Posts tagged ‘Marriage’

November 8, 2022

Week 307 – When Adam was first created

I must have been singing this song for very nearly 45 years. Always unaccompanied in harmony, of course, as is right and proper for a song from the Copper Family repertoire.

In the last year or so, I’d toyed with an arrangement in F on my C/G anglo. But this morning I decided to try it on the more sonorous Crabb F/C concertina which I found myself unable to resist at this summer’s Whitby Folk festival. It seemed to fit, and although my voice hasn’t been at its best of late, it didn’t seem too croaky. So I decided to slap it down on “tape” and post it here straightaway.

The song’s central point is – as James Brown would attest – that man is nothing without a woman. But, as with so many traditional songs, the words are written very much from the man’s perspective, and betray the fact that the song originated in a male-dominated society. I feel that the song’s heart is in the right place: it insists that Woman is not to be trampled upon by Man, but that she was created “his equal and partner to be”; but then blows it in the very next line by stating “when they’re united in one, sir, the man is the top of the tree”. Oh well.

Looking at broadside versions of the ballad on the Bodleian website, it’s clear that these lines weren’t inserted by the Coppers, but were there from the start. They’ve been softened a little in the the rather nice version of ‘When Adam was created’ which Sharp collected in 1918 from Jasper Robertson at Burnsville in North Carolina – in fact the song has been explicitly turned into a wedding song.

In praise of dear women I sing - ballad from the Bodleian website

In praise of dear women I sing – ballad from the Bodleian website


When Adam was first created

Andy Turner – vocal, F/C anglo-concertina

August 27, 2020

Week 295 – My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him

I’m not sure what brought this song to mind a few weeks back. My friend Mike and I learned it in the late seventies from the wonderful Silly Sisters LP. During the intervening years I’ve joined in the chorus numerous times at folk clubs, but don’t recall having sung the song itself. Still, it’s funny what sticks in the furthest recesses of your mind, and it didn’t take very much work to release these words from wherever they’d been hiding all these years. And then it seemed a shame not to post the song here, before I forgot all about it again.

I’d assumed this song came from – and had probably been “improved by” – A.L.Lloyd, and I’m at least partially right, I think. Lloyd prints a set of words in Folk Song in England which are similar (but not identical) to those collected by Sharp in 1904 from George Wyatt at Harptree, Somerset.

O Dear O, collected from George Wyatt, Harptree, Somerset. From the VWML archive catalogue.

O Dear O, collected from George Wyatt, Harptree, Somerset. From the VWML archive catalogue.

O Dear O, collected from George Wyatt, Harptree, Somerset. From the VWML archive catalogue.

The notes at the back of the book say “MS Text composite”, while the source for the minor key tune is, in typically vague, unverifiable fashion, given as “A.L.L. (Dorset 1939)”. In Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, Peter Kennedy gives a Scottish version where much of the tune is major, but ends on the relative minor. The versions collected in the West Country, however, by Sharp and Hammond, share a tune which is definitely in the major key.

Listening to Lloyd singing the song on The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs, he is clearly the source of the minor key tune ubiquitous on the folk scene today (and which I sing here). But he actually delivers it in a gentler, more nuanced way, and the tune that he collected and/or concocted has more variety than the Silly Sisters’ rather stark version. While one may regret that Lloyd wasn’t more transparent with his sources, he was clearly a great performer (who I regret never having seen live); and when he “improved” a folk song, it pretty well always ended up, to contemporary ears at least, a better song.

He's got no courage in him - from Broadside Ballads Online

He’s got no courage in him – from Broadside Ballads Online


My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him

July 23, 2020

Week 291 – Come Write Me Down

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I’m a big fan of the Copper Family. This must have been one of the first Copper songs that I learned, which means I must have been singing it for very nearly 44 years. Towards the end of our wedding reception – 32 years ago today – Carol and I led a mass rendition of this in the Geoffrey Chaucer School hall in Canterbury. And a couple of years ago we did the same again, during a party at a local village hall here in Oxfordshire. The recording below provides evidence that Carol and I number some very good singers among our friends.

I had it in mind that my mate Bob (“Bob the Curator” as he likes to be known) had sent me this recording. But actually, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a phone capable of making such a good recording at the time. So maybe it was Cathy, who I’ve known literally my entire life? Or Eric? Whoever it was, thank you for recording this, and apologies for my failing memory (getting old you know!).

And massive thanks, of course, to all our friends.


Andy & Carol leading Come Write Me Down, 2018

2018. Same song, different beer.

Normally in these blog posts I write about where the song comes from. But this morning, I can’t be bothered – you’ll find plenty of details on Reinhard Zierke’s excellent Mainly Norfolk site. Meanwhile, here’s a broadside printing of the song, entitled ‘Second thoughts are best’.

Second Thoughts Are Best, from Broadside Ballads Online

Second Thoughts Are Best, from Broadside Ballads Online


Come Write Me Down


October 17, 2015

Week 217 – It’s A Great Big Shame

It’s a Great Big Shame! - sheet music

It’s a Great Big Shame! – sheet music

A song from the repertoire of Gus Elen (1862-1940), the Coster Comedian. I think I first came across the song in the early 1980s at the Heritage folk club in Oxford, sung by my friend Dick Wolff (who, as I recall, also used to sing ‘If it Wasn’t for the Houses in Between’, another of Elen’s hits – another one in fact written by the prolific George Le Brunn – and one which I’ve often thought of learning). I found the words in a book of Music Hall songs in my local library back home, and have been singing it ever since.

Elen effectively retired in 1914 to concentrate on his passion, fishing. But he was coaxed out of retirement at the age of 70 to be recorded by British Pathe in 1932.  Who have now put their entire archive up on YouTube, meaning that we can watch one of the big names of the golden age of Music Hall performing one of his hits. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Gus Elen - from the Victoria and Albert collection

Gus Elen – from the Victoria and Albert collection

It’s A Great Big Shame

August 9, 2014

Week 155 – The Bald-Headed End of the Broom

This song was recorded in 1954 by Sean O’Boyle and Seamus Ennis from Mrs. Martha Gillen, Co. Antrim. I remember Dave Townsend singing it at the Heritage Folk Club in Oxford, in the early 1980s, and learned it soon afterwards from Peter Kennedy’s Folksongs of Britain & Ireland.

It’s originally an American song, recorded by the likes of old-time singer and banjo-player Grandpa Jones – you can hear his version on the Internet Archive. This Mudcat thread cites examples of the song in print going back to the 1870s, as well as an 1885 appearance in the wonderfully-named Marchant’s Gargling Oil Songster. Further details are provided, meanwhile, in The Alabama Folk Lyric edited by Ray Broadus Browne, along with a couple of versions recorded from oral tradition in Alabama.

Mrs Gillen’s version however is, I suspect, the only one to refer to the old saying “A mole in the arm’s worth two in the leg”, which is probably the line which first attracted me to the song.

All the other versions in the Roud Index are from North America – apart from one recorded by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie from Walter Pardon in 1989, and one fragment  recorded from an unknown singer by John Howson at The Railway Tavern, Finningham, Suffolk, which you can hear on the British Library website.


I have, I think, always followed the song with a tune which I also learned from Dave Townsend. It was printed, as ‘Sussex Polka’, in his First collection of English country dance tunes. Dave learned it from Vic Gammon, and it would appear to be a slightly misremembered (by Dave and/or me) version of ‘What a Beau My Granny Was’.


The Bald-Headed End of the Broom / What a Beau My Granny Was

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina