Tony lived almost his entire life in Horsham, and developed an interest in music and local history. His style of research and writing was inspired by Horsham’s historian William Albery and the Brighton based folklore writer Lillian Candlin.
Tony was able to broaden his musical tastes while working in Andrew’s Record store, firstly exploring Traditional Jazz, followed by the Blues and performers such as Big Bill Broonzy and Josh White.
Being involved with the International Friendship League brought Tony into contact with people from overseas and differing cultures. At International Friendship social gatherings, guests would perform their music and songs. Realizing the importance of the music, in 1956 Tony purchased a portable clockwork tape recorder, a Butoba, with which to record.
Searching for local history in Horsham he found a wide range of informants, many who knew local songs. Recording them was the ideal way to learn the tunes and songs and in 1957 Tony recorded an LP of Sussex songs, issued by Folkways in New York. Many of the songs on the record were collected from his mother and Horsham residents, such as Charlie Potter. The original recordings by Charlie can be heard on this website.
In 1958 Tony started the Horsham Songswappers folk club, the first organised folk song club in Sussex. Within a year this brought together new singers, but also older, traditional singers such as Bob Blake and George Belton. A spin off of the club was the formation of The Derrydowners Folk Band that played for Barn Dances throughout Sussex for over 25 years. An original member of the band was mouth-organ player Terry Potter, Charlie’s son.
Tony, along with others, organised the Horsham Folk Festivals, starting in 1961, that included revival and traditional singers. To ensure that good recordings would be made at the festivals, Tony invested in a new tape-recorder, a Ferrograph Series 2. Recordings from the festivals were subsequently issued by the EFDSS. Some of the festival recordings can be heard on this website.
In 1961, Tony took the role of Folk Shop Sales Manager at the English Folk Dance and Song Society, where he later became Press and Publicity Officer. During his time there Tony was responsible for the production of many EFDSS publications and their content. In the early 1970s the EFDSS under Tony’s guidance developed ventures with commercial publishers such as Stainer and Bell, and Chappell. The EFDSS would supply content while the publishers covered production and distribution costs, profits being shared. So Tony was able to publish his first book in 1976, We Wunt be Druv, a mixture of songs and folklore of Sussex, much of it originating from recordings made during the 1950s and 60s. From 1963 through until 1978, Tony edited the magazine, English Dance and Song.
Tony went on to publish over 40 more Sussex books with many publishers. Some folklorists may consider Tony’s books to be lightweight and lacking in scholarship. He recorded and published material that he collected.
Throughout his life, Tony continued to record songs and folklore, but also other events that interested him. Examples include, Latin masses, the annual Veteran Car Run from London to Brighton, fairground organs and radio programmes.
(Sean Goddard 2016)
Books By Tony Wales
We Wunt be Druv, 1976
A Sussex Garland, 1979
A Day Out in Old Sussex, 1982
Long Summer Days, 1983
The West Sussex Village Book, 1984, revised 1999
Ballads, Bands and Bellringers, 1985
Horsham in Old Picture Postcards
Vol 1,1987, Vol 2,1992
An Album of Old Horsham, 1989
Sussex Customs, Curiosities and Country Lore, 1990
Sussex Ghosts and Legends, 1992
Littlehampton in Old Picture Postcards, 1993
Horsham and District in Old Photographs, 1994
Landscapes of West Sussex, 1994
Photo Archive Series: Brighton and Hove, 1997;
Bognor Regis, 1997; Hastings, 1998
Horsham Then and Now, 2000
Sussex as She Wus Spoke, 2000
A Treasury of Sussex Folklore 2000
Tony Wales also edited and produced quarterly magazines on a Gestetner Cyclograph-type machine in 1961 and. These were clearly home produced and consisted of six double sided pages. We have been given access to numbers 1 to 7 of these (were there any more?) that are in the possession of Terry Potter.
These are very slim volumes that nevertheless contain a great deal of information that is of interest to Sussex Traditions, mainly from the Horsham area. Text scans from these magazines are found at the appropriate locations throughout the website.
Here is the cover of issue no. 1.