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British Folk Music Heroes, The Waterson Family

Updated on November 4, 2015

The Waterson Family at the BBC

The Waterson Family have been performing together as a group for over 50 years. The music is traditional folk music often with no accompaniment. Not that band members cannot play instruments. It is just that much of the time their different voices act as their musical instruments.

The Watersons hail from my hometown of Hull, in Yorkshire.

When I was young they were just getting started. They lived in the same area of town as us. This means they were not wealthy. Who was in post war Britain?. Norma, Mike and Lal's parents died when the kids were young. Extra hardship for them.

In the early sixties they served their folk music apprenticeship around the pubs and clubs of Hull and beyond. The Bluebell Inn located in Hull turned over its upstairs a couple of nights a week to become a folk club. Dylan was becoming popular in the UK and folk music was the latest trend.

The Watersons sung traditional folk songs arranged by themselves. They also began to compose some of their own music and perform it. It was early days but they started to be noticed.

Watching The Watersons Homecoming, filmed at Hull truck Theatre, I enjoyed the family history as much as the music. Norma who always seemed to take the lead was the main story teller. She told snippets of their history from their early performance at The Troubadour Club in London and their signing with Topic records to present day.

The original members are all now starting to show their age. Lal sadly died in 1998 and for a time the band stopped performing. Norma has obviously had health problems and needed the aid of a walking stick. Yet the voices are still so strong and tuneful. Perhaps Mike, who appeared a little deaf, was less tuneful. He made up for it though with an individual quality as he sang.

Martin Carthy, Norma's husband is a successful musician in his own right. Their daughter Eliza Carthy, who appeared in the Homecoming concert also, has made a name for herself in music.

Ye it is as a family that they seem their most happy. A large friendly, caring family. They like to keep their loved ones close and it seems to have paid off. Younger family members have had their times trying to escape folk music but all eventually return to the fold.

I love the fact that the original Waterson members still have a strong Hull accent. Most of us do. It is something we are not proud off but that we find hard to shed. The Watersons moved to Robin Hood's Bay some years ago but still retain the accent of their youth.

The Waterson's music is traditional English folk music that somehow has a timeless feel to it. It may be a thing of the past but this family manage to keep it current

Long may they continue to do so.

UPDATE June 22, 1011

My brother, who personally knew The Waterson's all those years ago, has just posted that Mike Waterson died early today, June 22, 2011. RIP and thoughts to the family.


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    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thank you gather homecoming family

    • profile image

      Gaither homecoming family 5 years ago

      I am glad I stumbled on this page, I've always been a big fan of folk music, this is very original!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      glad you liked :)

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi ethel, i have not heard of the band before, but they do sound great ! Loved all the great videos !

      Awesome and vote up !!!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Kath

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from California

      Thank you for sharing Ethel! I never heard of them before reading your hub! Good job.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for the visit HH. Yes I think you will like what you hear :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      I have never heard of them but being a folkmusic fan I will look out for their DVDs. I love that kind of music which comes from the heart and live of people.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thnaks guys. Creating this hub brought back so many memories :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Hi ethel,

      Thanks for this one!! I have to admit that i had not heard of them but after reading this hub I will make sure to keep an eye out for them.

      Take care


    • albertacowpoke profile image

      albertacowpoke 6 years ago from Redwater, Alberta

      As always, a great Hub Ethel. It was inspiring to read this hub and see the longevity of this group. Thank you so much.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the hub. Its great when local people do so well

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Very nice, ethel smith. It's probably because my daughter sings and plays mandolin and guitar in a Bluegrass band, but I like to see local bands appreciated as you've done here. I really like the videos, too. Thanks for introducing me to the Waterson family.

    • Ancillotti profile image

      Ancillotti 6 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

      Hello, Ethel!

      Great Hub! I did not know this band, but now with your tip I want to know more about this band.