A Pair of Clogs

The little pair of children’s clogs
looked so cute on the shelf.
They decided they just had to take them home
to show them off to their friends
just like a big doll’s shoes, but the soles were worn
and a little down at the heel
she began to wonder if their tongues could speak
what secrets they might reveal

Children need sunshine and laughter
children need learning and play
from the mills of the past,
to the sweatshops of Dhaka
and rubble of Gaza today

Her mother came for tea one day,
she saw the pair on display
my god she said just like my grandma wore
I’m glad we’re not in her day
the children heard and they asked their gran
to tell of those far off days
and as they listened they heard a tale
that they’d not read on the page.

Children need sunshine and laughter
children need learning and play
from the mills of the past,
to the sweatshops of Dhaka
and rubble of Gaza today

Mary Halliday from eight years old
rose at 5 each morn
put on her clogs, unlatched the door
started work before the dawn
In Swinton town, in the Albert Mill
cleaning under the mule
on all fours in the oil and dust
then two hours at school

Children need sunshine and laughter
children need learning and play
from the mills of the past,
to the sweatshops of Dhaka
and rubble of Gaza today

A plea to let children have a childhood free from drudgery, poverty and fear. My first recorded effort on the melodeon, I’ve a way to go but you’ve got to start somewhere!

Joseph Emidy

Joseph Emidy ‘D’

So now I am a Cornish man and Truro is my home
dear wife and many children here, I hope no more to roam
my voyages weren’t voluntary and I curse the gaoler sea
but now my music’s found an ear, the world will hear from me
I’m Joseph Emidy, and you will hear from me
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes you will hear from me

I was born and raised in Guinea, ah but there I was enslaved
transported by the Portuguese, the transatlantic trade
Brazilian days brought nothing more than hunger, fear and toil
until the owner heard me play and plucked me from the soil

I’m Joseph Emidy, and he heard me.
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes he heard me.

I was sent for fiddle lessons and to learn I did begin
and before long I’d changed the kora for the violin
in 1790 we set sail to Lisbon, we did go
the orchestra there asked if I would rosin up my bow
I’m Joseph Emidy, and Lisbon noticed me,
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes Lisbon noticed me,

One evening at the opera was Admiral Pellew
heard and liked my playing with the officers of his crew
A man who loved his music but disdained men’s liberty
so he set the press gang on me and they took me off to sea
I’m Joseph Emidy and Lisbon missed me,
I’m Joseph Emidy oh yes Lisbon missed me.

G D/F# Em A7 D
For seven years in that floating gaol I never touched the quay
I ate my meals in solitude no man would mess with me
at dusk I’d take my fiddle up for hornpipes, jigs and reels
the officers would listen while the men kicked up their heels
I’m Joseph Emidy, and they would dance for me
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes they would dance for me

At Falmouth as the century turned I finally made land
and music loving Cornish folk began to lend a hand
I found a room and started teaching people how to play
it made me smile to see the gentry do as I would say

I’m Joseph Emidy, and they learned from me
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes they learned from me

I’ve lead the local orchestra in Plymouth and Truro
in work by Hayden and by Gluck, the music you all know
conducted my concerto in the town to great acclaim
London liked my music, but they held my skin to blame

I’m Joseph Emidy, London rejected me
I’m Joseph Emidy, oh yes they rejected me.

So lets sing of Emidy of flute and clarinet
of cello and piano, and whose skin was black as jet
who taught, conducted and composed, respected in his town
let’s revive his reputation and lets pass his memory down
Joseph Emidy, we’ll tell the world of thee
Joseph Emidy oh yes, we’ll tell the world of thee. x2

The introduction to the tune quotes from the North Eastern press gang song “Here’s the Tender Coming’

Mrs May Anderson

A tune for one of a pair of inspirational whistle teachers at Whitby Folk Week

Will Reed’s Barn – with Maurice Condy

Village Harvest Procession 1823

Village Harvest Procession 1823

I found a report of a harvest celebration  in a collection of cuttings from the Consett Chronicle in the Beamish Archive, and it gave me the idea for this song and the tune ‘Harvest home at Knitsley’; you can read the report under ‘Harvest Home at Knitsley’.  The Lancers was a popular dance in the mid 1800s, the Cushion Dance, involved all the men kissing all of the women in the course of the dance!  More information at http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Images/Davies_Gilbert/joan_sanderson_or_the_cushion_da.htm


Will Reed’s Barn, words and music by Michael Burns, Maurice Condy is on guitar.

There was wind and the threat of rain and hail
that harvest of eighty two
and if we’d get the crop safe in
but the Lord and the divil knew.
Well the lads and lasses and the horses
raced to beat the storm.
By the day’s last light t’was safe from harm
home to wash and feed and waarm.

What a neet we had in Will Reed’s barn
October of eighty two
we danced from seven ’till the early hours
we danced the whole neet through
there were jokes and songs, the company good,
the crack and music grand
three cheers for Will and Mary Reed,
Ted Parker and his band.

Our gaffer was canny William Reed
he’d the farm off Knitsley Lane
he was well relieved the crop was in
and safe from storm and rain.
We’d reaped the barley, oats and wheat
and picked the tatties reet
next day we made room in the barn
for a special harvest treat

What a neet we had in Will Reed’s barn
October of eighty two …

Well the spread was made by Mrs Slater, Mulligan and Reed,
there was tongue and pies and jugs of beer,
aye the food was grand indeed
pease pudding, ham and stotty cakes,
laughter and good cheer,
A feast for aal the company
for the friends from far and near,

What a neet we had in Will Reed’s barn
October of eighty two …

Ted Parker led his fine string band
& Frank Todd called the dance
Will Slater sang a canny song
when e’er he had the chance,
with song and dnace the neet soon went
until we saw the dawn
at 7.00 o’clock the cockerel crowed
to tell us it was morn

What a neet …

What a neet …

We danced Sir Rodger d’ Coverley,
Will and Mary showed us how,
We’d jigs and reels and the Cushion Dance,
The Lancers and Speed the Plough
and how we kept the dancing up
I couldn’t tell to thee
it was mebees the tunes or mebees the beer
or mebbes the company

What a neet …

The Little Count

JB's memorial stone


I wrote this tune to celebrate the life of Józef Boruwłaski (1739–1837), perhaps the first of many Polish people to enhance life in Britain. Jozef was a Polish-born dwarf born near Halicz in Poland in November 1739. At his full height he measured 99 cm (39 inches). Joseph was a good violinist, guitarist and dancer. He embarked of several musical tours on the Continent and in Britain. In the course of one tour, on the road back from Edinburgh to London, he arrived at Durham and liked it so much that he stayed.

In a letter to one lady friend, Boruwłaski included a short poem explaining his love for Durham.
It read: “Poland was my cradle, England is my nest; Durham is my quiet place where my weary bones shall rest.” He was friends with Stephen Kemble, an enormous, oversized actor, an activist against slavery and Durham resident, and their contrasting appearances caused much amusement as they strolled the banks of the Wear together. Joseph died, after 47 years in Durham, on September 5, 1837, at the age of 97. He was buried in Durham in the Cathedral beside friend Stephen Kemble, his grave can be seen near the main door, marked by a stone slab 15 inches square. It simply reads “JB”
There is a life-size statue of him in the Town Hall at Durham, together with a small display of his personal effects, including a suit, hat, cane, chair and violin. The Town Hall also has a large oil-painting of Joseph as an old man. A tetrastyle Greek temple, restored in 2007, stands on the banks of the River Wear at Durham: this is called the ‘Count’s House’ and its position suggests that it may have been an ornamental folly in the Count’s garden. There is a collection of documents relating to the man Durham people called ‘the Little Count’ at the Palace Green library of Durham University.

I’m grateful to Maurice Condie for his flawless guitar accompaniment on the recording.


Melangell's Lambs by Lucas

Lucas Tyldesley’s picture of Melangell’s lambs

Maurice Condie is on guitar

Melangell was a 7th century Irish princess who went to Wales to avoid an arranged marriage and became a saint. Legend tells of a miraculous rescue of a hare by Melangell; she was deemed to be the patron saint of hares – Melangell’s Lambs. The song evokes Melangell’s memory to argue for better treatment of animals.
w&m Michael Burns 17 Nov 2014

From the Low Mown Meadows to Los Llanos

Here’s a song about a journey that started in Crook & ended in Colombia. Jack Greenwell, a Durham lad who was a true citizen of the world.

From the Low Mown Meadows to Los Llanos words & music copyright Michael Burns May 2015

From the Low Mown Meadows to Los ‘Jannos’
From Billy Row to Barca, Lima, Bogotá
From the Low Mown Meadows to Los Llanos
Jack Greenwell never dreamt he’d go so far

A lad from Crook whose legs were strong from putting,
invited by West Auckland to Turin
helped them win that World Cup in Italia
a score that made those Durham pitmen grin.

1912 sailed off to Barcelona
4 seasons as a wing half, watch him fly
2 years champions of Catalunya
Howay Jack, Bisca Barka was the cry

Jack was soon the manager of Barca
5 championships and dos Copa Del Rey
That Durham lad, the toast of Barcelona
Howay lads, Bisca Barca Jack would say

Jack soon mastered Catalan and Spanish
the food and culture of his new found land
but war clouds in north Africa were gathering
so Jack and Doris had to change the things they’d planned

Jack had to escape the threat of Franco
and soon was coaching football in Peru
his national team were champs of South America
and his club the national champions ‘La U’

In the 1940’s Jack was in Colombia
with Los Li-ones de Santa Fe
but he died on the 20th of Novemebr of October
and all of Barcelona wept that day

Mr Bruce Rafeek crossing the Tweed

I woke up from a vivid dream of jamming on a train with a big, loud, Scots folk band with this tune playing in my head. It’s dedicated to my eccentric accordion playing pal. Music by M Burns. Maurice C on guitar

Hils and Mike’s

A tune celebrating the wedding of two friends. Copyright MB 12 April 2015