Traynor's and Me
February,1965. I was a brand new chum, a ten pound tourist and landed in Mell-boorne one early, hot Sunday morning. Got a job the next day. Now to find out what to do come the weekend. My mate George Stephen had arrived a couple of months earlier than me, working in a garage at the Junction, heard about the folksinger at the Colonial Inne, just down the road.
We’d come from London. Then, most of the songs at the London clubs were American in origin, but at the Red Lion in Borehamwood we heard the cream of English folk, from the Campbells, including that terrible imbiber and great singer, Alec Cambell, Les Bridger, Linda George and many others whose names have fallen into the black hole of lost memories, but I do remember a couple of visits from Ewan McColl, or God as he was known then . . . “God will be here next week” the MC would announce with a grin.
At the Colonial, Martyn Wyndham Read not only sang. ‘Cushie Butterfield’ and other pommie numbers, he did Australian songs. Talked and sang on Moreton Bay, Jim Jones and the like. We ask him where to go for more ? “You’ll probably like Traynor's ” he said.
We came, we listened and we were conquered. We were new chums, not as green as Thatcher’s (Charles) new chums, more chartreuse, but we were athirst for knowledge of our newly adopted country. This is where I started to fall into Australia.
From getting the nod from Don Carlos, Guardian of the Door, sometimes cranky, sometimes as affable as a taipan, through to a good evening of listening to a host of performers, all moving from one room to another and singing the wildest variety of folk songs we had ever heard, with the Australian songs ringing a loud bell in my head. Couple this with good humoured audiences who always sang along with gusto and each other. Even half full it had that vital ingredient, atmosphere , and on a full night it was exactly what a folk club should be.
We worked and lived near Springvale, a fair way out in those days, so the weekends were highly anticipated and as we were rarely let down, Traynor's had us back most weekends . .
Some flashbacks . .
- Brian Mooney sitting on the main downstairs stage. Lovely Irish songs, sung with love and pleasure. Our favourite game with Brian was to try and guess where his gaze would alight after finishing a number. Although he sang with his eyes wide shut, totally immersed, his head and body would still swivel and lean, he’d come the finish, his eyes would slowly open, widen as if to say “Oh, so dat’s where I am” and sometimes find three or four more than slightly shickered, leaning idiots grinning up at him. A most equable man. He would grin back. Sing “Spanish Ladies Mooney” we’d cry.
- Richard Leitch. The Dark Poet. Poetry even. Strewth. . . “and never was piping so loud, and never was piping . . so gay” We always enjoyed Screitch. I’d never heard anyone but teachers do in poetry.
- Declan Affely. Wild man from “Interstate’. We loved Declan. The deep, guinness brown voice, the songs, a heady brew of Irish and Australian, standing on that little stage downstairs, his head occasionally bouncing off the low ceiling, singing and swaying back and forth. Often leaning so far over the audience we thought he would topple on to us. Sometimes the three or four front rows would sway in unison . . back and forth, back and forth, “oh Mother McCree, he’s going to fall in on us” I overheard a young sheila from Mildura moan. He never did. But I remember the night he overbalanced backwards . . crashed against the wall, slid downwards for a moment, gathered himself, pushed back off the wall to furious applause, and nary a break in the song. Finished it, “I’ll play a chewin now” then a mad grin splashed across his face as he pulled seven badly bent whistles out of his back pocket. He gave the magic word a working out . . Still grinning. A delight.
- Out the back for a coffee . I do remember the coffee. We drank milk . . for two reasons . . The coffee was excrable and brandy, hidden up sleeves or down your daks, mixed nicely with milk kept us in the best of spirits.
- Back inside for Marg Roadknight. Awed by voice and size. Another singer who was too tall for the venue. We would sit, heads bowed in sympathy. I think I remember a stool and definitely remember the voice.
- Peter Parkhill performing in his inimitable style, perhaps a song in an obscure Northumbrian dialect, all the while with the cupped hand sliding from behind the ear down to the eye. One dark night, outside and in the club, Peter was winding into a song when an unknown wag rolled a noisily rattling marble up the aisle, over the uneven floor to fetch against the stage. “There’s your fucking eye Pete” he shouted and spun out of the club before Don Carlos could catch and, laughing, still batter him to pieces.
- Martyn was our hero. Friendly, outgoing, sweet performer and a good laugh to boot. Bit of a party animal. Enough said.
- David Lumsden, quietly spoken, lovely banjo player and a singer of the more thoughtful songs, often eschewed by the more robust players. Traynor's provided such an excellent, eclectic mix of performers. I’ve still got the 5 string left hand banjo his dad converted for me. More Traynor threads.
- Bruce Stuchbury in his welding jacket singing ‘Turpin Hero’, Tina Lawton, Ian Long and later on the harmonies of Danny Spooner and Gordon McIntyre. As I write the memories come lurching back. Most Wednesday nights, a mob of blokes and sheilas would gather at someone’s place and we’d learn and sing the songs we’d heard at Traynor's the previous weekend, and the one before that and the one.
It was also the great conduit of information for anything Folk. What? who and where to go to find them, where’s the party? who was on next week?’ ‘Was that singer a good bloke or is he a dickhead? I thought so’.
At Traynor's we met young soldiers on RR from Vietnam, tradesfolk, white collar people, truckies, people from all over. I still know many folk from those days, performer and audience alike. We all agree. We’re glad Traynor's was there . . and in the heel of the evening . . up to the Italian Club (or was it the Greek Club ? they all looked the same to me after six longnecks and chips)
Many singers would be there. More singing. A good way to finish of another night at Traynor's.
I’ll finish off with a thank you to the Gods for such splendid timing. 1965, Me, Australia, Folk and Traynor's… No bullshit.
- National Festival 2008 — by Roger Montgomery — last modified May 13, 2008 09:42 AM
- Dave de Hugard's 'Songs & Tunes of the Riverbend' concert.