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Memories of 'The Ferryman's Daughter'
Posted: 2 November 2009

The cast of 'The Ferryman's Daughter'
The cast of 'The Ferryman's Daughter'. Click for larger image.

Glenn Richards recently sent the Alan Bush Trust a photo of the cast of 'The Ferryman's Daughter' which was performed at Chase Terrace Middle School, Burntwood, Staffordshire in 1978.

He also sent an account of the performance which we reproduce below with his permission:

In 1961, Alan Bush composed and Nancy Bush wrote the libretto of a children's operetta entitled 'The Ferryman's Daughter'. This was the third operetta which Alan and Nancy Bush had written together and it was published by Novello and Co. Ltd. Time of performance is approximately one hour.

It was first performed at St. Christopher's School, Letchworth on 6 March 1964. It was produced by Reginald Snell and Austin O'Neill was the musical producer.

In December 1978, The Ferryman's Daughter was performed at Chase Terrace Middle School, Rugeley Road, Burntwood, Staffordshire and produced by the music tutor, Heather Price.

The operetta takes place in the 18th Century beside the Thames at Wapping Old Stairs. The cast is made up of Mr Wilkins, an old waterman, Jenny, his daughter, Nat, a young waterman, Tom Starling, a young farmer, Mrs Patchett, a fisherman's wife and a chorus of watermen, fishermen and girls.

The story of the operetta is one of love and rivalry. Mr Wilkins, a Thames waterman, is getting too old to carry on his trade. His daughter, Jenny, sells fish along the waterside, and is sure she can make a living for both of them, but her father wants her to marry a waterman, so he can retire with an easy mind. Jenny is in love with Tom Starling, a young farmer, and does not agree.

Every year, there is a race for the championship of the river, soon to take place. Mr Wilkins announces, to Jenny's dismay, that the winner may marry his daughter if she will agree, and also have his boat and custom. To Nat, a young and conceited waterman, who was last year's champion, the result seems a foregone conclusion. Tom, however, asks if he can compete. Nat and the other watermen make fun of him, but as they think he has no chance of winning, he is allowed to take part.

The race takes place and Tom, after a disasterous start, draws level and finally overtakes Nat, the flagging champion. He passes the winning post before all the rest and is awarded not only the waterman's silver badge, but Jenny's hand. The happy ending is celebrated with a general song and dance.

Glenn took the part of Nat, and wrote that he still remembers all the songs. In the photo, Jenny is seated on the left, and Tom, with leeks and a country bumpkin style smock, stands behind her. Mrs Patchett, with the hat, also stands behind Jenny. Glenn, sitting with a tankard in the centre, as Nat, gets his come-uppance in the race. Mr Wilkins, the old ferryman, wearing a spotted kerchief, is seated third from the right.