A new CD which contains a collection of 14 songs about Shropshire people, places, legends events and folklore
** Due for release by the end of February 2017 **
Track Information and Audio Clips: (more audio clips to come)
01 The Severn Waterman.
This song was inspired by a paragraph in a book called 'Barges and Bargemen' A social history of the upper Severn Navigation 1660-1900 written by Barrie Trinder.
John Lloyd from Jackfield was a barge captain. The Landlord of The Black Horse, down river at Arley, had a daughter called Eliza. She turned up a John Lloyd's house announcing she was pregnant and demanded that he marry her. John refused so her father took out a civil action at Hereford Assize and in July 1839 Jeremiah Newnham was awarded five pounds damages for the expenses of the confinement and loss of his daughter's services.
The song also warns of other risks a bargeman could face when visiting the many 'entertainment houses' in towns along the river. These could vary from pickpockets to sexually transmitted diseases.
02 Two Hills.
The story of how the local landmark hills The Wrekin and The Ercall were formed.
There are two main folklore tales concerning this. One features two fighting giants and a raven. The tale I have chosen to tell is of a Welsh Giant who, unhappy with the people of Shrewsbury, decides to dam the river Severn but loses his way. He meets a cobbler who realises what is going on and manages to put him off his evil deed.
03 Coracle Men.
The Ironbridge coracle is a bowl shaped craft formed from thin ash laths wrapped with calico and painted with a thick bitumen waterproof coat.
The Rogers family of Ironbridge made coracles on the banks of The River Severn for at least 250 years.
The last coracle maker Eustace Rogers died in 2003. The modest shed where he carried out his work can still be seen under the shadow of the world's first cast iron bridge, built 1779, in Ironbridge, Shropshire.
Tommy Rogers, born 1843, was also a well known local poacher.
In 1959 Harry Rogers and a friend called Jack Gears erected a wire high across the gorge and then flew a witch and a man on unicycle across as a prank on the 250th Anniversary of the Coalbrookdale Ironworks.
04 The Coalport Dodger.
This was the nickname given to the steam engine which ran on the line between Coalport and Wellington. It was a Fowler Class 3F (0-6-0) commonly known as a 'Jinty' The last passenger train ran on 31st May 1952. Goods traffic to and from Madeley ceased in December 1960 with the closure of the line south of Stirchley and the whole branch was finally closed on 6th July 1964.
05 Mad Jack.
Mad Jack Mytton lived in Halston Hall, Shropshire. He was an eccentric man who was know to strip naked when hunting and feed his dogs champagne and steak. His favourite horse, Baronet, had free reign of the house and would lie beside the fire with him. He once rode a bear through his drawing room and whilst in France set fire to his nightshirt to try and cure his hiccups. He also consumed large amounts of port each day.
06 The Blessing.
In memory of my grandmother Lizzie Thomas (nee Rogers) 1st April 1900 - 16th March 1991)
My grandmother lived in Lightmoor, Shropshire in the Burroughs Bank area (now incorporated into Telford) when she was a girl in the early 1900's. Her recollections of this time were recorded by Ironbridge Museums for their archives in July 1985 when she was 85 years old. I am lucky enough to have a copy of this recording.
Her father was a cow keeper and it was her grandmother who previously used to deliver the milk around the local area.
It was customary to add a little extra into the vessel provided by the householder. This was known as 'The Blessing.'
07 The Nine Men of Madeley.
At Brick Kiln Leasows Pit in Madeley, on 27th September 1864, a hook fastening the chain onto the main cable broke whilst hauling nine miners up the shaft. Most of them were just boys, the youngest being 12 years old. They fell over 110 metres to their death.
At the rear of Madeley Church there is a communal grave with cast iron covers, their final resting place.
08 Carpenter's Row.
This is for my wife, Sue, who was born in Carpenter's Row.
In the early 19th Century several rows of houses were erected by the Darby family for the workers at the ironworks. These included Carpenter's Row, Teakettle Row, Engine Row and Charity or Widow's Row.
They were very basic with no running water and had a communal brew-house but compared with many local conditions at the time they were the height of luxury.
09 The Chimneys of Plaish Hall.
Plaish Hall is a grade I listed building in Cardington, Shropshire.
The Manor of Plaish is mentioned in the original Domesday Book and part of the present imposing hall dates from the 15th century. A licence to rebuild the house as it stands today was granted in 1520 to Judge William Leighton, Chief Justice. The decorated brick chimneys are some of the finest examples of Tudor chimney work in the country - but there is a gruesome story involved with the building of them . . .
10 Pink Giants. (Track Clip)
The title refers to the cooling towers of Ironbridge 'B' power station. The concrete was tinted with a red pigment to allow them to merge into the natural surroundings, blending with the local soil colour.
They have become one of the local landmarks that people look for when returning home to Shropshire.
A power station (Ironbridge 'A') was first constructed on the site alongside the river in the Seven Gorge with work beginning in 1929.
Ironbridge 'B' construction began in 1962. The coal fired station, which had been modified in 2012 to allow one generating unit to run on 100% biomass (wooden pellets), finally stopped generating electricity on 20th November 2015 and decommissioning began with demolition to follow.
11 A Game of Cards.
The Boat Inn at Jackfield is supposedly haunted by a man who dropped dead when he discovered the stranger he had been playing cards with was, in fact, the devil.
12 Hide and Seek.
In the 1600's a boy and girl playing hide and seek were inadvertently locked in the cellar of Magpie House. A flash flood caused the river to rise and Charlotte and William sadly lost their lives. Their mother, known as 'The Black Lady', still walks the area around The Cartway in Bridgnorth moaning and wailing.
The building is still there and is now known as The Bassa Villa Restaurant.
13 Nellie in the Churchyard.
I have included this as it is quite an amusing tale which I first read about in a book entitled 'Shropshire Folk Tales' by Amy Douglas.
Nellie, who lived near Wem, had a successful day selling eggs at Wem market but then proceeded to spend all her money in the local inn. In her drunken state she was incapable of walking home and had no way of paying for lodgings so decided to spend the night in the churchyard. When some drunken revellers decided to use the slab, under which she was laying, as a seat she managed to scare them out of their wits . . .
Ippikin was a knight who lived on Wenlock Edge in the 13th Century.
Not the sort of knight you may be thinking of who rides a white charger and rescues damsels in distress. His style was more rape and pillage. Beware if you are on Wenlock Edge by Ippikin's Rock: Never say out loud "Ippikin, Ippikin, keep away with your long chin" or he is likely to rush out and push you over the edge!