George Dunn was born in 1887 in Quarry Bank, Staffordshire, a Black Country village 8 miles west of Birmingham. The Dunn family lived on Sheffield Street, Quarry Bank and George worked in the chain making trade at Noah Bloomers and Son until he was 72 years of age. The business made iron chain of all sizes and George was involved in making the links which were used in the anchor cables of the Titanic (MS 4000/5/1/9/3).
George Dunn was discovered as a traditional folk singer with an enormous repertoire of songs by students from Wolverhampton who were searching the Black Country for oral reminiscences of the chain trade. One of the students, Mrs Rhoma Bowlder, conducts the first two interviews in the sequence (MS 4000/5/1/9/1-2). As she was attending a series of lectures by Charles Parker at the time, she introduced Charles Parker to George Dunn and he conducts the remainder of the interviews. An LP, now deleted, of George Dunn's songs was recorded by Bill Leader and released c1975 on the Leader label (LEE 4042). Since then a double CD of George Dunn has been released by Musical Traditions in 2002 called George Dunn: Chainmaker (MTCD 317-8) which uses recordings made by Roy Palmer, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and these recordings here by Charles Parker. See the Musical Traditions website at www.mustrad.org.uk/articles for more information on the release.
The recordings provide much detail on the chainmaking trade (MS 4000/5/1/9/3,5,13,17) and attempts to improve the hard working conditions (MS 4000/5/1/9/13,17). In addition to details of his working life, the recordings are full of George and his younger brother Ernie singing traditional songs many of which they had learned from their father. Mrs Valerie Chapman, George Dunn's daughter also features in some of the recordings. Other topics included in the tapes are poaching (MS 4000/5/1/9/1,3,8), women (MS 4000/5/1/9/5), literacy (MS 4000/5/1/9/6) and politics and war (MS 4000/5/1/9/10,14,15). See also recording at MS 4000/5/2/8/12 [of George and Ernie Dunn] within MS 4000/5/2/8 (Lectures and student work: miscellaneous) and MS 4000/5/3/5/5/20-23 (Birmingham and Midland Folk Centre: Local Field Recordings).
arrangement: The tapes are arranged as follows:
MS 4000/5/1/9/1-2 Interviews by Mrs Rhoma Bowlder 1970
of G. & E. Dunn singing
MS 4000/5/1/9/3-16 Interviews by Charles Parker of G. 1971
& E. Dunn and Mrs Valerie Chapman
re family background, working life and
singing traditional songs
MS 4000/5/1/9/17 Interview by Charles Parker of E. Dunn 1975
re Millers Song and chain making industry