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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sid Wakeham, 1937 – 2016

Many people will be sad to learn of the death of Sid Wakeham who passed away on 18th August, aged 79.

Everyone knew Sid as ‘Father Christmas’, a role he played in the Sompting Village Morris ‘Mummer’s Play’ for decades. Sid was a founding member of Sompting Village Morris and kept dancing long after the other founding members had hung up their bells and hankies.

I interviewed Sid at his local pub and second home, The Richard Cobden in Cobden Road, in 2004. Looking back on those notes today it can be said that Sid was as dyed-in-the-wool Sussex as any man could be and to use that old, but on this occasion entirely apt, cliché, “we will not see his like again.”

Sid was born on the 30th January 1937 above Claxton’s butcher’s shop in Lyndhurst Road. All his family were born and bred in Sussex. His dad’s family had come from Horsham, including his grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 104. His father’s family came from Petworth. One grandfather fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Sid was brought up with singing. His dad sang music hall songs, but his grandfather sang the old folk songs of Sussex that died out so quickly after the First World War. The only songs that Sid sang as a young man were rugby songs. In the late 1960s he was playing rugby at Castle Carey when he bumped into an old friend who was dancing with Broadwood Morris from Horsham. From then on Sid was hooked.

At first Sid and his friends would drive to join Morris sides in other towns but the oil crisis of the early 1970s changed all that, as Sid explained, “When petrol went up to 50p a gallon we thought, ‘we can’t keep going up there, we’ll form a side in Worthing.’” Mickey Sparkes, “an old postman and fisherman down by the Half Brick,” managed to secure the Post Office Social Club in Chapel Road as a practice venue.

In good weather they practised outside. One day an old lady came up to them said “Would you like the Sompting Village Mummer’s Play?” Her name was Mrs Pullenbury and her uncle, brother and father had all performed the play in Sompting before the First World War. She still had the original script and hoped that Sid and his friends would revive the play after a gap of sixty years. They were delighted to do so and indeed so impressed were they that they decided to call themselves The Sompting Village Morris in honour on the ancient play.

Sid with his great beard was the obvious choice to play Father Christmas. “In those days I had to spray it white but obviously that did not become necessary in later years!” Sid remembered Sompting Village Morris were one of the first sides to allow women to join and to dance – “that was our folly,” Sid told we with a laugh. In actual fact, the inclusion of women greatly increased their membership – to over 60 – and their popularity.

By the 1980s Sompting Village Morris were singing all across Sussex. They then started appearing at folk festivals, including Sidmouth in Devon and eventually internationally too. Mrs Pullenbury’s relatives probably never left Sompting village unless it was to fight in the Great War.

Sid recalled that two of the early members, Mike Longhurst and Mike Palmer, knew a number of old folk songs that they taught to Sid and the other members. They also used to go to The Fountain at Ashurst where the old landlord, Len Pelling, knew and sang many old Sussex songs. Soon the whole side were singing their hearts out at the end of a performance. This was especially true at the George and Dragon at Burpham on Boxing Day following the performance of the Mummer’s Play. That is where I first met Sid and the other dancers in the early 1980s. Boxing Day afternoon singing at Burpham remained a great fixture for many years, until the pub ‘gentrified’ and the boozy bellowing of old anthems began to sit rather uncomfortably with the refined diners in the pub restaurant!

Sid had some wonderful memories of Worthing in the 1940s and 50s. He remembered that family members sought to get around wartime rationing by catching and cooking their own food. As well as rabbits, rooks and pigeons were a regular dish. Sid remembered that the family once sat down to seagull but “it was horrible – oily and rank.”

Sid had memories of the war coming very directly to Worthing, including the day bombs dropped close to the family home in Lyndhurst Road – on that occasion a number of Canadian soldiers billeted in a neighbouring house were killed. Despite such incidents, Sid did not really see the danger: “I thought the war as a small boy was brilliant.” On one occasion he and some friends stole some live bullets from commandos stationed in the town. They later threw them on a bonfire, which they thought was great fun. Other children in the town were killed playing with live ammunition – Sid’s life could have ended before it had really begun! But children were far less under parental control during the war, with fathers away and mothers working hard to keep family and home together under trying circumstances.

Life did not get easier for people after the war, with rationing continuing until 1955. Sid remembered that Christmas presents in the late 1940s included an orange and a pen, although the handmade train set that his dad made for him, complete with replicas of Ham and Ladydell bridges, was the very best present of all! People used to make their own sweets and their own toffee – Sid remembered going from house to house to ask neighbours to contribute ingredients.

He was sad to see the end of the old bonfire night tradition in Worthing. For generations, Worthing folk had built great bonfires on the beach, but in the early 1970s Worthing Council banned the old tradition. Many local youths ignored the new by-law and continued to build bonfires, but council bulldozers came along to plough their efforts into the sea. When others persisted and built and lit bonfires on the evening of November 5th, the authorities intervened as Sid recalled: “The last time we had a bonfire on the beach, the fire brigade came down and put it out. That was a shame. They’d stop Lewes if they could.”

Sid was very pleased at all the money that Sompting Village Morris raised for charity – £12,000 in 2004, the year I interviewed him. Sid had a big heart and was never happier than in the company of family and friends. Boxing Day will never be quite the same again.

Chris Hare

Local Group Report – Easebourne Thursday 18th August 2016

It was a warm and balmy evening for our Selham session on 18th August and we were pleased to welcome Amaryllis and her friend Dermot who came with Peter and Carol. We also welcomed two newcomers Sally and Sarah who joined in the singing with great gusto. We went through the 'new' songs for Arundel Festival and then invited requests from the floor which included 'Thousands or More', which Amaryllis requested in memory of a friend, and as Sarah knew 'Cruel Sister' we sang that for her. Recent recruit Gordon sang us a tongue-in-cheek song he'd written about a Petworth well and blocked drains! We finished off the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Rolling Home' before 15 happy singers rolled home. Hopefully we'll see everyone there again on 15th September plus some missing regulars!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

SDFS at the Arundel Festival 2016

Sunday 28th August, 4.30-5.30pm

We are performing in the Town Square at the bottom of the High Street below the War Memorial, as requested of the organisers as our preference and where we gave an informal performance last year.

Emily will be leading us in a leisurely set with song introductions, separated by a break which because of being slotted in on the river stage we have not been able to do in the past. The Red Lion is adjacent!

The songs are mainly those we performed at Bateman’s, being in such close proximity to the War Memorial.

As it is a Bank Holiday weekend parking will be at a premium, so I personally will again be leaving my car in Torton Hill Road off the Ford Road. It is then a leisurely 10 minute stroll to the venue, under the A27 road bridge via The Slipe and Tarrant Street.

Song List
  1. Country Life
  2. On Sussex Hills
  3. Pleasant and Delightful
  4. Oak, Ash & Thorn
  5. The Turnip Hoer
  6. All Things Are Quite Silent
  7. The Magpie
  8. The Nightingale
  9. West Sussex Drinking Song
  10. Ladies Go Dancing At Whitsun
  11. Home Lads, Home
  12. Fathom the Bowl
  13. Life of a Man
  14. Thousands or More
  15. Rosebuds in June
  16. Sussex by the Sea

Look forward to seeing you there.

John C.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Another Chance To Sing...

“Worthing Beach Clean” – Saturday 17th September 2016 from 12.00 noon
Beach House Grounds (near the beach east of Worthing Pier)

One of our singers (Barbara) is organizing this event and has invited fellow singers to come along and form an informal group on the day to sing a few songs to add to the fun at lunch time (anytime between about 12.30 and 1.30pm).

It is suggested that this performance will not necessarily need formal planning with a song set and a lead but could be decided in situ by those singers attending and meeting up on the day, choosing perhaps 5 or 6 of our songs well known to them all.

So if you’re already planning to attend or would like to sing, just go along on the day for the 12.00 noon start of the event and see whom else from SDFS arrives!

Any queries – contact me (Henny) via the SDFS email address.

Local Group Report – Beechwood, Wednesday 3rd August 2016

We were a plentiful gathering of voices at Beechwood last week when we shared in the pleasure of singing songs from the set planned for Bateman’s (Sunday 7th). We continued work on the “Kipling Songs” to increase our confidence and familiarity with these and also enjoyed revisiting others from our established repertoire. Thanks to singers from the Lewes and Selham areas who had travelled to join us, and of course to Emily for leading us through, picking us up where needed, and for crowd controlling during a lively session!

The Last Trip Home

A celebration of the working horse and ox in folk song and verse. Cotillion (with Anne and Alan from the South Downs Folk Singers) will lead you through those years of dramatic change when horse and oxen were replaced by the internal combustion engine. Our story takes the audience through the agricultural landscape of bygone days, the sadness of the Great War when many horses were sent abroad to fight and never returned and then finally the arrival of the first tractors. Moving from pathos to humour, we hope you will help us relive this historic period of English agricultural history.

with Cotillion
(Anne, Alan, Linda & Bonnie)

Saturday 3rd September 7.30pm
Church of St Mary de Haura Shoreham

Tickets £10 includes refreshments

Tickets available at the Church after the 10.00am Sunday Service
At the Shoreham Parish Centre 01273 440202
Or on the night at the door

Local Group Report – Lewes Tuesday 19th July 2016

Tuesday 19th July was probably the hottest day this year; Margaret had already had to go home and Angela B, Tina and Margo didn’t think many would come and sit indoors at The John Harvey Tavern on such an oppressive evening. But we were wrong and as the evening developed there were twelve of us working through fourteen songs that would probably be on the Bateman’s set list. Our progress was fairly slow as Tina had to allow three new people time to join in. Jack was on a cycling visit to Sussex but obviously sings folk songs back in London as he could pick up the lyrics and even the bass harmony lines in an instant. Jane brought her friend Dolores (a Canadian from Spain) who entertained us at the end of the evening with a folk song from back home. And by popular request, Adrian sang East Sussex Drinking Song and we joined in the rousing chorus.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Oak, Ash and Thorn Male Harmony

This is the male harmony for the chorus of Oak, Ash and Thorn as given by Emily.

You can download the mp3 file here.
NB If you have to pay to download data on a mobile device you should not play the songs directly from this web page, but instead download the mp3 files and play these.

This is how the melody and harmony look and sound together:

You can download the mp3 file here.