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Title : Aw'm a poor aud shifter noo

Format : reel to reel

Performer : Elliott, Reece (b.1894 d.1981)

Date : unknown

Duration : 03mins 28secs

Collection name : Beamish, North of England Open Air Museum - Audio Collection


This song, performed by Reece Elliott, first appeared in Alexander Barrass' 'Pitmen's social neet' in the late 19th century. The original book was published in Consett in 1897 and took the form of poems and songs, in the imaginary setting of a local pub, where colliers and their families met for a social evening's drinking. The song describes a miner who has had experience of many types of work in the mine. He reflects upon this with some sadness as, in spite of his knowledge, he is not regarded highly by the management. Reece does not use the suggested melody for this song (What good can swearin' de), but chooses the Irish melody 'The wearing of the green' in its place.

The Elliott family from Birtley, Co. Durham have long been associated with folk music. Best known for the singing of Jack Elliott, who died in 1966, this mining family have a seemingly endless supply of songs. Reece Elliott was the elder brother of Jack. He was born in 1894, and was a miner for most of his life. For part of his working life he worked alongside Jack, and they shared any songs. It becomes apparent when listening to recordings of Reece that his childhood involved considerable impoverishment including cast-off clothing and even, at times, bare feet. His memories of a mining village before the First World War are very important and give an insight into later attitudes towards coal owners, the mine, and the community.

He was a singer and raconteur with a wide repertoire ranging from children's songs to music hall ditties, and many work related items. A strongly built man, he survived his younger brother Jack dying in 1981. He was also interested in extending his repertoire, from other singers and collections, hence the study of Barrass's Pitman's social neet, and years later in 1952 'Come all ye bold miners'. Active in the Birtley Club, he also took an interest in collecting and assisted during visits to retirement homes in the area. It is apparent from his recorded speech that he enjoyed strong family ties, the friendship of neighbours, and the preservation of dialect speech patterns. He was always ready to pass on his songs to younger performers and spent many hours writing out songs, or singing them into tape recorders to help up and coming artists.

this is one of 14 songs taken from an original reel-to-reel recording. The tape from which these sound files are drawn is one of a large number of sound recordings held by the North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, Co. Durham. This important resource is made up of oral history recordings drawn from many different sources. Some recordings have been made by the museum for their own use, whilst others have been copied from other sources or donated by other collectors and individuals. This large collection of mostly spoken word recordings also includes many recordings of singers, musicians and dancers from Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria. The collection includes recordings of Haltwhistle fiddle player George Hepple, Nenthead singer Martha Armstrong, the Elliotts of Birtley, piping competitions, Newcastleton traditional music festival, concertina bands and playground games.


Collection description : song

Collector : Beamish Museum

Collection date : unknown


Melody used : Wearing of the green

Subject heading : industry and occupation

Keywords : mining & miners

Period : 1970s

Key : D

Time signature: 4/4

Held by : Beamish Museum

Copyright : Copyrights to all resources are retained by the individual rights holders. They have kindly made their collections available to FARNE for non-commercial private study & educational use only. For further details please see our Copyright Statement.


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f :: 0191 477 7454

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FARNE Folk Archive Resource North East