TRIBUTES have been paid to a Southend man described as the ‘father’ of the town’s folk music scene who wrote a song known around the world with ‘Rolling Down the River.’ Jack Forbes died aged 71 at Southend Hospital on January 30 following a period of illness.

He had a distinguished folk career over a period of nearly 50 years, which started when he performed as part of the duo Piertalk with Chris Jones and they performed songs about the locality and history of Southend, as well as some of the traditions in the area.

The town’s maritime connections through the Thames Estuary also feature prominently in his tunes, with Rolling Down the River describing the OCL ships using the waterway.

They would play at clubs and festivals, while Mr Forbes also joined the folk band Slow Lorries and produced many folk theatre productions, which were well received and became an important part of folk festivals.

The former teacher was in the process of putting together another folk production when he died.

His other major band was the Hoy Shanty Crew, who played the Hoy at Anchor Folk Club at the Royal British Legion in Westcliff.

Tony Prior, chairman of the Hoy at Anchor committee, said Mr Forbes, who lived in Leigh, was revered within the folk community and his song Rolling Down the River was on the tongues of most folk fans around the world, though few would have realised he sung it.

Mr Prior said: “He was an integral part of everything that was going on. He was somebody who was friendly, supportive, loyal and reliable and just a great man and a very good friend of mine.

“For many years he contributed to the folk scene in Essex and across the country and his death leaves a tremendous void and vacuum that can not be replaced.”

The Southend folk community is planning to stage a memorial concert in honour of Mr Forbes, who used to teach at Darlinghurst School in Leigh, at St Clements Church in Leigh when many of his songs, including Rolling Down The River, Shanty and Daytrip to Southend, will be performed.

A date for the concert is yet to be arranged.

Mr Prior added: “When I heard the news I was absolutely stunned and speechless and people who know me would know that does not happen very often.”

Fellow folk singer Derek Oliver, who comes from Benfleet, also regularly sang with Mr Forbes.

He said: “Jack would do anything for you. He was just a nice bloke. He was nothing special to look at, he was not particularly tall, but you knew you could rely on him and he would do anything for you.

“He was kind and thoughtful. It was not just that he was a good singer and musician, but he was everybody’s friend and we will miss him, everybody will miss him.”