Scan Tester

From Folkopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lewis ‘Scan’ Tester, Sussex concertina-player, fiddler, step-dancer and singer, 1886-1972.

Scan was born on 7 September 1886 at Chelwood Common, Sussex.  He grew up in a public house when his father took The Green Man at Horsted Keynes and it was there that he learned many of the tunes that were to form part of his superb repertoire.

The main family business was brick making with brickfields at Horsted Keynes and Newick and as a young man, at a time when life was far from easy, Scan recalls walking six miles to work in the brick-fields to earn a wage of four pence an hour, but the walking didn’t last too long as he asked for and got an extra half-penny an hour and hired a bicycle.  To further supplement their income the family also hawked fish round the local farms and cottages.

Scan was an acknowledged master of the Anglo-Concertina and was also an accomplished fiddler and step-dancer in his younger years and a wonderful raconteur.  He was also a good, though infrequent, singer.  Scan had two brothers who both played concertina and so it was perhaps almost inevitable that he should also adopt the instrument.  In the late summer he and his elder brother used to go hop picking at Iden Green in Kent and here they would spend the evenings playing their instruments to entertain the ‘hoppers’.  Scan recalls that they earned their keep by playing and only drew their picking money at the end of the season.  Step dancing was a popular pastime and both the brothers became expert at the stepping and the playing.

After Scan married, his music became a popular part of Sussex life with the formation of his own band comprising himself on concertina and fiddle, his wife on the drums, their daughter Daisy on the piano and his two brothers also on concertinas with the eldest doubling up on clarinet.  They played for dances at all the local villages performing polkas, waltzes, quadrilles, the Veleta and the Lancers.  The same line up also played under the name of Tester’s Imperial Jazz Band.

Scan spent all his working and musical life around Horsted Keynes although in his latter days he did make occasional trips in the company of Reg Hall to The Fox at Islington and The Bedford at Camden Town.  He also guested at the Keele Folk Festival - forerunner of The National Festival, and was an occasional visitor to numerous folk clubs and festivals.  As the folk revival developed during the early 1960s and Scan’s fame grew, numerous musicians came to visit and listen to a master musician.

Scan died, aged 85, on 7 May 1972 at Horsted Keynes where he had spent virtually his entire life.

For more detailed account of Scan’s life see Reg Hall’s wonderful book I Never Played to Many Posh Dances published by Musical Traditions, 1990.


  • I Never Played to Many Posh Dances (LP)|I Never Played to Many Posh Dances]] (double LP), Topic Records 2/TS455/6 (1990) Topic records reissued it as an expanded and remastered CD - I Never Played to Many Posh Dances TSCD581D Transcriptions in ABC Notation and PDF of the tracks on this record are here - website
  • The Man in the Moon 'Scan Tester - Sussex Band Concertina & Bandonion' [1] Peter Kennedy's Folktrax tape FTX-085

While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night - Volume 16 Track 16 The Lakes of Coalflin - Volume 3 Track 02 Untitled Schottische - Volume 7 Track 03 Jenny Lind - Volume 9 Track 01 In and Out The Windows / The Monkey Hornpipe' - Volume 9 Track 07 Untitled Polka - Volume 9 Track 13 Untitled Schottische - Volume 9 Track 02


Reg Hall, I Never Played to Many Posh Dances, Musical Traditions, 1990.
available online at

External links

To English Traditional Players