Hey Joe

I have frequently gone on about how much I dislike ‘Swing Low’ as the anthem for England rugby, primarily as I can’t for the life of me see how a negro spiritual song is appropriate. I know that its rugby heritage is in the rude signs that accompany the verses but I’ve always thought we could find something better.

However I received this note from Dave ‘mini’ Powell yesterday and it seems I may have to revise my view –

From: David
Sent: 09 February 2017 18:48
To: David Shute
Subject: Swing Low……..

Hi Dave,

You may have seen this already but if you haven’t you may find it interesting and if you look carefully you will find yourself:


I’m not sure if you know Joe as he packed up in the late sixties in case he damaged his banjo playing fingers but he played in the first team before then. 

I’m trying to get a copy of the team photo as I don’t have that particular one and I can pass it on to you if I get it and you also don’t have a copy.

Best wishes, Dave.

Joe Stead apparently introduced the song at an Askean rugby dinner in 1960,

Joe had already performed it alongside some very famous singers


This was some 16 years before it was sung at Twickenham when Chris Oti scored a hat trick. I was there with Rich that day and he was so thrilled he promptly named his new pet cat ‘Oti’!


The video includes a team photo from 1968/9 – which includes both Dave and myself – but not Joe unfortunately – I confess I didn’t know him, I’m sure I would have remembered Captain Birdseye playing a banjo in the bar, no matter how pissed I was.

I’ve added two team shots (1967/8 7 68/9) as it includes Pete Palethorpe (see below) – but mainly because I am in both, obviously!

The following shot in the video is from a game and has Bert Baker and Pete Palelthorpe (I think) in play – Bert looks off side to me – ever the good number 7.

The story is confirmed in another video –


I’m still not totally sold on ‘Swing Low’ but the heritage means it may grow on me.

My thanks to Dave for the heads up! If he gets a team photo with Joe in it I’ll add it here.


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