The 1908-11 collections
Digital book with embedded MIDI files, by Alan Helsdon
Musical Traditions Records CD-ROM MTCD255
As both Mary Humphreys and Vic Smith have noted on this site, the CD ROM compilation consists of an Introduction followed by Singers' Biographies and Songs; then possible Itineraries for the collectors, Sources, Songs in JFSS, a Titles Index, Photographs and, finally, Thanks. It is possible - necessary - to move from one section to another and merely listing the items in this way belies an extensive and painstaking search for and assembly of materials. On this CD ROM and his previous one (Vol. 1 of Vaughan Williams' Norfolk songs and collecting) Alan Helsdon has conveniently if at times awkwardly set out detail and possibilities which might be explored.
There are already available a number of useful studies of Vaughan Williams' collecting and of individual songs some of which pertain to Norfolk (such as Elizabeth James's thorough study of The Captain's Apprentice (FMJ, Vol. 7, No. 5, 1999), but advantage is taken here to use the compilation in order to pursue the pedigree of some of the songs in ways that have not necessarily been followed elsewhere. It is hoped that a perspective will be gained of songs and singers as they feature in Vaughan Williams' collecting processes where, in Norfolk, to be frank from the outset, Vaughan Williams has left us with a frustratingly incomplete picture. In this discussion, the list of songs in date order as provided by Michael Kennedy in his 1964 biography of VW provides a starting-point and there is an expanded look at the general profiles of song and text supplied, as ever, by the Roud index - and, indeed, in refined form in The Full English; to which Alan Helsdon's work here offers more grist. Some of what follows is digressive and, to an extent, selective but is meant to offer a glimpse of how this compilation might provoke a further sally into the ins and outs of song traditions, the ways in which songs bend and renew themselves in various guises, so that the specific subject-matter in Norfolk is, hopefully, given a context. Always - thankfully - there are surprises.
In the course of discussion it is also hoped that a perspective is opened on Vaughan Williams as collector.
There are two points to be made as preliminary. In the surveys that can be found below, the word 'familiar' occurs as signifying songs that we now think of as having been the staple of traditional singing. A hundred years ago this thinking was not, perhaps, the case even if broadsides teemed with regular motifs and narratives. An element of caution is worthwhile.
Finally, in such an enquiry there are many 'ifs', 'buts' and 'maybes'; and it has to said that additional references here do not carry the usual footnotes of a full-length essay; and that the writer has unfortunately been unable to set out tunes in their music staves - descriptions are, then, circumscribed. In relation to this, too, its has been assumed that, to an extent, readers will already be aware of many of the songs adduced as support or as contrast.
There are some incidental infelicities in Alan Helsdon writing such as are represented by mis-cast letters (try the word 'involved'), and, for example, calling one year 1901 rather than the correct date of 1910 - though common sense rescues the lapses. His syntax is occasionally at fault; and there is the odd grammatical lapse. One example, writing about Vaughan Williams' notations with particular regard to Tom Hilton (1908), in suggesting that rough copies were written up at a later stage, he uses the word 'neater' rather than the appropriate 'more neatly'. This may seem an unfair criticism but the example is not the only one. Of course, blemishes of this kind can be sorted and the gist of the enquiry can be established but a stronger check would have been helpful.
It might seem to be even more of a nit-pick - but, whilst sometimes useful in the way that Alan Helsdon recounts his own experience in being muddled with other Helsdons and apropos Tom Hilton amongst several other Hiltons (1908), some other of what may be termed as personal comments are un-necessary.
On the other hand, this second volume is improved on the first in that under 'Singers' we also find a list of their songs and there is the facility of picking one or the other song out and transferring attention to the appropriate entry of Alan Helsdon's 'revisions'. In the first volume, singers' biographies were separate from song titles and it was necessary to consult a list of numbers - without song titles.
In general, we need not stop to click our tongues at anything remiss.
But there is a problem: not of Alan Helsdon's making. Vaughan Williams sets out text rather infrequently - well over half of the songs collected during the three trips under consideration, in 1908, 1910 and 1911, have text wholly supplied here from broadsides. A dozen have original fragments of text alongside tunes on manuscript but then also required additions from broadsides. So, much is to be taken on trust. The absence of text would seem to have been the rule in Vaughan Williams' collecting rather than the exception; and since, as is well known, there is no strict orthodoxy in the way that singers, even believing that they sing a version handed down to them, change text and musical phrasing, 'completeness' in this sense requires a bit of working intelligence on our part and, generally, a shot in the - comparative - dark.
The point may be illustrated (if somewhat indulgently) by reference to songs discussed on this site already - for instance, Bonny Light Horseman, where the passage of time gradually changed the shape and import of the text of the song; similarly, where there are several interconnected manifestations of the 'Miss Bailey' saga that eventually came to a kind of rest in a sung version that appeared in our own time and continues to appear in altered form; and where, Ratcatcher's Daughter (a version of which was collected by Vaughan Williams in 1911), has strong connections with music-hall and also takes various shapes.
Time, then, sometimes changes the ambience and the import of a song and in this respect, it is often not easy to set any one song noted by Vaughan Williams along the line of dissemination.
The dilemma is pointed up nearer to a Norfolk home when considering the song John Reilly, collected four times by Vaughan Williams in Norfolk - from Mr Anderson in King's Lynn in 1905, from Mr Jay at Acle Bridge in 1908, from an unknown singer at Acle Bridge in 1908 and from Mr Stephenson in the Depwade Union in 1911. It should be added that Vaughan Williams had collected the song in Sussex from Mr and Mrs Truell (1904 - Holst was also in attendance) and in Cambridgeshire from Mr Pamplin (1906). There is also a notation of a tune got, it seems, in Herefordshire in conjunction with Ella Leather (there is no date on the VWML entry).
In general collecting terms there is a plethora of John Reilly texts available on broadsides and some fourteen sung versions to bring to bear (as discussed in previous articles on this site). Text is usually consistent. Misfortunately, in the relevant instance, Vaughan Williams does not furnish us with John Reilly text.
Amongst tunes for John Reilly that can be found in the wider context, there are some half a dozen from various quarters that do contain echoes of musical phrasing, one with another although, in overall terms, singers appear to have sifted and chosen and altered, sometimes beginning the song with a section of music that, in other versions, provides a second half. Following on - out of the six tunes that Vaughan Williams noted, three do have echoes of a particular John Reilly tune from the fourteen sung versions elsewhere. The Vaughan Williams tunes are those from Mr and Mrs Truell, from Christopher Jay and from Jonas Stephenson. However, Mr Anderson's tune does not conform in this way. The version from the unknown singer at Acle is also singular. What can be discerned from the few bars taken down from Mr Pamplin in Cambridgeshire is another variant.
So whilst in Norfolk there is some connection between the Jay and Stevenson tunes this does not indicate that Norfolk singers were learning one from another. The exigencies of collecting may have been a factor in what has been noted. It might be that a singer never poached another singer's song within a social ambit (this view has been supported in Chris Heppa's study of Norfolk singers in FMJ, Vol. 8, No. 5, 2005). A singer's individual search for a vehicle would still seem to be the crucial factor and text may well have varied in the singing of it - which is the crux of the matter here.
Vaughan Williams' own methods during this Norfolk collecting are also worth thinking about. Was it a case of him accepting whatever was offered by the singers? Alternatively, was it Vaughan Williams asking: trying to see if the same tune or a near relative was a widespread one? In the case of John Reilly the jury might be said to be out still. In fact, it is left to us to make connections and Alan Helsdon's may be said to be one way into the maze.
Further, signs do emerge that seem to offer some answers to the questions posed above. There are certainly indications that Vaughan Williams did hold text in mind, in Norfolk and elsewhere: for example, the existence of alternative bars and musical phrases on manuscripts. Thus, Yorkshire farmer (1905) has, at its end, a reference to a chorus: 'fol-de-lol'; Dolly Vardon style (1911) with a pointer towards a chorus - 'etc. - before'; even more pointedly in Liverpool play (1908) with an added note: 'a suffolk version of words' (Butterworth's copy does not include this reference and this reinforces the probability, noted again as discussion proceeds, that the notations that we have from him were revised ones). Mr Stephenson's tune for John Reilly (1911), at which Vaughan Williams seems to have had more than one go on manuscript, has alternative phrases marked. There are, as all through the sum of notations during the three trips under consideration, implied comparisons being made here, that could have arisen by holding textual detail in mind. It suggests that Vaughan Williams had, indeed, made himself familiar with how text was accommodated. A few of the present dilemnas were, in fact, resolved when songs were published in the Journal where songs were adjusted here and there.
The orthodox view is that Vaughan Williams was simply concentrating on tunes. The compilation, then, is not a false scape but, as it were, a working one, capable of provoking 'nice' problems and Alan Helsdon's work stands, so to speak, at the edge of a vista. In this respect, of his work, he writes that 'I fully expect (and hope) it will be improved over the years'.
There is still a nagging disappointment in observing Vaughan Williams' frequent lack of provision of text.
Given that, here and there, the comments above may represent a hare too many, how did Vaughan Williams' methodology in noting the songs work?
Firstly, the collecting process is inevitably partial: on the one hand, as mentioned above, displaying a possible choice of songs made, perhaps, by the singer and, on the other, perhaps, songs requested by the collector. Time and opportunity count. Vaughan Williams, within the duration of his field trips, is no different to other collectors, constrained by the impetus to get as much as possible copied onto a page when - it should not be forgotten - each singer may well have been subject to other demands, particularly those of work (see, for instance, Tom Hilton and Christopher Jay in 1908 - Alan Helsdon's contention); and also of a physical age when forgetfulness could have been a factor.
And this was at the beginning of a wider and sustained attempt to delineate traditional songs and singing. There would be, inevitably, anomalies in the apprehension of the works themselves. It would be expected that the collectors, with their own varied experience, were directed to this or that location, that reference to other singers would have been passed on at the time and that some trips could have been more or less unfruitful. These are the exigencies of any collecting process then or recently (nothing could better illustrate the part that luck played when Walter Pardon was 'discovered' and, incidentally, one notes with gratification Alan Helsdon's obituary on MT of Roger Dixon, who featured in the recognition of Walter's quality). On the spot, collectors obviously did the best that they could - to immense benefit, as we know.
Nor was Vaughan Williams hoovering up everything in his path as it sometimes seems to have been the case especially in Sharp's early work in Somerset and in the work of other heroes like the Hammonds and George Gardiner. Furthermore, where any individual singer is concerned, in Norfolk, that is, there is no Henry Burstow, no Sam Fone as in the collecting of Sabine Baring-Gould, no singer like David Sawyer in Wiltshire for Alfred Williams, no Charles Lolley as associated with Frank Kidson, no equivalent to Sharp's Hambridge singers, Lucy White and Louie Hooper. These singers provided collectors with touchstones, with the means to make comparisons about kind and quality (though ever subjective) of song in an emerging treasury.
We come back to the nature of the Norfolk trips, basically short in duration. So that one might argue that Vaughan Williams' Norfolk songs as compiled here are somewhat compromised, somewhat fragmented. At least, the three trips discussed here are certainly parallel to the previous haul in King's Lynn and its environs in 1905. In total, in Alan Helsdon's calculation, Vaughan Williams got 90 items from the King's Lynn trip - that included half a dozen dance tunes - and 93 during his 1908, 1910 and 1911 trips; a fair haul certainly but without a sense of blanket coverage. There must, we think, have been more treasures
And what is actually found on his manuscripts? As far as can be gathered, throughout Vaughan Williams' collecting notation of tune appears to have been entirely full and trustworthy.
Generally, the inclusion of variant musical phrases confirms both a singer's preferences and Vaughan Williams' faithful recapitulations. There is a simple example at the end of Team Boy (1911). It stands to reason that the singer sung the song more than once. The same applies to Trot Away (1911) and to Its (sic) of an old miser (1908). Readers may feel the point to be obvious
But the process has its inbuilt caveats, the first of which is that, probably, as it was noted down, a tune might be something of an amalgam of repeated singing. In addition, during the three trips under consideration, when Vaughan Williams was searching out songs with his collaborator, George Butterworth, we find differences in the setting-out of tunes by each collector.
It is, though, abundantly clear just how, on manuscript, the internal movement of a tune is followed - where, for instance, a flattened or a sharpened note is sung which is, in itself, characteristic of how many singers presented their particular tunes through habits of the singing mind.
Occasionally, this does lead to a somewhat curious presentation. In the compilation under review, the tune for Monday Morning from Christopher Jay in 1908 has a shifting G and E minor start to a tune involving a clutter of sharps - C, G and even a top D Alan Helsdon writes that the singer 'loses the key'. There is a comment from Vaughan Williams as absolution: 'this is how he sung it'.
Further, Vaughan Williams is ready here and elsewhere to admit that he may not have got the notes exactly right - as, for instance, for Erin's lovely home: 'doubtful' - Vaughan Williams' usual word where he felt it to be appropriate - and in The Bold Robber both songs noted in King's Lynn in 1905; to which we may add Napoleon's Farewell, from Mr Woods in the Lynn Union in 1905 - where Vaughan Williams wrote that 'This is doubtful because he was very hoarse'. Further afield there are two songs from 'A gipsy', collected in Hooton Roberts, Yorkshire in 1907 where Vaughan Williams added 'very doubtful' and 'doubtful'. In the present instance, he considered the tune of The Isle of France as sung by Mr Stevenson in the Pulham workhouse in 1911 to have been 'doubtful' (and there is on manuscript for this song a small section of music that may be additional or a variant). This qualification is, all the same, rare during the trips made in 1908, 1910 and 1911 but it is well to hold in mind how Vaughan Williams attempted to cope with such a situation.
The question of 'doubt' may also be double-edged. Either Vaughan Williams was hesitant to claim that he had taken down the tune absolutely accurately or the singer had muddled his lines. In any case, honesty is clear enough.
But, in another feature, underneath the 1911 tune of Dolly Vardon style Vaughan Williams wrote 'words no good'. This immediately sets bells ringing There is a faint possibility (one would think) that he had already encountered the song and was making comparisons; but the word 'style' is the more uncertain feature and the confidence in dismissing text needs investigating. The issue is raised again where the song is discussed further below.
Almost by the way, as another feature in his collecting, Vaughan William is scrupulous in referring to his singers - when they are identified - as 'Mr.' although this, in turn, may suggest a fairly formal contact with singers. The one or two singers' names that escape identification underline this possible formality.
Sometimes, though, Vaughan Williams is careless in his ascriptions. Alan Helsdon does correct the hitherto untouched version of one name, 'Goble', as used by both Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth, to 'Gorble', a singer met in 1910 (see more below). And, as he points out, there are no diaries or letters to help us pinpoint or even sketch possibilities that pertain to singers and so confirm details.
But Vaughan Williams is still 'guilty' of a number of errors that have little to do with the songs themselves. He gets names wrong and locations are only sketchily referred to (again, these elements are mentioned more than once further below). We should, therefore, take note of the role played by George Butterworth, literally with an altogether clearer hand, it seems, and there is no reason why we might suspect Butterworth in any way of doctoring his own manuscripts even as they appear to have been revised. Some reasons for differences when they occur have been outlined above. A further example, the song New Garden Fields (1910), is considered below in this light. As will be seen, too, Vaughan Williams himself did some tightening up of notations. Initial rough outlines were set out more coherently in a separate manner and the songs numbered. Song-tunes from Tom Hilton (1908), who is discussed at length below, is a case in point: some ten set out and numbered in this way.
In addition, Vaughan Williams' handwriting is famously difficult to read. Whilst text is most often missing, where it is included it is scribbled as the urgency to record is manifested. The collector does have second sets of manuscripts where it seems that, like Butterworth, he had worked at night in revising the fieldwork versions. But to add to the difficulties, Vaughan Williams got to the end of notebooks and started going backwards on the page. Alan Helsdon warns us of this whilst, at the same time, he saves us much bother.
Ultimately, the manner in a which songs were committed to paper is inconsistent to a degree.
The view of singers themselves during the collecting trips is unlikely to be expanded much more fully than here (although there is more to say concerning the 1911 trip - to be set out at some stage by the present writer, it is hoped). Alan Helsdon has put together some mini-biographies but a paucity of records limits any even reasonably full portraits; and the Introduction here is too brief to add much.
There are, nonetheless, tantalising fragments that breathe life and times in domestic and working environments. There is more than a hint of how, when and where songs flourished outside the home. These features alone may just provoke further research in an attempt to extend what is known so far.
The various hints given do not, though, amount to a comprehensive overall view. We take what we will from the results of the collecting processes and are left to speculate. In contrast, we are nowadays lucky to have supportive detail in the case of Sam Larner; of Harry Cox and of a few of his contemporaries - as described, for instance, by the composer E J Moeran; and of Walter Pardon. The Blaxhall 'Ship' of noted fame gives us another perspective (and this was explored by Ginette Dunn in The Fellowship of Song, 1980).
When it comes down to it, though, because of the nature of the beast, as it were, in general we simply do not know enough about individuals and singing relationships nor how many songs were actually encountered nor, as a rule, what the extent of any one singer's repertoire might have been. Here, Tom Hilton (1908) stands out but there are inklings elsewhere of more than what we have on record - perhaps from Christopher Jay and George Lock in 1908 (and the latter again in 1910) though, generally, the singers remain as shadowy figures. This, as is easy to discover, is usually the case throughout the surge of the 'Folk Song Revival'.
And there is one more aspect associated with singers to be considered and that is to assess where the songs were noted. In many cases, here and elsewhere in the sagas of collecting, there is no detailed reference to any venue. In the Introduction to the 1905 trip Alan Helsdon hazards that pub collecting, though important, was not as prominent as home collecting which, he adds, was confirmed in a late Vaughan Williams lecture (1952) although there are no specifics of the latter. It seems that the same norm applies in his assessment of all of the 1908, 1910 and 1911 trips. It is not possible to gainsay this.
However, certain useful qualifications do exist. During the trips noted in this present compilation, the Union Workhouse in Pulham Market (described as Depwade because of the local administrative scope of its facility) is prominent in 1911 and one recalls the Lynn Union of the 1905 trip to Kings Lynn and, as a feature of the broader embrace of collecting at the time, some of Sharp's various ventures (there is an impressive haul of songs from the Marylebone Workhouse although no study in depth appears to have been made), a reminder of orthodoxy as regards collecting activities.
As a second avenue for exploration, whatever the balance between home and outside venue during the Norfolk trips, the names of pubs are prominent: The Bridge at Acle, The Ferry and The New Inn at Horning, the Hickling Inn; The Three Horseshoes, geographically in Gissing parish, not Tibenham, even as the manuscripts give the latter name; and The Greyhound at Scole - which is a possible candidate as a base for Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth.
We would probably expect this although in a kind of hindsight. What more natural incidence of community sharing? And Alan Helsdon, following Chris Heppa's lead in A Fledgling in a Nest of Singing Birds (not available to the present writer) suggests that the extent of pub singing might have been the result of interest by the particular landlord. The Bridge (1908) is a good example where the landlord, Edward Rose, sang The Jolly Waggoner. Harry Last, the landlord of The Three Horseshoes (1911), contributed to the list of songs. Mr Woodcock, landlord of The Greyhound (1911) also sang (below).
In the case of Noah Fisher during the 1911 trip, his songs were noted at The Three Horseshoes although his home, where, in 1911, he and his wife were the only occupants, was but a step away. Did Noah feel most comfortable at the Shoes, amongst other singers? And who initiated his appearance at the pub? What part did the collectors themselves play? Had they previously heard of the presence of singers and had sent out feelers or was it, perhaps, a case of pot-luck?
Given active pub locations, it seems that, otherwise, a domestic scene is taken for granted. So, pursuing the idea that home-calls were a regular feature of the collecting, a few details do emerge. The women whom Vaughan Williams encountered in his collecting are highly unlikely to have been found anywhere other than in their homes: here Sally Brown in Ranworth in 1910 is relevant - the only woman who features in this compilation (one does recalls 'Elizabeth' in 1905 - a case once more in the absence of a surname, perhaps, underlining a rather formal contact). Alan Helsdon does admit that it is now not possible to say where the singing in Ranworth took place; but offers a tentative suggestion that Sally Brown, Walter 'Skipper' Debbage and, possibly, Mr Saunders, were all invited to Ranworth Hall, owned by a family named Kerison and a place where E Mercer stayed (an 'S' shows elsewhere and Alan Helsdon's notes reveal that the full name was Edward Stanley Mercer), implicated in collecting along with Ivor Gatty, further reference to whom may be found below. Even more tentatively, it is suggested in the compilation that Ranworth Hall could have offered accommodation to Vaughan Williams.
Home visits, though, would seem to have been a more or less invisible feature attendant on practically all collecting done during those heady days (roughly from 1880 to 1920); and there is a clear instance in the work of Sabine Baring-Gould who did definitely visit homes. Thus - the example of Sally Satterly (the name is spelt variously as Satterley and Sacherley) when Baring-Gould himself wrote that after a visit with Harold Fleetwood-Sheppard, 'I turned to Mr Sheppard and said, "We have not exhausted her store. You must go back " and like a zealous and conscientious collector, back he went'. Bussell, Baring-Gould's other aide, also went back to Sally. Similarly, quite a story was made (and changed) of Baring-Gould's visit to old Jonas Coker, across the fields But Baring-Gould also 'sent for' James Parsons, a near neighbour at Lew Trenchard, who was received in the hallway of Baring-Gould's own home. Not so incidentally, a quite close acquaintance between the two seems to have followed over a period of time.
As if in some balance, there are records of Baring-Gould at the Saracen's Head on Dartmoor, the Oxenham Arms at South Zeal, The Lugger Inn at Fowey and the Falcon Inn at Mawgam.
But, to extend the subject of home visits, neither the Hammonds nor Gardiner seemed to have been devotees of pub meetings. Gardiner's notebooks are laced with the names and addresses of contacts, some of whom were known singers. Notebook Two has a list of contacts who probably knew of singers and what we take to be the names of some singers themselves. Notebook Five offers an example of two possible singers and the injunction to himself to 'Ask landlord of Rising Sun' at Old Alresford - at least Gardiner was happy to venture into a pub . Notebooks Five and Eight have lists of the same sort of reminders in their opening pages
We are, in the end, allowed glimpses of singer, song, location and the times that were in it although where Vaughan Williams is concerned it is typical that he does sometimes include the name of a singer and sometimes does include the name of a pub or village but not necessarily in full. Add to this a habit of mis-spelling names and one wonders quite how much attention he was paying to the intimate context of the song he was absorbed in. Does this again reflect what might appear to have been a rather formal contact with singers as proposed, hesitantly, above? We have no anecdotes that might suggest a warmer contact as we have in Sharp's case, with - say - his offerings of tobacco in the workhouses that he visited. Of course, Vaughan Williams may well have entered into a more relaxed relationship than the mere outline of collecting shows. Clearly, too, his concentration was on the music.
Finally, in this survey of 'externals': as Alan Helsdon points out, we do not actually know where Vaughan Williams stayed so itineraries are obviously conjectural though with some plausible suggestions made in the Introduction and in some notes on singers Whilst Alan Helsdon in no way goes so far as to insist on it, he does hint at the possibility that in 1908 Ranworth Hall may have been a candidate for accommodation and in 1911, The Greyhound at Scole would seem to be the most likely place for the collectors, Vaughan Williams and Butterworth, to have stayed. It is notable that the final song they got was from the landlord, Mr Woodcock.
There is one aspect of the Norfolk trips under consideration, introduced above in respect of Ranworth Hall, that Alan Helsdon does not explore directly, although there are several references in both his Introduction on itineraries and on the sources for the songs. This aspect involves collectors who can be associated with the principals, Vaughan Williams and Butterworth. The association is on a small-scale but may give us clues as to why Vaughan Williams visited or re-visited certain venues.
The various references in Alan Helsdon's work are as follows. Firstly, on April 13th 1908, at the Bridge Inn, Acle, Christopher Jay sang Bonny Bunch of Roses and both tune and text were taken down by Ivor Gatty. On April 14th 1908, in Ranworth, Mr Saunders sang Barley Straw and the first two stanzas are from Ivor Gatty; and on the same day he also took down the whole of When Jones's Ale Was New from Mr Saunders. On 15th April Georgie, as sung by Walter Debbage, includes stanzas five to eight that were taken down by Ivor Gatty. Walter Debbage's song, Wealthy Farmer's Son (sung as Fishes Swim) on 15th April at the Acle Bridge Inn has stanzas one, two, three and six from Gatty. All the text for the second of two versions of Died for Love, sung as Bold Young Farmer, was another Walter Debbage contribution, noted on April 16th by Gatty. However, there is no sign of Gatty in respect of the notation from Walter Debbage of I'll Go 'list as a Sailor nor in connection with Paddy Magee's Dream (sung as John Bull) or Pretty Nancy, sung on April 16th. Gatty was also present on 17th April at Ranworth when an 'unkown singer' (Alan Helsdon writes that it was probably Sally Brown) sang an 'unknown' song with text from Gatty; but he was not involved with Tarry Sailor, as sung by Mrs Brown nor her version (words only) of Died for Love. Slightly curiously, too, whilst Gatty had taken down Bonny Bunch of Roses from Mr Jay on the13th April, it seems that, on April 18th, he was not involved in taking down Phoebe or Molecatcher, from the same singer. There is no obvious explanation for this in and out involvement but Gatty's contribution is considerable.
Handsomely, in JFSS for 1910 Vaughan Williams specifically acknowledges 'with thanks, the help of S Mercer Esq., of Raeworth (sic) Hall and Ivor Gatty, for much help in collecting melodies and words'. According to Alan Helsdon, Mercer 'was involved with 6 songs' during the period April 11th-18th 1910 although no manuscripts are available. Further, it seems that at this time Gatty and Mercer were ensconced in Ranworth Hall and this is how the possibility that Vaughan Williams and Butterworth also stayed there arises.
Gaps are obvious in all respects but the point here is to elevate Gatty and Mercer as making up something of a group whose connections with the area may have helped to persuade Vaughan Williams to visit. There are several hints to suggest that this is how Alan Helsdon sees it.
There is yet one more element in this kind of association. Butterworth, it appears, worked in the area before Vaughan Williams arrived. Several of his manuscripts include reference to Francis Jekyll including some in Norfolk. Jekyll had certainly accompanied Butterworth in 1906 - Mr Colcombe, Weobley, Herefordshire; in 1907 - singers in Sussex; in 1908 - Sussex singers again and this included the Verralls; and in April 1910 'Skinner' Crow in Filby and George Lock (see more below) at this time. There are, by the way, a number of songs that Jekyll collected individually - as they are recorded in the Roud index.
So that, as yet another result of pursuing the details that appear in the compilation under review, a perspective involving several collectors in Norfolk may be emerging. It does not reach the heights of the Baring-Gould, Bussell and Fleetwood-Sheppard association nor that of Gardiner, Guyer, Gamblin and Balfour-Gardiner There are differences, in any case, between these two examples, Bussell and Fleeetwood-Sheppard being able to join Baring-Gould only at intervals; and Guyer and the other two collaborators usually following Gardiner's directions in order to note the tunes.
But it is well within the realms of possibility that collaboration of this sort was reasonably widespread and even more so that there were exchanges amongst the whole body of collectors who became connected with the Folk Song Society. It makes sense to share discoveries. The Journal sums up in several instances and it is known that Lucy Broadwood, presiding, was in correspondence with various collectors.
After drawing breath - we come to the details of songs that are available in this compilation (and its companion) and are richly intriguing. Without undertaking a complete song-by-song investigation, a closer look at the pedigree of some of the songs, in the manner already indicated above, underlines this and, hopefully, offers further lines of investigation.
Mr Hilton's 1908 contribution is as good a place to start as any - some thirteen songs of a considerable variety. Was it, then, a case of Vaughan Williams having found a singer of quality, (not so) plain and simple? Alan Helsdon can not provide any confirmation in this regard nor in others, simply because there is no detail of appreciation or appraisal set down by the collectors (how we would love to have had recordings) but the very fact that Mr Hilton sang so many songs amongst smaller contributions may well suggest something of an elevated status in the minds of the collectors.
The first of Mr Hilton's songs in Alan Helsdon's list is When Jones's Ale was New. The piece was issued by the Stationer's Company as early as 1594. Apart from the 1594 touchstone, d'Urfey printed it in Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-1730) Baring-Gould cited this version and also cited Chappell. Alfred Williams, in a note attached to text from Fred Williams in Broadwell, Oxfordshire, wrote that the song was 'common to the northern divisions of the Thames Valley' and that, slightly ambiguously, 'although the song as been very common and popular it is not generally known to be of considerable age'.
Judging by the song's humour, it would look, through sung versions, to have grown to be a favourite that might well have emerged in pub sessions: a sort of 'come-all-ye'. Alan Helsdon does observe that Mr Hilton's version of the tune (sixteen bars long) was two bars shorter than 'normal'. This can be tested by comparison with the version noted from Mr Saunders in Ranworth during the same year, 1908, words, incidentally, handily provided by Ivor Gatty. Here there are eighteen bars and this is the case elsewhere, in examples from Baring-Gould dated 1890 and 1893, from Kidson in 1894, from Sharp in 1904 (there are several more Sharp examples) and Gardiner - noted by Guyer, one of his two collaborators - in 1909. This must inevitably reflect the extent of text and the absence of text in Vaughan Williams' case frustrates assessment.
Several of the tunes cited in respect of various versions of Jones's Ale (sic) are similar as the textual run needed to be accommodated - the inclusion of what might be called chorus lines is a factor in this. Mr Saunders' tune is that with which we are most probably familiar now (easily brought to mind) but Tom Hilton's, apart from the loss of two bars, has a different musical progression. As elsewhere, this might just suggest that singers had not necessarily been learning from one another.
In all this, it should be added that there are two titles as a rule: 'Jones's Ale' and 'Joan's Ale' which appears to be the oldest and can be found in the 1594 printing. There seem only to have been versions on broadside form under the first title but a considerable number as 'When Joan's Ale was New' (my italics). The major London printers put the piece out in this form - Jennings, as an early nineteenth century printer and then Catnach, Pitts, Fortey, Birt and Such. There are versions from elsewhere such as those from Willey in Cheltenham and Russell in Birmingham. Fortey and Oxlade printed the piece as The Six Jovial Tradesmen - as did Dixon in Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of 1846 and Dixon and Bell in Songs of the Peasantry of England (1857).
There is also a record of a printing from Aldermary Churchyard dating from the 1760s. The compilers of nineteenth century songsters seem not to have bothered. Nonetheless, a history of the song is posited.
Sung versions with the name 'Jones's' came from Edward Harrison, noted by Sharp in Langport, Somerset, in 1906; and in Southwold, from Robert Hurr, noted by Butterworth, in 1910 and from Ben Hurr, noted by Butterworth and Vaughan Williams later in the year. It is not of much help that on the Hilton manuscript, the title Vaughan Williams used was Joan's Ale was new but that Roy Palmer gave the title as When Jones's Ale Was New in his Everyman's Book of Country Song, an unusually loose feature in Roy Palmer's impeccable record. The Southwold trip of Vaughan Williams and Butterworth (1910) is discussed in the booklet, Blyth Voices, put out by the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust under the auspices of Katie and John Howsom in 2003 and there are several interesting observations made on Vaughan Williams and his collecting as well as details of each singer's life. Songs sung in Southwold were sometimes duplicated in the Norfolk part of the Vaughan Williams trip in 1910: Bold Princess Royal, On Monday Morning I Married a wife, The Isle of France and Maria Marten, not quite enough to establish a full, shared repertoire throughout the borderlands of Suffolk and Norfolk and more to do with how Vaughan Williams chose his material.
In more recent times, the Copper family, be it said, used both titles. Other than a Copper version there is only that got by Paul Marsh from Bob Mills in Winchester in 1979 that has 'Joan's' in the title. By far the greater proportion of other recently sung versions have 'Jones's' in their titles.
This may not say much more than that singers or collectors exercised a preference for one title or the other. The imbalances are otherwise hard to account for - but the curiosity value of the varied titles in archives remains whilst, in the end, there is no doubting the extensive history of the piece which could have made the song easily accessible to singers. Vaughan Williams, in his collecting, did not shy away from well-known pieces. Other examples are mentioned in discussion here.
Another older Hilton piece, Ward the Pirate, reaches back to the early seventeenth century; is found in numbers in broadside form; and has an alternative title of The Famous Sea-Fight Its pedigree, then, is incontestable. Its survival is still notable. There are not many examples of this song: words from Sam Fone (1892) and James Parsons (1893) in Baring-Gould's collections (no tunes); a version from George Wray, text and tune, in Barton-on-Humber (1906), as noted by Grainger; and then a gap until James Carpenter gathered half a dozen during the 1920s and, mainly, the 1930s (there are also scattered examples from America). The song did persist - there are some examples in printed collections. But Mr Hilton's sung version is a comparative rarity.
Vaughan Williams had certainly found the song, with a four-square tune, in King's Lynn as sung by James Carter (1905). The tune from Mr Hilton is also a straightforwardly four-square one. Such a vehicle surely turns attention onto the words and, since, as shown above, the song had not been collected extensively and if the song generated any distinction, why did not Vaughan Williams note the words on this occasion? We seem to be finding little correlation between what are some unusual but striking songs and Vaughan Williams' methods of recording them and it is not possible to believe that, with the years of experience in collecting that he had already accumulated, he was unaware of the value of such songs in toto.
Peggy Band (Highland Hills) is another song with twists and turns in its history although it is not 'ancient'. In his collection, The Foggy Dew, Frank Purslow posted a version collected in Bath in 1906 from a Mrs Webb via the Hammond manuscripts, and indicated that sung versions were rare (although there are numbers of broadside printings). Steve Roud lists four - Mrs Webb's; one noted by Clive Carey from Frank Albery in Sussex in 1912 - a love song, entitled Ireland Hill but that has no obvious connection to Ireland except that the subject of attention is named as 'Peggy Ban' (see below); one from Walter Pardon via Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie; and the Hilton song. The four versions illustrate a certain continuity in the dispersal of a song but the haul is decidedly sparse. In all four cases the tunes are fairly commensurate, possibly the result of a long history in which the song was sung in a widespread fashion as yet unknown.
It would seem to have come out of the eighteenth century and Frank Purslow suggests that it may have been Irish in origin through the name 'Band' which he relates to the Irish 'Ban'. This connection does not appear to have been challenged and the association was continued: Walter Pardon, when questioned by Mike Yates as to the reason why he sang 'Peggy Bawn', said that during the war a visiting Irishman told him that this was how the name should be pronounced.
In another possible route for the song the beginning of text - 'As I walked over Highland hills' (in one broadside printing and in Walter Pardon's version) - may just suggest another country. In a Catnach printing the first line is 'As I wandered in the Highlands' and then we find 'Says the gude man to the gude wife' (my italics). In a printing from Jackson (Birmingham) the line 'And I will gang along with you ' appears but this reference does follow another in which the line, 'For Ireland is a bonny place' appears. The picture is confused but there is more than a hint that the song can be connected in some way to Scotland, certainly in broadside form.
The plot thickens, taking in both Irish and Scottish sources. Mike Yates wrote that the song could have been found first in a Belfast chapbook of 1764. Rod Stradling added that it was also printed in the Scottish Vocal Companion of 1772 and the Scots Musical Museum of c.1797-1802.
In passing - John Clare had a version.
In broadside history Wrighton in Birmingham offered Peggy Band's Answer in which the text has become more flowery. Since the Bodleian gives Wrighton's dates as 1810-1820 and, slightly more expansively, the British Book Trades Index gives the names of Daniel Wrighton senior working through those dates and Daniel junior between 1820 and 1822, this should indicate previous issue of Peggy Band itself as it provoked an 'answer'. Text of Peggy Band itself in broadside form is consistent although one or two printers shortened the narrative slightly. In a touch that could easily be overlooked, the suitor is sometimes described, rather nicely, as a 'courtier' by the girl's father.
Alas. In the case of Mr Hilton's sung version, there is the usual frustration in our not having a text to consider. Nor, as might be expected, have we any notion as to how it fetched up in the Norfolk of Tom Hilton. Had it been sea-borne? Was it got from printed versions or was it passed on through oral means - questions that, despite the oft-quoted 'I got it from a ballet', usually remain unanswered? The pedigree seems to be clear enough and if the chapbook noted above was first up then subsequently the piece may have been spread - at least initially - via the printed word. Yet the similarities in the movements of respective tunes might suggest descent in time that embraced the Vaughn Williams notation - through oral means.
The usual dilemma in determining descent through time - the gap between oral and printed means - persists. The fact that such songs were still current at the time of Vaughan Williams' collecting could be satisfaction enough, by whatever routes they arrived.
There is also another aspect to consider in connection with Tom Hilton. Vaughan Williams wrote out all four stanzas of Lovely on the Water and all seven of The Holly Twig, the title that Alan Helsdon gives ('When I was was a bachelor ' on manuscript, then 'tidied' and found as The Bachelor and The Tiresome Wife although without alteration to the text). Two points follow. The more relevant may be that these are the only instances in all his collecting when Vaughan Williams noted the songs. But was it his practice to write out full texts of the first songs he encountered from a singer? It will be seen that there is a something of an answer to this question as it emerges again below.
Certainly, the flow of the first tune is one to stir the juices even if that for The Holly Twig is perhaps a less melodically inventive tune. We would expect that the soaring cadence in the first half of Lovely on the water to have been particularly attractive. In the end, the relative scarcity value of this song is of moment.
Was Vaughan Williams, in addition, aware of other versions of the two Hilton songs and how rare their appearance seems to have been? We find that Lovely on the Water was sung to Gardiner by Fred Gorman in Lower Bartley, Hampshire, in 1908, but to a vastly different tune. It is also right to add that the song appeared in different form again as far back as 1892, got by Baring-Gould from Robert Helmore in South Brent. Otherwise there is no sign of the song - in Roud, for instance. This makes Mr Hilton's Lovely on the water into a singular item and, whether or not Vaughan Williams was able to make reference to the scant other versions, this could well have been the trigger that inspired him to set the text out in full.
The Holly Twig is found in several forms. As a kind of background - on nineteenth century broadside versions the most common title was Week's Matrimony. Croshaw (York) had Week's Work Completed. The spread is otherwise not wide - Catnach, Pitts, Disley, Bebbington, Such and copy without imprint. Both Catnach and Pitts give a tune as The Devil in search of a wife with just a hint, then, of an earlier history. Nugent in Dublin, late, claims the piece as 'A new comic song entitled The Week's Matrimony' - it was clearly not: this, a common enough printer's advertisement.
Sung history is mixed. Baring-Gould, so often first of the few and just as often likely to change the versions he collected, took the song down as On Monday morning I married a wife from Robert Hard in South Brent, Devon, in 1892 and then gave the titles A Week's Work and A Week's Work Well Done as he compiled his 'official' versions. As On Monday morning I married a wife, the song was recorded by Cecil Sharp from a Mrs R Sage in Chew Magna, Somerset, in 1907. Sharp also got the piece from Stephen Adam, in Hunnington, Worcestershire in 1909 and, whilst the opening line is the same ('On Monday morning '), the title given in Roud is I married a wife. Gardiner found two clear instances - as A Weeks' Work Well Done from Alfred Porter in Basingstoke in 1906 where the opening line is the familiar one of 'On Monday morning ' and from Moses Mills, Preston Candover, 1907 with the title On Monday morning and an opening line beginning 'Monday morning I married a wife'. Vaughan Williams himself noted a version from a Mr W Alexander in Cliddesden, Hampshire in 1909 that was published in JFSS in the same year with the title as On Monday Morning. Finally, Butterworth, it seems, accompanied by Vaughan Williams or vice versa, took down a tune from Robert Hurr in Southwold in 1910 with the title, On Monday Morning.
There are several aspects of all this to consider (albeit slightly repetitively). Firstly, the song was widespread if not in abundance in collecting at the time and had also appeared, as noted, in Baring-Gould's very late nineteenth century work which itself bespeaks some sort of circulation previously. In fact, Baring-Gould introduces us to a song from a West Country Garland of c.1760 that begins 'When I was a batchelor grave ' and he sets this alongside his Robert Hard version, presumably to suggest a link. The early version, he noticed, had a long prologue before what became a familiar narrative appeared. How seriously we should take his claim that 'I find that singers ' (as if there were more) began their narrative at a fifth stanza in the extended earlier piece is not clear. Given the benefit of the doubt, it might confirm the possibility that the song was, indeed, visible elsewhere in Baring-Gould's hinterland at the time in a reduced and 'modern' form.
Secondly, whilst the joke had been perpetuated, it seems, via broadside and in sung form through the late nineteenth century, the slight changes in titles as given above might suggest an initial direction from singers or even the collector's own idea, a situation we have come to expect and that has no solid pattern. Broadsides, nonetheless, offer a consistent text (there are always small printing errors or changes). More to the point - sung texts do have a narrative that is much like that of broadsides. In this respect there is an ongoing mainstream.
Thirdly, bringing the discussion back home, Mr Hilton begins his song with 'When I was a bachelor early and late '. Gardiner took down another text beginning 'Once I was a bachelor brave and gay' (with a chorus of 'Laddy hei ho ' and so on) but, unusually, with no details of either singer or place of collecting. Some broadsides begin with this line.
Amongst tunes for The Holly Twig, including that from Mr Hilton, several move in a six-eight rhythm and there are even certain almost-parallel phrases within that group. Mr Alexander's tune stands out in a common-time rhythm. Along with its published version in the Journal, Gardiner added the comment that it was 'distinct from Mr Mill's. It is not often sung to "The Cobbler" '. The Moses Mills comparison can be easily made since it, like Mr Alexander's, is in four-four time - although the Mills version has but one full stanza and only a set of two couplets. Mr Hurr's tune is written out in a more-or-less six-four form but some musical phrases are oddly outside the timing.
At the ends of some versions there are music bars that accommodate a chorus - for instance, in Alfred Porter's case, a 'Laddy-i-o! Faddy-i-o!' and 'Fal-re-lal ' extension; Mr Alexander has 'Fol le riddle fol le day'. Mr Hilton's tune, though, is without the possibility of such additions. Perhaps the song had no settled shape (not, it must hastily be added, obligatory) at the time when Vaughan Williams came across it.
But to return to the first point made in respect of Lovely on the water and The Holly Twig . For some reason or another, Vaughan Williams wrote out full texts but to answer one question, it does not seem to have been Vaughan Williams' habit during the trips under review to note full texts of the first songs got from any one singer.
We are left with something of a sprawl of detail but the how and when does offer a context for the Tom Hilton version of the song. This is the kind of exploration that Alan Helsdon's work encourages - not everybody's cup of tea, perhaps, but valid and valuable in any greater scheme of assessment.
It is worth mentioning the strong showing of the song in America. Often, in investigating separate songs, we find reference to American sung versions - mainly through Sharp's efforts after the Norfolk period in time (during the 1920s). There are similar sightings in Canada. The life of songs is prolonged and at least matches the extent of their appearances in Britain. Where details are concerned, Steve Roud's index, so very valuable in its scope and detail, enables us to take in a broad picture; and we would acknowledge the index as being an ongoing project so that, as elsewhere in the index, there may be even more detail to come.
The Grand Conversation on Napoleon has an obvious historical reference, post-1821, after the death of Napoleon; and as it can be seen in text, 'The son soon followed after', which would actually indicate that the text was composed after 1832. A whole heap of printers got hold of the text, beginning with Catnach and Pitts and stretching away to Birmingham and Nugent in Dublin - its life-span in this form at least covering the middle and latter parts of the nineteenth century thus offering Norfolk singers, including Tom Hilton, born c.1862, at least one kind of opportunity, even at a remove, for acquisition within a notional span of learning-time (as did Peggy Band). The song, be it said, can also be found in much later versions, some in recent times - from Tom Costello in Galway, for example (c.1977), although memory of Tom's version is now fading - where the musical phraseology is different.
It is in its form as encountered by Vaughan Williams a strong, dignified piece amongst a generally distinctive body that includes Norfolk versions of Napoleon's Farewell from Mr Woods in King's Lynn in 1905, The Dream of Napoleon from Mr Crisp in King's Lynn in 1905, The Deeds of Napoleon from Mr Carter, also in King's Lynn in 1905 and Bonny Bunch of Roses from Mr Jay at Acle, noted in 1908 (discussed further here). If nothing else, The Grand Conversation here illustrates how the subject-matter was kept alive; and through the various versions and studies of the song we are beginning to see just how complex the British attitudes to Napoleon were.
Another of Mr Hilton's songs was entitled Lad in the Scotch Brigade in which - according to the text that Alan Helsdon supplies - Geordie and Jean (the names vary in different versions) separate, more or less in time-honoured fashion, since he is to be away at the wars, specifically on the 'burning plains of Egypt'. As Lad in the Scotch Brigade, a small number of versions, both printed and sung (though not many), appear in England, Ireland, Scotland, the USA and Canada - this according to the Roud index. Frustratingly, though, there is, yet again, no text on Vaughan Williams' manuscript. Once again one wonders how far Vaughan Williams may have held much text in his mind.
It is perhaps significant in this respect that on manuscript Vaughan Williams entitled the piece Banks of the Clyde, for this title was given to different broadside ballads and none of them mention the 'Scotch brigade' nor any 'burning sands'. Several copies - Booth in Selby, Harkness, Pitts, Catnach, Armstrong and Ross - feature Glasgow fair - on the banks of the Clyde. A Catnach songster is a very short piece, praising 'Maria' with only the title to link it in any way. Another song, entitled The Lady of the Lake, whilst yet again referring to the Clyde, is a lament for the hero gone to America. Widow Macfarlane's Lament for her Son is a similar plaint.
It does not quite stop there. We can see that Alf Wildman's sung version of The Banks of the Clyde, noted by Fred Hamer and published in Garner's Gay (1967) is a version of The Young Sailor Cut Down in his Prime. The text is concerned with the fate of the young man - 'We'll play the Dead March as we carry him along'. There is nothing in the song involving 'The Scotch Brigade'
But, ultimately, it does seem clear that Mr Hilton sang a song that re-appeared in the repertoire of several singers at a later time. At first glance, Alan Helsdon's reconstruction may seem to have manipulated the tune in favour of text because whilst stanzas follow the same pattern - and the same narrative - there is a chorus with a different scansion. Manny Aldous and Geoff Ling, though, as examples, sang the same song as found in the reconstruction Indeed, the song seems to have become something of a favourite in East Anglia.
In contrast, a version under the same title collected by Cecil Sharp from Lucy White in 1904 is different altogether.
Mr Hilton's own tune is reminiscent of Young Sailor Cut Down in his Prime changed in its rhythm to a four-four beat but still recognisable. Might the choice of tune have been prompted by a simple familiarity with the outline of The Young Sailor tune and its use a matter of personal adjustment? This would seem to have been a common enough practice - and underlines the point made above concerning how individual singers created songs for their own satisfaction - a point that might be thought a little laboured, even naïve, but could justify Alan Helsdon's attempt at reconstruction.
The facts are that Mr Hilton sang a song with the given title of The Lad of the Scotch Brigade and, moreover, there is corroboration of this title on one British broadside without imprint. At the time of collecting from Mr Hilton, the song was not widespread. Mr Hilton, then, offered yet another unusual song (strangely, in the section on sources in this compilation, when one taps into the source, John Barleycorn appears - an unaccountable blip). It is as well to add that Vaughan Williams did not collect the song elsewhere. It should also be said that this writer has been unable to examine songs with the 'Scotch Brigade' title that emerged from the USA and Canada The relevant conundrum remains. What, exactly, did Mr Hilton sing?
After this, we may briefly target the song called The Jew Pedlar, a scatological piece in which, unsurprisingly, thoughts of political correctness were by no means a first consideration at that time. Such songs were in a line found prominently in nineteenth century songsters and mirror the same sort of opinions as were attached to the Irish - a mixture of humour at the expense of the subject and, too, asserting a degree of superiority in national terms perhaps no more or less than the superiority of tone where any section of society - 'country bumpkins', for example - is a target. There are a few broadside and songster printings of the particular piece - one, from Walker in Norwich with spoken interludes as in the case of The Ratcatcher's Daughter: but no other sung version. Again, then, Mr Hilton had come up with an unusual song though how his text progressed is unknowable.
The whole debate on lack of text then kicks in again. There is a title - Young Johnson - and a tune from Mr Hilton but nothing else; and two songs with the same title can be found in Roud and elsewhere, the first with text beginning 'Cold winter is past ' and the second 'Come all young men of learning'. The first has a reasonably spread profile. Its heyday would seem to have been during the 1830s and 1840s and offers us 'small birds', Cupid's chains' and similar images set in a conventional narrative of love that do not appear in any other Hilton songs (for those whose curiosity is piqued, there are are also references to the 'borough', the 'currough' and the 'curragh' of Kildare). Nor does the textual scansion not fit Mr Hilton's tune. Taking all this into consideration, the option taken by Alan Helsdon to plump for the second kind of song, is inevitable.
This second song, with its narrative about forgery and execution, is an absolute rarity in sung tradition - with only one available notation, from a James Rampton in Hampshire via Gardiner in 1906 and consisting of but two stanzas only. The piece is but modestly cast in broadside form (as used here by Alan Helsdon). Ryle seems to have been the most visible printer and his text differs only in the odd detail from the same narrative as given in Young Johnson, issued by Oxlade in Portsea. Previous discussion on this site revealed a different title, Young C---, in the stock of the printer Hurd (Shaftesbury).
The way that the various possibilities in the movements of these songs can be seen to have worked out or not worked out demonstrates once again why it is important to trace pedigree.
Also, as noted already, when pursuing the historical journeys of songs - as here - surprises accumulate. The Molecatcher has a fairly prominent place - Gardiner collected four versions; Vaughan Williams three - one from Mrs Verrall in Sussex in 1904 and the other two during the 1908 trip to Norfolk from Mr Hilton and Mr Jay. There are other versions noted much later in the twentieth century - those from Gordon Hall, for instance, from Louie (Louey) Fuller, from Cyril Phillips and from John MacDonald, 'The Singing Molecatcher' but there is no history in Roud of the song before the Norfolk period in time. This is surprising since, all told, the song clearly appealed more or less at an obvious level.
The song, scurrilous in nature, is one of a class of vehicles for lighthearted treatment - such as those in respect of cobblers great and small such as My name is Dick Darby the cobbler, The cobbler and the miser, The cobbler and the butcher ). Most extant tunes are quite simple in structure. Further, the two Norfolk tunes are hardly outstanding when posed against, say, Mr Hilton's Grand Conversation or The Outlandish Knight or, again, Lovely on the Water. It seems most likely that the singers simply offered the song as part of their store and this may well be a clue to the way Vaughan Williams went about his business; for it is hardly plausible that he would have asked for (say) the most ancient ballads in the singers' repertoires or, specifically, for ploughboy songs or sea songs; or, crucially, for a song that was of a dubious character.
We should be aware that the more complex tune is not necessarily the more profound and that a relatively simplicity, with its capacity for subtle variations in musical phrasing, is probably reflective of singing practices within a general repertoire, where quality could have been unconscious, singers being simply so well attuned to idiom. There are a dozen songs in this compilation where a gentle three-four pattern provides the vehicle for text - for example, Bold Princess Royal, Bonny Blue Handkerchief, Died for Love, Nancy, Phoebe and several more where there is a small extension of textual line, a change of emphasis, a slight musical elaboration - Foggy Dew, New Garden Fields, The Smuggler's Boy.
This emphasise on relatively simple tunes was found also in 1905. Examples are The Bold Princess Royal in both Mr Carter's and Mr Smith's versions, along with Mr Harper's Fair Flora, Green Bushes from Mr Whitby and there are others, some of which in the fashion outlined above, also contain shortened or lengthened phrases, thus furnishing us with a more wide-ranging musical movement. The basic pattern, we can see, is capable of much variation and expansion.
Before going overboard, so to speak, with an opposition of grander and less grand sorts of songs, it seems quite obvious that singers were fond of the relative simplicity of tunes - easy to learn, one supposes and yet, through invention, adjusted through variant phrases the normal tools of a singer trying to accommodate text though not regularly demonstrated in Vaughan Williams' collecting as here in Norfolk.
But - to return to the main thread apropos Mr Hilton - on the grounds of rarity alone even via a small number of songs, Mr Hilton can be seen to have drawn on a wide range of material, both as representative of periods in history and in kind. It suggests the existence of a busy mind and busy traditions and this needs re-emphasising in respect of the total haul and its parameters during the three trips under discussion.
And during the 1908 trip no singer other than Mr Hilton provided as many songs (and, as it happens, in 1905 only Mr Anderson with twelve songs - though several other singers contributed a fair number thus, it would seem, bespeaking intention, opportunity and time). Was Vaughan Williams' interest in Mr Hilton inspired? Was it simply a question of circumstance, of availability, that seems to have, somehow, elevated the particular singer?
Disappointingly, only three of Mr Hilton's songs made their way into the current and slightly later issues of JFSS and, at this distance, it would seem to have been remiss - though issues of the Journal followed their own unique pattern and it is doubtful that there was any rigid plan to keep up with the latest in collecting expeditions. It certainly looks as if a considerable amount of editorial work went on between the acquisition of a song and its eventual publication (one example, New Garden Fields, is considered below).
Of the other singers, Christopher Jay contributed eight songs including Maria Marten (sic), with a fairly straightforward four-four rhythm, noted at the Bridge Inn, Acle. The murder took place in 1827 and the murderer, Corder, was executed in 1828. Tom Pettitt's recent contribution to Musical Traditions is a welcome addition to understanding but is wider in its scope than discussion here. As far as Maria Marten is in view - and Tom Pettit encompasses this information - Catnach it was, according to Mayhew and then Hindley, who expIoited the event most vigorously in various ways - with an estimated sale of over a million and a half copies of a 'Last Dying Speech' and a description of the 'Execution' together with a ballad - all on one sheet. The subsequent broadside history is less impressive but includes Plant in Nottingham, printing exactly contemporaneously; Harkness (1840-1866), Hodges (1855-1861) though with no sign of any inherited Pitts issue; Fortey (1858-1885) and Disley (1860-1883). Pitts did issue a prose account of the affair.
Mr Jay's version employs the usual spelling of Maria Marten, although newspaper articles use both an 'i' and an 'e'. Such, in a catalogue, preferred 'i' even whilst issuing copy of text with an 'e'. Mr Jay's own singular tune is not at all like the more celebrated Dives and Lazarus variant noted by Vaughan Williams from Mr J Whitby in Tilney All Saints in 1905. The Whitby tune is, in fact, echoed in other versions - rather remotely in one from the sisters Mrs Yeldham and Ms Challis (the record shows a double acknowledgment), noted by Clive Carey in Essex in 1911, more clearly in another one noted by Cecil Sharp from a Miss. Layabre (the name as found in Roud indicates that it had not been easily read and there is a question mark attached) late on in 1920, and in two, both noted by Vaughan Williams himself from a Mr Booker in Sussex in 1904 and from Mr and Mrs Verrall in Sussex in the same year, both under the title Maria Marten. Other contemporary versions, using the Dives and Lazarus tune, were from Mr Wharton in Oxfordshire in 1907 and Mrs Keble in Suffolk in 1910 (both Butterworth) and from Robert Feast in Ely in 1911, as noted by Sharp. John East in Dunmow in 1912, another Sharp singer, sang a quite different tune.
Tom Pettitt indicates that the opening line in all these versions is 'Come all you thoughtless young man'. Other first lines in records suggest different songs on the same subject - The Red Barn Murder or The Suffolk Tragedy - and Tom Pettitt examines these in detail.
Mr Jay's tune is, it seems, capable of carrying texts of all three songs with a slight adjustment in places. Stanzaic patterns fit. Alan Helsdon chose to put the Jay tune together with a Hodges text and this works well but Vaughan Williams' habit of omitting text might still leave us wondering which song Mr Jay actually sang.
The notional learning period for Mr Jay is likely to have been relatively late in the century - he was born in 1854. The same applies to other singers whose versions of the particular song were found after the turn of the twentieth centuries. Clearly, the song gained in popularity.
In subsequent years more versions have been found. There are a number of records of the Maria Marten song in Steve Roud's index - for instance, that from Billy List, recorded in Brundish, Suffolk by Keith Summers in 1977 for the National Sound Archives and issued on Veteran VT154CD.
In contrast to songs about the Corder case there is no such persistence centred on the Rush (1848) or the Mannings murders (1849) when newspapers were full of sensational accounts but which made hardly a dent in broadside terms and none at all as song. Words like 'fickle' emerge as possible descriptions of the when, where and how songs emerged, a whole new discussion involving sheer commercial practice.
Briefly, Phoebe deserves comment. In it there is a clear note of the 'garden', a formal and relatively high-flown re-counting of a romantic meeting, unparalleled in the other songs collected at this time in this place. The song seems to have derived in part from Thomas Arne's song, Colin and Phoebe that appeared in the early eighteenth century. There are numerous broadside issues of the transmogrified song and some printings in songsters during the period 1757-1776. Kidson printed it in his Traditional Tunes although there he suggests that the song is more directly linked to Corydon and Phaebe, 'A dialogue sung by Mr Lowe and Miss Stevenson. Set by Mr Worgan, 1755'.
There is but a handful of sung versions available - two noted in a near-contemporary form to Mr Jay's version, one got by Sharp from Charles Benfield, Bould, Oxon, in 1909 and where the tune is reminiscent of Nightingales Sing and the other from George Blake as noted by Gardiner in Southampton (1906) and, as if to emphasise a certain continuity, similar to an earlier Kidson variant - further still to similar tunes to versions taken up by Pop Maynard (1969) and Mrs Violet Bishop in Moule Common, Surrey (1972) - both located by Ken Stubbs. They also match the tune from Mr Jay. This represents an interesting and consistent survival, seemingly from a popular theatre or at least art-song source.
Alan Helsdon's choice of text for a reconstruction is that from a Vaughan Williams scrapbook as listed in Roud and the lines are much the same as those in broadside form.
A slightly skewed history is thus revealed. The song contrasts vividly in subject-matter with Maria Marten and is a notable demonstration of variety in Mr Jay's choices in repertoire. It is also another example of a scarce commodity.
Bonny Bunch or Roses has its own distinction. In a widespread showing several tunes bear a strong relationship one to another. Text begins in a strong but comfortable eight-line stanzaic form. The second four lines of text are supported by a contrasting section of the tune. Baring-Gould went so far as to write that 'The tune is always the same' and he had some reason based on his collected versions although there are versions that sail a different course - Frank Purslow printed one using the tune of The Rose Tree, for instance. Mr Jay's tune, though, eschewing both these options, simply repeats the first phrases of 'the same' tune - that Baring-Gould had himself discovered. Consequently, the added text in Alan Helsdon's compilation - nothing on manuscript - has been given in four-line stanzas in his reconstruction - almost a printer's trick.
On a piquant note, it is good to see the retention of the sentiment in text relevant to the participants in the Napoleonic conflict in the lines, 'the deeds of young Napoleon did sting the bonny bunch of roses -O' and Mr Jay's own codicil: ' "And they did sting too" commented Mr Jay when he had finished the song'. This is recounted by Gatty who was the one who actually noted this song in 1908 as described above.
Vaughan Williams got three other versions of this song, one - a fragment - from a Marion Pearce in Salisbury in 1904; another from Mr Hirons in Weobley, Herefordshire, in 1908; and a later, third exaample from a Mrs Johnston in Evershott, Dorset, in 1926.
Perhaps more relevantly, there had been other versions that feature at the end of the nineteenth century - Baring-Gould with three notations - and then, during the time in which Vaughan Williams was collecting in Norfolk, copy from Sharp, Gardiner, Carey, Lucy Broadwood - followed by Alfred Williams. The song marched on, appearing in considerable numbers up into our own time and featuring well-known singers, Harry Cox, Sam Larner and Walter Pardon among them.
Butterworth, too, was aware of the song, collecting half a dozen versions including one from Mr Landamore in Wroxham in 1910 that opens up another avenue for consideration because on manuscript he includes the initials of Francis Jekyll as co-collector. Given that Mr Landamore's tune was noted in April and songs collected by Vaughan Williams in Norfolk in October 1910, any idea that there was a parcel of collectors directly or collectively involved in the work done at the one time in 1910 in Norfolk and featuring in this compilation seems unlikely. But it might help to explain why Vaughan Williams, through the agency of his friends and collaborators, went back to the particular area. There is further discussion on this matter below.
The Landamore tune, be it noted, is very much of the standard kind, a demonstration of a remarkable consistency. There are other songs that also display such a consistency - The Inniskillen Dragoon (sometimes Enniskillen) for instance.
To add to the compass, there are sung versions of Bonny Bunch of Roses from both Scotland and Ireland - Thomas Moran is prominent here.
If we look into the availability of printed versions, too, there are numbers from well-known printers such as Ford, Fortey, Clift, Pearson, Cadman, Walker junior in Durham, Taylor, Ross and Such together with some less familiar concerns - those of Horsley in Derby and (less remote) Forth in Pocklington. Titles might vary a little but text is consistent. Oddly, neither Catnach nor Pitts appear to have issued copy (a point that one would be happy to have corrected if need be).
There are also versions in songsters and with two of them found in a Book of a Thousand Songs (1843) and Forget-me-Not Songster (1845), both issued in New York.
With all this material we have a veritable panoply of riches and it is clear that Bonny Bunch of Roses deserves in-depth consideration (it may be relevant that this writer is more or less out of touch with current research).
Of other singers in 1908, George Lock of Rollesby contributed six songs (the alternative of 'Locke' is found on manuscript and in that form is a regular reference in Roud). As it stands, the list of Mr Lock's songs encountered in 1908 is attractive and includes Flower of London that Vaughan Williams initially named as 'Its of an old horse' and in the honest manner found throughout the collecting processes recorded that it may have been 'a little doubtful'; Dark-Eyed Sailor, Just As the Tide was Turning and The Man of Birmingham Town. Vaughan Williams was, maybe, sifting, posing Mr Lock's contribution (and that of Mr Jay) against already impressive acquisitions. He noted down certain slight adjustments to certain small passages in the course of this or that tune but, sadly, there is no extensive intimation of how the tune might proceed as it supports text. Still, it is worth drawing attention to those small hints suggesting - again - that Vaughan Williams did have text in mind.
Mr Lock also sang to Vaughan Williams in 1910 and this encounter is considered below.
All told, the songs from Mr Jay and Mr Lock do much to illustrate a wide range of items and thus correlate with the nature of Mr Hilton's contribution.
There are also songs from the three Debbages. Alan Helsdon has been diligent in sorting out the identity of each and this, along with identification of George Gorble (below) and, it seems, 'Blue' Fisher (1911), could be said to be a useful contribution to the picture of Norfolk singers as a whole.
The first three songs in order of discovery - I'll go and 'list for a sailor, A bold young farmer and John Bull (a variant title, Paddy Magee's Dream, is given in the reconstruction in Alan Helsdon's compilation) - were according to Michael Kennedy supposedly from 'Mr Walter (Skipper) Debbage at Bridge Inn' - but Alan Helsdon offers convincing evidence that the singer was another Walter Debbage, not 'Skipper'. This same Walter Debbage then sang Georgie and Fishes Swim at the same venue. Three days later another Mr Walter Debbage - this time it really was 'Skipper' - sang John Barleycorn, Frog and mouse and Polly Oliver at Ranworth, all light in narrative and so leading to speculation as to whether this was characteristic of the singer's repertoire.
The third Debbage was William 'Barlow' Debbage, 'Barlow' the name of the village in which he lived Vaughan Williams, on a tidied manuscript, has the name 'Barlow' but whether or not he was aware of local customs of naming is unclear. In the Roud index, the name is given as 'Barlow', not Debbage at all.
The practice of giving nicknames (which may change from time to time) seems to have been a feature of singing communities in East Anglia - witness 'Chummy' Gorble in 1910 and 'Blue' Fisher, met during the 1911 trip. This practice extended well into a later time - one thinks of 'Charger' Salmond, for instance.
'Barlow' sang Bold Princess Royal to go along with other Vaughan Williams Norfolk versions from Mr Anderson and Mr Smith (1905) - and from Charles Potipher (Essex), early in Vaughan Williams' collecting activities and Robert Hurr in Southwold in 1910. The song was plentiful elsewhere with a good number found contemporaneously to those got by Vaughan Williams: Sharp, Carey (how much in Carey's versions of songs is due to the collecting work of Dorothy Marshall?), Gardiner, Grainger - and Kidson with two 'early' versions from the 1890s. One other incidental nugget is that Grainger noted the piece as The Black Pirate and Carey as The Bold Pirate.
Carpenter expanded the list in the 1920s and 1930s to include versions from Scotland. There was also a significant resurgence during the twentieth century through several latterday singers, the stalwarts Cox, Larner and Pardon among them as well as Jumbo and Velvet Brightwell, Bob Roberts, Geoff Ling and Stan Hugill. Singers in Canada and America also made their contributions. The interesting thing about the travels of the song in Britain is that printed versions were relatively few: of broadside printers Catnach, Pitts, Disley, Fortey, Such and Ryle, all in London, with the almost unknown Brooks of Bristol and with the better-known Ross in Newcastle (there are one or two more references in Roud to printers' lists) standing for 'country' printers. It is tempting to see the survival of Bold Princess Royal as owing much to oral dissemination.
'Barlow's tune' is a straightforward one with similarities to those from Mr Smith in 1905 and Mr Hurr in 1910 but not with Mr Anderson's 1905 version. The variety is worth noting.
Other songs in the Debbage nexus included songs that have now become familiar - Died for love, Faithful sailor boy, Nancy and, perhaps less prominent in song history, Smuggler's Boy.
To add to this nexus in slightly different terms, Shannon Side, from 'Barlow', is one of three versions that VW collected, the other two being from Mr Flack in Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire in 1907 and Mr Colcombe in Weobley, Herefordshire in 1909. Mr Flack's tune reminds us irresistibly of The Little Gipsy Girl; Mr Colcombe's rather like a tune associated with The Painful Plough, found in Lucy Broadwood's English County Songs (1893).
Before the nineteenth century spread of broadside text in which the story became fairly standardised, it appears that the text had a distant origin in time - as far back as the song, The Western Knight and the Young Maid of Bristoll, first printed in 1629. There are also a dozen English sung versions all collected during the first flush of the 'Revival', seven of these from Sharp (one or two are tune only), which confirms a burst of interest during the latter half of the nineteenth century and then beyond. 'Barlow', be it noted, was born in 1856.
The song had spread to Canada and the USA. There are also some Scottish and one or two relatively recent Irish versions. A note on the Alfred Williams manuscript version (from David Sawyer) does say that the song was 'Evidently of Irish origin ' but there is nothing to confirm this although there are echoes of other songs found in Ireland elsewhere in the total number of collected songs during the 'Revival' that may have led to this supposition. It is more likely that such songs found in England, particularly in broadside form, perpetuate the narrative of a conventional love story in an exotic setting (see below: The Irish Girl). Interestingly, Alfred Williams did not include Shannon Side in Folk Songs of the Upper Thames.
Gloriously, 'Barlow's' version includes the naming of the (suspicious) suitor as 'Captain Thunderbolt', the name found also in Mrs Russell's version recorded by Henry Hammond in Upwey, Dorset in 1907.
The Debbage songs as a group can be seen to have cut quite a swathe. Fishes Swim is a version of version of The Wealthy Farmer's Son. John Bull - in Alan Helsdon's reconstruction as Paddy Magee's Dream, is, it seems unique in traditions. These adjustments help us to locate material within that is more familiar but the given titles here are equally intriguing as examples of what might have been part of a singer's valuation of songs.
Of the other 1908 singers, Vaughan Williams notes the singing of Mr Peter Knight in Hickling, and gives It was early one morning as the title of a song, a version of The Cruel Ship's Carpenter, an example, if nothing else, of a song with a considerable past. This was noted on April 18th 1908.
On the same day 'Pete' Knight sang tunes for Spurn Point and Turkish Lady, the former dateable to the loss of the vessel, Industry, in 1819. The tune of The Turkish Lady is a very close relative of Come write me down ye powers above Such snippets may not register as being wonderfully exciting but twists and turns in song history and in singers' choices are registered.
However, there seems to be no connection between the two Knights; and Alan Helsdon writes that it may well be impossible to trace either. The coincidence is left alone here.
We should not move on without again mentioning Sally Brown's contribution. Alan Helsdon lists three songs under her name but has reservations about two of the songs, one - and this would be uncommon in the Vaughan Williams collecting at this time - with words only. More clearly, she did sing 'So late it was ', a version of Tarry Sailor. Usefully, too, Vaughan Williams noted three variant phrases, yet another sign that he might have been aware of how text proceeded. We know nothing more about Sally except what Alan Helsdon adds as a matter of speculation in the same manner of his notes on other singers, with aspects that are certainly plausible.
The overall appearance of collecting in 1908 does follow that in the collection of King's Lynn songs: a solid number from one or two singers and then an accumulation of the one or two songs from other singers. To this extent the collecting in both areas is roughly commensurate.
The 1910 trip was much more circumscribed than Vaughan Williams's previous one in 1908. The trip was made over three days, 25th-27th October.
Some tentative itineraries are proposed in the compilation - and the suggestion is that the pair of collectors put up with Gatty and Mercer in Ranworth rather than staying at inns. Obviously, this involves some speculation but the picture might not otherwise be complete (as it can be) - who amongst us knew about the Gatty and Mercer connection before this compilation arrived?
Only two singers were visited: John Lock, who had provided six songs in 1908, and George Gorble.
John Lock sang The Dark-eyed sailor for which Vaughan Williams chose the key of G and Butterworth the key of F, not the only time that their apprehension differed as will be seen during discussion of the 1911 trip.
Two more of Mr Lock's songs were repeated from 1908: The Man of Birmingham Town and Just as the tide was flowing The tunes of both songs, though providing certain small variations in the manner that repeat singing is wont to do, are very much the same, visit on visit. Alan Helsdon speculates on the attraction of The Man of Birmingham Town in respect of modal characteristics - an example of the Dorian mode, not common in traditional repertoire. It is safe to say that Mr Lock would be unlikely to have had any notion of this distinction which exercised the minds of more than one collector in an effort to 'place' the phenomenon of 'Folk singing' in musical history - another story altogether. The song as found here, nevertheless, is distinctive and one can understand the attraction for a collector.
The more interesting detail is that Vaughan Williams asked Mr Lock to repeat The Man of Birmingham Town. This throws open the debate as to who normally took the initiative but there does not seem to be any evidence of the same sort elsewhere - except that Mr Lock also repeated Just as the tide
The tune of Just as the tide is a quite delightful example, pretty much one that has continued to be used for the song (by Sam Larner and Harry Cox amongst others), of a characteristic lyrical quality in repertoire as a whole, (as in the case of Mr Lock's Dark-eyed sailor), a little less straightforward than the more simple three-four tunes mentioned above. There are versions from Baring-Gould Sharp, Hammond, Gardiner, Grainger, Kidson and Butterworth who located four versions - two in Kent and one each from Sussex and Oxfordshire. A version from Mr Gorble, discussed below, is quite commensurate with the tune used by Mr Lock.
However, the tune from Alfred Dowden, noted by Sharp in East Huntspill, Somerset, in 1907 differs radically; and so does that used by Mr Harper when Vaughan Williams was collecting in King's Lynn in 1905.
There was no prolific outpouring of broadside printings - Catnach, Fortey, Disley and Such in London and Bebbington in Manchester. The substantial agreement amongst singers in employing a tune that was standard may well favour a descent through oral means. This, it has to be said, is never quite 'proveable'.
Other examples of songs with the lyrical character of Just as the tide and as exemplified in Vaughan Williams' collecting (in general), might include Lovely Joan, The sprig of thyme and The Streams of Lovely Nancy (but this is, perhaps, a subjective view and is straying somewhat too far).
Mr Lock also provided a version of Green Mossy Banks of the Lea and his tune is reminiscent of the one for Pretty Maid Milking Her Cow, one of quite a sparse number of English songs that can be shown to have a genuine Irish-language pedigree. The only other version of Green Mossy Banks referenced in connection with Vaughan Williams is from Henry Burstow, noted in 1904. Butterworth got a version from Mr Landamore in Wroxham in 1910 and he already had versions from Mr Nappin, Stanton St John, Oxfordshire in 1907 and Mr Lockley, High Ercall, Salop in 1908 all with tunes somewhat similar to that for The Pretty Maid Sharp, too, had such a version from Robert Parish in 1906 and, during the same year, from Captain Lewis in Minehead (1906); and yet another from James Harding, Stow on the Wold in 1907.
There are a number of other sung versions available via the Roud index and Full English. Their tunes vary although there are echoes, one with another. After the distinctive version of The Pretty Maid as noted here the next most favoured tune was that associated Caroline and her young sailor bold. Elizabeth Smithers sang such a version for Sharp in Tewkesbury (1906); John Carter for Gardiner in Twyford, Hampshire in 1905. It should be said that Louie Hooper had her own altogether distinctive tune (1904). As a further example, Gardiner's version from Frank Phillips, Stoney Cross, Hampshire, 1909, is different again.
One other point to make is that whilst the song is that of a familiar happy love-story, the 'exotic' makes an appearance The suitor, bringing ten thousand a year with him, usually comes from 'Philadelphia, my home', a reference that most probably places the creation of the song in the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, when Philadelphia would have achieved a certain prominence on the English side of the pond.
The piece was very popular. Texts are consistent, as they are in broadside versions that come from the printers Catnach, Paul, Fortey, Livsey, Keys and Jackson, all with 'Philadelphia' as point of origin for the suitor; and Walker in Durham and Jacques in Manchester preferring 'Ireland' and where the suitor is referred to as an 'Irish stranger'. In all copy the heroine's name is given as Matilda (Edwards in London has 'Matilder' but this is fairly certain to have been a printer's slip).
Mr Lock's version is perhaps not, then, outstanding but, as suggested elsewhere in this essay where a number of songs share this level of a then contemporary interest, one that represents a popular strain in traditional song repertoire.
Scarborough Town, a version of The Drowned Lover, had been collected by Vaughan Williams from a Mr Emery as Stowbrow in Sheringham in 1905 and there are resemblances between the two tunes. Otherwise the song has the smallest of profiles - two versions got by Gardiner from a George Cooper in 1906 and a William Bone in 1907 and one from Kidson who printed it in Traditional Tunes (the bulk of available English versions turn out to have been associated with Sam Larner and Harry Cox whose versions were noted by various people during the 1950s: there must be a story here). The Vaughan Williams 1910 manuscript version was noted in typical fashion with tune plus an indication of variant musical phrases. Even if the Lock and Gardiner's versions make up the merest dissemination the piece has an engaging if precarious history - Steve Gardham set out parameters on MT in his Dungheap series.
Liverpool Play has a profile elsewhere, some times as The Dolphin; and, like Scarborough Town, is found mainly in more modern versions - from Sam Larner and Harry Cox again, for instance. On Vaughan Williams' manuscript, as noted, he wrote 'suffolk version of words' and these turn out to have been sent from Southwold by a J C Cooding in 1910. One wonders about this sudden conjunction - as Alan Helsdon points out, Rollesby and Southwold are but twenty miles apart and Vaughan Williams had just come from Southwold. It suggests conversations somewhere along the line.
Incidentally, the existence of songs as 'sent in' is not to be scoffed at. It underpins some of the activity of the fledgeling Folk Song Society and the work of the formidable Kate Lee and Lucy Broadwood. Baring-Gould's work is scattered with such references.
The inclusion of New Garden Fields also stands out. This tune was noted from Mr Lock by Butterworth and Francis Jekyll in April 1910. The transcription is straightforward but Butterworth's manuscripts place the Lock tune with another - really an elaboration of the former tune. So, was it that Butterworth, in that first instance, 'simplified' the tune as taken down during his encounter with Mr Lock?
Vaughan Williams' manuscripts from October 1910 offer three attempts, the first very sketchy and the second more elaborate with the added comment 'also phonograph'. In this case, was he actually using this phonograph version? His third version - it is not supposed that the number order is as set down here - can be found in full with variant phrases, very much as in the phonograph version.
The song as published in JFSS 1913 turns out to be the 'phonograph' version. A brief comment was added to the effect that the root key of the tune wavered. Butterworth confirmed this: 'The intonation of this song was peculiar and difficult to note. The words were similar to the ordinary broadside version'. Quite how far and with what intention the 'phonograph' version over-rode the first Butterworth and Jekyll version referred to above is not at all clear though Vaughan Williams also wrote that it had been 'noted and corrected by' himself and Butterworth - shades of Baring-Gould. Was Vaughan Williams referring to the original Butterworth and Jekyll notation? Further, it might be that Vaughan Williams' October 1910 contact with Mr Lock, following the one in 1908, was the result of the visit by Butterworth and Jekyll to the singer in April. Alternatively, Vaughan Williams could have simply asked to see Mr Lock again.
Apart from the Lock version, Vaughan Williams had got the song from Mr Broomfield in East Hordon, Essex in 1904 and from James Punt, again in East Horndon during the same year and, finally, from 'An Irish Woman' at Pool End, Herefordshire in 1913 where Vaughan Williams wrote 'uncertain' in fact, there is only a sketch. The first two these were solidly in the key of G but the Hereford version has some (but not much) relationship to the Lock version - which hovers around D minor.
One extra detail emerges. On the manuscript of Mr Punt's version is written 'For the rest of the words see book of ballad sheets'. This small detail, together with other ones indicated in this discussion, suggests how Vaughan Williams might have referenced some tunes with texts and we know that he had a collection of broadsides - this is underlined in the Roud index.
A version of the song appeared in Barret's English Folk Song of 1891 and other sung versions were collected by Baring-Gould from the redoubtable Sam Fone in 1892, by Sharp from Henry Thomas in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire in 1907, by Gardiner from Alfred Oliver in Axford, Hampshire, in 1907; and there was text from David Sawyer noted by Alfred Williams. Both the Sharp and Gardiner tunes are related in some phrasing to the Lock version.
Barrett's tune begins in C and, in its second phrase, incorporates an F sharp before following this with a sequence of notes - G, F Sharp and F - wholly uncharacteristic of English singing. Sam Fone's tune is solidly four-four and has no relationship to any of the others.
This gives us something of a spread even if a relatively small one and there are a few echoes amongst the tunes of some versions. The time period for collecting is clearly quite compact. But there is no wholesale adoption of any one tune.
In text, there are, as would be expected, small anomalies. Sam Fone's version has the opening line, 'Pay attention pretty maids', and where the '18th day of August' turns up in stanza two. David Sawyer's version via Alfred Williams also places the date line in its second stanza. Otherwise, sung versions use the same opening lines as do broadsides, in which there are usually two alternatives. The first is almost overwhelming: the line 'Come all you pretty Fair Maids, I pray you now attend'. The second sort has 'On the eighteenth day of August in the eight month of the year'. Much of the rest of text is consistent.
Similarly, broadside narrative follows the same path and in quite stately language, offers a conventional wooing ending happily in church. There is copy from Catnach and Pitts (after 1819), with a strong showing from the heyday London printers - Hodges, Fortey, Disley, Batchelar, Taylor, Birt - as well as the almost unknown Bysh, also from London. Manchester is well represented and so is Birmingham and there are comparative outriders such as Clift, Ford, Armstrong, Harkness, R. Evans in Chester, M'Call in Liverpool and George Walker, junior, in Durham. Armstrong's title is worth a mention: The eighteenth of August, or, The New Garden Fields but his text is the 'Come all you pretty maidens' kind. Printing, it can be seen, went on right through the middle of the nineteenth century and well on into the notional learning period of the singers listed above. There was certainly the means to initiate or to reinforce incidences of the appearance of the song.
Back on even keel, if we consider Mr Lock's full dozen songs noted during both the 1908 and 1910 trips, once more the variety and, indeed, the various song histories, are prominent.
'Chummy' Gorble offered four songs - the name of the singer emerging as a correction to that of 'Goble', taken for granted hitherto (this has been mentioned above). Perhaps at some stage a local accent was misheard. Alan Helsdon's notes actually present the possibility of two Gorble singers, both named George but having different life-spans - but this does not, in the end, clarify the situation.
More intriguing is VW's record of the names of other singers associated in the 1910 trip. They were 'Walter Wilkinson, Rollesby', 'Barnabas Green, Filby' and 'Mr Evans, Filby', none of whom, according to Alan Helsdon, appeared on the 1911 census. The names of these singers together with the name of a fourth singer, in a homely reference, that of 'Wm Parker (next door to Locke)', could be found on the manuscript version of Roger the Miller. It would have been more than nice to find out what transpired here. A lack of time would be the obvious qualification but the existence of the singers may indicate, as with other hints, that there was a wider contemporary community context for singing. It ought to be expected, surely, that Vaughan Williams was aware or became aware of any possible proliferation of singers in the area.
Mr Gorble sang Just as the tide was flowing and, where possible community is concerned it is worth noting that the tune from Mr Gorble bears considerable resemblance to the two Lock versions. In fact, the tunes for a majority of sung versions, numbering more than a dozen, that emerged during a compact period in time, share a very similar form. In turn there is a strong relationship between these tunes and that known as The Blue-eyed Stranger. This gives us a perspective, since William Thompson included The Blue-eyed Stranger in his 1725 collection, Orpheus Caledonius. There is still the whole of the nineteenth century to account for It is difficult not to think that the tune for the particular song circulated before Mr Gorble got hold of it. Where text is concerned, broadsides that may have helped during this time were limited in scope - as described above in connection with Mr Lock.
The sung version from Albert Dowden, noted by Sharp in East Huntspill, Sussex, in 1907, and referred to above is altogether different. All the same, overall in available versions, including that from Mr Gorble, the predominant tune joins others such as that for The Bonny Bunch of Roses that had the strongest of impacts.
Mr Gorble's tune for The Irish Girl is, relatively speaking, quite elaborate with a persistent flattened note in its last two strains that alter the character. The song can be found widespread. Vaughan Williams got three other versions, one from Mr Cooper in King's Lynn in 1905, one from Thomas Morgan in Herefordshire in 1905 and the first of all from Mr and Mrs Ratford during his early ventures at Ingrave (1904). His manuscript title for Mr Gorble's version is I wish I were a butterfly, reflecting a floating text. Other major collectors all included the song, Sharp with over a dozen examples from his early collecting in the century - and he went on to record the song again at a later time; Gardiner with eleven versions, the Hammonds with three, and versions from Grainger and Ella Leather
In the case of this song, there were broadside texts from major London printers such as Pitts, Disley, Fortey and Such to which we may add texts from Harkness, Kendrew, Bloomer, Mair in Scotland and Baird and Haly in Ireland; and versions in songsters, the earliest of the latter, it seems, dating from 1843 (Book of a thousand songs). Some versions adopted the title of The New Irish Girl, thus inviting attention to a supposed fresh song - from William Bartlett in Wimborne, Dorset (Hammond) in 1905, Mrs Park in Trowbridge in 1906 (Gardiner), Fred White in Southampton (Gardiner) in 1906 and Mrs Russell in Upwey in 1907 (Hammond again - although it was thought that her memory and ear were unreliable). Texts are similar but tunes varied considerably one with another - those from Mr Nappin in Stanton St John Oxfordshire, noted by Butterworth in 1907 and from Jim Jillson is Askham Boyars, Yorkshire in 1907, also noted by Butterworth); and Mr Gorble's tune is no exception to the presence of variety.
Singers were, as has already been found, often sifting and choosing their particular vehicles as can be seen in the popular profile of The Irish Girl in one form or another through the middle and latter years of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
But it is unlikely that the title name of 'Irish' cements the song. It is one of several examples of a slightly romantic reference being adopted, where, for instance, a specific location is attached to a wholly familiar kind of love song. As other examples of this false 'Irishness', The Maid of Sweet Gortein springs to mind; and The Rose of Ardee - and, indeed, Peggy Band. In respect of The Maid and The Rose , the names of places look to be a convenience of rhyme only. In fact, there are precious few 'real' Irish songs in English repertoire, those whose pedigree may be traced back to Irish language versions - the song known as Youghal Harbour provides one outstanding example and The Pretty Maid Milking her Cow has already been mentioned. Common themes, however, persist in the songs of both countries and there was obviously a great deal of interchanging of text and tune as people travelled. Sometimes this meant that a name could be slightly garbled - 'Gortein' is likely to have been an attempt to refer to 'Gurteen'.
Moving on: Mr Gorble's tune for The Captain's Apprentice would certainly remind us of James Carter's version in King's Lynn (1905) which Vaughan Williams appeared to suggest in a letter was 'exotic'; but it is not quite so striking. Other versions of the song come via Henry Hammond - from Mrs Edith Sartin in Corscombe, Dorset in 1906 and Joseph Taunton from the same place in 1907; and from Sharp, the song noted from Joseph Laver in Bridport 1906. Lucy Broadwood, in a letter to Vaughan Williams, suggested a relationship of the tune with that for Oxford City Later, E J Moeran got the piece from James Sutton in Winterton in 1915 and Harry Cox in Potter Heigham in 1921. The total haul is not extensive. This makes Mr Gorble's contribution noteworthy whilst the presence of other versions in Norfolk indicate popularity.
His Roger the Miller is certainly of an earlier age although how far back it came into being is not clear. What seems to have happened is that text of a long and somewhat ponderous nature, had been subsequently revised. What emerged was an almost separate song that, in relatively modern times, was also entitled The Grey Mare. Clearly the song follows the paths of those cited at the head of this essay - Bonny Light Horseman as a reminder.
On Vaughan Williams' Gorble manuscript there is no time signature and in a repeated set of four bars first off, a nine-eight rhythm is noted. The song then changes to using a six-eight timing and then reverts. It is strange, therefore, that in Alan Helsdon's version the whole song is written out in a six-eight rhythm. When did the revised timing come about? Butterworth also noted the tune and he used the nine-eight rhythm throughout although all his musical notes are crochets with the injunction to 'sing fast' whereas Vaughan Williams used the shorter quaver that would, in musical terms, be the normal way of setting-out a tune with the particular rhythm.
On the other hand (perhaps) under the final bars, Vaughan Williams wrote 'very nearly'. This is an altogether odd record.
As far as other sung versions go - involving a standardised text - it seems that Lucy Broadwood and Sabine Baring-Gould were two of the first collectors. Baring-Gould got two versions, one from John Hockin (actually Hoskins - and corrected to this form by Baring-Gould) in South Brent, Devon in 1888 and from James Olver in Launceston, Cornwall - text is without a date on it but Mr Olver's experience of family singing appears to have begun some time in the 1830s and his name is found in the second edition of Baring- Gould's Songs of the West, published in 1905. In Mr Olver's case, rather typical of Baring-Gould, he was happy to state that his collaborator Mr Sheppard - Harold Fleetwood-Sheppard, mentioned elsewhere in discussion here, had 'recast the words', not an unusual feature in Baring-Gould's collecting; but the essential narrative does not differ greatly from broadside versions and this gives it something of a context.
Lucy Broadwood's version came from Sam Willett in Cuckfield, Sussex and was noted in 1891. Frank Kidson included two versions in his Traditional Tunes, the one got from his mother who remembered it being sung at around 1826-7. Clive Carey had a version in manuscript form, collected early in the twentieth century. Frank Purslow adopted a version from Alfred Oliver in Axford, Hampshire, collected by George Gardiner in 1907.
The song continued to appear - Mike Yates got a version from Levy Smith c.1975-6.
There is a strong showing from Canada and America and some versions from Scotland and Ireland (the late Ollie Conway of Mullagh, County Clare sang The Grey Mare to the present writer in the 1970s). The Roud index, as is expected, has a comprehensive list.
This all enables us to see that there was a history of the song throughout much of the nineteenth century and into the learning period of singers such as George Gorble, maybe more extensive than these few details manage to convey. And this is where pedigree is so important, filling in gaps, expanding a trove and tracing descent through time. In the case of Roger the Miller, we find that the few sung examples given above constitute the known early twentieth century store and this makes Mr Gorble's version particularly interesting. Indeed, two out of four of his songs are not found in a general run. This underlines what is turning out to be quite a collection of songs found in Norfolk that are unique or sparse in number to set alongside those with a more everyday character.
There is one more aspect of the 1908 and 1910 trips, discussed previously. Butterworth noted several songs with Francis Jekyll. New Garden Fields from Mr Lock has already been cited. But the key would appear to have been in a visit to James Landamore in Wroxham in 1908 when the two collectors noted Green Mossy Banks. There followed a second visit to Mr Landamore in 1910 when The Molecatcher, The Tinker and Seven Yellow Gipsies were noted jointly. The Isle of France came from 'Skinner' Crow in Filby in 1910, The Bold Fisherman from Mr Lock. Jekyll was involved in noting all of them. It should be said too that in 1910, presumably sparked by Mr Landamore in 1908, the Butterworth and Jekyll collaboration came in the April of the year and, as was discussed above, in connection with New Garden Fields, this may well have prompted Vaughan Williams to visit the area once more.
Then there is a another small complex to consider. The Dark-Eyed Sailor was noted by Vaughan Williams from Mr Lock in 1908. Jekyll and Butterworth noted the song from the same singer in 1910 and got another version from Mr Gorble at the same time. This, perhaps, cements a connection (a shared repertoire?) between Mr Lock and Mr Gorble but, regrettably, there is nothing to substantiate this and, overall, news of any possible shared repertoire in the area is still out of reach. In the wider context, versions of the song were not prolific.
Lucy Broadwood had already noted the song as sung by Frederick Page in St Albans, Hertfordshire in 1898. Vaughan Williams had a sketch of the tune from Dorset and had found it as sung by Mrs Horsnell in Essex and Mr Longhurst in Surrey, both versions noted in 1903 and he had in his possession a text from John Johnson - no date was given. Anne Gilchrist offers two manuscript versions from the same singer, Mrs Florrie Coomber - no date was given. Otherwise, it seems that only Fred Hamer as a later collector, noted it - from Fred Jordan in 1959, from Roy Faulkner in Ludlow, Shropshire in 1966 and Arthur Lane in Hungerford, Shropshire in 1968.
Finally, in a piquant manifestation, the tune for The Dark-Eyed Sailor as got from Mr Lock appears in Vaughan Williams' Five English Folk-songs, the first stanza of text using a faithful reproduction of Mr Lock's tune - before the composer expanded his piece through the usual methods of changing voice-lines, varying harmonies and extending or shortening musical phrases.
In 1911 VW and Butterworth went back to Norfolk and spent three days flitting between Pulham Market and Tibenham. It is not possible to establish where the collectors stayed but in his compilation Alan Helsdon suggests that they are likely to have put up somewhere around Gissing and Scole. The final song collected, as already noted, was from a Mr Woodcock who kept The Greyhound inn at Scole and The Greyhound, a well-known stopping point for those whose business involved travelling, was convenient to the collecting venues - a bicycle ride (sic) of round about seven miles in any direction that led to songs, according to Alan Helsdon. Maps included in the survey illustrate the working ground.
It is not known what prompted Vaughan Williams to visit the area. Perhaps he took the cue from Sharp (say) in choosing first to go to the Depwade Union (workhouse) at Pulham Market where he noted ten songs from four singers. The most important venue, where Vaughan Williams writes specifically that he encountered Noah Fisher, one of his singers, was 'at an inn in Long Row, Tibenham' and this turns out to have been The Three Horseshoes. The pub was not actually in Tibenham village but on Long Row to the south, a road that led to the north of Gissing
Alan Helsdon has provided a particularly thorough life-history of Harry Last, landlord of The Three Horseshoes, a character in the line of landlords who approved of the singing, as discussed above. Mr Last himself sang Sweet Primroses and his tune is commensurate with some sixteen other versions that have been noted and thus joining the group, including Bonny Bunch of Roses, in which a tune is constant. Vaughan Williams certainly knew what he was hearing having himself already noted four versions in Essex. And so we have another example of a popular song as opposed to a relative rarity.
During this 1911 trip Vaughan Williams met ten singers all told, none of whom provided him any extensive repertoire although this may well have been the result of the familiar limited time in which to record and a consequent rush that the collectors seemed to be in. The collection turns out to be as varied as, by now, one might now expect, revealing some quite striking songs even as The Molecatcher, an example already canvassed, proved to be modest. Modest or not it was obviously a song with attraction in the Norfolk of this time.
Examples are given below of kind and the way in which Vaughan Williams made his notations. For us, this provokes yet more intrigue and reflection: very much as Alan Helsdon hoped. It is of special interest that on the first page of his collecting notes, Vaughan Williams set out a table indicating that five songs were '1st rate', nine 'good', five 'moderate' and six more 'passable'.
Vaughan Williams' first singer was Jack Dade, met in Depwade Union, and who sang a version of General Wolfe, text conceived during the latter half of the eighteenth century. We remember the best-known event in Wolfe's life, as recorded in the song; his defeat of Montcalm at Quebec in 1759 - and Wolfe's own death. In a way, then, it is a little strange that it was, in a sense, resurrected but there are no rules about this, as is well-known. The examples of Napoleon and Nelson preclude any easy assumptions since both were celebrated and at a time long after their respective deaths.
General Wolfe, nevertheless, stands out as the only version that Vaughan Williams noted. Butterworth, alongside Vaughan Williams, also noted the tune but his text is from somebody else altogether, the product, it would seem, as in many Butterworth cases during the three trips under discussion, of a revision of notes made after the time of collecting. In addition, Butterworth's choice of timing in the tune is slower than that of Vaughan Williams and this, too, is something of a feature in their endeavours: a slight independence.
Jack Dade's General Wolfe is likely to have had a first line as 'Bold General Wolfe to his men did say'. That is how the textual scansion could work using the Dade tune but there is an alternative first line - 'On Monday morning as we set sail' - that fits just as well. Butterworth insists that the singer was Mr Dade. Vaughan Williams, on the other hand, first wrote 'Dade', then 'Tufts' and then 'Dade' again We can not but raise a sigh.
The substance of the piece is, as in all other versions, the same, with a concentration on Wolfe addressing his troops as he lay dying.
That is not the whole story, of course. Baring-Gould referred to a 'songster' of 1822 and the Roud index also lists songsters from the nineteenth century. There are a number of sung versions in the collecting of Sharp, Grainger, Lucy Broadwood, Henry Hammond and Gardiner. Alfred Williams noted text. What also happened is that the song seems almost to have gathered pace through the twentieth century, well into our own time and, in Norfolk, finding its way into the repertoire of Sam Larner.
More: in sung versions there is another overwhelming kind of tune (as was found in the case of Bonny Bunch of Roses and Inniskillen Dragoon), given small changes in musical detail, and it is shared by Jack Dade in one encounter with the collectors whilst changed slightly in a second: Butterworth wrote 'and another time' for this but there is no date. The two visits to Pulham Union, one day after another, 19th and 20th December 1911, would seem to have offered the only opportunities for notation of the singing of Mr Dade.
He also sang a Harvest Song, the title on Butterworth's manuscript. Kennedy gives it as Health Song. Whatever - it has familiar praise stanzas (and is eminently singable). Alan Helsdon has notes on Jack Dade and his Harvest Song in his recent MT article 314 that repeats the information given in the compilation under review.
Other workhouse singers named Stevenson, Took(e) and Woods were encountered and Alan Helsdon provides us with, more or less, what is known about these gentlemen. Three songs were noted from Jonas Stevenson - Isle of France, a very sketchy and incomplete setting-out with the word 'doubtful' attached, mentioned also above; John Reilly and The Manchester Angel.
Another song came from 'Woods': The Keys of Heaven - that, however coincidentally, chimes in with The Miller and His Three Sons, Old King Cole and The Barley Mow, all located during this particular trip and all, if in slightly different ways, cumulative songs in their make-up. There is a hint, then, of popularity but it cannot be sustained.
Then there were two songs from David Took(e) - another Molecatcher and a very rare flower, indeed, The Rose of Britain's Isle, with but one other manuscript version in England, from the Hammond collection (as sung by Mrs Rowsell in 1905), and a reference in Burstow's Reminiscences. Broadsides, too, are hardly overwhelming in number: Keys in Devonport, Ford in Chesterfield, Harkness in Preston and Walker in Durham. This hardly suggests any demonstrable proliferation of copy. As in several other instances, already discussed, it is useful to hold this in mind as a possible measure of the song's importance, its rarity value, in Vaughan Williams' collecting.
In the case of 'Woods', Alan Helsdon actually hazards the appearance of two brothers but that 'It is impossible to say which of the two brothers sang '. He also offers a thought that two brothers might have sung together - an altogether rare proposition in English repertoire. None of this can be confirmed.
We then come to Noah Fisher. Noah Fisher sang one stanza and a further two lines of a horse song, Team Boy, a song rooted, so to speak, in his environment. He also sang Barley Mow, another song connected with the virtual monopoly of job opportunities in agriculture in the Norfolk of the time. Perhaps he had other bucolic songs in repertoire but of this there is no evidence. He was further credited with Old King Cole by Butterworth who then crossed out the name and added that of 'Young Tuffs' (sic). No date is given on manuscript nor venue but if the substitute name is taken into account this song must have been taken down on 19th December, the only time when the collector met with 'Young Tuffs', in The Three Horseshoes - and when Noah Fisher was present which may just account for the confusion in attribution.
It is worth adding that on the same occasion an unknown singer sang an untitled song that turns out to be Yorkshire Bite or The Boy and the Cow, a song lauding in a satisfactory manner the outwitting of traders by a simple or not so simple cow-boy.
Another song is credited to Noah Fisher, noted in manuscript as being in 'Dolly Vardon style', and is yet another unusual piece behind which, if no strict face value is adopted, there is a strong if somewhat complicated pedigree. It must be said, following the run of the tune, that determining this pedigree could be a kind of red herring but Alan Helsdon invokes the title of Dogger Bank - and this is relevant to the line pursued here. There is certainly a sea-song put out on record by the old Critics group as Sailing Over the Dogger Bank (1970). The tune also surfaces in a comedy song from Paddy Belton, County Louth, The Mice Are At It Again (as noted by Sean Corcoran and put out on a record, Sailing Into Walpole's Marsh, in 1977). Most intriguingly, Sam Larner sang the Dogger Bank song on a record made as far back as 1961. Sam had got the song from a trawlerman in 1890. Unfortunately, neither of the 1911 collectors gave any text - on his manuscript Vaughan Williams wrote 'words no good'. So it is not known if the piece was a version of the sea-song or something else entirely. We are left with a tune only but might think it to have been Dogger Bank.
In fact, this tune was, it seems, derived from the mid-nineteenth century and The Cruise of the 'Bigler', a song from the Great Lakes of North America, and from a lumberjack song that appeared at much the same time. The Knickerbocker Line - the form in which the song appears to have been known best, was a skit on the first appearance of a tramcar service in Boston (Mass.) that gives us a date of 1859 or just after for a possible first appearance. There are also several other records of the song as sung in the Catskills. The transfer of the tune from America is somewhat unusual in English repertoire.
If the piece appeared in music-hall ('words no good') then its content may have been derived from a character in Dickens' Barnaby Rudge, a rather remote association dating from 1841 and referring to a generic taste for smart looks and clothing and later to fashions emanating from Paris. In an even less certain connection, there was an 1872 song with the same name with the same social acknowledgements; and another in an Edwardian opera that opened in 1902 although none of the songs in this opera have any remote resemblance to The Dogger Bank (or whatever name it went under).
This much is very speculative. We are left still wondering where Noah Fisher got his song (or tune). Maybe it did come from the theatre or music-hall and was, like Dolly, fluffy and ephemeral. Or was Noah Fisher 'following' a similar trail to that of Sam Larner and his trawlerman source?
Whatever the case, the piece was a comparatively recent one. Moreover, it is not recorded elsewhere according to Steve Roud's index. It might well have been the case that Vaughan Williams, like other collectors, could be seen to have set his face against the kind of song - from music-hall or the stage rather than from an ostensibly more noble source - Vaughan Williams' dismissal of the words underlines this possibility. As a gloss: Rat-catcher's daughter, discussed on this site previously and again below and with clear connections to music-hall, may itself suggest how singers (like some of Sharp's) spread their wings. The examples of John England, Lucie White and Louie Hooper come to mind when Sharp, when collecting, apparently omitted several of their songs in favour of what he considered to be those of a more fitting variety.
Both Vaughan Williams and Butterworth did note the tune of Dolly Vardon - strictly speaking as a 'Dolly Vardon style' tune and there are differences in how - Butterworth chose one key and Vaughan Williams another and they spent some time sorting out the singer's pauses in certain bars and the strong indication of a chorus In view of this attention to detail, it might seem odd, therefore, that they were still not impressed by the song. Was it the two of them who suggested the Dolly Vardon connection?
Alan Helsdon then offers James Fisher, Noah's brother, as the singer of songs under the soubriquet 'Blue'. He sang a distinctive selection including a Horse Racing Song which, in the movement of the narrative, parallels Creeping Jane, an example of which had been noted from Mr Leatherday by Vaughan Williams in 1905. There are, in fact, details of a perhaps surprising number of Creeping Jane songs in tradition, taking in nine from Sharp alone got during his first sallies into Somerset, but, as well, versions collected by Gardiner, by the Hammonds, by Percy Grainger, by Frank Kidson, by Alfred Williams and by Vaughan Williams himself from Henry Burstow. Since the period for collecting the song is seen to be short - roughly as the new century progressed up until just beyond the end of its first decade - it is reasonable to think that the song was generally popular at that time (and it should be added that a few further examples have been found as the century moved on and then from our very own time). Broadside issue is rather limited - Walkers in Durham and Newcastle, Fordyce, Harkness and Swindells, Hodges and Such these could well have been used by the generation of singers that preceded those canvassed by Vaughan Williams. Horse-racing songs do not appear previously to have been widespread in traditions.
In fact, 'Blue' Fisher's Horse Racing Song is nowhere replicated in these lists of extant printed and sung versions of Creeping Jane save in the outline narrative of a horse-race. Both Vaughan Williams and Butterworth noted it, text in Vaughan Williams' usual scribble, a slightly more refined copy from Butterworth and then a neat presentation, suggesting once again that he had tidied the piece. Interestingly, Vaughan Williams added a date of 20th December. Butterworth had only the name of the month on copy, a reversal of the order frequently found and unusual, for Butterworth's case, in an absence of precision. That aside - yet again in Norfolk Vaughan Williams came across a song that appears to be unique and this may even have encouraged him to note the text in full - which he did.
Another of 'Blue' Fisher's contributions was Jockey to the Fair where the absence of text sets a problem. Did the singer just lilt the dance tune - that follows the shape of the tune as it appears elsewhere? According to Roud, Vaughan Williams also had a Fortey text in his possession, but exactly when is not clear. At any rate, Jockey has a long history of antecedents through text in a number of songsters appearing first during the eighteenth century; and through broadsides and songsters with all the major printers involved including one printer, John Evans, who produced a text in The Myrtle of Venus, dated in Roud to a time between 1791 and 1800. Throughout this assembly text appears to have been particularly consistent with but the one or two printings truncated in some small ways.
Nevertheless, sung versions, text and tune, are exceedingly rare. In the case of 'Blue' Fisher there is no clue in either Vaughan Williams' or Butterworth's manuscripts as to whether he sang a full version or - the question was asked above - he simply recapitulated the tune. Fred Hamer's version from David Parrot (c.1959) and one from Mrs Aris in Adderbury (contemporary to the 'Blue' Fisher version and taken down by Janet Blunt) seem to be the only other sung versions to have been noted. We can only wonder if 'Blue' did sing a song that was commensurate.
It is also worth noting that Vaughan Williams did not record it as tune or text anywhere else. Was he aware of other examples as dance tune as found, for instance, in Sharp's work? We are lucky, in the end, to have the 'Blue' Fisher version in whatever guise - but under what auspices? Morris dancing was not a Norfolk preoccupation Was it, in terms of acquisition amongst singers generally, the central feature of the fair that was the attractive prospect? We remind ourselves that there are many examples in song history of 'fair' songs involving 'Jenny' and 'Jockey', all with an intent to be amusing in some way and some often using a bumpkin element to that effect.
'Blue' also sang Bonny Robin which may well be considered to be a bit of the bawdy - the text was left out as being 'unsuitable' for a possible public - the collectors' word. Frank Kidson spotted text in eighteenth century volumes such as John Sadler's Apollo's Cabinet, dating from 1757. Nineteenth century references are clear enough, most relevantly in Chappell's Popular Music II where he refers to the air as having been used in the opera Love in a Village, that was first staged in 1762.
There is, though, a big gap between these references and any acquisition of the song during the early part of the twentieth century. The period after the 1850s would surely have been the operative learning time for the singers Vaughan Williams encountered so it looks as though the song had held an appeal previous to this time in the nineteenth century. The most important point is that there are no other sung versions on record. Once again, 'Blue' Fisher comes up with a surprise package, as it were. Whether or not he still had an equally intriguing further repertoire that could have been explored is unknown.
Vaughan Williams gives Butterworth's initials on his manuscript for both Jockey and Bonny Robin as he does on The Team Boy. It looks as if these notations were made in the way of collaboration as was the case with other songs found during the three trips under consideration, whatever the small differences in notation to be found.
Of the other 1911 singers, the 'Tuffs', father and son, offer the usual kind of complex. 'Young Tuffs' sang Old King Cole and Miller and His Three Sons, both, as already noticed, cumulative songs. It begs a small question as to what other kinds of songs he may have had in repertoire.
Trot Away, from William Tufts senior (the correct spelling of the name), is another horse song - of a different hue to the Horse Racing Song that 'Blue' Fisher sang. It has a full text and the words comprise the sort of self-contentment that we find in, say, The Jolly Waggoner. Vaughan Williams took down tune and text on the same occasion, the former a genial sort with variants and the latter very full within its proud boundaries. There are a number of broadsides extant and the manuscript here conforms generally; but there is only one other sighting of the song - also sung in 1911, by Mr Woodcock, proprietor of The Greyhound at Scole - and his title was Trot Along. Once again, something of a gem had been unearthed - twice.
As it happens, there is more to say about the Tufts (in preparation).
One other song, Sewing Machine, also from Mr Woodcock, has the unfortunate distinction, along with Dolly Vardon style, of the comment 'words no good'. This would certainly give credence to the orthodox view that Vaughan Williams was more interested in tunes. It might look as if Sewing Machine had no place even in the six 'passable' 1911 songs that Vaughan Williams listed. The notation is in an interesting form, suggesting a chorus. Butterworth also noted the tune - in a different key to the one Vaughan Williams chose - and the tune is truncated with the word 'etc', again suggesting a chorus. There is a small history to the song involving broadsides and on these can be seen settings - Dublin, Glasgow and London. If Dublin was a a place of origin then the broadside would almost certainly have been issued after the mid-century when Irish broadside printing flourished most. On one Irish printing the name of a singer is given - a George Harping, so far unidentified. Nonetheless, the reference does point to outings for the song on the stage Hence - we might think - 'words no good'.
The song is unique in Vaughan Williams' collecting; and this standing is building impressively through the accumulated detail of the three trips under consideration.
It has to be said that, in 1911, as in 1908 and 1910, manuscripts contain the usual errors. Vaughan Williams persisted in writing 'Tibbenham' and, at one point 'Tidenham'. Details are often absent or needing correction. How could he write 'Tuffs' on the first song collected in Pulham Market and then cross the name out and replace it, correctly, with 'Dade' when he was yet to meet any 'Tuffs'? Such elementary revision would, perhaps, have been made back in digs. Furthermore, the name, as noted above, is actually 'Tufts'.
It was left, as it were, to Butterworth to clear up some of the anomalies and his would appear to have been the steadier hand throughout the trip even as his manuscripts look to have been tidied - no obvious view of a song taken down in a hurry - whilst many of the Vaughan Williams manuscripts were assembled as songs were sung. It has to be said, though, that there are some manuscripts attributed to Vaughan Williams that give the song tunes in order with accompanying numbers, as a particular singer sung the songs - Mr Hilton has been mentioned. This once more could offer some intimation that the collector worked at night as well as did Butterworth.
Of the total of ten 1911 singers, we can only think that their inclusion was acknowledgement of the presence of more than one singer in a community. There may even have been occasions when a singer paraded his one and only - as described (fictionally) in Lark Rise and, to this writer's knowledge, still a feature at The Kicking Donkey, Harwell during the 1970s; and, certainly in the west or Ireland during this same latter period and after. Often, this is a touching acknowledgement of a regular attender at sessions and not at all patronising.
In Norfolk this still provides glimpses of a communal activity where one deliberately met to find and to share the songs and where the songs in turn acted as a bond amongst neighbours and friends. And, all told, the discussion above on the 1911 trip is enough to show how, in a relatively short space of time and compass, Vaughan Williams (and, of course, George Butterworth) unearthed a considerable variety of songs. Readers will pursue their own interests in this regard.
A word should be added about the photographs in Alan Helsdon's compilation - a lucky haul that matches the dates particularly well: not an easy task as a chase through detail of the 1911 trip proved to this writer. Alan Helsdon has to be congratulated on unearthing the goods.
In sum: we may well have reservations about the ways in which VW somehow leaves us guessing on those occasions when his manuscripts omit detail as described above in discussion and, obviously, the absence of text that would make up the full song. But, overall, as a mark of distinction, the sheer variety of songs collected during the three Norfolk trips under review is, to say the least, impressive.
Of the songs considered in this discussion, some two dozen do not appear to have had a wide-ranging identity at the time of collecting. To balance this, slightly fewer could be called 'popular' - that is, existing in numbers in the totality of collecting at the time and after. Half a dozen, it seems, have no other references than those in Vaughan Williams' Norfolk collecting. It would have been interesting to see which of the Norfolk songs Vaughan Williams referred to as '1st rate' in 1911 might feature in that half dozen. Different occasions would, doubtless, refine judgement So much depends on individual quality as apprehended by the collector when circumstances changed from one time to another.
It could be argued that points made in this discussion are somewhat scatter-gun in effect but enough examples have been given for other readers to be able to pursue their own enquiries and to make adjustments in the discussion and, perhaps, modest judgements, themselves properly susceptible, as here, to alteration if new material comes to light or a tangential view is expressed.
At this point few conclusions about the collecting and the songs can be drawn. We bear in mind that the three trips under discussion were but a small portion of the wider embrace of collecting; and they took place in a flush of what was a new interest that, in many ways, set its own rules.
So where Norfolk itself is concerned much is tentative. For instance, it does not look as if singers were learning one from another. Shared titles from previous trips - to King's Lynn and its surrounds - are not conspicuous. It may, of course, be the case that Vaughan Williams and Butterworth did hear other songs that they had encountered elsewhere and, therefore, left out of calculation inside the parameters of what were, essentially, quick-fire trips.
But even if what we have is, substantially, only what was available, it looks as if Vaughan Williams concentrated on collecting for the riches that accrued in their own right rather than, say, as a comparative exercise. We cannot doubt his commitment to finding and making known the abundance of character and sheer beauty of so many of the tunes he exposed.
There is still pause for thought, as might be expected. Without raising the temperature too high, readers will understand that the collections we have from the earliest years of the twentieth century are not only pioneer but that they only represent the geographical areas where song-collecting was entertained. At the time under review, in certain parts of the country, this did not apply - the Midlands of England, for instance. Any suggestions made here about how songs travelled and whether or not they were rare or even unique has to be qualified. For present-day singers there may be less interest in this aspect of the history of a particular song and more attention paid singable versions as set out here by Alan Helsdon
A final consideration is proposed. We often marvel, quite properly, at the longevity of traditional songs and at their incidental beauties. However, it is also a matter of intrigue that, in this, we are attracted to what might well be thought of as an outmoded idiom, especially in formulaic text. Detail such as that provided by Alan Helsdon helps us to a deeper appreciation without diminishing what might in some eyes, still be seen as an off-centre musical phenomenon. We are enjoined, indirectly, to carry the legacy and, almost without knowing it, to transform it according to our own needs and predilections.
Alan Helsdon's contribution - which he holds to be modest - yet offers a panorama of possibilities for future study and enjoyment. The discussion above may, in the end, raise even more questions.
Roly Brown - 18.8.18
Oradour sur Vayres, France,
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