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The Singing Postman (Allan Smethurst)

Allan Smethurst (aka The Singing Postman) was born in Bury in Lancashire on November 18th, 1927 - but at the age of two his family moved to Sheringham in North Norfolk. They lived at 48, Cliff Road and the town would later feature in one of his lyrics: 'I am a Shannock, I wor a Shannock'.

Allan Smethurst: a shy star

Smethurst's mother was originally from Stiffkey and so he was exposed to the Norfolk accent from birth. He also spent many childhood holidays in the village and could vividly recall the burying there of Rev Harold Davidson (the prostitute's padre) in 1937.

It wasn't until he was 21 that he taught himself to play the guitar - inspired by the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, George Formby and Frank Crummit; his  stage name was actually inspired by Rodgers' the 'Singing Brakeman'.

Smethurst sent a demo tape to Ralph Tuck who compered a regional radio programme called 'Wednesday Morning' and soon after Tuck set up his own recording company and produced Smethurst's first record - which appeared in 1964.

Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy? rose to number 7 in the national charts and for a brief period the Singing Postman was outselling both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In 1965 Smethurst gave up his day job at the Post Office (earning £12 a week) and embarked on a full time musical career. At this time, he appeared on Top of the Pops and won an Ivor Novello Award for best Novelty Song. However, he soon began to suffer from stage fright and started to drink heavily - eventually becoming an alcoholic. He also suffered from arthritis which stopped him playing the guitar after 1970.

Smethurst recorded some 80 songs - most of which employed the Norfolk dialect - including: My Valentine, I Miss My Miss from Diss and Oi Can't Get a Noice Loaf of Bread. Although he appeared to be a comedic figure - always performing in his Royal Mail uniform - his song lyrics had considerable depth and evoked a romantic and nostalgic picture of his Norfolk childhood. It was almost as though he was trying to escape from the present - as his song Yew Carnt Keep Livin' in the Past articulates. Local girl Mollie Bayfield was immortalised in his best known song as his chain-smoking Norfolk sweetheart Molly Windley - 'down along th' Mundesley shore'. In reality however, she was married to Albert Bayfield - a friend of Smethurst's from the Paston school in North Walsham. He changed her name in order to provide a rhyme for 'chimley'.

The Best of the Singing Postman

Smethurst died in poverty in the Salvation Army Hostel in Grimsby on 22 December, 2000. He had previously worked as a electrician on Grimsby Docks. While living in the hostel, he was visited by Rolf Harris who once had a hit with one of his songs. Towards the end of his life 'Ovaltine' picked up Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy? for their TV advert and Smethurst started to get royalties again.

A tribute Radio 4 programme entitled 'In Search of the Singing Postman' was broadcast on 7th September, 2010. It was written and presented by the Norfolk-born writer D.J. Taylor.

Each year there is celebration of the Singing Postman's life and works -  held at the Harbour Room in Blakeney.





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