With the current wintry conditions, it seems like an appropriate time to post this song from the Copper Family’s repertoire. My friend Mike and I learned it, circa 1977, from the single LP selection from A Song for Every Season. When, a few years later, I heard the full 4 LP set for the first time, I was initially rather taken aback by Bob’s spoken comments:
Old Uncle Tom, that’s my great uncle, and Grandfather’s brother, he used to sing this with a great deal of feeling. And it just shows you how things have changed, because when Dad used to sing it he couldn’t help putting in a little bit of, you know, funny, he used to laugh a little bit at it. And we have a job to keep a straight face. That’s the way things change.
It hadn’t occurred to me, I suppose, that late twentieth century traditional singers might find some of the songs in their repertoire a bit old fashioned. Of course the Coppers still sing the song, because it’s part of their family tradition. But what’s my excuse? you might ask. To be honest, I’m not sure – I just like singing the song, and actually have no problem singing it with a straight face. And melodramatic though it is, the subject matter – hard-hearted father turns away his daughter and illegitimate grandchild, to his subsequent regret – is a timeless theme.
From the number of records on Steve Roud’s index it would appear that at one time this song was widespread in print and in oral tradition, in both Britain and North America.
The Wind across the Wild Moor