Past and Present

by Roger Watson

A mixture of Songs and tunes.

Roger Watson: Voice, 2- & 3-row Melodeons, English Concertina

With Jackie Oates: Voice, 5-stringed Viola;

Tim Walker: Flugelhorn, Cornet, Voice, Side drum

For lyrics to all songs, visit:

01 Gilliver. words: R. Watson; tune: C. Cater

My late grandfather, Joseph Clarke, left school in 1902 at the age of 12, and like most of his generation, entered the main industry in his Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border community: coal mining. His first job was as a ‘ganger’, the local term for a pit pony driver, and this song, written in 1965, tells a story he told me, using, as far as possible, his own words.

02 Linnen Hall/The Fanocini trad.

Linnen Hall is from Mike Raven’s collection: One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes in the section entitled: ‘Tunes published before 1730’. The Fantocini is a 24-bar jig from the village of Ashover, Derbyshire.

03 Lovely Joan  trad., new lyrics: R. Watson

‘Scamping young blade on milk-white steed attempts to seduce country lass in haystack and is outwitted by her’, or, in this case, ‘Jack-the-lad in flashy motor attempts to seduce hitch-hiker in lay-by … and is outwitted by her’. 
04 Idbury Hill/Broken Dagger     trad.

Idbury Hill is possibly best known as a Bledington Morris dance tune and I learned it while playing for South Downs Morris in the early 1980s. Broken Dagger, otherwise known as Green Grow the Rushes-O, is another tune from Mike Raven’s book.

05 Peg of Derby     trad., new lyrics: R. Watson

A frequently heard story in ballads is that of the itinerant soldier, whose beloved – hard-hearted or sensible, whichever way you chose to see it – refuses to follow him to a new posting, causing him to die of a broken heart. I first learned it more than 40 years ago as ‘The Bonny Lass of Fyvie-O’, and later as ‘Peg of Derby-O’. I lived in Derby for a time, just around the corner from the main Rolls-Royce works, and recall vividly the atmosphere in the town when the company crashed in 1971. That became the setting for this version of the song.

06 The Gobby-O trad

A jig from ‘The Fiddler’s Tune Book’

07 Rip Van Winkle   words & music: R J Pegg

I was at school with Bob Pegg in the 1960s and he was one of the first people I heard singing traditional songs. Rip Van Winkle was written for the first album by his pioneering band, Mr Fox.

08 Bengal Rounds/Old Sir Simon the King   R. Watson/trad

There are many 3/2 hornpipes from the North West of England, known as ‘Rounds’: Cheshire Rounds, Shropshire Rounds, etc. Bengal Rounds keeps the melodic pattern common to many of them, but uses the scale of Raga Shivranjani; there is a matching 12-beat rhythm, known in the Indian traditions as ‘Ektaal’ and the piece was originally written for a violinist from Calcutta, Sanjoy Ghosh. Old Sir Simon the King is a triple-time (9/8) jig learned from various sources.

09 Lowlands       trad., new lyrics: R. Watson

Folk songs have always inspired many versions and many interpretations … some dream of drowned lovers, others dream of an end to racial injustice.

10 Hunt the Squirrel/The First of August trad.

This non-jig version of Hunt the Squirrel is from West Sussex and appears in Anne Laughran and Vic Gammon’s collection, ‘A Sussex Tune Book’. The First of August is from the Island of FanÆ, Denmark.

11 Two Brethren trad., new verse: R. Watson

A song best known in the version from the Copper Family of Sussex. We live in a time of great abundance ... for some.  

12 The Manager’s Daughter words & music: R. Watson

In the late 1940s, my grandfathers, along with the other miners in their community, ceased to be employed by the Duke of Portland, and instead began to work for the National Coal Board. It was a time of great hope, but in some ways, only gradual change. The managerial hierarchy still existed … and so did entrenched social attitudes towards them.

13 Fred Pigeon’s Polka/Donkey Riding        trad

Fiddler Fred Pigeon played at least three otherwise nameless polkas. This was one of them. I first played Donkey Riding with this minor chord sequence about 20 years ago, and it seems to like it that way …

14 Seafarers   trad

Stan Hugill, in his ‘Shanties from the Seven Seas’ (published 1994, Mystic Seaport Museum), writes: ‘I believe that these verses are of comparatively recent date and that they came from a poem (the author of which I have never discovered). Probably some versatile shantyman thought them “just the job” and spliced them to the old Packet Rat shanty. Nevertheless, they were accepted and sung by hundreds of shantymen in the later days of sail’.

My late grandfather
Linnen Hall/The Fantocini
Linnen Hall is from Mike Raven’s collection: One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes in the section entitled: ‘Tunes published before 1730’. The Fantocini is a 24-bar jig from the village of Ashover
Lovely Joan
‘Scamping young blade on milk-white steed attempts to seduce country lass in haystack and is outwitted by her’
Sample not available
Idbury Hill /Broken Dagger
Idbury Hill is possibly best known as a Bledington Morris dance tune and I learned it while playing for South Downs Morris in the early 1980s. Broken Dagger
Sample not available
Peg of Derby
A frequently heard story in ballads is that of the itinerant soldier
The Gobby-O
A jig from ‘The Fiddler’s Tune Book’
Sample not available
Rip Van Winkle
I was at school with Bob Pegg in the 1960s and he was one of the first people I heard singing traditional songs. Rip Van Winkle was written for the first album by his pioneering band
Sample not available
Bengal Rounds/Old Sir Simon the King
There are many 3/2 hornpipes from the North West of England
Sample not available
Folk songs have always inspired many versions and many interpretations … some dream of drowned lovers
Sample not available
Hunt the Squirrel / The First of August
This non-jig version of Hunt the Squirrel is from West Sussex and appears in Anne Laughran and Vic Gammon’s collection
Sample not available
Two Brethren
A song best known in the version from the Copper Family of Sussex. We live in a time of great abundance ... for some.
Sample not available
The Manager's Daughter
In the late 1940s
Sample not available
Fred Pigeon's Polka / Donkey Riding
Fiddler Fred Pigeon played at least three otherwise nameless polkas. This was one of them. I first played Donkey Riding with this minor chord sequence about 20 years ago
Sample not available
Stan Hugill
Sample not available

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Roger Watson is another of those performers who has a long pedigree in folk music. An ex-member of  Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band he was also the founder and artistic director of the Traditional Arts Projects (TAPS) based in Hampshire and now works freelance by teaching and performing English traditional songs, music and dance.

An accomplished melodeon and English concertina player and fine singer he sails through this CD with the aplomb and panache you might expect from a seasoned performer.

All the tunes bar one are traditional and many of Roger's songs are based on traditional tunes and songs. A classic example of the latter is the update of Lovely Joan where 'the likely lad' now drives a flashy motor and Joan is a hitch hiker. The end result is the same of course, Joan outwits him! Being a Derby man Roger has also put new words to The Bonny Lass of Fyvie-o in the form of the song Peg of Derby.

Probably for me the least successful attempt at re-writing lyrics is Lowlands. While I don't disagree with the sentiments of dreaming of an end to racial injustice I don't think the original song is the best basis for them. He would have perhaps been better composing it as a completely original song.

One of my favourites though is a joint composition by Roger and Colin Cater  about a pit pony called Gilliver. I also enjoyed The Manager's Daughter a thought provoking song about entrenched social attitudes written and composed by Roger. Seafarers is a very different, appealing and unusual version of the more commonly titled New York Girls in which Roger is joined by both of his accompanists on this album Jackie Oates and Tim Walker.

The CD, as always with Wild Goose productions, is accompanied by enlightening sleeve notes.  A must for all Watson fans and beyond. Highly recommended and best with a glass of claret and maybe even some Stilton cheese, a favourite of Roger's!



It's been more than twenty years since Roger Watson's name last appeared on an LP sleeve and nearly thirty since he made a solo album. Not that he's been idle, of course, but as he hovers around retirement age he's back on the frontline.

First comes 'Gilliver', co-written with Coin Cater In 1965 and a long-time staple of his live set. If you have heard it before, you're probably a folk historian but Past And Present is far from being an exercise in nostalgia. Roger's work as a teacher has been based on bringing traditional songs to a new generation, often by rewriting them in modern language or giving them a contemporary setting.

Thus, the thwarted lothario of 'Lovely Joan' drives an XR?3 and the broken-hearted hero of the exquisitely sensitive 'Peg Of Derby' used to work in the Rolls-Royce factory. 'Lowlands' doesn't quite work for me although I understand the inspiration and, to demonstrate that songwriters have always weaved together old and new, here's Bob Pegg's 'Rip Van Winkle'.

In between the songs are tune sets from a variety of sources, including a splendid pair of polkas, and Roger is supported unobtrusively by the voice and viola of Jackie Oates, and Tim Walker's brass, voice and drum.

Shire Folk

Barry Goodman

Roger Watson has been involved in folk music for over four decades, and has distilled much of his experience into this excellent CD, in which his singing, playing and writing skills are showcased to great effect. In many of the songs, Roger takes traditional themes and transposes them to a contemporary setting, as in Lovely Joan, where the narrative remains as in the traditional ballad, but the characters are transformed into a hitch?hiker and a motorist in a flashy car! Other examples of this process are Peg of Derby (featuring the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby) and Lowlands, in which the "dream" is of an end to racial injustice.

The influence of Roger's work with musicians from other traditions is most noticeable in Bengal Rounds, a 3/2 hornpipe using a scale and rhythm of Indian traditional music; his tune?sources for the English material are wide ranging, with tunes from the Sussex Tune Book, the Ashover collection, and the Fiddlers Tune Book, as well as one from Denmark and a lovely version of the Morris Tune, Idbury Hill.

The CD proclaims Roger's breadth of knowledge and interest in the folk traditions of the world, while having a very "English Traditional" feel to it. Expertly accompanied by Jackie Oates and Tim Walker, Past and Present is an album that has quality, integrity and immense style, and it was about time we had the chance to hear Roger Watson on CD again!


Mike Greenwood

IT'S a while since we've heard from Watson. This is a reminder of where he's been and a pointer to where he sees himself going, as well as re-establishing his geographical  roots. A reworking of Gilliver, a Derbyshire mining tale of more than 40 years' vintage, sets the timeline in motion and one immediately remembers Roger's instantly recognisable melodeon accompaniment style, which continues on Linnen Hall/The Fantocini. Left hand variations have always been among Roger's special interests, and lots of clever tricks are sprinkled throughout the solo melodeon tracks.

He isn't working totally alone here. Jackie Oates pops up adding harmony vocals and viola, notably on Peg of Derby. Lowlands is another reworking, with slowly building harmony vocals, whilst Two Brethren features double-tracking on concertina and melodeon as Oates adds strings and voice.

Watson's concertina accompanied Rip Van Winkle, is from old schoolmate Bob Pegg. It's as magical and mysterious as in its original form. The album culminates in the slow, steady rhythm of his version of New York Girls (Seafarers) with brass, viola and harmony vocals in the final verses.


Jacqueline Patten

Roger Watson's experience of traditional music is broad. During an outstanding career, he has performed with a number of bands including Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band; worked as artistic director of TAPS (1989-2008); led community choirs; and worked with people from several cultures. Past and Present reflects his English roots.

The tracks are evenly balanced between songs and tunes. Most of the tunes are traditional with the exception of 'Bengal Rounds' written by Roger, in which he used the style of the 'rounds' of north-west England with the scale of Raga Shivranjani: a fine example of how he brings his wealth of knowledge to all his work. From the upbeat, rhythmic, 'Linnen Hall/The Fanocini' to the toe-tapping 'Fred Pigeon's Polka/Donkey Riding', the listener is uplifted. The other tunes are the beautifully lilting 'Idbury Hill/Broken Dagger', the jig 'The Gobby-O' and a non-jig version of 'Hunt the Squirrel/The First of August'. All the arrangements are excellent.

The alternate tracks are song. Roger's approach to traditional song is refreshing. For the majority of the settings, he uses traditional tunes with contemporary words penned by himself. The opening track illustrates the reason perfectly: for 'Gilliver' he has used a tune by Colin Cater to which he wrote a song which tells the story of his grandfather who was a 'ganger', a pit pony driver. Thus, he is continuing the tradition of using song for story-telling while informing the audience about aspects of social history. Other songs include settings of 'Lovely Joan', 'Lowlands', 'Rip Van Winkle' (Bob Pegg) and 'Seafarers'.

Roger's voice has a deep, resonant clarity, and throughout he plays the melodeon and concertinas with a similar clarity. He is joined by Jackie Oates on vocals and viola, and Tim Walker on vocals, flugelhorn, cornet and side drum.

The arrangements are innovative with a deceptive simplicity, totally captivating.

Whats Afoot

Ken Hinchliffe

I personally, have considerable regard for Roger Watson, both as a singer and a musician of great originality. And this CD `Past and Present' is a perfect example of why I admire his creative ability.

I thoroughly enjoyed this CD from the first note to the last. There are fourteen tracks on the CD, comprising eleven tunes and six songs. And every one a good'un. Though on reflection, I did have initial reservations regarding the tempo of the concluding song `Seafarers'. Nevertheless, after a couple of hearings I accepted that perhaps the tempo was in keeping with the subject matter, i.e. sombre.

Of the eleven tunes, my favourites are, Linnen Hall / The Fanocini, The Gobby O, and Fred Pigeon's Polka / Donkey Riding, all of which are played as relaxed and free flowing as you're ever likely to hear, with ornamentation/improvisation of the highest quality ? beautiful, almost therapeutic. For sure, this is a CD to inspire both budding and experienced melodeon players.

The lyrics to the songs, Gilliver Lovely Joan, Peg of Derby, Lowlands, and The Manager 's Daughter, are all the creation of Roger Watson. In particular respect of Lovely Joan and Peg of Derby, here the imaginative rewriting and revisiting of a traditional song into a modem setting gives authenticity to a traditional theme. And interestingly, has made me reconsider the words of the traditional versions of the songs.

It would be extremely remiss of me not to make a point of mentioning the very important input into the recording by the two supporting artists, Jackie Oates, (Voice and 5?stringed Viola) and Tim Walker ( Flugelhorn, Cornet, Voice, and Side drum). The inclusion of the flugelhorns warm, pastel tonal colour into the arrangements is inspirational. Both Jackie and Tim bring a wider, fuller dimension to the whole recording. I suppose their presence and contribution, is the proverbial `cherry on the cake'.

I highly recommend this CD to all traditionalists and others.

Folk London

Brian Cope

Roger Watson's first solo C.D. since 1980, 'Past and Present', reflects his 40 years and some, as a folk musician, mover and shaker. Renowned for his work with seminal bands 'Muckram Wakes', 'The New Victory Band' and co-founder of global stompers 'Boka Halat'. Roger has recently been  performing a variety of roles in Mick Ryan's folk-opera 'The Navvy's Wife' and shows in performance, as well as on this disk, that he is still in fine voice and has lost none of his drive and enthusiasm. His attitude, exemplified whilst artistic director of TAPS, that English traditional song and music should be performed 'in a way that acknowledges the processes of tradition and involves people of all backgrounds in owning and individualising material from heritage sources' is aptly demonstrated throughout.

A well balanced selection of tunes and songs showcases Roger's fine melodeon, and occasional English concertina playing. Of the fourteen tracks, six are tune sets including a non jig version of 'Hunt The Squirrel' which is combined with Danish tune 'The First Of August' Amongst the remaining tune sets are a wonderfully catchy jig from the 'Fiddler's Tune Book' 'The Gobby-O' and a 3/2 hornpipe-round, originally written for a violinist from Calcutta which uses an ektall rhythm from an Indian raga, 'Bengal Rounds' is cleverly joined with the 9/8 jig 'Old Simon The King'. With the exception of Bob Peggs 'Rip Van Winkle' and the traditional shanty 'Seafarers' the songs have been written or, in the case of the traditional 'Two Brethren' added to, by Roger. Often using a traditional tune and creatively rewriting the lyric he has wittily updated 'Lovely Joan' replacing horse with a flashy motor, while 'Peg of Derby' is set against the crash of the Rolls-Royce Works in 1971.

Roger is joined aptly and unobtrusively on some tracks by Jackie Oates on viola and vocals or Tim Walker on flugelhorn, cornet, side drums and vocals. Roger's welcome return to the recording studio includes brief notes by him on all the tracks and enchanting photographs of melodeon playing sculptures.


David Kidman

Roger, best known for his work with Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band, and more

recently for his role in Mick Ryan's folk-opera The Navvy's Wife, hasn't released a solo album for absolutely ages. Here, though, at last, we have Past And Present, which keenly reflects the spirit of his freelance work for the organisation he founded, Traditional Arts Projects, by acknowledging the processes of tradition in his performances, notably in owning and individualising material from heritage sources.

Roger's ebullient and committed performance style, and not least his choice of instrument-the trusty melodeon (with occasional forays onto English concertina) - will naturally invite comparisons with other squeezebox practitioners such as John Kirkpatrick, Pete Coe and Brian Peters. Additionally, these performers also share a penchant for creatively rewriting or updating traditional sources - in a still-respectful but refreshingly non-po-faced manner.

For this disc, Roger offers up three of his own rewrites: a cheeky but in the end quite poignant Peg Of Derby, a fun take on Lovely Joan that recalls Brian's recent "biker's Child Ballad" Six Nights Drunk, and a version of Lowlands that invokes the free spirits of Martin Luther King and other political figures. He also adds a telling extra verse to Two Brethren. Roger's two original songs on the disc both draw on reminiscences of his ancestors who worked in the mining industry, and he also turns in a cover of the evocative Bob Pegg song Rip Van Winkle from the first Mr Fox LP (tho' I do rather miss Carole's fiddle part!).

Elsewhere Roger parades his no-nonsense approach, instrumental dexterity and lively musicianship on a number of neatly combined tune-sets, which embrace (among other delights) a non-jig version of Hunt The Squirrel and a 3/2 hornpipe-round that uses an ektaal rhythm from a Bengali raag! On a small handful of tracks, Roger enjoys musical and/or vocal assistance from Jackie Oates (five-stringed viola) or Tim Walker (flugelhorn, cornet), otherwise he performs resolutely solo-and he's in good robust voice too.

Past And Present forms a well-rounded portrait of this charismatic performer,

fRoots Playlist

Shreds and Patches

Baz Parkes

There can't be many people involved in the folk scene today, either as audience or participant, who haven't felt the touch of Roger Watson's influence. From his early work as singer and instrumentalist with Muckram Wakes, through the seminal work of the New Victory Band and the Hop to the glorious melting pot that is Boka Halat, he's been there, done that.

I've even heard dances that he's written called and introduced as traditional. As has his occasional song. Add a warm, at ease, singing voice to the blend and I think we have the man covered. All of those aspects (apart from his dance calling!) may be found on this CD. As the title implies, it offers Roger (and the listener) a chance to revisit old favourites whilst introducing those soon to be new ones. The content is split almost equally between songs and tune sets, and we have further sub divisions (Venn diagram, anyone?).

There're three types of song; traditional, Roger's own, and Roger's re-take on traditional themes. The opening Gilliver was written in 1965, and, telling the story of a man and his pit pony, easily stands the test of time. Seafarers (14) reminds us what a great shantyman was lost to the world when Mrs Watson's son chose to be born inland. His new version of Lovely Joan (3) is a delight, and destined to become a folk club standard. Peg of Derby (5) and The Manager's Daughter (12) remind us (as if we need it) that industrial hardship and the bitterness it engenders aren't the prerogative of the nineteenth century.

The tune sets show why his melodeon and concertina tutors still sell ...he's a master player. Bengal Rounds/ Old Sir Simon the King (8) manages to marry the Indian 12 beat Ektaal rhythm to the English 3/2 hornpipe style, coupling it with a triple time jig. Idbury Hill must be one of the best of the Cotswold morris tunes and the version here, paired with Broken Dagger (5) is a delight.

Ably assisted by Jackie Oates on viola and Tim Walker on brass and side drum, there's something for everyone, I feel.

Green Man

Peter Massey

Roger Watson is probably more well know as member of the '70s folk groups Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band playing melodeon and concertina. Now he's performing as a solo artist of mainly traditional material. Having said that, the first song on the album is contemporary! Not that it matters much as it is written and performed in a traditional style�what ever that is!

For me, 'Gilliver,' words by Watson and tune by C. Carter, is one of the best songs on the album. The theme came from a story told to Roger by his late grandfather Joseph Clarke, who left school in 1902 at the age of 12 and entered the coal mining industry in his Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border home. Working as a ganger for a pit pony driver, the song tells of his kindness shown to the pony Gilliver and how the horse repaid the kindness by saving his life one day. It is probably worth buying the album for this one song alone!

Not that the rest of the album is a slouch. Roger pulls on his extensive knowledge of English traditional song and tune collected over the years.

Many of the titles may sound familiar to officialdoms of English folk song. In a cheeky version of 'Lovely Joan' Roger has penned his own words. Likewise 'Peg of Derby' with words by Watson to the tune of 'The Bonny Lass of Fyvie-O' and 'Lowlands' also takes on new lyrics by Roger. In fac,t nearly all the songs on the album benefit from a bit of lyrical tweaking from Roger. Another original song penned by Watson is 'The Manager's Daughter' a love song proving that English class system still abounds.

In between the vocal tracks the album has several Morris and English Country Dances tunes also a jig that fall so naturally to the melodeon and the concertina, which Roger plays very well. Guest musicians Jackie Oates on viola and backing vocals, and Tim Walker on flugelhorn, cornet, side drum and vocals appear on various tracks, all tastefully done.

To sum up, this is a nice album with some interesting songs. It will be well received by the traditional fans amongst you, especially melodeon players.

The Living Tradition

Roy Harris

What a pleasure to be able to review a CD by my old friend and colleague Roger Watson, especially since it is such a good one. For some years Roger worked as the Artistic Director of the folk development agency TAPS, running community projects, teaching, encouraging, and doing a fine job for folk music in general.  Great work, but it had the drawback of pushing his solo talents into the background somewhat. Now that he is freelancing he is able to let us know once again just what he can do.

So what can he do? More easy to say 'What can't he do'.  When I first knew him in the 1960's he was highly regarded as a songwriter and a pretty nifty guitar player. Then he would come to the old NTMC and sing traditional songs to the manner born. In later years he led the well-remembered group 'Muckram Wakes, and the equally celebrated 'New Victory Band', called dances, wrote squeezebox tutors that are still selling, and was a session musician on many albums including some of mine.  The width and depth of this experience informs all that he does nowadays, giving him the ease and control in performance that shows all through this album.  

Two songs of his own, 'Gilliver' the story of a pit pony, and 'The Manager's Daughter', hark back to his early songwriting days, and there's one from his old schoolmate Bob Pegg, namely 'Rip Van Winkle' written for Bob's pioneering band 'Mr Fox'.  Other titles seem familiar, 'Lovely Joan' for instance, but with R. Watson's new lyrics it becomes a lively tale of a female hitchhiker giving a lad in a flashy motor his comeuppance. Likewise 'Peg of Derby' has to do with a couple of Rolls Royce workers while 'Lowlands' speaks of Martin Luther King. These songs lose nothing in the re-working; they could fit straight into the folk scene repertoire without argument.

Roger Watson proves here that he is a force to be reckoned with. Club, concert, workshop, festival organisers, take heed.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy & Bob Drage

Roger's experience on the folk scene as singer, musician, songwriter and dance caller comes to the fore on this cd. A blend of traditional, instrumental and trad with new lyrics. 'Lovely Joan' transmuted to `jack the lad with flashy motorcar and hitchhiker' is Grand. 'Gilliver' is about his coal mining grandfather who was a 'ganger'. 'The Manager's Daughter' bosses change but the entrenched social attitudes still attain. Other songs include 'Two Brethren', 'Seafarers' & `Lowlands' (new lyrics). Tunes include 'Linnen Hall' & 'Broken Dagger' from Mike Raven's 1000 English country dance tunes, a delightful `Idbury Hill' and 'Fred Pigeon's Polka'. 'Bengal Rounds' written for Calcutta violinist, Sanjoy Ghosh is very interesting - it uses the Raga Shivranjani scale. Roger plays melodeon and English concertina and is joined by Jackie Oates - 5 stringed viola and voice and Tim Walker flugelhorn, cornet, sidedrum and voice. Sculptures of melodeon players by Jonas Bugailiskis of Lithuania adorn the insert. A gorgeous CD