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Sleeve Notes for Wight Cockade by The Dollymopps

Wight CockadeThe Dollymopps are a trio that sing - largely - unaccompanied songs from the folk tradition of Southern England -with a particular emphasis on songs collected from their native Isle of Wight.  

The current line up of Virgil and Dorana Philpott, and Justin Smith, have been together since 2005.  Originally inspired by the harmonies of Sussex’s Copper Family,their singing began to develop a truly individual character after the discovery of a rich seam of local, traditional, source material in 2008.


The results of this were first apparent on the recording “Long Songs”(Rattletrap Records 001) released in June 2011, which focused upon the- hitherto overlooked - traditional song collection of Nineteenth Century Islander,W.H. Long.

The CD received very favourable reviews across the music press including a fRoots Critics’ Poll vote from English traditional music great, Rod Stradling. Multiple BBC Folk Award winner, Chris Wood, was another to be impressed, and chose to coverthe group’s arrangement of “Litttle Carpenter” on his 2013“None The Wiser” CD.

“Wight Cockade” is the follow up to “Long Songs” and the group’s second studio release. Recorded by Doug Bailey at WildGoose in 2013it demonstrates a continued flair for unusual tune-setting together with an increased sophistication of arrangements-all the while retaining a central focus on Isle of Wight related material.

Alongside several more songs from W.H. Long are pieces from other early collectors including Lucy Broadwood (whose sister lived in Ryde), George Gardner (who collected from Islanders in the Hampshire workhouses) and Alfred Williams.

Also featured are settings of works by IW artist, antiquarian and all-round-renaissance man, Percy Goddard Stone, which demonstrate a burgeoning tune-making ability on the group’s part.

There is an arrangement of a military march from the early 1800s, atall tale of the sea from Shanklin, and an intriguing piece which was recorded in Ryde by East Anglian singer Bob Roberts following his retirement to Island in the late 1970s.  

Perhaps most interesting of all, are the presence of several songs taken from a previously unheralded, singing tradition that continued, unbroken, in the rural West Wight right up until the early 1970s.  Having interviewed surviving participants and acquired copies of original, handwritten songbooks, this latest, local, ‘find’ promises to be a rich area of inspiration for The Dollymopps for years to come.

Track Notes

1 Lost Lady Found (Roud 901)

Collected by the admirable Lucy Broadwood, doyen of the early English Folk Song Society, from Georgina Hill, a domestic nurse in the employ of one Captain Arthur Byng RN, of Bellevue Road, Ryde, IW. Lucy Broadwood’s younger sister was married to the Rector of Ryde’s All Saints Parish Church (the Rev John Shearme) and the likelihood is that the good reverend first introduced his sister-in-law to Mrs Hill, during a visit to the Island in August 1893.

2 The Recruiting Sergeant
Percy Goddard Stone / The Dollymopps

A setting of a dialect poem from Percy Goddard Stone’s Legends and Lays of the Wight (1912). The action is set in St Thomas’ Square, Newport (opposite the old Rose and Crown pub - now an Italian restaurant) where the fancy-talking, medal-flaunting antics of the world’s largest land empire fail to impress the locals… The tune is our own invention (we think!).

3 From Spithead Roads As We Set Sail (Roud 17781)

A local song - Spithead Bank being as near to the Island as to Portsmouth! It was collected by George Gardiner from a 72 year-old, former merchant seaman, Frederick Fennimore in the Portsmouth Workhouse in 1907. Fennimore had a number of great, and rare, songs - of which more later.

4 Newtown Randy
Percy Stone / The Dollmopps

Another poem from Percy Stone’s dialect collection, which, we have reason to believe, may have been based on an older, traditional, source. The Newtown Randy was the original Isle of Wight Festival: three days of Fourteenth Century, feasting and frivolity on the eve, the day, and the morrow of the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen (22nd July). Newtown, or Francheville (‘Freetown’) as it was formerly called, was the original capital of the Isle of Wight until it was first struck by the plague and then sacked by the French (in 1377). The chorus and tune are our own.

5 Tally Ho! Hark Away! (Roud 1182)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

The first foxes were introduced to the Isle of Wight in the 1830s specifically for the purposes of hunting - which rather undermines the ‘pesky predator’ argument. The song is in William Henry Long’s Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The tune we use was collected from Mr William Lugg of Cornwall and sent to George Gardiner in 1905.

6 The Gypsy Girl (Roud 229)

Collected by George Gardiner from Jacob ‘John’ Brading in 1909. Brading was an Islander who grew up in the village of Arreton and ended his days in Alverstoke Workhouse (Gosport) where Gardiner discovered him. He also had The Spotted Cow and Seventeen Come Sunday in his repertoire. His versions closely mirror those published by WH Long in his 1886 Dictionary. Could Brading perhaps have been one of Long’s anonymous singing sources?

7 On Gosport Beach (Roud 1038)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

A lovely song that we originally found in Gale Huntingdon’s collection, Songs The Whalemen Sang (1964). A similar version was collected by Henry Hammond in Dorset in May 1906 but we have tweaked the tune a little to create a second melodic theme. Despite the happy ending we remain somewhat unconvinced of Gosport’s merits as a beach holiday destination!

8 The Isle of Wight (Roud 165)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

How could we resist this song from the unpublished manuscripts of Wiltshire collector, Alfred Williams? He had it from Mrs Sarah Timbrel of Quenington, Gloucestershire in 1916. As with all Williams’ work there was no tune, so we spliced it to a version of Swansea Town, collected by George Gardiner in Hampshire in 1905. Several months later we discovered that Annie Dearman & Steve Harrison had used the same tune for their fine song, The Bonny Lass of Barking Town, so we ‘developed’ the melody a little bit to disguise any similarities!

9 The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers’ Quick March
William Webb

A march composed for The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteer Corps by William Webb, organist at St George’s Church, Arreton, in the early 1800s. By 1860 the Volunteers (later renamed The Isle of Wight Rifles), apparently comprised nearly one in four of the Island’s population - so perhaps the recruiting sergeants were, actually, a little more effective than our first song suggested! Our thanks go to Dr Alan Champion of Ventnor for allowing us access to his rare original.

10 British Man of War (Roud 372)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

As published by WH Long in his Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The Man o’ War is, of course, a fighting ship, but the term also reflects the jingoistic machismo of the departing sailor. A relatively common song in the tradition, so, we decided to set it to an uncommon tune. In this instance it’s The Indian War, from Orkney, as reproduced in Roy Palmer’s book The Rambling Soldier (1985).

11 Jolly Harvestmen (Roud 1597)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

We like to think of this as an Isle of Wight protest song in the great English put-the-kettle tradition! Its only known appearance in print comes courtesy of the Harvest Hooam play published in WH Long’s Dictionary. This being said, there are similarities with an earlier, Portsea published, broadside entitled The Peasants’ Harvest Home in the Isle of Wight. The tune we use is To Sheepshearing We Will Go from J.C. Falconer of Hampshire, as collected by George Gardiner in 1906. The melody has altered a little in the singing of it and we’ve also edited out a number of mealtimes in the interests of making it more digestible!

12 All Jolly Fellows (Roud 346)

Island-based historian Alan Phillips tipped us off about this song which was still being sung in Brighstone in the 1950s - in this instance by Bob Cassell, from Brook. Bob Cassell was part of a vigorous West Wight singing tradition centred upon The New Inn at Brighstone and The Sun Inn at Hulverstone. Echoes of this tradition persist in the marvellous singing of Graham Keeping (look out for a forthcoming CD from him on Rod Stradling’s wonderful Mustrad label). Our version uses a Hampshire tune and words that were published in Lucy Broadwood’s English County Songs (1893).

13 The Bosun’s Story (Roud 9141)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

The words of this nautical shaggy-dog story were submitted to Sea Breezes magazine, in 1935, by one Captain A.G. Cole of Languard (near Shanklin on the IW’s South coast). The tune appears in Frederick Pease Harlow’s book Chanteying Aboard American Ships (1962), where it is described as a ‘walk away’ shanty.

14 Jonas and the Devil

The origins of this song are shrouded in mystery. Following his retirement to the Island in the 1970s, the great East Anglian singer Bob Roberts recorded two albums at his home in Ryde. The latter of these, recorded only a few months before his death in 1982, included this song. Bob stated in the sleevenotes that he had learned it from his grandfather, however, we can find no trace of it elsewhere in the tradition. Answers on an e-mail please…

15 Come, Come Me Brave Boys (Roud 17782)
Trad arranged The Dollymopps

A beautiful Solent homecoming song from the repertoire of Frederick Fennimore in the Portsmouth Workhouse. The phrase ‘pipe hands to skylark’, Doug Bailey has advised us, refers to the younger seamens’ practice of running up and down the rigging for sport and recreation. We felt the song deserved to be a little longer so we added a final verse to bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.