FolkWorld #56 03/2015
© Walkin' T:-)M

German Book Reviews

T:-)M's Night Shift

English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had been inspired to write his epic poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" when he visited Watchet in Co. Somerset in 1797. In 2003 a sculpture of Coleridge's character was unveiled at the quay. Since 2008 the statue of another mariner, John Short, is overlooking the harbour.

Malfunction Junction His parents had founded the Armagh Piper's Club [56], but whereas his brother Cillian took up the uilleann pipes [24], Niall Vallely himself chose the concertina instead. 25 years ago Niall founded the group Nomos, he appeared on some albums of his wife Karan Casey [34] and recorded a couple of solo and duo albums. Over these years he wrote loads of new music in the traditional vein, 101 tunes have been featured in Malfunction Junction. The title track, a reel named after a place in Montana, has been recorded by Scottish group Dàimh [42], as have others of his catchy compositions: "Emmett's Hedhehog" by Cillian Vallely [32], the "Unapproved Road" jig in the key of bb by his other brother Caoimhin [31], "Muireann's Jig" by Scottish guitarist Tony McManus [38], "Nina's Jig" inspired by Nina Simone playing in the background by The Poozies [40], and the "Oblique Jig" from Duncan Chisholm [42] to Alan Kelly [46] and Kan [48]. The "Cathair Geal" slip jig has been commissioned by Zoe Conway [50]. 47 of them are previously unpublished. Niall also included the air of a quasi-orchestral piece, originally written for four uilleann pipes. He indicated no ornamentation and included no chords, so every musician has the freedom to make the most of it.
Niall Vallely, Malfunction Junction – 101 Tunes. Crow Valley Music, 2014, pp116, €20

Niall Vallely

Artist Video              Niall Vallely @ FolkWorld:
              FW#24, #31, #34, #43, #53,

John Short first went to sea in the year 1848. He started working coastal vessels near his hometown Watchet, then sailed on windjammers from Quebec round Cape Horn to Callao and India, China and Australia.

Tom Brown, A Sailor's Life - The life and times of John Short of Watchet 1839 - 1933. S&A Projects, 2014, ISBN 978-0-9930468-0-3, pp165, £11.99

   We'll run from Dover to Calais
      O run let the bulgine run
      Way-yah oo, oo, oo, oo, oo, oo
      O run let the bulgine run

   O we sailed all day to Mobile Bay ...

   We'll run down south around the Horn ...

John Short continued his merchant marine career until the late 1880s, subsequently he was appointed as town crier of Watchet. He died in 1933 at the age of 94 - when the average life expectancy of a seaman was only 45 years.

John Short was a humble man, so they say, and the history of humble people is not documented as they live their lives.

On the face of it, this life was not remarkable. It followed a pattern familiar to thousands of other men from coastal ports around the British Isles during the huge expansion of shipping and trade which followed the American War of 1812 and which, under canvas, continued through to the coming of the supremacy of steam.

What initially makes John Short special is that, when he was visited by the great English folk-song collector Cecil Sharp in 1914, Sharp collected fifty-seven songs from him, all but one of them deep-sea shanties. John was not merely s sailor who happened to remember a few shanties - he had been a shantyman: someone who was taken on the crew because he had the ability to lead work songs that kept a crew working at hauling or heaving in a concerted and efficient way.

One good shantyman, it was said, was as good as five extra men on the rope or round the capstan.

In 1857, John Short had learnt his first sea shanty, "Stormalong John".

I wished I was old Stormy's son
   To my way ay Stormalong John
I wished I was old Stormy's son
   Ha, ha, come along, get along
   Stormy along John

If I was old Stormy's son
I'd build a ship of a thousand ton

I'd treat you well and raise your pay
And stand you drinks five times a day

O Stormalong and round we go
O Stormalong through ice and snow

Armstrong's Patent

Maritime Music @ FolkWorld:
FW#6, #15, #29, #32, #34, #38, #43, #47

It was a tradition aboard large sailing vessels to sing shanties. This co-ordinated the efforts of the crew when hoisting sails or heaving on a capstan.

Many an African-American ended up on deep-sea ships, and it was the fusion of habitual rhythmic work-songs (from the slave field experience), vocal strength and narrative coming together from the Black American, the Irish, the English and other cultures that drove the development of shantying.

John Short’s strong voice often led him to take up the role of solo shantyman, having a repertoire of early shanty versions learnt decades before the more famous Stan Hugill was acquiring his repertoire.

Short Sharp Shanties

Cecil Sharp had this to say about John Short:

He has the folk-singer's tenacious memory and very great musical ability ... It would be difficult, I imagine, to find a more experienced exponent of the art of chantey-singing...

To complement the three CDs of new recordings of John Short’s entire collected repertoire, featuring Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates and Sam Lee, A Sailor's Life is telling his life story and about the ships on which he sailed. Author Tom Brown sought to separate sailor's yarn from actual history by quoting from ships' log books and newspapers of the day.

There are not only song snippets scattered throughout the text but including the shanties he sang as well. They are extended with typical verses from other versions, for John often gave Cecil Sharp only a verse or two and then said and so on, explainig that you do put in what you've a mind to after that.

Keith Kendrick

Artist Video Keith Kendrick @ FolkWorld:
FW#29, #50

Jackie Oates

Artist Video Jackie Oates @ FolkWorld:
FW#47, #51

Sam Lee

Artist Video Sam Lee @ FolkWorld:
FW#52, #52, #52

Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (5) Armstrong's Patent, (6) Keith Kendrick, (7) Jackie Oates (from website/author/publishers); (8) Sam Lee (by Wakin' Tom); (4) Niall Vallely (by Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup).

Previous Book Reviews
Next Book Reviews
FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Children Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld