Pete Wood His first book, The Elliotts of Birtley


The Elliotts were miners at Cotia Pit near Birtley for 120 years prior to its demise under the Robens closure plan in 1965. Jack and his wife Em married in 1925 and raised four children, Pete, Doreen, John, and Len. The family sang songs all their life, at the pub, in the house, in the back lane, or the fields playing kids' games.

The Folk Revival of the 1960s brought them to fame, particularly their meeting with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, which led to the radio ballad "The Big Hewer" and the LP "The Elliotts of Birtley". Jack and Em unfortunately died in the late 60s, but the children and their partners continued the singing at festivals and folk clubs around the country and abroad.






"……..his excellent, well-researched book provides a timely reminder of the debt we owe the Elliotts both for keeping the songs alive and for the encouragement and inspiration they have given…." Peta Webb and Ken Hall, English Dance & Song.

"This is a well organised book, which covers all aspects of the life and times of the family, and of the folk scene. It is a very thorough labour of love which will be of interest to all who knew and admired the Elliotts of Birtley." Danny Stradling, Musical Traditions

"This is a unique book, as essential for the lover of folk music as for the student of local and industrial history or folk culture in the north-east. It's also uniquely compelling and truly hard to put down." David Kidman, Folk Roundabout

"The Elliotts of Birtley should be an essential addition to the collection of anyone with an interest in folk music, folk traditions, industrial or political history. It should also be required reading for the encouraging number of youngsters who are continuing the folk tradition." Dave Sutherland, Tatters (







Pete's book tells the fascinating story of the family history starting with the foundling Francis Elliott in the mid 1800s, through their strong left wing politics, their atheism, the origins of their songs, and their standing with the north east pit community and folk movement alike. As well as their songs, they show us how, despite poverty and adversity, ordinary people can become extraordinary, and serve as an example to us all.

With a preface by Peggy Seeger and published at £15.99 by Herron Publishing. Obtainable direct from Pete.

I wish to pay tribute to Dave Eckersley, the founder of Herron Publishing, for instantly agreeing to publish this book. He was virtualy alone in publishing books of or about folk songs and the folk revival. Unfortunately he is no longer with us, having died well before his "allotted span", and the community owes him a great debt of gratitude.