Friday 22 May 2020

Centenary of the birth of John Meredith OAM (17 January 1920 – 18 February 2001)

Click images for larger size.

We had been accepted for a Themed Concert about John Meredith for the 2020 National Folk Festival. As the Festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus shutdown, we hope to present it elsewhere in the future.

FOLK SONGS OF AUSTRALIA and the men and women who sang them. This concert commemorates John Meredith, (1920-2001) who was a founder of the Bush Music Club. He was an innovative collector beginning his search for bush songs and traditional music of Australia in the 1950s; John continued collecting until the 1980s. John's friends Dale Dengate and Chris Woodland will present items collected from Duke Tritton, Sally Sloane and John Dengate

John Meredith AM 1920 - 2001: memories from his friends - at  organised by Jan Fallding

John Meredith AM (1920-2001) is mostly remembered as the pre-eminent collector of Australia's folk music & folklore, but to his friends he was much more than that - a man of wide interests and a boundless capacity for friendship (and at times, its opposite!). Gardening (particularly sages & roses), photography & film-making, self-reliance, applied chemistry, Australian local and indigenous history, cooking, haiku, fiction writing, curiosity, gentle persuasion, barbed observances, birdwatching, how to kill cats, Scottish poets, politics, aetheism and Buddhism all had their place at John's table, and in his conversations and letters with friends & family.
We encourage people who knew John personally to share their reminiscences & stories, letters, recordings & photos of him. We hope that this 'shared harvest' (his words) will help contribute to the understanding of this extraordinary Australian as we approach the 100th anniversary of his birth.

John was a founding member of the Bush Music Club (1954) and early editor of its magazine Singabout. In 1954 he also became secretary of the new Australian Folklore Society. He spent many years collecting and recording hundreds of traditional Australian folk-songs and bush-dance music.

Page from the Meredith Collection, NLA (Dale Dengate)

With the aid of a government fellowship and together with Hugh Anderson, he collected material for and published Folksongs of Australia Vol. 1 in 1967. Vol. 2 was published in 1987. Meredith went on to publish a number of books relating to the Australian folk music scene and to write many of his own songs including two ballad operas, The wild colonial boy and How many miles from Gundagai?

In 1985 Australian Day honours he was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia.

In 1992 Queen's Birthday honours list Meredith was raised one notch in the honours stakes, becoming a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for "services to the Arts, particularly in the collection and preservation of Australian folklore".  (Keith McKenry, More than a Life: John Meredith and the fight for Australian Tradition, Dural, Rosenberg, 2014.)

Mulga Wire, no.90, April 1992, p.9

Into the Silence by John Meredith, 1981 (Chris & Virginia Woodland Collection)

Links to a selection of articles about John Meredith

John Meredith (folklorist) on Wikipedia

Photo by Tony Rees, Hobart 1987

John Meredith - author and photographer
A few comments on John Meredith by Chris Woodland from our 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.

Tom Pahuto shearing with Merro rouseabouting at Salt Lake Shed, June 1993. Tom, a Maori from NZ, was living in Hamilton Victoria at the time.  (Chris Woodland photo)
Chris & Virginia Woodland Collection - Photos of John Meredith

Merro & Virginia @ Walden, c1967 (Chris Woodland photo)
John Meredith - photos from the Peter Ellis Collection.

Merro at Yass, 1988
John Meredith - photos from the Rob Willis collection

Merro with the original Lagerphone made by his brother Claude (Rob Willis photo)
Bob Bolton Collection - Launch of Folk Songs of Australia, Vol. 2, 29th May 1987

Extracts from Singabout - the early songwriters - John Meredith (1920-2001)

Bob Bolton Collection - Wake for John Meredith, AM (1920 - 2001) - 24th March 2001

Chris Kempster, Harry Kay, Alex Hood & Jack Barrie being recorded by Rob Willis
Chris and Virginia Woodland Collection - Wake for John Meredith, AM (1920 - 2001) - 24th March 2001

John Meredith, The Bush Music Club & The Australian Folk Song Revival (1950’s)   Memorial article by Bob Bolton on our website

Mezon Grand Organ accordion owned by John McKinnon of Ecklin who gave it to Merro, who later gave it to Rob Willis (Rob Willis photo)
The Great Pesto Showdown - memories of John Meredith, By Jan Fallding (nee Howe)

Jan, John and Gerard in the background of Rose Cottage, 5th February 1999 (Jan Fallding photo)
The Ballad of the Heathcote Bushwhackers 
In 2013 long time members Jamie Carlin, Fank Maher & Ralph Pride presented the Ballad of the Bushwhackers to an enthusiastic audience. Eric Eisler produced the show & Ian Hamilton was narrator.

History of the Bush Music Club from our website

Bushwhackers at Australian Folklore Festival - 3rd Sept 1955.
Reports on launches of Keith McKenry's biography of John Meredith

In The Beginning … The formation and early history of the Bush Music Club, by John Meredith 

72xxxx John Meredith presents (then unpublished) material from his researches  of Frank the Poet - Francis McNamara at PACT folk in 1972  (Bob Bolton photo)
The Bushwhackers (Some recollections - Chris Kempster, February 2002)

Contributions by John Meredith & Chris Woodland to 'Stockmans Hall of Fame' 1996 to 2002.

John Meredith - miscellaneous photos and artifacts

Bag made by Merro for Virginia Woodland (Sandra Nixon photo) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Memorial concert for John Meredith, NFF2002

Kevin Bradley, unidentified banjo player behind Rob & Olya Willis, unidentified guitar player behind Peter Ellis, John Harpley, Keith McKenry (unknown photographer)
Life Members - information on our 25 Life Members - part 1. Sally Sloane, Duke Tritton, Clem Millward, Val Hennessy, John Meredith 

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

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

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