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Life on shipboard, 1889

Jack Campin 24 Feb 20 - 05:39 PM
Gurney 24 Feb 20 - 05:58 PM
Gurney 24 Feb 20 - 06:19 PM
meself 24 Feb 20 - 07:33 PM
Steve Shaw 24 Feb 20 - 08:58 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Feb 20 - 03:07 AM
Jack Campin 25 Feb 20 - 03:14 AM
GUEST 25 Feb 20 - 04:08 AM
Gurney 25 Feb 20 - 02:45 PM
Steve Gardham 25 Feb 20 - 02:56 PM
GUEST 25 Feb 20 - 05:56 PM
Jack Campin 25 Feb 20 - 06:16 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Feb 20 - 08:17 PM
Jack Campin 27 Feb 20 - 08:29 AM
EBarnacle 27 Feb 20 - 11:24 PM
Jack Campin 28 Feb 20 - 04:40 AM
GUEST,jag 28 Feb 20 - 04:54 AM
GUEST,David 29 Feb 20 - 07:56 PM
Jack Campin 01 Mar 20 - 04:39 AM
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Subject: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Feb 20 - 05:39 PM

My wife's great-grandfather was a cook-sergeant in the British Army. He kept a diary when being shipped from Gibraltar to India in 1889. A descendant of his brother contacted my wife and offered to transcribe and upload it. She's done a terrific job. It's not primarily a music-related document, but there are occasional descriptions of music on shipboard. No concertinas that I've seen though.

http://findingfolk.org/2020/02/diary-of-jj-rowe-1889/


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Feb 20 - 05:58 PM

Jack, I've wondered how on earth concertinas EVER became associated with sailors! The very last instrument I'd ever take into a salty damp environment would be made of soft-wood and leather and hardened cardboard, and get its sound from tempered steel reeds, and suck the salty damp air into its dozens of, tiny, hard to access reeds. And they were a new instrument and very expensive then.
Hollywood, I suppose.

Interesting reading there.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Feb 20 - 06:19 PM

An accordion, though that would be a soldier's instrument I suppose.
Just as vulnerable to dampness.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: meself
Date: 24 Feb 20 - 07:33 PM

Think I'll start a new thread on the concertina question ....


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 24 Feb 20 - 08:58 PM

"Eyup Mum, does that Gary Lineker spend a lot of time on ships?"

"Eee, son, that a funny question is that. Why do you ask?"

"Cos every time Gary Lineker comes on telly, Dad shouts at 'im, 'Oi, Lineker, you anchor!'"


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 03:07 AM

Gurney,

No they weren't "very" new, and they weren't expensive.

German concertinas were cheap, mass produced instruments, hence their spread to all corners of the earth and incorporation (with accordions) into so many music traditions. They were also an instrument that novices could easily learn to play and, as small instruments go, quite rugged (or relatively easily repaired if damaged).


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 03:14 AM

What's "Goodbye Sweetheart, Goodbye", one of the tunes played as the ship was leaving Gibraltar?


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 04:08 AM

Good-bye, sweetheart, good-bye!
Goodbye sweetheart, good-bye!
For time doth thrust me from thine arms,
Good-bye sweetheart, good-bye.

Recommended Citation
Halton, John L., "Good-bye, Sweetheart, Good-bye" (1868). Historic Sheet Music Collection. 452.
https://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/sheetmusic/452


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Gurney
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 02:45 PM

Gibb Sahib, the concertina was developed by Charles Wheatstone and patented in 1829, admittedly earlier than I thought, and he also built them in a facility that he inherited. I have a Lachenal, which is a story of its own, and if anyone thinks that even my comparative cheapie would be easy and cheap to produce, wall, I urge them to try. Please!


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 02:56 PM

Gibb is talking about the cheap 20 key Chinese made and East German models. They had banked reeds and large buttons glued to wooden levers, still have in fact. I have a £30 bid on one at the moment on Ebay for my grandson. They are hexagonal and have bellows and use the same note system, but there the similarity ends with the likes of Jeffries, Lachenal, Wheatstone etc. They were mass-produced unlike the expensive ones. A very basic Lachenal nowadays goes for £300. in the 60s I could pick up a 30-key Lachenal for £4 and did regularly. Wish I still had them all.

There are multiple reasons, apart from those stated above, why sailors have become associated with concertinas, mostly media-based.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 05:56 PM

It is not the concertina that was the popular shipboard instrument of the 19th century but in fact the simpler button accordion made by the likes of Honer. Fiddles, banjos,tambourines & bones were also popular. The American Western Arctic whaling fleet at Herschel Island saw both mandolin and guitar on board the steam whalers of the late 1880s and 90s. Bowhead whales with their baleen plates were their quarry. This was a last gasp attempt to revise the American whaling industry that had been in decline since the early 1860s.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 06:16 PM

...meanwhile today's diary post (she's uploading them one a day on the same date they were written) has Rowe somewhere in the Red Sea or Persian Gulf, encountering flying fish and porpoises for the first time.

He ends up in Calicut (Calcutta) in April, having kept accounts of the stores so he knows exactly how much porter they've got left on landing. The accounts are weirdly formatted and I can't figure much out. Ellen the transcriber is a professional statistician and might do better.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Feb 20 - 08:17 PM

Yes, Gurney, invented in 1829, NOT "NEW" in 1880s. It was one of the most popular (with accordions) instruments ever by then. 1880s, Germans had perfected the inexpensive accordion that was quite durable. Leather valves get ruined, reeds rot... you can replace them with glue and bits of scrap. Lot easier than having a fiddle broken or replacing its parts.

I'm talking about concertinas of then. Not coveted collector folk music revival instruments. [Not Chinese cheap instruments of today (Steve).] GERMAN concertinas were the leading instruments in the market then. GERMAN SYSTEM concertinas, and made with banked reeds like Steve said. You're basically attaching a harmonica to a bellows. That was (again along with accordion, which is very similar having banked reads and wooden levers) the working class instrument. It's cheapness and the ease with which novices could play the tunes of the day is what made it popular. Fancy toned English system instruments, etc that you'd worry about damaging are moot because working people (sailors) were not the market for those anyway.

Sailors brought these instruments to the far corners of the world. So, in the US for example, where a wide cross section of working people and amateurs played the instruments, there may be no cause to have associated the instrument with sailors in particular (that would come later, with media that Steve mentions). But if you were living in some other places, free reed instruments were introduced to you by visitors on ships--an association.

I just happened to be showing a lot of squeezeboxes to a class today, because we are in a unit on Northern Mexican music. A topic had to do with how accordion, a working class instrument, has come to remain at the center of the sound of Mexican music, whereas it was pushed to the margins in the US.
I brought in the Vietnamese jew's harp, dan moi -- ancestor to free reeds. The Laotian "khaen" and "sheng1", mouth blown free reeds that provide the model to Europeans. I have a restored French accordeon (1870s?), the first popular form of according. A turn of the century German accordion, then stepping up from there to the various accordions (1,2,3 row) of Hohner that are the base of most accordion traditions in the world. Photos from Colombia, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Easter Island, Cabo Verde, Mauritius, and the Arctic (Inuit) of their incorporation in local musics. Pages from the Sears catalogs in late 19th century selling all this stuff... You can go on Google Books and find 1880s mail order catalogs and see just how accessible the instruments were.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Feb 20 - 08:29 AM

Rowe does mention an accordion on board his ship. There seems to have been music on deck every night that the weather permitted it. This is an odd sidelight:

Piano playing, an old fiddler a petty Officer, of the Navy played on an old fiddle which he played on for the Navy Brigade in the Zulu War, then handed it round for the Officers to look at, it look as if it was made of tin, with a fiddle stick the shape of a rainbow.

Presumably it was African-made?


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: EBarnacle
Date: 27 Feb 20 - 11:24 PM

I once asked Stan Hugill about sailors playing concertina aboard ship and he said he had never seen any.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Feb 20 - 04:40 AM

Rowe's ship was perhaps unusually musical because it was carrying both soldiers and their wives - it wasn't on a naval mission. They seem to have had much more variety of musical entertainment than a modern cruise ship.

Anybody got a link to an 1880s accordion being played?

The organization of the ship is hard for me to understand. Why did Rowe, as an Army cook-sergeant, get to be in charge of setting a watch? Shouldn't that have been the naval officers' job?


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 28 Feb 20 - 04:54 AM

As a transport ship I wonder if they were regarded as supernumery crew and used to reduce the number of naval NCOs and men needed. Maybe lot of what the watch kept an eye on when there were a lot of soldiers on board wasn't particularly nautical.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: GUEST,David
Date: 29 Feb 20 - 07:56 PM

"Concertina"is an instrument that is difficult to find on board 19th century American whaling vessels. The button accordion was a more mentioned candidate. Martin Co. was manufacturing guitars in the 1830s but guitars were never a "regular" shipboard instrument though as noted before, they do show up in late 19th century Arctic whaling fleet of the bowhead whale fishery.
Fiddles are considered to be the most popular shipboard instrument of American whalers. "Portuguese guitar" is also a well known instrument on board American whalers due to the Azorian connection. Virtually all American whalers first landfall was at the Azores (recruits & fresh stores)) or Cape Verde Islands, then southward towards Cape Horn or Cape Hope traveling either to the Pacific or Indian Ocean.


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Subject: RE: Life on shipboard, 1889
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Mar 20 - 04:39 AM

A guitar does show up in Rowe's diary. There seems to have been a different band playing every night. No wind instruments yet though.


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