Sleeve Notes for Just Another Day by Tom and Barbara Brown
A combination of circumstances has unintentionally brought us to Minehead, in Somerset, as the unifying factor of this, our sixth CD, and we’ve decided to make it a ‘studio album’ - following our arrangement instincts instead of just creating a copy of stage performance. Cecil Sharp collected a number of songs from two retired sea captains in the town during a series of visits between August 1904 and May 1909. Cpt. Lewis (1835-1915) gave him 26 songs, Cpt. Vickery (1842-1916) gave him 13, and we came across them while researching for the Short Sharp Shanties project. The songs were very diverse and by no means all maritime; some were rare, others common (but in interesting variants). Together they give a fascinating window into the local vernacular song repertoire at the beginning of the 20th Century. The selection on this CD includes just some of our favourites: seven from Robert Lewis and five from James Vickery.
Barbara Brown: Lead & chorus vocals.
Tom Brown: Lead & chorus vocals, guitars, melodeons, English concertina, harpeleik.
Brenda Burnside: Hammered dulcimer and chorus vocals.
Jon Dyer: Flute and whistles.
Mary Eagle: Chorus vocals.
Keith Kendrick: Anglo concertina and chorus vocals.
Barry Lister: Chorus vocals.
Matt Norman: Mandolin, drum, and chorus vocals.
Paul Sartin: Fiddle, oboe and cor anglais.
The other three songs come from the Minehead Harbour Maritime Heritage Project. The project culminated in a series of cold-cast bronze panels mounted on the harbour wall, depicting periods in Minehead’s maritime history and the associated ship-types – from 400 A.D. to WW2. We were commissioned to find (trad.), adapt (localise) or create (there aren’t many songs from 400 A.D. which relate to Minehead maritime history!) a series of relevant songs – one each for the seven periods - and then to work with the community to record them as inspiration for the artist, Sue Webber, in creating the panels. Three of the seven songs we’ve borrowed back for this CD.
1 A Minehead Lad
words: Tom. tune: Barbara
This was written for panel 6 of the Minehead Harbour Project. It covers the period which included the decline of fishing, the development of the town as a holiday destination and the popular Campbell White Funnel Line paddle-steamers which serviced the holiday trade all along the Severn shores, until they were requisitioned as minesweepers by the Royal Navy - the ‘grey funnel line’ - during World War One.
2 The Bonny Bunch of Roses O
A song from the aftermath of another of Britain’s wars. This dialogue between Bonaparte’s son and the boy’s mother was a very widespread and popular song of its time. By the bicentennial year of the battle of Waterloo, the Scottish populace may yet have achieved what Boney failed to do, and struck a fatal blow to the Bonny Bunch of Roses – the Union! This version is from Robert Lewis
3 Hunting of the Hare
There are a few versions of this classic hare-hunting song (Martin and Shan Graebe recorded one collected by Sabine Baring-Gould on their Dusty Diamonds CD [WGS359]), and we’ve even seen it in print as Somersetshire Hunting Song. This is Vickery’s version – with more hunting-song clichés than you could throw a drag at. Tom sees no purpose in hare hunting – but then he is bald!
4 Spanish Ladies
Widespread, popular and supposed to be quite old – although the earliest broadside is 1845. Tom had some difficulty in learning Cpt. Lewis’s Æolian variant of the tune as both Tom’s father and the old singers in Cornwall sang the Ionian version!
5 The Sea Captain
Cpt. Vickery told Sharp that he had found the words of this song written on the fly-leaf of an old book, and had heard it sung and learnt the tune from an old man at Porlock Weir. The song turns up occasionally as a broadside entitled Young Squire’s Frolick. There have been versions collected at Langport in Somerset, in Co. Antrim and in West Virginia – so scarce, but widespread!
6 Moll o’ the Wood
Also known as Moll of the Wad – wad being 17th/18th century slang for a palliasse or mattress, and Moll o’ the Wad being a euphemism for a lady of negotiable virtue. Lewis only gave Sharp the tune and chorus and we suspect he deliberately chose not to sing him the words! There are various sets, all bawdy (except where published as a nursery rhyme!), so this set is the result of some song archaeology. Some say that the tune for Moll o’ the Wad is the origin of the morris dance tune Old Molly Oxford, we have our doubts - certainly of this version. Barry Lister has pointed out that this tune also carries the song The Comfort of Man
7 The Isle of France
This song seems to have been a favourite with the broadside printers – it was published regularly, all over the country from the 1840s to the 1880s and has been collected many times. Cpt. Lewis’s version has a particularly haunting tune. The Isle of France was the old name for Mauritius which was ceded to the English by France in post-Napoleonic treaty of 1815. England did a lot of trade with Mauritius because of the sugar plantations, but it was also en route to the penal colonies in Australia. As far as we know the story does not have a basis in fact.
8 The London Man o’ War
Both Lewis and Vickery can take credit for this one: Sharp collected the words from Lewis on 8th August (1904), and then got the tune from Vickery the following day! The song itself is not rare – it is sometimes called The Irish Captain or Captain Summerswell, and the name of the ship changes between the Lion, the Dolphin and, as here, The London Man o’ War.
Following the loss of Lord Franklin’s 1845 exploratory voyage to find the north-west passage, a campaign was led by Franklin’s widow, to try to get the government to mount an expedition to find out what happened. Part of that campaign was a long broadside written in 1850 by George Boker, of which fragments remained in the tradition. Here is Vickery’s delightfully abbreviated version with the text slightly tidied up.
10 The Lark in the Morn
A widespread song of rural dalliance, and a battle of the sexes instead of nations – although there doesn’t really seem to be much conflict. Lewis’s tune encompassed a full two octaves, but Tom can’t manage that so he compromises. If you want to know the full tune – listen to the concertina!
11 Heave Away My Johnny
words: Tom, tune: trad.
This is the only shanty collected in Minehead (unless you include Spanish Ladies for capstan use). Cecil Sharp actually collected it from Cpt. Vickery twice – in 1904 and 1907, and the tune differed between the two collections. Vickery’s words were the familiar ‘milkmaid’ text (“Where are you going to, my pretty fair maid?”), so we kept Vickery’s tune and set new words, drawing on information from local maritime historian John Gilman, about the town’s ships and trade during the 19th century. This informed panel 4 of the Minehead Harbour Project.
12 Greenland Fishery
Another form of hunting - thankfully no longer generally practised. The song was widespread in England and Canada, although it crops up with a variety of different ship names and different years. From Cpt. Lewis.
A song well-known on both sides of the Atlantic under several different titles – Reilly the Fisherman, Reilly Sent to America, Bold Riley, etc. Vickery sang a different first verse when he sang it to Cecil Sharp – a verse actually from a different song.
14 The Devonshire Girls
We rather like this one – coming from a Somerset man! In fact, of course, you can localize it to any county with three syllables, and the earliest broadside versions, of which there are several, seem to come from Lan-ca-shire. From Cpt. Lewis. Compare the tune with The Manchester Angel (thank you, Mary – interesting!)
15 Just Another Day
words: Tom, tune: Norbert Schultze
This is our third Minehead Harbour Project song (panel 7), drawing on Minehead stories from World War Two, both ridiculous and tragic, that we gleaned from John Gilman’s excellent writings on local maritime history, and which are set to the iconic WW2 tune used for the poem Lili Marlene. Two recovered fragments of the Mouette – a piece of the name-board and a portion of the tiller – which used to be kept in the lifeboat shed, together with Slade’s war medal and citation, are now in the museum in the former Beach Hotel.