MT logo Letters: January - December 2006

Re: The Widow's Moor

I suppose that it had to happen one day.  In the new EFDSS book Traveller's Joy I printed a great song The Widow's Moor that I had recorded from the Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson.  It was late at night, and when I asked Duncan about the song, which I had never heard before, he was rather vague about where the song came from.  I, mistakenly, assumed that Duncan was being shy and that he had, in fact, written the song himself.  And that is what I said in the book.

I have now been told that the song was actually written by the singer Mick Ryan.  So, firstly, my apologies to Mick.  Had I known that he wrote the song I would, of course, have sought his permission to include the song in the book.  Secondly, I am glad that the song is now in the book, because Duncan's version already shows a slight differing from Mick's original song.  Somebody (Duncan?), seeing the similarity between The Widow's Moor and the ballad The Devil and the Farmer's Wife has added a couple of lines from this ballad to Mick's song.

I'm told that some Irish Travellers were once heard singing Ewan MacColl's song The Shoals of Herring, except that their version had become The Shores of Erin.  It seems that The Widow's Moor could also now be heading into 'the tradition'.

Mike Yates - 26.12.06

Re: The case of William Graham

Dear Rod,

Thanks to you and to Roly Brown for the latest article in the series on the C19th Broadside Ballad Trade, Poaching and Transportation - the case of William Graham, and I wonder if I could add some comments to the article.

The article by Roly Brown and the two ballads about the 1857 trial of William Graham of Ainstable seem to indicate that Graham had a local reputation as more than just a notorious and violent poacher.  In the nearby village of Wreay, nearly a century later, Len Irving was recorded singing The Lish Young Buy-a-Broom, and he added that it was said that William Graham, the Cumberland poacher, had written this song.  Len Irving was then aged around 74 and he had been singing the song for forty years.  As far as he knew the song had always been sung in Wreay.

The performance of this song by Len Irving then goes on to demonstrate just why this song had endured so well in local memory.  You can hear the audience delight in joining the chorus, and enjoy the interplay between them as he leaves some of the words for them to sing.  You can tell that Len Irving has lived with this song for a lifetime, and, despite a short bout of coughing, this recording captures the intimacy of a group of local men celebrating a popular local tradition.  In short, the song celebrates a wandering musician getting drunk and getting laid, and bragging about it all afterwards!

If indeed William Graham was the author (or even the reputed protagonist) of this song, it is easy to see why he was remembered in Cumberland so fondly a century after his transportation to Australia.  It is a cheerful and convivial song whose performance on this recording demonstrates its real Cumbrian roots.  Len Irving's singing has a pace and variation that for me restored the vigour of this song enough to make me want to sing it - when other modern recordings had seemed rather bloodless.

Sadly there is no way to prove that William Graham was indeed the author of The Lish Young Buy-a-Broom, but thanks to Roly Brown's researches there is now a better picture of the man.  Further enquiries may yet give still more detail.

Note:  The 1953 recordings of Len Irving and other Cumberland singers were made by a local sound recordist, Jack Little, for the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle.  The acetates were forgotten until Sue Allen found them again in 1975; she issued them on an LP for Reynard Records RR002 in 1982, and this LP was reissued on CD by Veteran in 2001 - VT134CD.

Hope this is of interest.  There are also a few tantalising shreds of information about William Graham that I'd like to follow up, but I'll probably need to travel to Carlisle which will make an enjoyable trip sometime in the next few months.

All the best,

Matthew Edwards - 12.11.06

(These details have now been added to the William Graham article - Ed.)

Re: New double CD of Lizzie Higgins

I'm delighted to see the new double CD of Lizzie Higgins is now available.  You may like to know that when Hamish Henderson recorded a version of the song She's Only My Old Shoes (Lizzie's title for The False Bride) from John Strachan, John explained how the 'auld shoes' verse was only sung in certain circumstances.  You can hear him singing, and talking about, the song on the CD Hamish Henderson Collects - Kyloe CD107.

Mike Yates - 20.10.06


DrevA is a group of Russian musicians and singers who have contacted me about a European tour they are planning from June 5th 2007.  I am normally very sceptical about groups touting for gigs, and find that that they are usually not what Musical Traditions is about.  However, having played some of the sound clips on their website (, I am happy to acknowledge that DrevA is both authentic and stunning.  Anyone who is into field recordings of Russian folk music will recognise them as the real deal, and high quality real deal at that.

If you can help DrevA with their tour, please email or

Best Wishes,

Fred McCormick - 16.10.06

Stanley Robertson CD

Having been less than totally enthusiastic about Stanley's singing on Rum, Scum Scoosh, (see review) I would like to be able to refer people to an album of his singing that I consider to be worthy of this great singer.

I received through the post from Stanley yesterday an album called A Keeper of the Lore which was released in 1999 and which I am ashamed to say I have never heard of.  This only shows that I should read your website more closely, because the album as it is referred to by Mike Yates in his notes on the VotP series.  There Mike says: 'A similarly titled ballad sung by Stanley Robertson (Aberdeenshire) on the CD A Keeper of the Lore (STAN 1099) is actually a different ballad.', whilst the careless notes on the album say that it is 'also known as Twa Pretty Boys' making it sound as if it is the same ballad as the well known one from Belle Stewart.

Even where they are accurate, the notes are very short and hardly adequate, and Stanley states that that he is very unhappy with the sleeve design and was not consulted about it.  That aside, if one considers only the performances of the ten songs and ballads here, then this must be considered as one of the finest of all the albums of Scots Traveller singers and that is certainly saying something.

It appears to still be available from   I'd like to add that I found both his club appearances on his recent visit to South-East England utterly enthralling and would urge anyone with an interest in traditional singing to get a chance to hear him live whilst he is still at the height of his powers.

Best wishes

Vic Smith - 10.10.06

Book on the Elliotts

I am working on a book on the Elliotts of Birtley, and have more or less worked my way through the material I have.  There is other material I know about and intend to get hold of shortly, but would be grateful for anything readers have that might be useful.  Recordings of conversations or gigs, letters, photos, or anecdotes would be the thing.

When I say I am working on a book, I do not yet have a publisher, but hope you will agree that this is an important project and that a means of publishing ought to be forthcoming.  I am a bit surprised that somebody has not already done it, and that it is a bit late in the day, but meanwhile, I want to get on with it.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Pete Wood - 12.9.06
01661 832705,

Re: The Seven Virgins or The Leaves of Life

Just read Fred's letter (see below).  In the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols it's 'sit in the gallery'.  The notes say:
Melody and a version of the text from Mrs Whatton and Mrs Loveridge, The Homme, Dilwyn.  From Twelve Traditional Carols from Herefordshire (Leather and Vaughan Williams), Stainer & Bell. Cf. Popular Carols, by F Sidwick (Sidwick and Jackson).  This fine example of the way in which a mystical vision is created by the best folk-poetry appeared in the Staffordshire A Good Christmas Box, 1847. Sylvester (1861) printed a version of it from an 'old Birmingham broadside'.  Sir A Quiller-Couch included it in the Oxford Book of English Verse, and Walter de la Mare in Come Hither.
I can confirm that A Good Christmas Box has the words:
Go down, go down to yonder town,
And sit in the gallery
It's the same in the Sylvestre version, which you can find at

All the best,

Andy Turner - 5.9.06

Re: Mondegreens

I'm glad to see those Lewis Carroll-like creatures, the mondegreens, are on the march again.  Who said rumours of the demise of good humour around MT were anything less than greatly exaggerated? (See Roly Brown's letter of 13 August).  However, two of Terry Moylan's contributions to the mondegreen page had me reaching for the anorak.

First of all, the company which made that gaff over The Queen of O' Donnell was Folkways, not Columbia.  The air in question appears under that title on Folkways LP FW 8781; Traditional Music of Ireland, Vol. 1: The Older Traditions of Connemara and Clare (1963), where it was played by Denis Murphy.

Unfortunately, mistranslating Caoine Uí Dhomhnaill as The Queen of O' Donnell was far from being the only mistake in that anthology.  Indeed, the subtitle alone must have raised a few eyebrows, and not just because Murphy came from neither Clare nor Connemara!  Among many other howlers which let down this LP and its sister, Traditional Music of Ireland, Vol. 2: Songs and Dances from Down, Kerry, and Clare (FW 8782), is a misidentification of one of the songs from Seán de Hóra [sic].  Sam Charters, the producer of these LPs, lists it as a local topographical song called Dun an Oir [also sic].  It is of course, the extremely well known Spailpín a Rúin.

Getting back to mondegreens, if 'sit in the gallery' (from Seven Virgins or The Leaves of Life) is one, then I suspect it is a corruption of Calvary, rather than Galilee.  However, given the association between religious carols and church galleries, I also suspect that it may be more metaphor than mondegreen.

In fact, the use of the word gallery in this carol goes back a long way before the Watersons.  Ewan MacColl recorded it in 1956 Great British Ballads Not Included in the Child Collection (Riverside RLP 12-629), and his version gives gallery also.  Kenny Goldstein's notes to that track do not pick up on this, but they do observe the following:

It first appeared in print in a Staffordshire chapbook, A Good Christmas Box, published in 1847, and it is probable that most versions of The Seven Virgins that have been recorded from tradition were learned from this chapbook collection.  Various 19th century broadsides of the ballad may also have played a part in standardizing the text in circulation.  The version sung by MacColl is primarily the chapbook version mentioned above, with a few emendations from Enoch Pickering, of Teague's Bridge, Salop.  The tune was collected in 1923 by Cecil Sharp from Samson Price, of Salop.
I don’t have a copy of the said Staffordshire chapbook, but I’d be interested to learn whether gallery occurs there as well.  In any event, I looked up the Price and Pickering versions in the Maud Karpeles edition of Sharp.  Inconveniently, Price has the virgins heading off to the ‘holy dwell’.

To complicate matters, the Pickering version was originally printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 5 (1914) pp.21-23.  As with Goldstein, Pickering is how he is identified there.  However, Karpeles calls him Enoch Pickaway!

For me though the biggest puzzle of all is why Ewan MacColl, an unswerving atheist and Marxist, should have chosen to record this admittedly very beautiful carol.  Also, why an implacable enemy of the ruling class, with all its figureheads and icons, should have included the following verse:

O the rose, the gentle rose,
And the fennel that grows so green,
God give us grace in any place
To pray for Victoria our Queen.
As Carroll (Lewis that is) might not have said, “it gets peculiarer and peculiarer."

Best Wishes,

Fred McCormick - 2.9.06

Re: Recent articles

Delighted to find the articles on musicians got from Greg Stephens and Chris Holderness to add to contributions from the known, capable pen (fingers) of Keith Chandler and others.  I gather that these pieces came from elsewhere: well-spotted, indeed, editor.

I can only urge others who have or have had contact with traditional musicians and singers to make an effort to record music and memories and to post these on the MT site.  Pretty soon, people could be generally forgotten - I think of Walter Pardon and Fred Jordan.

And, in any case, this recounting, surely, represents the lifeblood of the magazine - along with a vibrant letters page ...  Of course, the latter may engender controversy but, apart from possible spites, offers immediacy and a continuing commentary and ought to benefit everyone as exchange, modification and suggestion always do.

Meanwhile - what's happened to Mondegreens?  Are we all suddenly po-faced?


Roly Brown - 13.8.06
(alive and well and annoying the natives and exiles in France)

Re: A P Bishop?

The New Arkansas Travelers’ I Tickled 'Em and Handy Man have both been outed before.  I Tickled 'Em appears on New World NW 264, Old Country Music in a New Land, whilst Handy Man is on Library of Congress LP Folk Music in America; Volume 11, Songs of Humour and Hilarity, LBC 11.

Dick Spottswood's note to this track is as follows:

New Arkansas Travelers: A. Bishop, vocal; two harmonicas, guitar. Recorded February 4, 1928, in Memphis. Originally issued on Victor 21288 (mx#"BVE-41847-2).

Side Two opens with a curious recording of what is almost certainly an English music-hall song, from the eighteen-nineties, as played by the New Arkansas Travelers.  Victor released it in its hillbilly series, and there is no evidence that the company was aware of the singer's pronounced East London accent or that the record's intended audience might find the song and some of its vocabulary a little exotic.  The group recorded three more numbers, all of which can be traced to English songs published between 1895 and 1910.

John Cowley’s note for Handy Man is much longer, expresses the same puzzlement over the group’s identity and the vocalist’s accent, and adds the information that the Travelers recorded again a week later.  On that occasion they recorded Burglar Bill and Glorious Beer.  Both were seemingly London music hall songs, and both were published by London publishers.  Neither recording was released.

Cowley goes on to say, 'The source of I Tickled 'Em has not been traced.  Handy Man,however, is a rendering of The Amateur Whitewasher, written by Fred Murray and Fred Leigh.'  It was apparently published in London by Howard and Co, in May 1896.

Neither Cowley or Spottswood can offer any clue to A Bishop’s identity or the other members of the group.  However, they were writing in the 1970s, and the fact that Bishop now appears with a second initial may suggest that some further work has been done.

Both writers express surprise that Victor Records should record such a group and include them in their country music catalogue.  I can’t say I share their surprise.  First of all, despite its instrumentation, the band doesn’t sound all that unusual for a country music outfit.  Secondly, record companies then and now, recorded anything and everything they thought they could sell, and they doubtless put this one in the country music catalogue because they had nowhere else.

What does puzzle me though is the group’s name.  It’s quite possible that they were domiciled in Arizona of course, and that they made the journey over to Memphis for the recording session.  But I couldn’t imagine a cockney music hall singer, backed by two harmonicas and a guitar, being much of a draw on the string band circuit.  Were they perhaps just three scratch musicians who decided to try their luck, and could the name New Arkansas Travelers have been coined for them by the record company?

Fred McCormick - 1.8.06

A P Bishop?

Listening to the new 4CD box-set Serenade in the Mountains (a collection of American Old-Timey recordings from the 1920s and '30s, that have been issued on JSP 7780) I am struck by an oddity - namely two songs that were recorded in 1929 by the 'New Arkansas Travellers'.  The two tracks, I Tickled 'Em and Handy Man, are sung by someone called 'A P Bishop' and are backed by guitar and two mouthorgans.  They were recorded by Victor and, presumably, issued in the States.  But, the odd thing is that 'A P Bishop' is clearly an Englishman and the songs are from the Music Hall stage (in fact, Handy Man is the song that George Spicer and others sang as Slap Dash, up against the brickwork).  I have had a look at some of the standard Music Hall books, but can find nothing about Mr Bishop.  Can any MT readers offer help in identify this singer?

Mike Yates - 30.7.06

Re: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll review


... the tunes which Becki Driscoll plays do seem to be minor and major versions of Hardy's Gypsy Hornpipe (which the Mellstock Band recorded last century), which in turn seems to be a combination of a (i) tune called alternatively Queen's or Kean's which appears in Bowen's collection of hornpipes from Welsh sources (A music) and (ii) (I think) Devil Among the Tailors (B music).

The Queen's / Kean's in Bowen has a B music to equal the A music which is familiar from Hardy's Gypsy's Hornpipe.  I'm quite relieved that the CD Queen's lacks that B music, because I've lately started inflicting the full tune from Bowen on my associates, and feared the coincidence might lead to suggestions of plagiarism!


Phil Heath-Coleman - 6.6.06

Re: Copyright Editorial

Your editorial, Proposed Mechanical Copyright Extension, sounds a timely and essential warning, not least because the existence of the Parliamentary Review Committee in question seems to have been one of the best kept secrets in Westminster!

However, whilst you rightly spell out the dangers of the proposed legislation, I fear the effects will be even more devastating than your editorial claims.  That is because the combined efforts of various small reissue companies have made virtually all the out of copyright commercial 78 recordings of the music, which this magazine celebrates, available on CD.However, the vast holdings of the BBC, Peter Kennedy, etc, remain largely untapped - Ed.1  Many of these companies, eg. Topic, Frog, Document, MT ... are British based and so would be directly affected by the proposed legislation.It's my understanding that non-British companies wishing to publish British material would also be affected - Ed.2  They are typically small and typically vulnerable.  Their products are labours of love.

Practically all the world’s traditional music was captured on disc anterior to the time limit which would be set by a 95 year copyright.  If, for the sake of argument, it were enacted tomorrow, the 95 year rule would apply to:

  1. every single blues reissue that has ever been made,
  2. every single old time country reissue that has ever been made,
  3. every single jazz reissue that has ever been made,
  4. every single Scots or Irish or English reissue of traditional music and song that has ever been made.
  5. even, God help us, the phonograph recordings of pioneering collectors like Grainger, Sharp and Vaughan Williams would be caught in this net, although thankfully not for long.
Therefore, reissue companies would effectively be forced to quit the market or be forced to pay crippling and prohibitive royalties.  The only exemptions would apply to the thankfully large bodies of ethnic recordings which were made prior to 1911.

The musics listed above are typically enjoyed by small minority audiences.  When aggregated, however, the number of people who would be deprived by these changes represents a significantly sizeable section of the public.  Also, the collective output of the various reissue labels adds up to a formidable body of music.  Their releases are typically well produced and well mastered.  With one or two lamentable exceptions, they come with copious and scholarly booklet notes, and they are invaluable social documents.  They give us a much clearer picture of the musical culture and listening habits of previous generations than we could otherwise have hoped for.

Moreover, as you point out, this is happening at the very time when huge numbers of the BBC‘s field recordings are entering the public domain, and I can imagine at least one crooked collector who will be rubbing his hands with glee.  MT readers will not have forgotten that these recordings were gathered with public money, and they should be freely available to all.  It is unlikely however, that anyone in the pro-95 year camp will even have heard of the riches in the BBC sound archive, or be remotely interested.  Neither will they consider the reissue of commercially recorded traditional music to be of any aesthetic or cultural value.

Therein lies the problem.  We are up against a powerful lobby which includes such well heeled interests as Kenny Ball and that well known friend of Tony Blair, Cliff Richard.  Both have been heard making highly spurious arguments about the need to protect their records from exploitation by others.Anyone who is interested can read Cliff Richard's 2004 submission to the European Commission on this subject.  Alternatively, Google 'Submission by Sir Cliff Richard to the European Commission'3

This is blatant hypocrisy.  These individuals are speaking on behalf of an industry which over the years has systematically and ruthlessly exploited any non-copyright material from which it could extract a profit.  Folk, jazz, classical, third world music, you name it.  It has been up for grabs for years.

Personally, I couldn’t give a toss whether the Cliff Richards of this world lose their copyright or not.  However, I am not willing to see the music which I love disappear forever, simply because a collection of media fat cats decide they have not done with living off their royalties.

I therefore offer three observations:

  1. We need some sort of national co-ordinated effort from all the parties who will be adversely affected, should the 95 year proposition become law.  Changes in the legislation will not just hit traditional music fans.  Companies reissuing vintage classical music, music hall, early comedy routines, pre-world war 2 dance band music etc., will likewise find their efforts curtailed.
  2. We should push for a ‘use it or lose it’ clause in any changes to the existing legislation.  In other words, if the major record companies are not prepared to reissue the material themselves, then they should lose the right to prevent others from doing so, or of charging copyright fees.
  3. Get your objection to the Parliamentary Review Committee in by this coming Friday.  It doesn’t have to be a lucid and literary work of art.  Just sound a note of alarm as to what will happen to your music if these proposals go ahead.  The email address is on our editorial page but I’ll repeat it here:


  1. However, the vast holdings of the BBC, Peter Kennedy, etc, remain largely untapped - Ed.
  2. It's my understanding that non-British companies wishing to publish British material would also be affected - Ed.
  3. Anyone who is interested can read Cliff Richard's 2004 submission to the European Commission on this subject. It is at . Alternatively Google "Submission by Sir Cliff Richard to the European Commission" .

Fred McCormick - 19.4.06


Re: Fred McCormick's letter

[Please read my Editorial, 20.4.06, in conjunction with this letter - Ed.]

Some of you may be aware of a discussion that has been taking place on The Mudcat Discussion Forum regarding, among other things, the Musical Traditions reviews of The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin and Around the Hills of Clare.  The relevant correspondence may be accessed, in order of appearance on the Mudcat Archive under 'Dog And Gun, Origins of Golden Glove', 'Folk Song Collector For Sale' (30 days old) 'Hunky Collector Required' and 'West Clare Collector Kidnapped By Taliban', (three days plus old) -­ all good adult stuff as you may gather.

I was drawn into the discussion when my name, along with two others, was incorrectly identified as one of the correspondents.  In the course of my involvement I inadvertently mentioned to Fred McCormick an e-mail that had been sent to me last year, (and presumably others, though I have no way of knowing this) asking my opinion on some of the points Fred had raised in his revue of the Elizabeth Cronin book.  The writer in no way claimed that the quotes given were the full review; in fact he took pains to point me to The Musical Traditions review page for the full version.  He said they were merely a large number of points selected for clarification.  He did not express an opinion himself but did ask that his name was not passed on as he knew Fred and lived in the same part of the country.  I did not respond to the questions as I did not wish to be involved in what I had made clear to the reviewer was a fairly distasteful affair.

I withdrew from the Mudcat discussion when I realized, (as was also pointed out to us by a friendly neutral), it was not helping the cause of traditional music.  I was also becoming aware of the somewhat disturbing tone in the discussion.

Anybody in the slightest bit interested in the discussion (squabble) may follow the whole bizarre saga and make up their own minds on the rights and wrongs of the issues; as far as I am concerned the matter is closed and I have no more to say on it, apart from the fact that this is not why I became involved in traditional music.

Best wishes,

Jim Carroll - 17.4.06

Re: Elizabeth Cronin book review

Five years and ten months ago I posted a review of The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin book and CD package, on this site.  It was a damning indictment of one of the worst pieces of scholarship I have ever seen, but it was also full of praise for the audio side of that package - two CDs of some of the most magnificent singing ever heard in Ireland.

From that day to this I have been persecuted and hounded by a small group of fundamentalists and fanatics, whose vilification of me has centred entirely and solely around my coverage of the hard copy side of the package.  The latest episode in this vendetta can be seen at Mudcat cafe.

I have now been told - and I have good reason to believe this intelligence is true - that some nameless individual took my review, removed all the positive aspects and doctored the rest to make it look complete.  It was then circulated to various people in Ireland and presented to them as though it were an exact reproduction of what I had written.  The intention was to discredit me and my review, and I find it incredible that anyone who calls themselves a human being could resort to such treachery.

Apart from the fact that this is clear breach of copyright, it is also a monumental breach of human ethics.  And it is difficult to imagine the kind of warped and twisted psychology which it would take for someone to stoop to such verminous tactics.  However, it does explain why all the attacks on me and on my review have focused solely on my coverage of the book, and why various denigrators keep insisting that I ignored the book's subject entirely.

If anyone knows the name of the creep who did this, I would be glad if they would tell me.  I can be e-mailed at and any information will be treated with strictest confidence.

For anyone who has been bamboozled by this perversion of the truth, or who has not read it already, the complete review can be seen here.  They will find it every bit as objective and unbiased as anything else I have written.

Yours sincerely,

Fred McCormick - 11.4.06

William Winter,19th centrury fiddle player, West Bagborough, Somerset

I have been transcribing the tunes in a manuscript from 1848 and 1850 used by William Winter of West Bagborough in the Quantocks.  This book seems to have been ignored by musicians and researchers over the years, but is of equal worth to similar manuscript collections such as those of Thomas Hardy and John Clare.

The tune book was bought by Geoff Rye from a dealer in about 1960 and eventually placed in the Margaret Grant library at Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset.  The manuscript contains over 470 items, most of which are dances dating back to the 18th century, together with early 19th century quadrilles, waltzes and a few polkas.  There are a few songs and 'novelty' items, as well as tunes for Victorian parlour songs.  There is also a section comprising several military marches (2 of which are in The Coleford Jig, Gloucestershire collection).

My aim is to produce a book of some of the tunes with relevant background material.  Such a book might also include other tunes associated with Somerset traditional musicians.

I have been researching the life of William Winter and would be interested to hear from anyone who may have relevant information.  William Winter senior was a shoemaker, born in Lydeard St Lawrence in 1775.  He lived in West Bagborough from about 1820 until his death in 1861.  His wife had several children, one of whom was a son, also William, born in Lydeard St Lawrence.  He lived in West Bagborough during his youth, but eventually moved to Taunton during the 1840s.  He and his wife had 10 children.He died in 1898.

I have not yet established whether it was the father, William Winter or his son who was the musician (or indeed , both).  There is a tantalising reference in Ruth Tongue's book Chime Child, written in the 1960s, to William Winter of Bagborough.  As she was born in 1898, she can only have heard of him from memories of people she had met in her youth.  This might suggest that it was the younger man who was the fiddle player.

If there is anyone with any information which might be relevant, please get in touch.  I am also interested in any sources of information about dance and dance music in Somerset during the period, say 1800-1870.  I am looking at all the obvious sources (libraries, archives, newspapers, etc).

Geoff Woolfe - 21.3.06
48 Kensal Road Bristol BS3 4QU
0117 9632126

Re: 'Prad' in Mondegreens page (3)

I'd like to comment on Robin Hayes' letter and remarks about 'prads'.  Bicycles were known as prads.  I can recall hearing and using the term in the late 1940s and early 1950s, although the most popular name was 'Grid'.

It's true that the shearers used bicycles to cover long distances in the Australian backblocks.  Sometimes two men shared one bike; the first would ride a nominated distance then leave the bike and start walking.  The second man would walk to where the bike was left and ride on, past the first man to another spot, then leave the bike and start walking again.  This continued until their destination was reached.

However the song I mentioned, The Overlander, is a song about the men who moved mobs of cattle vast distances.  In fact the droving team in the song had come from Queensland down into New South Wales, a journey of some hundreds of miles.  I don't think that a bicycle would have been much use.  The last verse of the song says it all:

And now my lads we're jogging back, this pony she's a goer,
I'll pick up a job with a crawling mob along the Maranoa.
Thanks again for a great site - it's a real treasure.

Bob Rummery - 2.3.06

Re: 'Prad' in Mondegreens page (2)

A 'prad' may have been a bicycle in Australia, but it was certainly a horse in England.  The word predates 1788 (when a 'prad-lay' was the cutting of bags from a horse, i.e. stealing them) and may come from the Dutch word 'paard', which means a horse.  I first came across the word when Phoebe Smith used it in her song fragment Young Morgan.

Mike Yates - 23.2.06

Re: 'Prad' in Mondegreens page (1)

(See Bob Rummery's original Mondegreen contribution here)

A 'prad' was a early bicycle of the period, not a horse.  Once early pushbikes (ignoring the cumbersome penny farthings - which were really not suitable for the rough ungraded unsealed roads of the outback) became available, the shearers preferred them to trudging hundreds of miles on foot carrying a swag - they may have been shearers, but they weren't stupid you know!

You won't confess your mistakes openly, surely?

Robin Hayes - 22.2.06

Re: World's first jazz record?

A few thoughts on the subject of Columbia E4396.  Following on from the Original Dixieland Jazz (Jass) Band's recordings of February and March 1917 (Columbia and Victor), the following dates come to mind, and there are probably others that I haven't thought of. I suggest therefore that Olga Bibor's recording of May 1919 had the Jazz name added probably by Columbia executives, following the popular trend, rather than by the band themselves.  Bibor's recording was far from being the first to have the word Jass or Jazz in its title, and it was miles away from the style of any of the other bands listed above.

I wonder whether whoever suggested it was the world's first jazz record was simply hoping to inflate the marketable value of his saleable item!

Colin Heath - 20.2.06

Re: Eddie Butcher review

As you know, I detest letters of the I-liked-the-record-so-your-review-stinks variety.  Also, as the most poverty stricken reviewer in history, I am very keen on products which give value for money, and I make a point of highlighting the same in my own reviews.  However, a couple of points in your coverage of Eddie Butcher's Adam in Paradise CD require comment.

First of all, the Taisce Cheol Dúchais Éireann press release for this disc has the price at €12.00 if you buy it from theem, or €13.50 including p&p.  That represents a considerable saving over the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum price which, incidentally, is £12.00, only if you order it from them.  Otherwise, the price is £10.00. Even so, €12.00 (which, if I've done it right woorks out at a little over £8.00) still sounds somewhat on the steep side.  So I wouldn't try to defend it, but for certain mitigating circumstances.

Firstly, this CD is a reissue of one of the great masters of Ulster folksong, and is worthy of the attention of anyone interested in traditional singing.  In particular, I would draw readers' attention to Eddie's magnificent The Cocks is Crowing.  This is surely the finest version of that song ever collected anywhere, and arguably the crowning glory of his whole repertoire.  Incidentally, I think I'm right in saying that the only other commercially available records of Eddie Butcher are on Topic's Voice of the People.  So it would be unwise for punters to turn their noses up at this one.

Also, the CD originated as an extended player, before being transferred to pre-recorded cassette, in Hugh Shield's excellent European Ethnic Traditions series.  If this disc is the prelude to re-releases of others in that series, then I for one will be delighted.

Incidentally, I wonder if Dr Shields still holds the rights to the recordings on Eddie Butcher's Leader LP.  There is another disc which is crying out for reissue, as are Eddie's Free Reed and Outlet LPs. Best Wishes,

Fred McCormick - 13.2.06

Re: World's first jazz record?

Re: Fred McCormick’s letter about the Olga Bibor record.  Having had a listen at the Library of Vinyl site (thanks for the link – some interesting stuff there), I think the jazz connections are a bit more than coincidental.  The tune sounds to me like it’s based, at least partly, on Weary Blues, a jazz standard dating from 1915, by Artie Matthews (prolific African American songwriter and ragtime composer).  Maybe Bibor’s title is a reference to the theme having been lifted from an album of Matthews’s sheet music – well, maybe.

Ray Templeton - 20.1.06

Re: World's first jazz record?

Fred McCormick's query re: Olga Bibor's Peasant Jazz Orchestra is an easy one to answer.  Spottswood's Ethnic Music on Record, volume 3, page 1239, gives it as recorded in New York City in May 1919.  They recorded first for Victor, beginning in March 1916 (after a trial run the previous month).  The disc pictured (Columbia E 4396 - E for Ethnic) is from their eleventh session, and there were two others held during the following year.  Spottswood gives them as Hungarian, not Ukranian, though (and their rejected sessions for Edison are given as by Olga Bibor Hungarian Orchestra), but they were almost always issued under a name which included a variant of 'Gypsy', suggesting their ethnic origin.  Like many such emigrant ensembles in New York during this period, their output included folk dance melodies (csardas, waltz, lander), as well as Tin Pan Alley tunes such as Silver threads among the gold.

A Google search using "Olga Bibor" reveals a number of their 78s for sale by various US dealers, all at a cheap price.

Keep up the great work.  Best wishes for 2006 to all.

Keith Chandler - 10.1.06

World's first jazz record?

I've had my attention drawn to what has been claimed as the world's first jazz record.  Since it was made in 1919, and postdates the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's coupling of Livery Stable Blues and Original Dixieland One Step by about two years, it clearly is not.

To add a bizarre touch to the affair, the record was made by a Ukrainian band called Olga Bibor's Peasant Jazz Orchestra.  It can be heard at, and to me it just sounds like a typical Eastern European polka band, with nothing more than superficial and coincidental similarities to jazz.  The title of the record is Out of my Album, and its catalogue number has been quoted to me as Columbia E1896.  However, the number on the accompanying label looks more like E 4396.

The whole thing seems to be an attempt to cash in on the then current wave of jazz interest, which the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's relases had provoked.  However, I'm interested to know who Olga Bibor was, and whether her band recorded under any other name(s).

I wonder if anybody out there can help?

Fred McCormick - 7.1.06


Rod Stradling - e-mail:  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos  GL5 2HP, UK

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