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James 'Jimmy' Stammers (1850-1915)



Jimmy Stammers was born in 1850, in the small village of Weston, just south of Beccles. In the 1870s he seems to have moved to Elswick in Northumberland – his son William James was born there in 1874, but by 1878 they were back in Suffolk and for the rest of his life he lived within a five mile radius of his birthplace, finally settling in Westhall, where he died in 1915. He worked for the Great Eastern Railway, initially as a plate-layer, then a flag signal man.

Russell Wortley heard about him from a man he met in the Engineers’ Arms in Leiston in 1966, who said Jimmy Stammers made dulcimers 60-70 years ago (i.e. around the turn of the 20th century). Around the same time, Wortley met and corresponded with Jimmy’s grandson Oswald Stammers, who was living in Saffron Walden in northeast Essex and played the dulcimer his grandfather had made. Wortley also met Ronald Stammers, Oswald’s younger brother who played the one-string fiddle.


According to a 1970 interview Wortley conducted with Oswald and Ronnie, Jimmy had made four dulcimers, all the same size and style, for family members, as well as making them for other people. Oswald named his father (William James), Uncle Harry and Aunt May as players. Neither Oswald nor Ronnie could remember their grandfather playing.




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