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Arthur Ransome

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Almost at the last page of Roland Chambers' biography of Arthur Ransome, I discover that the old scholar, author, journalist, negotiator, spy and sailing enthusiast was also a concertina player.


Two questions come to mind:

  • What kind of concertinist was he?
  • Which other celebrated old scholars, authors, journalists, international negotiators, spies and sailing enthusiasts were also little known for their concertina playing?


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Canada can offer up Robert Service, the "Bard of the Yukon". Service came to Canada as a young man, and after a period of vagabonding, became one of the most popular and commercially successful poets of the 20th century with Gold Rush inspired, Kiplingesque ballads such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee". He worked as a journalist and war correspondant, was a decorated Great War ambulance driver, and was once arrested on suspicion of being a British spy. He married a distillery heiress and settled in France, where he wrote novels and poetry and styled himself a Bohemian. He was known to play English concertina, and also wrote about hiding his accordion in the rafters of his country house in France during WWII. An idea of his relationship with these instruments, and the kind of music he favoured, can be found in the words of his poem "Accordion". As a further concertina connection, Canadian folk music legend David Parry, inspired by Peter Bellamy's Kipling project, set some of Service's poems to music. Brian Peters has recorded a brilliant version of "Accordion".


Edited by Bill N
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