Bernie Davis 1945 - 2021

Bernie - a Life: - continued

Bernard had a huge thirst for knowledge. He would have something to say on almost any subject you could bring up - from Ancient Rome or Victorian square-rigged sailing ships to gardening or office politics. His conversations were always intelligent and fascinating - even during his final two years when he was mostly confined to bed. And throughout it all there was Bernard’s music - English folk, ceilidh tunes, Bluegrass and Old Time American, sea shanties and Cajun - played on the violin, guitar, banjo, mouth organ, melodeon, dulcimer, saw, double bass, mandolin… He performed in Merseyside folk clubs and pub sessions - at The Mitre, The Dolphin, The Post Office, the Pig and Whistle, the Cross Keys, the Everyman Bistro and, most recently, at The Caledonia with Cajun band Bayou Noir. Not forgetting the festivals he performed at all over the world, including Rosses Point in Sligo where he returned again and again and made many friends. Friendship was important to Bernard. There are too many people, bands and collaborations to mention today - but among them were The Backporch Boys with Joe Rooney, The Liverpool Fisherman, which also included Stan Francis and the Jacques brothers; Forebitter with Andy Kenna; Oglet with John Howson, The Liverpool Packet with Brian Ferguson and Keith Price; and around a decade of running the Liverpool Shanty Festival with Jack Coutts. Nobody entertained quite like Bernard, whose sailor’s duffel bag was filled with an extraordinary number of gadgets and tricks. Children and adults would be transfixed by his dancing jig dolls, which numbered a seaman, an octopus dubbed ‘Riverdance’ and an anthropomorphic tap - a tap dancer, get it? He would wrap bandages daubed with fake blood around his hands when playing the musical saw, could manage a decent tune on the melodeon while wearing leather boxing gloves and taught French to his pupils at Halewood Comprehensive by playing Mallet’s Mallet with an inflatable baguette. He once had a, sadly aborted, scheme to smuggle his niece Kate on to stage in a suitcase. She was due to burst out at an opportune moment and start clog-dancing. On the way home from Estonia Shanty Festival, Bernard and long-time friend Andy Kenna once found themselves stuck at Helsinki Airport near a family of young children. Bernard scoped the cafe for discarded napkins and began making them origami birds. Behind the humour though, he was extremely serious about his music and was keen to support and encourage other performers - many of whom have been in touch to say what a significant influence he was and continues to be. His granddaughter Amelie is learning piano on a keyboard he gave her for her birthday, his grandson Archie is picking up the ukulele and Will, the son of his niece Sarah, says ‘Uncle Bernie’ is the reason he started guitar lessons. Bernard brought joy, inspiration and kindness into people’s lives. He will be sorely missed but not forgotten.

Click for more photos