Here's A Health To The Barley Mow

1955, Blaxhall (Suffolk)

Folk singing and step dancing traditions in a Suffolk Public House.

The film opens with shots of Ipswich docks and the approach to the pub. The rest of the film takes place inside the Ship Inn, Blaxhall giving a good illustration of the interior of a rural public house in the mid 1950s. There are some women present, although they don't feature in the solo singing. There are pewter tankards hanging above the bar; a man is smoking a small clay pipe and as well as singing and step dancing; some men are playing darts. The singing and dancing is the main feature of the film. During these there are frequent cut-away shots to the general pub scene. The chairman for the evening is Wicketts Richardson, who also sings `Fagan the Cobbler', whilst miming the actions. Other songs featured are; 'The Barley Mow' (Arthur Smith), 'The Nutting Girl' (Cyril Poacher) and 'Brave General Wolfe' (Bob Scarce). The melodeon players who feature are Fred Pearce and Bob Roberts. The film shows scenes of step dancing, which includes two women taking part. One of these women, in a suit and court shoes, is Lilly Durrant. She is dancing with Eli Durrant. Any relationship is not known. The film finishes with all singing 'God Save The Queen'.

Featured Buildings

The Ship Inn, Blaxhall


Folk singing; Public houses; Step dancing

Background Information

In 1977, Keith Summers visited the Ship at Blaxhall and met up with some of the performers who featured in this film. These interviews formed the basis of his article Down At Old Blaxhall Ship in the special edition of Traditional Music, Sing, Say or Pay. (Late 1977, Early 1978) When Peter Kennedy made his famous recordings in the Blaxhall Ship in 1953 he uncovered, albeit only superficially, a living tradition of music making, the roots of which stretch way back to living memory. The singers and musicians he encountered were not reviving half-forgotten songs from their youth for the man with the microphone, but taking part in the recording of their normal Saturday night entertainment at the pub. From cataloguing record; speaker not identified: `I first used The Ship when I was thirteen with my father William. We always used to have singing first off on a Saturday. Then I'd say 'We shall now just take a break and in the second half Mr. Pearce will entertain you with Irish jigs and reels and I hope you will all be entertained.' `I was 38 years at The Ship. I took it when I was 27 from my father John. I've always remembered there being singing in that old pub. When I was just a boy I could hear those old Ling brothers sitting there singing one against the other. Just after I took it they got Wicketts (Alf) Richardson to keep order and he'd say Sing, say or pay for a gallon of beer - and you could go all round that pub and everyone would have a go - not many paid'.

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