1 Ripon Sword Dance Song
I first came across Ripon Sword Dance Song on the Yorkshire Garland Group website (http://www.yorkshirefolksong.net), an online archive of songs collected in, or linked to Yorkshire. The song also appears in the 1930 issue of the Journal of the English Folk Dance Society in article by Douglas Kennedy on sword dance and mummers’ plays. Kennedy states that the song was collected by Dr C. H. Moody of Ripon in 1925 and forms part of a sword-dance play performed in Ripon around Christmas. I initially learnt this song with the intention of including it in a Christmas set, but having learnt it, I decided it was far too good a song to only sing at Christmas, so I undertook to re-write a slightly less festive version. The song I sing here is my reworking, with all references to Christmas removed and a handful of extra verses added from related calling on songs.
2 Andrew Rose
A song I’ve known for longer than I can remember through recordings made by Tony Hall and later Damien Barber and Mike Wilson. A few years ago I rediscovered this song in Roy Palmer’s Oxford Book of Sea Songs and was inspired to learn it. The song tells the true story of Andrew Rose, the sailor from Orkney, who suffered horrific treatment and ultimately died at the hands of his ship’s crew, headed by Captain Henry Rogers.
3 Trip to Birmingham/The Poll Booth/Tekeli
Three traditional jigs. ‘Trip to Birmingham’ is from John Walsh’s A Composite Music Volume published in 1748. The Poll Booth is in the tune books of Lawrence Leadley of Helperby, North Yorkshire. Leadley worked as a carpenter and architect, but in his teens and twenties (in around the 1840s) he played the fiddle in the village band, during which time he compiled a collection of several tune books. ‘Tekeli’ is from the manuscripts of James Winder of Wyresdale, Lancashire, compiled around 1834-1842. Returning to the manuscript to write the notes for this album, I realised just how much I’d unwittingly changed the tune, the original can be found on the brilliant Village Music Project website (http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/). For anyone wondering, ‘Tekeli’ is a Turkish word meaning “having or possessing goats; goaty” (thanks to Wikipedia for that definition!).
4 Thomas Holt
I came across the story on Thomas Holt in Roy Palmer’s The Folklore of Warwickshire. Thomas Holt was a musician from Coventry and father to nineteen children. Holt’s story was reported in a 1642 pamphlet entitled Fearefull Newes from Coventry, revealing that to solve his financial problems, Holt sold himself to the devil and, once his contract had expired, he was found with his neck broken and his money turned to dust. I’ve taken considerable artistic liberties with the original story and some may notice that I have also drawn on the traditional ballad ‘The Farmer’s Curst Wife’ (Child 278), in fact a number of people at my gigs have already mistaken this for a traditional variant of the classic ballad. Having based this song so heavily on ‘The Farmer’s Curst Wife’, when it came to putting a tune to the songs, I inadvertently managed to write an amalgamation of three of the traditional tunes for ‘The Farmer’s Curst Wife’, but it seems to fit so I have no desire to change it!
Child ballad number 13; a classic ballad with variants throughout Britain, continental Europe and America. This tune and most of the text comes from Paddy Tunney who sang it as ‘What Put the Blood?’, a recording of which is available on Volume 3 of Topic’s Voice of the People series, O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green.
6 Harrogate Quadrille/Newcastle Station
Two more traditional tunes. Like ‘The Poll Booth’, ‘Harrogate Quadrille’ comes from the tune books of Lawrence Leadley. I found ‘Newcastle Station’ in Michael Raven’s One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes.
This variant of the classic ballad (Child 14) comes from Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s Travellers’ Songs from England and Scotland. MacColl and Seeger collected it from John MacDonald, a Lanarkshire traveller, in 1969. The verse structure of John MacDonald’s text for Babylon seems to be unique; whereas most feature a refrain on lines two and four of the verses, Macdonald’s verses begin with two lines, followed by a repeat of line two and a refrain. I have managed to unwittingly change this song in the process of learning and performing it; the tune is slightly different to the one printed in Travellers’ Songs, but I have also added some extra verses (and lost a few others on the way), quite where they came from, I have absolutely no idea!
8 Tom the Barber
A variant of Child ballad 100, commonly known as ‘Willie o’ Winesbury’. I first heard this sung by Tony Rose on his 1982 LP Poor Fellows. The sleeve notes of Poor Fellows comment that this song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mr Gordge of Bridgwater (collected 2nd January 1906). This variant was published in Volume I of Sharp’s English Folk Songs presented there under the title ‘Lord Thomas of Winesberry’. The only variant I’ve found with the title ‘Tom the Barber’ is that collected by Hammond from W. Bartlett of Wimborne, Dorset in September 1906, and it appears that Tony Rose’s text draws on this variant. The most convincing explanation of the term ‘barber’ is that it is a corruption of ‘Berber’ referring to the people of North Africa.
9 The Country Carrier
I first heard this on Nick Dow album My Love You’ve Won to Keep, then shortly after came across it in Frank Purslow’s book The Wanton Seed. Purslow had printed an amalgamation of text from William Randall of Hursley, Hampshire (collected June 1905) together with a tune Henry Norris of Farnham, Surrey (collected April 1909), both collected by George Gardiner. This is not, strictly speaking, a folksong, but instead was written by music hall entertainer Harry Clifton (1832-1872) as ‘My Rattling Mare and I’ in around 1867. Clifton was one of the most prolific Victorian song writers, allegedly writing over five hundred songs and touring constantly- it is often said that the reason for his early death was overwork. However, Clifton left a crop of brilliant songs, and this one in particular seems to have found favour with traditional singers across the country.
‘Barbados’ comes from The Compleat Country Dancing Master, printed by John Walsh, c. 1740, published under the title ‘The Barbadoes’. On first glances the tune seemed quite unusual and far too complex for the average melodeon player, so I altered the rhythms slightly to turn it into a 32 bar jig. It seemed the obvious conclusion to pair ‘Barbados’ with ‘Jamaica’ (printed as ‘Jameko’ in the 4th edition of Playford’s English Dancing Master, 1670) to create an excitingly exotic Caribbean themed tune set. I first learnt Jamaica for a production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals in 2010, but when I came to put this set together I had long since lost the music, so had to follow my fingers and see what of the tune I could remember. A few months on I heard the original tune in the background of a BBC documentary and, much to my surprise, it wasn’t too dissimilar to my half remembered tune!
11 Fireman’s Growl
Another song associated with Tony Rose, I first heard this sung by Tony on the LP Steam Ballads (which also features Harry Broadman, Kempion and Jon Raven). The album notes credit Karl Dallas’ One Hundred Songs of Toil as the source for this song. According to One Hundred Songs of Toil, the song had its origins in a set of anonymous verses published in written around the early twentieth century and published in the Railway Gazette. I believe it was Karl Dallas who set these verse to the widespread tune ‘Tramps and Hawkers’. I’ve always thought that this has one of the finest last verses of any song and it always seems to put a grin on the faces of my audiences, so I’ve chosen to close the album with it.