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Evelyn Wilcock - Ki Lo Na’eh Ki Lo Ya’eh

Ki Lo Na’eh
Ki Lo Ya’eh

Evelyn Wilcock“This is a recording of my late father, Geoffrey Gollin, singing his family tune which he inherited from his father Lionel. My father must have been at least 83 when he recorded this and may have been nearer 90. He died in 1992 aged 91. We don’t know where this song comes from and we don’t know why my father never met anyone else who ever sang it. He used to get furious that they never sang this tune at the LJS (Liberal Jewish Synagogue) communal Seder. I sometimes think that one reason he held his own family Seder every year till the end of his life was so that he could sing this song!

It’s possible, and we hope, that this song originally came from my great- great-grandfather, Rabbi Wolf Josephson Gollin who arrived in the UK about 1780. My father and other genealogists have spent many hours trying to find out where he came from - Bohemia and Groningen in the Netherlands are possibilities. But it is known that he spent time in Lesznow, worked for the Hambro synagogue and served on the London Beth Din. As a rabbi’s son, Bearman remained devout and orthodox and so did my grandfather, Lionel. But the same wasn’t true of all the children.

Rabbi Gollin died in 1833, leaving a widow and dependent children. She was awarded a pension by the Hambro synagogue and some of his sons were taken as apprentices by wealthy congregants. My great-grandfather Bearman worked for Moses Levy and Company who sold work clothes for sailors. He was sent to manage their Liverpool branch - hence our family connection with the Liverpool synagogues.

Evelyn Wilcock's father Geoffrey Gollin and grandfather Lionel Gollin. c1914My grandfather Lionel sang as a boy in the choir of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation then at the Seel Street Synagogue. Lionel always sang this tune at his Seders. The diary he kept in 1867, when he was fourteen, mentions calling on two people - Dr Behr and Mr Saqui - the rabbi and the celebrated choirmaster. So if this tune didn’t arrive in the UK with my great- great-grandfather it could have been one of Abraham Saqui’s tunes.

My father was born in Liverpool in 1901 and was brought up ‘Anglo-Jewish’. His father was very British, anti-Zionist and sent his sons to a non-Jewish prep school and then on to the Jewish House at Clifton. The family were connected with the founding of Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool in 1874. Yet my father didn’t know until he did some research that he was descended from a rabbi!

The women in Princes Road Synagogue did not learn Hebrew. So for the sake of his wife and daughters, Lionel Gollin held his Seder mainly in English. But this song was always in the Hebrew.

Evelyn Wilcock's father Geoffrey GollinMy father also had difficulties with Hebrew; I think he was a bit dyslexic. He found his Bar Mitzvah a nightmare and never forgot it. When he came to work in London he was taken by a friend (George Cam) to the Liberal Synagogue where, in those days, the service was mainly in English. My father just embraced Liberal Judaism in English. But he himself retained the Hebrew pronunciation that he’d grown up with and didn’t change to the pronunciation of the Liberal Synagogue.

He preferred the old tunes too. He was very anti-German; his elder brother was killed in World War One, and yet when the Liberal synagogue tried to move from the ‘German’ music and bring in ‘Israeli’ style music, he was furious!

Our only exposure to Hebrew at home was at Seder for which my father always used the ULPS blue Haggadah booklet which was not like the orthodox or even Reform and Liberal Haggadah of today. Until recently, with friends, I would hold a nostalgic second night Seder using that book. Like his father before him, my father conducted the Seder in English except for the brachas and this tune which he sang in Hebrew.

It was nice that my son-in-law from Manchester sang this tune at his Seder this year. He said it was important in our family and now our grandchildren and their cousins will know it too.”

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