The story of Henry Kable as told by a distant cousin

This interview was conducted and recorded by Tim Pennick, who lives in Suffolk. Tim and I are vaguely related by marriage and I asked him to re-edit the piece for us. The musical excerpts are from the original recording of The Transports.
Dai Jeffries

Many visitors to will know the music of Peter Bellamy and the story of The Transports.

Henry KabelHenry Kable is believed to have been the first European settler to set foot in Australia. The transportation of Henry and his future wife provided the narrative for Peter Bellamy’s folk opera The Transports written and originally recorded in the 1970s.  Suffolk based historian Barry Cable discovered his relationship with Henry as a result of a TV documentary viewed by his daughter in 1988.  We spoke to Barry about his distant relative, Henry’s death sentence for theft, his reprieve, and eventual transportation to Australia.  The interview was recorded in the museum in Laxfield in Suffolk and includes mention of a number of nearby villages where Henry’s early life took place.  The interview is interspersed with excerpts from the 1977 recording of The Transports featuring the voices of Peter Bellamy and the fiddle of Dave Swarbrick.  The sound of the church clock of Laxfield recorded as we arrived, precedes the first excerpt.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration (Hudson Records HUD007LP/CD)

TransportsTom Paxton once remarked about one of his songs that it originally sounded as if it had been written a century ago, but that he no longer considered that a virtue. Fortunately, Peter Bellamy had no problem with “telling it like it was”. His ballad opera The Transports was, in the opinion of many, the best example of how effectively he could write songs that sounded as if they had been written around the time of the events they describe, which happened in the late 18th century. The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration, released on January 12th 2018, is not, of course, the first recorded version of the opera.

The first recording was released in 1977, and included some enormously influential artists, including some whose influence has survived long after they themselves left the stage. (For example Bert Lloyd, Cyril Tawney, Dave Swarbrick, and Peter Bellamy himself.) The ‘silver edition’ released in 2004 included not only the (remastered) original recording, but also a collection of newer recordings by other artists, including members of Fairport Convention; Coope, Boyes & Simpson; Steve Tilston; and Damien Barber and John Kirkpatrick. This latest CD, produced by Andy Bell, features a younger generation of singers and musicians, including members of The Young ‘Uns, Bellowhead, Faustus, Waterson: Carthy, Whapweasel, and Belshazzar’s Feast, as well as Nancy Kerr, Matthew Crampton and Greg Russell.

This live CD isn’t just a reproduction of the original recording with different musicians, however: it mirrors the touring revival from 2017 (which at the time of writing is just beginning another 14-date tour that ends in Norwich on the 24th January: see the website linked below for details). While it’s still based on the true story that captured Peter Bellamy’s imagination all those years ago, it uses spoken narrative between songs rather than the four sections of ‘The Ballad Of Henry And Susannah’ from the original recording. The narration, by Matthew Crampton, also draws parallels with the plight of 21st century forced migration. Perhaps the only reservation that I have about the CD is that while the narration is very capable, even a new listener might not want to hear it every time after they’ve become acquainted with the story. But in this age of iGadgets and personal playlists, I suppose people are much less likely to simply put on a CD and play it all the way through.

The production also includes Sean Cooney’s own recent song ‘Dark Water’, about Hesham Modamani, who swam from Turkey to Greece in his bid to escape from Syria. Live performances include stories of migration researched by the Parallel Lives project. While the song doesn’t have the ‘traditional’ quality of Peter Bellamy’s songs, it doesn’t jar – on me, at any rate – and it’s an excellent performance.

For comparison with previous recordings, here’s a listing of the songs: there are 28 tracks altogether, including the spoken tracks.

  1. ‘Us Poor Fellows’
  2. ‘The Robber’s Song’
  3. ‘The Leaves In The Woodland’
  4. ‘The Ballad of Norwich Gaol’
  5. ‘I Once Lived In Service’
  6. ‘Sweet Loving Friendship’
  7. ‘The Black and Bitter Night’
  8. ‘Dark Water’
  9. ‘The Humane Turnkey 1’
  10. ‘The Plymouth Mail’
  11. ‘The Humane Turnkey 2’
  12. ‘The Green Fields of England’
  13. ‘The Still and Silent Ocean’
  14. ‘Roll Down’

For reasons of space, I won’t go through the performances individually: the songs are of a uniform high quality (and, happily, the booklet includes the lyrics). The vocals (both solo and ensemble) and instrumental work are never less than very good, though Nancy Kerr’s bravura performance on ‘The Leaves In The Woodland’ deserves a special mention.

If you already have an earlier version, it’s still worth taking a look at this for its change of focus (and, of course, some excellent performances). If you’re not acquainted with The Transports but like the sound of songs that are very much in a traditional vein and tell a fascinating historical story with 21st century resonances, you should definitely take a look. And if you tend to prefer more contemporary renditions of contemporary material, take a look anyway. You might just surprise yourself.

David Harley

Artist’s website:

A Taste Of The Transports:

Electric Eden now out on Universal Music…

Presenting the soundtrack to Rob Young’s ground-breaking survey of music making in the British Isles.

Universal Music Catalogue has now released Electric Eden, a new compilation, hand-picked by author and journalist Rob Young. The two disc set is designed to serve as a companion to Young’s highly acclaimed book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music which was published by Faber & Faber in 2010.

Just as the book mapped out a native British musical voice that reflected the complex relationships between town and country, progress and nostalgia, radicalism and conservatism, so too does this compilation.

It’s a veritable connoisseur’s choice of folk music which collects together such diverse artists as Archie Fisher, Meic Stevens, Bill Fay, Comus, and Mick Softley, even David Bowie – alongside the more expected names such as Bert Jansch, Richard Thompson, John Martyn, The Incredible String Band and Nick Drake.

The two disc set is divided into an Acoustic Eden and an Electric Eden and comes with comprehensive, track-by-track notes by Rob Young.

Comments Rob young: ‘This compilation is designed to follow the flow from acoustic to electric folk in the late 60s and early 70s, a magical time in British music. I’ve tried to include a mixture of rarities, unheard versions, familiar names and unjustly neglected heroes and heroines. I’m particularly proud of including a rare original version of ‘A Sailor’s Life’ by Fairport Convention, literally the first time a rock drum kit was ever used on a traditional folk song. History in the making!’



1. Peter Bellamy – ‘Oak, Ash and Thorn’

2. Traffic – ‘John Barleycorn Must Die’

3. Bert Jansch – ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’

4. Fairport Convention – ‘Stranger to Himself’

5. Archie Fisher – ‘Reynardine’

6. Bread, Love and Dreams – ‘Brother John’

7. Bill Fay – ‘Garden Song’

8. Water Into Wine Band – ‘Stranger in the World’

9. Tudor Lodge – ‘Willow Tree’

10. Comus – ‘Diana’

11. Meic Stevens – ‘Yorric’

12. Magic Carpet – ‘The Dream’

13. Sweeney’s Men – ‘The Pipe on the Hob’

14. Tim Hart & Maddy Prior – ‘False Knight on the Road’

15. Dr Strangely Strange – ‘Dark-Haired Lady’

16. Albion Country Band – ‘I Was a Young Man’

17. COB – ‘Music of the Ages’

18. Roger Nicholson – ‘The Carman’s Whistle’

19. Bridget St John – ‘Fly High’

20. John Martyn – ‘She Moves Through the Fair’


CD 2


1. Richard Thompson – ‘Roll over Vaughn Williams’

2. Steeleye Span – ‘The Lark in the Morning’

3. Unicorn – ‘Country Road’

4. Fairport Convention – ‘A Sailor’s Life’

5. Trees – ‘Glasgerion’

6. Fotheringay – ‘Gypsy Davey’

7. David Bowie – ‘Black Country Rock’

8. John Martyn – ‘Glistening Glyndebourne’

9. Mike Cooper – ‘Paper and Smoke’

10. Shelagh McDonald – ‘Mirage’

11. Spirogyra – ‘Disraeli’s Problem’

12. Mick Softley – ‘Time Machine’

13. Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band – ‘Murder of Maria Marten’

14. Pentangle – ‘Jack Orion’

15. Incredible String Band – ‘Painted Chariot’

16. Nick Drake – ‘Voices’

DAMIEN BARBER & MIKE WILSON – The Old Songs – DBS Records DBS004

The Old Songs is the second album from Damien and Mike and follows the pattern of their debut, Under The Influence, drawing material from, in the main, two distinguished singers – in this case Peter Bellamy and Mike Waterson. None of the songs are really obscure although ‘The Charlady’s Son’ may have you scratching your head unless you have Mike Waterson’s solo album and Dave Dodds’ ‘Drinking Song’ may be unfamiliar unless you live in this corner of the Surrey/Hants border where Dave was a well-known figure thirty years ago.

That’s really the point, though. These are old songs engrained in the memories of old folkies – even Richard Thompson’s ‘Down Where The Drunkards Roll’. Hands up if you’ve sung it or along with it in a folk club. That’s pretty much everyone, then. The words of the title track are by Bob Copper, whose family also supplied ‘Come Write Me Down’, and its music is by Peter Bellamy who is also the source of ‘Rag Fair’, ‘A Pilgrim’s Way’ and ‘Santa Fe Trail’. One song comes from June Tabor and then there is ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Mike sings it with great tenderness but it isn’t a song I care for due to an embarrassing incident when I was seventeen. No, I’m not going there.

Two voices plus Damien’s guitar and concertina make for an uncluttered album that could be reproduced live at a moment’s notice in keeping with the nature of the songs: to repeat my point, they are part of our collective repertoire. Damien and Mike stamp their own style on them although Damien can’t keep a hint of Bellamy’s vibrato out of his voice by the time they reach ‘Santa Fe Trail’. This is grass-roots folk singing at its best.

Dai Jeffries

Artist Web Link:

Oak, Ash And Thorn – Various Artists 24-01-2011 Folk Police Recordings

John Peel was a fan of Peter Bellamy’s album of Kipling songs Oak, Ash And Thorn. ‘I hope Oak, Ash and Thorn will not be the sole venture of this kind you undertake and I look forward to featuring more of Kipling’s poetry and your music on the radio,’ he was supposed to have said. Of course, he wasn’t the only fan of this curious record, which first came out forty years ago on the Argo label, followed by a sister album, the equally strange and beguiling Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye. It is fitting that the first contributor to this present-day homage is none other than Jon Boden: a leading light on the current scene and a musician and singer who has always been eager to cite his admiration for Bellamy. The other fifteen tracks have been put forward by a range of different musicians, emphasising Bellamy’s influence on a whole new generation.  From traditional singers, (Fay Hield, Sam Lee), to alt.folk innovators, (Trembling Bells, The Owl Service), this celebration of Bellamy’s Puck settings will undoubtedly cast a new light on his classic interpretations. There are names from the current young British folk scene that you will undoubtedly recognise – from The Unthanks to Emily Portman to the award winning Jackie Oates – to newer artists you may well not, like Rapunzel and Sedayne, Elle Osborne and Olivia Chaney. Peter Bellamy was a maverick, a musician that refused to follow fashion. Though famously referring to himself as a ‘boring, bleating old traddy’, he was as happy listening to the latest offering from Frank Zappa as he was extolling the virtues of traditional singers such as Walter Pardon. In tribute, there are artists here that perhaps wouldn’t always be neatly slotted into genre pigeonholes. And their take on these now-canonical songs will need room to breathe and grow before they intrigue and enchant, just like Bellamy did all those years ago.

Introducing Folk Police Recordings…

A new Manchester-based record label, Folk Police Recordings, releases its first offerings in January 2011. The ‘purveyors of folk brut and other rough music’ will be putting out an homage to Peter Bellamy, with Oak, Ash And Thorn, a collection of his songs contributed by some of the most innovative voices associated with the current folk scene, and Lincolnshire-born, Sussex-based folk singer Elle Osborne‘s new EP, Good Grief. Elle’s full-length album, And Slowly Slowly Got She Up, will follow in spring 2011. Though hugely inspired by the traditional music of the British Isles, it is music that blends the traditional with the new that captivates Folk Police Recordings‘ founder, Nigel Spencer: “We chose the name Folk Police because it’s a longstanding term of abuse bandied around the UK folk scene. We though it was about time someone reclaimed it and turned it into a badge of honour. It’s a badge we’re proud to wear. And we like the image it brings to mind: of small, extremely cross men with pointy beards beating offenders over the head with battered copies of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. “More seriously, the artists we represent tend to know their traditional stuff, but are very much of the 21st century. Folk lovers will recognise some of the names of the artists we put out, but there will also be some new, unfamiliar musicians, too.” Folk Police Recordings has a busy year ahead, seeing releases from storyteller and musician, Bob Pegg, probably best known for his work with Mr. Fox in the 1970s, as well as introductory records from Fleetwood’s foremost dark trad duo, Rapunzel and Sedayne, a collection of traditional songs reinterpreted by some of the best players on the Manchester alt-folk scene with guest vocals from Nancy Wallace, Jackie Oates and a host of other wonderful singer in The Woodbine and Ivy Band, and Kitchen Cynics, Aberdeen psych-folk troubadour Alan Davidson, who will be the subject of an extensive series of download-only reissues. The label will also be looking closer to home with its Northwestern series, a series of short run CDs featuring folk and alt-folk artists and performers primarily from the Northwest of England. Christine Johnson, a folk-inspired songwriter who has more than a touch of Lal Waterson about her lyrical themes, will be the first Northwestern act to make her debut.