The Oggie Man


Another Cyril Tawney song and Jon attributes his source thus, “Ian McCulloch was chief convener of the Colpitts Monday night song, and is a great singer with a tremendous repertoire. I always looked forward to him doing this one.” As for this lament, we are very fortunate to have this from the man himself, which for once, can be called definitive. I’ll add Mainly Norfolk’s link to A Cold Wind Blows album, which sadly seems unavailable, although you will find Cyril’s version on the Live At Holsteins CD.

You can buy the August digital album now from all good download stores


40 Responses to “The Oggie Man”

  1. Shelley says:

    What a beautiful, sad song. I hadn’t heard it before yesterday, but someone sang it at my local folk club last night, and when I got home it popped up here! How strange.

  2. admin says:

    We’re stangely quiet on this one, but I’ll echo your sentiment Shelly. It’s great to have Cyrils explanation and I love the economy of this, you can read so much into that ‘missing’ second verse.

  3. Reinhard says:

    Cyril Tawney’s explanation of his own song’s genesis is wonderful; thank you for finding this!

    I have three recordings by Chris Tawney of this: The earliest one on A Cold Wind Blows that you mentioned is unaccompanied. On the Argo compilation “The World of Folk” is a version with a guitar accompaniment that sounds like a ship’s diesel engine which fits very well to the song. This recording is probably from Tawney’s Argo album A Mayflower Garland. (Folkcatalogue’s Blog is the absolute reference for all Argo folk albums, have a look at it.) And the last on is on his CD Navy Cuts and is still available like Live At Holsteins. This is a compilation too, and it is an obviously much older Cyril Tawney, but I don’t know where this track is originally from.

  4. StephenH says:

    I’ve listened to this two or three times now- the first time it slipped by me, I thought the song lovely and the vocal and fiddle up to the usual excellent standard. Then I read the notes by Cyril Tawney, and listened a couple more times. Now I realise that, although it seems a “simple’ song song, it really is a masterful example of precise songwriting- it could have another two or three verses and not be anywhere near as good. So, thanks, Jon, for this choice: a good lesson to me that I am guilty of only listening with half an ear, sometimes, and so miss some beautiful little gems.

  5. muzza says:

    A very touching song…but….Without the explanation…..the lyrics would have gone right over my head…so in years to come…………people will wonder what it is all about.

    Whereas….”Grey Funnel Line” could lose the 3rd verse “heart was free” and 4th verse “behind the screws-oldPeter” and still be complete and understandable.
    Before anybody jumps in……….I love old Cyril and just I’m just giving my thoughts on these two songs.

  6. muzza says:

    I’m having a senior moment here……………did I listen to the Oggie man early this morning …half asleep..or is Song 08-21 not posted yet?

  7. John Burton says:

    That is wierd, I was on last night at 1.30 EST in Canada, % hours behind UK time and had almost the same thought. I must have listened to todays offering last night.
    In my case it is age.
    John B, who only has two days of 59 left to live.

  8. muzza says:

    Well John. Burton…………..happy birthday for 23rd………………you’ll still have to go some to catch up with an old duffer like me…….I really do have senior moments but this site is just what we need to keep in touch with the young ‘uns!

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    I am with StephenB on all he wrote and equally guilty sometimes of not taking all in. I absolutely loved this song and glad I did not do a lazy pass on the link to Cyril Tawney’s own notes. Just brilliant, reminding me of tea and pop vendors, blackened deliverers of coal sacks, even milkmen leaving glass bottles on doorsteps…all gone in my locality now. I did not know Cyril Tawney wrote The Grey Funnel Line because I know so little (but learning daily!) I don’t know what it is about this song that makes it such a gem, but it is a nugget of pure gold…to mix metaphors! Class, Jon!

  10. bongopedro says:

    I heard this song quite a while before I found out what an Oggie man was. I found the song haunting, sad and mysterious and thought of the Oggie man as some kind of old world petty criminal who had been been executed and buried beneath the dockyard wall!
    I was a bit disappointed when I found out he was a pasty seller. Tawney’s account of how the song came to him whilst walking home on a rainy night and he did it pretty much in one take, followed by his opinion that much of the song’s beauty comes from what is left out, allowed me to hang on to my original interpretation despite it being quite far from Tawney’s inspiration. So I sort of get two songs in one. Almost…

  11. John Biggs says:

    I was fortunate enough to marry a Plymouth gal back in the 60s so I very quickly came to know all about oggies.
    We had some great nights with Cyril in the folk clubs of Southampton and Portsmouth and this song was always a favourite, and much requested.
    My father in law, who had spent all his working life in H.M. Dockyards, including through the W.W.2 years in Plymouth, had no great interest in folk music. He was a ‘classical’ man, but he enjoyed this song when we played him a recording, and well remembered the little oggie stalls lined up under the dockyard wall. During the years of rationing in particular, there was much speculation about the contents of these pasties, best not to inquire too deeply!
    Cyril had that skill of taking a simple subject like a pasty seller, and crafting it, with the minimum amount of narrative, into a beautiful song which lives on with you years later. I remember that guitar accompaniment R., but it never struck me that it was a ship’s diesel engine, a sound that he lived with for so many years. Thank you!
    And that first line, “The rain is softly falling”, it has to be Plymouth!

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you John B for your reminiscences above. I still love this song, and Cyril Tawney’s own notes about it. I note he mentions ‘Payday at Coal Creek’ as sung by Shirley Collins. Couldn’t find that on YouTube, but here is a version by Jean Richie… must be difficult singing whilst in a moving rocking chair from the point of view of breath control!

    And I love this old video of the Richie Family Reunion 1955 (I’d be 2 yrs old then) with its communal cooking, singing and quilting. Another example of bygone days, no doubt.

  13. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Janey……..You and AFSAD have done it again.
    I’d never heard of Jean Ritchie..what a lovely voice, which seems to improve as she got older. The family reunion clip took me back as I used to make “Dulcimers” back in the 60s, inspired by a programme on TV in which a fella called John Pearce “Told us how.” I wonder how many of my instruments are still out there!

  14. john baxter says:

    Dear muzza,

    We have a model made form the book, still in use, and we still have the book We displayed & played it at our local agricultural show yesterday & it got a lot of attention. Our4s is made from scrap wood in triangular form. In view of this interest I think I might make a few for sale if I ever get the time. I am thinking of running a workshop class on the subject as well as the dulcijo for our @FolkWorshops group.

    Hope still build and play.


  15. muzza(s.e.England) says: of luck with your project…….I trust this is your group
    “We are based in the hills above the Golden Valley in Herefordshire in the Welsh Marches”.
    If it is…perhaps Susie the tenor could perform and post some of her songs on youtube.

  16. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Good old AFSAD…….ref the above “memory lane trip”..looked up John Pearce and his “hold down a chord “series and found this natty little link with information about many of the singers that are regularly mentioned in the comments.

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    I keep trying to leave a comment here, but WordPress is having none of it… tho it tells me it has, it hasn’t let me post! Is it ‘cos I is Yorkshire… and a Ted?

  18. nev perry says:

    I don’t know what it is but some songs do really get to me, and this one ticks all the boxes. But is an oggie really a pasty? and the oggieman a pasty seller? enlightenment please?

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    Right, I’m having another go!

    @ Muzza & John: You never cease to amaze me on here! I love dulcimers! I used to have an LP years ago called ‘The Dulcimer Players’ picked up for a song somewhere – hahaha! – but let it go with the declining interest in vinyl and have never been able to track it down since then, certainly not on CD, which is a shame.

    I had to look up what a dulcijo was. Here’s a very helpful YouTube video that explains it’s a cross between an Appalachian dulcimer and 5-string banjo, but only has 3 strings.

    For more information on all things dulcijo, visit:

    All the above reminded me of an up-and-coming artiste I saw recently at Otley Folk Club called Jessica Lawson, who plays an autoharp. I’d never seen one before, though it looked similar to a dulcimer with accordion buttons! Acc to Wiki, the ‘buttons’ are called ‘dampers’ (pardon my ignorance!) and the autoharp is not a harp at all, but a chorded zither:

    Shame the sound quality isn’t better, but here’s Jessica singing ‘Lorelei’ at the Beverley Folk Festival this year:

    Check out her website and ‘Molly of the Tyne’ CD here:

    She also plays acoustic guitar, likes American music, and in some way reminds me of a young Jean Richie. Here’s Jean again with her version of ‘Little Musgrave’ – hahahaha!

    And if I have to type this out a third time ‘cos the submit button – sorry, ‘damper’ isn’t submitting (well, not to my will, anyway!) – I’ll go to the foot of an Appalachian mountain…

  20. Simon says:

    Jane’s comment was gobbled by the spam filter but now properly reinstated. I’ve been away for a couple of weeks down in Devon and can confirm the number of Oggy (or oggie) shops in the area. Nev, if you follow the link on the intro above you’ll find Cyril Tawney’s own notes on this song, which add considerably to the story. I love this one too and it’s been said above, but Cyril’s words are exceptional, creating such a vivid image with such economy.

  21. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    @Jane……..that’s it…………..I must build me a Dulcijo! (have I got time left?)……
    and was the “HaHaHa” at the end of the Jean Ritchie link, a dig at my lack of charisma when it comes to the Ladeeeees whilst my near name sake is doing very well for himself leching at the gals at the church!…I might try that this sunday!

  22. nev perry says:

    Thanks for that simon. Yes the link was very informative. Were these ‘oggies’ just ordinary pasties? Sorry to show my ignorance here! I’ve never heard of them. Way back in the mid 70s I would regularly attend the folk club in Portsmouth held in what was then known as the Centre Hotel near to ‘Ladies mile’ Southsea. I remember this song being sung but I can’t remember by who and didn’t really appreciate what the song was about. Does any one know whether these ‘oggie men’ were ever seen outside the east dockyard gate at Portsmouth selling their wares to the dockies and military personel or were they just peculiar to Devon?

  23. Simon says:

    Nev, check this out, I’m not sure it makes things particularly clear, but this seems to be a particularly Cornish thing. Pasties do seem to be from Cornwall and doubtless crossed the border into Devon but all of the language associated with them seems to be from the South West and Cornwall in particular. I was near Tavistock and went down to Plymouth and there is an Oggy chain down that way, probably leaking across the border. The things are of course ubiquitous fast food these days, but that is very much a C21st development, but most of the branding still tries to link with Cornwall for authenticity by association. I doubt, however, that any self respecting Cornish tin miner ever took a cheese, tomato and basil pasty down pit!! Dare I say it, but at the end of the day they are only pies and they are made in various styles right across the UK.

  24. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    On revisiting this song I remembered that in America, pasties are the small, self adhesive circles of tinsel that strippers use as a minimal covering of the breasts. I suddenly had this vision of a strip club in Plymouth where girls wear…, let us not go there ! And Simon would probably ban me.

  25. Diana says:

    A rather strange song – but it does help to know what an “oggie” is, or else one would be really baffled by this. Short and sweet!

  26. Diana says:

    @Reinhard: My son has just returned from a few days in Berlin and among his photos he has one wih a signpost pointing to “Reinhardtstralze” – fame at last then!

  27. Reinhard says:

    And how is this information pertinent to folk music? Diana, use Facebook or whatever for your silly chatter but please stop bothering us with it here.

  28. Diana says:

    How polite you are this morning Reinhard. Thanks a bundle. I always thought you were a gentleman – how wrong I was!

  29. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana…………..I can’t believe that was the real Reinhard!

  30. Diana says:

    @Muzza: You never know but one thing I am certain of it was not you in one of your many disguises. You would never be so rude.

  31. Pewter says:

    Must be an imposter Muzza; he’d never show such lack of respect to a lady that’s shown him nothing but kindness.

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

    Aha………AFSAD comments come round again and remind us of the laughs we had….but unfortunately, it also reminds us of the occasional ‘blips’…….see fifth comment up.

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

    Almost forgot…………….Happy Birthday to John Burton in Canada for 23rd…I shall be away from today to 26th (Oh dear-perhaps I should have put such trivia on Facebook)

  34. Diana says:

    Have a nice break MUzza.

  35. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Happy Birthday John B in Canada…………pity we lost the gang……….it was a good laugh

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

    Ref John Burton in Canada…the old fella will be 66 years old now……hope you are still going strong John!…….as you can see……I’m still clinging to the wreckage!…. just !!!

  37. John Burton says:

    Well Muzza, thanks for the good wishes, I had to back track from your Country Life comments from last year. Hope you are still giving them all heck. I will be 67 tomorrow, still chasing you. 😉

  38. Jane (Maryland) says:

    I love this song more every time I hear it.
    Jane R.’s Richie videos no longer work, but I found Jean Richie in the rocking chair

    as well as the Richie Family Reunion on Wide Wide World
    If anyone is interested, the American pasty (the adornment, not the hand pie) is pronounced to rhyme with “hasty.”

  39. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Woo Hoo Jane (Maryland)…that is some fearsome Banjo pickin’ accompaniment!
    Couldn’t hear a word the good ole gal was sayin’!

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

    Yup…although I still can’t make out the words that she’s singing…I am hooked on the Jean Ritchie video above.

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