One of my dearest friends passed away on 20th January 2021. Willie Haines and I had worked on many projects over the last couple of decades, including the Scottish Folk Directory and, most recently, Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland. Willie will be sorely missed by his family, friends and fellow musicians both in Scotland and elsewhere.
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.
Jim was born in Hull. His two brothers both went off to the war at sea. The older, John Henry known as Jack, born in 1922, was at 17 the youngest to qualify as a wireless operator, and Jim said the youngest wireless operator to be lost at sea at any time, when at the age of 18 his ship, S.S. Cree, was torpedoed on 22nd November 1940. Jim’s middle brother Fred had gone to sea in rescue tugs in 1942; called T124T, the men who sailed in them were known as the Tattie Lads!
Renowned fiddle player Brendan McGlinchey died on 25 April at his home in Sussex at the age of 79. He had been ill with cancer for some time. From Armagh, he began learning the fiddle at the age of 12 and by his 20s he was well established as one of the greats in the Irish traditional music scene - developing his own style from listening to a wide variety of players and going on to win many All-Ireland titles.
Jim Irvine of South Shields was not a national folk name, but he was well known and respected by people on the national scene. He was a pivotal figure in the history of the folk movement of N.E. England. He is woven into its fabric.
Well-known and well-loved songwriter, Kieran Halpin, died on 5 October at the age of 65. Originally from Drogheda in Co. Louth, Ireland, he was more recently based in Germany, from where he toured and promoted his music all over the world.
It was the Wednesday at the Volunteer during Sidmouth FolkWeek 2005 – the festival that (nearly) didn’t happen. I had foolishly declared I would run the lunchtime sessions if no-one else would, and flying by the seat of my proverbial pants as a result! “Hello, George,” quoth a friendly voice I half-recognised, “I’ve brought some reinforcements!” It was Sean, passing through on his way to Dartmoor with Ted and Ivy Poole from Swindon. I was already familiar with Sean’s jocular style with songs like Blarney Stone and Take Me Back To Castlebar from previous years.