Mary in Japan

A week or so ago I received the following email out of the blue:

Dear Mr. Adams,
I am sending this email from Tokyo, Japan.
I am a science journalist and research fellow of Japan Space Forum and have just found your new album “Mary Anning.”
I am very impressed by your album and would like to write a story on my blog about this.
So may I ask you several questions?
Why were you interested in Mary Anning?
How did you feel when you see the Portrait of Mary Anning by Mr. Grey at London’s Natural History Museum?
How did COVID 19 affect the production of the album?
Best regards,
Kazuo Terakado

I was intrigued- well wouldn’t you be? – and replied quite fully to his questions. The very next day he sent me a link to his article which took me here.

Not being able to read Japanese I ran the page through a translator and got this ( slightly edited to make sense of the worst of the translator’s efforts):

Kevin Adams-Mary Anning of Lyme

 While I was researching the British Museum of Natural History, I first met Kevin Adams’ new album “Mary Anning of Lyme”. Mary Anning is a 19th century fossil hunter known as the discoverer of the skeletons of the ichthyosaur Ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur Plesiosaur.

Born in Lyme Regis, Dorset in 1799, Mary Anning lost her father, a furniture maker at the age of 11, leaving the family in a poor state. Mary made a living by looking for fossils on the exposed Jurassic strata and selling them to collectors. It was helpful for my father to teach me how to collect fossils.

At the time, paleontology was born in England, and it was around this time that Richard Owen coined the term dinosaur. The fossil specimens discovered by Anning played a major role in the permeation of society that the now-common idea that extinct creatures once lived on Earth.

How did this album come about? What kind of musician is Kevin? I sent an email to Kevin and immediately replied. Kevin is a British folk musician who used to perform live performances before, but he developed a difficult disease called multiple sclerosis, and now he is writing and recording music in his home studio. is.
“After releasing the album “A Crossword War” in 2018, my friend Colin White suggested a project for Mary Anning.” Mr White is a scientist and lived in Exteter, not far from Lyme Regis. Kevin said he knew little about Mary before, but the more he knew about her, the more fascinated he became. Mary had no formal education beyond reading and writing, but she learned on her own as a skilled paleontologist. It made a major contribution to the world of science in an era when the role of women was only to protect childbirth and homes. Kevin seems to have become more interested in paleontology and fossils themselves.

In this album, the story progresses to “The Plesiosaur” in which Mary and his father Richard exchange words while the song progresses and discovers Plesiosaur. At the same time, Kevin-San is also a process that goes beyond time and space to think about Lime Regis. Then, ancient creatures become fossils and are discovered by Mary over a long period of time, ending with “Earth, Air, Fire, Water” whose theme is the magnificent activity of the earth. I listened to the photos of Lime Regis on the album jacket.

I think many artists did a great job, even under the lockdown of the new coronavirus. This album is one of them. From the production style of Mr. Kevin, it seems that lockdown was not a big obstacle. Mary’s voice is Kevin’s wife, Ruth, and Richard’s voice is Kevin himself. “The flute and recorder were played at home by my friend Sheena Masson and sent in electronic files. So the whole album is very home made,” says Kevin.
In addition, the movie “Ammonite” starring Kate Winslet and Sheasha Ronan, whose main characters are Mary Anning, has become a hot topic recently, but it seems that Kevin’s album has nothing to do with this.

My thanks to Kazuo for spreading the word. I’m sure anyone with an interest in scientific topics could get lost in his blog for hours!

And don’t forget Mary Anning Rocks!

Mary Anning of Lyme – review

Roy Nevitt writes:

I’ve just had the great pleasure of listening to Kevin Adams’
Mary Anning album – it’s a remarkable achievement. The folk music idiom serves the narrative as no other musical form could. It combines simplicity and clarity with melodic beauty and the instrumental variety is very pleasing.

The lyrics are poetry – they set the scene, tell the story, create the character and place her life in the context of history, science, gender politics, religion and, above all, in the location of Lyme Regis. They resonate with the great preoccupations of philosophy (time, space and the nature of our little planet within the universe); there’s a proper relish for the sounds of the words; some nice sardonic humour in the Bishop Ussher piece; a lovely humanity in the conceit of Mary’s father being present at her deathbed and coming alive again in her memories; and Kevin captures the rawness of the actual practice of collecting fossils in all weathers, alongside the keen excitement of discovery.

I think the album has great artistic and educational value.

Roy Nevitt is a documentary playwright, theatre director, co-founder of the Living Archive Milton Keynes, teacher and creator of community theatre.

Mary Anning of Lyme is available to stream or download from Bandcamp

Cover image of Mary Anning of Lyme

Mary Anning of Lyme

Mary Anning of Lyme is my new musical excursion.
Eight tracks, half an hour of music.

It can be streamed or downloaded from my Bandcamp pages
and here’s a trailer.

It is 1847. Mary is not long for this world. Drifting in a laudanum haze she holds an imaginary conversation with her father Richard and relives her life and her achievements. And what achievements!

Richard was a carpenter-joiner. Like many other families in Lyme and along the Dorset coast, he and his children Mary and Joseph would seek out fossils and shells to sell to supplement the family income. Richard passed on his ample knowledge to Mary and she pursued the subject of palaeontology with a passion. Despite a lack of any serious education, Mary made and recorded many discoveries and became an authority, being recognised as such by other leading figures in the field- though not to the extent of being admitted to the Geological Society of London. Of course not! She was poor. She was self taught. She was a woman.

Mary Anning will be familiar to those of you who have read Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures, and if you’ve read John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman you’ll have a way into the world I was painting in these eight tracks.

It may seem as though I’m stepping onto a bandwagon. Mary Anning is all over the place at the moment due to the upcoming release of the film Ammonite. Actually, the idea of doing this was given to me two years ago after I finished A Crossword War, by my friend (and South West of England correspondent) Colin White. He pointed me at the Mary Anning Rocks project and this fired my interest.

I was helped in making Mary Anning of Lyme by:
My sister Terry Brown, who sang with me on a couple of songs, just before the lockdown, I should add.
Sheena Masson, who played all the whistle, flute and recorder parts- the only real instruments on the whole thing. Recorded in Haringay and sent up here by magic- ‘the magic flute’, if you will.
My wife Ruth Adams, who, out of lockdown necessity, took on the Mary speaking parts and did a great job.

As for the Ammonite film, well… what I’ve read about it annoys me extremely. They’ve felt the need to make the life of this remarkable woman ‘more interesting’ by inventing a lesbian affair for which there is no hint of evidence. OK, I haven’t seen it yet, so I should reserve judgement, but I suspect that ‘lesbian romance’ is the way it’s going to be hyped in the media.

Ah well. Love makes the world go round, as my mother would say when my sister and I asked why all the films we saw on telly were full of people kissing.

Anyway, hope you like it. My new album, that is. Oh, ok, and the film.


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