In recent years Malcolm Taylor, the Librarian of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, has been awarded an OBE, the EFDSS Gold Badge, and a Radio 2 Folk Award; while the library itself has achieved MLA Designated status, recognising the library’s national and international importance. All of these awards are entirely deserved. Malcolm is a thoroughly good egg, and in his time at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library he has both raised its profile and dramatically extended the range of services it offers – and this is set to be taken even further with the Full English project now underway.
In the 1980s, when the Society as a whole was pretty moribund, and members only seemed to have energy for bitter internecine disputes over where the HQ should be based, Malcolm just quietly got on with things: doing his best to ensure the library’s resources were secure, organising library lectures, and masterminding a series of excellent cassettes featuring field recordings which had never before been available to the world at large.
One of these cassettes was Early in the Month of Spring, which featured recordings made by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie of Irish Travellers in England – recordings which had often been made in the most unlikely places (well, for those who think of folk songs as existing only in an idyllic rustic setting) such as underneath a flyover on the Westway.
The cassette was full of great performances of great songs, sung by singers who were clearly great characters. Fortunately, since cassette tapes were never the most wonderful or long-lasting medium, the songs from Early in the Month of Spring have now been made available on a Musical Traditions CD From Puck to Appleby (MTCD325-6)
This one came from Mikeen McCarthy, originally from Cahirciveen, Co Kerry, but who had lived in England for most of his life. Mikeen was introduced by Jim and Pat to the London folk club scene, and I was lucky enough to see him singing at at least one National Folk Music Festival at Sutton Bonington. An obituary for Mikeen appeared in the 2006 Folk Music Journal, and this is available online.
Early in the month of Spring