The Story of the Gypsey Race

There’s a track on our Loudhailer Electric Company studio album called Gypsey Race. In fact, the line from that song: “All roads lead to… the stone at the bend on the Gypsey Race…” is the reason we chose the title of the album, Cursus.

The map below is on the inner sleeve. So, what’s it all about?

Loudhailer Electric Company Cursus db page3Last spring Rich and Dexter and I followed the course of the winterbourne chalk stream – the Gypsey Race – which flows down through the Wolds and east out to sea at Bridlington. On the bend, just where the stream turns east is one of the most important prehistoric sites, the tallest standing stone in the UK – the Rudston monolith. It’s no accident that the stone is situated there as it was once one of the most important places in prehistoric England. Like at Stonehenge there are courses – or cursus – huge miles long structures which lead from all around the surrounding countryside in straight lines to the stones. Just like Avebury on the Kennett where the stream turns east, a corner to meet, and a major neolithic route – the Ridgeway brought traffic and new things as did the cursus and the pathway on the ridge atop the Wolds to Rudston. Prehistorically the Gypsey Race was also used to create fish farms just south east of the stone. A source of fresh water, food and life. Unfortunately unlike Stonehenge and Avebury the land around Rudston has been ploughed intensively over the years and it’s importance cannot be so obviously seen on the ground anymore, but it can’t be under-estimated either.

So, there it is, the Gypsey Race. There are more recent legends and superstitions surrounding the stream, and according to folklore, when the Gypsey Race is flowing in flood the woe waters forebear bad fortune. This happened in the year before the great plague of 1664, before the two world wars and the bad winters of 1947 and 1962. Well, it was in full flow when we were there last spring, and look what’s happened in the world since then…

Anyway, by the time we were heading home the song was pretty much written in my head. I joined up the prehistoric imagery to a much later tale – that of a Roman soldier marching down towards the monolith, along the Roman road on the map. I had a particular soldier in mind – he features in WH Auden’s Roman Wall Blues, brought to life by the sensational Alex Harvey. It first blew me away when I heard it played by Sideway Look who gigged with us – the Red Guitars – back then. That soldier, he’s absolutely sick to death of life on the wall. I’d heard from John Spence at Fairview Studio that the Alex Harvey track was actually mixed at Fairview Studio by Roy Neave – who recorded our Red Guitars album, Slow to Fade so that was a good twist in the tale.
leco cursus
We recorded our Loudhailer Electric Company album, Cursus with John Spence at Fairview Studio last summer, and had a great time there. There are some fab highlights, Rich’s Roman Soldier vocals, Jeff’s Ebow guitar, Chris’s pizzicato violin and that snare before the solo – let’s go!
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There’s a soldier on the wall before the mid-winter sun
Gazing over the heather at the end of the day
If there’s fire in the sky he’ll be ready to march
He’s sick to death of the wall what does it mean anyway?
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Where the river turns east there’s a corner to meet
When night balances day since the beginning of time
There’s shouting and fighting and standing out in the sky
He’s had enough of the wall it’s not a reason to die
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When he gets there he’ll see what the future holds
There’s only bad news coming when the waters flow
It’s time for a change gotta find a new face
Come meet at the bend on the Gypsey Race
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All roads lead to the stone at the bend on the Gypsey RaceI’m the soldier on the wall
Looking out at the sky
I’ve had enough of it all
It’s not a reason to dieI’m that soldier on the wall at the end of the day
I’m sick to death of it all what does it mean anyway?All roads lead to the stone at the bend on the Gypsey Race
© 2016 Lou Duffy-Howard
Rich and Lou Duffy-Howard – Visit our Home Page

2 thoughts on “The Story of the Gypsey Race

  1. I enjoyed hearing the inspiration behind your song and listening to your music. If you ever get the chance, you should visit Kilmartin Glen (http://www.kilmartin.org/). It is one of the most atmospheric places I know and I’m sure there are lots of songs waiting to be written about it!! test edit

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