From 1966 - 69 I edited Abe's Folk Music, the Leeds University Ballad and Blues Club magazine. Abe was typed onto wax stencils, and individual sheets were run off on a Roneo machine. The sheets were assembled by a team of helpers walking round a table, and finally stapled together. Because the stencils slowly disintegrated during the printing process, it was only possible to produce around 300 copies before the text became illegible; but a good stack of each issue (there were 2/3 a year) landed in Collet's Record shop on New Oxford Street. Collet's was a folk world hub so Abe reached a much wider audience than its print number would suggest. We included traditional and new songs, interviews, some quite academic pieces and accounts of current fieldwork. From time to time we learned that our lampoons and rather stern record reviews had upset the great and the good of the folk scene.
Folk was published in 1976 by Wildwood House, an adventurous publishing house long since missing in action. In the book I questioned the nature of "folk music" (did it exist at all?), and looked at ways in which early collectors like Cecil Sharp and Sabine Baring Gould had bowdlerised and selectively misrepresented the repertoires of their source singers. A chapter called Rugby Songs caused a bit of a stir at the time, but today I think the most interesting parts are those which draw on my research when I was a student at Leeds, looking at the lives and music of people like Jackie Beresford of Buckden in Wharfedale, Frank Weatherill, stonemason, fiddler, cellist and singer from Danby in Cleveland, and Richard Alderson, the legendary Neddy Dick, the visionary farmer from Keld in Swaledale, who made his own instruments - the harmonium and bells, and the "rock band".
Wolves, wizards, revenants, selkies and mermaids; malevolent fairies, lovesick harpers and demonic cats are among the characters who people the stories in these two books. The tales come from the times - not so long past - when storytelling was an important part of community life in the north. Many of them are unavailable in books currently in print. Highland Folk Tales follows the route of the North Coast 500, while the Argyll collection has stories from islands including Mull, Iona and Islay, as well as the mainland. Perfect companions on a trip to these areas. Both books are published by The History Press, and can be bought online and in shops.