Fisherman's Friends

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The Fisherman's Friends
The Fisherman's Friends performing at Port Isaac
The Fisherman's Friends performing at Port Isaac
Background information
OriginPort Isaac, Cornwall, UK
GenresSea shanties, Folk
Years active1995–present
LabelsUniversal Music
MembersJohn Brown
Jeremy Brown
John Lethbridge
Jason Nicholas
John McDonnell
Jon Cleave
Toby Lobb
Past membersTrevor Grills
Nigel Sherratt
Peter Rowe (deceased)
Julian Brown
Billy Hawkins
Pete Hicks
Jackie Bennett

The Fisherman's Friends are a male singing group from Port Isaac, Cornwall, who sing sea shanties.[1] They have been performing locally since 1995, and signed a record deal with Universal Music in March 2010. Whilst essentially an a cappella group, their studio recordings and live performances now often include traditional simple instrumentation.


The Fisherman’s Friends are a shanty group based in North Cornwall. Their performances combine traditional songs of the sea with more contemporary folk music and a large dash of humour.

The current members are brothers John and Jeremy Brown, John Lethbridge, Jason Nicholas, Toby Lobb, John McDonnell, and Jon Cleave.

In the original line-up, all of the members of the group "grew up within half a mile of Port Isaac harbour" except for John McDonnell who is a Yorkshireman. Three were fishermen, and the others are linked to the sea through service as coastguards or lifeboatmen. In June 2014 Peter Rowe was the oldest member, at the age of 80. He died in January 2021 at the age of 88.[2]

In 2009 BBC Radio presenter Johnnie Walker was in Cornwall on holiday and came across two of their homemade CDs. Walker's manager, Ian Brown, travelled to Port Isaac and was able to negotiate a recording contract worth £1 million for them with Universal Music Group who released their first commercial album the following year.[3]

Jon Cleave is one of the MCs of the group and also the author/illustrator of the children's book series Gully[4] as well as the full length, humorous novel Nasty Pasty.[5]

They sing the chorus on Show of Hands' popular song Cousin Jack on Show of Hands' "best of" CD "Roots", as well as on the title track.


Their repertoire includes both shanties and other nautical songs, some of which are fairly lewd.[6] With the addition of Jason & Toby (accordion and guitar) the group have added more musical accompaniment to their set. Billy and Toby are both supported by Vintage Guitars and regularly use their instruments on stage.


The group performed at the 2010 Cornbury music festival in Oxfordshire,[7] the Glastonbury Festival on several occasions, typically on the Acoustic Stage, but on one occasion performing on the Pyramid Stage and the Cambridge Folk Festival.[8] The band have also appeared at Towersey Festival, Wickham Festival, Beautiful days, Costa Del Folk, Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Tunes in the Dunes, Boardmasters and Celtic Connections.

Because they are semi-professional, the band do not tour extensively and will usually embark on 12-15 date tours in November and February/March. They also often perform in Port Isaac, regularly singing on the platt (beach) in the summer for charity.


The group had released three CDs themselves before signing with Universal. In 2002, under the name Port Isaac's 'Fishermen's Friends', they recorded an album, primarily to raise funds for the RNLI, which was released on the Clovelly Label, Catalogue Number CLCD12702. The album, entitled Fishermen's Friends Are Home from the Sea, has 20 tracks and was recorded in St Peter's Church Port Isaac on the 26 and 27 April 2002. All the tracks are sung in the traditional a cappella style. The album was engineered by Bob Whitney and produced by John Perkins. Their first album with Universal, Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends, was recorded in St Kew Parish Church, Cornwall,[9] and released in April 2010.[8]

In 2010 they re-recorded their single, "No Hopers, Jokers or Rogues", with new lyrics, in support of England's World Cup campaign in South Africa.[10]

A second album with Universal, One and All, was released on 26 August 2013.[11] The single "Mary Anne", taken from the album, was released on 25 June 2013.[12]

In July 2015 the album Proper Job was released on the Sony Music label, in association with the St Austell Brewery, who brew a beer of the same name. This album also saw the first appearance of new member Toby Lobb.[13]

2018 saw the release of Sole Mates, an album produced by Giles Woolley and band member Toby Lobb. The band’s aim was to celebrate their history and create a simpler album that represented their live sound more accurately. Sole Mates was made up of tracks that the band had performed during their previous two tours and featured additional instrumentation from Phil Beer from Show of Hands and Emma Murfin from Cornwall-based folk act Black Velvet.


Gareth Malone's documentary on sea shanties, shown in May 2010 on BBC 4, included a contribution from the group.[14] The Fisherman's Friends have also starred in an advert for fish company, Young's Seafood.

The band have appeared on BBC One’s ‘The One Show’ on two occasions, been the subject of an ITV1 documentary that charted their early success, a SKY ARTS documentary which featured their performance at the Celtic Connections festival, BBC’s Countryfile with John Craven and many local news items. 2018 also saw them feature in the Songs of Praise Christmas Special.

Feature film[edit]

The producers of the hit film Fisherman's Friends bought the band’s life rights to be made into a feature film. The writers Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth adapted their story for the screen. Principal photography commenced on 30 April 2018 for 5 weeks on location in Port Isaac and London. The film was released in cinemas nationwide in the UK on 15 March 2019, and was directed by Chris Foggin.[3]

The film stars an ensemble cast headed by James Purefoy, Daniel Mays and Tuppence Middleton, with David Hayman, Dave Johns, Noel Clarke, Maggie Steed, Sam Swainsbury and Christian Brassington playing key supporting roles. The film is based around a largely fictional story of Danny, a music industry executive who signs them to a London record label and develops a relationship with one of the band's daughters, played by Middleton, and covers the period up to their first album release.[3]

All members of the band have cameos in the film and Ashworth explained “the singing is a blend of the voices of the group themselves and of the actors.”[3]

In May 2019 a sequel titled Fisherman’s Friends 2: Bound For South Australia was announced which will take them from performing at Glastonbury to struggling to put their second album together.


At the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards The Fisherman's Friends received The Good Tradition Award for keeping folk music alive and bringing it to new audiences.[15]

Guildford incident[edit]

On 9 February 2013 a heavy steel door fell while the G Live venue in Guildford was being prepared for a Fisherman's Friends show, killing their tour manager Paul McMullen. Singer Trevor Grills was knocked to the floor and suffered serious head injuries,[16] and died in hospital two days later.[17] Following an investigation into the tragedy the company supplying the steel door, Express Hi-Fold Doors, was fined £30,000 for breaching health and safety regulations but the company director was cleared of manslaughter and gross negligence.[3]



Title Details Chart positions Certification
Suck'em and Sea
Home from the Sea
  • Released: 2002
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Clovelly
Another Mouthful From ... The Fisherman's Friends
  • Released: 2009
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Marine Records
Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends 9
One and All
  • Released: 26 August 2013
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Universal Island
Proper Job
  • Released: 10 July 2015
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Sony Music
Sole Mates
  • Released: 20 April 2018[21]
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Cod and Chips
Keep Hauling
  • Released: 15 March 2019
  • Format: Digital download, CD
  • Label: Mighty Village Records


Title Year Album
(Show of Hands, Fisherman's Friends sing the chorus)
2006 Non-album single
"Back of the Net" 2010
"Mary Anne" 2013 One and All


  1. ^ Sinclair, Lulu (18 March 2010). "Fisherman's Friends Net Catchy Album Deal". Sky News. Archived from the original on 22 March 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  2. ^ Peter Rowe Fisherman's Friends founder dies
  3. ^ a b c d e Thorpe, Vanessa. "Fisherman's Friends: behind feelgood film of Cornwall's folk stars lies a tragedy". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Gully the Seagull Children's Story Books | Port Isaac Cornwall | Home Page". Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Nasty Pasty the first novel by Jon Cleave from The Fisherman's Friends". Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  6. ^ Williams, Murphy (29 April 2010). "When the boat came in". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  7. ^ Parkinson, Ben (23 April 2010). "Fisherman's Friends for Cornbury Festival". Virtual Festivals. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b Gifford, Ralph (7 February 2011). "Ship comes in at last for Cornish folk singers". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 February 2001.
  9. ^ "Cornwall singers win deal to make album of sea shanties". BBC News. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  10. ^ "Back of the fishing net as Fisherman's Friends record World Cup single". West Briton. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  11. ^ Battersby, Matilda (25 June 2013). "The Fisherman's Friends dedicate new album One and All to tenor Trevor Grills who died in freak accident". The Independent. London.
  12. ^ "Fisherman's Friends release Trevor Grills memorial single". BBC News. 25 June 2013.
  13. ^ Butler, Jackie (9 July 2015). "Fisherman's Friends new album is a Proper Job". Cornish Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Sea Shanties and Sea Songs with Gareth Malone". BBC. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  15. ^ "Donovan 'fired-up' by Lifetime Achievement Award". The Telegraph. London. 8 February 2001. Retrieved 11 February 2011. Shanty singers Fisherman's Friends were rewarded for keeping folk music alive and bringing it to new audiences with an honorary prize, the Good Tradition award [at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards].
  16. ^ "Fisherman's Friends tour manager dies in G Live accident". BBC. 10 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  17. ^ "Fisherman's Friends' Trevor Grills dies after G Live accident - BBC News". Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  18. ^ "Fisherman's Friends | full Official Chart history". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  19. ^ Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends, accessed 13 September 2019
  20. ^ "Certified Awards Search". BPI. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-07. PORT ISAAC'S FISHERMAN'S - PORT ISAAC'S FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS : Gold Certification (Album) Friday, 7 January 2011 : UNIVERSAL MUSIC (UNIVERSAL) : Released Monday, 26 April 2010 (Search required)
  21. ^ "Sole Mates by Fisherman's Friends". iTunes Store (GB). Retrieved 24 April 2018.

External links[edit]