Johnny Doughty

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Johnny Doughty: had been born in 1903 in Brighton, in a cottage now demolished, in Wellington Place, then the centre of the town’s fishing industry and most of his youth was spent among the older fishermen who, when not at sea, would congregate in the net-arches.  “It was a rough area ...  but good people, you understand.  My grandmother brought me up mostly ...  I can see her now.  She used to take in washing and she’d be at her tub washing and singing all day.  "Come my own one, come my fond one, come my dearest unto me", that was one that she loved.  "Come all ye little Irish girls I would bid you all adieu", that was another, and Baltimore, ‘cept she wouldn’t sing me all the verses because they were too rude!  Course, when I wasn’t at home, or school I was on the beach ...  always on the beach.  I almost lived there ...  first at the cockle and whelk stalls, then helping empty the boats of their catches.  I used to go up to the net arch - St Margaret’s Net Arch they called it, by the Palace Pier - and listen to the old sailors ...  real sailors they were ...  I learnt The Golden Vanity, Herring’s Heads and The Wreck of the Northfleet when I was just a nipper in the Arch ...  and any number of scraps of songs ...  Dick Turpin...  Let Her Go Back, things like that, they’d hum them as they were net-mending ...  and some of ‘em wouldn’t tell you the words for all the gold in China.  What songs? they’d say when you asked ‘em what they were singing.  They were buggers all right.  But I liked em!”

Johnny left school when he was 13 years old and spent the next two years herring catching until he joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor in 19l9.  Leaving the Navy at the height of the Depression, he was unable to make a living fishing.  So he spent six years working in the gashouse at Portslade before returning to sea.  Johnny finally ended up in Rye with his two boats, the Ocean Reaper and the Helen Mary.  He was living in Camber Sands when we met.  I had seen him singing on a television documentary about the town of Rye and I shot down to the coast as quickly as I could to find him.  It was a delight to be in his company and I was extremely happy to see him invited to numerous folk clubs and festivals all over the country.

Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Up in the North, Down in the South (MTCD311-2)