Posts tagged ‘Occupations’

August 5, 2016

Week 259 – Young Banker

I learned this song from the Watersons’ 1981 LP Green Fields and for pretty much all of the intervening 35 years it has been one of my default songs to fall back on, when I need a chorus song in a singaround or pub session.

Bert Lloyd – Topic’s go-to man for sleeve notes back in the seventies and early eighties – states in the notes for this song that it was

noted by Frank Kidson from Mrs Kate Thompson of Knaresborough.

The booklet notes for the Carthy Chronicles, which features a different Watersons recording of the song, expand on this:

Young Banker has words collected from a maidservant from the Isle of Axholme near Doncaster, set to a tune which Frank Kidson collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough

The Full English, of course, has the tune which Frank Kidson collected from Mrs Thompson in Knaresborough; while the words (with a slightly different tune), which were noted down by Alfred Atkinson from an unnamed singer in the Isle of Axholme – in North Lincolnshire, between Doncaster and Scunthorpe – in 1904, can be found in the 1905 Journal of the Folk-Song Society.

Other versions have been collected in Lincolnshire (by Percy Grainger), Gloucestershire (Alfred Williams and Cecil Sharp), Somerset (Sharp), and Herefordshire (Ella Leather).

I learned the song to sing with Caroline Jackson-Houlston, and it was she who typed out the words for me, almost certainly from the JFSS. Whereas the Watersons (following the collected version) have the last line of the chorus as “For my young banker I will go there”, Caroline changed this to “For my young banker I will go bare”. This seemed to make more sense in context and, she thought, was almost certainly how the line had originally been written. But in fact the broadside version (titled ‘A new song called The banking boy’) which you can see on the Bodleian’s Broadside site, also has that line as “For the young banker I will go there”.

 A new song called The banking boy - 19th century ballad sheet from Broadside Ballads Online.

A new song called The banking boy – 19th century ballad sheet from Broadside Ballads Online.

The young banker in this song, incidentally, is not a high-flying, cocaine-snorting, economy-destroying financial whizzkid, but “a man who made embankments, stone walls and such” (A.L.Lloyd), or perhaps “A labourer who makes or repairs the banks of waterways; spec. one who digs drains, ditches, or canals” (OED).

 

Young Banker

July 29, 2016

Week 258 – Working on the new railroad

I learned this from the singing of Jim Mageean. Jim was a guest at the Heritage Society in Oxford circa 1981, and he was pretty much a permanent fixture at Sidmouth around that time. I thought that this might have been one of the very few songs I’d simply absorbed from hearing it sung. But actually I find that, in my big lever arch folder of folk words and tunes, I have the words neatly typed out, almost certainly on Caroline Jackson-Houlston’s typewriter; so I suppose I must have asked Caroline to look out the words for me on one of her regular visits to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

The typed words, in common with pretty much every version I can see online, have the refrain as “And I’ve been all around this world”. I’m sure I’ve always sung “And I’ve been all over this world”. I think that’s how Jim Mageean sang it; if not, it’s how I thought  he sang it.

 

Working on the new railroad

July 9, 2016

Week 255 – Doffing Mistress

Learned from the Silly Sisters  LP, which I really liked in 1976, and which I still think is an excellent album – not dated at all – forty years on.

It seems that Anne Briggs was responsible for popularising this song – it was on the classic sixties album The Iron Muse, where A.L. Lloyd noted

It seems to have originated in the linen-mills of Northern Ireland but has since spread to textile workers elsewhere. The form easily allows for improvised words and many local verses are attached to the tune. A “doffer” is a worker who takes the full bobbins off the spinning machines.

Martin Carthy expands on this

“doffers” were the women who took the finished cloth from off the machines for the next stage in its production. It was work that was largely done bent double, which explains the line “she hangs her coat on the highest pin.” The Doffing Mistress was the supervisor, and, in consequence, never did the job itself. The upshot of this was that she could stand up straight, something which doffers, bent double as they were all their working lives, found difficult to do.

(Thanks to Reinhard Zierke’s Mainly Norfolk site for these quotations)

My recording of the song features a two-row melodeon accompaniment, which is not something you’ll get from me very often. Were he still around, Samuel Johnson might have compared it to a dog walking on its hind legs: “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all”.

Doffing Mistress

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G melodeon

February 7, 2016

Week 233 – The Widow that Keeps the Cock Inn

On Boxing Day I posted – for the first time – a song where I had never really intended to learn the words. Here’s one which I did intend to learn, once upon a time, but after 35 years of not learning it, I think I should probably face up to the fact that it’s never going to happen!

I got the words – originally sourced from a ballad in the Nottingham University Library Broadside Collection – from The Common Muse: An Anthology Of Popular British Ballad Poetry, edited by Vivian De Sola Pinto and Allan E. Rodway, and made up a suitable tune.

I have to say, I rather like the tune, but otherwise the only reasons for singing it are a few weak puns, and the deliberately lewd last line of each verse.

 

The Widow that Keeps the Cock Inn

December 26, 2015

Week 227 – Boxing Day

Most of the songs that I’ve posted on this blog I could sing more or less at the drop of a hat. With others I would need a bit of time to mug up on the words and/or accompaniment. And although I do sometimes sing with the words in front of me – particularly when recording a song where I’ve only just worked out the concertina arrangement – that’s purely a practical measure to avoid mistakes, and having to do multiple takes, in a week when the time I have available for recording might be in short supply. So far there has been only one song posted here where I have never known the words – and that was a bit of an exception, as I’d been unaware of the song’s existence until a few days before recording it.

This week, however, I’ve recorded a song the words of which I’ve never made any attempt to learn and, in all probability never will. But it’s appropriate for the season, might entertain a few listeners, and if I don’t record it there’s a pretty good chance that no one else will!

I came across the song on the Bodleian Broadside Ballads website, when looking for possible additions to the Magpie Lane Christmas repertoire, and provided the words with a tune (I briefly entertained the idea that it might be a suitable song for Ian to sing, somewhat in the style of ‘Stuff Your Guts’).

According to Broadside Ballads Online, the song was printed by T. Birt, wholesale and retail, of 10 Great St. Andrew-Street, Seven Dials, London, between 1828 and 1829. It describes the various tradespeople who were (or thought themselves) entitled to receive a “Christmas Box”, and the various other ways in which they would entertain themselves once they had benefited from their customers’ largesse (chiefly in eating and drinking – nothing changes!).

Interestingly, there’s another ballad in the Bodleian’s collection, ‘Boxing Day in 1847’, which mourns the decline in Christmas boxing customs over the intervening twenty odd years.

Verse 5 of ‘Boxing Day’ has Dick setting off “to see George Barnwell at the Surrey”.

This refers to The London Merchant (Or The History Of George Barnwell) written by playwright George Lillo and first produced in 1731. This was Lillo’s greatest hit and still popular a century after the play first opened – it features in Great Expectations in a way which clearly suggests that Dickens expected his readers to be familiar with the play and its plot.

The Oxford Companion to English Literature (accessed via www.oxfordreference.comdescribes the play thus:

A prose tragedy by George Lillo, produced 1731, based on a popular ballad. A young apprentice, Barnwell, is seduced by the heartless Sarah Millwood, who encourages him to rob his employer and murder his uncle. For this crime both are executed, he penitent and she defiant. The play was frequently performed as a moral warning to apprentices. It was admired by Alexander Pope, though Oliver Goldsmith mocked it as a ‘Tradesman’s Tragedy’ for its commercial focus. The play had a European impact and was commended and imitated by G. E. Lessing and Diderot.

The University of Cambridge Staging Crime site has this to add:

The story of George Barnwell, who robbed and killed his uncle to fund his relationship with a prostitute, was one of the most popular of the nineteenth century, though when Barnwell lived is difficult to say. His tale is first recorded as a ballad in the 1650s, and in 1731 was turned into a play, The London Merchant; it was staged almost 100 times in its first ten years and was printed in as many editions by the end of the century. At about the time this edition was printed, the essayist Charles Lamb drew attention to the strong moral tone of the story, calling it “a nauseous sermon”.

Boxing Day, from Broadside Ballads Online

Boxing Day, from Broadside Ballads Online

Boxing Day

November 29, 2015

Week 223 – The Mail Coach Guard

I’ve had a cold this week, so have not been able to record a new song for the blog (and, unusually, I’d used up all the recordings in my store). So here’s one I prepared earlier – 15 years ago, to be exact.

It’s a track from our CD A Taste of Ale, recorded to accompany Roy Palmer’s book of the same name. As far as I can see, all Roy’s book has to say about the song is that the words are anonymous, nineteenth century. Presumably his source was this ballad from the Bodleian collection, printed in Manchester in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The mail coach guard, from Broadside Ballads Online.

The mail coach guard, from Broadside Ballads Online.

The tune was composed by Roy’s wife, Pat. Although it’s an inconsequential little song, I have to say I rather like our arrangement, and was very pleased with the tune I came up with for the instrumental breaks.

Last week I referred to Pentangle’s ‘Lord Franklin’ possibly being the only known instance of Bert Jansch playing concertina. Well this is almost certainly the only recording in existence of me playing the autoharp.

Incidentally, I’m linking to a YouTube video below. It’s one of those videos where there’s nothing to watch, just a still image accompanying the audio stream. I noticed just recently that all of the Magpie Lane albums for Beautiful Jo have been uploaded to YouTube by “The Orchard Enterprises”. According to Wikipedia they are  “a music, film, and video distribution, marketing, and sales company and top-ranked Multi-Channel Network that works with independent artists, labels, and other content providers to distribute content to hundreds of digital and mobile outlets around the world, as well as physical retailers in North America and Europe”.

Now I’m not sure how I feel about this. Our albums have been on Spotify for some while now – I think this coincided with, or was a consequence of, Beautiful Jo’s catalogue being put on digital platforms such as iTunes, eMusic and Amazon. Record companies and artists get an infinitesimal payment for each Spotify play. But at least there is some payment. Having the albums free on YouTube really does seem to be just giving it away.

I’m not averse to making my music freely available, if I choose to do so myself (this blog being an obvious example!). You can listen to my album Love Death and the Cossack for nothing over on Bandcamp. And the same goes for the three Geckoes albums. But we chose to put them online. And you have the option of paying me / us if you want  to download the albums as high-quality audio files.

Some years ago, I was contacted by a bloke who had put half a dozen of our songs on YouTube, with accompanying montages of images. He was looking for our retrospective blessing. Clearly he was a fan, and he had the best of motives, but I’m afraid I couldn’t bring myself to send him any kind of a reply. As someone whose day job involves a certain amount of work around avoiding copyright infringements, I was flabbergasted by the number of separate copyrights these video and audio mash-ups must have violated. But no point complaining, I thought, it’s just the way the world is going. Little did I know just how right that would turn out to be.

Still, if you would like a physical copy of A Taste of Ale, or indeed any of our albums, do come and see us at one of our gigs this Christmas, and buy a copy!

 

 

The Mail Coach Guard

Magpie Lane, from the album A Taste of Ale (BEJOCD-32, Beautiful Jo, 1999)

Andy Turner – vocal, autoharp
Di Whitehead – cello
Benji Kirkpatrick – guitar
Mat Green – fiddle

(apologies to Tom Bower who I thought played flute on this track – lost in the mix, perhaps?)

September 25, 2015

Week 214 – The Blacksmith

Song number 8 in Classic English Folk Songs, formerly the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, and few would argue that this is a classic of the genre.

It’s actually a song which I’ve almost certainly never sung in public, and which I’ve never really considered to be part of my repertoire. Partly because I’ve always planned to learn Tom Willett’s magnificent version (and having got this version of my chest, so to speak, maybe I finally will), but also because it’s just one of those songs which everyone knows. Still, I seem to know the words without having to think about them, and it is a classic, and it’s a great song to sing; so it seemed daft not to post a version here.

I would have first heard it as the opening track of Steeleye Span’s Please to see the King. Where – like a lot of songs on the two Carthy / Hutchings Steeleye LPs – it’s given a wonderfully sparse, austere, atmospheric and totally effective arrangement. Shortly after hearing that recording I would have heard the OK but far less interesting arrangement on the first Steeleye LP, and then Andy Irvine’s take on the song, on the debut Planxty album. I suspect most of the words went in by osmosis, but having them in the Penguin book would have helped – no need to transcribe them from tape or vinyl.

Vaughan Williams noted the tune, but no words, from Mrs Ellen Powell, at Westhope, near Weobley in Herefordshire. Malcolm Douglas, in his additional notes for Classic English Folk Songs, suggests that Vaughan Williams and Bert Lloyd used Peter Verrall’s version, or possibly the Such broadside shown below, as the basis of the verses given in the book.

The blacksmith: broadside printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885. From the Bodleian collection.

The blacksmith: broadside printed by H. Such, between 1863 and 1885. From the Bodleian collection.

The Blacksmith

June 1, 2014

Week 145 – Husbandman and Servingman

The servingman the plowman would invite
To leave his calling and to take delight ;
But he to that by no means will agree,
Lest he thereby should come to beggary.
He makes it plain appear a country life
Doth far excel : and so they end the strife

Dixon & Bell, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1857)

Here’s another one from the Cantwell family of Standlake in Oxfordshire (see last week’s entry) which Peter Kennedy recorded from the brothers Fred and Ray in November 1956.

A different – part-sung, part-spoken – variant of the song is performed at the end of the Symondsbury Mummers’ play. Kennedy recorded that also in the 1950s; you can hear a more recent recording made by Bob Patten of both the play and the song on the British Library Sound Archive website. In fact a search of the Roud Index / Full English suggests that versions of this song were widespread in the South of England. Lucy Broadwood included it in both English County Songs and Sussex Songs.  Her version was reproduced from Davies Gilbert’s Some Ancient Christmas Carols -see www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/servingman_and_the_husbandman.htm. The song appeared in The Loyal Garland (1686), and is in the Roxburghe Collection; Malcolm Douglas’ notes to the song quote Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad, as dating it to “1665 or earlier”.

A similar version to the Cantwells’ was performed by Janet Blunt’s indefatigable informant William Walton of Adderbury in North Oxfordshire, sometimes with the assistance of Samuel Newman – the song is, after all, clearly designed to be performed by two people.

When we were assembling material for inclusion on the Magpie Lane CD, The Oxford Ramble. I think I suggested this song, knowing of its Oxfordshire connections. In fact Ian Giles already knew the song, having learned it from the Young Tradition LP Galleries. I’d also heard it on that record (or rather on Galleries Revisited – I’m a bit younger than Ian!) but made a point of getting hold of the Cantwells’ version, on one of those dreadful, tatty old Folktrax cassettes. I was not particularly surprised to learn that Peter Bellamy and Royston Wood had in fact recorded a fairly faithful reproduction of the song as sung by Ray and Fred Cantwell.

Below you will find a video of Ian and me singing the song at the first ever Magpie Lane concert in 1993, and then again – having revived the song after a long lay-off – at a concert in Bampton Church last autumn.

The husbandman and servant man. Early 19th century broadside from the Bodleian collection.

The husbandman and servant man. Early 19th century broadside from the Bodleian collection.

 

Husbandman and Servingman

Magpie Lane: Ian Giles, Andy Turner, Sophie Thurman, Jon Fletcher, Mat Green – vocals
St Mary’s Church, Bampton, 21st September 2013.

 

Magpie Lane: Ian Giles and Andy Turner – vocals

followed by

Banbury Bill: Mat Green – fiddle
As I was going to Banbury: Ian Giles – vocal; Pete Acty – mandola; Jo Acty – vocal; Isobel Dams – cello; Tom Bower – side drum; Mat Green – fiddle; Andy Turner – C/G anglo-concertina.

Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 3rd May 1993.

March 23, 2014

Week 135 – The Maid and the Miller

I learned this from Roy Palmer’s book,  Songs of the Midlands where the notes say

Sung by Mr. George Dunn, Quarry Bank, Staffs.; collected by Charles Parker, 24th March, 1971. This song is better known in Scots versions, though Hammond collected an English version. It is now extremely rare.

A search of the Full English archive shows that it was actually Gardiner, rather than Hammond, who collected a version in Hampshire, while Cecil Sharp also had a couple of versions in Somerset, but let’s not nitpick…

Roy Palmer’s own recording of George Dunn singing The Miller’s Song is the first track on the Musical Traditions CD Chainmaker, and there are in fact three separate recordings of the song from the Roy Palmer collection (two made by Roy, and one by Charles Parker) available for all to listen to on the British Library website.

The notes to the Musical Traditions CD say that George Dunn “greatly relished singing this marvellously life-affirming piece” and so do I: it’s a real joy to sing. The last verse in particular is a wonderful example of how sometimes in a song the melody, the rhythm, the words and the meaning behind the words can all just.. er.. come together.

George Dunn. Photo from the Musical Traditions website.

George Dunn. Photo from the Musical Traditions website.

The Maid and the Miller

October 27, 2013

Week 114 – The Jolly Waggoner

I learned this song from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. Interestingly Charlie (born 1913) had learned the song at School – almost certainly from English Folk-Songs For Schools: Collected And Arranged By S. Baring Gould, M.A.  & Cecil J. Sharp, B.A. published by Curwen in 1907.

Before singing me the song Charlie said

You want to hear the ‘Jolly Waggoner’s song’ then? Well, I learnt that at school actually and I come across – well, I found a book with it in the other night… ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ – “this was collected and arranged by S. Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp”. You heard of old Cecil Sharp I expect.

Then, having sung it

I learnt that at school actually. I couldn’t remember the last verse.

I asked “Did they teach you it out of a book like that? A folk-song book?” to which Charlie replied “I expect so – a thing like that, yeah”.

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/

Baring-Gould collected a number of versions of the song in the West Country.  This tune, although in Baring-Gould’s MSS, would appear to have been collected by his collaborator H. Fleetwood Sheppard in 1890, from James Parsons of Lewdown in Devon,

Baring-Gould notes

This version  is the common broadside by Catnach, Fortey, Such etc.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould's MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould’s MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner