The Elliotts of Birtley
The County Durham mining family who were such an important force in the 1960s folk revival, with a folk club still thriving as it nears its 50th anniversary. Jack Elliott and brother Reece were descended from a mystery foundling born in 1832, and four generations of them worked at Cotia pit at Fatfield, lived in Browns’ Buildings at Barley Mow, south of Birtley, and sang song all their lives, in the pub and at home. Jack’s four children Pete, Doreen, John, and Len continued the singing tradition after their mother and father’s deaths in the late 1960s. The first three, and their partners Pat, Bryan, and Pam, became known as the “The Elliotts of Birtley” as they appeared at festivals and clubs throughout the UK and abroad. Robust in their singing, their politics, and their atheism, they endeared people to them from far and wide, and are a legend within the folk community. As well as their singing, their values are an example to us all.
Three products have used the title "The Elliotts of Birtley":
The Folkways LP Recorded in 1961 by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger this remains a landmark recording, involving as it does conversation, discussion, songs from kids' street songs to ballads, and tunes from Jack Elliott. The quality of the material, recording, presentation, and informative notes are second to none in folk music albums.
The Cassette A 1992 audio cassette put out by the family.
The Biography Pete Wood’s 2008 book “The Elliotts of Birtley” is a study of the family's history, their singing character, and the way the songs came to them. It analyses the Elliotts' status in their local community and their importance in the folk revival of the 1960s. It explores how their strong socialist beliefs and atheism helped strengthen their resolve in times of hardship and political struggle, and in an extensive chapter relates their songs to the history of folk song nationally and particularly in the North East of England. It also has the "dots" for the main family songs, and a piece from Doreen Elliott which tells how the sounds "have gone from the streets".
See also Jack Elliott