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About the Harries

The Harry Browns of Bristol are possibly the UK’s most longstanding purveyors of sea shanties and songs of the sea. They have been performing for over thirty years and have sung at many major maritime festivals across the UK and Europe.

The group pride themselves on the quality of their sound, their sumptuous harmonies and arrangements and for paying respect to the tradition and the courage of those who put to sea. They like to sing acapella or accompanied with fiddle and guitar.

And the group love to entertain and have fun. They have an instinct for seeking out the willing audience members to join in their jolly japes and help them enact their more light hearted songs. A night with the Harries is never to be forgotten.

Their group’s name refers to The Harry Brown, a sand dredger and one of the last working boats to ply its trade from Bristol’s floating harbour. Rusty, off quay and full of bilge some have dared to make comparison between the ship and the group.

The group’s roots and home are in Bristol, a beautiful city with a rich maritime heritage. It is from where John Cabot set sail in 1497 to discover America in the Matthew and it is where the Brunel built the SS Great Britain, a revolutionary steamship which paved the way for iron hulls and the use of propellers. The Harries are often found to be singing on these iconic ships.

The Harry Browns perform for their love of singing songs of the sea. They only seek to cover modest expenses and like to raise money and make donations for good causes. In the recent past they have supported The Willow Trust, Nailsea Memory Café, Lifeboats and Dartmouth Music Festival.

About the Harries

The Harry Browns of Bristol are possibly the UK’s most longstanding purveyors of sea shanties and songs of the sea. They have been performing for over thirty years and have sung at many major maritime festivals across the UK and Europe.

The group pride themselves on the quality of their sound, their sumptuous harmonies and arrangements and for paying respect to the maritime traditions and the courage of those who put to sea. They like to sing  either acapella or accompanied with fiddle and guitar.

 ... and the group love to entertain and have fun! They have an instinct for seeking out willing audience members to join in their jolly japes and help them enact their more light hearted songs. A night with the Harries is never to be forgotten.

Their group’s name refers to The Harry Brown, a sand dredger and one of the last working boats to ply its trade from Bristol’s floating harbour. Rusty, off quay and full of bilge some have dared to make comparison between the ship and the group.

The group’s roots and home are in Bristol, a beautiful city with a rich maritime heritage. It is from Bristol that John Cabot set sail in 1497 to discover America in the Matthew and it is where the Brunel built the SS Great Britain, a revolutionary steamship which paved the way for iron hulls and the use of propellers. The Harries are often found to be singing on these iconic ships.

The Harry Browns perform for their love of singing songs of the sea. They only seek to cover modest expenses and like to raise money and make donations for good causes. In the recent past they have supported The Willow Trust, Nailsea Memory Café, Lifeboats and Dartmouth Music Festival.

History

The origins of the Harry Browns can be traced back to the late sixties when John Broomhead & Nobby Dye first sang shanties together at the Nova Scotia Folk Club after hearing that wonderful old Bristol seaman Eric Illot.



At first they called themselves "The Sand Diamonds" but adopted the name “The Harry Browns” when they performed at the Albion dockyard from where their inspirational namesake had been launched in 1962. The Harry Brown, a fine sand sucker of a boat sadly ended its days after being scuttled in the Arabian Gulf.


Teaming up with David Francis in 1987 the pair helped to set up Nailsea Folk Club at the Royal Oak, Nailsea where the Harry Browns routinely performed after the interval. In 1990 Pete (Shanty Jack) Heysleden organiser of the Hull International Shanty Festival invited the Harry Browns to perform, and the Harry Brown “Supergroup” was born. It featured the likes of Johnny “Knobbler” Knowler of White on Black fame, David “Sir Drake”Francis, Nigel Wince and Steve Hawkins with John and Nobby as the frontmen.  

In 1994 Steve “Donkey” Derrick & Ian Greening of Final Straw were drafted in as an emergency crew to sing at Maldon Shanty Festival. They became permanent members and the group’s identity became established. Its popularity and notoriety soared. In the following years The Harry Browns performed regularly at all the big UK festivals and travelled on many occasions to sing at festivals in Holland, Norway, Germany, Denmark and France. They opened the 1996 TV coverage of the Bristol International Festival of the Sea singing Ian Greening’s “Matthew“ on the replica of Cabot’s barque.

 

The line-up inevitably changed as time passed. Sadly Broom was unable to sing as often as he would have liked because of failing health. He died in 2005 and leaving a huge legacy and a big gap to fill.  He was a larger than life character on stage, known for his theatricals and animal impressions.

Steve Hawkins left for the Ministry and Johnny Knobbler decided to take permanent shore leave when he moved to Southampton. 

In 2005 the Harries took the opportunity of drafting Chris Fry from The Shanty Crew on board when he moved to Somerset. He was a strong traditional shanty singer but he sadly died in 2014.

Helen Stanley, our Cabin Boy came aboard with her fiddle in 2006 and Maurice Boye the Harries’ Gopher for many years finally got his ticket to sing.
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Nobby Dye decided to hang up his Harry Hat in 2015. A fine singer, his contribution as co-founder of the Harries and as both an avid song researcher and local song writer had been enormous.  He is responsible for refloating previously forgotten sea shanties like Watchet shantyman John  Short’s “Rosabella” and  for writing popular songs like The Corncrake and Spanish Oranges which are covered by other groups on today’s shanty scene.

Others joined the group for a short spell including Pete Glanville (another fine fiddle player) and Simon Dillon, a hairy heavy metal biker who now works on Bristol’s ferries.

Zac Stanley became our youngest recruit began by wooing the girls with his penny whistle and still sings with us today when he is back from his studies.

In recent times the longstanding members of Donkey, Greenland, Gopher, Sir Drake and the Cabin Boy have been joined by Ken Godsell “Godderz”, Ian Bentley “Basher” and Neil Ross “Rigger” and the ship has steadied with strong line-up committed to keeping the Harry traditions alive as well as adding a lot of new songs.

The Harries originally sung unaccompanied traditional sea shanties . They still do, but have added a wider range of songs of the sea to their repertoire some of which are accompanied on guitar and violin. They are renown for their intricate accompaniments and the use of rich harmonies.

The Harries have always had a reputation for the unexpected, for larking about, being full of surprises and involving audiences in their performances. No one is safe! Especially lady piratesses ..