CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in East Anglia

People - 10 of 13

Reg Reader

[added 2002, thanks to John Howson: text from the double-cassette album Dulcimer Players from England, Veteran VTVS 07/08


"I was told that my great-grandfather used to play in local halls and he had a big dulcimer which he didn't like carrying around. So he crazed this old boy in Halesworth, who actually made picture frames, to swop him this one for the big one and I think my great-grandfather also made him a pair of boots.

"My first memory of the dulcimer was my grandfather (Charlie Philpott) playing in Veranda House in Yoxford. That was where he lived; shoe shop at the front and house at the back. He always got it out for family occasions. That would be when I was five or six in the middle war years. The only time I ever saw him play out was at his golden wedding and that was at the 'Griffin' in Yoxford. I remember the landlord left the bar and played the fiddle with him all night! Certainly he did play in pubs when he was young and he had quite a local reputation. He'd play at all the functions in local village halls, mainly music hall stuff, then throw in the odd one like 'The Irish Washerwoman' or 'Devil Amongst the Tailors'.

"I asked him to show me a tune on the dulcimer when I was 12 or 14 but he told me nothing about keys. I suppose he thought I knew 'cause I was learning piano then. He was really quite secretive and he would always tune it up himself by ear. None of his children played and when he died in 1965 my aunties told me that he had left the dulcimer to me. I had left to work in Cambridge and the dulcimer was left in Yoxford so I never played it for 15 years.


"Then my daughter Elaine told me of a neighbour who played in a local folk band and I asked him if he had ever seen a dulcimer. He came round to see it and crazed me to go to the 'Everyman Folk Club' in Leiston and there I met Taffy Thomas and that was that!

"Apart from my grandfather I had never met another dulcimer player. Then Taffy took me to the first English Music Weekend and I met Chris Coe. Later I met Billy Bennington and he was good. I suppose really I learned more from Billy than my grandfather. He taught me tunes while Billy showed me the other bits and pieces. He was clever!"

Reg's playing can be heard on the double cassette Dulcimer Players from England, on the CD Katie's Quartet, Old Hat Music OH3CD, and here.