There are even apples

Do you know the song, “Danny Boy”? ‘Course you do. The pipes, the pipes are calling. Do you know who wrote the words? Almost certainly not.

Frederic Edward Weatherly was born in England in 1848. He was a successful barrister – the photograph shows him in 1895, in his legal robes – but he was also an author and an astonishingly prolific lyricist.


Yep, this is the chap who wrote “Danny Boy”.        Image: WikiMedia Commons


He is said have written 3000 songs. “Danny Boy” is the best known, but literally hundreds of them were successful pop songs in their day: “The Holy City” and “Roses of Picardy” were also huge hits. Weatherly’s lyrics were mostly sentimental, sometimes patriotic, and often expressions of “motherhood and apple-pie” values. But they were good. Catchy, memorable; songs you find yourself singing, despite yourself.

This song, “Up From Somerset,” manages to combine family values, patriotism and sentimentality, all in one. There are even apples, though not for a pie. The recording was released on a budget label, Broadcast. One trick to keep prices low? They squeezed the music onto discs only eight-inches across, instead of the usual ten. That is why the label is so small.


Weatherly himself was originally from Somerset. Unfortunately, the singer in this recording most decidedly was not. His attempt at the “Zommerzet” accent is cringe-worthy. But never mind. Just listen, and see if you don’t find yourself later humming, “Oh, we come up from Somerset, where the cider apples grow.”

  • Artist: John Thorne
  • A side: Up From Somerset
  • B side:  Come To The Fair
  • Format: 8”, 78 rpm, shellac, mono
  • Label: Broadcast
  • Made in: England
  • Catalogue: 114
  • Year: 1927

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs





But is it strong enough?

Ninety years ago, George Dorrington Cunningham, one of the most popular recital organists of his time, made a recording at Kingsway Hall, London. It was released as a 12-inch 78 rpm shellac record by His Master’s Voice. One copy, manufactured here in Australia, turned up in an op-shop in Geelong in 2016. I bought it, cleaned it up, and put it up for sale on Discogs. A man in Saint George, Utah bought it from me, with the following request:

Please package in a box with sufficient padding and protection so as to ensure no breakage occurs in transit. Thank you.

4030-cropped-and-invertedShellac discs are heavy and fragile, but I know what to do, and carefully packed it in a strong box. “But is it strong enough?” I wondered. What happened next is described in my message to the buyer.

I am really sorry – I was packaging your order, and gently testing the packaging to make sure it was sufficiently robust, when I heard a little click …. man, these things are so fragile. I will refund you immediately. I’m a bit upset – not with you, its just I love these old discs, and they will never be made again. Annoyed with myself 😦

The buyer was understanding, and on reflection, perhaps it was a good thing this happened. The disc broke like a potato crisp under the slightest pressure, so it must have been extremely fragile. I doubt it would have survived the journey to Utah. Better it happened at my end!

So, I now have a sad, broken shellac disc which will never play again.

I did record the disc before it broke, so at least we can still listen. This is the first movement of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, which one of those classics you know, if only from a movie scene in which a detective investigating a crime walks into an empty cathedral.

He confronts me: “Sir, I need to talk to you about the destruction of a ninety-year-old record …”

  • Artist: G.D. Cunningham, playing on the Organ of the Kingsway Hall, London
  • Title: Toccata And Fugue In D Minor  (J.S. Bach)
  • Format: 12” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: His Master’s Voice
  • Catalogue: C. 1291
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1926

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs