Archive for September, 2014

September 27, 2014

Week 162 – My Love is Gone

I’ve been singing this one for an awful long time, and  I never tire of it. Bob Copper sings it solo on A song for every season and I learned it from my friend Mike’s single LP of songs drawn from the box set. Mike made up two harmony lines for the chorus, and we were able to make use of those when, as students, we sang the song with Caroline Jackson-Houlston. When Mike went on a year abroad I carried on singing it in harmony with Caroline, and then when I left University I went back to singing it on my own. Which I’ve been doing ever since. Then a dozen or so years ago, Ian Giles suggested we should add it to the Magpie Lane repertoire. It’s a great joy to sing it in harmony with Ian (happy birthday, by the way!), and a particular joy when we sing it at a club or festival and it seems like the entire room is singing along.

We recorded the song, under the title of ‘The Constant Lovers’ on our 2002 CD Six for Gold. Below you’ll find a version of us singing it at the Oxford Folk Festival in 2006. I remember that we had sung it two years earlier, at the first Oxford Folk Festival, which happened to be the same day as Bob Copper’s memorial service in Rottingdean.

Gordon Hall also learned the song from Bob Copper but, in typical style, added a few extra verses:

Legend gives us a happy ending to this lovely old song
I pray you pay attention, I shan’t keep you long.
When Phoebe leapt from the clifftops to the wild billows roar
There a bloody big bramble snarèd up in her drawers
And she cried o-o-o-oh, my love is gone
That sweet youth I adore
And I’m left a-swinging, by my calico drawers.

A young naval lieutenant, so salt (?) and so true
Was patrolling inshore for King George’s Revenue
When he spied that young damsel through his eyeglass (?)
He said: I knows that’s my Phoebe by the size of her –
Ah-ah-ah-ah, my lover’s saved
That sweet girl I adore
She’s been saved by the bramble and her calico drawers.

Well he lowered a boat and he rode for the shore
And he brought that fair damsel to safety once more
Straight away to the church, where they married in speed
Now in a cot by the seaside they live happy indeed
Crying o-o-o-oh, my lover’s saved
That sweet love I adore
She’s been saved by a lawyer, and her calico drawers.

And so now every morn when the sun shines so clear
Especially when tourists and trippers are near
This constant young couple earn a fortune in gold
By exhibiting the scars where the brambles took hold
Crying o-o-o-oh, my lover’s saved
We’ve got bright gold in store
And it all came through wearing those calico drawers.

You can hear Gordon’s version on the CD Good Things Enough (Country Branch CBCD095).

Another Sussex singer who learned it from Bob was Ron Spicer, and a recording of him singing the song is on the Veteran CD When the May is all in Bloom. John Howson’s notes to that CD say

In Sussex, Jim Copper had the first verse and the tune and Bob completed it from the Gardiner manuscripts. Ron first heard Bob singing it and he says that it is thought of as being of local origin as the cliffs at Fairlight near Hastings are known as a ‘lover’s leap’.

Derek Schofield investigated the background to Bob Copper’s song in the Autumn 2012 edition of English Dance & Song, without being being able to reach any definite conclusion. The Gardiner connection seems to be tenuous – there’s not a version collected by him with the same words as Bob’s, and in any case Jon Dudley thinks it unlikely that Bob ever searched through collectors’ manuscripts at Cecil Sharp House. A more promising clue is given in the notes to the Song for every season box set:

First verse and tune from Jim Copper (from his father), rest of words from Folk magazine, No. 1.

But in that 1962 EFDSS magazine the source is given as – the Copper Family! There’s no definite evidence, but it seems quite possible that Peter Kennedy, who recorded the Coppers, edited Folk magazine, was prominent in the EFDSS and most probably had spent time going through the Gardiner MSS, provided Bob with a complete set of words, then collected it back from him!

Whatever the story, it’s a great song.

The lover's lament for her sailor. Broadside printed by H. Paul, 22 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, from the Bodleian Collection.

The lover’s lament for her sailor. Broadside printed by H. Paul, 22 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, from the Bodleian Collection.

My Love is Gone

Andy Turner – vocal


Magpie Lane

Ian Giles, Andy Turner, Marguerite Hutchinson, Sophie Thurman, Jon Fletcher, Mat Green – vocals

September 21, 2014

Week 161 – The Rambling Irishman

An Irish emigration song which I learned back in the 1970s from Cathal McConnell, via an early Boys of the Lough LP. Checking online I find that the song was on their Second Album, under the title ‘Lough Erne’. That’s an album I never owned. I might have borrowed a copy from the local library, but actually I think I might have bought it for my friend Mike as a birthday present (following the time-honoured music-lover’s rule of buying other people records you want to hear yourself). I’d have got the tune from listening to the record; I probably learned the words from Music and Songs from the Boys of the Lough, a Boys of the Lough songbook published in 1977.

The notes in that book say that Cathal learned the song from Joe Holmes, a traditional singer from near Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. This Mudcat thread contains a lot of background information about the song, posted by Jim Carroll from Here I Am Amongst You, Len Graham’s book about his friend and musical partner Joe Holmes. From this we learn that this song probably pre-dates the Famine. While after the Famine the majority of Irish emigrants to America were Catholics, before then the greatest number had been Protestants:

In Ireland the Ulster Presbyterians experienced a number of problems that made their lives difficult. As Presbyterians in an Anglican state, most of them faced religious hostility from the government. Like the Catholic population they were subject to penal laws barring them from higher education and the professions and forcing them to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland. From the 1680s until the American Revolution temporarily cut off shipping, at least 250,000 sailed to North America. After the Revolution an even larger wave crossed, perhaps 500,000 more, peaking in the period between the Napoleonic wars and the Great Famine.

The Rambling Irishman

September 13, 2014

Week 160 – Rolling in the Dew

Another song from the great Pop Maynard. I first heard this on the Topic LP  Ye Subjects of England but learned it with help from the transcription in Ken Stubbs’ excellent little booklet The Life and Songs of George Maynard (an EFDSS reprint from the  1963 Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society, December 1963). The recording on Ye Subjects of England was made by Peter Kennedy. More recently, different recordings made by Reg Hall and Mervyn Plunkett, and Ken Stubbs, have appeared on the Who’s That at My Bed Window? (Volume 10 of The Voice of the People series), and the Musical Traditions compilation Just Another Saturday Night. In the notes to the latter collection, Rod Stradling notes that a significant number of the versions collected by Cecil Sharp were from singers who don’t appear to have sung him anything else:

Maybe this is an easy song to learn and remember, so that someone who didn’t know anything else could trot it out for the roving collector … or maybe it was one of the titles Mr Sharp listed when he asked the singer “D’you know any of those old folk songs? You know, songs like Rolling in the Dew?” I offer this suggestion purely on the evidence that he collected 31 of these examples!

An interesting conjecture.

The song is clearly of considerable age – the printed ballad sheet shown below dates back to 1688 or 1689.

A merry new dialogue between a courteous young knight, and a gallant milk-maid. Printed for W. Thackeray at the Sugar loaf in Duck lane, between 1688 and 1689. From the Bodleian collection.

A merry new dialogue between a courteous young knight, and a gallant milk-maid. Printed for W. Thackeray at the Sugar loaf in Duck lane, between 1688 and 1689. From the Bodleian collection.

It occurs to me that the song can be viewed in two ways. It could be seen as typical male fantasy: he makes all kinds of suggestions why the milkmaid might not want to have sex with him, and (wanton, depraved female that she is) she just brushes them all aside. But I prefer to see her as a sexually-liberated, independently-minded woman who knows what she wants, and intends to get it on her own terms.

Rolling in the Dew

September 6, 2014

Week 159 – Canadee-i-o

Those of you who sometimes find life imitating High Fidelity may have been asked to list your top five opening tracks on albums. My list would certainly include ‘I saw her standing there’ and ‘Country Home’ (Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Ragged Glory). Perhaps ‘The Kesh Jig’ etc. (The Bothy Band, The Bothy Band) and ‘Shirley’ (Billy Bragg, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry). And definitely ‘Canadee-i-o’, the opening track on Nic Jones’ timeless classic Penguin Eggs. I first heard Nic play the song at a concert in Hertford College, Oxford in early 1980. Penguin Eggs was released later that year and of course I, like many others, played it over and over.

It was probably just a little bit later than that when I acquired a copy of the Topic LP Sussex Harvest, on which the opening track, funnily enough, is ‘Canadee-i-o’ – sung by Harry Upton from Balcombe, West Sussex, recorded by Mike Yates. I fairly soon decided to learn Harry Upton’s version, although it was probably some years later before I ever sung it in public – I always felt that the song wanted an accompaniment, but it took me a long time to work one out. In fact the accompaniment I play now has had several iterations over the years. I remember that I was always vaguely dissatisfied with it, but having recently come back to the song for the first time in about five years I’m much happier with it. So either I’ve got better at playing it, or I’ve improved it somehow, or my quality threshold has gone down.

On the excellent BBC Four documentary  The Enigma of Nic Jones – Return of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero there were several sequences where Harry Upton’s ‘Canadee-i-o’ could be heard, behind film of the old blue-label Topic LP being played. I’m not sure if this was meant to suggest that Nic Jones learned the song from a recording of Harry Upton. If so, it’s further evidence, if any were needed, of Nic’s wonderful creative ability, as his wonderful rendition bears only a passing resemblance to the song as recorded from Harry Upton.

Mike Yates’s 1970s recording of Harry Upton singing ‘Canadee-i-o’ can now be found on the Musical Traditions CD Up in the North and Down in the South. Mike’s notes tell us that Harry, a retired cowman, had learned ‘Canadee-i-o’ from his father, a Downsland shepherd. Apparently he and his father would sometimes sing together in harmony. It is also interesting to note that “like the Copper Family, Harry had many of his songs in manuscript form, often in his father’s handwriting, and had owned a collection of broadsides, mainly printed in the 1880s by the daughter of Henry Parker Such, of the Borough in south London.  Bought originally in Brighton, these had also been inherited from his parents”.

The Roud Index shows that this song was popular on broadsides, and has been collected throughout the British Isles. Had I not already had a version of the song in my repertoire I might well have been tempted to learn the version collected by Francis Collinson from Mr Newport of Boughton Aluph,  a village just outside my home town of Ashford in Kent. Perhaps some seafaring, folksong-singing Kentish resident who follows this blog might like to give it a go? If it helps, there’s a transcription of the tune and words on Folkopedia.


The lady's trip to Kennady, 19th century broadside ballad from the Bodleian Collection.

The lady’s trip to Kennady, 19th century broadside ballad from the Bodleian Collection.



Andy Turner: vocal, C?G anglo-concertina