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Unique actuality recordings made by Peter Kennedy in Dorset in 1954 in the last of the privately owned stone quarries at Easton on the Isle of Portland, near Weymouth, Dorset. In addition to the ten songs and chants, there is plenty of explanatory talk about the processes of Reaming-up, moving stone and using the wooden Portland jacks. Includes EE KALAZEE (The French Song) ROLL THE CHARIOT ALONG/ FLEETING UP/ BOLD DANIEL/ BEAT THE DRUM AGAIN/ROLL OUT THE BARREL/ PARLEZ-VOUS etc.


2. CHANT repeated - 0'58"

3. EE KALAZEE "The French Song" - 1'16"




7. EE KALAZEE repeated - 2'02"

8. Fleeting up song: ROUND, BOYS, ROUND - 0'27"

9. BEAT THE DRUM AGAIN (or The Female Drummer): song: George STONE (talk after) - 1'04"

10. THE BOLD DANIEL: As previous - 0'57"

11. Talk about Reaming-up process & use of nick-names by Harry Hounsell & further talk about methods by George Stone- 3'12"

12. Further talk by H.H.about methods of keeping together, names of songs interviewed by PK - 1'48"

13. Talk about The French Song, EE KALAZEE, by Joe White, then sung with further talk - 3'08"

14. Talk about "Fleeting up" by Jack Tewkesbury; he then sings ROUND, BOYS, ROUND; talk, sung again, then further explanations of moving the roach of the crane - 2'54"

15. Talk about Portland jacks by Jack (pump engine in background) and sound of jack working - 1'37"

16. Talk by Jack Tewkesbury and Joe White describing the process of reaming up a large rock of a thousand tons in 1907 - 3'55"

17. Talk by Joe about Companies, leadership and apprenticeship - 1'20"

Recorded by Peter Kennedy October 1954. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax cassettes 1975.

THE STONE MEN OF PORTLAND: The Isle of Portland, near Weymouth, not only provides protection for the Naval Base, but its quarries are renowned for its quality of stone and cement. Portland stone was used in London for the Whitehall Banquetting Hall by Inigo Jones in 1619 and also for St. Paul's Cathedral by Sir Christopher Wren and for the BBC and many other buildings. Portland is in the Domesday Book as "Land of the Kings" and its Court Leet is still extant, being a Crown Court, with no intermediary between royalty and the tenants, having the right to quarry on common lands and paying royalty to the Court.

When this recording was made in the 1950's, there were still some small privately-owned stone quarries, with gangs of 6 or 8 men, working in pairs, and a boy to each crane. The gang recorded here were known, officially, as "Harry Hounsell and Company", Harry being responsible for the books, but, in fact, it was the apprentice boy, being able to read and write, who looked after the books. Harry was not the boss, all decisions were taken, democratically, by the company as a whole.

Since the Company was paid by the tonnage of squared stone, their pay packets depended on the way they split the rock evenly along each seam, and this depended on unified timing. They worked in pairs, right-handed and left-handed, in turns, driving in each wedge with heavy sledge-hammers, keeping in timewith improvised shouts, chants or by singing well-known songs, hymns "Abide with me" or "Lead kindly light" or by traditional songs, including the so-called "French song", possibly originally sung by by Basque sailors stranded there.

There were only a few family surnames on Portland: Hounsell, Stone and Tewkesbury or Stewkesbury, so the quarrymen were identified by an extensive use of nick-names, such as "Wold Young's young-un, Tangaloo, Bunnockses, Poker, Shiner, Fleisher Lop-an-trot" etc., these names often being used in the Work Chants.

The process of REAMING UP involved 6-8 men lifting a large rock, up to a 1,000 tons, off the bed by hewing an oblong cavity in the base along the line of its natural seam. Two iron pigs were inserted and 4 large wedges driven in between the pigs, each pair of men driving 4 wedges in turn. After all 4 are tight, they work on 3, allowing the fourth to become loose, when they shout out "'Bout". Reaming then stops while a small packing piece is inserted. They would then work on this wedge and two others, again until the 4th comes loose. The fine for not shouting "'Bout" or not having a wedge loose enough was half a gallon of ale, so the results at the end of a "Ream" can well be imagined

HEAVING THE JACK was used in the days before cranes were widely available to lift the squared stone onto carts using the Portland jacks. These were peculiar to Portland, but similar ones were employed in some French quarries. The Jacks were operated by turning a handle to operate a geared wheel which raised a lever, having a foot at the bottom and a clawed end at the top. Each half turn required considerable strength, and it was essential for all the men to lift evenly so that the load would not tip. Except in the third line of ROUND, BOYS, ROUND, the song gives one word for each half turn of the handle. The third line was always improvised such as: "Johnny Skinner - lost his dinner, Benny White - out all night, Robert Fall - stayed down hole" and so on

Before Peter Kennedy visited Portland in 1954 with a tape-recorder, the BBC had already made some acetate discs in 1937 and 1939. These discs are kept in the Folktrax Archive. Part of a 1968 BBC Programme, A-ROVING, with Peter Kennedy, can be heard on Folktrax 308.

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