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Thomas 'Tommy' Sparks (1901-1981)


Tommy Sparks was born on 25th June 1901 and lived all his life in a small hamlet of Town Green just outside the village of Rattlesden, in the southwest? of Suffolk.

He inherited a dulcimer from his father Alick Sparks, who had bought it in Oldham in Lancashire. Tommy had been revisited in 1963 by Neil Lanham who made some recordings of him (see below), but Tommy came to our attention through Keith Summers. He was researching in east Suffolk in the mid 1970s and subsequently received a letter telling him about Tommy, but by 1978 Tommy was unfortunately not able to play very well any more. As a young man he had loved dancing and also played the dulcimer before he married in 1931, but then it fell into abeyance as he didnít inherit his fatherís instrument until 1953.

His son Geoff had written down some of the items Tommy used to play, which included 'Redwing', 'Little Brown Jug', 'The Girl I left Behind Me' and alongside popular songs such as 'Dolly Gray' and 'In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree'. He also sang unaccompanied, with a few old traditional songs such as the 'Dark-Eyed Sailor' and 'Turpin Hero' in his repertoire. The impression is of someone who was more confident singing or dancing than playing the dulcimer, which he played very much for his own amusement rather than public appreciation.

Tommy died in late 1981.


To read the interview with Geoff & Denis Sparks follow this link:

An interview with Geoff and Denis Sparks.pdf


Tommy Sparks was recorded by Neil Lanham in 1963. Follow the link for further information:

Recordings of Tommy Sparks

Tommy Sparks' dulcimer which was inherited from Alick Sparks

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Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture


Photo descriptions & sources

Main photos: Tommy Sparks  (John Howson)

a. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer front (John Howson)

b. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer back (JH)

c. Tommy Sparks' playing his dulcimer  (JH)



d. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer  bridges (JH)

e. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer  bridges (JH)

f.  Tommy Sparks' dulcimer  bridges (JH)



g. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer stand (JH)

h. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer profile  (JH)

i. Tommy Sparks' dulcimer cover (JH)

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