Old English


Al, Pauline and Pete all met at Northern Counties College in Newcastle upon Tyne in the 60s.

The first attempts at folk singing combined Al’s desire to sing and Pete’s ambition to perform with his guitar. This was the period when the Clancy Brothers, the Dubliners and the Corrie Folk Trio were an inspiration, and with this as the background The Kellies kellis 1966was formed. Many of their early performances were at Northern Counties College Folk Club, which they helped to found. Pete and Al sang in many clubs around Tyneside and Northumberland, along with clubs further afield in County Durham and as far south as York!

During this time the appreciation of the English repertory was being explored by groups like the Watersons, and individuals such as Jack Elliot of Birtley and Martin Carthy. Their enthusiasm became ours and it stimulated us to go in the direction of English traditional songs.

Careers in other directions interrupted further expansion, and finally the arrival of babies brought major limitations on time to sing. The major event of the year became meetings on Boxing Day when family and friends would be entertained with the songs of their student days, along with Bananas in Pyjamas (for the children)!

Time passed and Pete retired while Al was still working, but his desire to perform took Al along with him. This was the period when Al & Petethey heard themselves being introduced at the Ashington Folk Club by Val of Jiva fame, who ran the club at that time, as Pete and Al who will sing old English songs. So thanks to Val, the group name, Old English, was born.

In 2007 Pete finally got himself organised with a set of Northumbrian Small Pipes. After the initial painful experiences of making them work and thinking that they were only a solo or group instrument, they began to be used to accompany songs with the group. The ultimate challenge being to sing a song whilst playing the seconds!

When Al retired they wanted to be more involved in the folk world, so along with Rachel Cackett they re-opened the Chillingham Folk Club, on Chillingham Road, Newcastle. Most evenings were sing-arounds but several successful nights were promoted with stars such as Vin Garbutt, Bob Fox and Jez Lowe.

When Pauline also retired Old English had been performing with Pauline Pauline & Al Giles & Petebeing a chauffeuse and groupie, but they realised that she always sat in the audience singing with them, so it was not a big move to get her on stage. She was also learning to play the whistle and so as a trio the group had a lot of extra variety to add to their arrangements.

Old English have organised many charity concerts. In particular they have had a series of summer concerts at St George’s Church Hall, Morpeth to raise funds for Christian Aid. Their most successful night was at Morpeth Methodist Church, when a concert in 2012, for Macmillan Cancer Care, raised over £2,000.

By 2015, the CD sales of Pressed! from the talks on the Press Gang have raised a further £1,500. Again, all the money has been given to Macmillan Cancer Care.

The Presentation of an achievement certificate to Old English for the fund raising they have done for Macmillan Cancer Care.

Old English Fund Raising

Pictured left to right: Al Giles, Wilma Hunt (treasurer of the Morpeth Fund Raising Group), Pete Cryer and Pauline Giles.