The Duke of Northumberland – Backing Track

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The Duke of Northumberland’s composer, John Bramall, is a Yorkshire based scientist, musician and songwriter, whose influences range from folk and rock to musical theatre and old-time music hall. He often writes about subjects with a scientific, historical, or literary inspiration, preferably all at the same time.  His main instruments are guitar and ukulele, and he currently writes songs and performs with Ullalele, Otley’s finest steampunk ukulele quartet.

John writes:

Keely approached me to write a song in honour of the 200th Anniversary of the RNLI. Knowing that a lot of my songs have a bit of a steampunk flavour, she suggested writing about The Duke of Northumberland – the first steam-powered lifeboat used by the RNLI. I was intrigued, and after a bit of research the song came together quickly, inspired by a real-life rescue in 1908, when The Duke and her crew led by RNLI Coxswain William Owen saved 9 men from the stricken steamer “The Harold” in dangerously high seas for which the crew were awarded RNLI Gold Medals.

The Duke of Northumberland was constructed of steel plates, triple riveted with 72000 rivets to withstand the stresses of the sea and its steam engines provided propulsion through hydraulics; jets of water replaced propellors (which could get tangled in ropes and debris). Being steam powered, the crew would have needed to continuously shovel coal in the boiler room – no mean feat whilst being tossed around in a stormy sea.

The lifeboat went into service at Harwich Lifeboat Station in 1890 but spent much of her time stationed at Holyhead, eventually being retired in 1928 having rescued 295 people.

This backing track has been provided as a single-licence download to accompany either the TBB or SAA versions of the song for any choir struggling to find an accompanist.

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  Click for Learning Tracks

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