Tim Laycock, storyteller, actor, singer and musician, is Dorset’s foremost folk animateur, whose performances, in libraries, schools, village halls and other venues throughout the county, often encompass all the above roles.

This attractive book is a compilation of stories (and a few songs) which the author has collected during his career, proves the storytelling tradition is still very much alive in Dorset.

Some of the stories have the feel of having been created during the storytelling workshops which Tim often conducts, while others do have more of an air of tradition about them. A few have been collected from written sources – the Gentleman’s Magazine, is quoted in one instance.

In some cases, known historical events have been extrapolated to provide entertaining tales, such as Jack and the Coffee Mill, based on the Marie Celeste-like disappearance of a Dorset ship’s crew off Labrador in 1836, and The Mummers, which uses contemporary newspaper reports concerning a notorious brawl between two rival sets of entertainers in Fordington on Christmas Eve 1827, in which Thomas Hardy’s father played a minor role.

The book is well written, and the narrative style is recognisably that of the author in character, though, perhaps wisely, he eschews much of the dialect with which he peppers his performances.

An entertaining addition to Mr Laycock’s extensive canon of recordings, though I would have liked more information about the origins of the material, some of which is given no attribution at all.

Jerry Bird

The Last Dorset Folk Tales by Tim Laycock
The History Press £9.99 ISBN 978-0-7524-6636-1

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