Tag Archives: Music


When I was in my thirties I would sometimes spend an evening in Aylsham, playing chamber music in the home of a retired butcher. Butchers are not normally notable for their musical tastes, and this one was no exception; he was a plain, hones, down-to-earth Norfolkman. However, his wife had longings for the more refined side of life, which is why she played the violin. To find a young string player of a similar cultivated background (who had been to a Public School and Oxford no less) obviously impressed her greatly, and so I was invited to her soirées, although my instrument (a double bass) was not the ideal member of a string quartet! Butchering had been kind to the family, and they lived in fine style in a detached house in its own grounds in Aylsham.

I would already have been very familiar with the town, because the road from Norwich to Cromer went right through the middle until the bypass was built the 70s. My first plain memory of Aylsham goes back to middle 1960s, when I attended the wedding of  Sandra, my father’s receptionist at the time. In fact she was only a few years older than I was, although she seemed very mature to me. My father had two receptionists at this period, and the other one, Helen Keller, was even nearer my age. Sandra’s wedding took place at St Michael’s church, which stands  just north of the market place.

My frequent attendance at the Aylsham Sale Yard was mostly in search of second-hand books; Keys, the auctioneers, developed a special line in book sales. However I have bought all sorts of other things there too; everything from musical instruments to rolls of wire netting. I have never bought ‘Three Chairs’ though; this announcement was always made preceding the sale of a lot of these articles of furniture, and it always brought the response from the crowd ‘Hip, Hip, Hooray’. This joke is probably obscure to those unfamiliar with the ‘Broad Norfolk’ dialect.  To let you ‘furriners’ in on the joke, the word ‘cheers’ is pronounced ‘chairs’ in the local tongue.

There is no longer any livestock sold at Aylsham sale yard, but when I first used to go there calves and pigs were still being auctioned every week. This part of the sale ground has now been built on as a housing estate. Live chickens and rabbits lasted rather longer.Now the only bullock you will see there is when they hold a picture sale of eighteenth century livestock.

The fine thatched pump in Aylsham was erected to commemorate John Soame, who died in 1910. He was a farmer from Spratts Green, an area towards Brampton near Marsham, and was undoubted a relative of Soame the steam engine maker from Marsham. We no longer require water to be drawn from a public well, but back in 1911, when it was built,  both horses and people were glad of the artesian bore that was sunk some 50 metres into the subsoil.

There is still a railway station at Aylsham, but this is now the terminus of the narrow gauge tourist line that runs to Wroxham from the town. This follows the route of the standard gauge line that was opened in 1880 and finally closed in the 1980s. Regular passenger services were withdrawn in 1952. This was the GER branch line from Wroxham to County School near North Elmham. Aylsham  had two railways serving the town; Aylsham North was on the M&GN main line from Leicester to Great Yarmouth, and lost its passenger service when the former M&GN closed in 1959.

My most recent visit to Aylsham was during last summer, when I spent a pleasant hour or two in the Black Boys pub on the Market Place. The market is not to be confused with the sale yard; the Market Place is the centre of the town, where the Town Hall and the church look down on the vegetable and flower stalls. A market still take place there. I had known this pub the Black Boys for as long as I can remember, but this was the first time I had been inside. It was already long-established in the 18th century, when it was supplied by William Hardy from his brewery at Letheringsett. The interior has been much altered over the years, but the oak staircase running to the first floor from the bar is as old at the property itself.




Great Aunt Nellie

Father Charles

Ellen Lydia Mason is something of a shadowy figure. I can for instance show you no pictures of  her or of her husband. She was born in Northamptonshire at a village called Sulgrave. Its main claim to fame is Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington’s family. Since Ellen was born, the Grade 1 listed building has become a museum, and no doubt it gets many visitors from America.

To find out why Ellen (Nellie) was born so far from Norfolk we must try to discover some family history. Ellen’s parents (and my great-grandparents) Rebecca (née Buxton) and Charles Mason had met at the age of 21  in Staffordshire. Rebecca was from Easton in Norfolk, but she had gone to Stoke on Trent for a job in domestic service. The young couple fell in love and Charles travelled to her home village of Easton to marry her; this took place on June 17th 1879. It was difficult for her husband to find employment locally, and at the time their first child was born in Norfolk the boy’s father was working away.


Charles always had an affinity with animals and spent most of his career looking after the cart horses that were used for deliveries from Carrow Works in Norwich. In 1880 he was working as kennelman to a hunt in Kent. Three years later both he and his wife were living in Northamptonshire, no doubt with Charles working in some similar capacity. So it was in Sulgrave that Ellen was born. She was baptised in the church of St James the Less in Sulgrave on March 7th 1883. She did not stay long in Northamptonshire, because by the following year the family was back in Easton for the birth of Will, my grandfather. Rebecca stayed at the Dog Inn for her lying-in.

At the age of eleven Nellie lost her mother Rebecca; her father was left with a young family to bring up and soon remarried. By then he had found secure employed with Colmans at Carrow Works and the family was living in Trowse. By the time of the 1901 census she was 18 and already living away from home as cook to a pair of middle-aged spinster ladies at Elham in Kent. It was there that she met her husband to be, Maurice Lawrence.

CONSTABLE’S HAY WAIN, (Willy Lott’s cottage).

Maurice was born in 1877 in Stratford St Mary near the river Stour on the Suffolk/Essex border. The son of a farm worker, after starting as kitchen boy he soon graduated to be an errand boy, delivering goods to houses in the locality. One of the places he visited on a regular basis was Willy Lott’s cottage, well known from the  picture of the Hay Wain by John Constable (1776-1837). By 1900 Maurice was in service to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s mother at her home, Leith Hill Place in Surrey (this house now belongs to the National Trust). A year later he had got a job on the railway and he was working as a porter at Elham station in Kent. He was not there long either, as he was soon promoted to the position of signalman in Folkestone, but not before making the acquaintance of young Nellie Mason.

It was a slow burning romance, because the couple were not married for eight years; then they returned to the bride’s home in Trowse where the ceremony took place in the village church on the 26th of September, 1908.  The couple began married life in Cheriton, a suburb of Folkestone. They lived in a spacious terraced house with a bay window in Dunnett Road in the town. By 1930 he had been promoted from assistant to the signal box at Walmer, a seaside town just outside Dover. They had a house in the centre of town not far from Walmer Station, in Dover Road. Maurice reached retirement age during the Second World War; after twelve years of retirement he was widowed when Nellie died in 1956 aged 73. Maurice lived until 1967, when he died at the age of 90. They had no children.




SOME VANISHED TRADES (and some survivals)

You have only to look through old 19th century Directories to get an idea of what I mean by vanished trades. There are still plenty of shopkeepers, and lawyers will always be with us; newsagents and insurance agents are still a presence on the High Street (or not far off it) but have you come across a silk thrower lately? Or a basket maker? Or even a dressmaker? Silk still gets woven somewhere, and baskets are still made, while women’s clothes are so plentiful they just get thrown away, but I doubt they are made much closer to home than Bangladesh. Nor do I think sackcloth is a big seller in Woodbridge any more, but two hundred years ago it was. Even coal merchants are few and far between nowadays.

Straw bonnet makers are no longer with us, nor are the straw bonnets they once made. Saddlers are not as common as they once were, though people still ride horses and so still require saddles; someone must make them. Horses still need grooming as well, but this tends to be done nowadays by their devoted owners, rather than by professional grooms. Shoemakers are not the common tradesmen they were in the 19th century, but shoe shops have replaced them to some extent. Plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers are as sought after as ever.

The butcher is still a useful tradesman, although supermarkets have taken a lot of the business that once was exclusively in the hands of the small trader. The same is true of the baker, but the hair dresser is still independent, and there are no big chains of barber’s shops. Jewellers are now a mixture of large chains like Samuels and smaller independent shops like Windsor Bishop here in Norwich. The large chains tend to concentrate on the cheaper end of the market, while the independents supply the wealthier customer. Music teachers are still in demand, although they tend not to describe themselves as Professors of Music any longer. Accountants are more prolific than ever, and bookkeepers; so too are bookmakers, although booksellers seem to be struggling.


Among the vanished trades is that of currier; I am not even sure what a currier did. It had nothing to with making curries, that’s for sure. Upon further research I discover that a currier was responsible for dressing leather after the tanner had done with it, applying the dyes, softeners and waterproofing. So now you know. A bird preserver must have been what we would now call a taxidermist; does such a trade still exist, or is it done today exclusively by amateurs? Malting is now done in large processing plants, and the old trade of maltster has gone. There used to be tobacconists when I was young, but although tobacco is still available it is hidden away and never seen. The trade of hosier has gone, the sale of socks and stockings being subsumed into the general clothes retailing sector. You would go a long time before you came across a foreman boiler maker, and even longer before you met wheelwright.

What about the trades that have replaced these old ones? That of garage mechanic springs to mind, and before that the cycle repair man. Typists and telephonists have come and gone between the 19th century and now. Buses have replaced stage coaches and so bus drivers have replaced coachmen, while aeroplanes have appeared out of the clear blue sky, together with their pilots.  Shops selling mobile phones and computers were unknown forty years ago. Charity shops did not exist before the Second World War, and nor did health food stores. The Chinese restaurant was the first of the exotic food outlets to appear in town and cities, to be followed by Italian restaurants. Now you can buy virtually any cuisine under the sun in your local high street.

The nature of employment has changed and will continue to change. Automation and robots will increasingly takeover the mundane tasks, but that does not mean the end of work. The reluctance of people to prepare their own meals has led to a huge growth in restaurants and takeaways; once it was just the chippie. Eventually food preparation may be automated, but with more people than ever being employed in this country I can see no evidence that the growth of technology has led to a lower demand for workers. Estate agents shops have flourished while banking branches have declined. Antique shops and garden centres have sprung up in the last 75 years, demonstrating how the increase in wealth and leisure time is changing our shopping habits.





Theatre has been preserved in the playwrights’ manuscripts and published dramas. Paintings remain as permanent reminders of the work of artists, and although music may have vanished into the ether the moment it was performed (before the invention of recorded sound), it was transcribed into notes and staves and has been preserved in this way.  Unlike these art forms, that of dance was a transient one, until the advent of ciné photography enabled the capture of dance steps in a form intelligible to all. Simple dances like the jig  (gigue) may be described in words, but the more extended artistic dances which arose in the 18th century defy such straightforward exposition. The science of choreography had developed a way of recording such dances before the advent of the movie camera, but this was a particularly obscure form of notation, known only to a few specialists.

The history of Dance in Norwich is inseparable from the name Noverre. There were dances performed going back into the mists of time, but no one stood out as a famous name until Augustin Noverre retired to the city in the last years of the 18th century. A Swiss by origin, he had grown up in Paris before he became a prominent teacher of dance in London. He escaped to Norwich when he thought he had killed a man during a performance at Drury Lane; he found in the local Huguenot there a community conducive to hiding him from justice. In fact his adversary was unharmed, and he was able to return to London. He must have found the city to his liking; it was certainly a better place for his retirement than Revolutionary France. He retired to Norwich and although he probably did not give dancing lessons in Norfolk, his son Francis certainly did.

The popular dance at the time was the Minuet; the Waltz became the dance everybody turned to later in the 19th century. The Polonaise was Polish as was the Mazurka, and as piano pieces these were popularised by Chopin. Dance should be separated into at least two genres; the amateur variety, practised to varying degrees of proficiency by the public at large, and professional dance that we generally know as ballet. The amateur type of dance may be further sub-divided into folk dance, ballroom dancing and (since the first quarter of the twentieth century) popular dance.

Many folk dances originated in England, but they have been modified in Ireland and are now almost exclusively associated with that country. The Sailors Hornpipe for example, which in this country is now only heard as a piece of music played at the Last Night of the Proms, was an English dance through and through. It had a range hand movements to go with the steps. These extended from lifting the arm to the forehead (signifying the seaman’s look-out with his eyeglass) to the tugging at his breeches (signify what I hardly dare speculate). In the Irish version all this has gone, and the hands are rigidly held to the dancer’s side. Is this really a feature of Roman Catholic puritanism in Ireland, that discouraged any possibility of bodily contact in dancing?  No arm-in-arm dancing there! Tap dancing also makes footwork the basis of dance, though without the complete lack of arm movement that characterises Irish dance.

Unlike the balletomane I am not enthralled by Swan Lake or the Nutcracker as dances; as pieces of music they are OK. Among the popular dance steps, though the music may be rather repetitive, the Lindy hop and the Tango are two favourite dances of mine – strictly as a spectator you understand. The Charleston is another pre-war dance that in many ways typifies the 1920s.

The two twentieth century dance halls in the city of Norwich that I remember were the Samson and Hercules in Tombland and the Lido on Aylsham Road. Both have now closed, and the Samson and Hercules has turned into flats. We need flats I suppose, but what a boring comedown for a dance hall that was opened in the 1924 by the Duchess of York (later known as the Queen Mother).

My own dancing career was brief; I had few lessons in Norwich in the Waltz with Miss Boswell who lived next door to my father’s business in Surrey Street. During my teenage years the craze of the day was the Twist. This was a simple way of moving to music; I will not call it a dance, because the feet remain glued to the ground. The hips gyrated with gusto, and the arms were waved about  in general sort of way. Good old Chubby Checker: ” Come n lets dance the Twist, like we did last summer”! I remember a school dance during my last year, when we boys were paired up with young ladies from Runton Hill and Sutherland House in Cromer, two girls’ schools that closed many years ago.  I am far too old to be interested in today’s dancing, but I gather the centre for such things has moved to Riverside by the Wensum near the railway station.






For breakfast I had an egg from my friend Liz, who keeps chickens and goats at her smallholding near Acle (her husband works as a limnologist for the Broads Authority). Then we took Fido to Spur Lane for a walk. We got to work in Norwich at about ten o’ clock. I was told by Pearl (the optician’s receptionist) that I had missed a customer, but all was not lost as she phone back later. Bill phoned and spoke to my sister Tig while I packed up her Christmas gift, and one for cousin Marion too (a calendar).

At midday I drove Pearl to the station where she was due to catch the train to London, to spend the holiday with her daughter Georgina and partner Julius. She was very grateful for the lift. We had shrimps for lunch and then a boy and girl collected the optical instrument that had been ordered over the phone. I later had a visit from the customer herself; she wants a floor stand for the magnifying lanp, which I will provide for her after Christmas. We took Fido to Wash Lane where I gathered some logs in the dark. Sawed them up when we got home, while Tig made a mince-pie. Our next door neighbours Betty and Graham invited us round for whisky and mince-pies. For supper we had sausages and mushrooms.


Good old Father Christmas gave me some Mexican Jumping Beans (great fun). We had breakfast and then put the goose in the oven. After a cup of coffee we opened our presents. I got a pair of trousers and a pair of shoes. I got a puzzle from my sister in Canada which kept me busy for much of the morning, although I also played with my jumping beans. The goose was delicious; at 3 p.m. we watched the Queen. Then we went to Saxlingham and gathered some more logs on Smock Mill Common, while Fido had a sniff round.  For tea we had Christmas cake, home-made by Tiggie. I put on the record player and played Scottish accordion music by the Alexander Brothers, hand-bells and Corelli’s Christmas concerto. In the evening we watched ‘Death on the Nile’ by Agatha Christie. For our evening meal we had pea soup and apple pie.


Ditchingham House c1910. The card says:"I thought perhaps you would like this card. Mr Rider Haggard lives here."

Ditchingham House

For breakfast we had goose liver and bacon. We took the dog out in the car and gathered some more logs. For the rest of the morning we were reading our new books and being suitably lazy. For lunch it was cold goose and watercress followed by blackcurrant pie and ice cream. We went to Ditchingham and took Fido for a run across Bath Hills – and you guessed it – picked up some more logs! It was very muddy under foot. When we got home again Tig had to have rest but I made use of the remaining daylight to do some gardening. I moved some stones from the shrubbery and spiked most of the low lawn. After that I felt rather stiff, but at least I had worked off some of the goose  – but all the good was undone by having Christmas cake for tea! After dark I went into the garage and put the car battery on the charger. I also sharpened the teeth of the chain saw. We had wine by the fire and then gave Fido a bath. I got my accordion out and had a little play. On TV we watched Hi-de-Hi! and another Agatha Christie film, ‘The Spider’s Web’. It has been a mild Christmas.

[Some people may wonder how I can remember what happened over thirty years ago in such detail, but that is the effect of keeping a diary; I can actually remember nothing of the days.]









I am not referring to the tube but to the cultural movement that began in the late 1960s. It was (to begin with at least) restricted to the capital of England, Swinging London. However it had none of the jolly inclusiveness of that fashionable time. The Underground was the esoteric underbelly of the Swinging Sixties, dark, intellectual and middle class (although they would never have admitted that). In the early days I was as involved in all this as anyone could be who was living outside London. I read Oz and the International  Times and listened to Radio One. The only DJ who was remotely interested in the Underground was John Peel, and his programme, which came on late at night, was my daily fare. I lapped it all up.

I was an enthusiast of the late David Bowie when he was part of the Underground; this preceded his first album which came out in 1967. It was before most of his fans were even born, and several years before he became a main stream pop star. With a school friend of similar tastes I also followed the avant-garde poets of the day, although that French term was not used either of or by them. William Blake was the historical figure all these poets looked up to, but browsing their names fifty years later there is no one among them who approaches him in stature. The Underground even permeated my painting, as you can see above. Drugs were an essential part of the Underground, and I joined in by smoking banana skins which (I was reliably informed) were a sure way to psychedelia. It was certainly a revolting experience. I know what I am talking about when I refer to the Underground.

I became disillusioned with the Underground well before 1970. The first rift came with John Peel himself. On 20th August 1968  Russian tanks rolled into Prague. It was a city I felt deeply about, having been there myself three years earlier. I listened intently to John Peel, desperately waiting for him to mention the outrage. Nothing other than his vapid sayings on incompetent guitar bands passed his lips.  I gave up listening to John Peel in disgust. Compared to the awful things that were happening in Europe the self-regarding activities of a bunch of mediocre artists and musicians seemed irrelevant.

I was very young and I soon grew out of my infatuation with the Underground. What puzzles me is that so much of today’s culture still looks back to many of the trends that began in the febrile atmosphere of the Chalk Farm Roundhouse. Pop Music acquired an elevated status that it never merited and performers like David Bowie even have arrangements of their banal songs played on Classic FM. The popular music of the 1930s had no such pretentions, but (in my opinion) is much more listenable than Ziggy Stardust. What we now call Post Modern Art can be traced back to the 1960s and the Underground. In much the same way that many elderly men and women have never abandoned their youthful politics, their cultural aspirations have been preserved in aspic.

Not everything that came out of the Underground can be classified as bad, though I cannot point to any great masterpieces either. The real advances in art and entertainment have occurred elsewhere; compare the fuzzy black and white images of television in 1967 with today’s digital flat screens. The technologists have been advancing by great leaps while the art establishment seem stuck in the past. But maybe I am just being an old fogey and there really is art among the winners of the Turner Prize that is comparable with that of J. M. W. Turner. Or perhaps not.






iom-db-festOn Monday 16th my sister Tig and I set off from our home near Norwich in the Fiat Panda. My double bass was in its cover on the roof rack. My dog Fido was also coming with us all the way to the Isle of Man. We had lunch at a pub near RAF Cranwell. Bill had travelled from his home near Whitby to see us for the day, and having shared the driving we arrived at the house of Marie Wragge (Bill’s mum) in Prestbury at four o’ clock.  We three younger ones took the dog down to the Bollin river for a walk. The river had lots of Himalayan Balsam plants growing on the banks, and I enjoyed surprising Bill with their exploding seed pods. That evening he drove us all out to a village called Wincle, where we had smoked trout at the Ship Inn.

On Tuesday Bill had to catch the train back to Yorkshire, and we bade farewell to Mrs Wragge and drove off to catch the ferry at Liverpool. We had been to the Isle of Man two years earlier, with Bill on that occasion. We gave Fido a run in a disused railway yard beside the terminal and then boarded the RO-RO ferry, Mona’s Isle. The dog got on free, although I think he was supposed to have a ticket. He was able to walk round the ship on his lead. While Tig went to the bar I chatted to a Manxman who was returning to his birthplace after 20 years. After the crossing we drove round the island and saw the Viking longship Odin’s Raven at Peel. She had sailed to the IoM from Norway three years earlier.

Rodney Slatford & PUPILS .IoM

Rodney Slatford & his pupils, Isle of Man

We were staying in Tiggy’s friend Elly Cadell’s cottage near Port Erin. Elly, who was away as resident nurse at a sanatorium, was not then living in May Cottage. This pretty property had previously belonged to Ronnie Aldrich, the former bandmaster of the Squadronaires. We drove south from Peel to find the cottage; it is very picturesque but very damp, although not as bad as it had been in 1980 when Bill and I slept there. In spite of it being summer we had to light a fire, which began to dry things out a bit. There is a lovely moor nearby, with flowering grasses and heather, and so were able to exercise Fido. We had shepherd’s pie and apple tart for tea.

On Wednesday 18th I enrolled for the Festival and bought my ticket for the final concert. There is a newspaper for the competition called the Daily Scroll. Then with Tig I went to see the Glen Maye waterfall near Peel. We took Fido for a long walk and met a sheep in a pigsty. Then we had coffee and Tig bought me a deerstalker hat for 95p! I promptly left on Odin’s Raven, but Tig got it back. To Douglas and saw the horse-drawn and electric trams. We bought a ticket for Fido so he will be legal on the boat back.

In the evening I went to a concert by Rodney Slatford and 12 of his pupils from the Royal College of Music. Frances Dorling, a young bassist from Norwich who is studying at the Guildhall School of Music sat with me. She intends to be a professional musician.* She will be competing in the Festival later. I sent a postcard to our mutual teacher Colin Boulter to tell him the news.

Alan Pickard

Alan Pickard

Thursday; after breakfast I was taken to the Falcon’s Nest in Port Erin where they were holding a Junior Bass School. The warm-up studies were excellent; I suppose I should have been playing, but I would have been out of my depth even in a junior class! Alan Pickard who had taught music at Gresham’s when I was a pupil there has now returned to his native IoM where he has a music shop. I was talking to a couple of locals who were helping out at the concert. They knew Alan very well. After Fernando Grillo’s concert at the Art Centre I went to Alan Pickard’s bookshop and we reminisced on old times. He says that he wrote the Lt. Governor’s introduction in the programme for him! After lunch I went to the Railway Museum- Bill would have had a field day buying souvenirs, old tickets and crested crockery. Next I went to a lecture by a husband and wife who make bows for basses; they are going to show us rehairing later. Then to a Master Class by Barry Green. At cocktail hour I got talking to a student and an army trombonist who plays bass as a sideline. The evening concert was given by the prizewinner of the first competition in 1978. I chatted with Frances Dorling again and met another competitor, a young man called Mike Woolf [an American who is now Professor of Double Bass at the University of the Arts, Berlin].

Friday, August 20th; today I fluctuated between despair at ever being able to play and enthusiasm. I walked Fido towards the Chasms after breakfast of fish fingers; the first class was at 9.30 so I did not have to rush. It was bowing exercises today, followed by a video of the BBC  The Great Double Bass Race. Heard pieces by Mozart, Capuzzi and Bottesini. Had a drink with Frances in the Bass Bar and chatted to Joan, a bassist from the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra. Returned to the cottage to find Elly had arrived with her dog Honey, who Fido was very interested in.

Saturday; drove into Port Erin for a lecture by Rodney Slatford on Koussevitsky (1874-1951), the Russian born conductor, composer and bass player. He spent most of his career in Boston, USA. After going round the Motor Museum I came home for sherry before lunch with Tig and Elly. The dogs get on well except when they are eating, when Honey gets the upper hand. Back for a class on bass maintenance; things like bass bar repairs and the fact the sound post always falls down when the strings are removed – all bass players know that. Then it was a very special Master Class by František Pošta (1919-1991), the Czech virtuoso. On the way over I was chatting to Barry, a bassist who plays with the Bournemouth Symphony who knows Colin Boulter very well – he bought his five string bass from him, a fine instrument by Benedikt Lang. František Pošta’s English is just adequate; his most memorable saying; ‘play in tune then add VIBRATO, play in time then add RUBATO‘. Back for a concert by Leonard Woolf. Barry tells me that Colin got a fellow bass player so drunk he had to be held up all though a concert!

Colin Boulter in 2012

Colin Boulter in 2012

When I got back Tig and Elly were out with Elly’s friend Marie and I was locked out, but the back door was open. Apparently Honey had eaten Fido’s supper again;  she will be getting enormous and poor Fido will fade away.

Sunday; Elly drove us to the Laxey Wheel, and told us to buy something to eat at the pub before going on the tram up Snaefell. We took rolls and cans of drink with us. We went to the summit, leaving the dogs behind. It was sunny, but the haze prevented us seeing any of the four other countries you can see on a good day (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland). We descended and I saw two bassists on the tram going up. Elly took us to Tholt-y-Will Glen, and we walked down past the waterfalls to have a cup of tea at the bottom. We drove south to Fleshwick Bay where I gathered a lot of driftwood for the fire (although we had earlier bought some coal). Back to the cottage to burn some of the wood. This evening Fido was able to eat his food before Honey got to it.

Monday morning Tig and I went to a secondhand bookshop in an old barn. The owner had died three months before and it was being run by his widow. We got a lot of books, a Wodehouse, Pick of Punch etc. I went to a recital at 2.30, it was by the eventual winner. I asked Frances what she did yesterday and she told me she spent it playing quartets with three other bassists. At May Cottage I sawed up some logs. The evening concert was by the Nash Ensemble.

Tuesday; a lot of walking in the rain; things kept getting cancelled but eventually I attended a lecture on position playing. At 10.30 there was a Jazz bass concert. Home, and Tiggie and I went to the Nautical Museum at Castletown. There we saw the armed yacht Peggy  built in 1791 by an eccentric called Quayle. It had been walled up in its boathouse in the early 19th century and was rediscovered in 1951. At Port Erin I heard the lecture on hairing bows. On my return to the cottage I found the ladies having a bonfire in the garden and the house full of smoke. The recital this evening was by a Japanese competitor.

Wednesday. Tig took Fido to Ramsey and nearly ran into another car which pulled out into her path; she braked so suddenly Fido fell off the car seat. I did not go into Port Erin until 10 o’clock and watched a video of two members of the Berlin Phil playing cello and bass in pieces by Rossini, Mon, Paganini and Romberg. I sat through another recital with Joan, Frances left after two items. There was also a concert of Dragonettis and Bottesine pieces written for instruments other than the double bass. As it was such a lovely bright afternoon I skipped the Jazz recital and went round the open air museum, saw the train arriving but returned in time for cocktail hour. I had taken my copy of the 1978 competition programme for Joan to read.  The František Pošta recital was well received by most of the audience but the music was not to Frances’s taste. Colin would say that the job of a professional musician is to play what is put in front of him, not to like what he hears. Afterwards I had a drink in the Bass Bar.

Thursday 26th August. It was the last day of the competition, taken up with recitals by the finalists in various categories. I bought Bill one of the last three dinner plates at the museum shop with the Isle of Man railway crest; it cost £4. The two Dutch bassists who Tig had met earlier in the week gave a very stylish recital. After the final performances (which Duncan McTier won) we went back to the Falcon’s Nest for a farewell drink at the Festival Final Reception. František Pošta shook us all by the hand.


*Frances Dorling has worked as a freelance double bass for many of the professional orchestras in the UK. She played in the Dutch Tango quartet Cuarteto Rotterdam until 2008. For more details of Frances Dorling’s biography click here. To see her and hear her on the bass click here.

For some of my own later experiences playing the double bass click here. A list of the musicals I played in the decade to 1990 is given here.

[I am told by his granddaughter that Colin Boulter died in February of this year- 2017. He had been living in London since 1982.]





Real folk music no longer exists in this country. It may do so in parts of Germany and Switzerland, but in Britain what is called Folk is the product of middle class guitar strummers of the 1960s. By then the rural working class, the last true upholders of the folk music tradition, had abandoned it for the pop music that radio and gramophone records had made more easily available.

In Norfolk we may still pick up hints of folk music as it used to be. Very often it was simply sung; when played on an instrument it was often the accordion that was used. A nineteenth century invention, this portable reed organ was taken up with enthusiasm by people across the world. We are told this was what was played one evening before the First World War, in Central Norfolk at Gressenhall Village Hall. There a young miller was playing county dance music by ear for a local get-together, when he was heard by a professional musician. Francis Cunningham Woods, who was on holiday from his job as Head of Music at Highgate School, used what he had heard to compose the Gressenhall Suite*. In 2015 the suite was played at a concert in the former Gressenhall Workhouse chapel (now part of the Museum of Norfolk Life), to mark the hundredth anniversary of its publication. I was privileged to be present.

In other parts of the country people like Percy Grainger, Cecil  Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth were diligently collecting the tunes which were soon to die out, had they not been preserved for posterity. My father as young man heard such a song being sung in the Wheel of Fortune pub in Alpington, South Norfolk, but was too shy to copy it down. He had the ability but lacked the confidence. This song had been learnt by the old man as a youngster it in the mid 19th century, but whatever it was both the words and music have now been lost forever. Although the professional musicians who collected these tunes produced suites and arrangements from them, they are art songs and quite different in mood from the simple folk melodies sung over a pint of beer in the local pub. The words of these songs were at least as important as the tunes, and the words were not so important to these collectors, who were musicians first and foremost.



In Norfolk the most popular folk instrument was the dulcimer. I have heard it played, and to be frank it is rather a jangly sound. In the US this type of instrument is called a hammered dulcimer, to distinguish it from the Appalachian dulcimer, which is plucked. Over here this plucked type of instrument is known as the psaltery.

When I was growing up a builder called Mr Matthews lived a few houses along the road from us. I can just remember him, although he must have died in about 1960, before I was was a teenager. He always had fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth. I never thought he was anything but an ordinary Norfolk ‘bor’, but years later his widow remarked to me that he had played the dulcimer. How I wish that I had heard him; he must have been one of the last traditional players of folk music in Norfolk.

The dulcimer has enjoyed a revival recently, but it is now played by such people as university undergraduates and accountants in their leisure hours. Mr Matthews’ chain smoking does not go with this lifestyle, and nor does the job of bricklaying. The tunes are now read from printed manuscripts, not handed down from father to son as they once were. As I remarked at the beginning, folk music no longer exists in this country.

*The Gressenhall Suite was published by Hawkes, but is now hard to find. I have an original set of parts, and as a work now out of copyright it may be copied from the British Library.








Dick was an inspirational teacher to generations of schoolboys at Gresham’s. Before studying geography at Cambridge University he had been head boy at the public school in Holt. His first place of education was the Council School at Hemsby, the seaside village near Yarmouth. There among the local boys and girls he picked the authentic Norfolk dialect which he loved, and he could drop into ‘Broad Norfolk’ at any time. Apart from his wartime service he was a teacher at Gresham’s School all his working life. Beyond the school walls he did much to promote the study of local wildlife among the wider East Anglian public. He was a frequent contributor to BBC East television programmes; but none of the viewers knew what an interesting family the television personality had sprung from.

I have already in a previous post revealed his direct descent from the multi-faceted Richard Mackenzie Bacon, born on May Day in 1776. He was a pioneering paper manufacturer using the brand new machinery in 1809, and was throughout his life the editor of the Norwich Mercury, a weekly newspaper in Norfolk. R.M. Bacon’s eventful career led to his having an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, for producing the first music magazine in England. Nor was he the only one of Dick’s ancestors to have an entry in the ODNB; his great-grandmother Louise Barwell also being thus honoured for her writing of books on education.

Another of Dick’s direct ancestors was the dancing master Augustin Noverre who arrived in this country with his brother from Paris 1755. Their ballet company put on performances at Drury Lane under the auspices of David Garrick. The Noverre brothers had invented ballet as an art form, it having previously been a mere entertainment. Augustin Noverre retired to Norwich and his daughter was Dick’s great-great-grandmother

His Bagnall grandmother was an accomplished watercolour painter and perhaps the most prominent numismatist of her time.  It was from her marriage that the double barrelled name Bagnall-Oakeley sprang, and one of her sons (i.e. Dick’s uncle) competed in the London Olympic Games of  1908. On both sides of his family therefore he had notable forebears. None of this history I learnt from the man himself, and have had to research it for myself. I am not aware of how much of his family background he knew; probably all that I record here, and more. He was far too modest a man to have talked about any of his eminent forebears; he was much more likely to regale you with tales of the simple marshmen, gamekeepers and poachers whose stories of rural Norfolk he relished.

His maternal grandfather, John Barwell, was a wine merchant in Norwich. He was a wealthy man, but it was a wealth that did not percolate down to Dick to any great extent; he was only a relatively poor country clergyman’s son. Dick became the wealthy owner of Brinton Hall only upon his marriage in 1950. His grandfather John Barwell had married a young lady called Sabine in 1861. She was the daughter of Thomas William Budd, a successful London solicitor, who had taken the lease on Shropham Hall in 1860.  Shropham is only six miles from Attleborough station, and this would have given easy access both to London (for Thomas’s work) and to Norwich (where Sabine would have gone to meet John Barwell).

Norwich cattle market. Frederick Bacon Barwell.

Norwich cattle market. Frederick Bacon Barwell.

Dick’s great-uncle, Frederick Bacon Barwell, was one of the more illustrious members of this generation. He had married his first wife Fanny in 1868, and she too was one of the daughters of Thomas William Budd. Frederick Bacon Barwell was born in 1831 in Norwich and was married at his bride’s home village of Shropham. After qualifying at the Royal Academy he went on to enjoy a long and productive career as a painter. Frederick Bacon Barwell was a prolific artist who spent much of his career in London, producing portraits of the famous men of the time. His works are to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. His most highly regarded paintings are however not his portraits but his atmospheric pictures of everyday life. A view of Norwich looking down Cattle Market Street towards Mousehold Heath on market day is particularly fine. It is in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum, although not currently on display. He was a friend of the artist John Millais and shared a studio with him for some years. He retired to Sheringham at the end of the 19th century, and he lived there until his death in 1922. Dick had by then moved on to Gresham’s School in Holt a few miles away, and had the opportunity to visit his great-uncle at his home, White Lodge near Beeston Bump. I wonder if he did? It was only a short bike ride away.

One of Frederick Bacon Barwell’s sons, Noel, became a Lt Col in the First World War, when he was awarded the Military Cross. Back in civilian life his profession was that of lawyer, and he became the last British barrister to practise in post-independance India. A book has been written in Bengali which contains many reminiscences of his career in India, and this book is also available in English translation (The Great Unknown, Penguin paperback, 2010). Another of Frederick Bacon Barwell’s sons followed his father into the art world and was a book illustrator, and another became a farmer in Canada; their occupations were as various as their dwellings were far-flung across the globe.

From the Bagnall-Oakeley collection

Shropham Hall (Bagnall-Oakeley collection)

Another of Dick’s great uncles, Richard Barwell, became a consultant surgeon in London. He was involved in treating the great cholera epidemic of 1849, and in common with the vast majority of educated opinion he believed it was spread by a ‘miasma’ or bad smell. It was only later that it was realised that it a water-borne infection, spread by the poor quality of the water supply. Dr Richard Barwell spent his working life in Marylebone, London, where he was widowed in 1890. He died aged 90 in 1916. His son and grandsons continued in the medical profession.

33 Surrey St is to the left.

33 Surrey St is to the left.

Richard Barwell was retired and living in the block of Georgian houses in Surrey Street when Dick was born in 1908. Grandfather John Barwell had been living at the same house, 33 Surrey Street, before his marriage to Sabine Budd at the age of 35. (Sabine was nine years younger.) Just round the corner was St Catherine’s House, All Saints Green, where John Barwell was living in his latter years, and where Dick was born. This house became the home of a surgeon at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, Athelstan Jasper Blaxland, after John Barwell’s death. After the Second World War it became the BBC studios in Norwich. It was from these studios that Dick made his television broadcasts.

Dick’s aunt Ethel Barwell was involved in medicine, being the matron of the Belgrave Children’s Hospital in London. She lived to be over  90 and died only ten years before Dick himself. Uncle Charles Sedley Barwell qualified as a civil engineer after taking his degree at Oxford; he made his career in Canada and died in Vancouver in 1950. When he enlisted as a Lance Corporal in the Canadian army in the First World War he gave Dick’s uncle, John Barwell the wine merchant of Norwich, as his next of kin.  There were three more Barwell uncles, Henry and Francis who were army officers, and Wilfred who was a solicitor in Sussex. The youngest of the previous generation of his family was his aunt Violet (1876-1942). She was a musician who devoted her life to teaching the violin.

Louisa Barwell

Louisa Barwell (nee Bacon), Dick’s great-grandmother.

These cousins, uncles and aunts were not of course direct ancestors of Dick, but I can trace his descent back to his four or five times great-grandfather, Philip Reinagle (1749-1833). He was a painter of dogs, sporting subjects and portraits who turned to painting landscapes in his later years. As a young artist he had been called upon to paint dozens of portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte for distribution to his important subjects. Incidentally Philip Reinagle’s first exhibited landscape was a view from Bracondale in Norwich, although he lived in London. He made only brief excursions to the provinces in those pre-railway days, and was visiting Norwich to paint the portrait of the Mayor, John Patteson. Of course he had no idea that his descendants would become established as a prominent Norfolk family.

His work may be found in the Tate,  V & A, National Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and numerous other collections of national importance. [CLICK HERE to view a slide show of Philip Reinagle’s paintings.] Philip was the son of Joseph Reinagle (1720-1775), a Hungarian musician who was based in Edinburgh. With such a varied background, including Swiss and German ancestry, it is perhaps not surprising that Dick was such an interesting personality. Having a number of talented artists among his ancestors it is no wonder that Dick was himself a gifted painter, who qualified at the Norwich Art School (now the Norwich University of the Arts) after coming down from Cambridge.



Dick’s second name of Perceval was derived from his great-great-grandmother who was born Sarah Woodyear Perceval in 1779. Sarah was born in St Kitts, one of the Leeward Islands, where the Percevals owned a plantation. However her family returned to England and she was married in 1803 to Francis Bedwell (1776-1835), a lawyer in the Court of Chancery. The marriage took place in Kent. Her daughter Elizabeth married Thomas Budd whom we have already mentioned, and Sabine Budd married John Barwell in 1862. One of their offspring, Amy Perceval Barwell, was Dick’s mother.

I don’t expect you to follow all the ins and outs of these relationships, but they give you some idea of the various talents exhibited by the family. I am very lucky to have been taught by such a man as Dick Bagnall-Oakley.





It was so long ago; and although I remember some of the events described below, I would have no idea what year they related to had I not kept a diary. I can tell you what I did and when only because it was written down by me all those years ago. So here are the notable happenings of 1972, together with some of the less important ones.

From the headlines you would think that this was in fact a very bad year, with the Watergate Scandal, the growth of terrorism against Israel and Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland; the Cod War, coal miners on strike and British unemployment at a post-war high. You get no hint of these problems in my diary, where life is carried out on a more domestic scale.

On March the first my father sold his optician’s business in Norwich to Mr Sergeant of Yarmouth, but he continued to work part-time for the new owner. Later in the month I went to Durham where my university friend was doing his teacher training; he had met a Cambridge graduate who later became his wife. Over forty years later they are still in touch with me on an occasional basis. They drove over from Leamington Spa to spend the evening with us earlier this year, and we all went out for a meal.

That summer of 1972 I went with my sister to see the Aristocats. This Disney film had been released 18 months earlier. We saw it in Bungay, where the Mayfair Cinema was open for business. In 1990 it was still operational, although it had changed its name to the Broadway, but it had closed by 2000, and later the building in Broad Street was demolished and replaced by housing. I had first gone to the Mayfair as a schoolboy at a tender age. On that occasion we had seen another American production in colour; not a cartoon but a wildlife film called Vanishing Wilderness.

Blackshore, Southwold.

Blackshore, Southwold.

In April 1972 we had bought a new car, a Daf 44. It was chocolate-brown in colour, an unusual tint even for those days, and the colour had an unusual name -Tabina. It was still new enough to be cherished in August, when my father polished it before driving the family (i.e. me, my mother, and sister Tiggie) over to Southwold. We saw a stoat cross the road by Henham Hall on the way to have a picnic lunch on the common. We had my canoe on the trailer, and sailed her up the river Blyth from Blackshore. We had by 1972 fitted a mast with a gaff rigged sail, and with lee boards we were able navigate without paddling. We did not go out to sea on this occasion, but dug some ragworms at Reydon quay intending to go fishing later, but in the end we were too tied. Mummy and sister Tig meanwhile went in to town to shop. Dad and I  also found some sampher which we picked to take home and pickle. We had some for supper a couple of days later with cold beef.

My Aunt Olive Anderson had bought her cottage at Bramerton in January. It was one half of a semi with a view down the hill to the common and the river. It was in a perfect situation. Both halves of the building had previously belonged to Mr and Mrs Mayes who continued to live in the other half. It needed a lot doing to it, having just two bedrooms leading off each other upstairs, and one large room below. There was an outdoor scullery. Her son Andrew was an architect and he prepared the plans which included a kitchen and bathroom. These improvements turned it into a very attractive home, where I was to visit her many times over the following decade. She moved into the cottage during November of 1972.

In July we had a visit from my sister’s family from Canada; this included her 3 boys (the eldest one was 12) and her husband who had just lost his job. With my parents that made eight people; six of us squeezed into my Aunt Peggy’s holiday bungalow in Snettisham, while Mummy and Daddy rented the bungalow next door. We spent nearly two weeks there, mostly playing in the mud and going cockling. One afternoon was spent by me, my sister and her husband in the rather more elevated surroundings of Cambridge. We attended a concert in King’s College Chapel, where I was introduced to Allegri’s Miserere. That Christmas Eve another family event occurred in King’s College Chapel, when Aunt Olive’s eldest grandson sang the opening solo verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.



The year sounds like a round of pleasure, all holidays and fun, but there were difficult times too. My father had another minor heart attack in May which involved some weeks off work. He had to go into hospital for electric shock treatment to correct the arrythmia of his heart. I have not referred to my business activities, because the tedious writing of invoices and visits to the Post Office would make this blog even more boring than it already is.

I should certainly not omit to mention that day in September when we bought a black mongrel puppy from a pet shop near Norwich Castle. My father was rather dubious about buying him; “If I were to keep him,” he said, “I would call him Fido.” Needless to say we did keep him, and Fido was my constant companion during the next twelve years.