My late parents, Peg and Jim Armstrong started Tullycarnet Yarnspinners in February 1991. The season was to run from September to May each year, as indeed it does to this day. Before the September 1992 season started, my dad was operated on for cancer, but he bounced back quickly and ran the monthly yarnspinning events. But knowing he didn’t have a lot of time left, he suggested to me that we record some of the sessions. So from January to May 1993, I travelled from London and with the invaluable assistance of Stephen Maxwell, we recorded 5 of the monthly sessions. Instead of just a main storyteller, as had been the norm, my dad invited the best of the local yarnspinners to tell a couple of stories each month. So we assembled a collection of stories by the finest that Northern Ireland had to offer.
That summer I worked with dad on picking stories and I put together enough for a cassette compilation, which my record company Ace manufactured. He was declining in health as the weeks went by and eventually my brother Perry rang to say that I had better come over as he didn’t have long. On the way to the airport I dropped into the office and as I was leaving my sales manager said ‘your cassette is in’ – they were a week early. I grabbed a few copies, flew to Belfast, arriving on the Friday night and the first thing I did was to give him a copy of the cassette. That was it for him, last ‘I’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed, and he slowly faded away over the following week.
We sold the tape for the benefit of the Hospice and raised around £12,000, with requests for it coming in from all over the World. It is still available as a double CD and now benefits the MacMillan nurses, who took such good care of dad in his final days.
As February 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the launch of Tullycarnet Yarnspinners, we have edited all of the stories and they are now available on the AST web site. This is a valuable archive of the times, and many of the story tellers are no longer with us, so this is their legacy as well.
You are free to listen to them, but should you feel moved enough, there is a Paypal button.
Original recordings by Roger Armstrong and Stephen Maxwell in 1993
Edited by Stephen Maxwell in 2021