Posts tagged ‘Staffordshire’

July 9, 2015

Week 203 – The Oyster Girl

‘The Oyster Girl’ is a widely-collected song. Given my interest in songs with a Kentish connection, you might expect me to sing George Spicer’s version, or the version which Francis Collinson collected from Mrs Frances Baker in Maidstone, or maybe one of these. But in fact I learned this from Roy Palmer’s Book Songs of the Midlands. Roy himself collected the song from the Black Country singer George Dunn of Quarry Bank in Staffordshire.

When I paid tribute to Roy Palmer a few weeks ago, I neglected to mention his collecting activities. In fact Roy recorded a number of singers, primarily in Gloucestershire and the West Midlands, including major figures such as George Dunn and Cecilia Costello. You can listen to his recordings on the British Library Sound Archive website, at Here’s George Dunn singing ‘The Oyster Girl’, recorded in 1971, when the singer was 84 years old.

The recording is also included on the excellent Musical Traditions CD Chainmaker.  I’d been singing the song for many years before I heard the original recording. When I did, I was pleased to find that George Dunn also appeared to enjoy delivering the line “So it’s ‘ook it with your basket of oysters” – that’s always been the high point of the song for me.

The notes to Chainmaker  say of this song that “The song’s earliest appearance in print seems to be as The Eating of Oysters in a garland of eight texts issued under the title of A New Patriotic Song by M Randall of Stirling (c.1794-1812)”. Here’s a printed copy from the mid-nineteenth century where, somewhat bizarrely, in the last verse the narrator is identified as a Frenchman (so, clearly, thoroughly deserving of being tricked by the oyster seller).

The Oyster Girl - nineteenth century broadside from Broadside Ballads Online.

The Oyster Girl – nineteenth century broadside from Broadside Ballads Online.

The Oyster Girl

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