Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Stories of fame and much more ...... no 1 when Mike Harding met Peter Topping

Now for reasons which will become clear I went looking for a short biography of Mike Harding.

The North Westward Ho! circa 1975
He was born on October 23 1944 and is described as “a singer, songwriter, comedian, author, poet, broadcaster and multi-instrumentalist.”

And he knew Peter Topping, which is a pretty big claim to fame in anyone’s books.

I could of course say that I almost share a birthday with Mr Harding, although in my case it is October 21 1949 and we do still have and l play his LP Mrs ‘Arding’s Kid which features my all time favourites, The Suitcase, Away With Rum, and The Ballad of Cowheel Lou.

But as Andy Warhol might have said,  if you can’t have that fifteen minutes of fame be sure you have been with the one that is

And that leads me nicely to Peter’s story, “I first met Mike Harding one Sunday night at a folk night in 1975 on Pomona Docks.

I know that was a strange place for a folk night but what was even stranger was that it was on a ship - The North Westward Ho!

The folk Club was called Folk on a Boat and was run by Fred Carlisle. According to Fred "Mike was paid the princely sum of £60 for the night and was so impressed with the wage he went on to play several nights at a folk club in The Spread Eagle at Lymm"

Amongst other songs that he sang that night was Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, which became one of my favourites of all time, especially the chorus...
The Spread Eagle, 2015
"Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls keep you all aglow
Give ’em to your grannie and watch the beggar go
Away with coughs and sniffles, take a few in hand
Suck ’em and see, you’ll agree
They’re the best in all the land"

Of course there is more than just a story of fame and folk and it hangs on the music and singers who performed in venues across the country.

Peter, 2014
Along with Folk on the Boat there will be many with fond memories of the Bury Folk Club and in my case the Old Tigers Head in Hither Green in south east London and the Singers Club.

But where ever you listened to folk music, these were special nights.

At the Old Tiger’s Head you could listen to a set of traditional unaccompanied Scottish songs lamenting some lost battle, a contemporary protest piece and a few Edwardian music hall numbers.

And it didn’t matter that not everything you heard had been handed down by generations of farm labourers or “collected in the field” by a musical archivist it was just fun to be there and above all to join in and sing with the best of them.

Beer of course helped which allows me to finish up with Peter’s painting of The Spread Eagle at Lymm, where some have muttered darkly that it is about time there was a blue plaque on the wall, although there is plenty of disagreement about whose name should go at the top.

Location; Pomona Dock, and Lymn

Picture; The North Westward Ho!, courtesy of Ray "Fishflunk" 

Painting; The Spread Eagle at Lymm, © 2015, Peter Topping,  Paintings from Pictures.


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

* Mrs ‘Arding’s Kid, 1975

**Peter tells me that the picture of the Westward Ho was by Ray "Fishflunk" who is rarely credited with taking it. Peter also tells me that the ship was “Built in 1938 as the Vecta for the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Ltd. (Red Funnel Line) by John I Thornycroft & Co. Ltd. Woolston, Southampton”which is enough information for anyone

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