The Old Rope String Band

Joe Scurfield

Pete and Tim would like to thank everybody for the fantastic tributes to Joe. They all make a difference.

Harry Scurfield adds: "Joe's brothers, sister and the mum are all very grateful to all those who have contributed, are contributing and will still contribute to this list of memories and good thoughts. As Pete & Tim have said, it does all help. Thanks."

Here is a selection of the messages we have received. These ones are from the miriads of people who remember Joe's appearances with the Old Rope String Band. On other pages are messages from people, here and abroad, who booked Joe and the band, and people who knew him personally and in other fields.

A tragic loss of someone who has given so much, and had so much more to give, to the worlds of music, humour and politics. I will always remember the fantastic fun and tears every time I saw ORSB. Joe, Pete and Tim regularly visited Leicestershire & Rutland and I have been able to see them on many occasions, most recently just a couple of months ago in Whissendine and on the road from Hampshire to Yorkshire over the past 20 years. The marvellous memoirs will live on! Thank you Joe.

John Bloxsom

A couple of years ago I had the great pleasure of seeing The ORSB at Ely Folk Weekend. They had me rolling in my seat and I vowed that if ever they came to the locality again I would see them without fail. Now I will never get the chance to see Joe Scurfield again. I can't tell you how sorry that has made me.

Nick Wagg

I only saw Joe once, with the band at Port Isaac, My wife Julie is a big fan and took me to see them there a couple of years ago. I spent the evening laughing more than I had for a long time and emerged from the concert with an aching stomach as a result.

It is not true that I knew Joe but I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and all those who knew him well and obviously loved him so dearly. Tragedies such as Joe's death bring home the message that this world we live in is in need of urgent repair and restoration.

Mike Silver

I was devastated by the news and cried. But then I thought (although I didn't know him personally) would Joe want anyone to be crying because of him. I had to admit that having previously cried at Joe through laughter — which was his stated aim in life — the best thing was to be thankful for his being not sad at his passing.

So my twelve year old son (who so loved to laugh at Joe and the Band) and I, we sat and watched our ORSB video and so laughed and remembered the happy times we encountered unbridled tomfoolery, intelligence, brilliance and sheer happiness.

Thanks Joe, together with Pete and Tim for all the happiness.

Carole and Daniel Millward
North Yorkshire

What a shock! Joe will be sadly missed.

Our memories however will stay with us for ever. We have enjoyed many performances over the years and cannot help bursting into laughter when we talk about them.

Our thoughts are with you

Bob & Pam Anderton

Jamie told us the news in the Gregson about Joe, it was like losing a friend. We have seen TORSB in Lancaster and Newcastle and Lancaster for the last 20 years. Every performance was amazing and left us feeling happy. We wish Rianne love and to Tim and Pete love too.

Sam Rogers and Jayne Bolsover

I would like to thank Joe for being part of the funniest and most entertaining band I have ever seen. I will always remember the 5 or 6 times I saw them, and the pleasure it gave me to drag along other friends to join in my pleasure.

My thoughts go to Joe's family, and Pete and Tim, who must all feel cast adrift right now.

Barry Hunt

Just wanted to say how sad we are to hear about Joe. We've seen The Old Rope String Band lots of times at festivals from Bromyard to Beverley and loved the energy of every performance. What a loss.

Love to all his friends.

Roy & Sarah Wild, Iona & Eden
Beverley, East Yorkshire

How you can do under underwater flying and play the mouth organ at the same time is a joy to have seen.

Although I never met him, I do think we have lost a comedy genius. The Old Rope String Band nearly made me wet my trousers when I saw them for the first time,at the Folk festival in Chester last year.

Ken Prydderch

We are saddened by the shocking news of Joe's sudden death. Although we did not know him personally, my children and I feel that we did, in a way. My children Brendan (13), Nicholas (11), and Joe (8) and I have been to many of the Old Rope gigs (and one with Joe on his own), in Peter Tavy, Lydford and Brentor in Devon. Both Lydford and Brentor's shows were held on beautiful summer evenings, the atmosphere light, relaxing and lively, which made our memories more clear. The evenings would always leave us feeling lighthearted and giggly. Afterwards the children would play the tape over and over in the car and house and we would all sing along. We will never forget this funny, talented man who entertained us all.

Our condolences to Pete, Tim and Joe's partner and family.

Sue, Brendan, Nicholas and Joe Way

On 9th October 2004 I had tickets for ORSB in Otley and had promised to drive 7 friends.
Then, that morning, my Mother died.
I went to the gig so as not to let down my friends ( & nothing could bring her back anyway) — and the guys MADE ME LAUGH!
What quality performers.

Deepest shock, sympathy and loss

S Lynes

It's a few years since we last met and talked with Joe and but what we can say is that for a while we were privileged to share part of the journey with him in the 1980s and early 90's. Joe was one of the good guys in the struggle, principled, dependable, indefatigable, inspiring and funny. He was one of those rare people with such optimism and good humour that you couldn't help but join in with other comrades and do something as completely mad and superbly sane as attempting to change the world by dancing for peace and socialism. We can't travel to Newcastle on Friday but we will be knocking the tops of a few beers, donning our May Day T shirts and remembering some great days in struggles past and drawing some quiet strength from memories of Joe to have another go. La lutta continua !

Our thoughts are with Rianne, Pete, Tim, the families of Joe and Keith and the hundreds of friends around the world. Joe , you really made a difference.

Bob Thorp and Emma Dooks

Without a doubt, Joe and the rest of the ORSB have given me more pleasure at village halls, festivals and assorted other venues, than ANY other band. Indeed, their name on an artiste list has been the main reason for many miles travelled.

I have laughed 'til my face hurt and clapped 'til my palms stung. ORSB have been the highlight of SO many festivals.

My heart sank when I heard the news.

I will never forget the first time I saw ORSB. In a marquee at Brampton Live. It was magic. After the loud bang of an on stage explosion and the resultant stunned-into-silence audience, a small child in front of us broke the silent spell and shrieked, 'Daddy! Daddy! He's not dead is he?' - her concern for the fall guy of the gag was a fantastic punch line and sadly, now, its on the tip of my tongue to ask the question too.

Always an exemplary musician and slapstick performer, Joe was a delight to watch, and a pleasure to meet. It is sheer genius to produce humour that has more than one level and appeals to kids and adults alike - some of the most inspired comedy I've ever seen.

I will never forget the satin pantaloons, white frilly shirt, silly hat and slightly manic panicky face of Joe on stage.

Very, very, sad news indeed.

Fi Exon

Having seen the Old Rope String Band at so many different occasions through-out our childhood, me and Anna have built up quite a collection of oddities: the remains of various ties, small wooden saw-beaten blocks (signed!) and for a while, chunks of CD-sliced cucumber. All of which held the most wonderfully funny memories of the most musically and comically brilliant band; never providing less than fantastic performances as the years went on ...

It is with such childhood admiration of the ORSB, which I've held for as long as I can remember, that Joe's death did leave me completely stunned. I still cannot believe that such musical talent and good humour and political activity and an ear for fantastic music and dance and the remarkable ability to make people of every age laugh till they cried, has been lost.

Just before I was 10, I wrote to Joe to tell him about the two new rabbits I'd just been given. A few days after my birthday, two (slightly soggy) carrots arrived in the post, all wrapped up in a 'We don't want peanuts, we want the plantation dance band' flyer. My rabbits enjoyed them very much. I found the same note he had sent a few days ago; I remember feeling so very proud he had taken the time to send me some vegetables for my birthday ...

I will miss catching the ORSB whenever they were performing near, dragging along friends and buying petrol-station flowers to throw onto the stage at the end! And I will miss Joe Scurfield and the things I remember, as well as the things that I'm only just finding out about his life; and the totally inspiring way he used his talents for such good causes, and the many lucky people that those talents touched.

Rowan Rheingans

I don't know where to start with my memories of Joe and the band around the North East of England. So I'll just repeat one of Joe's many witticisms from the stage one night twenty years ago:

Why do anarchists drink herbal tea?
Because proper tea is theft...

My thoughts are with the band at this time.

Don Watson
North Shields

What a top bloke. My daughter Amy who is 8 is a fan it will be hard to tell her. We send our wishes to you all and will treasure our video of you all.

Anne Munby

Strange as it might seem, one of the most vivid images I have in my memory of Joe is of him walking round during the interval of an ORSB concert wearing an old brown dust coat with the words "ROAD CREW" scrawled on the back! As far as I am concerned this spoke volumes about the man. Far from lording it as a "Star of the show" he was donning a costume that marked him out as an ordinary working man & carrying out the mundane tasks that other well known bands would have left to a roadie, whilst at the same time making people laugh.

His warmth, Humour, and enormous talent came through in every performance I ever witnessed. If ever we played at the same festivals which we did on occasions I would do everything I could to get a slot which would allow us to see Joe and the ORSB perform.

I cannot believe we have lost him. He would not know me from Adam but I'm sure I am not alone in saying it felt like he was an old friend just because he had made us dance and laugh so often.

Thank You Joe for so much FUN, & our thoughts go out to your family and colleagues.

Mick O'Hara
Accordionist from: Shamus O'Blivion

I've just seen the news on the Froots web site and my heart sank. I can't remember how many times we've enjoyed seeing the ORSB. At folk festivals, back rooms of pubs and even once in a conservative club (where Joe threatened to do something to the curtains). I still have an old ORSB poster on the wall - May 5th at the Witham Hall, Barnard Castle (don't know which year). It grieves me that I'll never see the band with Joe again. I'm sure you'll keep going and I look forward to helping celebrate Joe's far too short life with a few pints and a good laugh.

If there's a heaven, I hope it has pubs. I hope they let accordion players in so one day I can sit down with Joe and have a few tunes with him. I hope the beer is free for musicians, and that there's no chucking out time. I think Joe would be happy there, and if anybody deserves eternal happiness, for all the pleasure he's brought to anyone who was in his company, he does.

Have a great time tomorrow - we wish we could be there to represent all the anonymous punters who looked forward to being in his company, even if it was for a short time.

Eric and Yvonne Woulds
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

My family - husband, daughter -11 and myself feel as if we have lost a good friend even though we had never really met Joe. We have seen him in many performances with ORSB over the years. We laughed till we had tears rolling down our faces. Now they are rolling for a different reason. He will be sadly missed. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family. Such a needless waste of two lives.

Chris Hall, Chair of Open Morris,
and family

To Joe (from your fans)

If anyone had asked
Why so sad?
I would have said
A friend had died
You hardly knew me.
You might well have walked
Past me in the street
I would have stopped
And warmly shook your hand
Then you would have known
I know
You would have known.

If anyone had asked
Why so bleak?
I would have said
A star is gone
You sought no fame
Strutting the stage
High on the atmosphere
Plying your trade
Playing the crowd
Like a violin, a trombone, a bottle
Ah yes
You knew all about bottle.

But no one asked
So I must tell
The simple truth
That you are dead
That is true
We are your fans
For though you're gone
We hear your voice
We smile your smile
We laugh.. we cry your tears
Ah yes
We cry your tears

Tim and Pete: We were so sad to hear of Joe's death. We can't begin to understand the depth of his loss to you all. Laurie was moved to write this. We have very fond memories of your stage partnership and I'm trying to express the fact that Joe lives on in the hearts of all those who witnessed your show.

Laurie and Norma Palmer

Thanks for making us all laugh lots and lots, and for staying true to the festival spirit.

From a sad member of your audience.

Lots of happy memories though.

Heard the news on Mike Harding's radio show while sitting eating a Chinese take away on my 50th birthday in a lane in Gloucestershire.

Julie Greenstreet

We too, amongst thousands of your fans will miss him.

I dragged my partner to one of your shows (the fourth for me) as he did not want to go. Since then, he has been telling everyone that should the occasion arise, they should not miss the show.

The red trousers, the funny face and that amazing talent that made me laugh 'till I could hardly breath. What a guy. One huge loss. Gaud bless em.

Our sincere condolences to you Tim and Pete also to Joe's family and friends.

Paula Mart

The ORSB was more than just the best act we ever saw anywhere - it was more a life changing experience. Our thoughts are with Tim and Pete.

Mag, Jim, Bobby & Andrew

We only knew Joe from his stage presence but this was unique and an inspiration to any musician. It takes real talent to create so much fun and laughter through music. The lasting legacy is carried by our daughter and the other youngsters who have seen the ORSB and learnt of the zanier end of music making. Joe's loss is such a tragedy. Our condolences to his family and band members.

Aileen Brown

The Old Rope String Band at the Highweek Village hall, Newton Abbot, Devon

My wife and I arrived at the village hall to watch the "Old Rope" Gig. We were in two minds, as I'm afraid to say your reputation had not reached us, and given us prior warning of what to expect. We both had worked through a long hard day, but decided to wander up to the hall and reluctantly be entertained.

We were very,very pleased we did, as not only were we wonderfully entertained, but a new medical condition was discovered that night, now known in all the medical textbooks as Laughitis. The symptoms are very serious, and include split sides, aching stomachs and tear reddened weeping eyes. In the more severe case's it has been documented that the poor unfortunate has fallen off their seats.

The only known cure is for the patient to be immediately removed from the proximity of the "Old Rope String Band" but one of the more sinister symptoms of the condition is the patient's reluctance to comply with this request and can require considerable physical intervention.

We really enjoyed everything you did that night, even to the extent of buying the "T" shirts, and just as a foot note several weeks later the ceiling in the village hall collapsed so you literally brought the house down!! I'm sorry not to have written this e-mail under happier circumstances, but we are pleased to have shared our lives with you, even if it was for one night only.

Martin and Felicity Cole
Highweek, Newton Abbot, Devon

I was involved heavily with the music department during my time at high school. This changed my life loads, I stopped hanging around with the bad crowd and finally found the good crowd. Every year 'Folkworks' run a mini music day type thing for schools and we were with it every year I was there. "Big Day Out - Beamish" (1996 I think) was when I first saw the Old Rope String Band. I fell in love with them straight away, they had the unique ability to bring an almost unlistened to genre of music within today's youth and make it entertaining for them. I am a big fan of all music and vowed that I would see the band as often as I could. It's been a great nine years coming to see you guys. Every time I get onto the topic of folk music in the pub I bring The Old Rope String Band up, they're hard to beat

One of my influences in the choice to become an entertainer was The Old Rope String Band, and in the past year an influence to keep going at it through hard times (Along with Hayseed Dixie)

I was shocked to hear on the news about Joe, to the point where I actually cried. As soon as I heard the news I just had to hunt out the live video of them. He will be sadly missed, forever in my mind as a great showman.

DoKtor Midnight Hour

I read the news of Joe's untimely departure and had one of those pit-of-the-stomach-hollowness moments, that accompany the loss of someone that you don't quite know, but who, unknowingly, played a part in your life. Joe and the lads entertained, enthralled and amused my whole family. We'd been there, got the (signed) t-shirt, and been hit by the flying wood blocks from when the kids were knee-high to a trombone. There is absolutely nothing that can be said to make the situation better, but at least Joe left us with good memories, and I hope that he was aware of our collective appreciation over the years.

Tony Fisk

I only managed to see ORSB twice on their village hall tours of Dorset but was so totally entertained I have been singing their praises ever since. I was silenced by this untimely and tragic loss to a world that needs heroes like Joe, ordinary people who move mountains through commitment, skill, conscience and a love of the strange condition known as Human Kind. So today at Midday on the Minster Green here in Wimborne I inserted a few words of remembrance and thanks into my formal cry announcing the week's events. I don't think many people in the audience knew who Joe was but they all bowed their heads for a few seconds in his honour.

Let us grieve but follow this with passion to further Joe's aims, justice, peace and freedom.

Chris Brown
Town Crier & Serjant of Wimborne Minster, Dorset

I just wanted to send you all an e-mail saying that I was in shock when I heard the terrible news on Thursday evening. I was really upset. I had seen you all perform last November in Cookley's tiny Eagle and Spur pub, that was the first time I'd seen you and I had a great time! I was planning to come and see your performance at the Bridgnorth folk festival, but sadly that's not possible now.

This was just an e-mail to say that I was thinking of you all and I am really upset to hear about Joe - at least I bought your CD's when I saw you though, I can still listen to your music!

Melanie Biggs

My 16 year old daughter has paid the ultimate tribute:
'Me and Sarah were asked to leave because we were laughing too much' (!) (from Sciorr at the Otley festival 2005)

Me? Well, I remember being brought back to folk music after a long absence courtesy of TORSB at Bromyard 2003. They were a real hoot - and I thought Joe was the biggest hoot of all!

I shall miss seeing him at Bromyard this year.

God (or whatever) bless.

Fran and Cerys Wood

I just wanted to say how sorry I am to hear of the sad loss of Joe. I did not know any of you well only meeting you once when you came and performed for us on the 5th March this year. It was made a memorable evening by Joe's brilliant performance. The like we shall never see again.

May I say that our thoughts are with you all and particularly Joe's family.

Jeremy Doughton
Kelvedon, Essex.

We met Joe and his partners in music in February this year when they came to entertain us in Biggleswade. What a performance it was. Everybody loved them! It was one of those occasions in life that you want to remember forever. He will not be forgotten!

Fran and Angela Sharp

Saw him at this years Shetland Folk Festival and laughed so much we cried — music was good too! My wife and I can not believe he is gone, but he will live on in the memories of so many people. Maybe will help the rest of us live for the day, and maybe that will be a fitting tribute? Thanks for the memories, and think he would want the band to find a way to carry on?

Andy Knight
Wendover UK

We were devastated to hear the sad news of Joe's death. Joe's performances at the Shetland folk festival have become legendary. We eagerly looked forward to his virtuoso playing with the Old Rope String Band and the crazy on-stage antics. He always seemed modest about his skills and was keen to join in the informal sessions playing with musicians of all abilities. Joe will be sorely missed here in Shetland. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

Steve Davidson and Heather Butler

As a relative latecomer to the band of ORSB devotees, I found Joe (and Pete and TIm) such a refreshingly original talent — I could hardly believe what I saw and heard. Joe, you are irreplaceable, and I am only grateful that I was able to experience those life-enhancing performances which you all gave with such feeling and perfect timing.

You will never be forgotten.

Roger Dixon

My friend and I are just two more of the ORSB fans who were deeply shocked to hear (on Leicester Folkwaves), the announcement about the tragic accident which brought an end to the life of that unique and wondrous performer; Joe Scurfield. It was just heart-rending to hear of the loss of such a larger-than-life character who, along with Pete and Tim, had brought such enormous joy to those fortunate people who had seen them perform.

It is difficult to feel anything other than unhappiness that we have been deprived of further opportunities of seeing this wonderful trio in full flight; but it is clearly more appropriate for us to take solace from the fact that we were the lucky to have seen them, rather than be resentful over the loss of future opportunities to see their unique creativeness.

It must surely be inevitable that Tim and Pete's talents will not remain permanently hidden from us as a consequence of Joe's death; so I (and my sidekick Paul), will definitely be there to see them, if and when they next appear at the Moira Miners Welfare Club; in whatever form their future act should take.

Jim Bingham (and my folk-concert-sidekick Paul Hillman)

To Joe's family, Pete, Tim and Joe's closest friends,
      We share your sadness and give you our love. We have lovely memories of the fun and madness which the O.R.S.B. infected us with. We continue to be infected. Thank you Joe.

Love, Dave and Lynda Forgham

I am so shocked. Today a friend told me of Joe's death. As a soft southerner I didn't see ORSB as often as I would have liked, but it seems so recently that I saw Joe trying hard not to hit the pros arch in Castle Hedingham. I send my deepest sympathies to all.

David Knight

I've only just 'experienced' the band this year although I'd heard of you before. Saw you at Desford, then dragged as many friends as I could to see you at Burbage Festival (in Hinckley) a couple of weeks later. I haven't heard my daughter laugh so much for I don't know how long so I was eternally grateful to you all just for that. I was wearing my ORSB tee shirt at a do in Staffs recently and someone told me about Joe. I was distraught — what a terrible thing to have happened to such a super bloke. People have said to me that I wouldn't want to wear it any more but I've taken completely the opposite view. I now wear it as a tribute and will tell everyone who comments on it what a brilliant band they missed and to look at the website to see how much Joe was admired. From reading some of the tributes I know he will never be forgotten and I feel very privileged to have seen you all together, even if it was only for a short time.

Marg Osbourne

I was very sorry to hear of Joe's tragic passing. I have seen the Old Rope String Band in concert several times and they have always made me feel uplifted. There was one special night in Shetland two years ago when I was feeling down and their performance really lifted my spirits. My thoughts and prayers are with Pete and Tim and all Joe's family and friends at this time.

Debbie Geddes

I was so shocked when my friend rang to tell me the sad news (she had seen it in Lincs Rural Touring)and saddeed too because Joe was such a star; a real clown and a fine musician too. I had only to look at him and I wanted to laugh out loud. I've been a fan of the band for years and seen the acts so many times I almost know some of them by heart, but the recent visit to Fulstow was my friend's first taster of your sheer lunacy and she loved you. She was giving Joe plenty of 'verbal' and he was giving back as good as he got but he got his revenge when he tipped his rainmaker, minus the stopper, over us and we were showered with split peas! Well, we laughed so much we nearly had an accident that night.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to enjoy his talents for so long and feel sorry for those who never will. Thanks for all the fun.

Karen Barratt

Everytime I saw you all..I hadn't laughed much for years. Life's tragedies had robbed me of the will. Just heard the terrible news from a friend at Brampton last weekend.

My husband had seen you several times before I did. First saw you at Biggar .. won the T shirt last time & you signed it for my nephew ( 'cos I had one already). He delighted in your performance at Radstock & the T shirt has pride of place on his bedroom wall. I saw you at Brampton..Priddy..Whitehaven ....always had aching sides for days after!

Now I'm crying..& who will bring back my laugh. But Joe would want laughter so I'll put your CD on and I'm going to put my T shirt on teddy so I don't wear it out.

Thank you all for your love of music, people , life & fun.

& everyone I have told sends you their love.

Laura Shirley

What I remember is a man, red with fury and indignation as Pete and Tim arsed around screaming "Just for once!" and laughing till it hurt.

Lovely man.

Danny KilBride

I was so sorry to hear of Joe's death. I regularly come onto the website to see when the ORSB will next be in this area....

There weren't many of us at the gig in the Maison pout Tous, Chartres (France) in 2004, but the tiny hall was jam packed, and none of the lucky few who attended the concert will forget the talent, humour and just sheer human warmth that emanated from the group. Thank you, Joe, thank you, and thank you again. My heartfelt sympathy to Tim and Pete, and to Joe's family.

Sue Baddeley

My wife Anne and myself were horrified when we heard about Joes untimely departure and thought that we could do something that would be in memory of the daft things that Joe appreciated.

When we saw you all in Bridgenorth (2005) you talked about Joe liking pallendromes and when our 1979 MGBGT (that we drove over to Crete (Greece) in April 2004) displayed 88888.8 miles on the speedo (September 2005) we thought that we would stop the car where it was and do a dance in his memory.

Based upon this, here is an image of my wife doing a "Jig for Joe" by our MG at the exact point of the 88888.8 miles (the view is overlooking Neapolis, Lasithi Crete)

Anne dances a Jig for Joe

Good luck and looking forward to seeing you and the New Rope String Band at Worcester 2006


I only saw and heard the Old Rope String Band perform once, at Stroud Festival. I have good memories from that occasion of music and madness! I nearly saw then again nearer my home at a village hall in Shropshire, but the show was a sell-out. I was saddened to hear of Joe's death.

Chris Davies

last updated 30th July 2006