Posts tagged ‘drowned lovers’

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

January 19, 2014

Week 126 – Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

I first heard this song on the album Amaranth. This was the 1970s reissue of Shirley and Dolly Collins’ Anthems in Eden suite, where the suite itself was paired with new recordings featuring what one might loosely describe as the Albion Dance Band. The arrangement on this track was greatly enhanced by the presence of a sackbut quartet (for 10 points:  which other Albion track from the early seventies featured four sackbuts?). I actually learned the song from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs where I found that, as taken down by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall in 1904, the song had a rather more unpredictable rhythm than when rendered by Ashley and the boys. I think I was always aware that I hadn’t quite learned it “right”. Checking back now with the book  I can see that my interpretation of the tune owes at least as much to the way Shirley sings it, as to the way it was collected from Mrs Verrall.

I remember hearing Tony Rose sing this song on Radio 2’s folk show Folkweave back in the late seventies or early eighties. He said that, as a young singer, he had gained a reputation for being very knowledgeable about the songs he sang. Little did people realise, he confided, that all he was doing was regurgitating the notes from the back of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. So imagine his horror when he turned to the back of the book and found that, inexplicably, the editors had failed to provide any notes for this song. With its republication as Classic English Folk Songs, this error has of course been redressed. Malcolm Douglas’ notes to the new book tell us that

  • this appears to be one of those songs which have only been collected from a single traditional source (the Roud Index has ‘Over the Mountain’, collected by Gardiner in Hampshire, sharing the same Roud number, but comparing the three verses of that song, I’m not convinced)
  • it is descended from a late seventeenth century broadside, ‘The Two Faithful Lovers’
  • the tune prescribed for the words on one seventeenth century broadside at least was ‘Franklin is Fled Away’, from which Harriett Verrall’s tune appears to be descended – see (and indeed, listen) for yourself at abcnotation.com

Incidentally, I can only find Mrs Verrall’s tune and first verse in the Full English archive, although six verses are given by RVW in the 1906 Journal of the Folk-Song Society.

Fare thee well my dearest dear, noted by Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall, Horsham, Sussex, 22 Dec 1904; image copyright EFDSS.

Fare thee well my dearest dear, noted by Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall, Horsham, Sussex, 22 Dec 1904; image copyright EFDSS.

The two faithful lovers. Broadside printed in London, between 1663 and 1674, from the Douce Ballads. Image copyright the Bodleian Library.

The two faithful lovers. Broadside printed in London, between 1663 and 1674, from the Douce Ballads. Image copyright the Bodleian Library.

Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

Andy Turner: vocals, G/D  anglo-concertina

June 29, 2013

Week 97 – The Lakes of Coolfin

I’m yet to hear a bad version of this song, I think. Whether it be from traditional singers such as Charlie Scamp, Pop Maynard or Amy Birch; or revivalists such as  Nic Jones, John Jones with the Oyster Ceilidh Band or – my current favourite – Jackie Oates.

This version originates with Sussex concertina-player Scan Tester, but I learned it from Bob Davenport, via the Bob Davenport and the Rakes LP, 1977.  You can hear recordings of Scan himself singing the song on I Never Played to Many Posh Dances, and on O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green (Voice of the People Vol. 3).

The lakes of Cold Finn, from the Bodleian Library collection; printed by Henry Such, London, between 1863 and 1885.

The lakes of Cold Finn, from the Bodleian Library collection; printed by Henry Such, London, between 1863 and 1885.

The Lakes of Coolfin

January 19, 2013

Week 74 – Floating down the tide

This is a song I found on one of my occasional forays through the copies of the Sharp MSS held in the Library at Cecil Sharp House. Often when just browsing, rather than looking for anything in particular, it will be an unusual or striking title which first jumps out and grabs my attention, and that was almost certainly the case with this one. Sharp noted it down on 27th December 1905 from Susan Williams  (1832-1915), of Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset.

The song has a long history – see Steve Gardham’s “Dungbeetle” article, The Distressed Maid for Musical Traditions, from which it is clear that this version is derived (and only slightly condensed) from ‘The Dublin Tragedy’, first published on a broadside printed by Mayne of Belfast in the mid nineteenth century.

Susan Williams (1832-1915), Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset. Photograph by Cecil Sharp. copyright EFDSS.

Susan Williams (1832-1915), Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset. Photograph by Cecil Sharp. copyright EFDSS.

Floating down the tide

August 5, 2012

Week 50 – In Scarborough Fair Town

Blue plaque on the wall of Sam Larner’s cottage in Bulmer Lane, Winterton (from the EATMT website)

Blue plaque on the wall of Sam Larner’s cottage in Bulmer Lane, Winterton (from the EATMT website)

You can’t go far wrong with a “drowned lover” song, and this is a particularly fine example. From the great Sam Larner of Winterton in Norfolk. There are slightly different recorded versions on The Voice of the People Volume 2 and Now is the Time for Fishing (also on Topic).

In Scarborough Fair Town