on the airwaves since 1993

Saturdays at 12:00 PM on WJFF:
 Hydro Powered Public Radio in the Catskills
  or at anytime on the archives


~  Letters  ~

Theme: Letters, open letters, christmas letters, letters in jail, from lovers, lost letters and historical letters.

FolkPlus airs on hydro-powered public radio WJFF 90.5 FM , in Jeffersonville, New York.  We serve the catskills, the Upper Delaware, the Hudson Valley and NE Pa.  It streams at noon on the web at  The show remains on the archive link for 2 weeks.

Here is a quote from My Lady Ludlow which is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It appeared in the magazine Household Words in 1858:

“Then letters came in but three times a week: indeed, in some places in Scotland where I have stayed when I was a girl, the post came in but once a month;—but letters were letters then; and we made great prizes of them, and read them and studied them like books. Now the post comes rattling in twice a day, bringing short jerky notes, some without beginning or end, but just a little sharp sentence, which well-bred folks would think too abrupt to be spoken.” ― Elizabeth Gaskell, My Lady Ludlow

What would Gaskell think of texting 134 years when in 1992, when the world’s first text message was sent.  In 1995 people were sending an average of one text a month. Today, it is estimated that over 15 million text messages are sent a minute! 

Historical Letters that still exist today, provide us with glimpses into the personal lives of generations past
Such a great find is the letters from the following song which is a story of how Famine, poverty and emigration, divided families.

Laura Burns & Roger Rosen "Kilkelly, Ireland" from "Fast Folk: A Community of Singers and Songwriters" on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Lets move on to other letters, found after their writing, but held back on purpose in this story:

 Randall Williams "I Will Come for You" from "Praying for Land" on Musafir Music

 Cosy Sheridan "The Last Love Letter" from "Eros" on WindRiver

 Evalyn Parry "Open Letter to Igor Kenk, Bicycle Thief" from "spin" on OutSpoke

 David Roth "A Fan Letter (Live)" from "Another Side of David Roth" on Wind River

 Reid Jamieson "Dear Leonard" from "Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection" on Independent

 Lou and Peter Berryman "The Christmas Letter" from "Some Days"

Here is a letter to Colonial Mosby by Andrew Mcknight
from a 1999 virginia native, and songwriter, writing to 1865 to virginia Colonel Mosby, sharing the protection of their land.

 Andrew McKnight "Letter to Colonel Mosby" from "Turning Pages" on Falling Mountain Music

 Magpie "John Copeland" from "John Brown: Sword of Spirit" on Sliced Bread

 Chuck Brodsky "An Irate Letter" from "Two Sets" on Waterbug

 Bernice Lewis "Checks & Love Letters" from "Checks & Love Letters" on Bernice Lewis

 Zoe Lewis "Write Me a Letter" from "Fishbone, Wishbone, Funnybone." on Zoe Lewis

 Red Rock Rondo "Dear Sir" from "A Secret Gift" on Red Rock Rondo

 Pharis & Jason Romero "Waiting for the Evening Mail" from "Long Gone Out West Blues" on Lula Records

Notes used for the show:

Kilkelly Ireland, was written by American songwriter Peter Jones, whose great, great great grandfather Brian Hunt, wrote to his son -  John Hunt, from the general Kilkelly area.  which is a small town in County Mayo
Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Peter found these letters in the attic of his parents home in America, that were all been posted in Kilkelly 1860 - 1890.   The letters chronicled family news of births, deaths, marriages and were written on behalf of the parents by local schoolmaster Pat McNamara.

 Pat McNamara, was not only a school teacher, but was good with his hands, in that he made trunks for the emigrants. He was so good at this that he never used nails. Here Hugh blushed and told me that he had one of these trunks and discovering woodworm in it he burnt it. You could see in his face that he had made a grave mistake, as he admitted himself, it was probably the only one in still existence. Pat McNamara also made a sundial, which is still existence to this day and still has the date '1858' along with 'Patrick McNamara'; the sundial is made of slate and is a work of art.   Patrick McNamara's diary is a work of art in itself, the writing is small and neat, obviously the work of a man well used to writing.

Before paper was invented by the Chinese in 105 AD, people drew on cave walls or wrote on stone tablets, bark, pottery, or papyrus. Papyrus is an old form of paper. The Egyptians would make sheets from the papyrus plant that grew alongside the River Nile.

Before pens, people wrote with sharpened bones or sticks, or feather quills dipped in ink.

In the 1440s a German named Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, meaning that texts could easily be printed and distributed. One of the next major inventions aiding communication came in the mid-twentieth century: the internet.

In the Middle Ages, very few Europeans could read or write. In fact, it was generally only monks and members of the nobility who possessed these skills.

The modern English alphabet was completed in the 16th century (only 500 years ago) when ‘w’ became an independent letter and ‘u’ and ‘j’ were added. Compared to Egyptian hieroglyphics that date back to before 3000 BC and the Phoenician alphabet from 1050 BC, the English language is very young.

Other facts, didn't make it into the hour:

Penny Post was introduced in the latter part of the 19th century, its affordability led to an explosion of letters. The average person in Britain sent 116.7 items of post in 1910.
Prior to the establishment of the Penny Post, payment for a letter was the responsibility of the receiver, not the sender. You had to be financially solvent to receive post, and prepayment was considered a social slur on the recipient. This meant that many working class Victorians had no way of keeping in touch with family and friends who had flown the nest.

Envelopes are not just for letters. In China, on special occasions, such as weddings or Chinese New Year, people give money in bright red envelopes decorated with gold Chinese characters meaning happiness and wealth.

The first envelopes were made by the ancient Babylonians about 5000 years ago. Unlike our modern day paper envelopes, these were made out of baked clay!

In the past, paper was so expensive that instead of using an envelope, people would save money by folding their letters and sealing them with wax.

Envelopes were originally cut from sheets of paper and sealed by hand. Now we have large machines that bulk produce envelopes with a clear plastic window and a gummed tab to seal the envelope.

“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters.”
― Lewis Carroll

“A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.”
― Emily Dickinson

“To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine!”
― Susan Lendroth

“Letter writing can be seen as a gift because someone has taken his/her time to write and think and express love.”
― Soraya Diase Coffelt

“where was I? in remarking that me is the envelopes and not nearly so much so, the often foolish letters inside.”
― Edward Gorey, Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer

“Susie, what shall I do - there is'nt room enough; not half enough, to hold what I was going to say. Wont you tell the man who makes sheets of paper, that I hav'nt the slightest respect for him!”
― Emily Dickinson-----


Who is playing locally soon


Catch internet radio at these URLs and times
Sundays 2 - 5 from WFDU [Farleigh Dickenson University], Teaneck NJ, with Ron Olesko

Fridays 2 - 4 WIOX, Roxbury NY, with Sonny Ochs


Catch Live Shows at these area venues
Narrowsburgh, NY and Honesdale Pa
Beacon, NY
Rosendale, NY
Piermont, NY
hawley PA


Open Mic's in the area:
Singer Songwriter Tuesdays happens at the Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale NY
Antoine runs a thursday night open mike at the Dancing Cat in Bethel, NY near the woodstock site
Kevin McDanial runs an open mike at Frankie and Johnnies, 845 434 8051 in Hurleyville, NY 7 - 10 pm
Cafe Devine in Callicoon, NY runs an open mike every 4th friday
Tuesdays in Mongaup Valley at River's Edge there is an open mike

CD Submissions: 763 Briscoe Road, Swan Lake N.Y. 12783 
John Webber handles audio/website issues for Folk Plus
                     send local artist appearances to FOLKPLUS at g mail dot com last modification 1/2012