Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dennis Crowther - Clee Hill Poet and Folk Musician

"CLEE HILL. AKA - "Dennis Crowther's No. 1." English, March (4/4 or 2/4 time). D Major. Standard
Clee Hill
tuning (fiddle). One part. Clee Hill refers to both the height of Titterstone Clee, one of the highest hills in south Shropshire, or the village of Cleehill, Shropshire, which lies on the slopes. Titterstone Clee is in the range of hills called collectively the Clee Hills, and has been heavily quarried over the years. Writer J.R.R. Tolkien used to visit the area and some believe he modelled "The Shire" in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings after the area. Some have speculated - ("Clee Village being an inspiration for Bree in its character/location, and Clee Hill being an inspiration for Weathertop (you can see Clee hill from South Birmingham, and from Clee Hill you can see Snowdonia).") The late Dennis Crowther (d. 2007) was a poet, singer, mouth organ player from the area. Part of the melodic material from "Clee Hill" appears in the tune "Oh, Joe! The boat is going over," a melody used by morris/molly dancers from the Clee Hill area. Accordion master John Kirkpatrick recorded this tune (along with "Dennis Crowther's No. 2") at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, 1999.

Source for notated version: Shropshire harmonica player and entertainer Dennis Crowther [Callaghan].
Printed sources: Callaghan (Hardcore English), 2007; p. 32."

Dennis Crowther - From this site
I have lived at Clee Hill all my life and was a runner for the Home Guard and was 14 at the end of the war. I used to go between the Clee Hill, Corley and Bitterley platoons. One of my lasting memories of VE day was being able to have lights on and a party in the Mission Room at the Knowle.

The Battle of Titterstone Clee
When Hitler declared war on this country
A messenger boy I would be
I was up on Clee Hill where I joined the Home Guard
Where armed to the teeth we would be
The lads in our mob were from all walks of life
All ready if Hitler did raid
And up by the Radar was Corporal Brown
Guarding his sheep with a spade
There was pitchforks and pikes and hammers galore
To use against Hitler during the war
Then the Captain inspected our motley platoon
And announced that today, we’d be armed
With hammer handles direct from the Quarry
We lined up with grace and with charm
Then the Captain he asked Private Beddoe
Of his actions if under attack
He looked down at the shaft of his hammer
‘I’d put the head on,’ he answered back
Then with broomsticks we pinched from the Council
We took the Brookrow first light
We mounted a Guard round Reynold’s Marrow
In case it got bombed in the night
Then the Baker took twelve of his bravest of men
And without the slightest of noise
They crept round the back of Will’s mothers
And took Silvington Tump by surprise
The ode Hitler decided to poison the water
Which flows from the slopes of the Clee
They put old Billy Adams to guard the park spout
Stood there with his dung fork was he
He shouted out HALT! In the dead of the night
And when nobody answered him then
He charged the Park Spout with his dung fork
And captured five pubs before ten
We did manoeuvres with the Hamers from Coreley
The first foot and mouth Calvary
They charged us with nuthucks and bicycle pumps
And ready for Hitler we’d be
We bought in our armoured division
A shipcratch from Cumberley Lane
And we routed them farmers from Coreley
And put ‘em back pickin’ taters again.
The enemy came twenty miles from our shore
Herr Loiknant he said to his crew
‘Out there on that islands some queer goings on
Ve had better turn back that is true
For the British haf weapons I’ve ne’er seen before
Well advanced they all seem to be
They might blow us straight out of the water
And the end of the war it would be.
So lets give three cheers for the lads of Clee Hill
Who put old Hitler to shame
Let us give thanks for a Broaduck and a Pike
And a sheepcratch from Cumberley Lane
For it was unconditional surrender
Once again all the church bells will chime
And we’ll put up our tack fore’er we hope
And bring peace and goodwill to man kind
Lester Bailey playing Dennis Crowther

From the video - The World Famous Ashdown Mummers perform The Stomp from Clee Hill in Much Wenlock on our 2014 Earthly Paradise Revisited tour of Shropshire. The dance is courtesy of local historian, the late Dennis Crowther, who gave us the details in 1991, which he’d collected many years previously.

 Captain Swing , tune Dennis Crowther May morning at Laxton Castle Notts

Dennis Crowther had a book of poems out 1996- now out of print Reminiscences of Titterstone Clee

'The poems contained in this book have been composed by Dennis to capture a bygone era of work and characters.' The poems are: The Haymaker/ Tom Coxen's Last Move/ Old Habits Never Die/ The Storm/ A Day with the Hops/ Blackberry Boots/ Rusty of Clee/ Titterstone Clee/ Arthur Ore/ The Clee Hill Minstrel Band/ Burwarton Bill/ I Conna Find Ashford for Fog/ The Parsons Annual Ball/ The Last Load.

Dave Bradley of Worcester News wrote
"Dennis Crowther was without doubt one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. He was a natural comic.If you have never or heard of him, his poems of the countryside were superb. They were about people he knew and met and adventures he had. His poems about Bill the sheepdog and the hop pickers were two of my favourites.
Dennis was also a fine musician. I met him many years ago, and became reacquainted on the Sunday morning show when I used to play some of his poems and on odd occasions he would call in."

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