Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I loved the Look, too, but I think even better I liked the woman surrounded by paper doves.


These are great, Tom! And, er, since I can't usually get on to the Mudcat during the hours it's actually working- what's Flickr?



Link to post
Share on other sites

The pictures of Harold T Cowlin (The street musician), linked to in this thread, has prompted me to offer some comments about this remarkable man whome I knew for a numbers of years, from the early 1950’s until his death (I am not sure of the date).

This man was a musical maestro, accomplished player of many instruments, a composer, arranger, teacher, innovator, inventor and master of a myriad of other skills.

His views on material things were “if you can make it, why buy it?”

Over his life he had many jobs. His early years saw him as a street pianist where he would play piano on the back of a horse cart in the London streets, then an assistant (what has become known as a ‘roadie’) to Alexander Prince, and later as a brilliant banjo player and prominent member of a Christie Minstrel type band. His renditions of ‘classic’ banjo pieces really had to be seen and heard to be believed. He attempted to teach me the banjo but I was a poor pupil. Guitarists would learn from Harold’s own system of tuning the instrument so that he could teach them using music arranged for banjo.

His mastery of the Mccann system duet prompted my father to make him an instrument to his own design that incorporated coupled levers to enhance the performance of the classical pieces he often played. Harold successfully taught my mother to play concertina.

As said before Harold had a plethora of jobs throughout his life and seemed to have a natural ability to excel at all he attempted but unfortunately never seemed to reap adequate monetary rewards for his efforts.

Around 1955, due to then seemingly reluctance to accept ‘ear players and Anglo concertina players by other associations, a position I am glad to say has changed over the years, Harold Cowlin formed the North British Concertina Club. Why this name was chosen I have know idea. It was open initially to all players no matter what level, ability or type of concertina. Set up as a London adult education class so that meetings could be held weekly, it was a requirement of the education authority for a minimum number of enrolled ‘students’ to be present at each meeting to continue to enjoy the benefits of the educational premises and services provided. Being based in London, obviously it was difficult to maintain the weekly requirement and so the club/class was opened to players/learners etc. of any musical instrument who wished to play with other musicians. The name of the club was changed to the North London Concertina Band. Harold arranged all the music for the class and reproduced band copies on equipment designed and built by himself. In the early 1960’s, due to ill health, Harold passed over directorship of the Band/class to my father who continued it until his death in 1981.

Over his life Harold composed many pieces of music all of which I think were unpublished, I have some of his work that I must make available when I have the time.

Harold’s later years, I think, dogged by poor health and hence a fall in the ability to provide sufficient income by other means prompted the exchange of his special duet for a much inferior smaller instrument and the necessity to become once again a street musician.

A religious man and some would also say ‘slightly eccentric’ his last project was the building of a concert harp. Shortly before he died, I asked him why he was doing this and his reply was “ The only instrument in heaven may be a harp, so I need to get some practice”.


Geoffrey Crabb

Link to post
Share on other sites

On the odd occasions Geoffrey you send in little gems of information or stories relating to the concertina world.

If anyone should write a book, or get someone to write it for him it should be you.

You have some wonderful stories and information in your head that you let go in little bits.

Please Geoffrey seriously think about it.

Please put me down for a copy,I am placing my order now.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderful story. These little tidbits of history are so valuable. Ken, are you there?? These types of things should be collected and made available at the C.net homepage. Along with the photo.


As if you have nothing better to do:-)


(Couldn't seem to 'capture' the photo, but the we could still link to it.)

Edited by Sandy Winters
Link to post
Share on other sites

There are new picturees up there now, and if you click on the photographers name (upper left) you can get captions and dates for the photos. Oddly enough, according to the photographer, he took the shot of Harold Cowlin a week and a half ago -- Tom

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Tom, judging by the fashion of the clothes, the pictures are either taken in Neal's Yard near Covent Garden two weeks ago or they were taken in the late 70's early 80's!


There is also a very healthly looking Dave Swarbrick without oxygen tank. I may be very much mistaken but the latest information I heard was that Dave Swarbrick was quite ill.


I would hazard a guess that the dates referred to in the captions are upload dates.


They are fantastic photos - there is also some really good quality border morris photo's in the dance/theatre slideshow as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...