Type : Announcement
Societies : Furness Youth Theatre
Graham Whalan | 08 Nov 2023 22:36pm
Paul Bryden – Obituary
It is with great sadness that I must record the passing of my good friend and popular Furness musician and teacher, Paul Bryden. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on Wednesday, 4 October after succumbing to a cruel and stubborn illness which, with his usual brand of patience and stoicism, he had struggled against for several weeks. Following his death countless tributes on social media platforms have appeared from the local musical community, all registering their shock at his untimely passing, together with a genuine respect and gratitude for his contributions over many years: ‘a lovely man’, ‘a true gent’, ‘kind’, ‘generous’, ‘inspirational’.
Paul was born in 1948, and grew up in Barrow in Furness. He was a firm school-friend of mine in the early 1960s when we bonded over a mutual love of folk music and American blues. I was always impressed by the speedy proficiency he demonstrated as a guitar player; he was always well-informed, and he was never short of recommendations. It was Paul in fact who first introduced me to the music of Bob Dylan, and we both subsequently became firm devotees, playing together at the local ‘Merry Neet’ Folk Club, and hitching across the country to see the great man, live in concert. Largely self-taught, Paul just seemed to have a natural talent and ear for music and, whilst the guitar was always his first love, he developed equal expertise on both banjo, mandolin and even, for a time, on autoharp. As is no doubt true for all musicians, he had a thirst to soak up influences from all quarters. At Dylan concerts I remember he would always take a note-pad so he could make a note of the chords Bob was using!
In later years our lives trod different paths with his devotion to music leading him to undertake serious study at Leeds College of Music. On his return to the north west he then forged both a career and an enviable reputation as a talented local musician and, with his ever-widening repertoire, was soon enrolled as lead guitarist in many local bands, including The Lakes Blues Band, Geronimo’s Cadillac, and The Desperados. Most famously however was his time as a key member of the hugely popular folk band The Bag O’ Rags who, during the 1970s and 80s, held a much talked-about residency at The Coot Pub and Restaurant in Urswick. They even recorded a live album there, Best Bitter, in 1977.
It was in the early 1990s when he first became associated with local musical societies, his expertise being much sought after as a key member of the orchestra. In fact, over 30 or more years of shows, it is hard to think of one where Paul was not involved. He has also served as Musical Director for many productions, such as those staged by Walney Juniors Amateur Operatic Society, the Ulverston Pantomime Society, and Furness Youth Theatre, to name but a few. Whilst never one to seek out the limelight, such close involvement also gave him the perfect opportunity to pass on his skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for music to a younger generation. In fact no doubt it paved the way for his subsequent career as a highly respected teacher of both guitar and music theory. I know of many young musicians who have not only been directly inspired by Paul to develop their skill as musicians, but who also credit him with deepening their general appreciation and attachment to music.
There is of course no doubt he will be sorely missed. His untimely death robs the Furness scene of a great talent, an inspirational teacher and, for many more besides me, a good and steadfast friend. So fare thee well my old road buddy. It’s been a privilege.