George was particularly found of hornpipes and it is noticeable that once he had managed to play the Newcastle hornpipe, a difficult piece, his fingers seemed to loosed up, and his memory for tunes increase. The Poppy Leaf is a good tune for using the full fiddle range, even the open 4th string.
George Hepple was born at Sook Hill Farm, Haltwhistle on 13th February, 1904. He began life as a blacksmith at Cawfield's Quarry at the age of fourteen, before moving to Ventners Hall Colliery where he remained until its closure in the 1950s. He was given a fiddle at the age of eight and taught himself to play. During the 1930s he played in a dance band, playing mainly for Scottish and traditional dancing. According to John Hepple, George's 'passion for the Northumbrian pipes was always frustrated by the fact that in the 1930s and 1940s it was very difficult to get hold of a set, since there were very few, if any, makers in those days except for Jack Armstrong who claimed to have a order book covering many years ahead.' Fortunately an acquaintance with local musician Basil Clough proved fruitful and George was eventually able to obtain a set of pipes. Although George was largely devoted to the pipes and the fiddle, he also played the banjo, organ and a variety of wind instruments. He also wrote and taught music and in his later years was made an honorary member of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society.
The file which can be heard here is an extract taken from a much longer interview. The full interview along with other clips extracted from the interview, found elsewhere on the FARNE site, can be heard in both RealAudio and MP3 formats.
This is just one of a number of recordings made by the North East Folk Federation Collecting Project. Some time in 1971 a committee of members of the North East Folk Federation came together to purchase a small portable tape recorder. They also received a grant from Northern Arts, with which they were able to purchase magnetic recording tape. Their aim was to collect and preserve what fragments of songs, stories and tunes they could find in the North East of England. Key members included the singer Johnny Handle and librarian Tony Wilson. Among those lending support and making introductions were Forster Charlton and Graham Binless. By the End of 1974 just short of forty recordings had been made, of singers, musicians and dancers from Durham and all parts of Northumberland. Among those recorded were Small Pipes player Joe Hutton; fiddlers John Armstrong, Jimmy Pallister and Willie Taylor; the singer Jimmy White and mouth organ player Billy Atkinson. Through these recordings we are made aware not only of the wealth of traditional music making in the North East but also the important place that music holds in the lives of its people.