So, when my time it comes and at last I leave this place, I’ll walk out past the charge hand’s gate and never turn my face. Up to the gates and into the sun, and I’ll leave it all behind, with one regret for the lads I’ve left to carry on their grind. Factory Lad, Colin Dryden
Dermott Ryder, poet, writer, collector and chronicler of songs and stories, singer and songwriter, stalwart of the seventies and eighties Sydney folk scene, one-time manager of the legendary ‘‘Liz” Folk Club, and creator and longtime presenter of the iconic weekly folk radio programme Ryder ‘Round Folk, headed off to his big gig at the great folk club in the sky on the night of Tuesday 3rd March.
A retrospective follows, but first, enjoy two minutes of delight with the theme to Ryder Round Folk: a merrie morris, a hornpipe, and a hoot!
Dermott and I go back a long way, though not as long as most.
He arrived in Oz in 1968 as a Ten Pound Pom. Before that, he’d spent five years in the Royal Artillery on a short term commission, seeing service in Germany and in Malaya, avoiding the nasty places that proliferated during the declining decades of the moribund British Empire. Trained in management, accounting and IT, he worked in Papua New Guinea before settling down in Sydney where he became a pillar of the folk music scene. Since his retirement, he has devoted his energies to his music and writing.
It was Victor Mishalow who first introduced me to Dermott in 1983. He was dropping into 2MBS for an interview on Ryder Round Folk, and he brought me and Yuri the Russian Storyteller along too. We had just launched our short and almost illustrious career as HuldreFolk. Dermott, as guru, mentor, and propagandist for the Sydney folk scene, gave us our first radio appearance. There is a famous photograph to commemorate it (Dermott’s archive of folkdoms’ seventies and eighties should be a national treasure. All the wannabes and could’ve beens, the famous and almost famous are celebrated therein).
The live concerts at 2MBS’s Chandos Street studios were a must-listen on the monthly calendar, with the good and the great of Sydney’s folksingers and musicians doing their thing. Guests included Victor, Yuri, Jim Taylor, Robin Connaughton, Penny Davies, Roger Illot, John Broomhall, Gordon McIntyre and Kate Delaney, Phil Lobl, Mary Jane Field, and the Fagans.
This was when Adele and I got to know Dermott and Margaret Ryder for the first time. We then learnt of his history: his part in the famous folk revival of the late sixties and early seventies, the first Port Jackson Folk Festival, the foundation if the NSW Folk Federation, and the famous Liz Folk Club in the Sydney CBD. He was among that first golden generation of folkies, including Colin Dryden, Gary Shearston, Declan Affley, Warren Fahey, John Dengate, Danny Spooner, Mike McClellan, Bernard Bolan, and Judy Small. Many other performers moved in Dermott’s musical orbit, including Andy George, Rhonda Mawer and the Shackistas of Narrabeen, Jim Jarvis, Al Ward, John Summers, and many, many more.
Dermott and I bonded further with our shared origins in the old country. He of Lancashire Irish heritage (Widnes, actually), and me, an Irish Brummie. We had a shared love of traditional Irish and English folk music. We probably even crossed bars in one of the many English folk clubs, in the ‘sixties. Most notably, the celebrated Jug O’Punch in the Birmingham suburb of Digbeth, run by the famous Ian Campbell Folk Group.*
The Parting Glass
Trad. as sung by Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem
Oh all the money that e’er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
alas, it was to none but me
For all I’ve done for want of wit
to memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
good night and joy be with you all
Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
they are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
they would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot that
that I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
good night and joy be with you all
Farewell, old friend.
Leaving Can Be Easy
By Dermott Ryder
Leaving can be easy, when the right time comes. Many will have gone before, in a long, long line. When it’s your turn, you look back, and smile, then look forward to your own new, far horizon.
There are people to tell, and books to return, Broken bridges to mend now, better this way, leave no hurt feelings behind at the end of the day. We are all travellers, and we will meet again.
Don’t think of sleep. Keep that for much later. Give and take addresses and phone numbers. Make promises you probably won’t remember. Be pleasantly surprised and strangely grateful.
Welcome the crowd come to see you on your way, and to share this rite of passage, to keep the faith in this next step in the long tradition of the traveller. Shake hands, and know that you cannot return.
* What a club that was. Back in the day, it hosted the cream of British folk music, including the Dubliners, the Furey Brothers, Martin Carthy, Peter Bellamy, and a very young and acoustic Al Stewart. Overseas guests included Tom Rush, an unknown Paul Simon, a young goddess called Joni Mitchell, and on an antipodean note, Trevor Lucas, who went to marry Fairport’s fair maid, Sandy Denny, and later, become a founding member of The Bushwhackers before his untimely demise in 1989.