BBC HomeExplore the BBC


Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 2 On air now
-

 Radio 2 Home
 Shows A - Z
 Listen by Genre
 Presenters A - Z
 Music Club
 Podcasts
 Documentaries
 Schedule
 Radio 2 Playlist
 Radio 2 Comedy
 Events
 Messageboard
 Radio 2 Help

 Sold on Song


Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 

THE ORIGINAL BBC RADIO BALLADS - THE BIG HEWER

The Big Hewer
First transmitted on
18 August 1961



Coalmining presented itself as a natural subject for a radio ballad since Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger had spent part of 1960 working as resident songwriters and music arrangers for the National Coal Board film department. The Big Hewer was the fourth in the series and named after the mythically prodigious miner of coal legend who appears by a different name in each mining locality (a similar figure with superhuman work powers, John Henry, exists in American work gang mythology).

The miners of the Northumberland, Durham, South Wales and East Midlands coalfields provided the subjects and Parker, MacColl and Seeger followed them into pit-canteens, pithead baths, pubs and miners' welfares; into mine shafts, passages and galleries the length and breadth of the country. Their forthright expression of opinion on every subject, their acute political awareness and strong sense of history proved a revelation to the field recorders and yielded between two and three hundred 7-inch reels of mining 'crack'.

Following the routine established in Singing The Fishing, this wealth of recording could now be readily transcribed and catalogued easily on the reels of quarter-inch tape. The programme reflected a change in attitude to the radio ballads. Previous titles suggested a non-personalised object, an occupation rather than a human being; The Big Hewer made it clear that the subject matter was not mining as such but a man who was a miner - an important distinction.

HAVE YOUR SAY

What did you think of the Radio Ballad extract? Do you or your family have stories of the mining industry? Send us your comments.

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Read what others have said

Zak, County Durham
My grandad was a miner and he has just listened to this and loves it - he had never heard it before my mam has the album of Ewans songs from the radio ballads but has never heard the whole programme before We cant wait to hear the new radio ballads Zak, aged 10

SOLD ON SONG

Classic songs, covers, songwriting and more.

THE MIKE HARDING SHOW

An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy