Week 146 – The White Cockade

Here’s a song from the Copper Family repertoire which I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard sung by any member of the family. I learned it from Bob Copper’s book A Song for Every Season (it’s also in The Copper Family Song Book) but it’s not on the 4 LP set of the same name, or on any more recent Copper Family albums.

Looking at the Roud Index I see that there’s a 1955 BBC recording of Bob singing the song, while what I initially assumed to be  the same recording (or one by Peter Kennedy of a similar vintage) appeared on Folktrax cassette FTX-238 – Come all you Bold Britons. Looking at the Folktrax archive, however, I see that this recording – like several others on the cassette – is listed as “Bob with conc”. Bob only learned to play the concertina in the 1980s when caring for his wife during her long illness, and it would  appear that these recordings date from that period (the recordings on the Folktrax cassette are dated “1963-1983”). There’s more information in Peter Kennedy: an appraisal on the Musical Traditions site (this is point 20 on the long list of Negatives):

There are also a considerable number of recordings which are copies, given to him for interest’s sake, by other collectors.  He has also sold these illegally via Folktrax.  Bob Copper told Kennedy that he was learning the concertina.  Peter told him that he would like to hear what he sounded like.  Bob sent him a “pretty ropey” (Bob’s words) self-recorded practice tape.  This ended up being released on Folktrax.


The origins of the song itself, and what significance if any should be attached to the colour of the cockade (white? blue? green?) in different versions of the song, are addressed in his usual pithy and informative style, by the late Malcolm Douglas on Mudcat here and here.

White cockade - broadside ballad from the Bodleian collection.

White cockade – broadside ballad from the Bodleian collection.


I don’t think I’ve ever sung this in public, and may never do so. In a world where the version popularised by the Watersons is universally known, going to a folk club or session and singing a version with a slightly different set of words and refrain is asking for trouble.


The White Cockade

One Comment to “Week 146 – The White Cockade”

  1. I’ve edited what I wrote about Bob Copper and the concertina when originally posting this a few hours ago. I’d got it into my head that Kennedy’s recordings dated from the 1950s, whereas it’s now obvious that the tracks on “Come all you Bold Britons” where Bob accompanies himself on the English concertina must date from the 1980s (probably 1983).

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