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Crane Driver

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  1. I did write a bio on John Butterworth (who patented the Crane duet system) - it's available as a .pdf download from the Crane Concertina site here - if you want to link that into the article, you're welcome. John Hill Maccann is a different kettle of fish, a story still being researched, full of bigamy, desertion, and misinformation. May take a while. Andrew
  2. That 1908 wedding record is nowhere near as ‘innocent’ as MC’s post might suggest: The groom gives his name as John Henry Maccann, musician, age 47, son of John Hill Maccann, deceased, also musician John Hill Maccann was born about 1860, hence would be about 48 in 1908. How could he have a son aged 47? Precocious or what? The correction occurs in the groom’s own signature, and is the ‘wrong way round’ – he originally signed himself ‘John Hill Maccann’ and then corrected the ‘Hill’ to ‘Henry’ Who absent-mindedly signs his father’s name to the marriage register instead of his own? JHM is deliberately misleading the Registrar JHM married Eliza Wood Passmore Reed in 1878, in Plymouth, before his musical career really took off. There is no record of the marriage being annulled In the 1911 census, Eliza still considers herself to be married to JHM, though she presumably hasn’t seen him for years. She lived until 1914. Even with Minnie dead, JHM was not ‘free to marry’ in 1908 – not under his real name, anyway
  3. I think I'd better quote the obituary in full - I was concentrating on the bit about the prof's death, hoping to narrow down the work for those searching for death or burial notices. You'll also spot another reason for editing the full text - terms that were acceptable in 1915 are not so 100 years later. LOCAL PERSONALITY PASSES HENCE Liverpool abounds with personalities. Most of them are clever men; some are public performers. Who has not seen the two niggers in their song and piccolo act? Who has missed the various violinists who make music o’nights? The match-sellers, the collar-stud merchant, the raucous-voiced vendors who are always to be found at the same spot – they are all well-known folk. At football grounds we have personalities. There’s the concertina expert and the purveyor of gingerbread from a tray that is tasteful and tricky in that its light gets the eye of everyone – the greatest gift in advertising. To-day I take leave to announce that the city life and football grounds are the poorer by reason of the absence of Professor M’Cann, who died this week. A clever player, technically excellent, and a man with odd notions about “trimming” pieces he played. Professor M’Cann was known all over the city for his gentlemanliness and his expert music. The professor in his time headed the music hall bills, so I am informed, but of late years his abilities were confined to entertaining publicans’ customers and Liverpool football crowds. Without his melody, whilst awaiting the appearance of the teams, or during the interval, a football crowd will feel something lacking. This seems quite clearly to put the prof in the context where he was seen as belonging - amongst the match-sellers and buskers. It does not specifically say that the dead professor played concertina, though that is implied. I too wondered about the "trimming" - it sounds like he was in the habit of never actually finishing a piece, which might tie in with deteriorating mental health or alcoholism. It still doesn't answer the question -how did the writer know of his death, if it wasn't reported anywhere else? Does the Liverpool Echo still have records of who wrote "Bee's Sports Notes" back in 1915? It would be wonderful if an archive of his notes survived, but I'm not holding my breath. A job for Myrtle's Cook, perhaps? As far as the title 'Professor' is concerned, today it's seen as an academic rank from the world of university (different in the UK and USA, as so many things are), but it was often used more widely to signify a teacher or one who simply 'professed' to have a certain skill. It was not uncommon in the Music Hall. Today, operators of Punch & Judy shows are still referred to as Professors - see the Punch & Judy College of Professors website. The never-ending story? Andrew
  4. Hmmm - yes. All of which raises the question of how the sports reporter knew, within the week, of the Prof's death, if it wasn't reported anywhere. The 'obit' doesn't suggest the writer was personally acquainted with Maccann, just that he was a known 'character' who turned up and played his concertina at Liverpool Football matches. I suppose, assuming the 'obit' is genuine, that the Prof may have died elsewhere, perhaps on a holiday to the Isle of Man or Ireland, but most of the newspapers from there are available on line and I can't find him there either. But for the sports reporter to have known he was dead, within the week, he can't just have been an unidentified corpse washed up somewhere. The only person at this stage known to have been close to the professor was his wife Sarah (Kennerley) - but why would she inform a sports journalist, rather than a music reporter? Or perhaps she told everyone and only the sports writer bothered to print the story? Or perhaps it really WAS aliens? Andrew
  5. We should remeber, this was 1915. The Battle of Loos, the biggest British offensive of 1915, ran from mid-September to mid-October, right at the time of JHM's death. Probably people had other things on their minds than the passing of an old music hall entertainer. Perhaps, if two people with similar names passed away around the same time, in the same area, they'd get confused and only one would be recorded. There doesn't HAVE to be a conspiracy . . . or aliens! Andrew
  6. Certainly if Bob Gaskins likes to get in touch, I'll glady pass on whatever I've found during the hunt for the Professor - I'm sure he has most of it, but there may be a few bits to fill out the story. The two main loose ends I'd still like to see tidied away, are Minnie Maccann's maiden name, and whatever happened to Sarah (Kennerley). Probably even harder to track down than the Prof's death, but we can but hope. And check my thread on Maccann and Mexborough for another question to ponder - any help there would be appreciated. Andrew
  7. Ahhh - not sure about that, Gary. It sounds more like he was a persistent busker, probably bought his own ticket and played for the crowd in the hope of some loose change and a pie. Not quite in the same league as the Stones etc.! Andrew
  8. The 'British Newspaper Archive' is a wonderful site for this sort of research. Digital facsimilies of over 200 years of British newspapers, national and local, all searchable. It's just a matter of what to search for. I combined Liverpool and concertina, then every variant of 'Maccann' I could think of until that one popped up.
  9. Well, it looks like this is it. A report in the Liverpool Echo of Thursday 14 October 1915, a column entitled ‘Bee’s Sports Notes’: ‘Local Personality Passes Hence’ “At football grounds we have personalities. There’s the concertina expert and the purveyor of gingerbread from a tray . . . Today I take leave to announce that the city life and football grounds are the poorer by reason of the absence of Professor M’Cann, who died this week. A clever player, technically excellent, and a man with odd notions about “trimming” pieces he played. Professor M’Cann was known all over the city for his gentlemanliness and his expert music. The professor in his time headed the music hall bills, so I am informed, but of late years his abilities were confined to entertaining publicans’ customers and Liverpool football crowds. Without his melody, whilst awaiting the appearance of the teams, or during the interval, a football crowd will feel something lacking.” Typical that his obituary should appear in a column of sports news. And typical that they got his name wrong even at the end. Andrew
  10. I thought it was established early in this thread that the comedic rollerskating bloke was not the same man as the concertina man. Certainly the photo on the postcard doesn't look anything like the pictures of Prof J H in his own publications. I find, trawling the British Newspaper Archive, a number of reports from the West Country featuring a Mr Maccann or Professor Maccann 'of Plymouth' playing concertina at various charity and social events in Devon and Cornwall. Wheere no initials are given, I strongly suspect that most, if not all of these refer to brother William. John H would probably not have been referred to as being 'of Plymouth' at this stage. There may have been a more or less deliberate attempt to suggest that the more famous elder brother was involved, but of course no one suspected that these articles would be read or even available a century or more later. As far as spellings are concerned, that is usually down to the journalist. Just because the name appears as 'McCann' or whatever in a press report doesn't mean that the man himself spelt his name that way. I suspect that in some cases the spelling was adjusted to fit the type into the page! As for Minnie - yes, poor Minnie. Obviously rumours of her death were being put about by 'Certain Ladies' as early as 1900. Maccann seems to have felt there was no need to take her with him on his tours of America and Australia. Her death certificate does indeed give her age as 47, suggesting a birth in 1861, whereas her census entries suggest 1866. However, I have not found any record of her 'marriage' to John H, if it occurred, and have no idea of her maiden name. Her birthplace was apparently York, but there were dozens of girls born there in 1866 registered as 'Minnie' - and that may not have been the name she was registered with. As well as a name in its own right, it can be a diminutive for virtually any girl's name beginning with 'M'. Have any of the rest of you identified her? Andrew
  11. A report on a benefit concert in Plymouth, 1893 - Mr W H MacCann played a selection from the "Bohemian Girl" on his duet English concertina. 'Exeter Flying Post 11 November' Andrew
  12. Before we get too carried away by 1921, consider this advert from the Prof's 1902 booklet 'How to play the concertina' - available at the concertina library - William Hillham Hill Maccann was born in 1865 in Plymouth and seems to have lived there all his life. He died in 1936. He doesn't seem to have been a professional musician, at least not for long - in the 1911 census he is a chargehand at the naval dockyard. Newspaper accounts show he was heavily involved in the local masonic lodge. Unless there is any evidence to the contrary, I would guess this is the gentleman referred to in the 1921 report. Andrew
  13. Brilliant! I'm sure if we pool what we know, between us we can close in on what actually happened. I've looked again at Minnie Maccann's death certificate and I now think it probably is the Prof's second 'wife', since Myrtle's Cook confirms she was at 16 Dunkeld Street in 1905. She doesn't seem to have been an inmate at the workhouse - her home address is given as 180 Boaler Street, which is near Dunkeld and Winter Streets. She just seems to have gone into the Union infirmary at the end. I found this map on the Liverpool History Project website, based on maps from about 1900. For reasons best known to themselves, the map has East at the top, not North. I've highlighted Dunkeld Street, Winter Street and Boaler Street - you can also see Hengler's Circus at the bottom, near Winter Street, and the Union Infirmary on the left hand edge just north of Dunkeld St. I'm guessing the Prof and Minnie had split some time before she died, leaving her in Boaler St while he went off with Sarah to Minshull Street (not on the map but not far away). Timewise, we're getting close to the first war. I'm sure once the war started, there would be more important things to record than the death of a worn-out old music hall performer, however big he may have been. I still suspect he died around then, probably in the same Union infirmary. Almost certainly not abducted by aliens! Andrew
  14. Got it! There is a signed photo of the Prof in his 'How to Play Concertina' leaflet, dated 1902, in the Concertina Library. I'm pretty confident it's the same handwriting, especially for 'Maccann' - so that takes him to 1911. Andrew
  15. The last mention of a performance by Maccann I can find in the British Newspaper Archive is dated October 17 1904, at the Empire Theatre Portsmouth. He was appearing as part of Fred Karno's company, so presumably still seen as a top performer. There is, however, the matter of the marriage in Liverpool in 1908, mentioned above. The groom gives his name as John Henry Maccann, musician, and gives his father as John Hill Maccann (deceased), also musician. However, 'John Henry' gives his age as 47, which is the age John Hill Maccann would have been in 1908. The groom initially signed his name 'John Hill Maccann' but then crossed out the 'Hill' and substituted 'Henry'. How many people accidently sign their father's name rather than their own on their wedding certificate? Both bride and groom give their address as 3 Minshull Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool. John Hill Maccann married Eliza Reed in 1878, but seems to have abandonned her almost immediately. She died in the Devon County Asylum, Exmouth in 1914, so was still very much alive in 1908. Maybe the Prof 'went underground' to avoid being accused of bigamy? The bride in the 1908 wedding was Sarah Jane Kennerley. The 1911 census includes a John and Sarah Maccann, both musicians, living at 1 Winter Street, West Derby, Liverpool. Their ages match John Hill Maccann and Sarah Kennerley, and they had been married for 3 years, ie since 1908. The only discrepancy is that John gives his birthplace as Liverpool rather than Birmingham, but we can't assume people always tell the truth in census forms. Furthermore, the handwriting on the census form is the same as that on the 'John Henry Maccann' wedding certificate. Do we have a facsimile of the Prof's sigature anywhere for comparison? I believe that John Hill Maccann died sometime between 1911 and 1920, but that he had dropped out of sight either due to ill-health (perhaps another mental breakdown) or to avoid complications from his private life. One day, we may find out. Andrew
  16. Yes, Lavinia married within a couple of years (1889) to a Sergeant John Johnson of the North Staffordshire Regiment, which would have cut short any professional singing career. Men, of course, could be professional musicians however many wives they had! Andrew
  17. Going back to Stephen's report of JH's mental health problem, the 1891 census gives 55 Liverpool St. London as the home of Mrs Annie Mackinnon, widow, a lodging house keeper. There is a theatrical couple living at the same address, so this was possibly the Prof's digs in London. Otherwise I can't identify an Annie Maccann from the Prof's family. Unless it was actually Minnie Maccann, with whom the Prof is living in 1891 in Liverpool. The Prof had two full sisters and three half-sisters, I'd guess the one he was talking about as having 'the curse of Cain' would be Lavinia Mary Hill Maccann (1868-1914). In 1887, the year before he went to Bethlem, an advert for the Folly Theatre, Manchester includes both Professor Maccann, 'clever concertina soloist', and Miss Lavinia Maccann, 'vocalist'. Perhaps they'd had a falling-out. It all helps build up a picture of a person, not just a name. Andrew
  18. Fascinating. Another item to throw into the mix - an advert from 'The Era', May 26, 1900 - "Wanted, Known, to Whom it May Concern, Mrs Minnie J. H. Maccann is still alive, and Offers a Reward of £5 to any Person who will inform her of any Certain Ladies making Certain False Statements against her. Minnie J. H. Maccann, Batty's Circus, Stockton." In the London Electoral Register of 1900, 'John H Maccann' is given as renting a single, unfurnished top floor room at 94 Kennington Road, Lambeth, from a Mr Frederick Robson of the same address. This is the address at which Minnie Maccann appears in the 1901 Census, though John H is absent. No wonder the Professor complained of "Domestic Worry". Incidentally, the Minnie Maccann who appears in the Death Index for Liverpool 1908 doesn't seem, now I've seen the actual certificate, to be the same woman - she's described as 'spinster', for one thing. She died in the Workhouse Infirmary of cancer. What happened to 'Mrs Minnie J H Maccann' I have no idea. Maybe she went on under another name. To revert briefly to the original topic of this thread, most accounts of the Professor give his name as 'Maccann', though some do use 'McCann', probably as a more familiar spelling to the reporter. His own publications use 'Maccann'. The Prof's father, on the other hand, seems mainly to have used the spelling 'Macann' during his time as a mucician in Birmingham (roughly 1858-60). This is in his own advertisements for his concertina business - perhaps small ads were charged by the letter? Other sources give 'Mccann', 'Macan' and 'M'cann' amongst others. Still no word on when the Prof died though. Andrew
  19. Further to this, I've now found an advert from a Birmingham paper dated Thursday March 31 1859, which transcribes as below: Mr J Macann and his two daughters. These beautiful players on the English and German concertina give lessons daily at 76 Coleshill Street, Birmingham. Accordions and Concertinas made to order. All instruments warranted. Repairs done on the best principle. Harmoniums for sale or hire. Private and Quadrille Parties attended, with from Two to Twenty performers. All was not well in the Macann (sic) household, as an account of the Birmingham Police Court , Monday May 30 1859 makes clear: A concertina player, named John Macann, was summoned for assaulting his daughter, Harriett Macann. The defendant, it appeared, seized the girl by the hair, pulled her to the ground, and kicked her several times. She produced a handful of hair which she stated her father had torn from her head. Macann, when called on for his defence, pleaded intoxication. He was ordered to find sureties to keep the peace, or go to jail for two calendar months. Given that Macann's performers were billed as a 'Band of Hope' Temperance outfit, I guess that something else lay behind John's intoxication. Perhaps Harriett had just discovered that her father had got one of the band players, Sarah Hill, a girl about Harriett's age, pregnant - John Hill Maccann was born about 1860. Whatever, the Mac©anns left Birmingham around this time. All human life is here. Andrew
  20. Purely for my own amusement I have been looking into the family history of ‘Professor’ John Hill Maccann, patentee of the duet system that bears his name. I find that his father, also John Maccann, had a concertina business in Birmingham around 1857-60, and also managed a ‘Juvenile Concertina Band’ in which the professor’s mother, Sarah Hill, was apparently a player. John senior was some 20 years older than Sarah and had been married before, from which he had two daughters, the professor’s half-sisters, Sarah Elizabeth and Louisa Harriett. One account of John Maccann’s Juvenile Concertina Band from 1858 mentions the players being ‘accompanied by Miss Maccann’, presumably one of these daughters. Unfortunately it doesn’t say which one, nor on what she accompanied them. Louisa Harriett Maccann married a George Dunk and they moved to Yorkshire, arriving in Mexborough around 1879. George was a colliery labourer. There is a newspaper report from 1896 of an excursion from Mexborough to Hickleton Hall, Doncaster, at which a brass band played and “Mrs Dunk of Mexborough contributed melody on the concertina”, so she seems to have been accepted as an accomplished amateur player. The Mexborough Concertina Band apparently traced its origins back to 1884, just a few years after Louisa arrived in the area. The Dunks had several children including John Hillham Dunk and Joseph Maccann Dunk. Both the latter were born in Mexborough and by 1911 were working in the colliery offices. The Mexborough Concertina Band drew heavily on the colliery for players. Did the Dunk brothers, “Professor” Maccann’s nephews, also play with the band? Did their mother, Maccann’s half-sister who had probably played with ‘John Maccann’s Juvenile Concertina Band’ in the 1850s, have a hand in the formation of the Mexborough Concertina Band? It seems a bit of a coincidence if they didn’t. Are there still records of the people who were involved in the Band during the first 30 years of its existence? I apologise if all this is known already, but I haven't found it laid out anywhere else. Andrew
  21. Simple chord structures on the Crane are also very easy and regular. Make a Gmaj chord on the left end - index finger on G, ring on B, middle on D. Move the whole shape forward a row, and you have Cmaj (C, E, G) - back a row from G gives Dmin (D, F, A). You can get Dmaj by just moving the ring finger out from F to F#, same move converts Gmaj to min (B to Bb) or Cmaj to min (E to Eb). In the key of Gmaj, most simple folk style tunes only need the chords of G, C and D, which are all the same shape - the 'three-chord trick'. Same principle applies for chords based on the middle column of notes (E, A, D, G) and for column 2, except that Bmaj is odd because of all the accidentals. I played a 48 Crane literally for decades without feeling restricted, but then, I'm a simple sort of bloke. Having now moved up to a 55, I am learning to appreciate the extra scope, especially where song accompanyments need to go below the bottom C of the right hand. Before, I had to 'fudge' the low notes into the left hand or harmonise them away, now I can shift the whole accompanyment up an octave because I've got those extra top left end notes. Gives a whole new feel to the sound. I still play many things that would fit into the 48, and even a few I could do on a 35 without missing anything. But yes, of course, every system has its advantages and disadvantages. Learning to do what we want within those restrictions is part of making music. Andrew
  22. Totally accidental. I was at Whitby folk festival back in (gasp) 1971, a newcomer to folk music with a desire to play vastly greater than my ability. I owned a guitar at that stage, as that was what everyone seemed to play then, so in a club with about 20 resident guitarists, I came in at about 21 for skill. I heard Lee Nicholson playing concertina, and wanted one. I wanted to accompany myself singing, but found the basic guitar style of playing across the tune rather than along it (well, I know what I mean) got in the way of my singing (I couldn't sing either). I went to Lee's concertina workshop, where he explained about the difference between English and Anglo - both from the description seemed strange, but I guessed they'd make sense once I had one. Back home, I went out to one of those long-lost junk shops where so many of us seemed to start in the days before E-Bay, and there in the middle of the window was a concertina. I tried it. I liked it. But it wasn't either an English or an Anglo, having the same note on pull or push, but the high notes on the right and the low notes on the left. I bought it, learnt a tune and immediately became the club's best concertina player, which felt like a promotion. About 2 years later, I discovered it was called a Crane Duet. I traded up from 36 to 48 buttons, and the rest is history - or mostly geography, as I was all over the place to start with. Since then, I have owned and tried to get on with Anglo, English and Maccann Duet, but eventually sold them all on and stayed with the Crane. Not that the others were lesser systems - I suspect that I would have got on with whichever one I had found first - just that the sounds of the others were so similar to what I was already doing on the Crane that it didn't seem worth the effort to learn a new system. In addition to song accompanyments, I've played for Morris dancing and in a ceilidh band - once did a ceilidh as the sole musician, just me and the caller - so all in all, I'm glad I found that first Crane. Cost me £15 too!
  23. Quick check on Ancestry shows Thomas Dawkins, Importer and Manufacturer of Musical Instruments, living at 1 Highgate Rise, Kentish Town in 1861 and 1871. He was 54 in 1871, hence born about 1817. Place of birth Clerkenwell. His wife was Rosetta Weisbert Seiler, from Whitechapel - they married in 1840 and had at least 7 children, one of whom, also a Thomas, seems to have gone into the same business. The elder Thomas died between 1871 and 1881, when Rosetta, a widow, was living very comfortably at 1 Mansfield Villas, Hampstead, with four of her daughters and two servants. So presumably the later instruments are from Thomas the son. Andrew
  24. Here's myself plus Crane, with my wife Carole on tenor cornamuse, at the Loaded Dog Folk Club, Sydney, Australia, September 2011. Photo by Bob Bolton. Andrew
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