4 October 2021


 A look back at recordings I made over my career.

Part 27  OYSTER GIRLS & HOVELLING BOYS  Steel Carpet Music MATS027  CD 2008 Folk Songs from Kent Volume 3
Pete Castle, Bob Kenward, Andy Turner, Marian Button, The Millen Family and Dave Mason

 I said in the previous post that Poor Old Horse was my last CD. It was, apart from this one which we made at about the same time.

This was the 3rd album of folk songs from Kent. It was the same core of performers and styles but it continued the development. Bob did a solo song and brought in his singing partner Roger Resch for another (Roger also sang on the choruses.) Andy had a throat problem at the time so was limited to playing not singing, which was a pity, although his tunes are good. Marian Button is a well known Kentish singer and we were pleased to have her, and the Millen Family are a local family with their own repertoire of glees which are very different to anything we’d had before. They should be better known but I think they are content to do their own thing away from the folk clubs and the like. Dave Mason is a poet who was a regular at local events.

We finished the album with everyone contributing to the Whitstable May Song which, I suspect, was ‘pinched’ from Bedfordshire at some time—whether by the 60s folk revival or a Victorian vicar I don’t know.

My three songs haven’t really settled in my repertoire. I’ve done The Oyster Girl and Love is Pleasing a few times but I don’t think I’ve ever sung A Sailor Cut Down in His Prime live, even though everyone praised it and it has had a lot of views on You Tube.

 Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gi9zfE-S8k


A review:

The Kent revival continues apace. This is the third of Pete Castle and friends’ albums from the county. There are songs collected by post war collectors alongside more recent compositions, tunes from an 18th century manuscript, and two songs direct from family tradition.
This is the best thing about the album. I’ve long been a fan of the Millen Family and their ‘glee-singing’. I’m delighted that these fine traditional singers are celebrated here, and their two tracks should bring them to a bigger audience.
The other outstanding tracks for me are Andy Turner’s sets of tunes. Pete Castle performs local versions of standards with his usual warmth. Marian Button, a fine singer, has two unaccompanied songs. Songwriter Bob Kenward contributes songs about local history, one performed solo, the other with Roger Resch. There is also a poem by Dave Mason, of Tenterden Folk Club, and the album closes with a rollicking collective take on the ‘Whitstable May Song.’  Paul Cowdell in Folk London


The Oyster Girl (Pete)

The Deal Hoveller’s Song (Bob)

The Dark Eyed Sailor (Marian)

In Yonder Old Oak (Millen Family)

General Toast/The Rose/Black Joke (Andy)

A Sailor Cut Down in His Prime (Pete)

The Kentish Woman’s Way (poem) (Dave)

Chalk and Cheese (Marian)

The Straggling Bine (Bob and Roger)

The Old Owl (Millen Family)

Aldridge’s Allemande/The Charming Fellow (Andy)

Love is Pleasing (Pete)

Whitstable May Song (The Company)


Perhaps I should explain that Hovelling Boys rowed from the shore out to ships anchored off the coast to transport goods and supplies to and fro.



 A look back at recordings I made over my career.

Part 28  POOR OLD HORSE  Steel Carpet Music MATS026  CD 2008
Pete Castle with Sarah Matthews: fiddle, viola, vocals; Doug Eunson: melodeon, vocals; Edmund Hunt: whistles, Northumbrian pipes; Sue Castle: vocals.

There had been a five year gap since my previous recordings (for a whole variety of reasons) so this appeared with a whole new line up. During that time Lucy had been forced to give up playing because of ongoing health problems, and I’d lost track of Bing and Trevor. Luckily I was able to recruit Sarah and Doug who were making a name for themselves on the folk scene and Edmund, who is becoming a name in the classical world as a composer, was introduced to me by a mutual friend. Putting them all together we came up with a very satisfactory mix. We recorded it at Meadow Farm Studio just up the road from where we live in Belper. 

I am very pleased with the album even though it hasn’t sold anywhere near as well as it should have. That’s largely down to the fact that people aren’t buying CDs as much these days—they want downloads. I’d love to do another CD, I love the process of recording, and I have enough new material but I guess Poor Old Horse is probably my last one. But it’s not a bad one to finish on.

It contains a good, representative mixture of the material I was doing—and still am doing. 10 songs, 2 stories and a tune which was to give the musicians a chance to show off! Of the songs the title track is associated with Derbyshire, and In Sheffield Park and Barbara Allen have Kentish connections. Nightingales Sing, and Poor Sally… are from books I’d had from my very early days on the folk scene. I’d probably tried them countless times but not actually learned them. I sang Firelock Stile back in the 1980s but gave it a very different treatment this time, similarly the Female Servingman. Virginia is an early transportation ballad from before Australia was discovered. (Other people have actually sung it as 'Australia') And then there was a bit of Shakespeare: When That I Was A Little Tiny Boy is the final ‘speech’ from Twelfth Night. Many people picked it out as a highlight of the album. The two stories are very different: Like Meat Loves Salt is one of my favourite Derbyshire tales and is a cross between King Lear and Cinderella, and The Storytelling Stone is a Native American story which explains where all the stories and songs we know came from.

“Pete's latterly celebrated 30 years as a folk professional, and he's achieved this longevity through a combination of genuine talent, integrity and sheer hard work, reliably ploughing his own steady furrow where tradition is the starting-point for his own musical exploration rather than a constraint on his imagination. Although the true extent of Pete's prowess and the full measure of his easy-going nature necessarily comes through best in live performance, his CDs have always been a source of delight and have satisfied enough to be returned to more often than you might think.”  David Kidman in Stirrings

[Below: recording at Meadow Farm studios]


Poor Old Horse

Nightingales Sing/The Soldier’s Jig

Female Servingman

Like Meat Loves Salt (story)

In Sheffield Park

Barbara Allen

Firelock Stile


Poor Sally Sits a-Weeping

Opera Reel

The Storytelling Stone

When That I Was a Little Tiny Boy


Listen to Poor Old Horse   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64mnpU81JCM

And Little Tiny Boy…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NTe7m4R3U4

 And, although I said this was probably my last CD, there is one more but it’s another ‘group’ album...



 A look back at recordings I made over my career.

Part 25  TAPPING AT THE BLIND   Steel Carpet Music MATS025  CD 2003
Pete Castle, storytelling, vocals, guitar, mandolin; with Lucy Castle, fiddle; Lorin Halsall, upright bass; Rob Barber, drums on the Bear Dance.   Recorded at Sigma Studios, Burton.

This was the other half of The Outlandish Knight and was the mirror image. It was mainly stories with just one song, The Man in the Woods, and that tells an age old story. Tapping at the Blind is one of my ‘hits’ - always a favourite when I tell it, which I do often; The Maestro is a good story but for some reason I don’t think I’ve ever told it in a live performance. The Armless Maiden is the ultimate horror story. It makes Stephen King look mild! The Woman Who Married A Bear is another favourite. I’ve told it many times and where circumstances are suitable I’ve included getting the audience up to do The Bear Dance. At Last We’re Alone is very short but leaves you with a shiver!

I mentioned somewhere before in this series that storytelling albums do not sell as well as song ones. That is the case here. The Outlandish Knight sold out a short while ago but there are still copies of Tapping available.

 Pete Castle has a relaxed not-quite-gravelly voice and the inborn storyteller's tone of pleasure in his tales that make these two CDs a joy to listen to.  Polly Bird NHI Review

 I can't help feeling that "Tapping At The Blind" might have benefited from the reactions of a live audience. However, the studio recording does have an undeniable immediacy and combines with Castle's unedited little fluffs to convey the impression that the teller is recounting his frequently bizarre tales in your own living room. "Stories For Grown-ups" is an appropriate subtitle; the casual incest and ultra violence of "The Armless Maiden" is certainly not the stuff to play to the kids at bedtime if horrific nightmares are to be avoided.   Dave Tuxford, Living Tradition


Tapping at the Blind

The Maestro

The Armless Maiden

The Man in the Woods

The Woman Who Married a Bear/The Bear Dance

At Last We’re Alone.

I don’t have any of these stories on You Tube so here is The Old Man in the Woods


and another story which would have fitted nicely, The Pickpocket... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrafxJw_4KQ&t=88s