Magdalene McHugh, Bob Campbell's maternal Irish grandmother (and fiddler)
The late, great Jacko Kevans ...
John Dengate and Bob Campbell in front of the Gulgong Opera House
From the Archives
The musical background to Bob Campbell stretches to his maternal grandmother, Magdalene McHugh, whose family came from Co Fermanagh, Ireland, and all played the fiddle. This musical tradition passed on to Magdalene’s children who became the Harmony Boys Old Time Band.
They played throughout the Great Depression in the Sandy Hollow Hall, built by Bob’s paternal grandfather, George Ham, to cater for the hundreds of families working on the Sandy Hollow Railway line. Bob’s father, Bull Campbell, as well as being a renowned boxer and rugby league player, entertained at parties playing the gum leaf. Bob’s uncle, Jim Ham, now in his nineties, has played in dance bands his entire life and still plays music with his family at home near Brisbane.
Bob’s first public performance was at the age of four when his father stood him on the bar of the Windsor Castle Hotel, East Maitland, where he recited the Ten Commandments to the gathered company. His first instrument was the button accordion and, when in his teens, he learned the guitar, for one year studying under jazz guitarist, Jimmy Charles.
Tiring of playing the guitar and singing in the usual pub rock and roll bands, Bob and friends formed the Maitland Bush Band (see photo below) in 1968, and he took up the five string banjo and fiddle. When legendary box player, the lateJacko Kevans(see photo left), joined the band in the early seventies, he encouraged Bob to concentrate on Irish traditional music. That began a love affair with the music that took him to Ireland and many other parts of the world in pursuit of the musical spirit, but his music has continued to be distinctively and essentially Australian. He has lived and played music for long periods of time in Germany and Ireland but in recent years, has lived in the bush in the Mudgee-Gulgong area.
Bob spent much of the nineties based in Berlin from where he toured solo, as well as with Australian and German musicians until 1998 when he returned to Gulgong.
In recent years, he has concentrated on guitar which he has played since childhood, on song-writing and solo performing, as well as regular performances with Home Rule, and with concertina player Sharon Frost.
As well as recording with Home Rule in the past decade, he has made a number of solorecordings.
He has recently written and performed a radio and stage play on the theme of Aboriginal bushranger, Jimmy Governor, who actually killed the owner of Bob’s current home, ‘Sportsman’s Hollow’ near Ulan. This show had its stage debut at the Prince Of Wales Opera House for the Henry Lawson Festival in June 2008. The show has beenrecorded for radio.
Bob Campbell playing with Uncle Jim Ham at a family reunion near Sandy Hollow quite a few years ago
IRONBARK - Bob Campbell, Lester Grace, & Brian Evans overlooking Newcastle harbour
MAITLAND BUSH BAND (L-R Harry Anderson, John Burns, Lester Grace, Brian Evans & Bob Campbell)
MAITLAND BUSH BAND at Wattle Flat ,1970s. L - R Lester Grace, Jacko Kevans, Brian Evans, Bob Campbell, Bob Monaghan, Harry Anderson