Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Thirteen- October 2001.


I have to start by sending my deepest condolences to all my readers in America for the tragedy that occurred on September 11th.  America has indeed reaped a bitter harvest and so too has the world.  But America will be feeling it the most.  Greed might have a lot to do with it!  Profit before safety has been the motto of Airline companies the world over.  But in America they got passengers onto internal flights as quickly as possible without due care and attention.  Terrorists would never strike in America.  Such is the attitude of those who believe in invincibility.  We can talk forever about the failings of the FBI and CIA, we can forever condemn the fanatics who perpetuated this criminal act but we cannot deny that here in the Western World we live a life of luxury with contempt for those without our standards and beliefs.  Little wonder the extremist Muslim hates us with a passion.  Of course this does not condone their actions any more that it would condone, in another context, the actions of some Americans who for the last 30 years have been funding and actively supporting the IRA.  America now knows what it is like to be the victims of terrorism.  In Britain we have experienced it for 30 years and some Americans have aided and abetted whilst most have simply shrugged their shoulders and agreed “that it was too bad”.  I love America and it’s people.  I weep for them, but we must remember that we are all sinners.  There are few, if any, Saints walking this planet.  We can hope that all the world leaders will now pull together in the right direction to eradicate terrorism.  We can but hope. 


But before we can fulfil this dream we must understand our opposition and who exactly our opponents are. 


Later in this epistle I am brought to book for my attitude towards the Muslim religion.  My claim that the Muslim religion is one of fear is questioned and probably rightly so.  But in my local towns of Bradford and Halifax Muslim boys and girls attend the mosque each evening after school to learn the Koran – mostly by rote.  Most do not understand a word they are repeating.  If they cannot repeat the parts they should have learnt the Imam raps them over the knuckles with a cane.  Some are beaten every day.  It is a religion that dictates a system of marriage that is alien to us in the West.   Who benefits from these marriages I have to ask?  Surely not some of the children who are the creation of the continual inter-marriage of cousins, children who are caned every day for not having the memory the Imam expects them to have.  Surely not the women who if lucky have met their spouse once or twice prior to marriage.  Perhaps it is the parents of those getting married who benefit?  And, whilst suicide is a sin, what of the promise given by the Taliban that martyrs will spend eternity in the company of 72 virgins?  Little wonder that bribery along with poverty inspired these young Muslim men to die for their cause.  The pilots of the aeroplanes that crashed into the twin towers could probably see the dusky maidens beckoning them from the windows. 


Are we going to defeat this mentality with bombs?  I think not.  Indeed I believe bombing them will make them stronger, not weaker.  Bombing them will bring more bombs into our own backyards and very possibly chemical or nuclear weapons to boot.  Extensive and extended bombing may well unite Muslims everywhere in the world, even those who would otherwise be peaceful.  At the moment many Muslim countries are united with the West but bombing is exactly what bin Laden wants and expects us to do.  The attack on the twin towers had many purposes.  One was to stir the Western powers into a reaction in order to unite more Muslims to his cause when we retaliate.  ‘An eye for an eye’ results in many blind men on both sides.  We tried, wrongly, to subdue the IRA with force and it took thirty years and Bill Clinton to bring us to our senses.  The Muslim is a very different species of humankind to the Irishman.  We must be very careful what we do.  When our forces go into battle they are hoping they will survive to return home to their love ones.  The Taliban fighter looks forward to a glorious death, but not of course before he has slain as many infidels as possible.  We will be fighting an opponent who is not only not afraid of dying, he welcomes it.  The Americans must remember their borders with Mexico and Canada stretch for thousands and thousands of miles.  There could be many suicide bombers crossing into America in the next few years ahead.  Sleeper units are probably already installed in both America and Britain.  Immigrants have been slipping into England through the Dover tunnel for months.  We must remember too that it is our attitude combined with their poverty that has driven these extremists to take the action they have.  I do not condone what they have done, but we must examine the reasons and understand that every argument has at least two sides.


My mother always said “Son” she would say “You cannot argue with ignorance”.  Well I’m sorry if this upsets my more liberal minded readers, but the Afghans are ignorant, they are also dirty and they smell.  They know no other way.  But they look to the West and they see us firing rockets at the moon, spending billions of dollars on the exploration of space.  They see us give more food to our pigs in a week than they get in a year and they envy us.  And when they drive our aeroplanes into our buildings we in our ignorance ask.  “Now why did they do that then”?  “Can’t they act in a civilised manner”?  “What a bunch of bastards they are – we’d better go and drop some bombs on them”.


In the wake of the devastating attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, many media pundits in America focused on one theme: retaliation. For some, it did not matter who bears the brunt of an American attack. The following, and they are admittedly immediate knee jerk reactions, is probably not indicative of each and every response, but they make interesting reading in a country where 40% of the population go to a church.  Charles Dube, an old friend in Connecticut, sent me the following…


"There is only one way to begin to deal with people like this, and that is you have to kill some of them even if they are not immediately directly involved in this thing."

--former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (CNN, 9/11/01)


"The response to this unimaginable 21st-century Pearl Harbor should be as simple as it is swift-- kill the bastards. A gunshot between the eyes, blow them to smithereens, poison them if you have to.  As for cities or countries that host these worms, bomb them into basketball courts."

--Steve Dunleavy (New York Post, 9/12/01)


"America roused to a righteous anger has always been a force for good.  States that have been supporting if not Osama bin Laden, people like him need to feel pain. If we flatten part of Damascus or Tehran or whatever it takes, that is part of the solution."

--Rich Lowry, National Review editor, to Howard Kurtz (Washington Post, 9/13/01)


"At a bare minimum, tactical nuclear capabilities should be used against the bin Laden camps in the desert of Afghanistan.  To do less would be rightly seen by the poisoned minds that orchestrated these attacks as cowardice on the part of the United States and the current administration."

--Former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Thomas Woodrow, "Time to Use the Nuclear Option" (Washington Times, 9/14/01)


"This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack.... We should  invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.  We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers.  We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians.  That's war. And this is war."

--Syndicated columnist Ann Coulter (New York Daily News, 9/12/01)


One exception was ABC's Jim Wooten (World News Tonight, 9/12/01).  Jim tried to shed some light on what might motivate some anti-U.S. sentiment in The Middle East, reporting that "Arabs see the U.S. as an accomplice of Israel, a partner in what they believe is the ruthless repression of Palestinian aspirations for land and independence."   Wooten continued: "The most provocative issues: Israel's control over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem; the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia near some of Islam's holiest sites; and economic sanctions against Iraq, which have been seen to deprive children there of medicine and food." 


Charles believes that stories like Wooten's, which examine the U.S.'s highly contentious role in the Middle East and illuminate some of the forces that can give rise to violent extremism, contribute far more to public security than do pundits calling for indiscriminate revenge.


Now what was I saying about Christianity being a religion of ‘love’?


I never sit down to write The Ramblings in one session.  All of the above has been collated and composed since September 11th.  It is gratifying therefore that to date the US has not dropped bombs all over Afghanistan and that they have themselves considered a lot of the salient points I have mentioned above.  Hopefully this will continue.  I have had a number of petitions about the bombing sent to me to forward by e mail.  As Mark Moss of Sing Out correctly pointed out this is a complete waste of time and energy.  E mailed petitions simply generate tens of thousands of duplicates and the "signatures" are totally unverifiable.  My old friend Louise who started the Bradford Topic Folk Club in 1955 (It’s still running incidentally and is almost certainly the oldest folk club in the world) sent me the following article today September 27th.  Rodale Press will publish it in mid October, with proceeds going to the Red Cross or some other relief fund.  It says a lot of what I’ve said already – but it says it better.  I thought you might want to see it, and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested.


Author: Paul Loeb - Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time




It's hard to look in the mirror-deep into our souls. It's harder still when we feel profoundly violated, when the boundaries of our world have crumbled. But we need to look deep if we want more than revenge for the crimes that killed over 6,000 innocent people. As citizens, we must help prevent these kinds of horrors from continuing, generation after generation, in the United States or any other place on this earth.

Our president calls this "a war between good and evil." He vows to "rid the world of evildoers." Overwhelmed with outrage and loss and wanting to feel united, most Americans cheer him on. Yet our nation did sow some of the seeds for this terrible day, although nothing could justify it.  To help prevent more tragedies, we need to use the lessons of these events to chart a different path. The future depends not only on our government's actions, but also on our own as individual citizens.

For all our anger and sorrow, and for all the monstrous deeds of the hijackers, we can't afford to demonize them. Rather, we need to ask what made them so bitterly despairing that they were willing to murder thousands in the name of their cause. It's not naïve to ask what made them act as they did. It's essential for breaking the endless cycles of vengeance.

A few months back, I read a newspaper article about a Palestinian terrorist. He crossed the Israeli border and blew himself up along with a group of Israelis. Originally an apolitical man, he worked as a jailor, assigned to guard a top official from one of the militant West Bank groups. The two became friends, but the jailer remained uninterested in politics. Then an Israeli bomb blew up his friend. The jailer lost hope, abandoning everything but retribution. He took his own life-and as many innocent Israeli lives as he could.

Just as something turned this man, something turned the hijackers. Maybe it was seeing Palestinians shot and bombed by Israeli soldiers with American backing. Maybe it was watching corrupt dictatorships like Saudi Arabia inviting U.S. bases onto their soil. Maybe it was the Gulf War or the one million Iraqis who have died because the war and our continuing embargo have destroyed their most basic health and sanitation systems.  Or our bombing of Sudan's only pharmaceutical factory, on what turned out to be false charges that it was producing biological weapons and was tied to Osama bin Laden.

The hijackers were desperate fundamentalist zealots, but our actions fuelled their deadly fervour. And as always, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the innocents. Two days after the hijackings, George Bush senior was on TV. He decried the "muckrakers" who stripped the U.S. intelligence capacity and prevented us from doing what we needed to. Intelligence is "a dirty business," he said. Sometimes we have to work with "unsavoury people" with "bloody hands."

I thought of all the assassins and dictators the United States has supported, including when Bush the elder was President, and when he ran the CIA. I thought of many dubious actions in administrations before him. Our leaders helped create the Mujahideen to drive the Russians from Afghanistan and worked with Osama bin Laden in the process. They backed Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party as a counterweight to Iran, whose Ayatollah came to power as leader of the only force capable of overthrowing the brutal Shah. The United States had supported the Shah since our CIA installed him in 1953, after overthrowing an elected prime minister who'd dared to talk of nationalising oil. Coincidentally, September 11 was the anniversary of the CIA-backed coup overthrowing Chile's elected Allende government, launching nearly twenty years of Pinochet's brutal dictatorship.

The ordinary Americans whose deaths rend our hearts may have reaped the poison fruits of our own government's actions. And unless we create a more just world, desperate men from voiceless communities will continue to destroy more innocent lives, here and abroad.

How then, as citizens, do we respond? In a crisis of this magnitude, people understandably want to unite. I see flags and red, white, and blue ribbons on houses and cars, purses, and bodies. The flags are a way for people to say their spirits won't be cowed, and to do something tangible, along with donating blood, supplies, and money.  But they can also promote a self-righteous crusade of good versus evil.

I saw this on a beach near my Seattle neighbourhood, where people had surrounded our local 10-foot-tall version of the Statue of Liberty with an impromptu shrine commemorating the dead. They'd left candles and flowers, crosses and Buddhist prayer flags, a New York City fireman's shirt, and contemplative messages of mourning. But then a fundamentalist megachurch descended to hold a rally, obscuring the original circle of peaceful messages with new ones proclaiming "An eye for an eye," and "Kill a terrorist for Jesus!"

If we feel like wearing or flying the flag, we should. But maybe we need to display it next to banners or buttons asking for true justice, not vengeance. And ribbons of mourning that recognize our common humanity-even with the men who lost theirs by being so tangled with rage that they didn't care who they killed.

It's tempting to say that in a time like this, we need to trust our national leaders. Maybe they're right that some force will be needed to apprehend the perpetrators of these inconceivable crimes. But our responses need to focus on individuals, not populations. And proceed in a way that gives them the broadest possible legitimacy, including in the communities from which the bombers were recruited. Think of Iran, and the delicate path toward democratization pursued by reformer Mohammad Khatami. Bomb enough Islamic civilians, and his already-beleaguered regime will surely fall, replaced by the Ayatollahs. Think of Pakistan, with its nuclear capabilities. If we don't act with humility and acknowledge past misdeeds, we'll only incite more terrorists. No one could argue with the trial of the bombers who destroyed the Pan Am jet, near Lockerbie, Scotland. They blew up innocent people. They were tried with full due process. Their jailing created no more martyrs or cycles of hatred.

This crisis would daunt any national leader. Yet the president who now commands our responses has spent his life sheltered by wealth, indulged by friends in high places (including ones powerful enough to hand him the presidency), and scripted in his every public appearance. With few exceptions, his appointees have done everything possible to sunder common responsibilities and common ties: a Vice President who repeatedly voted against Head Start, school lunches for low-income children, and even the mildest sanctions on South Africa, an Attorney General who's repeatedly attacked African-American voting rights, a Secretary of the Interior who's scorned our need to protect the earth, a Secretary of the Treasury who believes Social Security corrupts us, and a Secretary of Defense obsessed with missiles that do not defend. Already, Bush has turned his back on our interconnected world by rejecting, or proposing backing out of, so many international treaties: on banning chemical, biological, and toxic weapons; limiting the international small arms trade; prosecuting war crimes; banning land mines; and beginning to address global warming. His missile defense system would shatter 25 years of arms control treaties.

Given this reality, it's up to ordinary citizens to raise the hard issues, including which crises we consider urgent. Congress just authorized $40 billion to rebuild New York and beef up anti-terrorist security. Much of this investment is appropriate. But why have we chosen not to make other investments addressing crises equally real? According to Bread for the World, six million children die every year of hunger-related causes in developing countries-the equivalent of three World Trade Center attacks every day. For an annual appropriation of $13 billion, or a third of what our Congress just authorized, and five percent of our existing $260 billion dollar defense budget, we could meet the basic health and nutrition needs of the world's poorest people every year. Yet we've chosen not to. Nearly 50 million Americans lack health insurance, but we've chosen to be the only advanced industrialized country not to provide it to our citizens. Guns kill 30,000 of us a year, yet we choose to do little to control them or address the poverty and rage among our own desperate and marginalized. I cite these examples not to diminish the horror of these attacks, but to stress that all shattered lives are just as real, and to ask why some cataclysms disturb us so little.

I fear that this tragedy will pave the way for needless and provocative military build-ups that will spawn another spiral of vengeance. Already, the Bush administration is using the crisis as an excuse to despoil the environment, to scorn our every human need except physical security, and to erode the very liberties that let us challenge destructive actions of state.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Imagine if these terrible events inspired us all to take on the difficult work of creating a more just world, and making the necessary common investments so indiscriminate violence and needless suffering do not prevail.

The crisis has already produced a wealth of individual acts of courage and compassion. We saw tremendous heroism in the fire-fighters, police officers, and ordinary citizens who gave their lives trying to help others live. We've seen an outpouring of personal generosity: people giving blood, comforting their neighbours, collecting supplies. American Christians and Jews have even held vigils to help protect threatened mosques. For the moment, we're common mourners: People seem careful, vulnerable, and extraordinarily kind to each other. These events just might be able to break us away from our gated communities of the heart.

But by itself, individual compassion won't create a just world. To do that requires asking what common choices would respect the humanity of all human beings-and then working to make those choices a reality.

This means acting in common, raising our voices, continuing to speak out no matter how hard it becomes. We need to be kind to ourselves, and nurture our souls while we act: whether through walking in nature, playing with children, dancing to music, or communing with our God and the people we love. We also need to take public action-including reaching out to those who disagree with us on how to respond to this brutal cataclysm. We need to act with enough faith and strength to keep on raising the difficult questions, demanding paths that are both just and wise.

If we really raise the hard questions, we'll probably take some heat and be called some names. It might help to carry flags at our vigils and protests, since true patriotism requires taking responsibility for the choices of our nation.

We can never know every facet of this situation. We will not know every detail of how our government responds. We may not know whether our actions will prevail. But we need to speak out, whatever the obstacles or costs, for our own human dignity. And also because this is the only way that the cycles of vengeance have a chance of finally ending.

Paul Loeb


Paul Loeb is the author of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time [St Martin's Press,] and three other books on citizen involvement with war, peace, and social justice issues.


I made my September Ramblings contentious on purpose.  It was after all the end of the first year and I wanted this, the anniversary, issue to be packed with replies.  Well I certainly got ‘em – to the extent that some of the letters have simply been omitted.  But I’m pleased that the general consensus over the last 12 months has been “keep ‘em coming”.  In this issue I’m gently rebuked by some, and educated by others.  That’s fine with me.  At 60 I’m not too old to learn.  Matt is still moaning that ‘The Ramblings’ are too long.  I guess he doesn’t spend long in the bathroom!



I guess they're going to pander to the electorate, or maybe, this time, talk to big business...ha, ha.  Whichever way you look at it, religion, or the need for it, is at fault. If  Zionism, which is fundamentally racist, was not an issue then things would be a lot easier.  Islam, which states that non-adherents are infidels..(oh, alright, that is the literal translation - but the stigma is implied) is no less sectarian and exclusionist.  We, as a basically secular continent...yes the Spanish don't go to church any more since they realised that turning water into wine was no big deal since they are about the same price...shouldn't even think about getting into a holy war.  Does Blair think that, just because he's high church that everybody else is?  Yes he probably does. After all, he thinks that we all want privatised air traffic control(!), tube(!!) and hospitals(!!!!), so , I don't know, I'm going to bed.

Paul Downes



My thoughts on this insane conflict?  Justice-loving people everywhere, stand up and be counted!  Stuff Islamic fundamentalism. Stuff global capitalism and its greedy cynicism.  Stuff xenophobia and racism.  The US and UK trained bin Laden and loads of others like him - in those days they were  'brave warriors' against the 'nasty commie Russians' in Afghanistan.  So the Muslim extremists were quite happy to take the dosh of the 'Great Satan', and world capitalism was quite happy to use them in its global strategy despite knowing that they loathed everything it stood for.  (I wrote about all of this in my song 'Sarajevo' and will most certainly write another).

A plague on the lot of them, hypocrites all.

And absolute solidarity and sympathy with all the innocent victims.

As always, it's ordinary people who are going to suffer in all this.

Take care everyone.




All of our peace songs have a hollow ring in the face of such massive and elaborately planned carnage.  Your compassionate note from over the seas was very welcome, and I am sure I am one of many who are grateful.

Please keep the Ramblings rambling my way.  I admired your call for folk-lyrics precision in the last one, and I even enjoy most of the crank letters.  The intelligent ones, anyway. 

The personal ones are the usual price one pays for taking a deep breath and entering any form of public communications.  The overwhelming percentage of pleased readers just read and get pleased.  You always hear from the assholes.

Thanks again.  Give peace a chance, right?

Charlie Reilly


Dear Curmudgeon

I greatly enjoy your rants and regrets.  When the Hell do you get the time to go to all these places and find all the mistakes?  Do you think that any of the hundreds of singers of “Barbara Allen” (Ellen?) know the names of the town where the lovers lived (Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Nashville)?  Do you think they know the tempo?  I don’t think so, but I don’t think very well, anyway.  And if some pub crawlers want to get to the chorus quickly, that’s fine.  Whether they want to order the next malt or go home to their wives and children, or read the scores on the telly, let them.  The songs will live longer than the memory of man (and of course woman).  I’m afraid I haven’t the time for this.  I’m working on my Vietnam CD.  Go back to work and sing as always.  There’s me lad.

Oscar Brand.



A more than usually interesting Ramblings - still too bloody long.  But, as you're heavily into pedantry, this time I'll reciprocate in kind.  Ewan in DOT wrote the line as "I met my love by the Gasworks Cross" NOT croft – that wouldn't make any sense at all.  As to song changes in general, believe me I've had to put up with it for years. Folks genuinely mis-hear what you're singing, so repeat what they think you sang.  If, as is the case with 'Generations of Change' it is then recorded before I'd done so myself, some of the changes become set in stone.   Cilla and Artie Fisher did this and I finally adopted some of their changes which didn't alter things too much, but firmly resisted others.

Keep on smiling

Love & Cuddles

Matt Armour


(I find this letter from Matt, who knew Ewan better than most of us, extremely interesting.  All the books I have ever read have the first line as "I met my love by the gasworks croft” and that is certainly the word Ewan sings on the 1956 recording I have of the song). 


Hey Joe,

The last Ramblings posed good and difficult questions, and I don't think I have definitive answers to them.  But here are a few thoughts:

As a writer, it seems to me that I have to be willing to let go of a song.  Other singers' interpretations will differ from mine, and good luck to them. So provided someone isn't playing fast and loose with copyright (eg as Bob Dylan is alleged to have done when appropriating Nic Jones' material) it's up to the singer to reshape the material as they see fit.  Chris Woods completely re-wrote Was Not Was' "Out come the freaks", and it was a far better thing at the end of the process  - and the same goes for the Oyster Band's reworking of Rev Hammer's "Drunkard's Waltz".

The logic of that position, though, is to throw the responsibility onto the singer.  I used to play in a duo called Clogiron in my internal exile years in Essex, and we were less than reverent with our material; changed Bob Fox & Stu Luckley's "Bonny Gateshead Lass" to "Bonny Barnsley Lass" and took all sorts of similar liberties.  But we had a persona as a pair of Yorkshiremen away from home, and we played up to it.  I don't think we ever did anything that was simply sloppy or ill-informed (or, I hope we didn't), and there's a big difference between deliberately changing words or tune and getting them wrong because you just can't be bothered.

Keep on Rambling


Chris Manners



On the subject of Belfast Mill - I've got it on a 1982 LP by the Fureys (one of those freebies I received when doing a local radio show I hasten to explain as it's the Fureys at their most commercial on the Ritz label.)   It's called 'Belfast Mill (Oregon Mill)' and is credited to Kahn/Furey. So as you supposed definitely aimed at the Oirish market and it's probably been copied no end of times since.

Pete Castle


Hi Joe,

Alan here from Landlocked.

I've just read your "Ramblings of an old Codger" and must agree with practically every word that you say.  The only exception - and I do take exception (with a smile on my face) - is that you state "and it transpired that none of them were singing the correct word and afterwards none of them cared much that they were doing it incorrectly."  You refer of course to the shanty Valparaiso that we sang together and that two of us (Landlocked) – as you heard on stage, please don't forget there are six of us - were singing Heave and Haul or Heave and bawl.  I must admit that I have never noticed any of the lads singing these words that I know to be wrong and know for a fact that John and Mick who stand either side of me sing pawl, but trust you to be correct about the two plonkers who you were standing next to that afternoon.  I promise you I'll be having words with them at next Wednesday's practice night. I can only assure you that from day one of singing this song I have always sung "Heave a pawl". As you say, it is important.

I'ts the first time I've read your article Joe and I must say it makes interesting - thought provoking even - reading and I look forward to further editions. Thanks for the recommendation and I hope that you don't think that I have reacted too strongly.

I applaud you on your plaudits for Shep Woolley, what a fantastic job he does for the festival.

I hope your operation goes well Joe, see you later.

Alan (Landlocked).


Hi Joe

Just read your 'Old Codgers' and agree that if people are going to perform for a fee they have a responsibility to get things right.  Especially as audiences assume that because you’re standing up there you are the 'expert' and then repeat what ever you tell them.

I also believe that shanties in particular need to have a slightly more serious and knowledgeable approach, if only to eradicate the image still pertaining in some folk audiences that its not 'proper' singing and is just a bunch of people having a good time. Singing loudly to each other. An image I'm sure you agree that we could do without.

With regard to your explanation about pawls, this is incorrect. The capstan bars are the timbers that are inserted into the drum head sited at the top of the capstan barrel for the seamen to heave around. The pawls were metal dogs, hinged at one end, at the bottom of the barrel of a capstan.  These dogs dropped into position on a pawl - ring at deck level to prevent the capstan from running back under a particularly heavy load. Without pawls, running back would have caused death and injury to those working at the capstan.

A story of Stan's well worth repeating is how the young green hands would rush to get the inside position on the capstan bars because, with three on a bar they had the shortest distance to tramp around the capstan.  However, the old hands new better and would let them get into these positions knowing full well that if the capstan ran back, the people on the outside position of the capstan bars would have the best chance of being flung clear.  While those on the inside couldn't get out and as the capstan picked up speed, they would probably be killed or, at best injured.

Bye for Now

Danny MacLeod


Dear Joe,

Enjoyed the latest ramblings. However I fear that I have to take you to task on some of your definitions. You are quite correct that the words in the shanty should be "heave a pawl" but clearly do not know what pawls are. A ratchet and Pawl mechanism is a way of not losing what has been gained in heaving and hauling (they can be the same thing).  Pawls are not pieces of wood that sailors fit into the stem of the capstan in order to turn it.  Such pieces of wood are the 'Capstan bars' which were fitted into 'Pigeon Holes' on the 'drum head' of the capstan.

Now to another comment quite apart from ships.  The Taliban claim to be Muslim but their dogma is far from the Koran.  I have worked with Muslims in West Africa and the Middle East.  Yes Christians teach a religion of love and so indeed do most Muslims.  The kindest and loving people that I have worked with were the Fulani Muslim nomadic tribesmen of Cameroon in West Africa. They lead a far more 'Christian' way of life than do most Christians.  The Christians of The Crusades were teaching fear. 'God Fearing' Christianity has been a blot on the Christian Church.  However the most loving, gentle, kind religion must be Bhuddist.  There are many forms of Islam.  Some seem to interpret the Koran in a very strange way.

The Koran has nothing in it that is anti Christian other than, like Christianity it believes that there is only one true way.  Curiously, despite common belief Islam is not anti woman, although like Christianity some 'sects' and cults interpret it that way.   It is utterly arrogant for Christian missionaries to attempt conversion of Muslims since both profess to love the same god.  Mohamed was a prophet and did not claim to be a 'son of god'.  As an atheist I feel able to comment.  My father was an atheistic Jew brought up in an orthodox way.  My mother was from a Catholic family who became Church of England.

Best regards,  

Ray Cowell (Brewhouse Records)






Just read your latest ramblings - what a lot of old tosh!  I'm sorry, mate, but I can't go along with all that.  Not being a folkie perhaps it doesn't matter as much to me but I have to say that, until you enlightened me, I had no idea where San Diego was in relation to Salt Lake City, New York or Catford so whichever was sung at me would have made no difference.  And let me tell you that when I'm in a bar lusting over the physical attributes of some nubile barmaid the last thing I'm gonna whip out is an atlas to check where San Diego is!  Most people enjoy a song because it is amusing, has a good tune, they like the general message it gives or it has a rousing chorus - the use of each particular word, phrase or place name is not normally important - so come on down from that pedant's ivory tower.

Kids of today don't know what a steam train is so whether the original words are sung at them or not makes no difference - they're not going to understand the original words anyway.  Shakespeare wrote some terrific lines but I doubt if every actor delivers them as they were written - does that detract from the overall enjoyment of the work?  Course not!   Language is a living thing and you must expect it to change or be changed to stay contemporary.   Whether the geezer met his love by the wall, the croft or the entrance to the Internet Cafe doesn't matter – he still met her.  Whether they were heaving, hauling or bawling the song still makes sense.  It was a work song, intended to set up a working rhythm not be a bloody thesis on sailing.

Well that's my two penn'orth old son, for what it's worth.

Be lucky,

Jonesy (NZ).


Now why did I start these ramblings twelve months ago?  Oh I remember, it was to tell my 26 fans world wide where I was playing next month.  If you are still with me reading this then you can be with me listening at the following venues…….


Sunday 30th September - The Guisborough Folk Club. (held in the rugby club)

Tuesday 2nd October – The Hogs Head in Manchester

Friday 12th October – The Grove Public House in Leeds

Saturday 20th October – The Bulls Head, Failsworth, Manchester. (Tea time)



Further sad news has arrived from America. My dear old pal Tor Jonassen (who has contributed to Ramblings past) has passed away.  I received the following message from the Philly Folk Mailing List.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, we lost one of folk music's greatest advocates.

Words cannot express my feelings about Tor Jonassen, who only recently stepped down from membership on the board of the Bucks County Folk Song Society due to health problems.  He suffered from diabetes, and had had several prior heart attacks.  For 36 years Tor hosted the radio program "Music in the Folk Tradition," most recently on WRDV, and previously on several other stations.    He was a warm, caring person, always kind and gentle, and he knew more about traditional and contemporary folk music and musicians than anyone I know, and most others as well.

Tor is survived by his wife of only four months, Anne Kellogg, three sons and a daughter.

The memorial service will be at Tor's house on Saturday, October 6, 2:00 PM.



I was aware that Tor was unwell.  He was a quiet fighter however and a true friend, but in a way the tragic news did not come as a huge surprise.  I always hoped he would go on forever.  But deep down I knew his days were limited.  He helped me (and others for whom I cannot speak) enormously.  He gave this help for the sake of the music he loved and for the artiste concerned without any consideration of self gain.  Folk music and Philadelphia will miss Tor Jonassen.  Tor loved mankind, perhaps the tragic events at New York the day previously were just too much for him to bear.  I would like to send my deepest sympathies to Anne Kellogg, to his children (all of whom I know well), and to Kathy.  I will be at 4128 Fountain Green in spirit only on October 6th but I will say my own quiet prayer for him and his family here in Sowerby Bridge that day.  He always enjoyed hearing the song 'Shantyman' - if someone at the service would like to play it (or sing it themselves) for him as a memento of England - I would be both extremely honoured and grateful.  It would put me into the room for a few minutes.


I’d like to thank all of you who sent me good wishes for my eye operation on September 1st.  A cataract operation these days is no big deal. You are awake whilst it all goes on – but it is completely painless.  I would recommend it to anyone who has this problem.  Get it fixed.  The result has been very good.  Colours are a lot brighter and suddenly my right eye (which had been my best eye) is now definitely second best.


Well, that’s it for now.  Keep smiling and keep singing has a hollow ring to it this month, so I leave you with a letter from Arlo Guthrie.


My Friends,

Yesterday (September 11th) was a day we will never forget. The images of the attack upon ordinary people will remain with us all of our lives.  In her daily prayers this morning, Ma said, "THERE MUST BE PEACE ON EARTH OR THERE WILL BE NO EARTH". She is right.

Once again we are reminded that our journeys through life are filled with opportunities to do good or evil.   We must learn to know the difference between God's will and man's choice.  Our choice must be to love and respect each other no matter that our traditions and cultures are varied and different.

Our enemy is clearly before us.  Hate, religious intolerance, fear and anger are our foes.  We are a people of love, welcoming our global family with open arms.  We know no fear - Our hearts are already filled.  Just remember who we are and we will be all right.

Today, I will remain in prayer with my family and friends from a dozen different religious traditions - We are all in tears.


Keep The Faith

Arlo Guthrie