Pic: Ray Hepner Collection
This blog has a new good friend, the collector Ray Hepner, who is very kindly allowing me to show some items from his archive over the next few weeks. The first of these is a copy of the sheet music for The Dam Busters March, autographed by its composer, Eric Coates. The item shown above is the vocal version with words by Carlene Mair.
The stirring words are not often performed, perhaps because they are not widely known. They read as follows:
Proudly, with high endeavour,
We, who are young forever,
Won the freedom of the sky;
We shall never die!
We, who have made our story
Part of our country’s glory
Know our hearts will live on
While Britons fly!
We know our hearts will still live on
While Britons fly!
While Britons fly!
Words by Carlene Mair, © Chappell 1954/1956
To my mind, these are rather better words than the rather dirge-like recent hymn, about which I posted last June.
Not much seems to be known about Carlene Mair, other than that she wrote a book about the history of Chappell, the music publishers, and also the words in English for Chappell’s collections of Bavarian and Welsh folk songs. She also wrote an English translation of Charles Trenet’s La Mer, but not the words to Beyond the Sea, which uses the same tune and later became a hit for Bobby Darin. Any further information would be gratefully received.
Dear Mr Foster.
I was wondering if you have had any response to your Carlene Mair article? As you know she was the writer of the lyrics to the Dambusters March, as performed by the D-Day Darlings etc.
I’ll be as brief as possible. I came across your very interesting Blog purely by accident. My cousin who lives in Australia asked me if I knew of our family connection to a wartime RAF pilot called Roy Ralston, AKA. Wing Commander Joseph Roy George Ralston. DFM, DSO and Bar, DFC, AFC. So not knowing who Roy was I started a search on the internet. I have found the family connection, and now realise he had nothing to do with the Dambusters.
Anyway, about Carlene Mair who wrote the lyrics to the great Dambusters March, sung so beautifully by the D-Day Darlings.
Firstly; She was born; Carlene Joyce Barnaby, in South Norwood, Croydon, Surrey, on 26th May 1909. (Listed as Caroline Joyce Barnaby on Ancestry.com site).
She married James Theodore Mair in Hendon, London, on 30th August 1938.
I always understood Ms Mair was a staff member at the Chappell Music Publishing Co. in London, which would explain how she got involved in writing & compiling the 1961 publication; “The Chappell Story 1811-1961”. But I’ve also recently read she was a school mistress, I suppose she could have been both? She died on 1st July 2001 in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, at the age of 92.
I have a list of possibly 40? recordings and music sheets that were credited to Carlene Mair, mainly as lyricist. A lot of top singers of the 40’s and 50’s including; Donald Peers, Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchingson, Ann Shelton, the Canadian singer Jean (John) Cavall etc. all recorded her work. Carlene seemed to have specialised in writing English lyrics to existing tunes.
The earliest piece (I’ve found) by Carlene Mair was written at the early age of 16 in 1925, as Carlene Barnaby, entitled “Peter’s Song” (Peter Pan).
As you stated in your Blog, Carlene wrote the original English words to “The Sea” (La Mer) in late 1944. It was written for the ‘Crazy Gang’ show “Together Again”. The world-famous version of “La Mer” by the French singer/songwriter Charles Trenet wasn’t recorded until 1946. Thinking back, I believe he did write the song in 1943.
BTW. Carlene Mair originally wrote three verses to the Dambusters March, and then added a fourth verse sometime later, but the single verse which was used on the D-Day Darlings video, could never be equalled.
I’ll attempt to ‘copy and paste’ what I believe to be the last recording of “The Sea”. It was recorded in the early 80’s. It is also the only version I’ve heard that has all 4 verses (x2), and it’s the only recorded version I know of to have been sung entirely in English, all other recordings I’ve come across have been bi-lingual, French & English.
If you need any other information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Many thanks for this comment and all the information about Carlene Mair. As you can see this is the first comment on the blog about this subject, even though it’s been online since 2015. Maybe your comment will spark more interest – I am fascinated to see if it does so.
Please come back to me if you find out any more about Ms Mair.
Thanks — Charles
Barnes Wallis / The Dambusters film Premier.
I’ve unearthed this old article. It was written in 2010 by Rowland Davies, who described himself as the son-in-law of the late Carlene Mair.
Carlene Mair was commissioned by Eddie Holmes, the then boss of Chappell Music Publishers, to write the lyrics for the royal premier of The Dambusters film. It was held at the Empire theatre, Leicester Square, on 16th May 1955, in the presence of Princess Margare. It was on the 12th anniversary of the raid.
Among those present; were Mrs Gibson, the widow of Guy Gibson. Mr Richard Todd who played Gibson in the film. Dr Barnes Wallis (inventor of the bouncing bomb), together with the surviving members of the 617 Dambusters squadron.
The lyrics were sung by the RAF choir to the Dambusters March, by Eric Coates.
Though Carlene Mair wrote three verses only one was published. She later added a fourth verse, which remained under wraps for many years.
Carlene had the pleasure of hearing “Part of our country’s glory” performed in its entirety, live on stage, shortly before her death in 2001.
This was taken from a Daily Mail article. Dated; 27th August 2010.
If I find any other information that might be of interest to your Blog, I’ll certainly share with you.
Best wishes, Nigel Roberts.