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Roger Marriott - 1928 – 2019

Roger Marriott died in February in hospital after a relatively short illness. A lot can be packed into 90 years and it is a testament to Roger that at his funeral there were people present from so many differing aspects of his life. Together, he and his wife Beryl, who died a few years ago, were incredibly influential figures in the folk revival, and were known to many in the current scene.

Roger went to university just after the war to study geography and remained a lifelong fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. As a young man he spent holidays walking and cycling in Wales, Scotland and the Lake District and he also ran the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme at college. He had a love of motorcycles. He was a member of the MZ Motorcycle club in the 80s and there are photographs of him with his Ariel in the early 50s. I saw a photo of him, his wife Beryl and a young Dave Swarbrick heading off from Birmingham on a motorcycle and sidecar for a musical event in Northumberland.

Music was a huge part of Roger’s life and something he shared with Beryl, his wife of 53 years. They met in 1955 when she was working on staff at EFDSS and he was teaching in Birmingham. He later left teaching, which he hated, to go into publishing and became an editor. He was meticulous and precise, with beautiful handwriting and an editor’s eye for detail.

Festivals were to be part of their lives for many years, with many family holidays revolving around courses they were running at Sidmouth and Halsway Manor. This was on top of Roger’s EFDSS involvement. Roger and Beryl were very much a team, and although very different in character, they shared common values and complemented each other well. Together they were to become a well-known part of the folk scene and through their encouragement of a young Dave Swarbrick were influential on the course of what we now refer to as Folk Rock.

With a deeply held sense of right and wrong, his family commented that his honesty could be maddening. Beryl never let him forget the time he insisted on declaring a cutting of a Busy Lizzie on the Canadian border in the car coming back from a trip to the US. The EFDSS was a big part of Roger’s life and he was saddened to see it, in his opinion, in decline. Despite having been a senior official of the organisation, that honesty came out in a critically constructive article written for and published in The Living Tradition in 1998. Speaking out inevitably alienated him from the Society which he clearly loved and cared about. Delivering a critical message generally isn’t welcome, although the thoroughness of his argument and detailed knowledge of the Society resulted in Derek Schofield and Martin Frost, who was Chief Executive at that time, responding and committing to reform the Society from the inside. Roger’s argument was that the EFDSS was beyond reform and a new organisation was needed. Credit is due to Roger that his speaking out provoked a period of self-examination for the Society and the emergence of a plan for the future.

Roger’s other main passion after music was photography. He has left the family with many pictures documenting his life, although much of the time he was behind, rather than in front of the camera. He was generous in sharing with The Living Tradition a small but important archive of folk-related photos.

Roger was a true polymath with a huge range of knowledge on a wide spread of subjects. He was interested in history and would reminisce about his childhood, but he was never someone stuck in the past with rose-tinted glasses. He always accepted that things change and that we cannot live in the past. He kept up with current affairs and had strong views, but was not only interested in facts and opinions, but why people held their opinions. A deep thinker, he left copious notebooks with thoughts and ideas on all sorts of subjects. Above all, Roger was a man of integrity and honour, fairness and justice.

Pete Heywood