Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Season Of The Witch

Medium Helen Duncan (25/11/1897 – 6/12/19560, a Scottish housewife with six children, is often regarded as the last woman in Britain to be convicted of witchcraft when back in 1944 one of her seances exposed a government attempt to cover up the deaths of 861 sailors.

It started much the same as her other seances. With a chilling moan and strange white substance leaking from her mouth, Helen Duncan began communicating with the dead…

But suddenly, the eerie calm was pierced by a police whistle and officers piled into the house, in Portsmouth, Hants, to arrest Britain’s top medium.

The following morning Helen, known as Hellish Nell, was charged under section four of the 1735 Witchcraft Act.

As noted above Duncan is often referred to as the last person to be convicted of being a witch, but this view is incorrect in two important aspects. Firstly, the Witchcraft Act 1735 under which she was convicted dealt not with witchcraft but with people who falsely claimed to be able to procure spirits.

Secondly, there was a subsequent conviction under the act, of Jane Rebecca Yorke of Forest Gate in East Ham later in 1944; Yorke was bound over to keep the peace.

On her release in 1945, Duncan promised to stop conducting séances; however, she was arrested during another one in 1956. She died at her home in Edinburgh a short time later.

Duncan’s trial almost certainly contributed to the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, which was contained in the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 promoted by Walter Monslow, Labour Member of Parliament for Barrow-in-Furness. The campaign to repeal the Act had largely been led by Thomas Brooks, another Labour MP, who was a spiritualist.

Duncan’s original conviction still stood, and a campaign to have her posthumously pardoned continues

It was 1944, and, astonishingly, officials had ordered her arrest because they were afraid she would reveal top-secret plans for the D-Day landings.

They had been monitoring her since she had revealed the sinking of a British battleship earlier in the war – even though the government had suppressed the news to maintain morale at home.

It took a jury just 30 minutes to find her guilty and she became the last person to be convicted of witchcraft in Britain.

As she was led away to start her nine-month sentence in London’s Holloway Prison, the housewife cried out in her broad Scottish accent: “I never heard so many lies in all my life!”

Helen’s “gift” had long put her on a collision course with the authorities and led to one of the most bizarre chapters in British judicial history.

Helen Macfarlane was born into a poor family in Perthshire, central Scotland, in 1897. Growing up in Callander, Stirlingshire, she earned her nickname due to her tomboyish behaviour. Even as a teenager, she appeared to have a sixth sense, predicting the length of the First World War and invention of the tank.

When the unmarried Helen became pregnant in 1918, she fled the village and settled in Dundee. There, she married an invalid soldier, Henry Duncan, and had five more children.

During that period, Britain was still reeling from the devastating losses sustained in the First World War and many grieving families sought spiritual comfort.

Seances quickly sprang up, conducted by people claiming to be in touch with the dead.

Helen was among them and, by the 1930s, she was travelling the country, summoning up spirits before incredulous audiences.

But while the seances were making her a celebrity, scientists were already questioning her abilities and, in 1931, she was invited with Henry to London to have her skills tested by psychic researcher Harry Price.

He recalls: “She was placed in the curtained recess. In a few seconds, the medium was in a trance. The curtains parted and we beheld her covered from head to foot with cheese-cloth!

“Some of it was trailing on the floor, one end was poked up her nostril, a piece was issuing from her mouth. I must say that I was deeply impressed – with the brazen effrontery that prompted the Duncans to come to my lab, with the amazing credulity of the spiritualists who had sat with the Duncans and with the fact that they had advertised her ‘phenomena’ as genuine.”

In a bid to reveal the contents of Helen’s stomach, Price asked if she would undergo an X-ray.

“She refused. Her husband advised her to submit. But that seemed to infuriate her and she became hysterical. She jumped up and dealt him a blow on the face.

“Suddenly, she jumped up, unfastened the door and dashed into the street – where she had another attack of alleged hysterics and commenced tearing her sŽance garment to pieces.

“Her husband dashed after her and she was found clutching the railings, screaming.” Yet the researchers did not bring about Helen’s downfall. Instead, the seeds were sown in the Mediterranean, on November 25, 1941.

HMS Barham, a 29,000-tonne battleship, was attacking Italian convoys when it was hit by three German torpedoes.

The ship went down within minutes, with the loss of 861 lives. Already reeling from the Blitz, the British government decided to keep the news quiet, even forging Christmas cards from the dead to their families.

But they never reckoned on Helen’s psychic powers…

Amended and updated from original news story by David Edwards as published in The Mirror on 6th December 2006.

“Season Of The Witch” – Terry Reid

“Season of the Witch” is one of the first “Psychedelia” songs, written by Donovan and first released in the UK on his June 1967 compilation album, Sunshine Superman.

The recording features Bobby Ray on bass and “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums. The run-time for the song is 4:56, unusual for an era when the typical pop song ran perhaps 2:30.

Most recently, it was used in a 2010 ad for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

To buy the music of Terry Reid click HERE

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Educational, Interesting Fact, Old Music, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

John Legend and The Roots

John Legend has teamed up with The Roots to release the album “Wake Up!” which is for the most part, a collection of cover versions of tracks from soul music’s most heavily politicised era.

These are songs of protest, angst and inspiration, soaked in the argot of the civil rights movement, and written as the optimism of the 1960s gave way to the 70s of Vietnam, Watergate and racial tensions of a subtly different kind.

Every track sounds as if it could have been written last week: from the Curtis Mayfield penned Hard Times, about lives lived on the margins of solvency in a cold-shoulder America, to I Can’t Write Left-Handed, Bill Withers’s tale of a disabled veteran returning home after a distant war.

Until now Legend has been best known for his pop-soul chart hit  “Ordinary People”.

Tthe Roots meanwhile have had a  “day job”  as house band on the NBC TV show Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. So people may be surprised to hear them collaborating on a track as angrily political as Mike James Kirkland’s 1972 track Hang On In There, with its repeated refrain of: “This is my country – you can’t make me leave/ You can’t make me love the way you treat me.”

Somewhat ironically the “title” track of the album is NOT their respected cover of the Arcade Fire song of the same name but is in spirit the track “Wake Up Everybody”.

To buy the album click HERE

Bonus Track:-

“Wake Up” (Arcade Fire Cover) – John Legend and The Roots

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Cover Stories, New Music, R&B, Soul, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Fun – VHS Player Spotter

………………..and I thought my collection of 70’s Subbuteo was sad!!!!!!!!!!

“Tape Loop” – Morcheeba

To buy the music of Morcheeba click HERE

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Humour, Old Music | , | Leave a comment

Long As I Can See The Light

“Long As I Can See The Light” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Put a candle in the window, but I feel I’ve got to move.
Though I’m going, going, I’ll be coming home soon,
‘Long as I can see the light.

Pack my bag and let’s get movin’, ’cause I’m bound to drift a while.
Well I’m gone, gone, you don’t have to worry no,
‘Long as I can see the light.

Guess I’ve got that old trav’lin’ bone,
’cause this feelin’ won’t leave me alone.
But I won’t, won’t be losin’ my way, no, no
‘Long as I can see the light.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Oh, Yeah!

Put a candle in the window, ’cause I feel I’ve got to move.
Though I’m going, going, I’ll be coming home soon,
Long as I can see the light.
Long as I can see the light.
Long as I can see the light.
Long as I can see the light.
Long as I can see the light.

To buy the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival click HERE

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Dumbarton FC, Old Music, Photography | , | Leave a comment

Stereo Stereo

“Connected” – Stereo MC’s

To buy the music of the Stereo MC’s click HERE

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Interesting Fact, Old Music | | Leave a comment

Dylan Mojo

How did a young boho from Duluth, Minnesota become the hip poet of US folk music? We chart his Greenwich Village beginnings in a 17-page extravaganza featuring contributions from Izzy Young, Sean Wilentz, Lenny Kaye and many more!
FREE CD! DYLAN’ SCENE: 15 classic tracks by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsberg, Bukka White, Dave Van Ronk, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Karen Dalton & many more.
David Bowie: the secret photographic history! Midlake: their remarkable 2010! Bee Gees: the making of Odessa! Alice Cooper faces the MOJO Interview! Solomon Burke RIP…
PLUS! Al Kooper’s buried treasure! How To Buy The Smiths And Morrissey! Buggles reunite! Zappa special on the way! in the studio with The Horrors and DJ Shadow! The Supremes talk Marvin Gaye! Lennon at 70, ”I blame Noel for this book” Drummer Tony McCarroll tells his side of the Oasis story. 
And! 34 pages of reviews!

On sale HERE

October 28, 2010 Posted by | New News, New Releases, Video | , | Leave a comment

It’s Only Arctic Roll (But I Like It)

An Arctic roll is a British dessert made of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sponge cake to form a roll, with a layer of raspberry flavoured sauce between the sponge and the ice cream.

The dessert was invented in the 1950s by a Czech lawyer, Ernest Velden, who had emigrated to England in 1939.  He set up a factory in Eastbourne producing Arctic Roll in 1958, and the dessert quickly became very popular.

During the 1980s more than 25 miles of Birds Eye Arctic Roll was sold each month, however, sales slumped during the 1990s and eventually the manufacturer of Arctic Roll, Birds Eye, stopped producing the dessert.

The 2008 economic downturn saw the reappearance of Arctic Roll as consumers increasingly looked for low-cost foods.

While some consumers view the Arctic Roll as comfort food, others view it as old fashioned and the food writer Nigel Slater has even described it as tasting of “frozen carpet”.

Nonetheless, Birds Eye reported “overwhelming consumer demand” for the dessert. Indeed, from when Birds Eye started marketing Arctic Rolls again in December 2008 until April 2009, sales of the product were estimated at £3.5 million, or 3 million boxes (around 250 miles of Arctic Roll).

Commentators suggest that aside from Arctic Roll’s low price, many consumers buy the dessert out of feelings of nostalgia.

A number of UK supermarkets sell their own brand versions of Arctic Roll, both chocolate and raspberry variants, and did so even when Birds Eye were not marketing the product.

“It’s Only Arctic Roll (But I Like It)” – The Rolling Stones

To buy the music of The Rolling Stones click HERE

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Old Music | , | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck – New Release

Rhino Records have been in touch asking if I would be willing to do my small bit in promoting the release of the new Jeff Beck live album as shown above, of course I am delighted to do so as Jeff Beck remains one of the living great guitarists with a legacy that is so impressive, yet he continues to push out the barriers at every opportunity.

His recent studio release “Emotion & Commotion” being a prime example (see previous post HERE)

In support of this great album Jeff hit the road earlier this year, kicking off by winning his fifth Grammy Award. 

Just weeks later, the multi-platinum-selling artist scored the highest Billboard debut of his 45-year career with the release of the above album and thereafter riding high on that red-hot streak, Beck performed an exclusive show at the Grammy Museum on April 22, thrilling an intimate crowd of 200 with his mind-bending guitar heroics. 

This breathtaking performance is released on 1st November 2011 as an eight track audio plus video and is available exclusively on iTunes by clicking HERE or in Hi-Def Lossless Audio direct from Rhino Records by clicking HERE

Listening Party Track List:


1.      “Corpus Christi Carol”
2.      “Hammerhead”
3.      “Over The Rainbow”
4.      “Brush With The Blues”
5.      “A Day In The Life”
6.      “Nessun Dorma”
7.      “How High The Moon”
8.      “People Get Ready”

You can join the listening party by clicking HERE

To buy the music of Jeff Beck click HERE

October 26, 2010 Posted by | New News, New Releases, Video | , | Leave a comment

Akram’s Dumbarton

“Akram’s” night club was the place to be in Dumbarton for many a year, this picture was from it’s peak period in 1984 though I have to say I’m not used to seeing it in the daylight, and Mr Cooper’s “Death Burger” van is nowhere to be seen!!

Anyway this dance lesson didn’t improve my chances much!

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Video | , | 4 Comments

Hands (The Ting Tings)

Brilliant performance by The Ting Tings of their new single “Hands” on “Later….with Jools” last week.

The new album will be available in 2011

Back to 2007 now.

To buy the music of The Ting Tings click HERE

October 26, 2010 Posted by | New Releases, Video | | Leave a comment

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