A Mr. S. Shemming(s) was
mentioned several times in Russell Wortley’s correspondence about dulcimers
and whilst most of it was about
who lived in Ipswich, there also turned out to be a tuning diagram from
Stanley’s father, Samuel.
Samuel was born into a musical family in March 1959 and brought up in Hoxne,
on the Suffolk/ Norfolk border. As a young man he moved to Scole where he
worked as brickmaker, a trade which then took him to Ipswich in the mid
1880s, and to a close-knit community called The Grove, where housing had
been built specifically for his workers by brick-making entrepreneur F.
Rosher. Although not far out of the town centre, the area was quite insular,
as it was largely cut off by a short railway line which had been built to
transport the bricks. Samuel lived in the same house, 10, Grove Cottages,
for the rest of the life; his wife Maria died in 1928 and he then lived
there with son Stanley and his wife Ella, until his death in 1941.
The brickworks had a popular
social club with a works band which played at many local events: it’s quite
possible that Samuel was involved in this. He was certainly involved in
entertainments locally, as we have unearthed a newspaper report from the
Ipswich Journal, 23rd March 1888, detailing the acts at a concert held by
the Eastern Counties and Dales Club, which was just round the corner from
their home in The Grove, Ipswich. ‘Mr Shimmins’ played a dulcimer solo
‘which was much appreciated’ and merited an encore. He also sang a song
called ‘The Harbour Lights’.
There are earlier newspaper references, from the Hoxne area, to Mr. Shemming/
Shimmins /Shimming playing the dulcimer, and one actually gives the initial
S., but it remains unclear from the dates whether this was Samuel, possibly
his father Samuel, or someone else from the wider family. His brother
William played the concertina and fiddle and other family members were in
the village band in the nineteenth century. Solid facts are hard to come by,
but gut instinct says Samuel started playing and performing whilst growing
up in Hoxne, and that his father played before him. Maybe we’ll get the
incontrovertible proof one day!