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Home time for shanty pals whose pub sing-song inflamed a Geordie landlord

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 30, 2012

Jon Cleave, far left, and Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends are looking forward to some home county shows at Truro next week, and at Ilfracombe's Landmark Theatre tomorrow

Jon Cleave, far left, and Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends are looking forward to some home county shows at Truro next week, and at Ilfracombe's Landmark Theatre tomorrow

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They have been a bit quiet on their home turf in recent months, but rest assured that Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends have been up to their usual tricks... just a bit further North on the map.

Indeed, a couple of weeks back they were ejected from a traditional hostelry in Newcastle for indulging in the very thing they do the best – singing.

"Just imagine, we've got five grandfathers and one great grandfather in the group and we were slung out of the pub for singing," says their bassman and raconteur-in-chief Jon Cleave. "There wasn't even any drunken revelry involved. We'd been in there the previous day, and it seemed such an affable and characterful place, even down to them playing The Shoals of Herring on a scratchy old-fashioned gramophone.

"We'd had a lovely cultural day and we were just having a pint before dinner; when we opened our mouths the barman came up and said 'no singing', so we gave them a huge rendition of South Australia. The locals were all clapping and cheering and the landlord told us to leave."

This sorry episode was but a minor blip in an otherwise highly enjoyable and successful string of about 20 autumn dates around the country, leading up to three forthcoming Westcountry shows by the ten-man gang.

Author and shopkeeper Jon, brothers Julian, John and Jeremy Brown (the group's actual fishermen), carpenter and builder Trevor Grills, potter Billy Hawkins, farmer and engineer John Lethbridge, builder John McDonnell, roofer Jason Nicholas and elder statesman Peter Rowe, now 79, have also been polishing up a couple of new tunes for their repertoire to keep things fresh for their ever-growing army of loyal fans.

Jon is ringing the changes to lead a "spooky" version of pirate song The Coast of High Barbary, while top tenor Trevor gives his inimitable touch to the poignant Final Trawl.

"It's a metaphor for life, really," says Jon. "And Jason does a lovely bit of piano accordion on it."

There's good news, too, for anyone waiting hungrily for the follow-up to the group's eponymous 2010 album on the global Universal record label. A release date has been pencilled in for the end of March, to coincide with their spring tour.

"Bill and I are trying to come up with a song that's a bit commercial to put on the album so that we can try to get some radio play," says Jon.

Talks of an Ealing Studios film of their story are still active – potential director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls, Made In Dagenham) has been down to Port Isaac for a meeting and will be back in the village filming Doc Martin next summer.

Fisherman's Friends perform at the Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe tomorrow (01271 324242) Hall for Cornwall (01872 262466) on Thursday, December 6 and Friday, December 7. They will also put in an appearance at Padstow's Christmas Festival the following day. Tickets are on sale for their show at Plymouth's Theatre Royal on Sunday, April 7 and the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno on Tuesday, May 14.

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