VALE DANNY SPOONER
A number of members have expressed their sadness at the death of member and internationally famed Folk-Singer, Danny Spooner. Among those, the President stated:“ I received the very sad news that Danny Spooner passed away on the 3rd of March. This is a profound loss. Many AMHA members will fondly remember Danny and particularly his musical contributions to the Beechworth and Cobar conferences”.It was indeed a shock to many of our members, yours truly included, as Danny seemed so hale and hearty when we were with him at the Cobar conference just a few months ago. He will be greatly missed from our ranks.The following obituary has been kindly provided by Ross and Anne Both who were close friends of Danny and partner Gael.
DANNY SPOONER – 1936 – 2017It is with great sadness we report the death of Danny Spooner, one of our newest members, who died peacefully on 3rd March 2017 in the Daylesford Hospital after a short illness. Danny and his wife Gael had joined AMHA during the conference in Cobar last October.Danny was one of the outstanding personalities on the Australian folk music scene, with a vast repertoire of traditional British and Australian folk songs. He loved to sing and loved to get others singing. At the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter 2016 Danny received a Life Time Achievement Award for his commitment and contribution to enriching folk music and culture in this country.His association with AMHA began in 2013 with the Beechworth Conference when he was invited to entertain the Conference Dinner with some of the songs of Charles Thatcher, the popular goldfields entertainer from the 1850s-1860s. Rather than just appear at the dinner, Danny and Gael participated fullyin the entire conference. They also responded to an invitation to take part in the Cobar Conference, where Danny not only sang at the dinner but also presented a conference paper and sang some mining songs at a joint meeting with the AusIMM.
The story of Danny’s life is a remarkable one and an inspiration. He was born into a working-class family in the East End of London and left school at the age of 13 to work on a sailing-barge which plied the Thames and the south coast of England. During this time he learned British songs and enrolled in libraries along the coast to read their stories. He was apprenticed to the Thames as a Waterman and Lighterman, and after 6 years had earned his Freeman of the Thames. Over the next 10 years he held various jobs including salvage tug and trawler skipper. This varied, almost nomadic, life gave Danny an all-too-rare real-life education in the ways of working people. In 1962 Danny emigrated to Sydney and did labouring work and began singing semi-professionally. He moved to Melbourne where he joined the resident singers at Frank Traynor’s jazz/folk club and worked with actors at La Mama and Pram Factory Theatres. He also researched, wrote, performed and presented programmes for ABC national radio and television, including feature documentaries using folksongs as source material for British and Australian history, literature and religion.From 1969 to 1978 he was an Associate in the Departments of History and English at the University of Melbourne and a Guest Lecturer at many Australian and New Zealand universities. He enrolled in Deakin University in 1982 as a mature-age student, receiving his B.A. (Hons) in 1986 and followed this in 1987 with a Dip. Ed. from the University of Melbourne. He then became a Secondary School teacher at Mowbray College until his retirement in 2001. This gave him, as he said, the liberty to do all the singing he wanted! Danny performed in folk clubs all over Australia, New Zealand, Britain and North America. He appeared at every major folk festival in Australia, presenting a vast range of workshops on aspects of folk songs of Britain and Australia. He was also invited to tour Australia in 2007 with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra and to perform at the Festival of Maribor in 2009 with the Slovenian Philharmonic and members of the ACO.Although an AMHA member for such a short time, Danny made many friends. He had a big voice and a big heart. We mourn his passing and extend our deepest sympathy to Gael and to Danny’s and Gael’s families.
Ross and Anne Both
With acknowledgements to the following sources:
Australian Mining History Association newsletter : MJD/ March’17