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Concertinas At Sea: A History Of A Nautical Icon


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I don't think this is so surprising. A sailor arriving in Europe after a voyage to Australia and back would have nearly a year's wages in his pocket.

Allowing for the advances, money spent on the way and on drink in Australia and general rip-offs - say three months. ;)

Although they weren't well paid, this would be a considerable amount of money.

As long as the concertina seller (chandlery) was closer than the bar, it is possibile that someone whose cheap concer blew out on the voyage would buy a good quality one for the next trip.

(Now if he can only get it back aboard intact after the trip to the bar).

Suggests a variant to a popular sailor song:

Now, in the morning when I awoke,

I started to roar like thunder.

Me
squeezebox
* and me money, too

She bore away for plunder.
:D

* or "Me Jeffries..."? In the original, it's "Me gold watch...."

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What really surprised me was that some higher quality anglo instruments made it to sea, even quite early....they weren't all German ones.

 

I don't think this is so surprising. A sailor arriving in Europe after a voyage to Australia and back would have nearly a year's wages in his pocket.

Allowing for the advances, money spent on the way and on drink in Australia and general rip-offs - say three months. ;)

Although they weren't well paid, this would be a considerable amount of money.

As long as the concertina seller (chandlery) was closer than the bar, it is possibile that someone whose cheap concer blew out on the voyage would buy a good quality one for the next trip.

(Now if he can only get it back aboard intact after the trip to the bar).

 

Good point, Rod. If I knew I was going on a grueling two year voyage, most of which was out of sight of land with no prospects of regular contact with loved ones, I think I might well opt for the highest quality musical instrument that I could afford, too. After you read the two or three trashy novels in the forecastle, and grew tired of scrimshawing and other crafts, a little music would be just the thing. Clearly, George Jones had no trouble selling concertinas to sailors....and his bio mentions that they commonly bartered with him, too.

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Just as a point of interest, in the 1850s the "Marco Polo" was the first clipper ship to arrive back after a trip to Australia in less thatn 6 months.

On a more sedate transport, and with changing ships etc. the time could easily be more than a year before reaching a source of a replacement intrument!

 

Robin Madge

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Suggests a variant to a popular sailor song:

Now, in the morning when I awoke,

I started to roar like thunder.

Me
squeezebox
* and me money, too

She bore away for plunder.
:D

* or "Me Jeffries..."? In the original, it's "Me gold watch...."

 

or Maggy May

 

Next day I woke in bed, with a sore and aching head

No shoes, or concertina could I find

I asked her where they were, and she answered, "My dear sir,

They're down in Kelly's knock-shop, number nine"

 

:lol:

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After you read the two or three trashy novels in the forecastle, and grew tired of scrimshawing and other crafts, a little music would be just the thing.

 

Not sure Ashley would approve. in his "Book of Knots" he deplored the modern trend of sailors learning to read. It was taking time away from their knotting! ;)

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The shanty that later became "Hangin' Johnny"?

"Oh, they call me Squeezin' Johnny,

-- Away, boys, away;

They think squeezin's awful funny,

-- So squeeze, boys, squeeze."

How about "Drunken Sailor"?

"What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

[...........etc.]"

 

"Make him play
accordion
until he's sober.

[...........etc.]"
:ph34r:

Or new verses to "General Taylor"?

I'd buy me a ship with that Mexican gold,

-- Walk him along, John, carry him along,

And with concertinas fill the hold,

-- Carry him to his buryin' ground.
(chorus)

I'd give a Scholer to every man,

-- Walk him along, John, carry him along,

But a Jeffries to the shanty man,

-- Carry him to his buryin' ground.

(chorus)

An alternative to that last verse could be:

I'd give an anglo to every man,

-- Walk him along, John, carry him along,

But a Crane duet to the shanty man,

-- Carry him to his buryin' ground.
:D
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All,

 

At long last, my latest little history is available online: The Concertina at Sea: A History of a Nautical Icon.

 

Dan,

It's taken me some time to reply to this "heads-up", but I've been busy lately, and wanted to do justice to your estimable effort by reading it thoroughly.

 

I must say, I enjoyed reading it.

Of course I never had any doubts that sailors in the days of sail played the concertina. The allusion by Joseph Conrad, a wonderful author and a seaman all his working life, clinched the matter in my mind. But your article has put my suppositions on a more sound statistical basis.

 

One of the reasons why I took up the concertina at all was my penchant for things nautical (the other was my early religious conditioning of a Sunday morning in the Salvation Army Citadel - so I approve wholeheartedly of your charitable intentions). My music is a hobby and has a low budget, so I was pleased to learn that, to play nautical music "authentically", you don't need a Wheatstone English or even a Jeffries 40-button anglo. A cheap German 20-button will do - and that is what I started out with! I shall now continue with nautical music on my cheap Italian 30-button without compunction ;-)

 

Another aspect of you study that I found interesting was the fact that, although sailors played concertinas, they played other instruments, too (I enjoyed the photo of the Foo-Foo band with concertina and autoharp - another instrument I like to play. The autoharp in the photo is German, by the way.) And that they didn't play and sing only forebitters and sailor's hornpipes. That musical sailors were, in fact, perfectly normal amateur musicians who did their best to entertain their friends in the absence of professional entertainers - as workers in rural areas of Britain and America did at that time, too.

I think it would do a lot of so-called folkies good to realise that the "purity" that they attempt to inject into music handed down from earlier generations, and its separation from other musics, are a myth. Our grandfathers knew nothing of "folk music" - they just made music ;-)

 

A very interesting, entertaining and enlightening article - thanks for sharing!

 

Cheers,

John

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That musical sailors were, in fact, perfectly normal amateur musicians who did their best to entertain their friends in the absence of professional entertainers - as workers in rural areas of Britain and America did at that time, too.

I think it would do a lot of so-called folkies good to realise that the "purity" that they attempt to inject into music handed down from earlier generations, and its separation from other musics, are a myth. Our grandfathers knew nothing of "folk music" - they just made music ;-)

 

A very interesting, entertaining and enlightening article - thanks for sharing!

 

Cheers,

John

John,

 

Glad you liked the piece...thanks.

 

Your conclusions are ones that I share. From what documents I see, the 'separation' that you mention occurred in the early 20th century with the explosion out of America of newer forms of music (ragtime, jazz, tin pan alley tunes...later, blues, rock and roll etc.) that moved away from a western European popular music tradition that had been very decidedly diatonic. These new forms came about by infusions of much more chromatic eastern European music traditions coupled with the different, back beat rhythms from African peoples....forged together in American cities with a base of western European popular music...and when this was finished, popular music never looked back. Instruments that were basically diatonic, like the two row anglo-german concertina, the melodeon, the autoharp, the tin whistle, etc., moved from the mainstream to the shadows (try playing a lot of Gerschwin on your two-row anglo!). I agree that the concept of 'traditional' music was not one held by the vast majority of nineteenth century players; in the 20th century it became necessary to make a distinction between the new and older forms of popular music.

 

The full story is of course much more complex, and these complexities are fascinating. But my current guess is that the above is the general rule.

 

By the way, John Townley once wrote a whole article on why a cheap concertina (in his case, a Bastari) was the historically correct concertina for nautical music (in the old Concertina and Squeezebox magazine). My grand-uncle in Clare played a German-made concertina back at the turn of the last century too, and much preferred its sound to the fancier models. I agree with them both....but am still happy with my Dipper!

 

Cheers,

Dan

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  • 9 months later...

Dear Dan,

I have just read out your excellent article and I am already constructing a ficticious story for a Lachenal 30b Anglo (52430) that was originally sold by E.J. Ward of Liverpool (around 1895 ?) and recently purchased from Tampa, Florida.

I would be interested in your version?

Best reagrds,

Neil

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Dear Dan,

I have just read out your excellent article and I am already constructing a ficticious story for a Lachenal 30b Anglo (52430) that was originally sold by E.J. Ward of Liverpool (around 1895 ?) and recently purchased from Tampa, Florida.

I would be interested in your version?

Best reagrds,

Neil

 

Neil,

 

Well, if you are making it up, I hope you will find something more interesting than today's usual story...that it got from Liverpool to Tampa via eBay! :rolleyes:

 

Glad you liked the piece.

 

Cheers,

Dan

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Dear Dan,

I have just read out your excellent article and I am already constructing a ficticious story for a Lachenal 30b Anglo (52430) that was originally sold by E.J. Ward of Liverpool (around 1895 ?) and recently purchased from Tampa, Florida.

I would be interested in your version?

Best reagrds,

Neil

 

Neil,

 

Well, if you are making it up, I hope you will find something more interesting than today's usual story...that it got from Liverpool to Tampa via eBay! :rolleyes:

 

Glad you liked the piece.

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

 

'Concertina Crimes,' It'll never catch on!

 

Yours A E Proulx

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Ah well, I'm not sure it was John, but I used to use a Scholer as part of my gig to illustrate what might be a sailor's choice; no leather to become moldy, garish, with double reeds wherin out-of-tune doesn't matter.

Cheers,

Geo

post-10-1234972663_thumb.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

Congratulations on the PhD Dan! ;)

 

If you didn't get one for that brilliant article, then ye was robbed! :rolleyes:

 

I hope you don't mind, but I've posted a link to it on my Concertinas in Scotland forum, & included a couple of references to Scotland, that I found in it.

 

The Concertina at Sea

 

I'm sure my forum's readers will be as fascinated by this piece, as I was & who knows, someone up there might just have more info for you.

 

Cheers

Dick

 

P.S. I think you may have forgotten to mention this famous Concertina playing Sailor ;)

Edited by Ptarmigan
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Congratulations on the PhD Dan! ;)

 

If you didn't get one for that brilliant article, then ye was robbed! :rolleyes:

 

I hope you don't mind, but I've posted a link to it on my Concertinas in Scotland forum, & included a couple of references to Scotland, that I found in it.

 

The Concertina at Sea

 

I'm sure my forum's readers will be as fascinated by this piece, as I was & who knows, someone up there might just have more info for you.

 

Cheers

Dick

 

P.S. I think you may have forgotten to mention this famous Concertina playing Sailor ;)

 

Thanks, Dick and Ian, for the kind words, and you are very welcome to link to it, Dick. I'm glad it is being read!

I've seen the Laurel and Hardy clip, and was saving it for my in-progress book on the History of the Anglo (I think Stan Laurel actually knew how to play it). I'm just finishing a first draft of the chapter on the Boers....fascinating stuff.

Cheers,

Dan

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