We have been having another go at reducing the ‘stuff’ here at Stoatie Towers and so the book collection has been purged again – I now have a couple of empty shelves! Part of the process has been the reading and letting go of books that have been on the ‘to read list’. I have just read Plowright Follows Wainwright, which is an account of the authors experiences walking several long distance paths, following the Wainwright guides. Towards the end of the book he revisits the village of Keld in the Yorkshire Dales and makes the following observation
Keld needs no introduction from me … I will just mention one of its famous characters called Neddy Dick; he was the inventor of ‘rock’ music for he discovered that different pieces of rock, when struck, produced different musical notes. Eventually collecting a complete scale, he created a stone zylophone which he played as he travelled round the Dales.
This piqued my interest and so I had a little look round the web, there is a brilliant site called lithophones which has all manner of ancient and modern stone instruments recorded, and has a bit about Neddy (real name Richard Alderman) who was a farmer. It is said that he could hear music in the air. He collected rocks from the river Swale and from the local drystone walls, and made up a zylophone which he used to transport around the district in a horse and cart.
It wasn’t a unique concept as there had been instruments made in the Lake District from the local spotted schist for some time – one was made for Keswick Museum in 1785 – it is still there! Joseph Richardson made the best known and largest which he called the Rock Harmonium, with which he made a living touring Britain and Europe. Whilst a Cumbrian family called the Tills, who were contemporaries of Neddy, became famous with their “Rock Band” in the USA. Above is a photo of William Till taken in his retirement – photo from here
The Cumbrian instruments were more conventional looking in that the schist, which splits easily into layers like slate, was fashioned into a tablet shape, which ranged in size from six inches to four feet. Taking stone from the ends apparently raised the tone whilst chipping off material from the middle deepened it. Neddy’s keys seem to have been left in a much more natural state.
The folk band Mr Fox ( Bob and Carole Pegg) wrote and recorded the Ballad of Neddy Dick in 1970 which you can listen to here
Anyway in my eyes that paragraph about Neddy Dick was the best bit of the book! Yay for the music of stones!