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John Elsey (1856-1919)


John Elsey was born Stuston on the Suffolk /Norfolk border, where his father kept the 'Swan' public house in the village. He spent much of his life as a market gardener and died in Depwade, South Norfolk.


We came across  him through online research into newspapers, where mentions of his playing ‘dulcimer and fairy bells’ are found from 1893 -1913. The latest of these reports contains a rare mention of the dulcimer being played for dancing, at the Green Dragon on Fair Green in Diss.

1893 Newspaper report - Haughley - played the dulcimer and bells and sang
1899 Newspaper report - Diss - Magic Lantern & musical entertainment: MR. Elsey contributed two dulcimer
solos and an item played on the fairy bells
1905 Newspaper report - Shelfanger dulcimer, songs and violin
1906 Newspaper report - Shelfanger dulcimer and fairy bells
1911 Newspaper report - Diss, Green Dragon, playing for dancing
1913 Newspaper report - Shelfanger


He was related to another dulcimer player from Diss, Arthur Lusher (his aunt Elizabeth was Arthur’s grandmother) and may also have known the Shemmings family of dulcimer players from Hoxne, as according to a newspaper report from 1884 a Mr J. Elsey and a Mr S. Shemmings were amongst the bellringers at Hoxne.


His father kept the Swan at Stuston (above) which may have been a good place for a bit of music and singing - a 1923 newspaper report gives that impression, when a supper and singsong took place there after a ploughing match.




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