Archive for October, 2013

October 27, 2013

Week 114 – The Jolly Waggoner

I learned this song from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. Interestingly Charlie (born 1913) had learned the song at School – almost certainly from English Folk-Songs For Schools: Collected And Arranged By S. Baring Gould, M.A.  & Cecil J. Sharp, B.A. published by Curwen in 1907.

Before singing me the song Charlie said

You want to hear the ‘Jolly Waggoner’s song’ then? Well, I learnt that at school actually and I come across – well, I found a book with it in the other night… ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ – “this was collected and arranged by S. Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp”. You heard of old Cecil Sharp I expect.

Then, having sung it

I learnt that at school actually. I couldn’t remember the last verse.

I asked “Did they teach you it out of a book like that? A folk-song book?” to which Charlie replied “I expect so – a thing like that, yeah”.

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from

Baring-Gould collected a number of versions of the song in the West Country.  This tune, although in Baring-Gould’s MSS, would appear to have been collected by his collaborator H. Fleetwood Sheppard in 1890, from James Parsons of Lewdown in Devon,

Baring-Gould notes

This version  is the common broadside by Catnach, Fortey, Such etc.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould's MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould’s MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner

October 20, 2013

Week 113 – On Board a Ninety-Eight

The visitor to Oxford is of course immediately struck by the beauty of the honey-coloured stone of the medieval colleges, the Old Bod, the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian… But another of the glories of Oxford to my mind has always been the Covered Market. And when I was a student one of the glories of the Covered Market was, without doubt, Garon Records. I spent many a happy hour browsing through the racks of second-hand LPs, and there are quite a number of records in my collection which I picked up in that shop. I’d actually discovered the shop even before I became a student, having come across it on a visit to Oxford a few months earlier. It’s funny what one remembers after 35 years. I can’t remember much about my visit to the college, but I do remember having something to eat and a couple of pints of Morrells in The Grapes. then sitting on the grass by the canal reading E.H. Carr’s What is History?  And while, sadly, I cannot recall Professor Carr’s answer to that vexed question, I’m pretty sure the two LPs I bought in Garon Records that day were The Watersons and Among the many attractions at the fair will be a really high class band.

Generally the records I bought from Garon were in pretty good nick, the exception being a dreadfully beat up copy of Peter Bellamy’s Tell it like it was. This was in such a bad state that I think I only played it a couple of times. But that was sufficient to introduce me to two Bellamy classics, ‘Courting too slow’ and ‘On Board a 98′. Bellamy wrote his own tune for both of these, finding the tune which Vaughan Williams had collected for this song “unimpressing”. I was surprised, therefore, when I found the tune in Sharp’s English County Folk Songs, that it was a perfectly acceptable tune which fitted the song rather well. I learned it immediately, and have been singing it on an off ever since, either on my own or, for a few years in the 1980s, with Chris Wood on fiddle. It seems like a suitable song to post here on the eve of Trafalgar Day.

Vaughan Williams had the song from a Mr Leatherday (sometimes given as Latterday), a sailor of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, in 1905.

On Board A '98, collected by Vaughan Williams from Mr Leatherday, 1905. From the Full English archive.

On Board A ’98, collected by Vaughan Williams from Mr Leatherday, 1905. From the Full English archive.

Needless to say, I think, the song can be found in nineteenth century printed sources at Broadside Ballads Online, the Bodleian Library’s revamped and much improved ballad site; see

On Board of a Ninety-Eight, printed by J. Catnach, Seven Dials

On Board of a Ninety-Eight, printed by J. Catnach, Seven Dials “between 1813 and 1838” from the Bodleian collection.

One of my wife’s ancestors was a Greenwich Pensioner, although not a resident of Greenwich Hospital itself. In the 1841 Census John O’Leary’s wife and five children are listed as living in Portsea; while he, we imagine, was off at sea. In 1851 his occupation is given as Greenwich Pensioner – one assumes he had “done his duty, served his time”, although whether he now “blessed his fate” we can’t know. He and his family were all living in New Rents, Ashford, Kent. This is a really strange coincidence – Ashford is my home town, and I certainly would have had ancestors living in the town in 1851; Carol had been unaware that any of her forebears had any connection with Kent, still less Ashford. The association seems to have been shortlived, however, as the O’Leary family were no longer in Ashford by the time of the next census in 1861.

On Board a Ninety-Eight

Andy Turner: vocal, G/D anglo-concertina

October 12, 2013

Week 112 – Hare Hunting Song

Here’s one from the archive – from a demo tape I made c1995 with Chris Wood. You can find a later recording of the song (again with Chris on guitar and harmony vocals) on my now-downloadable-but-originally-cassette-only album Love, Death and the Cossack. As I wrote on the cassette liner notes

I have an ambivalent attitude towards hunting songs, but was won over to the Westmorland Hare hunting song by its gloriously pompous words.  Brave boys only need apply!

Inspired to learn the song by the Watersons’ version (under the title  ‘The Morning Looks Charming’) on their 1966 LP A Yorkshire Garland, I subsequently had the words from Roy Palmer’s English Country Songbook.

The song was collected by Frank Kidson in Westmorland in 1902, from a Mr. Cropper – and here it is from Kidson’s manuscript, now available on the EFDSS Full English site.

Hare Hunting Song, from the Kidson MSS, via the Full English archive.

Hare Hunting Song, from the Kidson MSS, via the Full English archive.

The song has also been collected in Cumberland and Yorkshire – from the singing of the famous Holme Valley huntsmen. But looking at the  Roud index it’s clear that this is not a peculiarly Northern song, a version also having been collected at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Frank Kidson’s handwritten note on the MS copy above led me to The Vocal Enchantress. Presenting An Elegant Selection of the Most Favourite Hunting, Sea, Love, & Miscellaneous Songs, Sung by Edwin, Bannister, Webster, Mrs. Cargill, Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Wrighten, &c. &c. &c. With the Music prefixed to each (1783). And here indeed is our song, in Part 1 pages 38-39.

Hare Hunting Song

Andy Turner: vocals

Chris Wood: guitar, vocals

October 7, 2013

Week 111 – Worcester City

I learned this from the wonderful Joseph Taylor of Saxby All Saints, Lincolnshire, via the LP Unto Brigg Fair. Percy Grainger’s 1908 recording can be heard these days on The Voice of the People Vol. 3, O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green.

The song is, as it were, of no fixed abode. Set here in Worcester City, the version which has been a staple of Magpie Lane’s repertoire for the last twenty years has the action taking place in Oxford City, It is also known as ‘Jealousy’ and (spoiler alert) ‘Poison in a glass of wine’.

Worcester City