It is with profound sadness that I must report the death of our friend, Mark McCulloch, known to all FolkCasters as Babba.
He was found dead at his home yesterday. Cause of death is, as yet, unknown but he appears to have passed away, unexpectedly but peacefully, in his sleep.
Babba was an intrinsic member of the FolkCast team, and made his first contribution - the Folk Notes DIary - in FolkCast 002 in February 2006. His long-running "Story Behind The Song" has been a huge part of the show, with more than 100 stories being told over the last nine years. Rightly, he was immensely proud of SBTS.
Babba would select a traditional or modern folk song with an historical basis, research the story that had inspired it, write his script and record it in his home on his "small island off the south coast of England" (he really did live on an island - part of Portsmouth!) and then send the recording to me via the internet. I'd add music and sound effects and then send the finished production back to him for his approval. It was a monthly ritual that was often hard work but always great fun, with Babba keen to make his historical tales both entertaining and informative. He loved it when he uncovered a "well known fact" that "everyone knows ... but which is wrong" - and he could put it right!
But, further than that, Babba was always enthusiastic and encouraging about the podcast, and ready to get involved in all kinds of ways. Without him, FolkCast wouldn't be what it is now, and probably wouldn't have lasted until now. How will we carry on without him? I'll have to think about that one - it's going to be tough. I already miss him greatly, and that's just going to get worse and worse in the future.
FolkCast has lost a major contributor, and I have lost one of my best friends. I met him through the Fairport Convention email fan forum, and we've spent some uproarious times together at music festivals and events, as well as working together on FolkCast. He liked nothing better than to sit up long into the night, telling tales, singing songs and playing guitar. Lots of people knew him from "Stage 2" at Fairport's Cropredy Festival, which he attended for many years. Stage 2 is the name given to an informal gathering of fans who had met through the email list and who camped together. Once the music stops on the main stage, Stage 2 takes over with songs and jokes going on until the dawn.
Natually, he was a font of stories and had led several different lives, from his days as a roadie for various rock bands to working in the electrical generation industry; as a major union negotiator; he was involved in the Labour Party at a national level; and he ran his own international IT training company which took him all over Britain and abroad, working for major clients including the NHS, the National Trust and even the House of Lords.
He had a ready wit and a wide knowledge. He had strong passions for a broad range of music, from classical and choral to electronic pop from Eastern Europe, via Led Zeppelin and his beloved Fairport Convention. His nickname stemmed from his particular love of Fairport's "Babbacombe Lee" album, which for years he lobbied to be included in the band's live set. Eventually, they found a way to do it.
He loved to cook, and had done so in an amateur capacity in some major restaurants, helping out for a night. He enjoyed good wine and horrible cheap rum, the closer to diesel the better! He loved to travel, and had spent time working in the Far East. He loved books, especially Terry Pratchett, and was mad keen on the TV series Family Guy. He was brimming with ideas, plans and pipe-dreams. He deeply cared - and despaired - about politics, but his compassion and all round interest in just about all things meant he could talk to just about anyone and find some common ground.
I'm sure all FolkCast listeners will wish to send condolences to Babba's family and friends. As soon as details of funeral arrangements are made I will pass them on to you here.
The next edition of FolkCast will be delayed, but will of course feature a tribute to Babba.
Fair thee well, old friend. You've left us far too soon.