Jim 'Brick' Harber

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Jim ‘Brick’ Harber: was not truly a Sussex man, having been born in Worcesteshire and moved to Tilgate Forest with his gamekeeper father when he was about six years old.  He spent most of his working life as a charcoal-burner and in other timber-related trades in the Forest, but also worked for the Electricity Board in later years.  Bob Lewis remembers that the Harber family [like the Testers] had a brickyard and also a sawmill in the area between Crawley Down, Three Bridges and Worth.  Old Perce Harber ran it and it eventually became a sort of industrial estate.  Bob had a workshop in that yard, and through the connection also came to know Pop’s son Andy Maynard - “They were all in the building trade or they did itinerant sort of jobs.”

Brick’s speaking voice had no trace of a Midlands accent in later life, but his singing style was quite unlike the typical Wealden stereotype, particularly when singing his father’s songs.  Jim Ward remembers that he used to sing in the Three Bridges pubs, but lived in Pease Pottage - and thinks that he had a little van that he used to travel around in.  He had a deep voice and always tried out the notes before he started a song.

He had a ‘large repertoire’ according to Mervyn Plunkett, and four of his songs: The Bold Privateer, The Haymakers, ‘Twas in the Year of 1835 and Tom Block were published in Ethnic vol.1 no.2, Spring 1959.

He also had an unusual quirk (shared with Bob Scarce) of singing certain notes ‘off-pitch’ - at least in terms of what the modern ear, attuned to the tempered scale, expects.  He had a natural ability to sustain quarter tones and even smaller intervals extremely accurately throughout a long song, so that there was seldom any difference in pitch between the first and last verses.  This is a very rare thing in unaccompanied singing.

Brick died in May 1960 after many years of ill-health.  These songs are possibly the last he recorded.

--RodStradling 17:39, 26 March 2007 (BST)