As dredged up by Jimi Bond, John Bromley, Bruce Baillie, Malcolm Stocks and Dave Calvert.
It all started at the Anchor pub in Brighouse, around 1972. Rod Marshall, the landlord, was a well known jazz lover and introduced some amazing musicians to the Brighouse music scene, Charlie Parker to name but one. Saturday nights though, were dedicated to folk music and it was upstairs in a smallish, dingy and smoke-filled room that John and I first sang together. I must have thought it cool to spell my nickname Jimi that way – although most people got it wrong.
I recall hearing John sing by himself one night and thinking we would be great together – him singing and me playing guitar. I suggested this to him and we teamed up. Then I went and bought a guitar and learnt to play it pdq. John recalls that the first song we ever sang live together was Lowlands Low. There were also other “greats” such as Drunken Sailor (to some bawdy words I wrote) and Bottle of Wine by Tom Paxton.
Soon after, Bruce Baillie (who was about to play at The George in Cleckheaton) suggested John went to see them. John mentioned he was singing with me at The Anchor and the idea of joining up transpired. We met up for a practice on January 13th 1973 and by the following week we were up and running as a band playing songs like Whiskey in the Jar. The first actual Hebric floorspot would have been January 18th or 25th at The George. We have Bruce’s mum to thank for these precise dates as she kept a diary which Bruce has kindly rummaged through!
A short time later – around March or April 1973 – Malcolm saw us perform at the Anchor and presented us with a tape of his accordion playing. I have to say it sounded rather good and so we became a four piece band. We practised hard, usually in John’s parents’ house, the Post Office in Hightown, and got together a set of songs that we, at least, thought were good enough to perform. It was around this time that John suggested the name Tha e Breagh which means “it is fine” referring to the weather, apparently. John had found the phrase in a book but this was shortly after he’d learnt to read and thought that was how Queen’s English was written. It wasn’t long though, before it got corrupted to “Tea Break” and “Half Brick” and eventually we succumbed to pressure and changed it to Hebric. That didn’t stop Radio Leeds announcing us as “Harpic” though. We think that Rod Marshall actually coined the name Hebric.
John remembers that our first paid gig was at the Banney Royd Training Centre in Huddersfield and Tim Verlander paid us the princely sum of £1.00. I’m guessing we each got 25p! In the 1970s’ there were folk clubs everywhere and we visited many of them just doing a floor spot of three songs. We used to use the pub toilets as a practice area and managed to scare off many a desperate bloke! Eventually we began to take bookings and soon we were gigging quite regularly and getting paid £15.00 to £25.00 for a night. Around the end of 1973, Bruce decided to leave to pursue other musical interests and so we were down to three again. And then along came Dave…
Dave played guitar, banjo and mandolin and mandola, or so he said. Without letting us know he borrowed a banjo and mandolin from a girl friend and practised like crazy. He convinced us he could play and fitted in perfectly. In his quieter moments he still admits to faking on banjo & mandolin. He was a singer too and was instrumental in getting us to sing harmonies. The musical awareness of the band changed and we went from strength to strength and managed about a booking a week with floor spots in between. We played many times at the White Heather in Cleckheaton, Bradshaw Tavern in Halifax and of course the Anchor and worked with many famous folkies such as Mike Harding, Bernard Wrigley and Barbara Dickson. We even played a gig at a Leeds University end-of-year ball along with Hawkwind and Love Affair. Our travels took us all over the North and Midlands which led to demand for our music and so we recorded our first LP – the eponymous Black album, which sold out in double quick time. We’ve remastered that in professional CD form and it’s available from Dave at only £5. See “contact us” for details.
In 1977 John left the band to pursue his passion for catering so we looked around for a suitable replacement and found it in Ron Darnbrough – a singer, guitarist, percussionist and teapot player! Ron was and still is well known in the folk world & the group continued to gig heavily. Once again we were asked for an album so the successful Later Ron was recorded. Bruce Baillie, an artist of some renown, was approached to do the artwork which he happily did. He’s also designed the new 2016 logo & artwork for the band and is still a good friend.
Around 1979 the band split up allowing each member to pursue their particular interests. We all retained a foothold in the local music scene playing solo, in groups, at festivals, in sessions and at ceilidhs.