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Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?

Grab 18 Jul 01 - 06:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Jul 01 - 06:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Jul 01 - 07:06 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 18 Jul 01 - 07:37 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 18 Jul 01 - 07:39 PM
Jon Freeman 18 Jul 01 - 07:58 PM
Bill D 19 Jul 01 - 12:15 AM
Bill D 19 Jul 01 - 12:16 AM
Bill D 19 Jul 01 - 12:22 AM
nutty 19 Jul 01 - 11:59 AM
Grab 19 Jul 01 - 12:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Jul 01 - 01:09 PM
nutty 19 Jul 01 - 01:17 PM
ChanteyMatt 19 Jul 01 - 03:25 PM
Grab 19 Jul 01 - 03:29 PM
Gareth 19 Jul 01 - 04:02 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Jul 01 - 05:46 PM
Gareth 19 Jul 01 - 07:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Jul 01 - 07:36 PM
Matthew Edwards 19 Jul 01 - 07:41 PM
Matthew Edwards 19 Jul 01 - 08:18 PM
Gareth 19 Jul 01 - 08:33 PM
Matthew Edwards 19 Jul 01 - 08:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Jul 01 - 09:02 PM
Grab 20 Jul 01 - 11:49 AM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Jul 01 - 02:08 PM
Charley Noble 21 Jul 01 - 09:44 AM
GUEST,Clive Pownceby 23 May 14 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,Clive Pownceby 23 May 14 - 10:11 AM
Ross Campbell 23 May 14 - 08:24 PM
LesB 24 May 14 - 05:33 AM
GUEST,Clive Pownceby 24 May 14 - 06:43 AM
Ross Campbell 24 May 14 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Frank Sellors 24 May 14 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Frank Sellors 24 May 14 - 11:30 AM
GUEST,Frank Sellors 24 May 14 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,henryp 14 Oct 14 - 06:38 AM
GUEST,LesB 15 Oct 14 - 03:39 AM
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Subject: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Grab
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 06:29 PM

I'm (originally) from a place called Lytham St. Annes, in Lancashire, England, and I've been thinking about learning and/or writing some songs about my local history.

The most significant local incident was the Mexico Disaster in 1886. A ship called the Mexico ran aground in a storm, and the Lytham, St. Annes and Southport lifeboats all went out to help. The St. Annes lifeboat was lost with all hands, the Southport lifeboat capsized and all the crew but two were drowned, but the Lytham lifeboat managed to reach the ship and take the crew to safety. 27 lifeboatmen (all volunteers) died to save the 12 crewmen of the Mexico, which is still the worst loss of life in the history of the British lifeboat service. A contribution fund was set up to help the families, and to raise awareness of the fund (and the contribution of lifeboatmen in general), Flag Day was instituted.

Being 1886, plenty of bad Victorian poetry was apparently written about it, and I've found one already on the web (called The Warriors Of The Sea - you can imagine the style). I've no intention of repeating that tripe; what I'm interested in finding is anyone who knows of any better-written songs about the event, or of any decent poems which could be put to music. Failing that, I'll roll my own, but I'd be interested to see if anyone knows of existing ones.

Amazingly, considering Britain's nautical history, the only mentions I've found of the incident are on local history sites in Lancashire or lifeboat sites - I've not found mention of it on any chantey sites or sites about nautical history.

Graham.

PS. Found one song by a band called "Odd at Ease", but I don't like it.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 06:52 PM

A lot of good songs started out as pretty dreadful hackwork broadside ballads - but they got worn down and amended and turned into something better.

So there's no harm in posting a pedestrian (or worse) piece such as you indicate Warriors of the Sea to be. It might even have the effect of bringing to light something better. If you think it'd contaminate the Mudcat - and with some of the stuff that's going down in the longest thread currently on the forum, anything would serve to improve the tone I reckon - maybe you could post a link here.

The theme of lifeboats was a very popular one in hymns of the period too - a browse through Moodie and Sankey might throw up some ideas for a new song, and there are first class tunes there.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 07:06 PM

I've just had a look round myself and found the song - here's a link to The Warriors of the Sea

And I don't agree with you about it being tripe. It's grandiloquent, and there are lines that might grate with modern sensibilities, but stick a good tune to it and it's got some power I reckon. I think the oral tradition might well have done great things with it.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 07:37 PM

The Warriors of the Sea scans well, each long line of the verse in two parts separated by a comma, thus recitable and probably singable. I remember a film long ago about the lifeboat crews, and part of the verse was used in the background. Some rewrite would probably work wonders. As McGrath says, it has possibilities. Stan Rogers did a couple of shipwreck songs that became popular, at least here in Canada. Good hunting!


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 07:39 PM

I think this verse should be in the digitrad lyrics. I don't know how to do it- perhaps McGrath could do it.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 07:58 PM

Thread creep, but Grab made me think of it, now I live near Cromer, I should see if there are any songs about the heroics of Henry Blogg, a great man in lifeboat history.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 12:15 AM

*reading this with growing interest....mind having this vague memory*

ahhhh...*scurrying down to the catacombs and pushing odd books aside until*....yes!....*trudging back upstairs and ploping on the scanner "Songs of the Wexford Coast",,,collected by John Ranson,C.C....Godfrey's, Market Square, Enniscorthy....Redmond Bros., Printers,,(this is a reprint, done by Folcroft Libraries, Folcroft, PA. 1977.

*ftp of resulting GIF to my little spot on the WWW*

"The Mexico", by John Codd, Blessington, Tagoat

hope this is the right one


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 12:16 AM

nope..*sigh* reading...wrong date,,,but interesting song


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 12:22 AM

wonder why ships named 'Mexico' sank so easily?..


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: nutty
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 11:59 AM

There's also this one in the Bodleian

CLICK HERE


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Grab
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 12:26 PM

Thanks for the contribution Bill, but it's the wrong Mexico (and the wrong country - your one is in Wexford). Still an decent song though.

OK McGrath, maybe not tripe, but it's certainly not something I could get any real feeling behind. The Victorians were too fond of their airbrushed "death or glory" thing, and that's a real turn-off.

Nutty, that's interesting, although incomplete (chorus is not given). How did you find that? I've had a look on the Bodleian site, and I can't seem to find the search option (apart from a general search on the main pages, which doesn't bring it up).

Graham.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE WARRIORS OF THE SEA
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 01:09 PM

That thread with the song is fascinating - I'd advise anyone interested in lifeboats and lifeboat disasters to get into it. Here is a link to the home page.

The style is the style of the period, but then that is what folk music is also about really. "Airbrushed death or glory?" - that would imply that they died easy deaths, and I can't see that. Brave men going out from their homes to try to rescue fellow seamen in trouble, in awful conditions, being swept to their death and missed by families and community, who are proud of them. Not that different really from this one, so far as those kind of criticisms are concerned anyway.

Anyway, here are the words in question, in which would make it easier to chase it up on the Mudcat:

THE WARRIORS OF THE SEA

Up goes the Lytham signal, St. Annes has summoned hands,
Knee-deep in surf the lifeboat is launched abreast of Southport Sands;
Half-deafened by the screaming wind, half-blinded by the rain,
Three crews await their Coxswains to face the hurricane.
The stakes are death or duty, no man has answered No!
Lives must be saved out yonder, on the good ship Mexico.
Did ever night look blacker, did sea so hiss before?
Did ever women's voices wail more piteous on the shore?
But from three ports of Lancashire that night went lifeboats three
To fight a splendid battle, manned by Warriors of the Sea.

When on dark nights of winter, fierce storms of wind and rain
Howl round the cosy homestead, and lash the window-pane;
When over hill and treetop we hear the tempest roar
And hurricanes go sweeping on from valley to the shore;
And those we love the best on earth are gathered in our homes,
Think of the sailors round our coasts who, braving sleet and snow,
Leave sweethearts, wives and little ones when duty bids them go.
Think of our sea-girt Island, a harbour where alone
No Englishman to save a life has failed to risk his own:
Then when the storm howls loudest, pray of your charity
That God will bless the lifeboat, and the Warriors of the Sea.

If I was singing I'd make that last linen of the first verse
To fight a dreadful battle, manned by Warriors of the Sea.

<

And the last verse ending I'd amend to something like this:

And round the coasts of England, in harbours all unknown
The lifeboatmen to save a life go out to risk their own:
Then when the storm howls loudest, pray of your charity
That God will bless the lifeboat, and the Warriors of the Sea.

And maybe sing it to the Wearing of the Green. Though maybe there's a different tune already associated with it?


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: nutty
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 01:17 PM

Grab you need to go to www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads and then use the Browse Index - PM me if you have problems and I'll explain further


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: ChanteyMatt
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 03:25 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, McGrath. With a few "modifications" Warriors of the Sea will work with Wearing of the Green. I'm off to try it out on the 6 string.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Grab
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 03:29 PM

McGrath, I'm of a mind with you, I think - it's the "splendid battle" that gets me. There's nothing splendid, it's just what you do, bcos the next time someone's in trouble it could be you. It's certainly heroic, but quietly so in doing what you know you should, not in the sense of fighting "splendid battles". Re-reading it, the second verse is much better. Generally for something like this I prefer songs that let the story speak for itself - instead of just proclaiming how brave the guys were, tell the story straight and have the audience realise themselves how brave these guys were. I think that has a better impact, especially for something like this where the story's so strong. (BTW, I don't like the word "story" for this since it seems to imply fictionalising it, but English doesn't have a better word for it - the French "histoire" conveys it better, but "history" isn't really a synonym for "story" in English.)

Nutty, that's a great resource! For the benefit of others, here's a link: Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads

Jon, I'd be interested to see anything you come up with on lifeboat songs from other regions.

As far as working out a song goes, I need to do more research. The site McGrath linked to has a transcript of the Southport logs which is incredibly useful, but I'll need to find out more about the Lytham and St. Annes crews' stories. Lytham lifeboat house has a display about this, so I'll see what I can dig up next time I'm home.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Gareth
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 04:02 PM

Statistical fact.

Some years ago I was working at Lloyd's. Looking through old records the going rate for a well found (A1)sailing ship in the early 19th centuary was about Four pounds per cent per round trip to the West Indies. Various warranties and additional premiums regarding the Hurricane Season.

Work out that timewise before you had a total loss - its about 15 years.

The working life of a sailor was about 35 years (very rough statistics).

On this basis the average career of a sailor would see two total losses through perils of the sea and fire, in his career.

It puts the work of the RNLI in context, as the majority of casualties were inshore. When youv'e no searoom left any leeshore is a widow maker. And if the only power was oars !

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 05:46 PM

I can't see that "story" implies fiction." If I said of someone "He told me his story", I couldn't see that implication at all. "My mother once told me the story of how she met my father".

I suppose you could say that telling a story implies an element of shaping how you present the facts. And in the case of a true story, one of the reasons you are doing that is to convey the truth more effectively.

I agree about "splendid battle" - there's no such thing - but when you're writing a song in a hurry, you stick in a word that fits the sound, and it might not in the end be the best word. That's what I meant about the way that the oral process can improve songs over time.

And in that song, if you take out "splendid" there's nothing directly saying "aren't they brave", it's all implied.

Well, maybe that line
The stakes are death or duty, no man has answered No! has a touch of it - and I'd probably change that too. Maybe something like
Though death is out there on the sea, no man has answered "No"

I think making changes like that is just trying to do the kind of thing that the oral process would have done, if the song had got into the way of being sung by people with memories that failed, and altered the words round a bit.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Gareth
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 07:25 PM

We were mulling over this thread in the Royal Oak, Ystrad Mynach earlier tonight. A quick head count revealled that in the bar of this ex mining village, 17 mile from Kairdif Bay, at least 4 regulars had required the services of the RNLI in recent years.

In three cases due to their own (admitted) stupidity in small boats.

The songs/ballards were written to the taste of the time, time and linguistic changes will ensure that they alter, or end up as historical interest only.

But don't knock the intent, wether it be to comemorate/ celebrate the raw courage of the crews, or to raise funds to continue the service.

Next time the collector rattles the collecting tin in front of you, GIVE one day it may be you they are looking for !!

US of A Catters - donations to the RNLI may be made through the British, or Republic of Eire embasseys.

(Yes this Institute covers the whole of the British Isles)

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 07:36 PM

This is what the great anarchist writer Peter Kropotkin wrote about lifeboats and lifeboatmen in Mutual Aid, with a graphic first person account of an incident. (I have inserted paragraphs to make it easier to read. Here is a link to the book itself, which is still well worth reading. More than ever maybe..

The Lifeboat Association in this country, and similar institutions on the Continent, must be mentioned in the first place. The former has now over three hundred boats along the coasts of these isles, and it would have twice as many were it not for the poverty of the fisher men, who cannot afford to buy lifeboats.

The crews consist, however, of volunteers, whose readiness to sacrifice their lives for the rescue of absolute strangers to them is put every year to a severe test; every winter the loss of several of the bravest among them stands on record.

And if we ask these men what moves them to risk their lives, even when there is no reasonable chance of success, their answer is something on the following lines.

A fearful snowstorm, blowing across the Channel, raged on the flat, sandy coast of a tiny village in Kent, and a small smack, laden with oranges, stranded on the sands near by. In these shallow waters only a flat-bottomed lifeboat of a simplified type can be kept, and to launch it during such a storm was to face an almost certain disaster.

And yet the men went out, fought for hours against the wind, and the boat capsized twice. One man was drowned, the others were cast ashore. One of these last, a refined coastguard, was found next morning, badly bruised and half frozen in the snow. I asked him, how they came to make that desperate attempt?

"I don't know myself," was his reply. "There was the wreck; all the people from the village stood on the beach, and all said it would be foolish to go out; we never should work through the surf.

"We saw five or six men clinging to the mast, making desperate signals. We all felt that something must be done, but what could we do? One hour passed, two hours, and we all stood there. We all felt most uncomfortable.

"Then, all of a sudden, through the storm, it seemed to us as if we heard their cries -- they had a boy with them. We could not stand that any longer. All at once we said, "We must go!" The women said so too; they would have treated us as cowards if we had not gone, although next day they said we had been fools to go.

"As one man, we rushed to the boat, and went. The boat capsized, but we took hold of it. The worst was to see a poor man drowning by the side of the boat, and we could do nothing to save him. Then came a fearful wave, the boat capsized again, and we were cast ashore. The men were still rescued by the D. boat, ours was caught miles away. I was found next morning in the snow."


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 07:41 PM

Perhaps not strictly relevant, but "Grace Darling" is worth looking at in this context. For the song try Grace Darling and for some thread discussions about the song try Lyr.Grace Darling and Ballad of Grace Darling
Its a typical Victorian tear-jerker, but not a bad one. The Watersons recorded it and so did Walter Pardon.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 08:18 PM

Just ran a google search on "lifeboat songs". Apparently somebody else has been inspired by the Eliza Fearnley disaster, and has posted their lyrics here Eliza Fearnley. To be honest, I prefer the vigour of Warriors of the Sea ;the modern lyrics just sound bathetic.
Considering that the Open is currently being contested at Lytham and St Annes I'm surprised that nobody has leapt in with a song about Colin Montgomerie leaving all the others "lost at sea"!


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Gareth
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 08:33 PM

The McGrath of Harlow.

Suspect Peter K was refering to the loss of the Camber (in Sussex) lifeboat (circa 1890's ????) The Dungeness life boat would have launched in the lee of Dungeness and had clearer water, and a row down tide/wind to the shelter of Hythe and/or Folkestone after the rescue.

The West Mole / Pier at Folkstone ws built to give the channel packets shelter.

gareth


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 08:34 PM

Sorry bu****ed up the link (as if anybody cared!).Try again:Eliza Fearnley


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Jul 01 - 09:02 PM

To be honest, I prefer the vigour of Warriors of the Sea; the modern lyrics just sound bathetic.

Just going by the words, I'm with you there Matthew.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Grab
Date: 20 Jul 01 - 11:49 AM

Matt, see first post. :-) Yeah, I wasn't greatly taken with that one either.

I've done a fair bit of sailing myself, mostly in dinghies but a reasonable amount of inshore cruising as well. The sailing club in Lytham is right next to the lifeboat house, and quite a few of the lifeboat crew are from the club. My folks have their own boat, and they required the services of a lifeboat once on the way back from Ireland when my mum fell and fractured her eye-socket - it wasn't that they wouldn't make it back under their own steam, more that the wind was against them and she needed medical attention as quickly as possible.

As you say, Gareth, next time it might be you.

Incidentally for US readers, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is still an organisation of volunteers and is run entirely off donations from the public. Some time ago, the government wanted to fund it on the condition that they started acting like the US Coastguard and interdicting drug-runners and stuff. The RNLI refused on the grounds that they were interested in saving lives, not running military operations, and they didn't want saving lives to become dependent on the vagaries of government finance.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Jul 01 - 02:08 PM

That's what Kropotkin specially liked about it, that it was pureloy voluntary and free from any government (or commerxcial) control or authority. And long many it continue.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Jul 01 - 09:44 AM

Nice work.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Clive Pownceby
Date: 23 May 14 - 09:11 AM

Myself, Chris and Siobhan Nelson, Pete Rimmer, Len Pentin and Colin Wayte, all connected with Southport's Bothy Folksong Club are currently presenting 'Cork Jackets and Drill' which tells the story of the Mexico disaster in song and narration. Lasting about 90 mins it's been out 5 times already and we have many more shows lined. Before you ask, yes of course we're available for hire!
An album should be along fairly soon and as someone who grew up in Southport, I feel as one of Len's lyrics says, it's a "tale so rarely told." When I was much younger it was common knowledge, we were taught about it at school and how dangerous a coastline we grew up next to. Nowadays it's a fairly benign seascape owing to much building-up of the foreshore due to longshore drift, Ribble estuary silt etc.
I couldn't for the life of me create a blue clicky but if anyone reading this could help out - we're at www.corkjackets.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Clive Pownceby
Date: 23 May 14 - 10:11 AM

PS

Not 90 mins in length - 75mins. Sorry about that. Of course if we get encores!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and shouts for "Author."


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 23 May 14 - 08:24 PM

Happy to oblige with a link, Clive -

http://www.corkjackets.co.uk/

Hoping to catch the show sometime - any other dates lined up (particularly any north of the Ribble)? Long time to wait till Fleetwood Folk Club, but will definitely be there!

http://www.corkjackets.co.uk/performance-dates

Ross


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: LesB
Date: 24 May 14 - 05:33 AM

I was at the preview night, excellent. Why is it not on the bill at Fylde fest? It's ideal for Fylde, (or any fest come to that).
Cheers
Les


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Clive Pownceby
Date: 24 May 14 - 06:43 AM

St. Annes library 7pm on 31st October Ross. That's the only one
up your way this far and many thanks for the link. We're getting a few relatives of the crews coming along (mainly their great grand-children) and there's a particularly poignant message on our Facebook page following on from last night's performance. It's clear that the disaster still resonates deeply with those who have direct links to it.
We have staged the show at the 'Fishermans Rest' in Birkdale which is where the bodies of the Southport crew were laid out after their recovery from the sea. As the name implies, it's now a pub but in 1886, was the coach house of the former Palace Hotel. 'Corkjackets' goes there again on 9th December, being the anniversary of the event.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 24 May 14 - 08:19 AM

We did a performance of "Beware the Fylde Coast's Sands - Wrecks and Rescues of the Lancashire Coast" for the RNLI in Lytham a few years ago. The show included one song by Ron Baxter concerning the Mexico disaster. The night's events included an auction to raise funds for the RNLI. One item was a bill-hook or machete-type tool (unsharpened to avoid tax!) which had been part of the Mexico's cargo. I bid on it but dropped out before its final price of around £90.

I will certainly try to get to the St Annes performance. See you at Fylde!

Ross


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Frank Sellors
Date: 24 May 14 - 11:29 AM

Here's a direct link to site mentioned by Clive.

www.corkjackets.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Frank Sellors
Date: 24 May 14 - 11:30 AM

That didn't work!
I'll check it out.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,Frank Sellors
Date: 24 May 14 - 11:33 AM

Ah, I see there's already a link that works further up!


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 06:38 AM

Saturday 18 October 2014

Cork Jackets and Drill album launch. Park Golf Club, Park Road West, Southport, PR9 0JS. 8 pm. Free entry, CDs £5!

Weather forecast; Becoming wet and windy from the west late Friday into Saturday, but feeling milder.


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Subject: RE: Songs about lifeboat disaster, 1886?
From: GUEST,LesB
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 03:39 AM

An excellent show, but having the wind howling outside, blowing off the sea would just add nicely to the atmosphere.


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