One of the great English songs, learned from Pop Maynard, a singer whose repertoire contained quite a number of great songs. I first heard the song in the late seventies or early eighties on the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England and learned it from there, with assistance from a slim EFDSS pamphlet, The Life and Songs of George Maynard (a reprint of Ken Stubbs’ article in the 1963 Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society). It must have been around the same time that I heard what I still regard as the folk revival’s finest take on the song, that by Martin Carthy on Prince Heathen.
Under the title of ‘The Valiant Sailor’, this first appeared in 1744 as one of ‘three excellent New Songs’ in ‘The Irish Boy’s GARLAND (EDINBURGH, Printed and Sold in Swan Close, a little below the Cross-Well, North-side of the Street’). Through the long period of oral transmission since then the song has kept remarkably close to the same powerful text, and has usually been found with fine, soaring tunes.
George ‘Pop’ Maynard (right) outside the pub at Tinsley Green, Sussex, 1936. Photo from Keith Summers Collection via the Musical Traditions website.
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.
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.
Famously, the very first folk song that Cecil Sharp collected was from the almost suspiciously aptly named Somerset gardener, John England. This is not John England’s version however, it’s from the great Pop Maynard. The song was included on the Topic LP You Subjects of England.
When Radio 2 launched their Folk Hall of Fame earlier this year, with Cecil Sharp as the first inductee, I was very pleased to find that Magpie Lane’s recording of ‘The Seeds of Love’ (from our Jack-in-the-Green CD) was included on their Cecil Sharp Playlist.
I concocted that arrangement sitting at the piano (an instrument I’ve never actually been able to play) a few days after the birth of my daughter in July 1996. With a new-born baby in the house, I assume I must have had my foot even more firmly on the soft-pedal than usual.
Below you will find a recording of me singing the song solo, and a recording of Magpie Lane performing it in Bampton Church last September.
The Seeds of Love
Andy Turner – vocal
Magpie Lane: Sophie Thurman, Ian Giles, Andy Turner, Jon Fletcher, Mat Green – vocals
Recorded in concert, Bampton Church, Oxfordshire, September 2013 (thanks to Jeff Dando for live sound mixing).
Putting the recent pea-soupers to one side, there have been some very spring-like mornings this week, so in a spirit of optimism I thought I’d post this song. It’s another one from the great Pop Maynard, learned from the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. It’s a song which I think of as being quintessentially Southern English. That impression is partly based on only having come across the song from George Maynard and the Copper Family – but in fact having looked up Roud 356 on the Full English site I see that it has been exclusively collected in Southern England, with most of the sightings coming from Sussex.
I should perhaps confess that, while I love this song, I can’t relate to it fully having, as far as I’m aware, never actually heard a nightingale.
George ‘Pop’ Maynard – photo from Musical Traditions
To welcome in 2014, here’s one of my favourites, and almost certainly the only traditional song I know to mention a pair of opera glasses.
I can no longer remember whether I first heard ‘Down by the Seaside’ sung by Shirley Collins on her album Adieu to Old England, or from Shirley’s source, George Maynard, via the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. I suspect that I heard both of those records at around the same time, having borrowed them from my local public library in Kent, in the late 1970s. It would have been a few years later that I worked out the concertina accompaniment. It must have been one of the first accompaniments that I learned to play, but I’ve not consciously changed it in the intervening 30-odd years. You can check out a 1990 recording of the song on my album Love Death and the Cossack.
This turns out to be one of those songs which have only ever been collected from one traditional singer – although Mike Yates has apparently unearthed a printed source, in the shape of a “chapbook printed c.1820 by J Fraser of Stirling as The Sailor’s Loss” (from the notes to the Musical Traditions CD, Just Another Saturday Night).
Both ‘Locks and Bolts’ and ‘William Taylor’ were on the first Martin Carthy album I ever heard, Crown of Horn. But not very long after hearing that record, I got to hear both songs sung by Martin’s source, the wonderful George ‘Pops’ Maynard, via the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. When I learned the songs, I learned them from Pops, but the way I sang them was very heavily influenced by Martin’s versions.
Only one person took me to task over this, and that was the mighty Graham Metcalfe. It must have been 1979 or 1980, at the Gypsy Davy Folk Club, held on a Friday night at the General Elliott in South Hinksey, just inside the Oxford ring road. I had sung ‘The Rambling Irishman’ and ‘Locks and Bolts’. I’d sung the first trying to sound like Cathal McConnell, and the second trying to sound like Martin Carthy – and trying to sound like Carthy at a period when he was, by his own admission, at his most mannered. Graham said something like “You’re a good singer, but you need to sing in your own voice”. Fortunately I had enough nous to recognise that he was right, and started to make a conscious effort to pare away some of the folky mannerisms, and to stop trying to sound like someone else. Others will have to judge if I was successful or not, but I think I can safely say that these days – and in fact for a long time now – I sing pretty well everything in the same voice.
A check of the Roud Index shows that this song has been collected just a few times in England, but fairly frequently under various titles in Scotland and, especially, in North America. There’s a good round-up of collected versions, and the song’s history, at www.joe-offer.com/folkinfo/songs/4.html, The links on that page to the Max Hunter Song Collection are broken, but these Arkansas versions are well worth seeking out. The main page for that collection is at http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/ and you’ll find the various versions of ‘Locks and Bolts’ listed in these search results – give them a listen.
I see that the song has a pretty venerable pedigree:
There is a broadside by Martin Parker (1635) sharing a refrain with this song; the situation described is much the same, though the hero simply moans about it at some length and doesn’t actually do anything:
‘The lovers joy and grief, or, A young-mans relation, in a pittiful fashion’, printed between 1674 and 1679. From the Bodleian collection.
I’ll conclude on an irreverent note, When I sing the penultimate verse (“He took his true-love all by the hand / Took his sword all in the other / Says: If you have more right than I / Take one and fight the other”) I can’t help feeling that her uncle’s servant misses a trick. Surely, if he’d been on the ball, he’d have taken the sword and fought the young woman…
Gosh – a Child Ballad! The first I’ve posted here, I think. I don’t set much store by Child Ballads – by which I mean that, just because a song was on the good professor’s list, I don’t regard it as in any way special, or more noble, or more important than other songs from the tradition.
This one is from George Maynard, learned from his Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. Mind you, I already knew the song, before I heard George sing it, from the Tim Hart & Maddy Prior LP Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1; which – having originally been attracted to traditional music by Steeleye – was one of the very first folk albums I bought. Listened to it again recently, in fact, expecting it to sound rather dated. And was pleasantly surprised to find that I still found it a really good listen, with lots of great songs performed in simple but effective arrangements. Although I’m not able to enjoy Tim Hart’s singing as much as I used to, since I read a Folk Roots article where he confessed that he’d put on that ultra folky voice because he thought his natural (public school educated) voice wouldn’t suit the songs.
Now if you’ll listen for a while, a story I will tell you,
And if you don’t attention pay, I’m sure I can’t compel you
Another poaching song from the great George ‘Pop’ Maynard of Copthorne in Sussex. The song was apparently written by his friend Fred Holman, of Tatsfield in Surrey, who would write out the words for the price of a pint. It tells of a true incident which occurred on estates owned by the Goschen family near New Addington in Surrey. In time-honoured fashion, Fred used an older tune for his composition: “The Barking Barber” or “Bow Wow Wow” was popular in the 1780s, published by Chappell in 1858, and sufficiently well-known to be parodied in Alice in Wonderland (thanks to Musical Traditions and www.folklorist.org/ for this information).
Pop Maynard was no stranger to poaching. As an old man he told Ken Stubbs
I should go out again if I had my time over again, before I should let my family go short of anything… I came home and I had my tea… and there was Arthur and Nellie wanted a pair of shoes bad, so I said to my wife, I said, “After I’ve had my tea, Polly, I’ll go out and see if I can catch a few rabbits, to see if I can earn they youngsters a pair of shoes”… So I went across the common into the field aside of the woods, and I pitched up my net twice and I catched six rabbits each time: that makes a dozen; and I took them home and I said, “There you are, Polly, now you can take they rabbits to old (the butcher) in the morning and you can get ten bob for them.” Tenpence each, then, good rabbits. And I said, “With ten shillings you can buy them both a pair of shoes” – so you could at that time.
(Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society, December 1963)
I dedicate this one to my great friend Adrian, an incorrigible smoker, who always refers to the song as “Baccy all the while”.
A poaching song from George ‘Pop’ Maynard of Copthorne in Sussex.
The song was recorded for the BBC by Peter Kennedy in 1956, and made available on the 1976 Topic LP Ye Subjects of England; it’s also on To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight (The Voice of the People volume 18).
I first heard it – I think – on Martin Carthy’s LP Crown of Horn; but would have heard Pop himself singing it on Ye Subjects of England not long after. And then I found the words and notation in a slim EFDSS pamplet, The life and songs of George Maynard (actually a reprint of Ken Stubbs’ article from the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, 1963) which I picked up at my first Sidmouth Festival in 1978.
Pop Maynard - from the Musical Traditions website
Pop Maynard was, as well as being a fine singer with some excellent songs, quite a character. Amongst other occupations, he had been a woodcutter and hop-pole puller – and poacher. He was also a marbles champion, taking part in the annual Good Friday championships at the Greyhound pub at nearby Tinsley Green (now rather uncomfortably close to both Gatwick Airport and the M25). You can read more about the Marbles Championship at Tinsley Green – and see photos of Pop Maynard playing marbles in the 1950s – at www.greyhoundmarbles.com