Dr Paul Richards introduced A History of Lynn in Ballads in the stately surroundings of The Regency Room at Hanse House as part of last Sunday’s Heritage day in Lynn.
The room, its Regency splendour now fully restored within the 30-room Hanse House, the only remaining Hanseatic building in England, was the perfect setting for the minstrels, who really looked and sounded the part.
Dr Richards enthused about the ballad as a traditional way for people to tell social history and was clearly pleased that Norfolk in general and Lynn in particular was getting its praises sung.
Norfolk has made a unique and sustained contribution to English history. But many of its incredible pioneers, heroes and heroines don’t get the attention they deserve. This may be because Norfolk tends not to blow its trumpet as some other counties do. The three folk bands on display did their best to do so, albeit on harp, guitars, mandolin and wind!
Doin Different began as a book, published last December. Twelve Norfolk composers have since set the lyrics to music, including one entire album of 12 of the songs called ‘Boudicca’s Country.’ Most of these composers have been involved at some time or other over the last five months, with Gareth Calway, as performers of their collaborations in a 21-gig tour of East Anglia (including Ely Folk Festival, Lynn’s Folk in the Town and like Boudicca, a brief foray into London.
Gareth Calway’s (Nor)folk history of England through ballads ‘Doin Different - 39 new ballads from the East of England (Poppyland publishing), sings the praises of Norfolk’s many national figures and pioneers. Nine of the ballads feature characters from or directly connected with Lynn. And it was these who provided the set list for last Sunday’s heritage Day celebration at Hanse House.
Margery Kempe, mediaeval housewife, mother of 14, controversial visionary and author of the first autobiography in English; William Sawtrey parish priest of St Margaret’s, Lynn, in 1399 when he was arrested for heresy and became the first man to be burned for his beliefs in England under the Statute of Heresies Act in 1401; Fanny Burney, inventor of the novel of manners and acknowledged as such by Jane Austen; Robert Walpole, the not so ‘dodgy’ builder of the palatial Houghton Hall, Britain’s first prime minister for 20 years and MP for Lynn for 40 years, were just some of the pioneers celebrated.
The Cod Fishers of Lynn, who brought England its essential cheap nutrition in such thankless circumstances in the 17th and 18th centuries and Admiral Nelson of Burnham, who sailed from and recruited many of his esteemed Norfolk volunteers from the sea-hardened port of Lynn were given the full shanty treatment by Lynn’s own sea-folkers The Fried Pirates.
Waterline brought Walpole and his kin to entertaining life in the comic ballads ‘Bob of Lynn’, ‘Turnip Townshend’ (of Raynham) and the spooky ghost ballad about the woman who linked them, Walpole’s sister Dorothy, who married ‘Turnip’ Townshend and (some believe) was done to death by the truculent Viscount. Her ‘ghost’ was photographed on the stairs of Raynham Hall in 1936 and is said to haunt both Houghton and Raynham to this day.
Waterline gave us a live version in elegant costumes of their spooky homage as captured late last year in this Poppyland folk video http://www.poppyland.co.uk/doindiffact.html
The Ballad of Badass King John, which invited and got participation on its catchy chorus, entertained children and adults alike with an alternative version of the much-maligned king who gave Lynn its first independence from Norwich in 1206.
Lovehearts & Redwine entertained with their ‘Ballad of The Backwoods Cavalier’, which describes the hapless exploits of Sir Hamon LeStrange and his son Roger at the Siege of Lynn and afterwards.
Their tribute to William Sawtrey, burned at the stake for his beliefs was more serious, and moved audiences.
Links to recordings and live performances of most of the 39 ballads as well as a wealth of historical support may be found here - http://garethcalway.blogspot.co.uk/p/doin-different.html
‘Doin different’ is on sale at Waterstones, Jarrolds, Hanse House, True’s Yard or via Poppyland.