On this recording we hear an interview with Northumbrian musician Jack Armstrong. The interview was conducted by Colin Ross and Tony Wilson and recorded in the 1970s. Jack is very quietly spoken, and takes a good deal of leading to respond to questions. The initial questioning is about the start of Jack's band, The Barnstormers, after the end of the Second World War (other sources date this as 1949.) Pre-war, there had been a group of musicians based at Powburn where Jack visited. Sources of music for the group came largely from listening to others and from gramophone recordings. Jack goes onto recall the group the 'Northumbrian Minstrels'. Band members mentioned by name include Bob Clarke, Jack Thompson and Billy Atkinson. Jack also recalls a Powburn based band with 14 fiddlers!
Jack describes how the original line-up of The Barnstormers consisted of a bass player, a pianist, a drummer and 2 fiddlers (Jack and Leslie Beattie). According to Jack, such was the band's popularity that at one time he was in fact running two bands to cope with demand. He talks about how the band created their own style, based on Northumbrian musicians own ideas. He also recall his own father speaking about Irish labourers coming over to work on farms in the 1920s, and practising step-dancing. Talk about The Barnstormers repertoire is very vague however, with suggestions about reels, jigs and hornpipes, but little else.
Jack then goes on to discuss his piping. He recalls competing at Bellingham show in 1928 against 18 other pipers. He mentions his pipe making and reveals that he has made over 70 sets of pipes, some in conjunction with Bill Hedworth of Dunston. He describes how he began making pipes in 1928-9, copying his fathers pipes, when he lived at Skipton. - His first set of pipes are now played by Diana Blackett Ord.
Jack himself was born in 1904 and was a contemporary and friend of Billy Pigg. He is admired for his clarity of playing and taught himself to make pipes at a time when pipe makers were almost extinct. He recorded extensively in the 1950s, both solo and with The Barnstormers.
The tape from which this item is drawn is one of a large number of sound recordings held by the North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, Co. Durham. This important resource is made up of oral history recordings drawn from many different sources. Some recordings have been made by the museum for their own use, whilst others have been copied from other sources or donated by other collectors and individuals. This large collection of mostly spoken word recordings also includes many recordings of singers, musicians and dancers from Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria. The collection includes recordings of Haltwhistle fiddle player George Hepple, Nenthead singer Martha Armstrong, the Elliotts of Birtley, piping competitions, Newcastleton traditional music festival, concertina bands and playground games.