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Blue plaque in memory of Sam

PUBLISHED: 16:01 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 July 2010

A BLUE plaque dedicated to the memory of singing Winterton fisherman Sam Larner was unveiled at his former home at Bulmer Lane in the village on Wednesday.

A BLUE plaque dedicated to the memory of singing Winterton fisherman Sam Larner was unveiled at his former home at Bulmer Lane in the village on Wednesday.

For the majority of his life it was usually other seamen and pub-goers in the Fisherman's Return pub who were entertained by his repertoire of occasionally risqué folk songs.

Sam Larner found a much wider, instant audience after he starred in a BBC radio programme on the old Home Service and went on to make a record when he was 80.

He died in 1965 aged 87, and now Great Yarmouth and District Archaeological Society has paid tribute to his colourful life by putting up a blue plaque to “Sam Larner, Norfolk Fisherman and Folk Singer” at the cottage at Winterton where he lived for most of his life.

Doreen Smith, who has lived in the cottage for the past 18 years, contacted the borough council to suggest putting up a plaque, used to mark sites of historical significance, because of the number of people knocking on her door and asking if it was where Sam had lived.

She said: “At first, when I noticed visitors taking photographs, I thought they were just interested in my lovely garden, but then I learned they were people staying at nearby Hemsby on folk music weekends. So many people kept asking me if this was the house Sam lived in, two years ago I thought it may be an idea to contact the council about putting up a plaque”

Sam was born at Winterton in 1878, one of nine children, and recalled later that the choice for Winterton boys in those days was to go to sea or go to jail.

As a ship's boy on sailing drifters, Sam heard the songs of other fishermen, which he remembered and went on to perform for the rest of his life at pubs and parish concerts.

The co-director of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, John Howson said: “Sam had achieved national significance for keeping alive songs he had learned from his father and other fishermen around the coast. Of the 65 songs he recorded, 60 of them were not known by anyone else.

“He was 'discovered' in 1956 in a pub by a BBC radio producer from Birmingham who recorded about 25 of his songs. Four years later, he featured in a radio programme, Singing the Fish, part of a series of documentaries called Radio Ballads, which won a top award.”

That radio exposure launched his recording career, and several of his records were still available, including Now is the Time for Fishing.

The former coxswain of Cromer lifeboat Richard Davies, former coxswain and a singing fisherman, attended the plaque-unveiling celebration. A celebration in the Fisherman's Return followed a service in Winterton church conducted by Fr Adrian Ling.

Mr Davies recalled: “My grandfather knew Sam and we used to visit him and listen to him sing. His songs were similar to the ones my grandfather used to sing.”

Mr Larner and his wife Dorcas, who did not approve of his more risqué songs, had no children.

But his last-surviving niece, Edna Haylett, 88, still lives in the village and was at the ceremony.

She said: “I remember him being very kind to us. I think it is important to keep our traditions alive, and I am so pleased people appreciated Sam and have decided to mark his life in this way.”

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