The Singing Pipstraws

Several readers have written in to ask if any parallels can be drawn between Grandma Pipstraw’s Lovely Zoo and Noah’s Ark. The answer is: very few, the most noteworthy of which is that Grandma Pipstraw had three sons named Ham, Shem, and Japheth.

Fans of nineteen-sixties folk-pop may recall them as The Singing Pipstraws. Think of The Seekers minus Judith Durham. Indeed, The Singing Pipstraws were sometimes mistaken for the Australasian foursome (minus Judith Durham), chiefly because Shem Pipstraw bore a striking resemblance to Seeker Athol Guy. He even obtained his trademark spectacles from the same optician, despite living on the other side of the world from that most wistful of eye specialists.

Interestingly, the optician’s given name was Noah, and he lived on a boat moored in an important Australian river the name of which escapes me. I wanted to write the Maitland, but I think that is in Canada. There are so many rivers, not only in Australasia and North America but also on the other continents, and I can hardly be expected to remember them all, and to know at the drop of a hat which ones are on which continents. I have never proclaimed myself a river expert – unlike Ham Pipstraw, who, when he was not strumming a stringed instrument and warbling, liked nothing better than to pore over atlases and gazetteers, memorising all the rivers of the world, their names and lengths and locations and directions of flow. By the time of his tragically early death, Ham Pipstraw had committed to memory the details of at least six rivers worldwide.

Several readers have written in, in the last few seconds, to ask for details of the tragically early death of sixties folk-pop legend Ham Pipstraw. It happened like this. He was visiting the zoo and aviary run by his mother, known as Grandma Pipstraw’s Lovely Zoo, when he was engulfed in a flock of whinchats. The frantic beating of their tiny wings did for Ham Pipstraw.

He was memorialised in a song by his surviving brothers, which topped the hit parade until it was dislodged by a disc more in keeping with the freaky psychedelic groove which fuddled the heads of the so-called new generation. All generations are new – that is the point of them.

Shem and Japheth invited Noah to replace Ham, so they could be a trio again, but the wistful Australian optician declined, citing a devotion to the correction of eyesight, a tin ear, and the trauma he had experienced when his own beat combo recorded their difficult second album.

Other parallels between Grandma Pipstraw’s Lovely Zoo and Noah’s Ark are the subject of a forthcoming stage musical starring a hologram of the late Dusty Springfield.

One thought on “The Singing Pipstraws

  1. Dear Mr Key,
    As it happens, I was born in the town of Maitland, Australia, in a hospital by the river. However, the river is called the Hunter River. In fact, for etymological reasons unknown, all rivers in Australia are called the Hunter River.

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