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Bert Draycott - 1930-2017

Bert Draycott of Fishburn in County Durham passed away a few days before his 87th birthday, peacefully at home on 29th September 2017.

He worked in the Durham pits for many years, and later at Courtaulds’ factory in Spennymoor, before finding a new career later in life as a 'folk' entertainer. I'd first met him around 1972, when we were residents at Don Watson's excellent folk club at the Red Lion in Trimdon Village. The club had regular and well-respected guests, as well as other residents like Jez Lowe, Ged Foley and Pete Wood, but it was often Bert who stole the limelight!

As well as drawing on the rich seam of Durham mining songs, he was writing his own material based on his experiences in the pits, and was always full of stories from his mining days. However it was in later life that he added his distinctive stage clothes and spoons-playing skill to his performances. Yes, he was a performer, who loved his audience, and treated a folk club floor spot with as much respect as a formal concert - although getting him off stage was sometimes difficult!

Bert was probably closer to the music hall tradition than the modern folk scene, and his standard combination of comic songs, jokes, colliery stories and spoons-playing was a powerful mix. He enlivened many a night at local folk clubs, but unlike most folk performers, he was also in demand at concerts, day centres and workmen’s' clubs - his distinctive grey bowler, waistcoat and red shirt becoming well recognised all over the North East.

Appropriately, in later years, Bert became a regular on the stage at Durham Miners' Gala, demonstrating his 'Shotton Stot' and 'Fishburn Flip' spoons moves before thousands of delighted revellers and politicians. He did travel around Britain, and indeed John Rennie of Stockton Folk Club produced a CD of his songs in 2010, but folk from outside the area knew him best from meeting him at festivals such as Whitby and Saltburn, where the sheer authenticity of Bert Draycott was well appreciated.

A very good-natured man, Bert was never one to undersell himself, and was very proud of his title as 'World Spoons Champion', annually defending it at Sedgefield Festival. He often told of Princess Anne's delight at his spoons technique, and would regale any newcomer with all the details within minutes!

Bert's early days at Fishburn Colliery were no doubt a contrast to the sheer 'joie de vivre' of his later days, but those days surely acted as a valuable platform for a man whose sheer entertainment value will live long in our memory. Rattle away up there Bert!

Jim Bainbridge