Durbin, John


Collection date: Apr 1904

Area: Somerset - Mendips (Harptree & Priddy)

John Durbin of East Harptree (1850-1929): age 54, 4 songs Apr 1904 (incl 'Birdstarver' song + 'Tobacco Indian Weed'): John Durbin was baptised 3/3/1850 at East Harptree church, son of George (farmer) and Anna Durbin. In 1851 George Durbin was a small farmer (14 acres). On 20/5/1872 at Compton Martin church John Durbin, 22 married Emma Dix, 21, daughter of James Dix labourer. They had 2 girls Elizabeth (b 1873) and Ann (b1883).

In Bob & Jackie Patten’s interview with Austin Wookey (Somerset Scrapbook 1987), the latter stated that John Durbin worked for Capt Kettlewell. Although John suffered from arthritis badly, when Capt Kettlewell gave a 3 acre field to the village as a cricket pitch to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, he asked John to maintain the field as a part-time job. Bob Patten’s notes also quote Vic Currell who said that John Durbin had a marvellously strong voice and that he did some gardening work at Harptree Court.

John Durbin is noted for the ‘Birdstarver’s cry’ (FT199) which he sang to Sharp on 14th April 1904 (click vwml link above). Two days later Sharp noted down a version of the same song from John Purnell. It is a nice coincidence that John Durbin’s daughter Ann Durbin married John Purnell’s son William on 20/4/1914 at East Harptree. John Durbin died 3/1929 at Clutton (workhouse) 5c 768.

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