Thursday 16 January 2020

Poem From the Past - The Phantom Horseman of Cricket Pitch Ridge by John Meredith, c.1961

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Poem © John Meredith

Thanks to Ian Hamilton for supplying this poem & story.

Photo of the Heathcote Bush Fire Engine about that time, it was parked up the top of Dillwynnia Grove. Photo
© Ron Nixon

Loughlin home - Forest Rd Heathcote, with Rocky the blue cattle dog. Photo
© Ron Nixon.

Jack Barrie & Brian Loughlin were friends & neighbours of John Meredith & members of The Heathcote Bushwhackers.

On 1 February 1999 folklorist John Meredith received a phone call from Pat Kennedy, who was writing a history of Heathcote.  Pat wanted permission to include a poem that John had written back in 1961 about a big bushfire that had threatened the district.  John had lost his copy and, when Pat was asked where he had found the poem he wished to include in his history, he told John, It’s pasted on the back of the door of the Brigade’s hut in Heathcote!

Pat Kennedy quickly supplied John with a copy and in his introduction to the poem, titled The Phantom Horseman of Cricket Pitch Ridge, Pat wrote: ‘This particular fire was burning on a freezing cold night, somewhere between the Heathcote Oval and the old railway weir in 1952.’

The Phantom Horseman of Cricket Pitch Ridge

The fire burnt up near the edge of the township,
But down in the gully we held it at bay -
‘If the wind gets round to the west,’ said Jack Barrie
‘We must warn all the folk to get out of the way!’

So on Cricket Pitch Ridge six good watchers were posted,
(The fire crept on in the gully below)
And the six men, they sat and watched and shivered
As a freezing south-easterly started to blow.

It was close on to midnight, the wind had grown colder,
When hoofbeats were heard on the chill mountain air,
And a queer ghostly voice set the echoes aflying:
‘Hollo-o-o! Hollo-o-o! Hollo-o-o! Are you there?’

‘Over here!’ yelled Jack Barrie; the horseman drew near
And a bundle of blankets he threw on the ground.
Then he wheeled his black mount and rode into the darkness,
Over the rocks without ever a sound.

‘Who was it Jack?’ asked Billy Fitzgerald.
‘Don’t know him,’ says Barrie, ‘D’you know him, Blue?’
Blue didn’t know, nor did Locko, nor Loveday,
It seems he was someone that nobody knew.

But one thing we did know, his blankets were warm ones,
We wrapped them around us and watched through the night;
Then shouldered our knapsack-sprays, climbed down the gully
And battled the fire in the morning’s pale light.

It was under control, just a few stumps to spray now,
The westerly wind was no more to be feared.
We left two men on duty, returned to the blankets,
But when we got back they had all disappeared!

If that horseman was real, then he carries my blessing;
I won’t wish him wealth, or good fortune, or gold,
(For all my mates think he must have been ghostly)
Wherever he is, may he never go cold.

email from Ron Nixon, Pam's nephew, 16th January 2020

In relation to the photo of “John Meredith’s” home at Heathcote, I’m sorry for any confusion but it was actually the home of Brian & Pam Loughlin, the dog in the foreground was their dog “Rocky” a blue cattle dog of questionable nature. John Meredith & Jack Barrie lived a couple of doors down the road.

I was staying at my Uncle's place in 1952 when the fire came through. The poem says it all!

Ron Nixon

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Monday 13 January 2020

What Bush Dances? by Rob Willis

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Reprinted from Verandah Music with Graham Seal's permission

Following on our recent dance posts, here’s one to stir the possum a little. We begin with a relevant reminiscence from Rob Willis, with links to a video of John Meredith and Ollie Willis lightfooting some Eureka Youth League dances.
There is also a link to Rob’s edited version of the late Peter Ellis’s detailed discussion of this issue.  (NB Some issues with these historical file formats).

Rob writes:
I was born and raised in Forbes, Central West NSW, and in my youth during the 1960s went to dances in the many country halls that were scattered around the surrounding countryside. We learnt, mainly from the older women, how to waltz and also have fun with such dances as the Barn Dance, Pride of Erin, Jolly Miller and a raft of others.
I was therefore mystified in the late 1970s when becoming involved in the 'folk scene', going to so-called ‘bush dances’ (a term that was never used in the Central West) and being taught dances that I had never heard of in the bush. As time progressed and I started to travel on field recording trips with John Meredith (a good dancer in his own right) I met and formed a very strong friendship with dance historian, the late Peter Ellis. It became clear that ‘bush dance’ was a dance genre that had evolved over recent decades.
In conversations on the track with John and also with the people we were recording then for the National Library, some born in the 1890s, it became clear that the dances of the bush were in reality the Quadrilles, Polkas, Varsoviennas, Mazurkas as well as the later ones I had learnt in the Forbes district.
Over the many hours that Meredith and I had on the track talking about the past he explained how the genre was formed and Peter's article puts it all together as well as John's explanation in a video I shot of him and my wife, Ollie, demonstrating a couple of these dances.
I can remember being with Meredith and Alan Scott at a Bush Dance at a festival in Newcastle when Merro leaned over to Alan and said "Geez mate, just to think that we were responsible for this".

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Friday 10 January 2020

Concert Party's Christmas party, 2019

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Photos © Sandra Nixon

1. Rick

2.  Rick & Ralph

3. Annabel, Karen, Brian, George, Pat

4. John, Kte, Ralph, Kerry, Rick

5.  George, Pat, Beth


7.  Kerry, Brian, George, Elaine,

8.  Karen, Annabel, John, Kate, Pat

9.  clockwise from bottom, Moira & son, Beth, Kerry, Nancy, Eric, Elaine & sister, Sharyn, Pat

10. Stephanie smiling,

11. Emma & George

12. Sharyn, Karen, Moira, Beth, Kerry, Eric

13.  Ross, Nancy, John, Mark, John, Kate, Ralph, George

14.  Sharyn, Pat, Karen, Moira & son

15.  John, Mark, John, Kate, Ralph, George

16. Ross, Stephanie, Nancy

17. Mariamma, Karen

18.  Ross, Marimma, Nancy, Dave, John.

19. Stephanie, Nancy, Dave, Eric, Mark, John, John

20.  Eric, Mrk, John, Ross, John. Kate,

21.  Rick, Elaine & sister, Emma, Chris

22.  Elaien,& sister, Emma, Chris

23.  Moira, Sharyn


25. Stephanie,

26. Nancy & Sharyn, Karen

27.  Karen, Sharyn, Nancy

28. Sharyn & Nancy

29.  Sharyn, Moira, Nancy

30.  Moira, Stephanie, Nancy

31.  Moira, Nancy, Stephanie

32. Moira & Nancy

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Monday 6 January 2020

Report on Shortis & Simpson @ Dukes, Sat 21st December 2019

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Thanks to Wayne Richmond for taking the video & posting it

If you missed them, or if you naturally want to see them again, Shortis & Simpson will be back in Sydney later this year at The Loaded Dog Folk Club at Annandale
Photos © Sandra Nixon




4. Sound check







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