Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 88 – January 2008

A happy and peaceful new year to you all.

Folk Clubs tend to run on a regular basis. Most folk clubs run weekly, shall we say every Wednesday or every Friday. Some folk clubs run fortnightly and these days quite a few clubs run monthly on either the first Tuesday of the month or the last Thursday; perhaps the third Sunday. Very few clubs run once a year and only on December 8th! But I’ve found one. The Sixmilebridge Folk Club (which actually meets in Kilkishen about 5 miles outside Sixmilebridge in County Clare) was kind enough to book me this December. December 8th, the date of the Immaculate Conception, is a sort of public holiday in Ireland and as a consequence it coincides with the day this folk club regularly operates. So it matters not which day of the week December 8th falls; that is folk club day! I guess it could only happen in Ireland. Wonderfully, wonderfully eccentric; and if ‘eccentric’ is not quite the correct word to use I’m sure you will excuse me for not finding a better substitute. Unusual certainly, cute perhaps especially if you are American; but eccentric as defined by my Oxford Modern English dictionary fits the bill as best as I can find. Whilst in Ireland I was discussing the possibility (slight though it may have been) of Kimber’s Men appearing in concert with my old friend Christie Hennessy. Christie hailed from Tralee on the west coast and I made a special pilgrimage to Tralee whilst in Ireland more out of curiosity I guess to see what the town was like. It was with deepest regret that I discovered the day I left Ireland that Christie had passed away from an asbestos related illness. An obituary follows later in this epistle.

I was recently sent the following piece apparently from the pen of George Carlin a comedian popular in the 70’s and 80’s. I think it is an appropriate reminder for this coming new year; because herein lies every little anecdote to help save this planet from the destruction that mankind can wreak upon it.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when the technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
George Carlin

And as 2007 moves into 2008 I’ve heard a rumour, and it is only a rumour, that our government has opened up negotiations with the Taliban. Now regular readers of this column will know that over the last 5 years I’ve been very critical of the present Labour government and whilst the recent problems they’ve had since the ‘victory’ (now there’s a laugh for a start) in Iraq with personal data of almost the entire nation escaping has not brought me any more confidence in a dilapidated bunch of no hopers, I have to say that I am amazed with the criticism in the press. If the rumour is true then Brown and his bunch of cronies are to be applauded. I’ve stated many times, probably more times than I’ve needed to, that we will never beat an enemy that wants to die by killing them. For every member of that crazy bunch of fanatics we kill another two line up behind them with bombs strapped around their waists. I’m afraid we will only get peace with this bunch of male chauvinistic loonies by talking to them. But of course it’s a bit more complicated than picking up your mobile telephone and saying “Hi”. And just how we manage to communicate, and with it forgive, this sub-human form of mankind who murder thousands of innocents by flying planes into skyscrapers is something Americans will eventually have to come to terms with. The brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto has brought Al Quada a step closer to the atom bomb. Pakistan a volatile country at the best of times is capable of causing world wide havoc if its leaders have the mind to. So let us all hope that 2008 brings a lot more chat and a lot less shooting, because whether you like it or not, eventually it’s going to be the only way.

Joint Fixture List for Kimber’s Men and Joe Stead.

Jan 10th (KM) Topic Folk Club, The Cock and Bottle, Bradford.
Feb 2nd (KM) Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax. (Matinee and evening).
Feb 6th (Joe) Menston Men’s Forum, Main St, Menston. (Valparaiso).
Feb 10th (KM) The Works, Sowerby Bridge. 6pm
Feb 20th (Joe) Mytholm Meadows, Hebden Bridge. 2pm (Valparaiso)
Feb 21st (KM) The Royal Oak, Halifax.
Feb 24th (KM) Southport Folk Club.
Feb 25th (Joe) Rossett School, Harrogate – Valparaiso round the Horn
Feb 29th (Joe) Ripon Heritage Centre – Life + Times Paul Robeson
Mar 6th (KM) The Railway Tavern, Huddersfield
Mar 9th (KM) The Royal Oak, Werneth, Oldham. 3pm
Apr 3rd (Joe) Bishop Stortford Folk Club, All Saints Church Hall, Bishop Stortford.
Apr 6th (Joe) Walthamstow Folk Club, The Plough Inn, Walthamstow. (Robeson lecture)
Apr 15th (Joe) Huddersfield Probus Club
Apr 17th (Joe) Lee Mount Primary School, Halifax.
Apr 20th (KM) The Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge. 5pm
Apr 26th (KM) Halifax Playhouse Theatre – recording ‘live’ album.
May 3rd (Joe) Rochester Sweeps Festival
May 9th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival, Alwinton, Northumberland.
May 10th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival, Alwinton, Northumberland.
May 11th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival, Alwinton, Northumberland.
May 14th (Joe) North Bradford Retired Men’s Forum - Life + Times Paul Robeson
Jul 4th (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 5th (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 6th (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 10th (KM) Darlington Arts Centre
Jul 17th (KM) Gregson Lane Folk Club, Village of Gregson Lane, Preston.
Sep 5th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 6th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 7th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 8th (Joe) Leeds North East Probus Club, Oakwood – Valparaiso round the Horn
Jan 11th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Festival, County Clare - Provisional
Jan 12th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Festival, County Clare – Provisional
Feb 7th (KM) Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax.
Feb 26th (Joe) Chapel Hill, North Carolina. US
Feb 27th (Joe) Pickers Supply Concert Hall, Fredericksburg, Virginia, US.
Feb 28th (Joe) Washington Folk Song Society. US
Oct 25th (KM) Scrag End Folk Club, Shoulder of Mutton, Oakthorpe, Leicestershire

That wonderful little scamp Christie Hennessy passed away on Tuesday December 11th from an asbestos related illness. He was 62. Christie wrote the most amazing ‘nonsense’ songs that somehow made sense that I have ever heard and he sang them is a way that was unique only to him. I first met him in a folk club somewhere in Croydon during the very early nineteen seventies. He was working on the building sites as a labourer by day and playing folk clubs, mainly floor spots at night. He hated the building work with a passion, but was forced to do it because (as I learnt only this last month when I was myself in Ireland) Christie could neither read nor write and he had a young family to maintain. He hid this abnormality from me and in those days probably disguised it from everybody he met. This alone makes his songwriting even more remarkable. Apparently he spent his childhood years roaming the countryside rather than attending school. He suffered from severe dyslexia which was shamefully not picked at school.

He was born in Tralee on the very west coast of Ireland in November 1945 the youngest of nine children. His father played accordion, his mother a great story teller also sang traditional Irish songs. He found the transition from rural west Ireland to Croydon a daunting task. At the time I was starting the Sweet Folk All Agency and Christie joined me along with Stan Arnold, The Wild Oats, The Southern Ramblers and Dave Lewry. I sent Christie all over Great Britain and for a while he was rid of the building sites he loathed so much and I suspect it was these very building sites, which in those days contained great quantities of asbestos which has caused this untimely demise. Perhaps I worked him too hard, perhaps too little; but after two years of tramping around England by public transport accompanied by a close male friend he decided to give it all up. Financially it was not working. I was saddened at the time (and remain so), I had done the best I could for him and it appeared that a huge talent was disappearing from the scene. But championed by Christie Moore who covered his wonderful song ‘Don’t forget your shovel’ Christie thankfully could not be kept from the public eye. His infamous ‘Green’ album on the Westwood label, which I as his manager instigated, has become a collectors item as only 500 copies were pressed. My own copy was stolen by a so called friend at my 50th birthday party in 1991. It was recorded in the bedroom of Camp Farm in Montgomery by the late Alan Green who had his own label ‘Folk Heritage’ but was that weekend working as engineer for Gordon Davies.

Christie’s distress about his own lack of reading and writing skills led him to become patron of the Irish anti-poverty charity Children in Crossfire, with a particular focus on its schools literacy programme. After a visit to Kenya with the charity, he wrote the song A Price for Love, which celebrated the organization’s 10th anniversary, with all royalties going to the charity forever.

He will be greatly missed. He was without doubt one of Irelands greatest troubadours; and like all great performers he was a unique entity. Goodnight Christie; perhaps I’ll come knocking on your doorbell sometime! Your songs will continue to be heard around the lanes and byways of your native home, and certainly in my own living room.

Visit his web site at > < for more information.

Here is an example of some Hennessy lyrics.

It’s five in the morning
And it’s starting to rain
I’d better walk out
Find out what’s new
In the world and its ways
Maud’s on the corner
Selling the news
Louis serves tea to the crew
Who never go home alone
Anne’s on the stairs
Her two cats have disappeared
Ginger knows all
He has checked out every wall
The writer has left his room
Number nine
The landlady says her husband is doing fine
Fan’s in the basement
Threatening to leave
The actor that calls
Walks through walls
He is never alone at home
My girl’s in the bedroom
Her clothes everywhere
She is asleep on the chair
And the fire has gone out
Old love songs mean more
Than they ever did before
But if they change I’ll know
That love is just a game
The drummer bangs on the floor
Sweet Caroline
The lady next door says she is doing fine
The writer has left his room
Number nine
The drummer bangs on the floor
Sweet Caroline
The lady next door says she is doing fine.

Pete Seeger once told me “Any fool can write complicated lyrics it takes a genius like Woody Guthrie to write simplistic lines”. Christie could neither read nor write, but he was a genius with words.


Hi Joe - thanks for the latest ramblings as ever. One little correction though - 'most' of the 450-odd guys (and 8 women) on Texas death row aren't black, although it's true to say that they represent a higher percentage of the prison population on a pro-rata basis than in everyday life. What they ALL are though, is poor. Those with enough dosh to pay a decent lawyer as soon as they are arrested are NEVER sentenced to die. A deal can always be done with the prosecution and in a land where money is all, the states themselves don't want things to get too drawn out by a lengthy and effective defense. Hence the nomination of totally useless, court-appointed lawyers to those without the means to hire decent representation.
Regarding DNA - this can not be taken for granted and testing to perhaps prove a man's innocence is frequently denied even when it could prove their innocence.
The following article (from the Alabama Chronicle or something) says it all:
Unless Alabama Gov. Bob Riley or courts intervene, Thomas Arthur will be executed tomorrow despite his claims of innocence and the possibility of DNA testing in his case. Less than two months ago, Darrell Grayson was executed after Riley refused to step in and allow DNA testing that could have proven Grayson’s guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project advocated for DNA testing in the courts and through the political system in both cases. But over the last few days, Riley has refused to even learn more about how DNA testing could prove Arthur’s innocence.
“As we told the governor’s senior advisers, 42 states in the country now allow post-conviction DNA testing. In 42 states, Darrell Grayson or Thomas Arthur would have been able to get DNA testing that could resolve their cases and maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Governor Riley, who has refused DNA testing before executions twice in the last two months, has made it clear that he isn’t concerned with getting to the truth in these cases,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld.
This was in September and the guy was duly put to death.
On a happier note - have you come across the UN poem of the year? - Apparently it's legit.

Nominated by UN as the best Poem of 2006 - Written by an African child

When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in Sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black

And you white fellow
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you grey
And you calling me coloured??

All ze best.
Tim Broadbent.

Every now and then a letter appears in the newspaper that is so outstanding it deserves acknowledgement (“Education can lessen discrimination,” The Times, 12/12/07). I do not know the letter writer, but she didn’t just hit the target, she hit the center of the bulls-eye. Yes, yes, yes — one of the primary purposes of a good education is to prepare its recipients to appreciate the diversity of the world we live in, to recognize that we should at least attempt to understand viewpoints that may be different from our own, and that in most cases we will be the better for doing so. As the writer stated so eloquently, it is difficult not to notice how so many of the people against whom we might be prejudiced — perhaps because of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or political affiliation — are productive citizens leading exemplary lives. And although the writer was perhaps too diplomatic to point this out, it is just as difficult not to notice how many people who have all the “right” credentials are also some of the world’s biggest hypocrites. I think most would agree that it’s a person’s character that counts, and it’s become painfully apparent that no group — political America, corporate America, or even religious America — has a lock on that quality.
Richard Weed

Dear Joe,
Even if he did not spell my name right in that letter from him that you published a couple of editions back, I have to say that the current letter from Eric Cowell was a true gem.
And your crie de coeur piece on Sowerby Bridge youth was almost as fine.
Just one thing. You are right to be relaxed about the wacky baccy, but Joe in the next breath you imply that the local youngsters are drinking BEER between tokes! And make no criticism other than say that they litter the area with their empty beer bottles.
This makes me swallow hard.
Tell them "No, no, no"!
The two substances must never be combined.
One makes for aggression. The other makes for relaxation.
They pull people different ways, plus can lead to REAL physical nausea.
Talking of pulling someone two ways, the joke (presumably by Anon? Pity the name of the genius who penned it is lost) on Antonio Blairescu and heaven and hell was also truly inspired.
Oh and that powerful sarcasm re the Leith Police! Great.
Proof that the Leith Police truly DO "dismisseth us" (as the tongue-twister would have it!)
One of the best issues of RoaOC I can ever recall.
Many thanks for it.
David "Dai" Woosnam

Great reading as always, although cant help thinking perhaps you would enjoy having a 'blog', both for the enjoyment of writing, and cash income.. and the enjoyment of a popular 'following' of readers.
I'm sure you know what a blog is, but heres an example (From a guy on ebay that started a blog after ebay bidders begged him to) (Updates regulary/daily - perhaps have to read back a bit to get the idea)
However, some blogs tend to be posts around interesting daily things for example.
What do you think?
James Hitchcock

You do me so much good - I agree heartedly with the content.
Two things that puzzle me re Blair/Brown and this totally incompetent, corrupt government is
1) what will appear next time, after this week's episodes!!
2) when will people, apart from ex Chiefs of Defence, start manning the barricades?
Brian H. Williams

To align with the current media coverage about the peaceful protest last month in Japan, I would appreciate if you could pass this to everyone you know to hopefully put an end to whaling. is trying to get a million people to sign a petition to stop whaling.
If you could tell as many people as you can about our website, that would be a great help.
Thanks for your support and remember to sign the petition.


Cheney's Doctors Detect Signs of Heart
Sudden Appearance of Major Organ Confounds Experts
In a stunning development that has confounded medical experts around the world, doctors examining Vice President Dick Cheney said today that they have detected signs of a heart.
The vice president was rushed to the hospital over the weekend after complaining of chest pains, but no one in Mr. Cheney's inner circle suspected that a human heart was the cause.
"We had been operating under the assumption that he didn't have one," said chief of staff David Addington, who said that Mr. Cheney also has not had a soul since 1995, when it was purchased by the Halliburton Company.
At George Washington University Hospital, doctors struggled to contain their excitement about what appeared to be the medical anomaly of the century: the sudden appearance of a human heart in a 66-year-old man.
"It is too early to say conclusively," said Dr. Carol Foyler, head of the team of doctors who examined the vice president. "But so far the beating and pumping sounds we are hearing in the vice president's chest cavity are very much consistent with his having a heart."
Dr. Foyler stressed that if the sounds emanating from Mr. Cheney's chest are those of a human heart, "This will contradict everything we thought we knew about Dick Cheney."
At the White House, spokesperson Dana Perino said that the sudden appearance of a heart in Dick Cheney's chest had motivated President Bush to schedule an MRI of his head.


Northern Rock
Just in case you are not aware of the effect that Northern Rock's problems is having on Japan's banks, I can confirm that Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up, Bonsai Bank is cutting its branches and trading in the Kamikaze Bank have ceased trading after its shares nose dived. At the Karate Bank 500 employees have been given the chop. Analysts also report that something fishy is happening at the Sushi Bank after customers complained of getting a raw deal.


It was the postman's last day on the job after 35 years of carrying the mail through all kinds of weather to the same neighborhood.

When he arrived at the first house on his route he was greeted by the whole family there, who congratulated him and sent him on his way with a big gift envelope.

At the second house they presented him with a box of fine cigars.

The folks at the third house handed him terrific fishing kit.

At the fourth house he was met at the door by a strikingly beautiful blonde in a revealing negligee. She took him by the hand and led him up the stairs to the bedroom where she blew his mind with the most passionate love he had ever experienced. Later they went downstairs, where she cooked him a giant breakfast: eggs, bacon, waffles, sausage, and freshly-squeezed orange juice.

As she was pouring, he noticed a five pound note sticking out from under the cup's bottom edge. "All this was just too wonderful for words," he said, "but, what's the fiver for?"

"Well," she said, "last night, I told my husband that today would be your last day, and that we should do something special for you. I asked him what to give you. He said, F*ck him, give him a Fiver. The breakfast was my idea."


A bloke walks into a Glasgow library and says to the prim librarian, 'Excuse me Miss, de ye hiv any books on suicide?'

To which she stops doing her tasks, looks at him over the top of her glasses and says, 'Fook off, ye'll nae bring it back!'


A man wakes up in hospital, bandaged from head to foot.

The doctor comes in and says “Ah, I see you've regained consciousness. Now you probably won't remember, but you were in a pile-up on the motorway. You're going to be OK, you'll walk again but something unfortunate happened. I'm trying to break this gently but your penis was chopped off in the wreck and we were unable to find it. You've got $9000 compensation coming to you and we have the technology now to build you a new penis that will work as well as your old one did, better in fact. But the thing is, it doesn't come cheap. It's a thousand dollars an inch.'

The bloke perks up at this.

“So the thing is” the doctor says, “it's for you to decide how many inches you want. But it's something you'd better discuss with your wife. I mean, if you had a five inch one before and you decide to go for a nine incher she might be a bit put out. But if you had a nine inch one before and you decide only to invest in a five incher this time she might be disappointed. So it's important that she plays a role in helping you make the decision.”

So the bloke agrees to talk with his wife and the doctor comes back the next day.

“So” says the doctor “Have you spoken with your wife?”

“I have.” says the fellow.

“And has she helped you in making the decision?”

“She has” says the bloke.

“And what is it?” asks the doctor. . .

“We're having a new kitchen.”

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead