Doctor Syn and The Scarecrow


Smuggling had a major cultural and economic impact on the England of the 18th and early 19th century.  It also inspired the country's first masked super-hero: The Scarecrow.  Russell Thorndike in his Doctor Syn novels, written between 1915 and 1944, tells of a well loved and respected vicar of Dymchurch by day, who becomes a feared spectral smuggler leader by night.

Dr Syn & The Scarecrow is a two hour musical marking the life and times of Russell Thorndike's infamous clergyman and the smugglers of Dymchurch and Romney Marsh.  It is available as a double CD from Talking Elephant Records.  Alternatively I can mail you a copy for £12 including UK postage.  Please contact me on  It is also available on ITunes and Spotify.  The album represents a mixture of material reworked from the 2012 Scarecrow project and brand new songs. 

The album includes guest performances from Samantha Rush on vocals, Jennie Trevillion on flute, Peter Bundell on vocals and Eggibred partner Stephen Skey on vocals and Bouzouki.  Also  'Swinging The Lead' shanty crew:  Brian Withstandley, Peter Brooker, Joe Whittaker, Dave Webb and  Stephen Skey.  Our good friend, the late, great actor and shanty singer Brian Withstandley took on the character of ex-pirate turned sexton Mr Mipps, bringing to life vividly the nature and landscape of the times. 

A synopsis of the storyline is as follows:

Dr Syn & The Scarecrow synopsis

Scroll down to see the script and song lyrics.

On The Marsh

Scarecrow's Leap over Dover Castle

Sexton and The Scarecrow's chief lieutenant Mr Mipps aka Hellspite

Charlotte Cobtree aka Curlew

Raid On Poole Quay

What do the Reviews say?

"This is a finely wrought piece of work...A lovely 'musical adventure with smugglers'".

Kathy and Bob Drage, Around Kent Magazine

"Chris Lea's conception is truly breath-taking in its scope and originality.  He creates an atmosphere that is sometimes dark and dramatic and other times quaint and amusing, while all the while holding the listeners attention.  I can visualise Doctor Syn and The Scarecrow being performed live on stage with all the characters dressed in appropriate costumes.  Well recommended".

Arthur Prosser, Kent Jazz Folk Magazine

Act 1

Captain Clegg's 'Quaint Old Capstan Song

Scarecrow's Leap

Romney Marsh

The Tub Carrier

Mr Mipps

The Ghost of Captain Clegg

The City of London

The Scarecrow Rides Tonight

A Girl Could Fall

What Kind of Man is this

Another Time Gentlemen

Act 2

Captain Clegg's Quaint Old Capstan Song Reprise

Sir Henry Pembury

Mr Brackenbury's Engagement

A Gazetted Man

Brazlett's Departure

The Widow of Bonnington Part 1

The Raid on Poole Quay

The Widow of Bonnington Part 2

Like Penelope - Introduction

Like Penelope

The Four Hadleys

The Scarecrow Rides Tonight Reprise

Click on the following link to see the script and song lyrics of the Dr Syn & The Scarecrow musical:

Dr Syn & The Scarecrow - Musical Script and Lyrics



The original Scarecrow CD was an earlier version of Dr Syn & The Scarecrow.  It is a musical narrative based on the Doctor Syn novels and actual accounts of smuggling in the 18th century.  The album contains 16 original songs with a number of spoken pieces set against music and soundscapes.  Scarecrow was released to coincide with the 2012 Dymchurch Day of Syn Festival, and excerpts from the album were performed at Dr. Syn's local, The Ship Inn, during the festival. 

The album Scarecrow is available as a double CD.  It can be purchased for £5 + £1 for postage.  CDs of both Dr Syn & The Scarecrow and Scarecrow  are available together for £16 including postage (for UK). Please contact me for more information at  . 

Chris transports us to Dymchurch in the 18th century.  We meet the smugglers who worked there and through Chris's narrative and music along with stunning vocals by Samantha Rush and Brian Withstandley and Chris Lea,  Russell Thorndike's characters seem so much more real than they ever had before.

"A good piece of work that would enhance any festival stage".

 Around Kent Folk Magazine:

Track List - Act One

1. Captain Clegg's Quaint Old Capstan Song -  (Lyrics: Russell Thorndike, Music: Chris Lea)  Russell Thorndike's pirate song put to music.

2. Scarecrow's Leap - (Chris Lea)  The Scarecrow appears to leap from a tower at Dover Castle and fly away.  Chris and Samantha Rush on vocals, and featuring Brian Withstandley as Mr Mipps.

3. Romney Marsh - (Chris Lea)  An introduction to the place and times, featuring Brian Withstandley as Mr Mipps and Jennie Trevillion on flute.

4. Poor Men Made Good - (Chris Lea) Commentary on how smuggling came about.

5. The Tub Carrier of Deal - (Chris Lea & Stephen Skey)  Through the eyes of a smuggler from Deal.  In the 1780s Deal was branded as 'the worst smuggling town in the land' by the then Prime Minister who declared war on the town by ordering the burning of the town's fishing boats.  Featuring Stephen Skey on Bouzouki.

6. Honest Living - (Chris Lea) Commentary on the economic effects of smuggling.

7. Mr Mipps - (Chris Lea)  We are formally introduced to Mr Mipps, a man of many parts; featuring Brian Withstandley as Mr Mipps.

8. The Ghost of Captain Clegg - (Chris Lea)  How Dr Syn returned home and became again Vicar of Dymchurch.  Featuring Peter Brooker as The Good Doctor.

9. The City of London - (Chris Lea)   Mr Mipps carries on the story with the re-naming of The Sea Wall Tavern.

10. The Scarecrow Rides Tonight - (Chris Lea)  How The Scarecrow was born and became leader of The Romney Marsh Smugglers.  Featuring the whole cast.

11. Representatives of the Law - (Chris Lea)  Commentary on the law enforcement of the day.

Act Two

1. Captain Clegg's Quaint Old Capstan Song Reprise -  (Lyrics: Russell Thorndike, Music: Chris Lea) Performed by Swinging The Lead Shanty Crew.

2. The Smuggler Gang - (Chris Lea)  Commentary on The Hawkhurst Gang, the antipathies of The Scarecrow in reputation and business dealings. 

3. The Raid on Poole Quay - (Chris Lea)  Probably the one time when The Hawkhurst Gang did not kill anyone.  Featuring Jennie Trevillion on Flute.

4. Other Gangs - (Chris Lea)   Commentary on other smuggler gangs of the time, showing similarities to the dealings of The Scarecrow. 

5. What Kind of Man Is This? - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Samantha Rush on vocals.  Charlotte Cobtree expresses her feelings for Doctor Syn.

6. Mr Brackenbury's Engagement - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Peter Bundell as Sir Henty Pembury, Brian Withstandley as Mr Mipps, Peter Brooker as the Good Doctor and Jennie Trevillion on Flute.  Dr Syn shows his romantic side in helping a young couple get engaged and play a prank on the Lord of Lympne Castle.

7. Penalties and Smuggler Justice - (Chris Lea)  Commentary on falling foul of the authorities and the smugglers.

8. Stranger at The Ship - Brazlett's Departure - Ribbons and Petticoats - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Brian, Sam and Peter Brooker on vocals.  Brazlett meets with smuggler justice.

9. The Widow of Bonnington - The Ransley Trial - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Samantha Rush as Widow Ransley and Peter Brooker as Doctor Syn.  The Scarecrow brings Ransley to trial but Doctor Syn gets him off.

10. The Press Gang - (Chris Lea)  Commentary on the curse of coastal communities.

11. Like Penelope - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Samantha Rush on lead vocals and Stephen Skey on Bouzouki and backing vocals.  'Like Penelope she waits...'  on the return of her man taken by the press gang.

12. The Four Hadleys - (Chris Lea)  Featuring Swinging The Lead Shanty Crew.  The Scarecrow press gangs the press gang.

13. The Scarecrow Rides Tonight Reprise - (Chris Lea) Featuring the whole cast.. The Scarecrow shows his power over the authorities and the the press gangs are banished from the area for ever.

14. War - (Chris Lea) Commentary on the effects of war with France on smuggling.

15. The Epilogue - (Chris Lea) The legacy from those times.

To hear an excerpt from The Raid on Poole Quay  please click on this link:

To view an animated version of Mr Brackenbury's Engagement please click on: