Week 164 – Carter’s Health / Mistress’s Health

Two more Sussex healths learned from Lucy Broadwood’s English County Songs. Miss Broadwood didn’t have to travel far to collect these songs: the singer, John Burberry, was a retired gamekeeper, who had worked on the Broadwood family estates at Lyne in Sussex.

About the ‘Carter’s Health’ Lucy Broadwood wrote:

“Hey” and “Ree” are right and left respectively; “Who with a hey and ree the beasts command” (Micro-Cynicon, 1599). “Hoo” or “Ho” is the same as “Woa” – stop; “So when they once fall in love there is no Ho in them till they have their love” (Cobbler of Canturburie, 1608). “Gee” is of course “Go on.” “Gio” used in this sense is quoted in Dialogus Creaturarum, 1480.  In the “Chorus” part, the four names are sung by four of the singers in order, all joining in at “But the bobtailed mare.” 

A carter is, of course, “One who drives a cart” (OED). A wagon is probably not the same as a cart, but I really like this harvest-time photograph from East Sussex County Libraries’ Historical Photos collection on Flickr. A collection well worth checking out if you like old photos like this.

Hay wagon c.1890  Part of the George Woods collection. Image scanned from the photographer's original glass plate negative, located at Hastings Library. From East Sussex County Council Libraries Historical Photos collection on Flickr. Copyright East Sussex County Council.

Hay wagon c.1890 Part of the George Woods collection. Image scanned from the photographer’s original glass plate negative, located at Hastings Library. From East Sussex County Council Libraries Historical Photos collection on Flickr. Copyright East Sussex County Council.

The notes on the ‘Mistress’s Health’ say:

When sung at harvest homes and the like, the singers, at the words “O is she so?” &c., carry candles up to the mistress as if to investigate her claim to be “the fairest of twenty.”

We recorded these with Magpie Lane (as separate items) on our second album Speed the Plough. Then a few years ago we found that if we took one health down a bit, and the other up a bit, they worked pretty well together.  At our 20th birthday concert at the Holywell Music Room last year, we had at least twenty people on stage singing this, including Jackie Oates, Chris Leslie, John Spiers, Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick, Hilary James and Simon Mayor. That was really special (actually it was even better at the run-through in the afternoon – the acoustics in the Holywell are really good, but they’re even better without an audience to soak up any of the sound!). I’d like to share that with you, but have never managed to get my hands on the recordings. Grrr. Anyway, here’s a live recording of the normal five-person band line-up, made last autumn in Bampton Church.

Incidentally, we have some gigs coming up over the next few weeks: Leafield, Oxon (Friday 24th October), Lichfield Festival of Folk (Saturday 25th October), Oxford Folk Club (Friday 14th November). Then in December we’ll be doing our Christmas shows as usual. Further details at http://magpielane.co.uk/ml_news.htm

Carter’s Health / Mistress’s Health

Magpie Lane

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

Recorded Saturday 21st September 2013, St Mary’s Church, Bampton, Oxfordshire.

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