Image of Lambeg drum and small rope drum.
Whatever happened to this famous Lambeg drum that
once belonged to Kate Bush?
Last night I was invited to appear on
BBC's Good Morning Ulster - scheduled for 8.50 am this morning.
I agreed to talk on BBC's radio show
this morning as I was intrigued by the story. It was about the story
that Kate Bush had purchased a Lambeg Drum from William Hewitt of
Sandy Row, Belfast. She wanted one of the “huge drums” that she
had seen on TV for her songs, 'Running Up That Hill' and
'Cloudbusting' on her 1985 album, 'Hounds of Love'.
Unfortunately Radio Ulster just gave me
a very short time to speak before I was interrupted by announcement
of 'The Nolan Show'. - whoever Nolan is. They didn't give me a chance
to say what I had prepared to say. So I'm putting it down here
The story of how Kate Bush, from Kent,
came to purchase a Lambeg Drum from Billy Hewitt of Sandy Row, is
brilliantly told, perhaps with some artistic embellishment, by Stuart Bailie and Mike Edgar on a YouTube video produced
by the Oh Yeah Centre.
A couple of things stood out for me on
the video that I watched last night. The first was that Billy Hewitt
of Sandy Row didn't know who the famous Kate Bush from Kent was, and
Kate Bush from Kent didn't who the famous drum-making Hewitts of Sandy Row were. Kate also didn't know the name of the
'huge drum' that she had spotted on video.
These are important details as I
suspect there was a huge breakdown of communication due to the
The other wee detail that stood out to
me on the video was that when Billy Hewitt was speaking to Mike
Edgar, who was negotiating the making of the drum for Kate Bush's
management team, he referred to Kate Bush as 'the wee girl Kate who
wanted the Lambeg'.
This is relevant because I am
questioning if Kate did actually purchase a real full-size Lambeg drum. And
if she did purchase a real Lambeg was it used for the recording or
in any live stage performances?
I was living in Canada in 1985 and
wasn't aware of the Kate Bush Lambeg story at that time. But over the
years several people mentioned the story to me. Each time I heard the
story I wondered what happened to the famous Lambeg drum owned by
Kate Bush? In the same vein as Lambegs owned by famous Lambeg
drummers, or famous drums that had repeatedly won drumming matches at Markethill or Ahoghill, I reckoned this drum would be worth a lot of
money. It was all very mysterious how it seemed to have vanished into
The fact is that a real full-sized
Lambeg drum is about 3 foot one and a half inches in diameter, just
over two foot wide and weighs about 40lbs. I've no idea about what
the equivalent of those measurements are in the metric system used by
some folk today – but in short: the Lambeg drum is very big, very
heavy and very loud.
In the video, when Billy referred to
Kate as the Wee Girl Kate, it is assumed that he was talking 1980's
Northern Ireland lingo when it was still politically correct to refer
to a young woman in her late teens or early 20's as a wee girl. But,
I suspect Billy actually did believe he was making a very small drum
that would be suitable for a young teenager.
The reason I came to questioning the
size of the Lambeg also relates to me finally getting around to
watching 1985 videos of Kate Bush singing 'Running Up That Hill'. I
have to assume it was the original recording that was used and I couldn't hear familiar sounds of a Lambeg drum - as I know it.
This is best link I could find to a live performance of the song
There a single rope drum played on
stage and there are white fluffy cloud-like shapes painted on the
drum. Could this be the drum made in the drum shop on Sandy Row for Kate? It
is played in upright position like a classic rope drum with regular
drum sticks. The Lambeg drum is played with hard but flexible canes.
The canes are beaten sideways and they are a major factor in the
distinct Lambeg sound.
Kate Bush's song, performance and
production are all of the highest excellence. All I am
saying is that I could not hear distinctive Lambeg tones, rolls or
patterns of rhythm. The musical piec is powerful enough without a Lambeg.
The reason why this story is coming to
light again, just now, is apparently because Kate Bush's 'Running Up
That Hill' features in a currently popular Netflix series.
I don't want to throw a spanner in the
works and I am definitely not the sort of person who would normally
allow the truth to get in the way of a good story – and this is a
good story.. I am coming to think that there is an even bigger story
I think there there is opportunity here
for the BBC to get into some real investigative journalism, just like it
used to back in the good old days, and find out what ever happened to
the famous Kate Bush Lambeg drum - if indeed there ever was a real one. Video footage, or even a photo, would be helpful in getting to the truth
Some folk might say, “why would
anyone care”? Fair enough. I'm sure Kate Bush doesn't care. I care however because BBC asked me to comment and
didn't allow me time to say what I needed to say on the topic.