MT logo Letters 2009

Re: Ten Records that Changed my Life - a confession

Rod - a belated reply to 2007 email for Paul Cowdell - see Letters 2007 near bottom of page.

I was the 'record supremo' in Robert Maxwell's then new Oxford bookshop and was responsible for the Folkways stock.  I think I had consulted Maxwell on one of his epansive "we must have everything" days.  Yes, I was egged on by Dave Arthur (and Toni) and by the importer, Nathan Joseph.

But I was young and enthusiastic, believing that I would have unlimited support with advertising etc. and that I could sell anything.  So I must fess up.  About that time the shop was visited by a young saxophone-playing American student (and smoker who did not inhale) who may or may not have gone on to be a famous politician.  Just a thought.

Cheers !

Roger Lockwood - 20.11.09

Re: Erin's Lovely Home

Roly Brown clearly demonstrates how popular this song must once have been.  It was printed on numerous broadsides and was certainly popular with singers.  And then it all but vanished!  Roly cites an out-of-print LP for the Mary Ann Haynes version of the song.  In fact, it is currently available on two CDs - Here's Luck to a Man (Musical Traditions MTCD320) and Farewell My Own Dear Native Land (Topic TSCD654 - one of the Voice of the People albums).

I seem to recall that this was the first song that Mary chose to sing to me - a fact which suggests that it was one of her favourites.  The song may have survived into the 1970s in the Thames Valley: Frank Purslow, who was then working in a large Oxford Department store, mentioned that he had heard a member of staff whistling the tune.  I asked if he could obtain the person's details for me, so that I could follow this up, and he readily agreed.  Sadly though, despite a couple of gentle prods, he never did manage to pass this on to me and so we are only left with an unknown possibility.

Mike Yates - 13.11.09

Maliser Men 3

Dear Rod,

I had a discussion concerning the old dancing masters with Junior Crehan and he explained that "rise upon sugawn, sink upon gad", was the way that the dancing masters taught the country lads to dance, as they didn't know left from right because, of course most of them were not too good at the Bearla (English language).

The pieces of straw and willow, (or in some cases hay), were attached to the feet, so the instruction to start the dance step would be "Rise upon sugawn, sink upon gad".  When you think about it, it's very logical.

Jerry O'Reilly - 5.10.09

Maliser Men 2

Dear Rod,

Spotted Chris Holderness's letter (below).  Curious.  Was having a discussion about the very matter during last week - though not the exact circumstances.  W B Yeats has a passage somewhere in one of his prose collections (sadly, gone out of my reach due to an errant borrower's bodily disappearance ... there's a moral there).  Yeats was describing how certain Irish people got to learn left from right.  His phrase was, I think, 'Rise upon sugawn and sink upon gad' - right and left, as it were.  I have no idea if these words were from the Irish.  I doubt Yeats knew either.

[A súgán is a straw rope or mat, a gad is an osier or whithy. Ed.]

Roly Brown - 3.10.09
Oradour sur Vayres, France

Maliser Men?

Dear Rod,

Some time ago I wrote an article on Alfred 'Fiddler' Brown - MT186 - in which I stated that people in the Fens would follow the fiddler around the barn where the harvest supper was taking place, chanting "Hay man, straw man, raggedy arse, maliser man," adding that I did not know what the word "maliser" meant.  I have subsequently discovered that it is a corruption of "militia."  On Neil Lanham's double CD of Blaxhall Ship recordings, made in the early 1960s, Albert Richardson sings a song called The Militia Men which has the chorus "Hay men, straw men, ragged arsed militia men."

I read somewhere that during the American Civil War, many Union recruits did not know their left from right but, being farm boys, could easily identify different types of grain.  Consequently, a wisp of hay was tucked into one boot and a wisp of wheat or barley straw into the other and they would march to the command of "hay foot, straw foot" instead of left and right.  This would seem to have some direct connection with the song.  Can anybody shed any light on this?

Chris Holderness - 2.10.09

Mondegreenish matters

Paul de Grae (via Facebook, of all things!) brought my attention to your Lady Mondergreens page, and I laughed till I wept.  I knew a couple of them, of course, but there are some new gems there, as I know you know.  Might I contribute a couple?  (I reminded Niamh Parsons of one involving Crawford Howard which she'd forgotten about, but she says she'll send it in.)  [She has - Ed.]

I seem to come a cropper of tune titles, which I mishear with some frequency.  My first example involves a common fiddle tune called Lantern in the Ditch, which I learned from Bob Holt and Barbara Weathers at a noisy music party.  When I asked Barbara for the name of the tune, I could have sworn she said, "Leonard in the Ditch."  Somehow I didn't question the absurdity of this image: there are, after all, some pretty strange fiddle tune names out there.  Barbara passed on my howler to our mutual friend Jim Lansford, who redubbed it 'Raymond in the Ditch', in honour of a local drunk.

Then there was the jig, which I recorded on my 'to-learn' list as The Rolling Wives, after hearing ex-Londoner Kevin Burke introduce it at a concert.  When I looked at my list afterwards, I got quite a laugh out of my mistake, so I still like to write it this way on set lists.

Jerome Colburn writes that he heard The Walls of Liscarroll called 'The Waltz of Liz Carroll'.  When I played the tune at a session somewhere in the U.S. and, asked for the name, said it was The Walls of Liscarroll.  I was corrected very solemnly and told that it was "The Walls of Liz Carroll."  I hadn't realised that, apart from being a great fiddler, Liz was also a stonemason.

I don't have the Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads to hand, but I seem to remember one Somerset version of Sir Hugh (collected, I believe, by Cecil Sharp) beginning:

"It rains, it rains in American corn."
So much for merry Lincoln!   [This is true - Sharp collected it on Boxing Day 1905, from Mrs Joseph Ree of Hambridge, Somerset.  She sang: Do rain, do rain in American corn, do rain both great and small. Ed.]

Julie Henigan - 20.9.09

Re: Bert Lloyd interview

It was very interesting to read the 1970 interview with Bert Lloyd.  His ideas were always stimulating, even if one disagreed with them.  Many of the themes running through the interview (though not those of class structure) remain unchallenged despite four further decades of research.  Some of his notions - I think particularly of the clerk and the factory worker relying on the same sort of computer in order to carry out their trades - smack of prescience.

Incidentally, I loved the term 'exclusive bloke' to describe Ewan McColl.

A couple of apparent typos.  The record label here written as 'Okay' should be 'OKeh' (always two upper and two lower case letters on the original labels and publicity material).  And Carson 'Robinson' was actually 'Robison'.  It may be that Bert did actually say 'Robinson', in which case we need a '[sic - Robison]' added.

Keep up the good work.

Keith Chandler - 3.9.09

The penny has finally dropped!

An MT Records customer who already had nine of our CDs and has just ordered another five, wrote to me to say:

Dear Rod

Just had some birthday money so best commit it before it gets used for mending the hole in the roof or buying more plastic tat for the kids!

Been listening to revival singers for years - but now singing / playing more than previously and the penny has finally dropped!  There's enough treasure on these CDs to keep me going for several lifetimes - thank you for putting them out.

Best Regards

Virgil Philpott - 11.6.09

Songs of Protest

Dear Rod,

A strange coincidence, but on the day that British fascists have entered mainstream politics, following the EU elections, I just happened to receive the new Little Red Box of Protest Songs (Properbox 147), a collection of songs from the 1940s - '60s sung by the likes of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Josh White, Tom Glazer etc.  And, boy, don't they still sound relevent today (especially the song The Banks are Made of Marble).

I'm sure that, years ago, I once heard somebody say "We don't need any new songs, only the guts to sing the old ones".  Well, now is certainly the time to start singing.  Have a listen to If I Had a Hammer, We Shall be Free, Mr Hitler and all the other songs in the Proper set.  Now is the time to start singing them again and to remember that songs like this really can make a difference.

Mike Yates - 8.6.09

The Tooting Murder - 2

Hi Rod,

You may already know this but in the Roud index Peter Kennedy collected it from Pop under the title FRANK TAYLOR .

Malcolm Austen - 1.4.09

The Tooting Murder

Dear Rod

Pop Maynard's The Tooting Murder is surely a reference to the Tooting Tragedy of Fountain Road, Tooting in 1895 when Frank Taylor became unhinged and killed his wife and family - all except Frank Jr.

Best Wishes

Rex Osborn - 17.3.09
Tooting Local History Group

Secret Museum of the Air

Ray Templeton has already drawn attention here to a number of resources on the World Wide Web where vintage ethnic and ethnographic music and song may be heard and even freely downloaded.  Fans of such genres as pre-war French-Canadian music and Western Swing must be in heaven.  But many more obscure traditions have a presence, and a number of sites offer ultra rare tracks from as early as the first decade of the 20th century.

While surfing recently I came upon the 'Secret Museum of the Air' site, at:

Featured here are scores of hour long radio broadcasts drawing upon Pat Conte's vast collection of 78s, many themed geographically.  Among these is the broadcast from October 3, 2000, which features vintage material by (ostensibly - there are a few anomalies) English performers.  A good deal of it is not to my taste - revivalists such as Joan Sharp, Elsie Avril, Peter Kennedy, and the trained singers like John Goss, for example - but included are a galaxy of singers and musicians more deeply rooted in the older, community-based, traditional culture.  These include singers Phil Tanner, Joseph Taylor and Albert Richardson; and musicians such as Northumbrian piper Jack Armstrong (one side of that rare 1954 Manor 78, with Alice Little on harp), and Peter and Daniel Wyper (for some reason the compilers think they were English).  Some of the statements are rather naive and might legitimately be challenged on historical grounds, but I think it is worth a look for anyone with even a broad interest.

Good listening.

Keith Chandler - 2.2.09

E J Moeran - 3

Dear Rod,

At risk of sycophancy; can't think how I neglected Chris Heppa's article on Moeran.  Pleased that Chris wrote to you ...  A detailed study of the songs collected by Moeran, or at least some of them, wouldn't go amiss.

It should be said, though this may be anathema to some, that his settings for choir are particularly sensitive and engaging; and some of the best from all those composer/collectors of the time - VW, Holst and so on.


Roly Brown - 29.1.09

E J Moeran - 2

Dear Rod,

Like Roly Brown, I was delighted to read Chris Holderness's article on the piece by E J Moeran from the Norfolk Annual.  It is a fuller version of what Moeran published on the local east Norfolk singing tradition some years later, but with added benefit of some excellent photos and extra information.  It is marvellous to see a photgraph of Bob 'Jolt' Miller, a very important local singer, and uncle of William 'Bullets' Miller of Catfield, who sang with Harry Cox.  (I wrote an article on the Miller family and their songs in English Dance & Song, Vol 64, No.2, Summer 2002).

I also liked the photograph of a smiling Harry Cox holding his horse's reins.  Also of note to anyone interested in this singing tradition, which centred around Harry Cox and his friends, are the photos of Ingham Fair, a notable local event at which singing was prevalent.  Regarding the singing session in the Sutton Windmill, which Moeran recorded in October 1947, and subsequently broadcast on the Third programme, it is a pity that Moeran did not record more songs from Harry Cox's friends.  Moeran did record a further two songs from Elijah Bell, and a few from Charlie Chettleburgh and Walter Gales, but only one from William Miller, yet they all knew many more songs, and were all fine singers.

One noted local singer who was definitely present, but not apparently recorded, was Jack Riseborough of Catfield.  Why he was not recorded or broadcast I have been unable to discover, but Moeran certainly visited him at his home on several occasions.

For more information on this great tradition, may I recommend, like Roly, Roy Palmer's excellent article in Folk Music Journal on E J Moeran, Paul Marsh's accompanying notes to his CD, Harry Cox: The Bonny Labouring Boy, and, if modesty allows, my own article Harry Cox and his friends in Folk Music Journal Volume 8, No.5, 2005.

Best wishes

Chris Heppa - 28.1.09

E J Moeran

Dear Rod,

Delighted to see the article by Chris Holderness on E J Moeran; but let's not forget Roy Palmer's piece on the composer published in Folk Music Journal Vol.8, No.3, 2003, pp.345-361.


Roly Brown - 19.1.09


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

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