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The Reluctant Pitman is the fourth piece of the set of five songs which was commissioned in 2009 by the Alnwick Community Development Trust as part of their Hotspur Festival, celebrating 900 years of the Percy family in Northumberland. The songs were inspired by the history and beauty of Northumberland and also by the quirky and insightful writings in his 1835 book Rambles in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders of William Andrew Chatto, whose words have been moulded into the lyrics of the songs by the composer.
Chatto is fond of recounting tales, which in turn were told to him on his travels, in the dialect of the original storyteller, and this is reflected in the songs particularly the second, in which various fishing tales from the Coquet are chronicled, and the fourth in which the traveller ventures rather anxiously down a coal mine. The first song gathers together an assortment of Hotspur (a particularly feisty medieval member of the family) war cries from various sources into a fighting collage, the third explores in advisory tone the various difficulties a traveller may encounter hereabouts, and the fifth is an intoxicated drinking song in which all participants indulge in a bit of irregular staggering about and generally become more merry as time wears on.
Commissioned by the Alnwick Community Development Trust with funding from Defra, One North East, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Alnwick Cultural Management Board
Text taken from Rambles in Northumberland and on the Scottish Borders by William Andrew Chatto (alias Stephen Oliver, the Younger), published in 1835.