Week 131 – Epsom Races

George Attrill, from the Copper Family website (in the book Songs and Southern Breezes the photo from which this is taken is listed as

George Attrill, from the Copper Family website (in the book Songs and Southern Breezes the photo from which this is taken is listed as “by courtesy of George Garland, Petworth”).

This song was collected by Bob Copper in the 1950s, and it was included in his book  Songs and Southern Breezes. Bob had the song from George Attrill, road-mender of Fittleworth in Sussex.

George was a completely natural and unaffected singer. He stood there in his shirt-sleeves and braces, shoulders squared and head tilted slightly back, and sang out loud and bold. His words were clear and a strong West Sussex accent made all his songs a joy to hear.

You can hear Bob’s recording of George Attrill singing ‘Epsom Races’ (under the title of ‘The Broken-Down Gentleman’) on You Never Heard So Sweet, one of the more recent additions to Topic’s Voice of the People series. The song seems to have been widely collected in Southern England, but also further North – Frank Kidson had a version from his faithful correspondent Charles Lolley from Leeds, while Percy Grainger recorded a version (‘When I Was Young in My Youthful Ways’) in Lincolnshire, from the great Joseph Taylor. Surprisingly, there don’t seem to be any broadside versions listed under this Roud number – but I’m sure it must have appeared on a printed ballad sheet though; it seems to have very much the same sort of period feel as ‘Limbo’.

The tune at the end is one of my own, and the only one, as far as I recall, which I’ve consciously written as a morris tune. I wrote it in 1983 or 84 during my brief sojourn in Newcastle on Tyne. The title ‘Pigs and Whistles’, however, had been hanging around in the recesses of my mind for some while, having come across the phrase in my Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, with the definition “wrack and ruin”. The OED has two meanings: “fragments, pieces; odds and ends, trivial things”, with “to go to pigs and whistles” defined as “to fall into ruin or disrepair” (Now rare). The examples of the phrase in use are all Scottish, but range from 1794 to 2001. It’s a morris tune which noone has ever danced to. So if any sides out there are in need of a new tune for a corner dance with slows, please help yourself.

Epsom Races / Pigs and Whistles

Andy Turner: vocals, C/G anglo-concertina

5 Comments to “Week 131 – Epsom Races”

  1. That photo is actually a photo of a son of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan. If you want me to send you a photo of JBG, let me know. I’m his Gx3 grandaughter 🙂

    • Hi I found the Mudcat thread on Geoghan http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=129312
      Are you saying that George Attrill was his son? or that it’s not Attrill at all?
      That seems unlikely as it’s from Bob Copper’s book, and Bob met the man.
      Intrigued!

      • Hi Andy, sorry to cause confusion! The picture you used is of a son of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan (also called Joseph). I put it myself on the mudcat thread. It’s one of a load of old family photographs. Both my mum and I thought it was JBG. We only discovered JBG (Senior) wrote songs that were still known today at around the time we found the thread on mudcat. Another contributor then came up with a photo of JBG that had been verified, only days after his death, that she’d found on the National Archives. I’ve got a copy of that I can send to you if you’ve got an email address (can’t see a way of uploading it here on these comments).

        I think the confusion is that I put ,my comment in the wrong place haha, I meant to post it on the song by JBG. I was having a bit of a tinternet frenzy yesterday, looking up various bits of family tree research…. I still get a thrill every time I see JBG mentioned somewhere and get very carried away! 😉

  2. Ah I’m with you now. Geoghegan rang a dim bell, but I couldn’t remember in relation to which song. Now I see it’s https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/week-185-john-barleycorns-a-hero-bold/ which was also collected from George Attrill.
    And the photo there isn’t of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, 1816-1889, but of one of his sons.
    Yes i’d be delighted to have a photo of the old rogue. I’m at andyturner.info@gmail.com
    Thanks a lot

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