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Re: Old Song - 2

The first time that I heard this song was sometime in the early 1970s.  I can't be certain who sang it but I think that it was Bob Lewis; I will ask him.  I used to borrow folk song LPs from the East Sussex County Library in those days, and I was pleased to hear it on an album of field recordings from - I seemed to remember - Wisconsin, but to a different melody.  I was amazed to find that this came up straight away, via:

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Music Division - Recording Laboratory.  FOLK MUSIC OF THE UNITED STATES Issued from the Collections of the Archive of Folk Song Long-Playing Record L55.  FOLK MUSIC FROM WISCONSIN Edited by Helene Stratman-Thomas.  The notes on that song were as follows:

How Happy is the Sportsman
[Sung by J, L, Peters at Beloit, 1946. Recorded by Aubrey Snyder and Phyllis Pinkerton]

This ballad was brought to Wisconsin from England by the Cornish who settled in the lead-mining area of southwestern Wisconsin in the early decades of the nineteenth century.  Mr. Peters learned the song, when a small boy in Mineral Point, from hearing his father and grandfather sing it.  Baring-Gould, who collected the song in England, refers to it as a very old ballad which dates back at least to the early seventeenth century.  Around 1888 he obtained the song from an old quarryman at Merrivale Bridge in Devon, near the border of Cornwall.  The Baring-Gould version begins "There were three jovial Welshmen" and refers to the fox as Reynard.  In Mr. Peters' song the fox is called Bovena.  The verses of the two versions are similar, but the melodies have little in common.

Baring-Gould, p. VI I, pp.154-155, Notes, pp.21-22; Cox, pp.476-477; Eddy, pp.202-204; Flanders, Ballard, Brown and Barry, pp.196-197;
Linscott, pp.290-292 Opie, p.423; Randolph, 1 , pp.326-327.

Vic Smith - 18.3.18

Re: Old Song - 1

Hello Rod.

Referring to the song fragment below, there is a variant of it, and much more complete, being sung in the Devon/Cornwall region.

I first came across it some 50 years ago being sung by Ken Penney of Exeter, and I'm pretty sure it was in the repertoire of Tony Rose and Cyril Tawney.  My gut feeling is that it's source is probably Exmoor.

Here's the chorus, as I know it:


Vic Legg - 16.3.18

Old Song

Recently, while browsing though some back issues of The Radio Times I came across this letter, written by one C J Watkinson of Leeds.  It appears in issue 560 of the magazine which is dated 24th June, 1934 - 30th June, 1934 and is on page 898.

Old Song

Mike Yates - 15.3.18

Book help, please

Well, my local library has finally done it.  They had three excellent and now rare books on Canadian folksongs on the shelves. All were very rare ... now gone!  Likely thrown in the skip.  What can I expect from an institution that changed its name to 'The Idea Exchange'?  Yuck-o.

If anyone knows where I can find copies of these books, please let me know.

Thanks to various friends, Brad now has access to these three books - Ed.

Brad McEwen - 16.2.18

Re: 'Austerity Bites' editorial

I've just had the following from someone who's just bought a copy of Just Another Saturday Night, Sussex 1960 (MTCD309-0) - Ed.

Dear Rod,

I had a quick look through your recent Musical Traditions editorials, and wanted to briefly respond to your 'Austerity Bites' piece published last November.

I very much sympathise with your evaluation of the younger end of current folk scene, but wanted to offer myself as an example of how all is perhaps not too glum?  I am 'only' (ha!) 35, but am very much committed to real traditional singing.  I came to it from a background of studying traditional singers in Bulgaria when I was at university, and a desire to find out whether we had anything similar closer to home.  I found out that we most certainly did when I came across the recordings Percy Grainger made of Joseph Taylor.

Since then its been a slow process of following leads into what has felt like a lost world.  I have very little interest in (though nothing against) the contemporary folk scene, though to be honest, I've never really felt inspired to investigate it too much.  Instead, I've taken most of my inspiration from the sort of field recordings you have devoted yourself to making publically available, various printed and online resources, and amazing friends from Ireland (and further afield) where, as you say in your article, there is so much more value attached to traditional singing.

I don't sing in public very often.  When I do, it is within events that are more part of the art/performance scene than any branch of the music world (where funnily enough, I think people are much more open minded about listening to someone sing a long song with no accompaniment), or those rare occasions when you're at someone's house for dinner, they ask you to sing, and it somehow feels like the right moment.  Predominantly though, I just sing at home, in the kitchen!

Please don't lose heart.  Your efforts to make rare and indescribably precious singing available to a wider audience really are filtering down through the generations, even if it might not seem like it sometimes.


Phil Owen - 14.2.18


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

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