The Island of Apples

by Mick Ryan & Pete Harris

A collection of songs in traditional style mainly written by Mick himself but including some traditional and some from other writers. Nearly all the songs are accompanied by a full range of instrumentation.

1 The Labourer’s Cause 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

In 1834, six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle, Dorset, were sentenced to seven years transportation, at the behest of their local squire, James Frampton. They were convicted of ‘administering an illegal oath’, but their real ‘crime’ had been in forming a union branch. From the ‘folk musical’ ‘A Tolpuddle Man’, this song asserts and celebrates the universal nature of their cause. 

2 The Land 
Words and Music Mick Ryan 

In 1943, the people of the beautiful coastal village of Tyneham, Dorset, were given three weeks notice to move out. The Army needed the area for training, preparatory to ‘D-Day’. The people left their homes sadly but hopefully, reassured by a written promise that they would be able to return after the war. The army is still there, the village a picturesque ruin occasionally accessible to tourists. The land, as the song attests, remembers what is lost; and the place has an almost tangible ‘atmosphere’. This is from Mick’s show telling this story, ‘Tanks For The Memory’. 

3 There Was A Man 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

A Christmas carol, written to order at the request of Peter and Pauline Burnette, good friends, and members of ‘The Sheffield Folk Choir’. 

4 Cupid’s Garden 
Trad. Arr. Harris 

Learned, like many another great traditional song, from the immortal Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex. 

5 Life 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

Also from ‘Tanks For The Memory’, this tries to express the feeling of someone packing up to leave their home, not knowing when, or if, they will return. Anyone who has ‘cleared’ the home of a recently dead relative will know just how poignant the smallest items can be. 

6 The Island of Apples 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

This tells the story of King Arthur. The island in question is now called Glastonbury, Somerset. It really was an island before the surrounding wetlands were drained. Legend has it that Arthur was raised there in secret, and returned there to die after his last battle. It is said, however, that he is merely sleeping, and will return when England is in her hour of greatest need. 

7 Tom Paine’s Bones 
Words and Music - Graham Moore 

A very fine song about the great English radical, author of ‘The Rights of Man’ and ‘Common Sense’. He died in America, in whose revolution he had played a prominent part and to where he had fled from post-revolutionary France, where he had been considered too radical. Some years later, his bones were brought back to England in the keeping of William Cobbett. Cobbett’s maidservant, taking them for kitchen rubbish, threw them out. Paine remains an icon of the Left to this day. 

8 The Boy Remembers His Father 
Words - S. Clifford, adapted Mick Ryan; Music S. MacMathuna, adt. Mick Ryan 

Mick heard this song sung by Seamus MacMathuna at ‘The Wexford Singing Weekend’ in about 1993. He was much moved, both by the song and the performance and in particular by its telling refrain “the swish of your boots through the grass”. When we remember the dead, it is the little things we recall most vividly. The song was perhaps given additional poignancy by the fact that Mick’s late father had been born and raised about ten miles away. Seamus had set Sigerson Clifford’s beautiful poem himself. Mick has taken typically English liberties with the words, while adding a ‘B’ part to Seamus’ original tune. The poem is to be found in ‘Ballads of a Bogman’. 

9 The Banks of the Bahn 

This was learned from Sean Cannon, and comes from the north of Ireland. Anyone who has been to South Armagh will recognise the description of ‘those lovely green mountains’ as especially vivid. 

10 Here Comes Mick 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

Whilst putting together ‘The Navvy’s Wife’, his latest show, Mick was reading Ultan Cowley’s comprehensively authoritative, lucidly written and beautifully illustrated ‘The Men Who Built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy’. Here he came across an English plasterer’s fulsome tribute to the speed, strength and endurance of his Irish labourer. This song is based upon that testament of respect. 

11 When We Take ‘em Over/ Sailing West 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

This pair of songs is from ‘The Voyage’, Mick’s show about emigration to America in the 1840s. The first is sung by the sailors. The transport ship owners were paid for embarking the emigrants not for delivering them. Their safe arrival, therefore, was a matter of indifference to those who carried them ‘over’. The second is sung by the emigrants, who sail ‘in hope and desperation’. 

12 Fresh Fish 
Words - J. Ryan; Music and chorus - Mick Ryan 

‘Developed’, as it were from some comic verse by Mick’s sister. This is, bizarrely, apparently based on real events! 

13 A Tolpuddle Man 
Words and Music - Graham Moore 

In 1989, Graham Moore asked Mick to write songs for a putative show about the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’. Mick greed, but also suggested that Graham might write some as well. When Graham said that he had never written songs before, Mick assured him that he was nonetheless capable of doing it. Next day, Graham came round to Mick’s house with this, his first ever song. As the first person to hear this great anthem of hope, Mick tends to feel proprietorial about it. 

14 The Song Goes On 
Words and Music - Mick Ryan 

This was written for performance at a concert in memory of the great Cyril Tawney which was held at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in 2005. We think it is self-explanatory. 
The Labourer’s Cause
In 1834
The Land
In 1943
Sample not available
There Was A Man
A Christmas carol
Sample not available
Cupid’s Garden
Sample not available
Also from ‘Tanks For The Memory’
Sample not available
The Island of Apples
This tells the story of King Arthur. The island in question is now called Glastonbury
Sample not available
Tom Paine’s Bones
A very fine song about the great English radical
Sample not available
The Boy Remembers His Father
adapted Mick Ryan; Music S. MacMathuna
The Banks of the Bahn
This was learned from Sean Cannon
Sample not available
Here Comes Mick
Whilst putting together ‘The Navvy’s Wife’
Sample not available
When We Take ‘em Over/ Sailing West
This pair of songs is from ‘The Voyage’
Sample not available
Fresh Fish
Sample not available
A Tolpuddle Man
In 1989
Sample not available
The Song Goes On
This was written for performance at a concert in memory of the great Cyril Tawney which was held at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in 2005. We think it is self-explanatory.
Sample not available

The Living Tradition

Dai Woosnam

Mick and Pete have been performing together since 1993 and this is their seventh album. That's an average of a CD every 21 months or so. Now, with many recording artistes, I'd be tempted to say, "slow down boys!" But not with this magnificent duo. One almost demands an ANNUAL fix.

Note, I said "duo". It is important to remember that Pete Harris is no "fifth wheel on the wagon". Yes, I know that everybody on the folk circuit talks about "Mick Ryan" as shorthand for the duo, and it is not meant as a mark of disrespect to Pete. But, as I have said before when reviewing their work elsewhere. I reckon that they should be billed alphabetically, since they both seem to bring their brand of magic 50-50 to the table.

I write this review having just seen the latest BBC screening from the Cambridge Folk Festival. How sad it is that instead of the usual suspects, a great act like this one is not centrestage there. Because, rest assured, these guys are world class. Maybe, instead of "duo", I should talk in terms of a "trio", since here they are joined by the talented Paul Sartin, on oboe and fiddle. And his presence is the musical icing on the cake here, as it is on so many WildGoose CDs. He must love the legendary culinary welcome in Doug and Sue Bailey's kitchen down there in Hampshire!

Indeed, mentioning Paul makes me think that perhaps we should not stop at "trio". For there is a fourth presence here. And it is that of the great Graham Moore, that Son of Dorset who - like Mick & Pete - should have had at least three Main Stage Cambridge appearances under his belt by now, if there were any justice in this world. Oh, AND a WildGoose recording contract!

True, Graham does not perform on this CD, but his A Tolpuddle Man is by some distance the standout track. And following it in my list of favourites here is The Labourer's Cause (which Mick co-wrote with him), and then Graham's Tom Paine's Bones. (We have just lost the inspirational Kenneth Griffith, maker of those singular, mould-breaking television documentaries: how he'd have loved to have had this last song as the "closing credits" song methinks, for his Tom Paine masterpiece.)

And mentioning these Tolpuddle songs brings me to something of a thread running through the CD: several of the tracks are from the five stage musicals that Mick has penned. And as someone who saw the live production of Tanks For The Memory a few years back, I have to say that the inclusion here of a couple of songs from it, is dearly appreciated.

What else to say? Well yes, there was a surprise track as there always is with a Ryan/Harris album. In this case it was The Boy Remembers His Father, a song quite new to me. I note that the fine words are by the late Sigerson Clifford, and that is a name I have looked out for ever since discovering that Mickey MacConnell based the lyrics of his unforgettable The Tinkerman's Daughter on Clifford's A Tinker's Tale. As someone who lost his own dad at just ten years and three months, I was truly moved by it.

As I was indeed by another new song to me: Mick's recently penned tribute to the great Cyril Tawney. It shows he has not lost one iota of his skill in penning a song.


Dai Woosnam

The Folk Mag

Des Redwood

I was delighted to be able to review this CD. Mick and Pete are two great folk artists. Mick has written so many fine songs over the years and sings with an enchantingly fine voice, one that sends tingles down your spine as the songs unfold. How does Mick manage to hold those end notes as long as he does? As many of us know, Pete sings well, too, but he is also a very versatile musician able to play a wide variety of instruments with consummate ease, as he does yet again on this CD.

Most of the songs were already familiar to me. Having seen Mick and Pete so often at clubs and festivals, it was lovely to have songs from their earlier CDs as tracks for this new offering, sitting alongside songs that have been emerging recently through their appearances around the country.

Tracks from Micks various musicals are included. So it is no surprise to see songs from A Tolpuddle Man, Tanks For The Memory and The Voyage. Having visited Tyneham and found out the story of the long-abandoned village, I always like hearing The Land and Life. And I just love A Tolpuddle Man, which has such a great chorus to accompany its thought-provoking lyrics.

I really like the way the new and old songs run alongside each other. So it is as nice to hear The Labourers Cause as it is to hear the title track, The Island of Apples. A little later. Cupids Garden was especially enjoyable as it is a Copper Family song, from Rottingdean, just along from where I was born. Pete leads on Tom Paines Bones, a fascinating story about the great radical who died in America. For a bit of fun, go for Fresh Fish  a nice singalong song.

My favourite track has to be the final one on the CD  The Song Goes On. What a great song in memory of the one and only Cyril Tawney. The first time I heard it at the Y Theatre in Leicester was a magic moment and we all quickly picked up its fine lyrics, delightful tune and joined in with much enthusiasm.

The Island of Apples has a total of 14 tracks, each one a treat. So many of them have fine lyrics that tell stories wonderfully woven by Mick and accompanied so finely by Pete. For all fans of these two artists, this is a CD to put on your must have list and dont forget that when you meet up with them you may get just a little encouragement from Mick to take them home with you!! Actually, Mick and Pete, you do not need to encourage us  just keep producing such fine songs and CDs and your reputation will do the rest!

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

There are some CDs that come through the letterbox that you just know you are going to enjoy even before youve played the first track. I confess openly that I am a Mick Ryan and Pete Harris fan; the former for his fine song writing and rich voice and the latter for his instrumental prowess and inventive harmony arrangements - so dont expect an unbiased review!

This latest CD from them is well up to the usual standard with a mix of Micks own traditional style songs and others from Graham Moore, including the superb A Tolpuddle Man (surprisingly this was the first song he wrote!), a couple of traditional songs, including a lovely up tempo version of the Copper Familys Cupids Garden and a song from Micks sister entitled Fresh Fish a light hearted tale supposedly based on fact in a lilting waltz tempo and with a challenging chorus!

The title track is one of Micks finest. Based on Arthurian legend the Island in question is now Glastonbury. Sung a capella with Pete adding a harmony towards the end its classic stuff.

Obviously the majority of Micks songs on this album are from his shows and Ive heard many of them before but a new one that stood out was Here Comes Mick from his latest show The Navvys Wife. Also, from The Voyage two songs When We Take em Over and Sailing West are placed back to back rather perceptively giving us maritime fans a pleasant dose of the sea. The CD rounds off with a fitting tribute to the late, great Cyril Tawney in The Song Goes On.

A very satisfying album presented in the usual consummately professional manner  by Doug Bailey at WildGoose. Thanks chaps!

Folk News Kernow


Mick Ryan is here at the top of his form, not just for his singing but also for his splendid sinewy own?songs. One or two come from previous shows, some from Graham Moore, two are traditional, most have the huge benefit of Pete Harris' voice and instrumentals, and all are exceptional for quality. Please everybody learn There Was A Man, Mick's lovely carol; I want to hear it lots.


Mike Everett

Heres a duo that is very well known on the folk scene, whether its appearing at your local folk club or on the main stage at festivals like Sidmouth. Mick Ryan is a fine singer of traditional songs, as heard here on Cupids Garden and The Banks of the Bahn. But he is probably even better known as a writer of songs that are firmly rooted in the tradition. The title track tells the story of King Arthur; others deal with the Tolpuddle martyrs, villagers being evicted by the army, Tom Paine, Irish navvies, emigration  all suitable themes for songs that will become folk standards in clubs up and down the country. One that has already become widely sung is the title song from Micks show, A Tolpuddle Man, written by Graham Moore. Mick is renowned for his more light-hearted songs such as The Widows Promise, and here he adds to this collection with Fresh Fish, where he has added the music and chorus to some comic verse written by his sister.

Micks musical partner, Pete Harris, is known for his playing with bands such as The New St George and the Bursledon Village Band.  He provides stirring accompaniment on half a dozen different stringed instruments and whistle as well as sharing the vocals and being responsible for the arrangements of most of the duos material.

The last track is The Song Goes On, written in memory of Cyril Tawney; a fitting tribute and no better way to close an album.

Shreds & Patches

Flos Headford

This duo must the folk scene's most inexplicable secret. Nobody can better their performance; their choice of material and their own compositions are peerless; Pete's accompaniments are in a class of their own. I can't understand why they aren't booked at every festival of the year.

For decades they've been hard at it. Fortunately, we can buy their work on CD, and this one is a pearl. If you look for handsome voices telling meaningful tales to memorable tunes, try this album. Most of the lyrics are by Mick (and he has such wonderful shows to his name ? A Tolpuddle Man, A Day's Work, The Voyage, Tanks for the Memory, The Navvy's Wife) with most of the arrangements credited to Pete.

The feel is very traditional on one track, The Banks of the Bann, but is mostly a demonstration of what most 'contemporary' folk artists aim at (almost always failing dismally, in my opinion). Many of the songs are deeply moving, so I found it particularly apt that the work closes with The Song Goes on, written by Mick in memory of Cyril Tawney. This is an anthem of joy and sadness combined, and rounds off the album perfectly.

BBC2 Radio Website - Mike Harding


In a very complementary pairing, singer-songwriter Mick and multi-instrumentalist Pete produce a fine record of trad and original songs written in a traditional vein.  


Jacqueline Patten

Before they started performing together, Mick Ryan and Pete Harris were highly respected in their own right. While Mick has a superb singing voice and style, his skill as a writer of songs and folk operas in traditional style would be hard to equal. At the same time, Pete's ability as a musician (vocals, harmony vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, fretless bass guitar, whistles, percussion) and arranger are exceptional. As a duo they surpass previously high standards.

Most of the tracks on The Island of Apples were written by Mick Ryan or Graham Moore, the exceptions being two traditional songs, 'The Banks of the Bahn' and 'Cupid's Garden', and 'Fresh Fish', the words of which came from Mick's sister. The themes are familiar to devotees of traditional song: war, toil, loss, love, emigration, hope and despair plus a carol, 'There Was A Man', written by Mick and arranged by Pete.

Seven items come from folk musicals: two from 'A Tolpuddle Man', two from 'The Voyage', two from 'Tanks for the Memory', and one from 'The Navvy's Wife'. If it is the mark of an excellent CD when phrases of tunes keep coming into one's mind at regular intervals, then this one is good as it happens with many of the songs on this album: they are already familiar.

It is always difficult to select a favourite track but on this occasion it is worth doing. 'The Song Goes On', written for a concert in memory of Cyril Tawney, promises to be a song that will go on, and it is likely to reach a wide audience for many years to come. It is a song devoted to a man who brought traditional music to thousands; if there had ever been any doubt, this album confirms Mick Ryan and Pete Harris's place alongside him.

Whats Afoot

Jerry Bix

THE ISLAND OF APPLES Mick Ryan & Pete Harris WGS 339CD

LIVE FROM THE MAC Last Night's Fun LNF Records LNFRO06

Two very different CD's; but with so much in common. Both are arguably among the best of their genre performing in the UK (which is why we have booked both for Bideford Folk Festival!) Both CD's are consistently excellent, so if you are already a fan then I can guarantee you will be delighted. Both in concert have reduced me to gasping for breath with laughter at their between?song banter and repartee.

In performance and on this CD Mick Ryan's voice alongside Pete Harris' sweet harmonies and rhythmic musical arrangements provide a perfect setting for his powerful, thought?provoking songs. Songs with tunes full of unusual turns and corners and words that evoke the full range of emotions sorrow, joy, pride, anger, regret and affection. Here we have seven of Mick's own songs, many from his folk plays, alongside the traditional Cupid's Garden and The Banks of the Bohn. In addition there are two of my favourite Graham Moore songs - Tolpuddle Man and Tom Paine's Bones and the powerful The Labourer's Cause from Mick's collaboration with Graham Moore. The Song Goes On written for a Sidmouth concert in memory of Cyril Tawney reminds us why we sing ? so that "the singers who have gone before us will be singing once again".

Two fabulous CD's - buy them both - or better still see them in concert and then buy their CD's.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy & Bob Drage

Another fine CD from Mick & Pete, joined here by Paul Sartin on oboe and fiddle. Some songs are from the show written by Mick, 'Labourer's Cause' (Tolpuddle Man), 'The Land', 'Life' (Tanks for the Memory), 'Here Comes Mick' (Navvy's Wife) and 'When We Take Them OverISailing West' (Voyage). The title track tells the story of King Arthur & how he sleeps in Glastonbury ready to return when England is in her greatest need. Mick's rich chocolate brown voice is equally at home with other people's songs, Graham Moore's 'Tom Paines Bones' and 'Tolpuddle Man'. Multi-intstrumentalist Pete works fine arrangements on all the songs, as well as singing. The CD finishes with 'The Song Goes On' written in memory of Cyril Tawney, surely a song to become an anthem at clubs and festivals up and down the land.


Nick Beale

These two can be depended on to do justice to whatever material they tackle. Here they do traditional songs like Cupid's Garden and Banks Of The Bahn (which I thought was going to be about German railways but turned out to be some river in Ireland) alongside several songs from different themed collections (a.k.a. 'folk musicals') that Mick Ryan had composed including the stories of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the army's wartime takeover of Tyneham in Dorset, navvies and Irish emigration to America. There's also a song in praise of Tom Paine of whose ideas Britain needs reminding. An album of strong, confident and authoritative singing and playing.

Lancashire Wakes

John McAlister

I love this sort of CD, great singing, good songs and an Irish influence. Ewan McColl would have approved, lots of songs following in the tradition of the radio ballads which produced such fine songs. The songs draw from the past but no worse for that, lots of emotion and celebration of the struggle of the left for a better life. The favourite is 'A Tolpuddle Man', written by Graham Moore, but performed so well here by his friends. This duo have been on the folk scene a long time and the depth of experience shows in the performances. Pete Harris provides the musical accompaniments with guest appearances from Paul Sartin on oboe and fiddle.

Their website is at where I was to find that they are retired teachers; join the club! Two songbooks are available through the site should you like to sing the songs (well, that's what it's all about!). Strongly recommended.