Tall Ships on the Tyne

They came for the Tall Ships Race in the summer eighty six,
From a dozen diff’rent nations there were eighty diff’rent ships.

CHORUS : The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne,
The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne,
Even the Queen made a visit to the scene,
The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne,

The Quayside at Newcastle played host to the biggest there,
With a maritime festival complete with its’ own fair.

The Sedov came from Russia with her sister Kruzenshtern,
The crew did their best to speak the English they had learned.

The Tall Darmlodziez came from Poland far away,
Forming a spectacle with the firework display.

There were sea shanty concerts, jazz and pipe bands,
And thousands of visitors from all across the land.

At midday on Saturday the nineteenth of July,
The ships slipped their moorings, it was time to say goodbye.

They formed a parade of sail as they all sailed in a line,
Cheered by the thousands on the banks of the Tyne.

From The Mitford Family album ‘That’s Northumbria’ (MM01)
Credits: Wilf Mitford, Vocals & Guitar; Pamela Mitford & Julia Mitford, Recorder; Helen Robson, Flute; Granny (Rosemary) Robson, Piano Accordion. Recorded & produced by Martin Hoile at Cluny Studios, Newcastle upon Tyne, October 1987.

Tall Ships on the Tyne ’93

It was seven years after the race in eighty six,
When Tyneside welcomed back those Tall Sailing ships.

CHORUS : The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne,
The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne,
It was te place to be, in nineteen ninety three,
The week there were Tall Ships on the Tyne.

The Quayside at Newcastle played host to the biggest there,
The ‘maritime discovery’ was the theme that year.

The Sir Winston Churchill and the Malcolm Miller too,
Were all crewed by Geordies on the ocean sea so blue.

There were sea shanty concerts, folk groups and bands,
And thousands of visitors from many distant lands.

Words & Music by Wilf Mitford

1993 Tall Ships : Image from Evening Chronicle https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/history/gallery/tall-ships-race-river-tyne-8916282

Tall Ships on the Tyne was another of the earlier folk style songs Wilf wrote after That’s Northumbria and the Jarrow Marches when he started to find his feet with writing Geordie Songs.  1986 saw the first visit of the annual ‘Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Race’ to the River Tyne and it was quite the spectacular.  I remember aged 8 going with the family to sit along the banks of the river to wave to the ships as they arrived.  The event was so significant even the Queen attended, and it was so successful it returned in 1993, hence Wilf’s updated lyrics, and then again in 2005 and 2016.  There’s a great little overview of 30 years of the race coming to Newcastle in the Chronicle.  Those of you in England can enjoy some footage courtesy of the British Film Institute

When we started to perform some of these songs at places like Blackfriars in Newcastle some of our audience members asked where they could get a recording of our work.

Having only formed our family folk group in the April, and with at least 8

Not to miss an opportunity to promote the band, Wilf used the build up to the 1993 Tall Ships Race to promote their upcoming  Geordie Greats Album!

original songs in the bag and plenty of traditional repertoire, Wilf decided it was time to record our first album in the October of that year.  Wilf, Pamela & I along with our cousin Helen and Helen’s grandmother Marie, fondly known to us as The Granny, headed off to Cluny Studios to make our first piece of family band musical history.    It’s worth nothing that at this stage we were known as ‘Concordia’ which means ‘harmony’.  The name ‘The Mitford Family, came later when we became a trio.  That’s Northumbria was released in November 1986.   The 1993 version of the song appeared on the family’s ‘Geordie Greats’ album, in anticipation of the next Tall Ships visit, which was released in August 1992 and marked their 8th album release.

Wilf recalls that our final rehearsal for the album was a gig at ‘The Bond’ in Benwell.  The Bond Memorial Chapel as it’s formally known, was where we cut our teeth as performers in front of a very warm and receptive aged community.

According to an article from the News Post Leader, a local paper, (most likely from a press release written by Wilf himself) the album was so popular we were considering a reprint!


I couldn’t help but notice from the article that Dad slipped in a mention of the Cramlington Folk Club, ‘now open twice a month’.  Dad was extremely passionate about the club, being one of the founding members.  They attracted some fantastic artists to the local area.  We loved going along – we were allowed to stay until 9pm when Mum would take us home.  I remember it being held at The Plough, though I know it had a few different locations in its time.  The residency of our family band caused controversy, due to our ages, which eventually led to Dad leaving the club.  Dad felt that kids should be welcome so we could continue to the musical traditions into the future, but other members wanted it to be an adult event which is understandable.  I imagine some people would feel they needed to sensor themselves for language / subject matter around kids, though honestly we’d been to so many folk clubs, festivals & events that we didn’t really bat an eye lid. We’d sung along to many an inappropriate chorus in our time!!

Dad’s exit from the club was such a huge shame, though no doubt gave him time to focus on the band.  Here are a few photos  from the Cramlington Folk Club.  I believe the group you see here is the ‘Blyth Valley Folk Alliance’ (Dad is playing guitar) which was the group formed from the workshops we attended at Concordia Leisure Centre – led by Bob Fox & Chuck Flemming.   Feel free to add in the comments if this isn’t quite correct though – my memories are sometimes vague from these early days.  You can see the group’s appearance on Look North in my post about the Cramlington Village Fair.   The other photos of course feature Alistair Anderson and myself, then Benny Graham, Chuck Flemming & Bob Fox.

The Cramlington Folk Club is still running today – though I was disappointed to see Dad doesn’t get a mention in the history of the club.  Anyway we strayed off topic, we were talking about the Tall Ships Race.  You’ll be pleased to know that the next Tall Ships visit to the North will be in Sunderland in 2018.

Creative Commons License
Tall Ships on the Tyne by Wilf Mitford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://mitfordmusic.wordpress.com/.

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