Sheffield has a fine tradition of folk music and dance and since the folk revival of the 1960s, Gerry Bates, who has died in hospital aged 78 after a short illness, played a large part in it. One of his friends described him as a “folk master” which indeed suited him very well.
Gerry discovered folk music and dance whilst studying at his home town university and went to his first folk club and joined his first dance team whilst studying for his degree in electrical engineering.
He was multi-talented: an excellent singer with a strong baritone voice, particularly good at leading chorus songs; a good dancer; a caller at ceilidhs and an acoustic bass player in bands. He went on to run or help to run a number of folk clubs, booking some of the best-known names in the folk scene at that time, and he was one of the few folk club organisers that didn't claim to have turned down Paul Simon!
For over 20 years he organised and ran the Folk Train which ran the fourth Thursday of the month from Sheffield to Edale. It was generally packed with raucous revellers, especially coming back from the pub on the 9.30pm from Edale. Gerry booked the bands, arranged reserved seating on the train and, lately, ordered the beer ahead by mobile phone so the band and performers did not have to wait too long at the bar.
He danced with Grenoside Traditional Sword team where he acted as Captain calling the dance; with Sheffield City Morris where he was Squire for a number of years; and as a carrier and leader with the Sheffield Giants. With these bearers of the folk arts, Gerry travelled across the British Isles including two memorable visits with the Morris team to Dublin and Kilkenny.
He visited other festivals and went on exchanges to many other European countries with all three teams. Grenoside Traditional Sword Dancers took him on exchanges to Belgium and Italy. With Sheffield City Morris in 1994 he was one of those who pioneered a visit to South America to a festival in Ecuador. 12 years later, with the Sheffield Giants, he spent a week in Canada, helping the Quebecois to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of their city. The ease with which he got on with people of various nationalities always shone on these occasions.
Socially, Gerry was a great real ale fan and a terrific cook. One of the traditions of Sheffield City Morris is a city centre dance on New Year's Day and until recently this was followed by an Indian feast at his house. It is said that many a morris dancer looked forward to that almost as much as their Christmas dinner.
In his regular working life he was a Senior Scientific Officer with British Rail at their Research Centre at Derby. He was in charge of their 250,000-volt laboratory and whilst at Derby he became a Chartered Electrical Engineer (MIEE). Finally he took advantage of a scheme to retire early and stopped his daily commute from Sheffield in 1996.
He worked on projects in Britain to do with instrumentation that identified electrical faults and ensured safe working. His innovative work on fault identification saved money for rail companies, and is still used around the world. In 1994 he had a memorable trip to Hong Kong to help with problems on their Metro system, where his love of food was encouraged by his Chinese hosts to his personal delight. His work on the electrical problems of the newly opened Channel Tunnel was cut short by an approaching train on a line supposedly closed!
Gerry is survived by his wife, Judith Wilford, their daughter Emily, a son Joe from a previous marriage, two grandchildren and younger brother Paul.
Gerald Arthur Bates born August 21 1942, died November 21 2020.