I was commissioned to write a song for Hartlepool Folk Festival back in 2018. Myself and other local musicians were asked to write songs and tunes based off of The Bishoprick Garland, which was a book compiled by Cuthbert Sharp in 1834; a collection of Legends, Songs and Ballads belonging to the County of Durham. I found a tiny little detail in the collection called ‘Barnard Castle Bridge’ containing just one stanza and some historical detail underneath:
My blessing on your pate,
Your groats in my purse,
You are never the better,
I am never the worse.
Alexander Hilton, curate of Denton, of the ancient family of Hilton, of Dyons, in the Bishopric, left a son, Cuthbert, of great notoriety, who having taken orders in no church, but having been trained up as a bible clerk under his father, considered himself fully competent to perform marriages upon the bridge of Barnard Castle, which connects the counties of York and Durham. The old rhyme, which he used on these occasions (and quoted above) after having made the parties leap over a broom stick, is still remembered in the neighbourhood.
I thought about all those couples who were married in the middle of Barnard Castle Bridge and the loophole that Cuthbert Hilton found: when the couples jumped over the broomstick, they were technically in neither county, and Hilton, who had no official authority in either, could then marry them in this rather unorthodox (and quite romantic) way. I wrote the chorus imagining that when the couples were ‘in the air’, they were ‘nowhere’, i.e. in neither county, but also, for a while, nowhere that others could experience, in their own pocket of space and time, which was only theirs.
So it’s really just a simple love song for those people who, for whatever reason, didn’t or couldn’t get married the normal way at the time. It’s also a reflection on the deep connection and ties you can feel for a place. So in that way, it’s a bit of a love song to County Durham too.
When our span has come to an end,
Back to the air we extend,
Meeting with water and earth,
From the land of our birth.
And in the air, we’re nowhere
In the air, we’re nowhere we can be found
In the air, we’re nowhere
In the air, we’re nowhere we can define
Because our love, it straddles this line.
Harri E-M - Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin
Rich E-M - Guitar, Underscoring
Written by Harri E-M
Produced by Harri E-M & Rich E-M
Mixed & Mastered by Rich E-M