The banks of sweet primroses – ballad from the Bodleian Library’s collection. Printed by J. Catnach, Seven Dials, London, between 1813 and 1838.
To start the second year of the blog, here’s the quintessential rural English folk song.
It’s only in the last few years that I’ve actually added this to my repertoire. I found myself humming the tune to myself on an increasingly frequent basis and, since I seemed to have picked up most of the words by osmosis, decided I really ought to learn it. The words I sing are more or less as sung by the Copper Family. My tune is similar to their version too; although, as pointed out in the notes to the song in the The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (a truly excellent publication – every home should have one), this is one of relatively few English folk songs which always seem to have been sung to pretty much the same tune.
The concluding couplet is wonderfully uplifting:
There is many a dark and a cloudy morning
Turns out to be a bright sunshiny day.
Although, as many festival-goers will have discovered this weekend, in practice you’ll often find that a bright sunshiny morning turns into a miserable afternoon and evening of raging winds and heavy gales.
Here is my 52nd weekly post – completing the first year of the blog =coinciding with the week in which I reach the grand old age of 52. It’s almost as if I’d planned it all (I didn’t).
I learned this song from Roy Palmer’s Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs. It was recorded in 1976 by Mike Yates, from Fred Cottenham, at Chiddingstone in Kent. Mike mistakenly gave the singer’s name as “Fred Cottingham”, and this was repeated both in Roy’s book, and when the recording was included on the Veteran Tapes cassette The Horkey Load Volume 1. However Fred’s surname was definitely Cottenham: you can read about his life, and his singing father “Needle” Cottenham, in an article by George Frampton for Musical Traditions – Fred Cottenham: The ‘Crockery Ware’ Man.
The “crockery ware” referred to in this song, incidentally, is the chamber pot, aka the gazunder.
The Crockery Ware – ballad in the Bodleian Library collection
In the Spring of 1980 my friends Ian and Jane put on an excellent series of folk concerts in Oxford: Nic Jones with support from Crows; June Tabor and Martin Simpson; Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick. The latter were in fact joined by trumpeter Howard Evans, and when I saw them the following year at the Lewes Folk Day, they were billed as Carthy, Kirkpatrick & Evans. I can’t remember if they sang this song in Oxford, but they certainly did in Lewes, and I was very taken with it. I learned the song shortly afterwards, when I found the words and music in Roy Palmer’s Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs. And not long after that I first heard the original source, Sam Larner, on the Topic LP A Garland for Sam.
A live recording of Martin and John singing the piece – unaccompanied, in unison – was included on the 4-CD box set, The Carthy Chronicles.
I had the pleasure of singing this yesterday during an all-too-brief visit to the lunchtime session at The Volunteer in Sidmouth.