Poor Fellows


This is from what became Melody Maker’s Folk Album Of The Year in 1977 and Jon says, “From The Transports by Peter Bellamy, sung originally by Nic Jones in what is, for me, his finest vocal performance on record. Bellamy wrote all of the songs with particular singers in mind and, in most cases, this led to some pretty remarkable vocal performances.” Bellamy’s ballad opera has since been further lauded as a high water mark of the folk revival and is based on a true story, researched by Norfolk Historian Eric Fowler. If the notes I’ve read are to be believed (despite Peter changing his story) the whole thing was written in four days. He undoubtedly wrote with specific singers in mind, something that proved a logistical nightmare to produce at the time and a significant risk for Neil Wayne and his independent Free Reed label. Many others had already turned it down as commercially unviable. I will have to investigate this properly as this is one of my favourite songs so far and having just put my hands on a copy of the Silver Edition two CD box set of The Transports, I’m rather excited by it, especially the detailed book that comes with it. I’ll chalk this up as another eye-opener from Jon. As with anything Bellamy related the first point of reference is Mainly Norfolk where you’ll find some fine detail of the various recorded versions and more. You may also like to have a look at this for some more insight.



19 Responses to “Poor Fellows”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    Great song and very informative links of more music for me to explore. Also good to read the review of ‘The Transports’ by Karl Dallas from my neck of the woods. Thanks again, Jon, for this well-sung choice.

  2. muzza says:

    Sensitive performance…………I found myself poised to join in with the chorus of “Hard times of Old England” that didn’t quite materialise…..and what a Pandora’s box of Lyrics from MainlyNorfolk.

  3. Phil says:

    I fell in love with this song before I ever heard the Transports, thanks to Tony Rose’s version on the album of the same name. My unaccompanied version on Myspace is after Rose rather than Jones, & goes by a fair bit brisker.

    Wonderful song, anyway, and (like the rest of the Transports) an extraordinary feat of writing “in the tradition” – if you close your eyes you can almost see the words printed on a smudgy broadside.

    How about something off here?

  4. Yehudit says:

    I don’t know if admin or Jon are picking up comments on old posts …. I just found the blog and I am so charmed to hear all these songs I have loved since my introduction to Brit Trad in about 1970. Bellamy, Carthy, the Watersons, all the Steeleye and Fairport variations, the Bert Lloyd and Ewan MacColl nurtured compliations, liner notes … all that stuff …. You seem to be very good at picking my favorite songs!

    Anyway, I left a comment under one of the Cyril Tawney posts that Jon must learn “Five Foot Flirt.” That is all.

  5. Simon says:

    Yehudit I did spot a flurry of posts from you (in the admin area of the site)and it’s always hard to know how to respond, when things are added to the historical mass. I have to post a reply somewhere that you’ll see for starters. As the daily discussions keep rolling on I don’t know if anyone checks back although some might like to join in if they are aware that you’re commenting. I can’t speak for Jon and Five Foot Flirt. Much of what’s to come (but not all) is already determined. It does beg the question of whether we should have a page for requests and suggestions. I’ll ask Jon about his feelings on that one and come back again. Regardless I should add that you’re most welcome here and I’m pleased you’re enjoying it.

  6. John Burton says:

    I don’t know if it is just me but I hear a very different vocal sound on this track.
    Gone are the Bellamyistic tremeloes and there is a real warmth to the timbre.
    Nice, I like it. I must check out the Nic Jones version again to see if that is where the influence comes from. I know that my interpretations are swayed by “whoever I picked up the song from”. Perhaps Jon does some of the same thing.
    John B

  7. JENNY BELLAMY says:

    The Transports was written in 4 days. Day and night of course.
    It took 4 years for Peter to find a company to release it.
    No royalties were ever paid until Peter found a lawyer to extract some from the company and then the money gained just covered the solicitors fees.
    No getting rich for writing folk songs it seems.

  8. Phil says:

    I love this song. Week 2 of 52 Folk Songs coincided with Peter Bellamy’s birthday; I declared Bellamy Week and marked it with this, Bill Brown and My Boy Jack. Not the most festive of selections, admittedly, but that’s folk for you. Week 10 was also Bellamy Week, with “The death of Nelson” and “St Helena lullaby” (two songs that got into my head and wouldn’t go away until I’d learned them); it probably won’t be the last.

  9. Diana says:

    Another great song. I am fairly new to this folk song site and folk songs in general and now realise what I have been missing all these years. Some of the songs I have heard but the majority are new to me. Still better late tham never!

  10. Diana says:

    Another typing mistake I note. Along with Jane and John we are all suffering from the JohnDi spelling bug as Jane calls it.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    I really like this song. Well-devised, the talented Mr Bellamy!

    Ref spelling: To be fair, I should call it the JaneJohnDi bug. If enough people catch it, the name will be long enough for a medical dictionary. Could abbreviate it to JaJoDi. Sounds almost tropical!

  12. Diana says:

    Like this one very much.

    @Linda that is good news. Not long until Kerfuffle now. Look out for Steve and Jane. They have had their tickets for ages too.

  13. Lawrence Leith says:

    I know this from the great Tony Rose. I re-bought a record player to hear this version again. Well worth it! Well sung

  14. Nat Clare says:

    How mightily, mightily moving and what a perfectly sensitive rendition. Couldn’t be bettered, methinks.

  15. Linda says:

    Looking forward to seeing The Transports in January 2017 Like this version by Jon….. remember the YouTube version Muzza?

  16. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Linda……….wot you doin’ listening to todays song a couple of hours early !!!
    that aint allowed!
    My goodness you do get about to all these gigs…….I must settle down and enjoy the Youtube Transports from the comfort of the old arm chair that my Granny left me…..hang on a minute…..what’s this tucked down the side of the cushion…I could write a song about this!

  17. Linda says:

    Next years entry?

  18. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Well Lindy lou…here we are six years on and ref that song I was going to write……I got stuck after writing ” how they sniggered. how they chaffed. .how me brothers and me sisters laughed”….. mind you…I did sing a couple of lines to a song publisher but never heard back!
    Ah well.. c’est la vie.

  19. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Oh what a jolly wag I am!!!!!!
    still clinging to the wreckage and winter looming….roll on the December solstice on 21st

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