Shared Moments: ANNIE HAWKINS – MISTRESS OF THE BULL FIDDLE – written by Pat Tempest

Dear all,


Ivy Benson, Leeds born  saxophone player in the 40’s and 50’s was always a mother hen, but Australian Annie loved being a star – the only girl in the band – a red flower in her dark red hair, bright red lipstick, smiling behind her great big bull fiddle. She was a very popular figure about a dozen years ago at Caring Together,  sometimes accompanying the choir. She travelled all over the world playing gigs after running away from the crushing very Victorian family atmosphere in  Melbourne, Australia in the early 60’s.

Her family was ‘old money’, ‘mummy’ used to always wear elbow length gloves and carry a cane. She taught classical piano, and expected her daughter to take up the violin.  But, influenced by the exciting music of the 60’s, Annie had made herself a bull fiddle out of a tea box, a broom handle and some string.  Just like Lonnie Donegan.  She only played with a bow occasionally; preferred pizzicato, energetically plucking the strings with bare fingers protected by bits of plaster.

Outdoors, ‘mummy’s influence still lives –  a red beret knitted in Melbourne half a century ago. Jazz musicians are often very serious, but Annie’s signature was always to smile and laugh from behind her huge bull fiddle, calling out, ‘How you diddlin’?’  ‘You look as if you need a hug’. A great believer in hugs, Annie would be a great danger if let out on the streets at the moment.

Her fans were legion.  She was married three times, but husband no. two got tired of her constant absences on tour, and left.  On the rebound from that, she married a specially faithful fan – Don, as antisocial as Annie is sociable. For years, Don carried the bull fiddle and set up the sound systems for their gigs – always traditional jazz, New Orleans style He’d sit in the front row with a small tape recorder, swaying in ecstasy, But the time came when most gigs were for funerals for fellow musicians as they drop off their twigs.  Now Don spends his time making plywood model airplanes while Annie talks to Ruby, their big gentle rescue dog and hangs out the window, feeding the birds and chatting to her neighbours, waiting like all of us for ‘when the saints go marching in’.

Written by Pat Tempest

Thank you once again Pat, so wonderful to hear more of Annie, we did love it when she joined us, and we do wish you, and her well. Until next time…..