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April 5, 2018

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A reminder and confirmation that the Australian Folklore Conference will again take place at Easter, 2019. We will call for expressions of interest to present papers later in the year.

Some of the papers from this year’s conference have been posted on the AFN blog at


John Gardiner-Garden has published the 33 books of his Dancing through the Ages series that he has been working on for many years. To see purchasing options (including big introductory discounts of between 15% and 33%) and the covers and contents pages of all 33 books please go to and follow links.


John also writes: In 2019 Aylwen and I plan to tour Australasia, the U.S. and Europe joining the dots between people who have acquired the books and who would like me to teach/lead (or talk on) dances presented in the books they have (we won’t be taking books with us), so do let us know if you would like us to visit your scene and how we might contribute.


Dr John Gardiner-Garden

Director of the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy

New books at

(02) 62811098




English folk historian Chris Brady is trying to locate copies of folk programs broadcast in the 60s as BBC has deleted them! He taped some of them when he was living in New Zealand & has received copies from many sources, but is still hunting & trying to disseminate his appeal. Here is Chris’s message:

BBC London Folk Song Cellar – 1960

We have discovered that in the 1960s the ABC and other radio stations aired the BBC’s ‘London Folk Song Cellar’ series. This was a mythical folk club created for the BBC World Service by EFDSS’s Peter Kennedy for invited folk guests to Cecil Sharp House for a weekly one hour folk music and song session.

There were 39 episodes. They were edited and recorded to Transcription Discs for sale to overseas radio stations including to Australia and New Zealand. We have recently purchased a number of these and are digitising them.

We also have quite a few episodes home-taped in NZ. Also some recordings from the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Kuwait and Germany.

But the only full set is in the British Library Sound Archives – which we cannot access.

And we are missing a number of episodes, not least of which is no. 28.

So we are wondering if any of your members In Australia might have home recorded tapes of these programmes. Please could you pass the word around.

Many thanks – Chris B.
P.S. Most of what are have are here:




TRADITION TODAY  ISSUE 7 has now been uploaded to the CETH website:


Follow any of the relevant links on the Home page to access a Table of Contents.


We are now actively seeking contributions for the next issue. Please go to “Guidance for Authors” at the foot of the Tradition Today contents page for information on how to format and submit contributions.





Review of George P. Knauff’s Virginia Reels and the History of American Fiddling. By Chris Goertzen. 2017. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN: 9781496814272 (hard cover) at


This book is about the earliest known collection of Virginia Reels (1839) and is very relevant to the history of fiddling in Australia, especially regarding the potential for discovery of ‘lost’ manuscripts and tune transcriptions.





As always, Mark continues to trawl the marvellous Trove for treasures of Australian folksong, verse and much more. Go here:














April 2018

Occasional Newsletter of the Australian Folklore Network

Edited by Graham Seal

and on Facebook at Australian Folklore Network


Welcome to the post-conference edition of Transmissions. In partnership with the NLA and the NFF, the annual conference was once again well-attended and widely appreciated. For those unable to be there, a short version of the program and list of the paper abstracts appears below, as well as information on some of the papers we have posted online at .

We are already receiving expressions of interest for presentations at next year’s conference and will open up the call for papers towards the end of this year.

MAILBAG (Keep ‘em coming)


‘A Literary Curiosity’ from 1884 (and, allegedly, earlier) from Mark Gregory at . And lots of other goodies recently, and not-so-recently, trawled from Trove at


The ‘Goldfields Minstrel’s’ New Zealand songster has been digitized by the National Library of NZ at

Thanks to Brian Samuels.



We have published a couple of the conference papers on the AFN blog. Tony Smith’s presentation on the jig doll in Australia is at

Graham Seal’s talk on 50 years of Australian folklore is at The talk is open for additions and amendments if anyone wishes to make them.

If other conference presenters would like their papers published on the blog, contact or post them directly to the blog yourself.



9.00 Graham Seal, Convenor – Conference welcome and opening


9.05 Margy Burn, Assistant Director-General, NLA


9.10-10.10 Presentation session 1


Convict Music at Port Arthur

Peter H MacFie

At Port Arthur Penal Station, Tasman Peninsula (1830-77) music, like art, was a tradeable but surreptitious commodity. While historians are aware of artist WB Gould, little is known of the musicians who traded their ephemeral skills. Convict, staff musicians and entertainers at Port Arthur included: Perez De Castanos – a Spanish guitarist transported from London; Frank ‘the Poet’ MacNamara; Neil Gow Foggo, convict seamen and fiddler from the well-known Scottish fiddling family; Piper Hugh Fraser, a bankrupt emigrant, who eloped to Hobart Town from NSW, becoming a Port Arthur overseer; and Scottish fiddler Alexander Laing, convicted in 1813 of stealing while a member of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders. His tunes were among melodies in Alexander Laing’s rediscovered 1863 MS, published recently as On the Fiddle From Scotland To Tasmania.


The Tale of Michael Purtill

Jeanette Mollenhauer

Michael Charles Purtill was a resident of Sydney in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this paper traces his life and activities, based on the digitised newspapers held by the National Library of Australia. Purtill was a competitive Irish step dancer, teacher who had first lived in the United States before settling in Sydney with his wife. Purtill’s dance career reveals significant organisational, pedagogical and performative differences between step dancing as practised in his lifetime, and the nature of the genre in the twenty-first century. Purtill was also active in a variety of organisations with the purpose of fostering Irish nationalism and his manifold encounters with the judicial system illuminate both his character and the general social structures of the era. The paper demonstrates the value of historically-contextual data in choreo-musical research, and utilises the biography of one man to develop the historical narrative of Irish step dancing in an Australian context.






10.30-11.00 Presentation session 2



English Village Carolling in Australia and North America

Ian Russell

In the nineteenth century emigration from England to North America, Australia and New Zealand was largely driven by economic necessity and occupational opportunities. Many male migrants took their skills and expertise to the ‘new’ country, living a solitary existence divorced from family, friends and the landscape of home, with their dream of new-found wealth dashed by the hard life and strange country they found. However, others strived and built ‘a home from home’, encouraging and arranging for members of their family to join them. They upheld their beliefs and cultural traditions, some of which took hold and flourished in their new environment. The celebration of Christmas provided a particularly powerful focus of continuity with their past and in some communities this centred around the tradition of singing Christmas carols, both within places of worship and outside, as part of annual perambulations. In this paper I discuss the case of three remarkable communities where the carolling has continued to be practised and has achieved its own local identity – Glen Rock in Pennsylvania, Grass Valley in California in the USA, and Moonta in the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia.


11.15-12.15 Fifty Years of Folk and Lore (Public lecture in Theatre)

Graham Seal

The National Library of Australia building opened in 1968. At the fiftieth anniversary, we look at the progress of Australian folklore studies, collection, research, archiving and dissemination through performance, publication and digitisation.

12.15-12.45 Lunch

12.45-1.45 concert (Theatre)


The vibrant music of old Darwin includes traditional Filipino melodies, Top End dance tunes and medleys of the Beatles and Santana. Produced and presented by Rob Willis.
2.00-3.15 Presentation session 3



Brad Tate: Australian Folk Verse and Melody

David Johnson with Kerry Tate

Brad Tate was a well-known Australian folklorist, performer and collector. Prior to his recent death he was working on a book titled Australian Folk Verse and Melody, in which he drew on his extensive knowledge and library to explore the background to Australian folk songs and the tunes that were used for them. It was hoped that Brad could have been at the conference to launch his book but as his health made travel unlikely his wife Kerry arranged to video record him introducing himself and his work. This session will launch the book (of some 300 pages) and present the video of Brad talking through an introduction to it. Dave, Kerry and some fellow musicians will prove Brad’s work lives on by playing some of the tunes from his earlier publication, Down and Outback. Finally, folklorist Mark Gregory will offer a few words about Brad’s contributions and call for brief recollections from the floor.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.


Successful Folklore Practice?

June Factor and Gwenda Beed Davey

Together and separately, since the 1970s Gwenda Davey and June Factor have researched, published, educated and organised in the previously largely neglected field of children’s folklore, with a particular focus on its history, culture and development in Australia. Has this extensive output influenced the major cultural and educational institutions in this country, or the broader popular culture?


Rather than the usual question and answer sequence after a paper, Gwenda and June would like their presentation to open a discussion from conference participants, building on their own experience.


3.30-4.30 Presentation Session 4

From Parents to Players – Anatomy of a Tropical Bush Band

Jeff Corfield

What do you do when you want to run a bush dance to raise funds for your local school – and you can’t find a local bush band? You teach yourselves to play some instruments and form your own bush band of course. And what do you do when you want the local school kids to learn to play Australian bush tunes and songs – and the school has no music teacher? Easy, you teach them yourselves! This was the genesis of Townsville’s Wattle n Gum Bush Band, way back in 1983. Almost 35 years on Wattle n Gum are still playing for local bush dances and community functions, bringing Australian bush tunes and songs to new generations of enthusiasts in tropical Townsville and surrounds. In the lead-up to Wattle n Gum’s 35th birthday, this paper tells the story of a community based bush band that has become a musical icon.


The Jig Doll in Australian Folklore: Untapped Potential

Tony Smith

The jig doll is a type of puppet. It is usually a rod puppet. It can be made to dance to music for its movement value and/or as a percussion instrument. They are usually jointed dolls.

The jig doll (limberjack, limberjill, clogging doll in North America) has a history as a folk toy. It is related to the marionette de la planchette which makes use of strings through the doll’s body.

Jig dolls are operated from above by rod or sprung wire and/or below by a board. The operation can be two-handed, one-handed or hands free. The operation can be mechanised in various ways using wind power, steam or sand. Instead of manual operation they can be arranged on a pedal machine which is convenient for instrumentalists.

Jig dolls have the potential to fit into folk life in many ways including the art and craft involved in the working of wood and painting and dressing of the puppet. They are useful for busking and as percussion instruments to accompany sessions. They can evoke images of dances, sometimes very acrobatically. They have great potential to be used in occupational therapy.

4.30pm Conference concludes


Thanks to all who organised presented and attended, to the NLA and NFF and to session chairs Jenny Gall and Keith McKenry. Thanks also to the Conference Organising Committee:

Graham Seal – (Convener)

Gwenda Davey

Jennifer Gall

Kevin Bradley

Rob Willis

Graham McDonald



We’re always on the lookout for interesting links, nuggets of information about relevant publications, recordings etc. Email to



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