Bert Lloyd was a folk singer, folk song collector, scholar, musicologist, journalist, ex-whalerman and Australian cattle station worker. He lived an amazing life and had a huge influence on the world of folk music.
His little book on English folk song, The Singing Englishman, which was specially written for the Festival of Britain, has recently been re-published. It is a small but near-perfect gem.
He also worked with Ralph Vaughan Williams on The Penguin Book Of English Folk Song, which, during my early years in the folk clubs of these islands, was the folksinger’s bible. Come All Ye Bold Miners, his book of folk songs collected from the mining communities of Britain, was a great contribution to one of his own great loves, the industrial folk song; the album he produced based on those songs, The Iron Muse, opened many ears to a previously unrecognised musical form.
His great work, Folk Song in England, took him years of his life to write and is still the seminal work that subsequent writers have referred to.
He worked with the famous photographer, Bert Hardy on the magazine, Picture Post and together they produced some quite amazing features on subjects as diverse as life on a North Sea trawler to prostitution in the East End of London.
Bert collected folk music in this country and also on the continent, particularly in Eastern Europe, where he was regarded as an expert on the music of countries such as Bulgaria.
Like Tom Stephenson, the man who devised the Pennine Way, and Benny Rothman, who spent six months in jail for his part in the Kinder Mass Trespass, A.L. (Bert) Lloyd worked away quietly and doggedly for the greater good of the common people. Like Benny and Tom he was a lifelong Socialist, when Socialism wasn’t a dirty word.
I had the good fortune to meet Bert on many occasions and sat transfixed listening to him singing and talking; singing anything from a great ballad to a bawdy folk song that was more single entendre than double.
He was unstinting with his time, particularly where young singers were concerned, and on dozens of occasions helped people like the Watersons, Martin Carthy, Bernard Wrigley and myself with the words and melodies of songs.
He made dozens of albums and helped many young singers on in their careers, some of whom, not so young now, remember a man who was a great and unassuming human being.