Sandy Still

Rod Hall

Allen Miller

Jim Jack


The Dales Collection: Disc Two Synopsis

DISC TWO - Around Swaledale

1 The Making of Swaledale

Swaledale, as a recognisable entity, has existed for about nine hundred years, but it can trace its history back over three thousand years. People came into the dale at different periods in time and from the south, east and west, forming a unique blend of Celtic, Roman, Angle, Norse and Norman influences. In this song the first two thousand years or so are regarded here as being the major factors in the Making of Swaledale.

2 Isabella Beaufort

Marrick Priory at the time of Christabella Cowper is the setting for this interesting tale about a handmaiden of Catherine of Aragon. She is said to have fled there, disguised as a page boy, after noticing that the lustful glances of Henry VIII were being directed more towards her than her mistress. The story seems to have a happy ending but there is a mystery surrounding her actual fate.

3 Around Reeth Green

In the early nineteen century Reeth was a thriving village with a population of nearly fifteen hundred. The green in the centre was a very important aspect of the village life, as it remains today. This song takes us back to the "golden days" and describes some of the common features on and around the green.

4 Striving Needles

Lead-mining may have been the major industry of the Swaledale, but there were at least as many folk engaged in knitting, though often on a part-time basis. Richmond had been the knitting centre of the north-east since the time of Elizabeth I. There were, of course, no age or sex barriers to this occupation, and the extra money it could bring in was always useful. The song title is a reference to a very common practice of relieving the boredom of the job by competing, either in pairs or in a group, to see who could finish a row first. Such evenings were often accompanied by songs and jokes. "Yan, Tan, Tethera" means "one, two, three" in the local dialect which the farmers used when counting sheep, and this was also used when counting rows.

5 Corpse Way

Until 1580 all burials from Upper Swaledale took place at Grinton Parish Church. The funeral procession, along a route which has come to be known as the Corpse Way, often took two days to reach the church and involved a number of stops for "refreshment", paid for by the family of the deceased and known as a "shot". The badgers and higglers mentioned in the song were itinerant travellers of the day. The consecrating of ground at Muker in 1580 eased the pressure both on the Parish Church and on the pockets of the bereaved.!

6 Adam Barker's Fine

The story takes place in 1692. Adam Barker was the last person in Swaledale to be fined for sticking to the local tradition of burial in linen, thus breaking the law requiring bodies to be buried in wool. His daughter, Ann, is buried inside Grinton Church, and a stone slab records the £5 fine he was forced to pay.

7  Neddy Dick

"Neddy Dick" was the nickname of one Richard Alderson of Keld who died in 1927. He was one of the characters of upper Swaledale, although his fame spread far and wide in the dales after his creation of a musical "rock" instrument, made of limestone rocks fashioned to sound a full scale of notes when hit with a special hammer. He took this "band" around the local shows and fairs, to the great delight of all who heard it. Photographs of the time show him to be an old man with a long white beard.

8 Jaggers

These specially-bred ponies were a common sight on the road into Richmond in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many mines were inaccessible by cart and the jaggers were the only means of getting the ore to the smelt mills, from where the pigs of lead were transported to the Nag s Head in Richmond.

9 The Loyal Dales Volunteers - 1804

This "troop" was fomed in response to the danger of Napoleon invading Britain. It was made up of men from Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. What makes it unusual is that they did not use forename and surnames in their roll call. This would have been rather a waste of time, since so many of them had the same names (- there were eight called Thomas Alderson! -). Instead they adopted the practice, common in Swaledale, of calling people by their nicknames, for example, Kit Puke Jock and Matty Joan Ned. This song comprises all the names on the roll for 1804.

10 Farewell to The Old Gang

Towards the end of the 19th century the numerous lead mining companies in Swaledale were forced out of business, largely due to the much lower price of imported ore from Spain. Many miners were forced to seek new occupations in other areas - such as the coal mines of Durham, the wool mills of Yorkshire or the cotton mills of Lancashire. The Old Gang was one of the oldest and best known mines in the dale. The song tells of one miner, about to make the move, looking back at earlier times, and forward to the future.

11 The Surrender Smelters’ Song

With so many lead mines in Swaledale it is no surprise that smelt mills abound too. They were usually sited well away from the mines, because of the fumes they produced. The Surrender Smelt Mill is perhaps the best known and most accessible to the tourist today. The song tells about some of the features and hazards of smelting in the 19th century.

12 Leaving for America

In the 1830's a great depression in both lead-mining and farming led many families to seek employment elsewhere. This was the period when the United States was expanding and offering the promise of a better life for all. At first, just a few families from Swaledale made the hazardous journey, but their letters back home to relatives and friends encouraged many more to follow. As a result whole communities of Swaledale families were established in the upper parts of the Mississippi, where work was to be had for both lead miners and farmers. This song features some of those men, and describes the hopes of one man who has been influenced by their success in the New World.

13 The Corpse Way Jig

A catchy instrumental arrangement by Rod Hall of the song on Track 5 of this CD, featuring the multi-instrumentalists, Rod and Sandy.

14 Gunnerside Gill - Remembered

As you walk up from Gunnerside following the Gill along the hillside you really are transported, gradually, into the past, and this song attempts to do the same. The Gill was the link for several mine levels and would have been walked daily by hundreds of miners. It is not difficult to visualise all the activity in what was once a prosperous lead-mining area.

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