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The winter tragedies of Sir Patrick Spens and Nic Jones

Saturday, 4 February, 2012

According to legend, and Child Ballad No. 58, the King of Scotland calls for the greatest sailor in the land to command a ship to bring home Queen Margaret, Maid of Norway, in 1290. The name of Sir Patrick Spens is proposed by a courtier, and although Sir Patrick is honoured to receive a royal commission, he’s dismayed at being asked to sail across the North Sea in the dead of winter. Sure enough, many of the ships founder and perish. Tradition has it that when the body of Sir Patrick Spens was recovered it was buried on the Orkney island of Papa Stronsay. The winter tragedy is recounted here by the great Nic Jones.

In a very comprehensive and very moving article titled The Cult of Nic Jones, music journalist Colin Irwin recalls the event that broke the hearts of so many fans of the English singer and guitarist: “And then it happened — one desperate February night in 1982. He’d been playing at Glossop Folk Club in Derbyshire and was almost back home in Cambridgeshire when his car was involved in a headlong collision with an articulated lorry. The theory is that Nic fell asleep at the wheel but nobody knows for sure, least of all Nic, who remembers nothing about the accident or any of the horrors that followed. His injuries were massive and his career was in tatters…”


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