Jack Tarling - Sings Songs from the Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire Border


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Jack was born Walter John Tarling on the 11th April, 1916 and moved to Steeple Bumpstead from Malden when he was five.  He left school at fourteen to go horse breaking with Jabez Durrant and, over the years, had done a variety of jobs, mainly working on the land as a tractor driver following the demise of the horse.
In 1939 he joined the Suffolk Regiment only to be captured at Singapore and served most of the war as a prisoner of war in Japanese hands, working on the renowned Burma Railway until his release in 1945.  Jack still has to this day the songbook bearing the Japanese stamp of authority that he could keep it whilst serving on the renowned railway, and from which many of his friends, including his brother failed to return.  On embarkation leave in 1941 Jack married Cis, the daughter of Bert Willis, the foreman of Shore Hall, Steeple Bumpstead, where he worked.  He has two children and three grandchildren.  Jack has been church-warden at Steeple Bumpstead church for longer than he cares to remember and had many a night out with the former vicar, the Reverend Eric Wheeler, who was renowned for his foxhunting exploits and enjoyed the pleasures of good company.  The Rev. Eric would take Jack to homes of rich and poor in the vicinity to sing and entertain, or he would earn his dinner at local functions where the singing tradition had survived, and such was his popularity in the heyday of local song that Jack will tell you he had to take a friend with him to help drink the beer that was lavished upon him.
The modern guitar-based folk revival, stemming from the 1950s and 1960s has been responsible for largely changing the popular meaning of the word ‘folk song’.  The traditional songs sung here are to that as chalk is to cheese, or antique is to reproduction.  The songs that Jack sings are the real folk songs of the cultural tradition of the people of this area as handed down by their forefathers, and as sung by Jack in the manner that they always have been.  It may be difficult in the concept of modern music for the initiated to appreciate the sound of the unaccompanied voice but this is the tradition.  It gives us a greater appreciation of the individual, his dialect, his ways, the use of the voice to decorate and extenuate the change of moods and, above all, the use of melody as an instrument of manipulation for a greater appreciation of that prime function – the story.  To the true traditional singer accompaniment is thus an unnecessary clutter.  From Eric Wheeler, for example, Jack learned the music hall song ‘It’s the rich that get the pleasure’, and from Cis’ Father, Bert Willis, ‘What shall we make of the herrin’s head?’, many came from the Saturday night singsongs at The Wheelwrights Arms in Steeple Bumpstead (now closed), and songs such as ‘Souvla Bay’ were even learned off compatriots whilst working under the Japanese on the notorious Burma Railway.
Much has been published on traditional song from East Suffolk but little has been published from the Essex/Cambs. Border.  It was however, very similar and, as late as the early 1960s there were regular singsongs in many local pubs, such as Ashdon Bonnett, The Batsons Arms at Horseheath, The Horseshoes at Shudy Camps and here the landlords always held a button accordion behind the bar should anyone wish to play, step-dance or sing.  This tradition is still carried on in much the same way in the monthly ‘Round the Room’ sessions at The Cock, Castle Camps, where Jack and some of his latter-day colleagues take their turn to perform.
Recorded 30 April, 1995.  Published Neil Lanham, Ivy Todd.
  1. The Onion Song

  2. Tommy Tiddler

  3. I can't get my winkle out

  4. Souvla Bay

  5. The Ball of Yard

  6. An old man, he is old

  7. The Convicts Song

  8. The Jolly Herrin'

  9. Can I sleep in your barn tonight mister

  10. Pool ol' hoss

  11. I met her in the garden where the praties grow

  12. I wish I was single again

  13. The tattood lady

  14. Down in the fields where the buttercups do grow

  15. It's the rich what gets the pleasure

  16. Come inside you silly bugger come inside

  17. Buttercup Joe

  18. Maggie was a simple little girlie

  19. Drury Lane

  20. She likes a little bit in the evening

  21. Eleven more months and ten more days


Product Code: NLCD18




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