Screwsoapers Guild Story

“The Screw Soapers Guild? What on earth is The Screw Soapers Guild?”. I can almost hear you say. So I have taken the liberty of answering your question in some detail.

The Screw Soapers Guild came into being during the early part of 1993. The Guild Hall was, at that time, a double garage into which we never, ever put our cars. It was a buffer zone between us and Liverpool Municipal Tip.

We, traditionally, had two large parties each year. Our summer solstice festivity we held near to Christmas. At our mid-year gala we celebrated the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Over a period of several years to gatherings became too large. I wanted to organise something smaller, more often and with a little more emphasis on performance. It had to be something a little more formal than the “grand bash” but still be “among friends”.

At our 1992 Christmas party I decided to turn our garage into a music room. Two close friends, Denis Eddy and David Percy, volunteered their assistance and the game was afoot. The work started towards the end of January 1993. It continued through the late summer, autumn and early winter. It was a labour of love and we now have a comfortable and acoustically pleasing performance space. We also have murders there.

During the remodelling my friends decided that their life expectancy was significantly diminished every time I picked up a power tool. So I was banned from using anything more powerful than a small cordless drill. Even that was not without risk.

Eventually, I was put in charge of soaping the threads of the screws immediately before they were to be used on the hardwood frames. Almost everything was hardwood, so this must have been a pretty important task. The Guild Hall still stands so I must have done quite a good job.

The Screw Soapers Guild is modelled, to some extent, on the Anacreontic Society of London. The Society was a group of musicians, mostly amateur but with a sprinkling of professionals, that met regularly for dinner, a concert and much merry making thereafter. The Society was active during the 1770s and 1780s. Anacreon was a Greek poet who lived between the years 563 to 478. He was much given to the pleasures of wine, woman and song. He died, at the ripe old age of 86, from choking on a grape seed.

Now … here is another useless piece of information. A good one for trivial pursuits is this. The constitutional song of the Anacreontic Society of London, To Anacreon In Heaven, was written by John Stafford Smith in 1780. Ralph Tomlinson, an early president of the Society, wrote the words. A musical presentation of this fine work can be found on the album, “The Top Hits Of 1776″, released by Adelphi Records – AD4106 – in 1976. Consider this, by adoption, an early Screw Soapers Broadside.

TO ANACREON IN HEAVEN.
John Stafford Smith/Ralph Tomlinson

To Anacreon in heav’n, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition
That he their inspirer and patron would be;
When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian –
Voice, fiddle and flute, no longer be mute,
I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot;
And besides, I’ll instruct you like me to entwine
The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.

Ye songs of Anacreon, then, join hand in hand;
Preserve unanimity, friendship, and love;
‘Tis yours to support what’s so happily planned;
You’ve the sanction of gods, and the fiat of Jove,
While thus we agree, our toast let it be,
May our club flourish happy, united, and free!
And long may the sons of Anacreon entwine
The myrtle of Venus and Baccus’s vine.

The Society passed into history but the song was rescued from possible oblivion by another set of words written by Francis Scott Key during the overnight shelling of Fort McHenry, by the British, in the War of 1812. Contemporary reports indicate that, in the early morning light of 13 September 1814, Francis Scott Key was so delighted to see that the American flag was still flying over this audacious fort, he wrote the poem, The Star Spangled Banner. It was put to John Stafford Smith’s tune, To Anacreon In Heaven.

Over the years The Star Spangled Banner achieved great popularity until, in 1931, it was officially adopted as the National Anthem of the USA. You cannot keep a good tune down. Consider this, again by adoption, another early Screw Soapers Broadside.

THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER.
John Stafford Smith/Francis Scott Key

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The convocations of The Screw Soapers Guild occur several times a year. At this time, at least four are planned for 1998. Attendance is by invitation only and full membership of The Guild can only be attained by performance, at an official Guild convocation, or by some remarkable example of folking service.

A contemporary set of words for “The Banner” can be found in the Editorial Memorial Day – USA

Just a quick word about by invitation only. The practical reasons for this are:

1. Space: We can only comfortably seat 16 for dinner, 18 is a push.
2. Cost: Feeding hungry folkies can be expensive.
3. Time: And energy, cooking for hungry folkies can be exhausting.
4. Size: The small intimate gathering is what we aim for.
5. People: Over several convocations we aim to invite most people we know and some we do not yet know.

A meeting of The Screw Soapers Guild can take several different forms. The one in favour at present is as follows. The meeting starts at about 18:00 hrs on Saturday evening with a ritual game of darts, nibbles, drinks and conversation.

The Main Course, usually of defunct herbivores and vegies simmered in the essence of rare spices and served with accompaniments, is served in the Guild Hall at 19:00 hrs. Vino Collapso is also served.

The Concert starts at about 20:00 hrs. The first part will be two or three 20 to 30 minutes sets. There is a short intermission for dessert, in various forms, coffee and embalming fluid. The second part of the concert is pretty much like the first, but often with a main-liner to finish the night.The Concert will end at about 23:30 hrs thus allowing time for conversations, discussions, more vino collapso for the non-drivers and more coffee for the drivers. Sleeping bag space is available in the Guild Hall.

A large open verandah provides comfortable accommodation for those intent upon pursuing lengthy, complex conversations long into the night. This is the rule rather than the exception. If people stay-over, and they sometimes do, a mid-morning BBQ of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms is usually administered.

Well there you have it … The Screw Soapers Guild Story.

‘The Screw Soapers Guild Story’ by Dermott Ryder © December 1998 is published by permission. Any persons or organizations wishing to reprint this work, in whole or in part, are invited to contact the author. :email screwsoaper@optusnet.com.au

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