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'Distant Drums' goes too far: Court silences woman who played Jim Reeves songs 18 hours a day

WITH SOME noisy neighbours, you bang on the wall. With others, you start a war of attrition - recording their noise and playing it back to them over 300-watt speakers can be effective. But when the neighbours play Jim Reeves records 18 hours a day, this may not be enough.

One resident of Trinidad Crescent in Poole, Dorset, told a court she regularly ran away to Coventry to escape the sounds of the Country and Western singer. Others started a petition, which resulted yesterday in Poole County Court banning Mary Carruthers, a 55-year-old grandmother, from playing Reeves or any music in her flat for two years. Council officials have already removed her gramophone.

'The noise was unbearable, it would go on day and night. Sometimes it would start first thing in the morning and go on until the early hours the next day. There just wasn't any escape. They would sing along to records like Jim Reeves's 'I Love You Because',' a neighbour, Linda Moore, told the court.

Another neighbour said the noise would often go on for 18 hours a day. Peter Donaldson, an environmental health officer for the council, told the hearing it was one of the worst cases of noise pollution he had dealt with in 12 years.

Residents accused Mrs Carruthers and her two sons of other offences against good neighbourliness, like getting drunk, swearing, fighting pitched battles in the street and driving motorbikes around the estate. Mrs Carruthers denied the allegations: 'I don't play loud music, I don't even like it,' she said, though she agreed to be photographed outside the court with a tape of Jim Reeves hits.

Arie Den Dalk, the Netherlands-based secretary of the Jim Reeves Fan Club, said he had never before come across an example of such hatred for the singer. 'I can understand neighbours who do not like playing Jim Reeves too loud,' he said. 'But I don't think people should be evicted for playing the music of just one artist.'

Mr Den Dalk said that no one had ever complained about his playing Jim Reeves. 'With Jim Reeves music you are only attracted to it if you are in a certain mood. But he has so many styles that in any mood you can find a song you want to play.'

Jim Reeves was not available for comment yesterday, having died in a plane crash in 1964. Bill Kirkwood, Mrs Carruthers's boyfriend, said he would still play Jim Reeves in the flat on headphones. His 1963 hit 'Guilty' will doubtless be top of the playlist - or possibly the classic 'Distant Drums'.

(Photograph omitted)