Sound and vision blog

24 October 2016

Recording of the Week: Temporary Home

This week's selection comes from Andrea Zarza Canova, Curator of World and Traditional Music.

This recording of Tristan de Cunha islander Mary Swain was made by Peter Kennedy and Maud Karpeles in Calshot, Hampshire, in August 1962. Tristan de Cunha islanders were evacuated from their homes after the 1961 eruption of Queen Mary’s Peak took place and temporarily housed in an old Royal Air Force camp outside of Hampshire, in the United Kingdom. Most families returned to Tristan de Cunha in 1963.

One of the singers of great repute was Frances Repetto; and her daughter, Mrs. (Mary) Fred Swain, still remembers several of her mother's songs. She was our chief informant. Mary (age 67) is a delightful person: warm-hearted, gay, overflowing with vitality and a wonderful talker. She sang several songs, which together with others were recorded later by Peter Kennedy. He also recorded much of her conversation, telling about life on the island where they are 'just one big family' - actually about 260 souls.

This quote describing Mary Swain, who we can hear in the recording, was taken from a report published in the English Folk Dance and Song Society's Journal by Maud Karpeles. In the report, she explains her and Kennedy's experience making the recordings and why they felt it was important to document the folk songs and dances of the islanders whilst they were temporarily housed in the United Kingdom.

            Mary Swain, Calshot, Hampshire 1962 (Tristan de Cunha islanders). Tape 1