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Song Competition Winners

October 23rd 2012

Over the last few weeks dozens of new songs inspired by the North East heroine Grace Darling have been pouring in to the Woodhorn museum in Northumberland. The songs from writers all over the country were entries into a special competition organised by the museum and archive and linked to the new play Amazing Grace by Tyneside-based writers Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood.
The judges for the competition were comedian Brendan Healy, BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown and Lindisfarne legend Ray Laidlaw who expressed his surprise at the entries. “I have to say that the general standard of the songs was way above what I was expecting. The project seems to really have caught people's imagination.”

Deliberations are now over and the six winners have just been announced. The winners are as follows and you can find out more by clicking the links:

Peter Carr (North Shields): The Girl with the Windswept Hair Listen at search for The Girl With The Windswept Hair. Download at

Stan Graham (Earswick, York): Grace Darling Listen and download at (in the More Than Words album)

Chris Kelly (Lanchester, Co. Durham): Grace Listen at

John Leslie (Nedderton, Northumberland): Dear Grace Listen on Woodhorn's Facebook page and at

John D Lewis (Langton, Darlington): Tie the Boat Down Listen and download at

John Pagan music and lyrics and John Harper lyrics (Milnthorpe, Cumbria): The Keeper’s Daughter Listen at!longstone-productions/c1bpb

The winning songs will be broadcast during the three-week tour of the play about Grace Darling called Amazing Grace, which will begin its ten theatre regional tour on 17 October in Alnwick.

Woodhorn’s Events and Exhibitions Officer Liz Ritson was delighted by the response to the competition. “We received many more entries than we anticipated and in such a wide range of styles. It just goes to show that there is a huge amount of creative talent out there and a competition like this is a great chance for people to share it with the wider community.

“We were amazed at both the number of entries and the high standard of the songs. I’m sure our judges really enjoyed listening to all of them even if it was a really difficult task to select the final six winners. Grace was obviously an inspirational subject.”

A Facebook page has now been set up where some of the many other entries can be shared. Follow this link. If you entered and would like to share your song with others, please use this Facebook page. 

Grace Darling and her lighthouse keeper father lived on Longstone Island when, in a storm on 7th September 1838, the SS Forfarshire struck the notorious Harcar rocks, a part of the Farne Islands and situated off the Northumberland Coast between Bamburgh and Seahouses. Of the 63 people on board, nine managed to escape in the lifeboat and headed to South Shields, while Grace and her father selflessly manned a coble to heroically rescue nine people stranded on the rocks. Tragically Grace died of TB in 1842 aged only 26, four years after her heroic deed.

“We are so pleased that Woodhorn with its archive records of Northumberland’s history has been involved in this competition,” says Liz. “Many people see Woodhorn as a museum but they aren’t always aware that we have a huge local history resource available to the public too. The competition has been a great way of celebrating and sharing our rich heritage and making it relevant to modern life.”

The three-week north east tour of Amazing Grace will begin with a world premiere at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday, October 17, as follows:

Alnwick Playhouse: 01665 510 785 Wednesday, October 17; Thursday, October 18 (evening and matinee); Friday, October 19
Consett Empire:  01207 218171 Saturday, October 20 (evening and matinee)
Hexham Queen’s Hall: 01434 652477 Monday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 23 (evening and matinee) 
Gala theatre (Durham): 0191 332 4041 Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25 (evening and matinee) 
Hartlepool Theatre: 01429 890 000 Friday, October 26 
Gateshead Old Town Hall: 0191 433 6965 Saturday, October 27    
Customs House (South Shields): 0191 454 1234 Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30 (evening and matinee)
Blyth Phoenix theatre: 01670 367 228 Wednesday, October 31  
Berwick Maltings: 01289 330999 Thursday, November 1 and Friday, November 2 (evening and matinee)
Playhouse Whitley Bay: 0844 277 2771 Saturday, November 3 (evening and matinee)

Tickets for Amazing Grace are on sale from the venues. For further information visit

Amazing Grace is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

Information about the winners

The Girl with the Windswept Hair
Peter Carr (North Shields)
The melody for Peter’s song has been sitting in a drawer for 20 years always destined for something related to the sea - until he caught site of the competition in a newspaper article. A sound engineer with his own studio in Wallsend, Peter spends most of his time helping others make music. He enjoys writing songs when he has time, but says now he might make more of an effort.

Grace Darling
Stan Graham (Earswick, York)
Wallsend-born Stan took up song writing 10 years ago following a 36 year army career. His song was actually written several years ago and has been recorded by several folk singers since. As a child Stan remembered that there was a piece of wood in his house which was supposed to be part of Grace’s boat, so he felt an extra link to the heroine. 

Chris Kelly (Lanchester, Co. Durham)
Recently retired teacher Chris is enjoying his music now he has more time on his hands although he has been writing songs for 40 years. It’s not the first time he has entered a competition inspired by a figure from local history – he came second with a song about Bede. Chris has also performed on the local folk scene.

Dear Grace
John Leslie (Nedderton, Northumberland)
Newcastle born John is part of a song writing project called Sawdust Jacks (est about 2008). He composes most of their songs which are mainly about local history which they enjoy performing at local history groups (not folk clubs as you might think). He has composed songs about the Hartley Pit Disaster and Stephenson’s Rocket in the past. During the day he works for a not-for profit insulation installation business.

Tie the Boat Down
John D Lewis (Langton, Darlington)
Although this song was written by John himself, he usually writes with his wife. Together they have had some success in the independent music network charts in the USA. This is the first time Newcastle-born John has entered a competition though. He felt particularly drawn to Grace Darling theme as he has very fond childhood memories of outings near the Longstone Lighthouse on the Northumberland coast.
(John would like to mention Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston who played on his recording although they’ve never met – it was done remotely)

The Keeper’s Daughter
John Pagan (Milnthorpe, Cumbria)
Heworth-born and distant blood relative of Grace, John Pagan is co-founder of and Longstone Productions, a project dedicated to bringing the story of Grace Darling to a wider audience through film or Tv documentary and multi-media. John has spent the last decade creating high profile motion graphics, original music and video for some of the biggest names in travel entertainment and broadcast.
John Harper
Co-founder of and Longstone Productions. Writer, critic and chief researcher. Fascinated by the Grace Darling legend for many years, John wants the world to share this fantastic story of courage, drama, fame and tragedy.