A quintessentially English rural song. It’s ubiquitous on the folk scene (to which it was introduced by Cyril Tawney and Tony Rose) but only ever collected twice in the tradition – once in Somerset and once in Devon. I believe I first heard this on an early 1980s LP by the group Salmontails. I don’t remember much about them, except they were a trio whose line-up featured Northumbrian pipes, and I’m pretty sure I once saw them at the Gypsy Davey folk club, which used to be held on a Friday night at the General Elliott in South Hinksey, Oxford. I can’t remember who lent me their LP, but I’d guess it must have been Caroline Jackson-Houlston.
A little while later I heard the version on the Old Swan Band’s second LP, Old Swan Brand, and John Jones also used to sing the song at Oyster Band / Oyster Morris sessions. The first time I ever tried playing a concertina accompaniment would have been playing along in a session with John’s singing and melodeon. I won’t say I learned the song by osmosis, but when I decided to fix the words in my mind, most of them were already in there. As the 80s went by and John’s Oyster Band work meant that he was out with the morris less often, I would lead this in sessions. Normally with the irrepressible Mark Jopling providing bass harmonies. Indeed I remember that at the end of Sidmouth 1986, when the torchlight procession had wound down to the seafront, and the torches had been extinguished in the sea, Mark, Mary, Carol and I sang this on the beach before heading back to the camp site (where, I suspect, we sat in a small, cold Oyster Morris marquee, drinking whatever was left of the Shepherd Neame that had been brought down to keep us going for the week).
I’ve only ever sung this in sessions, where people are joining in rather than listening, which probably explains the lack of finesse in my concertina accompaniment. I still sing it in G, although I’m not sure I can really hack it at that pitch any more. F would probably be better for me these days, but F is most definitely not a session key – so it’s one where I just have to gird up my loins, belt it out and hope for the best.
‘Twas on one April Morning
Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina