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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Guest ADD: The Big Hewer (Ewan MacColl) (26) RE: Lyr Req: The big hewer 25 May 21

Just to add a bit more info

The Big Hewer type figure is not peculiar just to County Durham - it’s part of British Folklore that some one asked about in an earlier post.

The Elliots sometimes used the expression” The County Durham Big Hewer” and Ewan picked up on this and used it in the Radio Ballad. Other mining areas also had similar heroic figures - Isaac Lewis from the Welsh coalfields, Jackie Tor from the Midlands fields,, and others. If I remember correctly they were mentioned in the Radio Ballad Ewan was one of the first to bring these characters to a wider audience.

Some of the recordings made with miners and their family still exist and make fascinating listening and in addition to the earthy stories that Jim Bainbridge mentions above there are some lovely funny tales of how the miners dealt with the dangers of mining including death. The reason that some of the stuff wasn’t included in the Radioo Ballad was not because it was too earthy or not literate enough - it was just there was too much material for a one hour programme and that there were dozens and dozen of hours of recordings. Charles Parker( the producer) and Ewan had a very deep respect for “literacy” of the miners( and other working class contributors to the Radio Ballads.

We should all be grateful for this contribution that Ewan made to British cultural life.

Ach. I think I’ll away and listen to the ballad now. I can already hear the start - the sound of the drilling machine, then a lovely Welsh voice saying “when you hew a lump coal......”

If you haven’t listened to the Radio Ballads the you haven’t lived. Do yourself a favour.


Bob Blair

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