)

Even in his younger days his understanding of chemistry was to a level where he was permitted to produce prescriptions when the Holbrook pharmacist went on holidays. Related to his knowledge of chemistry led to an understanding of which toadstools to eat. Eventually he became very ill following a tasting of a variety of said fungus; so he was human after all! (He made a mistake, but survived.) He never again dabbled with toadstools after that.

He had collected all these songs relating to the shearing industry, but did not work in a shearing shed until he was 73 years of age; that was in 1993 on our way back from Cooper Creek when I took him to a station from my past in the Paroo River area of outback north-west NSW.

 
Tom Pahuto shearing with Merro rouseabouting at Salt Lake Shed, June 1993.
Tom, a Maori from NZ, was living in Hamilton Victoria at the time.
(Chris Woodland photo)
As several of us can testify (Rob Willis and Peter Ellis particularly; possibly Kevin Bradley) Merro was a great travelling companion. He was a good cook and when he and I really went bush he would produce a variety of flavoursome meals from the yellowbelly, kangaroo, rabbits and goats that I would hunt. Yes, he was wonderful company when on the road. Almost perfect, but for one negative attribute – his snoring was unbelievably loud! He would wake fresh in the mornings, while his fellow traveller would have suffered a fitful night.



Merro & Woody's camp at Cooper Creek about 400 yards from the Dig Tree,
18th June 1993. The Cooper is just behind Merro & the coolabah trees. He had
lost his fly veil & the flies annoyed him greatly, so he wore coolabah leaves
on twigs around his hat to deter them! The previous evening we had
celebrated Lawson's birthday on the banks of the Cooper with some
music & a bottle of red. (Chris Woodland photo)

 He made many friends. He would also doggedly and, often unreasonably, refuse to tolerate some people. I learnt not to mention some names, Tim Flannery and Ben Chifley among them.

A young Merro standing toe to toe on Sydney trains arguing ideology to hostile commuters as he attempted to sell the Tribune - a weekly communist publication - demonstrated his dedication to the cause in those earlier days. In later life he claimed he was a Buddhist and was very popular with the Chinese in Thirlmere, at least. It surprised me when he, as a very cultured man, refused to use chopsticks. When I queried this he said, ’Well, you don't knit with forks!” He had many sayings like that.

  Merro at Thirlmere (Chris Woodland photo)

John Meredith, Merro, was also an ornithologist, a thespian, photographer, confidant, colleague, correspondent and collaborator. He was a mentor, mate and much, much more; and we still miss him.


Merro & Chris at National Library, 1993 (Chris Woodland collection)



Merro's wake (Bob Bolton collection)

Chris Woodland for the Bush Music Club production at the National Folk Festival, Easter 2012.

Memories of Reedy River & The Bush Music Club by Silvia Salisbury

Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.


In 1947 my father took me, a child of 12, to see my first play at the New Theatre - then at 167 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. This was a small amateur group performing plays on a repertory basis since 1932, covering a wide range of plays from Shaw to Shakespeare, Cliff Odets to Arthur Miller, topical political revues, parodied versions of Gilbert and Sullivan, plays with a political or social theme or “message”, plays with a working class bias, plays dealing with racism, social justice and peace in the world.

They encouraged and supported Australian playwrights.

In 1952, as a starry-eyed teenager I joined the New Theatre and was keen for any ‘walk-on’ part. Then in 1953, there was a buzz in the theatre. They were going to do a production of REEDY RIVER by Dick Diamond. This had been done earlier in the year by Melbourne New Theatre to great success.

This musical, based around the shearers’ strike of 1891, used Australian folksongs, bush songs and songs composed in the bush tradition and was the right play at the right time. There was an awakening of interest in our past, particularly the rural life of Australian workers, and the songs of the show expressed and captured that life so genuinely.

(1953 production of Reedy River, BMC archives)

REEDY RIVER required many actors, singers, dancers and a new type of ‘orchestra’. This was supplied by the Bushwhackers Band with it's lagerphone and bush bass. I do not know whether Reedy River made the Bushwhackers Band or the other way around, but I do know that my love of Australian bush songs started with being in that first production of Reedy River.

 1964 production (Silvia and Tom Salisbury collection)

I was a city/suburban girl from a Celtic/Anglo background singing the English and Irish songs of my parents with no knowledge that there were any ‘Australian’ songs except for the occasional radio broadcasts of songs from the war, such as There’s a brown slouch hat with the sides turned up or The Road to Gundagai etc. So these bush songs from Reedy River grounded my youthful psyche to Australia and not to the strong but nevertheless second-hand, distant culture of my parents.

  1964 production (Silvia and Tom Salisbury collection)

The opening night of Reedy River was abuzz with excitement, not nerves, for we knew we had a success on our hands. The foyer was decorated with the wonderful reproductions of the Holterman photos of the goldfields of the 1870’s whose negatives on glass had recently been discovered. The usual run of a show at New Theatre in those days was 8 - 10 weeks but Reedy River, with its theme and songs, struck such a chord in the people who came to see it, and the strength of ‘word-of-mouth’ publicity, that the season was extended to nine months with changes of cast and extra performances added. Even when the season ended at the New, the cast and crew were kept busy taking the show to school halls and out to suburban areas. I graduated from chorus singer to playing the female lead of Mary opposite Milton Moore’s Joe Collins.

  1964 production (Silvia and Tom Salisbury collection)

Ten years later I again played Mary opposite Pat Barnett in a new production of Reedy River and I think I brought deeper understanding to the role and the songs as, in the intervening years, my husband and I joined the Bush Music Club and often performed at their Singabout nights.

Here I also worked with Chris Kempster who set the Lawson poem Reedy River to music when he was only 16 and who played the part of Snowy in that 1953/54 production.

It was at the Bush Music Club that I learnt more Australian bush songs and came to appreciate the great work done by John Meredith and Duke Tritton in collecting and saving from oblivion the songs from shearers and drovers. There weren’t many songs from a woman’s point of view, but young men such as Chris Kempster and Mike Leydon were setting the poems of Lawson and other poets to music and John Dengate was writing his own satirical words to traditional tunes and, although not truly ‘bush’ songs, they were great songs and great to sing.

By 1964 I had three children and it was great to be able to bring them to Singabout nights held in the Building Workers’ Industrial Union’s building in George Street, Sydney. I remember hot summer evenings with the upstairs windows open and hoping if I was singing a quiet, sad song that the orange-clad Han Krishna group would not go banging and jingling their way up George Street on a noisy Saturday night. Those nights of singing and dancing were great. We could take the kids with us (no need to organize baby-sitters) and they could join in the dances with the kindly teenagers and older people helping them to learn the steps and guiding them down the line of dancers.

Arising out of these Singabout nights, one could learn how to become a performer and try out new songs to an understanding audience. Through this experience I teamed up with Chris Kempster and we sang anti-war songs at Save Our Sons rallies during the Vietnam War. We sang at folk clubs, Lawson festivals and peace rallies. One memorable night we performed Australian songs to a huge crowd at the Rushcutters Bay Stadium to visiting Chinese officials (long before China was recognised by our government) where a very youthful David Gulpillil performed an amazing kangaroo dance. We sang at the unfinished Chalwin Castle in Cremorne for Pete Seeger on his first visit to Australia to give him a taste of Australian songs. It was here that a young Jeannie Lewis sang the Queensland version of Waltzing Matilda.

 (Anne and Frank Maher collection)

Through my background of Reedy River and the Bush Music Club I was part of a series of short films being made by the film makers of the Waterside Workers’ Federation - Keith Gow, Jock Levy and Norma Disher. Keith Gow was co-director of the 1953/54 production of Reedy River and Norma was the costume maker for both the productions of Reedy River I was in. These short films used Australian songs sung by Alex Hood as a background to the film version of the songs. The films were screened on the ABC as fillers when programmes finished early due to the ABC not having ads. These films were also shown at film festivals.

ABC films Reedy River songs (Silvia and Tom Salisbury collection)

Now in my late 70’s some things have come full circle. With an aging voice, but my love of songs and singing still intact, choral singing suits me perfectly, and with my New Theatre philosophy from my youth of art being used for a wider purpose than just self-expression, I joined the Sydney Trade Union Choir. Who should be there but Paula Bloch, a founding member of the choir and a singer in that 1953/54 Reedy River. And who should be the Musical Director for the choir but Tom Bridges, the son of Doreen Bridges who wrote the music for The Ballad of 1891, one of the most stirring songs from Reedy River. Tom also played the violin in one of the productions of Reedy River. Now our present Musical Director is Margot McLauglin, the daughter of Cedric McLaughlin who played the swaggie in Reedy River and whose moving singing of My Old Black Billy still rings in my memory. One of the STUC’s favourite songs, Four Strong Women, about four British peace activists, was written by Maurie Mulheron, the nephew of Pat Barnett who played Joe Collins in the 1964 Reedy River with me.

Sydney Trade Union Choir singing Ballad of 1891 at the workshop 
(photo - Sandra Nixon)

Silvia (photo - Sandra Nixon)

It is not only the times spent in Reedy River and the learning and performing songs for the Bush Music Club’s Singabouts that one remembers but the almost 60 years of pleasure and purpose which sprang out of that twin birth of New Theatre’s Reedy River and the Bush Music Club and for this I owe them my heartfelt thanks, my well-being and my best wishes for the future of both of them.

Early Bush Music Club Days by Frank Maher


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 gypsies!”

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)

Bill Scott's talk about his parents Alan & Gay Scott


 Talks from BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.


I’ve been responsible for a few truly dreadful renditions of some songs in my time, but I’ve also come up with a few okay ones (at least considering the amount of time I went to practising them.) Thanks to my parents, I had a completely painless musical education that stands me in good stead to this day; it began when I was going to sing-alongs in the womb, and never really stopped~

When we were kids, Dad had his reel to reel tape player and one of my inexhaustible supply of uncles four or five hundred miles north had a four track. Come early December Mum, Dad, my brother Steven and myself would start singing a whole bunch of Christmas carols and, once we got them right, we’d record them and send the tape off to Queensland for Grandma, Uncle Dave, Uncle Bill, Aunty Esme and the rest of the gang to listen to. Uncle Dave would send the tape back in January. (Magnetic tape was expensive. My honorary uncle, John Meredith, once described recording watching the tape counter as if it was the meter in a taxi ticking over).

There weren’t any singers in the family up there at that time. I imagine all Uncle Bill’s creative energy was being soaked up by the novels he was writing, so Uncle Dave would record a spoken word letter filling us in on the latest developments in the extended family. It was during one of these letters that we found out that Uncle Dave had more than just a mono tape machine. He hadn’t taped over our singing to record his letter. Instead, he’d added the letter as another track. At one point, he described a succession of deaths, accidents, illnesses and sundry bad news to a series of rousing songs of hope and joy lustily executed by the New South Wales Scott family in full flight; Dad with his stylish steady tenor, Mum who had this knack for communicating liveliness. (I’m not sure how she did this much of the time. She studied acting for a year or more so there was a lot of technique and nurture going into it, but sometimes I got it like, for instance, when she ended a verse with a harmony most of the way up the octave from the basic tune to give the chorus that bit more oomph.) And, of course, Steven and I would fill up the soprano/falsetto bandwidth, figuring we’d have to sing awful loud so that Grandma could hear from all those miles away.


(Scott family album)

Mum and Dad didn’t have much to do with the folk scene during most of my brother’s and my childhood because we were two hungry mouths to feed and there was a ravenous mortgage to provide for as well. I remember one weekend afternoon when Dad had a bit of time to spare between overtime and nightshift. He picked up the concertina and ran through a sailor’s song. Half way into the second verse Steven decided to lose it in a big way and tell mum he wasn’t going for his nap. He ended up howling racking sobs, drawing ragged breaths, lying on his stomach beating the floor with his fists. Dad, unperturbed, sang his way through the scene although he did, eventually, change the words of the chorus from “don’t cry little fishy” to “don’t cry little Stevie.

I’m really proud of the songs Mum and Dad nurtured over the years and fascinated by the different versions of them that I’ve heard from several generations of performers - from the really early stuff held in the National Library, collected by Dad, John Meredith and others, through the electric Bushwackers, Jason and Chloe and the amazing line up of performers who just keep coming. For instance, the Banks of the Condamine can be tragic or comic. Frank the Poet’s Morton Bay can be a lament or a bitter rant. Which tune for Waltzing Matilda - Who’ll be a Soldier for Marlborough, or the Queensland version? How maudlin can you get Little Fishy to sound at three in the morning after way too much grog? Thanks to everyone for recognizing mum and dad’s contribution.



  
 Article from Singabout, Vol.3, no.2. Autumn 1959 (BMC Archives)




(Alex Hood & Bill Scott, NFF 2012 - Sandra Nixon photo)