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William Irwin, Lake District fiddler

greg stephens 18 Jan 06 - 08:50 AM
Matthew Edwards 18 Jan 06 - 11:20 AM
greg stephens 18 Jan 06 - 01:39 PM
greg stephens 19 Jan 06 - 02:42 AM
Matthew Edwards 19 Jan 06 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,Guest 19 Jan 06 - 08:10 AM
greg stephens 19 Jan 06 - 11:56 AM
s&r 19 Jan 06 - 07:24 PM
greg stephens 25 Jan 06 - 05:47 PM
Matthew Edwards 27 Jan 06 - 08:38 AM
s&r 27 Jan 06 - 10:15 AM
GUEST,Warpy 27 Jan 06 - 11:27 PM
greg stephens 28 Jan 06 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,greg stephens 29 Jan 06 - 06:26 PM
Malcolm Douglas 30 Jan 06 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,Jeff Irwin 04 Feb 06 - 05:00 PM
greg stephens 05 Feb 06 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,Kevin Statham 14 Feb 06 - 01:17 PM
greg stephens 14 Feb 06 - 03:15 PM
greg stephens 01 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 06:40 AM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 06:50 AM
Matthew Edwards 05 Mar 06 - 07:01 AM
greg stephens 07 Apr 06 - 03:19 AM
GUEST,DB 07 Apr 06 - 04:17 AM
Scrump 08 Apr 06 - 05:31 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Apr 06 - 04:43 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 09 Apr 06 - 05:21 AM
warpy 09 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM
greg stephens 10 Apr 06 - 02:18 AM
greg stephens 15 Sep 06 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Ray Irwin 26 May 11 - 05:05 PM
GUEST,Amanda Thompson 29 Jan 12 - 04:31 PM
Chris Partington 29 Jan 12 - 04:56 PM
Sue Allan 29 Jan 12 - 05:06 PM
GUEST 21 Mar 12 - 05:58 AM
greg stephens 21 Mar 12 - 08:41 AM
mikesamwild 24 Apr 12 - 07:34 AM
Ross Campbell 24 Apr 12 - 11:08 PM
greg stephens 25 Apr 12 - 03:46 AM
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Subject: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jan 06 - 08:50 AM

It is often pointed out that people in the folk revival, whether the old Sharp/Vaughan Williams collectors, or the more modern 60's folkies with guitars, have been guilty of pinching the words and tunes from the tradition, but ignoring the social context, in fact the whole background of the music and the musicians. I'm not pointing the finger at others, I've been as guilty of this as anyone in the first flush of youth.
But now I'm trying to pay my dues, as are many other people, and having a bash at getting a little more under the skin of what made the music. One of my research areas has been northwest English music, since back in the 60's. And here is a bit of the result, which I hope is a reasonably in-depth look at an English traditional musician, the 19th century Langdale fiddler William Irwin. I would be grateful for any feedback on ways it might be improved, and also for any links to similar serious looks at folk/traditional/source musicians (whatever term you prefer to use).
    By the way, you won't find much about the music as such. That is because this article is for general consumption, and it is also a pitch for TV/radio programmes etc. So the technicalities of jigs and reels and Dorian modes I am dealing with in a separate article, as they are a bit of a turn-off for most non-specialists.
   So, if you would like to know more try
The Life and Times of William Irwin


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 18 Jan 06 - 11:20 AM

That is a fascinating article Greg, and its great to be able to read it online. Irwin comes across as a person of some stature within his community; deservedly remembered with pride and fondness by his family. Perhaps the missing manuscripts will turn up - I certainly hope so!

I have mentioned Greg's CD A Trip To The Lakes here before, where some of William Irwin's tunes may be heard. According to the Boat Band the CD will be re-released soon.

Those blessed with longer memories may recall the Ellen Valley Band whose 1984 LP "through the world spinning" also featured some of Irwin's compositions including the title track. The research back then was of course by none other than Greg Stephens himself, so the article reflects something of his lifetime of love for this music.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jan 06 - 01:39 PM

"Through the world spinning" or "Through thw woods spinning"(it has variant titles) wasn't an Irwin composition, I dont think. But it's certainly one of the great tunes in his notebooks. Thank you for the comments, Matthew.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 02:42 AM

Are the Ellen Valley Band still playing?


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Subject: Ellen Valley Band
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 07:43 AM

It seems the Ellen Valley Band disbanded some 8 years ago after 22 years of playing together. Apparently they did hold a one-off reunion Christmas Ceilidh in Ireby in December 2005 to mark 30 years since the band originally was formed.

They made two LPs early on in their career on their own Reynard Records label, both of which feature mainly Cumbrian tunes. It would be great to have these reissued on CD some day.

Sue Allen, who led the band, also deserves huge credit for producing another LP on the Reynard label,"Pass the Jug Round", of live recordings of Cumbrian singers and musicians from 1953. It is a brilliant and delightful record which has been released on CD by Veteran.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 08:10 AM

Am I right in thinking that a couple of his tunes are on "Eyes closed and rocking" by the Cock and Bull band?

Robin Madge


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 11:56 AM

Yes the Cock and Bull band did record some Irwin tunes. I should really get round to producing a list of people who've recorded tunes from his repertoire. Off the top of my head, Hodgett's Barnstormers, Crookfinger Jack, Cock and Bull Band, Eliza Carthy, ther Boat Band, the Old Friends Ceilidh Band, Altarnative, the Lakeland Fiddlers. There's probably more.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: s&r
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 07:24 PM

Alan Bell wrote a tribute song to Bill Irwin called "The Lakeland Fiddler" I'll post the lyrics when I can lay my hands on them - good song and tune

Stu


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Jan 06 - 05:47 PM

It would be interesting if someone could track down and put a link to the Alan Bell song.
   I've remembered a couple of others who have recorded tunes from the Irwin collection: Brian Peters, and the Old Swan Band.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 27 Jan 06 - 08:38 AM

I can't find the words of Alan Bell's song, but he has created a website to celebrate the launch of his new CD which includes "The Lakeland Fiddler".

In his notes to the songs on the CD "The Definitive Collection" he writes about 'Bill' Irwin, the Lakeland Fiddler, and goes on to say;
"Thanks to the Victorian song collector Anne Gilchrist, Bill Irwin's tune books were lodged in the library of English Folk Dance and Song Society in London in 1954. I found them in the 1960's."

This suggests that the missing manuscripts were not mislaid by Frank Kidson, or Anne Gilchrist, but that they may have been taken from the VWML at some time afterwards. Sadly this is not the only instance where valuable material has gone missing, and I can only hope that somebody besides Gilchrist made copies of Irwin's tunes.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: s&r
Date: 27 Jan 06 - 10:15 AM

Oh I am a lakeland fiddler
Bill Irwin is my name
I live in Elterwater
Close by the Langdale lane
Ten hours a day I hew and toil
To earn my daily bread
But when my work time's over
I play my fiddle instead

Cho: So come all you dancing masters
Who call to the fiddler's tunes
Lift your feet to the dancing beat
and step right round the room
Come all you lads and lassies
Throw all your cares away
Sing a song as you pass along
Dance the night away

When supper's on the table
with tattie pot to spare
The god brown ale keeps flowing
to fill good souls with cheer
And when the huntsmen gather
the choruses resound
They call on me to play a tune
And help the jug go round

Cho

From Kendal up to Keswick
From Gosforth back to Shap
I've walked the lanes of lakeland
With my fiddle and my cap
From Merry nights to dances
And ball at Christmas time
I'll play for happy couples
When wedding bells do chime

Cho

Now I've heard the songs from Ireland
And the lilting harp of Wales
I've heard the English singers
Travelling through our dales
But the music of old Westmorland
Is the music I love best
So set to your partner form a ring
And I will do the rest.

Alan A Bell
July 1986


Stu


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Warpy
Date: 27 Jan 06 - 11:27 PM

Is Sportsmans Hornpipe a William Irwin tune I first heard it played on the Fiddle by Sam Sherry the clog dancer.I would love to learn some more of the tunes have you published any books with the dots in Greg?.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 28 Jan 06 - 12:18 PM

The Sportsman's Hornpipe(as played for example by Boden and Spiers) is not in Irwin's notebooks. It comes from the Lancashire fiddler Joseph kershaw.
    Alan Bell was confused about Irwin's books: it was Gilchrist's copies of some of his tunes which were given to the EFDSS at Cecil Sharp House. If you use the clickie in the first post on this thread, you will get to an account of these notebooks.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 29 Jan 06 - 06:26 PM

I seem to have got signed out.
Warpy: I am extremely interested in your memory of Sam Sherry playing the Sportsman's Hornpipe on the fiddle. I feel it would be very unlikely to have been Joseph Kershaw's Sportsma's Hornpipe,: possibly another tune of the same name? Where and when did you hear him play it, and would you recall the tune?
Tell us more.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 30 Jan 06 - 11:06 AM

At Greg's request, a link to a thread on another Northern English fiddler: Parkin Raine (The Teesdale Fiddler)


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Jeff Irwin
Date: 04 Feb 06 - 05:00 PM

Hi

I read Greg's artical with great interest. I believe that William Irwin was my Great Great Grandfather. I am thrilled to find that there is such interest in someone from my family. I also really appreciate that mudcat.org has given up diskspace and cpu time to provide this information.

Very interesting reading.

Jeff


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Feb 06 - 07:43 AM

A post like that from Jeff Irwin makes hanging around in dusty libraries(not to mention smoky pubs) very worthwhile. You do some serious background research on obscure lake district folk music, write an article and push it out tentatively into the world, and suddenly a bloke turns up like Jeff. Living on the other side of the world, never even knew he had a famous fiddler for a greatgreat grandfather, and you're able to supply him with some family history to be proud of. And some new music to listen to.
   Maybe Jeff will be emboldened to take up the fiddle and play Cumbrian traditional tunes. Or some of the rest of the family, William Irwin was quite a prolific breeder himself. If his descendants have followed in his footsteps, there should be hundreds around by now! Enough to power a Cumbrian folk music revival just within the family.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Kevin Statham
Date: 14 Feb 06 - 01:17 PM

Not quite from the other side of the world, but I too am a Gt Gt Grandson of William Irwin and Dorothy ( Nee Greenop ).
One of their 11 children was Ann who married Edward Gill and they had 9 children one of them being Elizabeth who married Morris McGarr (known locally @ Clappersgate Ambleside as Billy the Bootmaker )..the in turn had 7 kids one of them being Eleanor gave birth to 4 - one of them me !
Like Jeff, I had no idea whatsoever of this mans illustrious past and I myself have been on the fiddle for some years now ...if only I'd taken up music !
Jeff- if you read this - please get in touch kevinstatham@gmail.co.uk
...you might be rich and I need to get to know you.
www.kevinstatham.co.uk
www.kevinstatham.co.uk


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Feb 06 - 03:15 PM

Wow, another Irwin appears. There is also a strange story appearing: Kevin Statham reckons William's wife was born Greenup. And their marriage certificate certainly claims she was a spinster at the time, but leaves the surname blank. Whereas William's son Edwin syas his mother was a widow called Dorothy Greenup when she wed his dad, and that she was born a Birkett. And their eldest son John started off as John Irwin (as you would expect), but changed his name to Greenup at one point, and then back to irwin ten years later. Many explanations spring to mind, none totally satisfactory. But when "William Irwin" the biopic comes out on general release, expect some steamy story lines.
    So Kevin Statham, if you come back here, can your genealogical researches throw any light on that?
I am very gratified by the huge number of descendants Irwin has, CD sales are going to be spectacular.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM

Harbourtown records took delivery of the first batch of the "Trip to the Lakes" CD yeasterday. YIPPEE! (This is the record that contains the William Irwin article).


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 06:40 AM

Rod Stradling's review of the CD, and also of the Irwin article can be found by looking in here


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 06:50 AM

That link didn't seem to work. Let's try again


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:01 AM

An excellent and well-deserved review, Greg - but that link seems not to lead to the article in question. Try this Musical Traditions: Boat Band Review
or if that doesn't work copy-and-paste this URL into your browser:-
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/boatband.htm


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 07 Apr 06 - 03:19 AM

The CD has been selected for the fRoots magazine playlist for May. This is their special slection of world music records, ten each month, which are featured on their internet radio station. Starts streaming on April 12.(I think "streaming" is the right word, I dont have a computer and dont really understand these things). Anyway, I am delighted that Cumbria is going to up there with all the African music and stuff.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 07 Apr 06 - 04:17 AM

I've now had a chance to listen to the 'Trip to the Lakes' CD that I bought at Forton Services. I must say that, although I'm more of a song man myself, I enjoyed it very much. I also enjoyed the fascinating biography of William Irwin contained in the CD booklet.
I agree with you that the lives and social backgrounds of the tradition bearers is an important, and formerly neglected, area of study.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Scrump
Date: 08 Apr 06 - 05:31 AM

Sorry for being late in on this (in more ways than one). I was fascinated by the article - really well written. Another reason I'm sorry to be late finding it is because I was in Langdale last week and if only I'd known about WIlliam Irwin it would have made the wet days much more interesting (the few dry ones we had were fine, plenty of walking done, followed by visits to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel!)

Ah well, next time...!

Cheers

Scrump


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Apr 06 - 04:43 AM

This sounds really interesting.

Fiddling I think loses a lot of us. Perhaps because of the hours that they have to practise - you listen to some sessions and it feels like you're listening to a tape loop. The same tune again and again.   

The fiddlers who can put a bit of dash into what they do and somehow involve outsiders, generally make it sound as though they are playing for an audience - well you rarely get two of em at a session.

Its about time there was a TV arts programme to initiate ignorant types like myself into the history and insights that some of the contributtors to this thread seem to have at their fingertips.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 09 Apr 06 - 05:21 AM

Hi Greg,

Hope you picked up my message about next year's Charles Parker day on the Charles Parker thread. Regarding the present one, I am probably about to tell you something you already know. However, nobody has mentioned it up to now, so I should point out the Village Music Project, which is run by John Adams of Salford University, and which documents C18/19 English fiddlers.

The project's website is at http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/ . I've just been trying to open it to see if your name is there, but the damned thing is on a go slow at the moment.

Incidentally, I wonder if you know anything about Cumberland mouth musicians. It's a very slender memory unfortunately, but my father lived in Cumberland for a while in the 1920s. When he heard Irish lilting, he remembered the old Cumberland folk had told him about an itinerant mouth musician who used to tour the area and lilt or diddle for dances. He couldn't remember any more than that unfortunately and is now dead.

Cheers,

Fred McCormick.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: warpy
Date: 09 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM

Forton Services selling local produce.I will stop off especially to purchase "Trip to The Lakes".Morecambe and Bellowhead for Easter.
Congratulations Greg


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Apr 06 - 02:18 AM

Thanks a lot for the comment, warpy. I'd be very grateful if you'd report back, either here or on the current M6 thread, whether they've still got stocks. I'm not sure how good they'll be at keeping things topped up.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Sep 06 - 06:39 AM

I can add another name to the list of people who have recorded William Irwin tunes. Pete Cooper has a new book and CD out called "English FiddleMusic"(published Schott World Music). It includes "Iron legs", a hornpipe form Irwin's notebooks. I can strongly recommend this book, excellently researched, 99 interesting tunes. And backed up by very extensive notes to the tunes, and biographies of traditional fiddlers, on Pete Cooper's website. The notes were too long for the publishers to print them in the book, alas, but having them available on the internet seems a very good alternative.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Ray Irwin
Date: 26 May 11 - 05:05 PM

Greg

I recently discovered that my ggg grandfather is the same William Irwin here. I'm descended from his oldest son John. Thanks for the fascinating article.

Ray


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST,Amanda Thompson
Date: 29 Jan 12 - 04:31 PM

William irwin is my gr gr gr gr grand father I am descendent of his daughter Ann


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Chris Partington
Date: 29 Jan 12 - 04:56 PM

Well, since there is a bit of a flurry of interest in Wm.Irwin here, here's a link to the Irwin files on the Village Music Project
Click on 'Irwin,Wm' for an introduction,(minus it's formatting unfortunately) and on'abc' for the tunes in ABC format.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Sue Allan
Date: 29 Jan 12 - 05:06 PM

I don't suppose any of you Irwins know if the originals of William's tunebooks or his diary are still extant? A number of us have been trying to track them down over many, many years - but to no avail. Would be great if one of your family turned out to have them in the attic ...

PS I believe there's to be a special tribute day to William Irwin at Chapel Stile in the Langdales this summer. Greg, do you have any more details?


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Mar 12 - 05:58 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 Mar 12 - 08:41 AM

The William Irwin Symposium is being held in Gt Langdale, May 4-7.2012 I am involved in the organisation, along with Carolyn Franice of the Lakeland Fidlers. The event is being hosted by Ian Hunter and Littoral Arts, who run the Cylinders Estate in Elterwater. This is part of the old Elterwater gunpowder works where William Irwin worked as a cooper. Ian is involved as Kurt Schwitters, the famous Austrian refugee artist, started making one of his installations in the barn there just after World War II. Littoral Arts have become custodians of this bit of land and the Merzbarn. This fortuitous association, one hundred years apart, of Schwitters and Irwin has helped provide the dynamic to get this event going. They run weekend Schwitters events from time to time, now it is Irwin's turn!
I will be doing a talk and a workshop, and I hope Sue Allan(see ealier in the thread) will also be contributing. It is a weekend of music and discussion, mainly outdoors in a Lake District wood(weather permitting, we have wet weather back-up!). There will be a public gig in a marquee on the Saturday night, otherwise it is for "dedicated practioners"(I think that was Ian's phrase, in a recent discussion).ie there won't be any beginners bodhran workshops or whatever, it's not that kind of do. But if you have an interest in northern fiddle styles, or sitting under trees looking at the Langdale Pikes at close range, this could be for you. If you feel you would like further info, send me a personal message.
And, as everyone writing about Irwin poiints out: his notebooks are still missing! If you have any clues as to where they might be, get in touch, with me, or the EFDSS, or anyone relevant.


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: mikesamwild
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 07:34 AM

I wish I could say ,like 'Iam Spartacus' I too am descended from Wm IrwinI Following the notes in The Boat Band CD sleeve I have visted his grave seveal times. I've nbeen going to Langdale since I was a lad (1950s) and the insight into the social life of the area enhanced my love of the physical environemnt. I also found Tom Flett's books on Lakeland dancing great too.


I was always impressed at how Wm Irwin walked miles to play for dances and how he he got back again! I once walked late at night from Keswick via Borrowdale to Wasdale with just a small torch - to a climbing dinner and it was a dodgy do on Aaron's Slack and I'd not had a drink either!

The symposium sounds great.

It would be nice if the music books surfaced!


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 11:08 PM

Last time I looked (Langdale Charity Folk Festival, September 2011) there were still copies of "Trip to the Lakes" on sale in the climber's bar of the Old Dungeon Ghyll. I'll be there again for the next one (May 11-12-13) but would like to catch the Symposium as well if I can. Will PM you, Greg - neither Littoral Arts nor the MerzBarn appear to want anybody to know about it (no info or links on either website).

Ross


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Subject: RE: William Irwin, Lake District fiddler
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 03:46 AM

Will be in touch. This is not being advertised widely.I direct people to Schwitters, Merzbarn and Littoral to get a bit of background on the site where we are meeting,.


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