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Sleeve Notes for Sea Strands by Tim Laycock

Sea StrandsA collection of songs and tunes all with associations to Dorset where Tim lives.

Tim has long been recognised as a sensitive interpreter of traditional song as well as a masterful writer of his own. He is a superb solo player of the duet concertina as well as being a member of The New Scorpion Band.

Tim Laycock vocals, duet concertina, melodeon, harmonica, percussion
Robin Jeffrey vocals, Victorian guitar, alto guitar, mandoline, laouto, percussion
Gabriel Laycock  12 string guitar
Colin Thompson fiddle and viola

Track Notes

1 The Bold Granadee/ Jack’s Alive

Robert and Henry Hammond collected Bold Granadee from Charles Greening of Nettlecombe, West Dorset in May 1906. The song is of course the Golden Vanity, but I love the succinct and pithy lyrics of Mr Greening’s version of the story. It seemed unfair to kill off Jack so early in the CD, so Jack’s Alive comes from the manuscript tune book of Benjamin Rose [ 1796- 1877], farmer , alehouse keeper and musician of Belchalwell in the Blackmore Vale area of Dorset.

2 The Night of Trafalgar [ Boatman’s Song]

This text describing the storm that hit the combined fleets after the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 was written by Thomas Hardy as part of his verse epic ‘ The Dynasts’. I wrote the tune. Dorset connections with the battle were strong, not least because Captain Hardy, Nelson’s captain on board HMS Victory, lived not far from Weymouth. The famous Dorset landmark Hardy’s Monument on the hill above Portesham commemorates the Captain. Three other Dorset men captained warships in the battle; Captain Digby in HMS Africa, Captain Bullen in HMS Britannia and Captain Grindall in HMS Prince.

3 Ricketty Robin/ Tipsy Bob

Two splendidly named dance tunes from Benjamin Rose. Maybe they were friends or neighbours! Benjamin wrote out his repertoire of tunes in 1822. We have only tantalising glimpses of his musical and social activities, but The Western Gazette of 1852 recorded a celebration at Rose’s Alehouse that went sour when the guests fired a salute with their muskets, and bits of smouldering wadding from the guns set light to the houses opposite!

4 Husbandman and Servantman.

Another song collected by the Hammond brothers in West Dorset, this time from William Miller at Wootton Fitzpaine near Charmouth. Farmer Miller had a splendid repertoire of mainly farming and drinking songs; this song can still be heard regularly in the Bridport area, sung by the Symondsbury Mummers as the last part of their Christmas play. Mr Miller’s version, with it’s different tunes for the Servantman and the Husbandman, suggests that it may have been sung and acted by two singers . The minor tune linking the sections is Marina Russell’s version of the same song. Thanks to Robin Jeffrey for being the servant.

5 The Turtle Dove.

This lovely song was included by Frank Purslow in Marrowbones, his first selection from the folk song manuscripts of the Hammond brothers that did so much to popularise the Dorset repertoire in folk clubs all over the world. Frank collated three versions of the song from different Dorset singers; one of them, Mr Bridle, lived in Stratton, just across the river Frome from where I now live.

6 Write Me Down.

One of the most important singers that the Hammonds found was Joseph Elliott, from Todber in North Dorset. Mr Elliott was aged 74 when the Hammonds called, but had recently remarried, and had a 9 year old daughter. He was working as a farmworker on the Pitt-Rivers estate, but in his youth had spent several years fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. His repertoire consisted mostly of sea songs, but I particularly enjoy this version of ‘The Wedding Song’

7 A Glimpse of a Green Land.

This tune was written in Dorset, inspired by the memory of a days walking in the beautiful hills of Co. Antrim.

8 The Old Smith.

This remarkable song was written by Fred Rooke, based on a gipsy Faust legend. The smith is rewarded for his kindness to an old lady with three wishes. He asks that anyone who uses his hammer except himself will be unable to put it down; that anyone that sits in his chair other than himself will be unable to get out again; and that no-one will be able to take anything from his pocket except himself. With the aid of these extraordinary requests he is able to outwit ‘The Old Man’. Mi Duvel in the last verse means Heaven.

9 John Barleycorn.

Another song from the repertoire of William Miller of Wootton Fitzpaine, who the Hammond brothers visited in April 1906, braving the hills of West Dorset on their bicycles. They also collected a version of John Appleby from Farmer Miller, and Henry Hammond wrote to his friend and fellow collector George Gardiner as follows: ‘ I am going to get John Appleby on Monday God willing; I am not bursting my kidneys but I nearly burst myself altogether by falling off my bike going down a steep hill on which I encountered a big stone which did ‘my ruin prove’. I have wrenched my left shoulder, and am just off to see Cooper medicus of Lyme Regis. My brother R is riding to Bridgwater today’…

10 Cider and Brandy/ A Trip to Bagshot.

These two tunes can be found on a handwritten sheet in the Dorset History Centre, with no indication as to who wrote them down and what they were used for.

11 The Bwoat.

This evocative poem is by the Dorset dialect poet William Barnes, and appeared in his second collection of poems ‘Hwomely Rhymes’ published in 1858. The scene is the river Stour in summertime around Sturminster Newton. ‘Clote’ is the local dialect word for the yellow water-lily. The setting is my own.

12 Death in the Nut.

The inspiration for this ballad is Duncan Williamson’s story of the same name, which I heard Taffy Thomas tell many times when we were touring together in village halls and storytelling venues. I thought it would work equally well as a song.

13 The Broadoak Wassail.

Broadoak Community Orchard is near Sturminster Newton in North Dorset. This song was inspired by one of the residents, a prolific old Belle de Boskoop apple tree, who lies on her side ‘Partially fallen, but still bearing fruit’. The Orchard also boasts a Dorset Warrior, and an exotic Orleans Reinette. Well worth a visit, especially in October for Apple Day.

14 Blackbeard’s Diamond.

This slipjig was written as part of the score for Stephanie Dale’s adaptation of the classic Dorset smuggling tale Moonfleet by John Meade Faulkner. The story goes that Colonel Mohune [Blackbeard], as governor of Carisbrooke Castle, persuaded the captive King Charles to give up the diamond, and then handed him over for execution. The ill luck that followed such a treacherous deed affects much of the story…

15 Farewell She.

This well-loved song comes from Marina Russell of Upwey near Weymouth. Mrs Russell must have had a hard life, raising eleven children and living on a labourer’s wages for much of the time; yet she gave the Hammmonds 102 songs, many of them with distinctive and beautiful melodies. It seems appropriate that the last song on this recording should come from such an inspiring singer.