Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 109 – October 2009

Jeff Sawtell’s letter in the September Ramblings in which he rightly lamented having been beaten by a rounder bat on the base of his spine by some thug of a teacher, presumably shortly after the end of World War Two, brought two contrasting letters; one from America the other from the UK. For me, Eric Cowell’s letter hits the subject spot on! But I would say that, he is obviously in agreement with me. Eric’s letter puts the subject into perspective. There is a definite line between reasonable punishment and abuse. Jeff Sawtell was abused, Eric although caned did not consider it as abuse, he considered it to be reasonable punishment for the crime he had committed, and having been chastised beat a straight path thereafter. (If you will excuse the pun?) He also has no hang-ups about it and does not resent the punishment he received in any way.

I was seldom chastised at school. I remember being given the slipper on the backside on two occasions. The first time I was probably rightly chastised although I must admit I forget the reason, I think it might have been for fighting. The second time was self inflicted! We had a math’s teacher at Askes Grammar School in New Cross who always took his panacea, a size 12 plimpsole, with him wherever he went. I obviously admired the man, I remember I actually liked him very much, and for a year or two managed to avoid receiving the panacea. Suddenly he disappeared for two terms. He was in the Territorial Army and had been summoned to the Suez crisis. I was delighted to see him return for the summer term at school and eagerly awaited him coming to our class for the third lesson of the day. I must have been about 14 years old – nearly 15 probably. As soon as he walked in I asked him if he had used his panacea yet. His answer was negative (the answer I wanted); “Could I be the first sir?” I enquired. “Certainly Boy, come out here”, came the reply. I bent over facing the class smiling at them. Six whacks later on the backside I was still smiling! Although definitely smarting a bit. Now I promise you I am not a masochist and I never received his panacea again because it bloody well stung. To this day I’m not certain why I subjected myself to the pain, perhaps one of my readers is a psychologist/psychiatrist and could give me a sensible explanation. But for some reason I desperately wanted to be the first pupil to receive the panacea upon his return from Egypt. It was a strange goal, and do you know none of the other children in my class asked me why I had done it, although they all found the whole episode highly amusing.

I also remember that one third of our rugby team were caned for smoking on a school bus on the way home from a match; fortunately I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, or I might have been one of them. It probably didn’t deter them from smoking, but it did stop them smoking whilst on school duty. The ironical twist to this story is that the majority of them went on to play for the Old Boys side where they probably drunk and caroused with the very man who had punished them. (Again no sign of resentment).

I was intrigued, if not horrified, to learn that there are nearly 2 million drivers on British roads today who are not insured; and I have to ask myself how many of them are French? Here in West Yorkshire we have an infinite number of French restaurants and even more French taxi drivers all of whom speak remarkably good English even if they have just arrived from their native land – some with, some without passports. There is a standing joke in West Yorkshire that if you get into a collision with a car driven by a Frenchman it is highly likely that he will be uninsured. A relation of ours was knocked down recently on a zebra crossing by a Pakistani driver who was uninsured but of course that is irrelevant really as it’s not a part of the topic.

Have I just made a racist statement? And would it make it anymore racist if the taxi drivers were not French? Asian say?

At the very end of July the BBC filmed Kimber’s Men for a programme scheduled to be shown on BBC4TV later this year about sea shanties. We started off in Whitby ending up (via the RNLI lifeboat) in Robin Hood’s Bay. Neil did an interview about the Robert Whitworth and we sung the song that Neil and Roz had written about the incredible story of the Robert Whitworth lifeboat being hauled 7 miles from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay in 1881 (the seas at Whitby were too severe to launch the lifeboat) to save ‘The Visitor’ which was foundering off Robin Hood’s Bay. Other shanty groups involved in the programme include The Keeler’s and Fishermen’s Friends from Port Isaac in Cornwall. Look out for the film towards the end of this year although I’ll give you more notice nearer the time anyway.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007.
A man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk..
6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.
The man collected a total of $32.
1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?

Now here comes a little poser.
Is a hermaphrodite a woman?
Is a hermaphrodite a man?
Is a hermaphrodite a hermaphrodite?
Personally, I believe it to be the third answer. Consequently if a hermaphrodite is not a woman the hermaphrodite should not be competing in women’s competitive sport; full stop. It makes a mockery of the sport that one competitor should have a pronounced physical advantage over the others. It becomes a pointless exercise for the others to even compete. Why don’t little men box with big men? Answer; because the big man has a physical advantage over the little man.

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

Oct 9th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 10th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 11th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 19th (KM) The Bridge Folk Club, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Oct 25th (KM) Scrag End Folk Club, Shoulder of Mutton, Oakthorpe, Leicestershire

Nov 14th (Joe) The News from Nowhere Club, Waltham Forest. – Robeson Lecture.
Nov 21st (KM) 'Folk At The Proke', St. Mary's Social Club, Melton Street, Batley
Dec 3rd (KM) St. Michael All Angels J. I. School, Meadow Close, Shelf, Halifax HX3
Feb 10th (KM) Burnley Folk Club. Kettledrum Inn, Red Lees Road, Cliviger.
Mar 13th (KM) New Mill Probus Club, Holmfirth.
May 14th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 15th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 16th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 28th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
May 29th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
May 30th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
Jun 18th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jun 19th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jun 20th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jul 2nd (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 3rd (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival

Jul 4th (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 9th (KM) Stonehaven Folk Festival, NE Scotland
Jul 10th (KM) Stonehaven Folk Festival, NE Scotland
Aug 20th (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 21st (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 22nd (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 27th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 28th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 29th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 30th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Sep 11th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 12th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 24th (KM) Blackstone Theatre, Exmouth, Devon. with Exmouth Shanty Men
Sep 25th (KM) The Castle Inn, Combe Martin, High Street, North Devon


Kimber’s Men - In Port
A Private Label double-CD, APL12 (53m and 56m)

Kimber’s Men – Gareth Scott, Joe Stead, Dave Buckley, John Bromley and Neil Kimber – are ambassadors for sea music, still trotting out their exciting shanties and songs of the salt water and river. Festival favourites all, this double-CD was recorded before an audience at Halifax Playhouse, and the 40 tracks are brimming over with maritimeabilia, not just well-chosen traditional work songs like Sugar In The Hold, Fire Marengo and John Cherokee but with contemporary true stories like Harry Eddom and Neil and Roz Kimber’s Don’t Take The Heroes to Tim Lacock’s adaptation of Row On or the beautiful Pete Seeger/Joe Stead anthem Darkest Before The Dawn.

It’s an absolute bargain, too, for £15; almost two hours of sea music, postage and packing included, from Providence Place, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire HX6 1BA. What’s more, a £1 donation goes to the RNLI for each sale.

Listen to those marvellous harmonies, shored up by the glorious, rumbling bass, in the New Zealand classic The Little Pot Stove, David Buckley’s tribute to Stan Hugill, Stan The Shanty Man or What Price, the dangerous, deadly job of supplying the fish to the supermarket housewives who complain about the cost. In terms of quality CD’s which are a joy to listen to, Kimber’s Men have made a really big splash with this one.

Mick Tems

Mary Travers
Mary Allin Travers was born on November 9 1936 at Louisville, Kentucky. Both her parents were journalists, and when she was two the family moved to New York City, where Mary attended Elisabeth Irwin High School.
Her home turf was the bohemian district of Greenwich Village, and she haunted the coffee house circuit listening to the folk musicians who performed there. She was developing a powerful voice of her own, and sang at the Sunday afternoon folk music gatherings in Washington Square Park, then recorded with a group of teenagers called The Song Swappers, who released two albums and twice provided backing for Pete Seeger in concerts at Carnegie Hall. In 1958 she appeared in The Next President, a Broadway show starring the comedian Mort Sahl.
It is doubtful, however, that Mary Travers, who suffered from a crippling shyness, would ever have had a professional singing career had it not been for Albert B Grossman. In 1961 he was managing an unknown folk performer called Peter Yarrow, and was looking for a girl and another man to form a trio which he could turn into an updated version of The Weavers.
Peter, Paul and Mary's achievement was to bring folk music into the commercial mainstream. The two guitarists in the band, Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey, were really quite unremarkable but the blonde and willowy Mary Travers, on the other hand, invested the group with a kind of Nordic glamour. Their manager, Albert B Grossman (who was also to handle Bob Dylan), was adamant that she should retain an aura of mystery about her, and insisted that she never spoke on stage.
Peter, Paul and Mary's three-part harmonies generated 13 Top 40 hits (six in the Top 10), and eight gold albums and five platinum. Unsurprisingly, the group was at times criticized by purists, and certainly by me, as "too commercial". At the time as a group I didn’t like them. I thought they were ‘dastardising’ folk music. But they did a lot of good work throughout their lives; although one of them did spend time in prison in later years for child abuse.
But the group did oppose the war in Vietnam and embraced the great liberal causes of the day. In 1963 their recording of Blowin' in the Wind became a Top 10 hit and was taken up by the civil rights movement.
In August that year Dr Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington; Peter, Paul and Mary were there too, entertaining the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial alongside Dylan, Joan Baez and other artists who embraced the protest movement. (Robeson because of his earlier left wing associations was not made welcome by Dr King and it is notable that Pete Seeger was also missing from this momentous occasion; I’m left to ponder why. Both of course – Robeson especially – were responsible for attempting to kick start civil rights).
The trio remained successful for the rest of the decade but split up in 1971 to pursue careers as solo artists.
Mary Travers went on to release five albums, but none had the success she enjoyed as part of the group. She also hosted a syndicated radio show, lectured at colleges on "Society and its Effect on Music" and wrote for newspapers.
She continued her work as a political activist, taking part in missions to El Salvador and Nicaragua, and, in 1983, visited the Soviet Union to investigate the problems faced by Russian Jews. With Peter and Paul she performed at national marches for "women's choice" in Washington and demonstrated in support of the anti-apartheid movement outside the South African embassy. The trio also campaigned against homelessness in New York City and in support of migrant strawberry workers in California.
I was fortunate to meet here back stage at The Philadelphia Folk Festival one year (Probably 1980) and we had a coffee together. She was a delightful person and I found our meeting a great encouragement to my own solo career.
Mary Travers's first three marriages ended in divorce. She is survived by her fourth husband, Ethan Robbins, and two daughters.


Dear Pal Joe,

I was most pleased to see the letter from Jeff Sawtell regarding 'corporal punishment' in the schools, though it was sad to know what he went through as a child. The letter comes at a time when we Americans are discussing the legitimacy and effectiveness of torture during times of war or threats to our safety.

One hears plenty of anecdotal input to the arguments of each side, for and against, but there is hardly any input in the form of scientifically obtained data. Based on the extensive behavioral research of the 20th century, my guess is that torture and abuse fail to accomplish anything more than providing some form of pleasure for the administrator. The results of properly controlled studies will resolve the issue. Until then, I rely on a bit of science that says positive reinforcement is the way to enhance the behaviors you favor. On a more humorous note, I rely on all the spy stories and movies that tell us how to get plenty of secret information -- put a good looking babe in bed with the guy spy. Bingo.

Your pal,
Fishken (Boston USA)

Dear Joe,


In my school in Liverpool (a long, long time ago) we had corporal punishment. The teacher was not allowed to dispense it to avoid angered retribution to the guilty child. The teacher booked us into a headmaster’s Friday corporal punishment session. The usual was six strokes of the cane across the backside or three on the palm of the hand. It could sting but the real punishment was being made to wait in line in the corridor outside the heads room. All of the children passing by could see you and knew what for. It was their derogatory comments, jeers and jibes that really hurt.

So, not given in anger, our punishment was almost always just. I am certain that I deserved the few canings that were given and that I was better because of them.

In similar vein, during my misspent youth a friend and I coming home from school scrumped apples from an orchard that was bounded by a high wall. On top of the wall, look up and down the road, coast clear and in for two or three apples. One day, seeing no-one in the road I dropped down into the orchard and into the waiting arms of our local police in the form of Sergeant Robertson. He took off his belt and lathered my bum with it. Finished, he said “now go and tell yer dad what I have just done”. Three days later he called to check that I had indeed confessed to my father. A week after that I met him in the village. He said “ hello lad, how are you today ?”. All over, no court case, no youth criminal record. I think it was the last and only time that I stole anything. Corporal punishment fairly given and without anger is powerful stuff. I think we should bring it back and use it within strict codes.

Eric Cowell
Breeds Farm, 57 High Street, Wicken, Ely, Cambs CB7 5XR.


As a loyal, right-leaning reader please indulge me in letting me revisit a recurring beef I have with many who politically fall to the left, and that is a tendency to label any and every thing with which this disagree as "right." Strictly speaking, the terms "left" and "right" are properly applied to schools of economic political theory, the left tending toward socialism and collectivism and the right toward capitalism and free market. I bring this up, again, in response to Mr. John Millar's off-handed and common characterization of any religious extremism as "right-wing fanatics." Simply because one is opposed to both capitalist economic theories and ignorant folks killing "non-believers," it does not logically follow that the two are synonymous.

Leaving aside the fact that I am aware of no Jewish, Christian or Hindu organizations operating on a scale or fervor even approaching the government and private sponsored global Muslim groups that advocate the hate, violence and enmity nor achieving a commiserate level of support among their leity, I completely fail to see how any religious group that pushes for extreme government control over so many aspects of private life, including to whom one may sell and what one may buy and sell, could remotely be considered of the "right." While totalitarian states can be of either the right (capitalistic economy with strict personal restrictions) or the left (tight government control of both industry and private conduct), it is my belief that it is easier to engender a respect for personal liberty that includes economic liberty. I also make the historical observation that a state desirous to curb one freedom is more likely to make a grab for both.

David Henry (USA – I think!).

Dear Joe,
My mind gets itself into overboggle over a paradox with zero. Viz :- I am told that 0 X 1 = 0. I can follow this since if you have nothing to multiply it will always be 0. However I am told that 1 x 0 also = 0. Here I lose the logic. If I have one of something and multiply it by nothing I still have one. Hence 1 x 0 according to my logic should = 1 .
I fail to understand why mathematicians insist that 1 x 0 = 0.
ie. 0 x 1 and 1x 0 are to me not the same thing.
Eric Cowell

Hi Joe
I am a Brit living in Ohio USA.
I have managed to get a Shanty Crew going in my area. For what it is worth visit our web site.
I always look forward to your e mails keep it up.


A man walks out to the street and catches a taxi just going by. He gets into the taxi, and the cabbie says, "Perfect timing. You're just like Frank."
Passenger: 'Who?'
Cabbie: "Frank Feldman. He's a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along when you needed a cab, things happened like that to Frank Feldman every single time."
Passenger: "There are always a few clouds over everybody."
Cabbie: "Not Frank Feldman He was a terrific athlete. He could have won the Grand-Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang like an opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the piano. He was an amazing guy."
Passenger: "Sounds like he was something really special."
Cabbie: "There's more... He had a memory like a computer. He remembered everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Frank Feldman, he could do everything right."
Passenger: "Wow, some guy then."
Cabbie: "He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Frank, he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she was in the wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes highly polished too. He was the perfect man! He never made a mistake. No one could ever measure up to Frank Feldman."
Passenger: "An amazing fellow. How did you meet him?"
Cabbie: "Well, I never actually met Frank. He died some time back but I'm married to his ******* widow."

Browsing Old Cemeteries A truly Happy Person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. And, one who can enjoy browsing old cemeteries... Some fascinating things on old tombstones!

(Some of these might have been printed before)

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York: Born 1903--Died 1942. Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.

In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery: Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.

On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia : Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only the Good Die Young.

In a London , England cemetery: Here lies Ann Mann, Who lived an old maid but died an old Mann. Dec. 8, 1767

In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery: Anna Wallace The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna. Clark Wallace wanted a wife, and the Devil sent him Anna

In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery: Here lies Johnny Yeast... Pardon him for not rising.

In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery: Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas instead of the brake

In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery: Here lays The Kid. We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw

A lawyer's epitaph in England: Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange

John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery: Reader, if cash thou art in want of any, Dig 6 feet deep and thou wilt find a Penny

In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England : On the 22nd of June, Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune.

Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls , Vermont : Here lies the body of our Anna, Done to death by a banana. It wasn't the fruit that laid her low, But the skin of the thing that made her go.

On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket, Massachusetts : Under the sod and under the trees, Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there's only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.

In a cemetery in England :
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so shall you be.
Remember this and follow me.
To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent.
Until I know which way you went.

Important Quotes

"I can't believe that out of 100,000 sperm, you were the quickest."
Steven Pearl.

"I could never learn to like her, except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight."
Mark Twain.

"Don't look now, but there's one too many in this room and I think it's you."
Groucho Marx.

"Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome."
Oscar Levant.

"Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others."
Winston Churchill.

"Fine words! I wonder where you stole them."
Jonathan Swift.

"From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it."
Groucho Marx.

"You had to stand in line to hate him."
Hedder Hopper.

"You have a good and kind soul. It just doesn't match the rest of you."
Norm Papernick

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead