The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469   Message #3292330
Posted By: Vic Smith
18-Jan-12 - 03:32 PM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
First of all, could I sympathise with you and share your disquiet that the excellent club that you are involved with has had its reputation undermined in this way? Indeed, I feel partly responsible in that it was my complaint about Jim's insulting description of you that was followed by this unfair, untrue and uncalled for comment.

Then could I thank you very much for that link to Sheila's interview in Living Tradition? I thought that I had every copy of that magazine, but I certainly had not read that before. My memory was particularly stirred by the paragraph which reads:-

There is no such praise for 'Doomsday in the Afternoon', the "big book" about the Stewarts that Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger brought out in 1986, after 25 years in the compiling. "This horrible book! They got a lot of things wrong. They never let us go through it, we never knew that it was to be out and it caused a hell of a stink among travelling people, because he put in things that we never even said to them. We wouldnae go against wor own folk, because our life was secret, but my mother got the blame of it from the travellers."

I need to explain that from the mid 1960s onwards, I used to organise tours of south-east England for various traditional performers - to the relatively few folk clubs that were interested in hearing the authentic tradition, mainly this was for Scots travellers and mainly The Stewarts as well as Lizzie Higgins. The tours used to fall into a pattern of clubs and performers sometimes used to arrive in Lewes having been at The Singers' Club the night before. The Stewarts sometimes used to arrive in a stew (sorry!) about staying in Beckenham with Ewan & Peggy though my memory says that it was usually Peggy that was in the bad with Belle.
One time the Stewarts arrived at our house not long after the publication of Till Doomsday in the Afternoon and I had obtained and read a copy as soon as it was published. I had noticed quite a number of mistakes in the book, mainly in the transcription of the song words, One that I remember is in Geordie Weir (page 247) where the first line of the chorus is given as:-
So I wish I was back in Smerendale Rye

when it was pretty obvious to me that the line was sung as:-
So I wish I was back aince mair* in Dalry,

* aince mair = once more.

I wanted to take these mistakes up with Belle - but I didn't get a chance! She came into our house with both guns blazing about the 'bluddy awfa' book and how it was full of lies and how it was ruining the Stewarts' reputation amongst their own people and that I was never to book them into that damned club again. I remember thinking at the time that Belle often blew hot and cold about the folklorists that she encountered (Hamish Henderson amongst them) and that another time I might be hearing good things about MacColl from her. Whether the Stewarts actually did go back to the Singers' Club and to stay at Beckenham on another tour after that I cannot remember, but I'm fairly sure that they must have been back there after the publication as the Singers Club continued until 1991.