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Singer Sands leads tributes after Steam Trap author Crawford Howard dies

By Ivan Little

Published 07/05/2015

The Diagonal Steam Trap was Howard’s best-known work
The Diagonal Steam Trap was Howard’s best-known work

Folk singer Tommy Sands has paid tribute to one of Northern Ireland's finest story-tellers and poets, Crawford Howard, who has died.

The Co Down raconteur was famous for writing The Diagonal Steam Trap about a useless piece of machinery in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, a poem recorded for a TV documentary by the late Belfast actor James Ellis.

Mr Howard also wrote a poem about a record player which refused to play anything but rebel songs for its Orangeman owner.

Another popular composition was the Arab Orange Lodge which told the tale of Protestants who were banned from walking on the Twelfth and went instead to the Middle East.

"He was a great man. I thought the world of him," said Tommy Sands, who in February 2011 invited Mr Howard to read his poems at a night of song and verse attended by unionist and nationalist politicians in the Long Gallery at Stormont.

"He completely stole the show," said Tommy, who revealed that Mr Howard's first album, called the Diagonal Steam Trap, was recorded in the living room of his home in Rostrevor.

"Crawford had just appeared on my radio show on Downtown and suddenly the record companies were on the phone looking for an album. I remember he was on the television to promote the LP and when he was asked if it was a thrill for him to make a record, he replied 'no'.

"But that was the way of him. He was a modest man, but his talents were extraordinary."

Mr Howard, who worked for the Pig Marketing Board, was a regular at traditional music sessions in Fealty's pub in Bangor and Nancy's bar in Ardara, Co Donegal. He was a member of a '60s folk group the Glenfolk Four which had broadcaster John Bennett in the line-up.

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