Church of England Diocese of Sheffield Stannington

Mick Linacre tells us about his involvement in local carols

3 Dec 2020, midnight
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<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Mick Linacre was interviewed by Carol Ritson about his life, and his involvement in singing local carols.</span>
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<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Where did you grow up? And when did you move to Stannington? Grew up in Walkley in the 50s and 60's in a good but modest home with no bathroom and an outside bog so roughing it has never been a problem. With a brother, a lot of friends around and the local countryside for a play- ground, life as a kid was good. We often wandered as far as Stannington and thought it a lovely, rural place. Lesley and I were dead lucky to find a restorable heap of stones on Uppergate Road in 1982.</span>

How do you spend your spare time?

Doing things outside I’m happy. Our daughters and grandchildren seem to be the same and being retired leaves time to indoctrinate them in the joys of gardening, walking, cycling and just being out there.

When did you get involved in singing the local carols?
The local carols are genuine folk music. Where else outside of Wales would you find a packed pub enthusiastically singing daft old songs. For 40 odd years I have been singing them in pubs and with Stannington choir for 30 odd. Both the Choir and ‘Humble Swain’ have been a chance to sing the carols in a more refined fashion than the coarse ‘roartin’ in pubs. ‘Humble Swain’s’ odd name comes from a line in the carol 'Back Lane' and the group originally consisted of six local blokes, pulled together by local folk singer John Fowler, who knew the carols well and thought they could do a good job on the harmonies. Find out if you agree by listening to their recordings.

Humble Swain

Do you have a favourite carol? And Is there a carol that is more technically difficult to sing or more unusual in its style or rare?

Most of the carols are pretty basic and predictable musically (one reason for their popularity) but they <span style="font-size: 1rem;">are good, strong tunes with attemptable harmonies causing a lot of laughs in the pubs. My favourite has always been 'Old Foster' with its bass harmonies. The most difficult one for a group to sing well in harmony has to be 'Hail Smiling Morn'. The carols are mostly, religious pieces with primitive undertones which have great appeal for a lot of agnostics, atheists and lapsed Christians. For as long as I can remember the enthusiasts have assumed that young people would lose interest and the carols would die out and it's true that they are no longer part of local youth culture (were they ever I wonder?) but natural 'folkies' and ageing boozers in the right pubs keep falling for the magic of the local carols in numbers that keep the tradition going. Dr. Ian Russell has made impressive academic studies of the carols and locals such as Jack Goodison, Sheila Mettam, Hillary Osborn and Pam Handson in Nook Lane School have helped the cause.</span>

What’s the plan for this year due to people not being able to meet up together and sing?
The pandemic and the various lock downs should effectively kill the live singing season this year but noble efforts to produce electronic alternatives are being made by Christ Church members, Stannington Choir and other people within Stannington. There's nothing like singing together in the flesh, with no electrical gear involved, but to spare others I shall be hypocritical enough to keep a Humble Swain CD in the car and sing in isolation.

Stannington is a smashing place to live and I've still got an outside bog but now with a view.

Thank you Mick for sharing your life and your love of the local carols with me.