Volume 19: Ranting & Reeling - Dance Music of the North of England (Topic TSCD 669)  Review

[Neither Mike nor Rod have too much knowledge of northern English dance music; accordingly the notes to this CD are very restricted.  We hope that readers who do have such knowledge will volunteer it for inclusion in the near future.]

Hexham Races / The Stool of Repentance played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland.  1974.

Hexham Races was included in The Northumbrian Piper’s Tune Book (first printed 1936) and was later played locally for the Cumberland Square DanceThe Stool of Repentance was composed by Neil Gow (1727-1807).  At the time when Presbyterianism was at its height in Scotland, adulterers (usually women) had to sit for a number of Sundays in front of the assembled congregation on the so-called ‘stool of repentance’.  Gow’s swaggering tune, however, seems to show little in the way of repentance!

Will Atkinson has a fine solo CD available of his mouth-organ playing.  Common Ground CGRCD002.

Other Recordings:  The Stool of Repentance.  Unnamed bothy band (Scotland) - Greentrax CDTRAX 9001.  David Anderson (Borders) - Kyloe CD102.

The Gilsland Hornpipe played on the fiddle by Tom Hunter and the piccolo by Billy Ballantine, Bewcastle, Cumberland.  1954.

Of unsure origin.  Gilsland, famous for its Spa, is a town near the Northumberland/Cumberland border, on the banks of the River Irvine.  Some suggest that the tune was composed by fiddler Robert Whinham (born 1814) of Morpeth, while others suggest one Jock Davidson, a contemporary of Ned Pearson.

Untitled Hornpipe / Untitled Polka played on the fiddle by Ned Pearson, Cambo, Northumberland.  1954.

Bonny North Tyne played on the piccolo by Billy Ballantine, Wark, Northumberland.  1954.

Local tune books always show this as being composed by Billy Ballantine himself.

The Braemar Gathering / J D Burgess played on the fiddle by Willy Taylor, Northumberland.  1959.

Is J D Burgess named after the piper John Burgess (see Topic TSCD466)?

The Friendly Visit / The Greencastle / The Loss of the Strand played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland.  1974.

Other Recordings:  Greencastle - Jack Armstrong and his Barnstormers.  Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40473.

Charlie MacLeod / The Gallowglass Rant / Charlie Hunter played on the fiddle by Willy Taylor, on the Northumbrian small pipes by Joe Hutton and the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Sutton Bonnington, Leicestershire, 1991.

The Morpeth Rant played on the fiddle by Jim Rutherford, Rochester, Northumberland.  1954.

The title Morpeth Rant appears in the contents list of William Vickers' mss of 1770, although, sadly, the actual tune-page is now missing.  Many of today’s musicians follow the setting that was included in Thomas Wilson’s Companion to the Ballroom (1816).  The tune can also be found on p.26 of Kerr’s Merry Melodies (Glasgow, nd).  Some printings show the composer as William Shield.  See also Vol 14(12).

The Oyster Girl / The Lass of Dallowgill played on the melodeon by Arthur Marshall, Loftus, Yorkshire.  1960s.

10  Willy Taylor’s Polka / There’s Nae Good Luck played on the fiddle by Willie Taylor, Warenford, Northumberland, 1954.

Willie composed the first tune himself.  There’s Nae Good Luck is the air to a well-known Scottish song.  Both Robert Whinham (b.1814) and Billy Pigg were noted for their variations on this tune (see out-of-print LP Leader 4006 for Billy’s variants).

11  The Pop Along Polka played on the accordeon by Willy Taylor, Warenford, Northumberland, 1954.

12  Mrs Jamieson’s Favourite / Parnell’s March played on the fiddle by Willy Taylor, on the Northumbrian small pipes by Joe Hutton and the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, rec.  Sutton Bonnington, Leicestershire, 1991.

Mrs Jamieson’s Favourite was composed by Charles Grant of Aberlour (1810-1892).  Parnell’s March is named after the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-91) who, though a Protestant, became leader of the Home Rule Party in 1877.

13  Polka Mazurka / Paddle Your Own Canoe played on the fiddle by Ned Pearson, Cambo, Northumberland, 1954.

14  Farewell to the Creeks played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland, 1974.

Originally a Scottish bagpipe tune, composed by James ‘Pipie’ Robertson of Boyne, Banffshire in 1915, when he was a prisoner-of-war in Germany.  Hamish Henderson used the tune for his well-known Second World War song Farewell to Sicily.  The tune was a particular favourite of Billy Pigg, who seems to have taught it to a number of other Northumbrian musicians.

15  Tom Hepple’s Polka / The Tow House Polka played on the fiddle by Adam Gray, Bardon Mill, Northumberland, 1954.

16  The Wild Rover / Copshawholm Fair / Yon Flowery Garden played on the mouth-organ by Bob Forrester and Alf Adamson’s Border Square Dance Band, Low Hesket, Cumberland, 1956.

The Wild Rover - often thought of as an Irish folksong, although English singers also knew it and the words were printed on English broadsides - gained popularity in Britain in the late 1950s and ‘60s when groups such as the Dubliners frequently sang it.  For Copshawholm Fair, see Vol 5(5).

Other Recordings:  The Wild Rover.  Sam Larner (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD511.

17  J B Milne / The New High Level played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland, 1974.

J B Milne was composed by Angus Flitchett, who often accompanied Jimmy Shand.  The New High Level was composed by Robert Whinham (see track 2, above) and named after Newcastle’s ‘New’ High Level Bridge.

18  The Tenpenny Bit / The Rakes of Kildare / I Lost My Love and I Care Not played on the fiddle by Davie Rogerson, Carrick, Northumberland, 1962-64.

Three Irish tunes.  Reg Hall mentions in his biographical notes that Davie Rogerson learnt tunes from Scottish 78s.  It would also seem likely, from the above and track 26, that he also listened to Irish recordings as well.

19  Rosalie, the Prairie Flower / My Lodging / Blow the Wind Southerly played on the piccolo by Billy Ballantine and the mouth-organ by Jimmy Hunter, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, 1954.

20  Corn Rigs / Two Untitled Jigs (for The Sylph) played on the fiddle by Ned Pearson, Cambo, Northumberland, 1954.

Scottish button-accordionist Will Starr made an influential Parlophone recording of Corn Rigs in the late 1940s and the tune appears on p.24 of Kerr’s Merry Melodies (Glasgow.nd).  Burns set his poem The Rigs o Barley to this tune.  (The song begins - It was upon a Lammas time/When corn riggs are bonnie/Beneath the moon’s unclouded light/I held awa to Annie).  The Sylph, according to Ned Pearson who was a good dancer, should be danced ‘on the toes’.

Other Recordings:  Corn Rigs: Harry De Caux (Essex) - Veteran cassette VTVS 05/06.

21  Longueval played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland, 1974. 

Composed by Pipe-Major John Weatherson.  The title refers to a village in the Somme, and was the scene of an encounter in July, 1916.

22  The Keilder Schottische (The Lad With the Plaidie) played on the fiddles by Jake Hutton and Tom Hunter, and the piccolo by Billy Ballantine, Ashley Grove, Cumberland, 1954.

23  The Sylph / Proudlock’s Hornpipe played on the piccolo by Billy Ballantine, Wark, Northumberland, 1954.

Proudlock’s Hornpipe was written by James Hill (b. Scotland c.1816 - died Tyneside(?) c.1850’s), who called it Proudlock’s Fancy.  (See The Fiddle Music of James Hill by Graham Dixon, 1987, p.24).

24  The Highland Laddie / The Pin Reel (The Firey Clockface) / The Cambo March played on the fiddle by Ned Pearson, Cambo, Northumberland, 1954.

The Cambo March is another of Robert Whinham’s tunes (see track 17, above).

25  A M Shinnie / The Hogmaney Jig / Elizabeth Adair played on the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Alnwick, Northumberland, 1974.

The Hogmaney Jig was composed by Angus fiddler, Andrew Rankine, while Elizabeth Adair and A M Shinny are from the pen of Angus Fitchet (see track 17, above).

26  Untitled Hornpipe / The Swallow’s Tail played on the fiddle by Davie Rogerson, Carrick, Northumberland, 1962-64.

Other Recordings:  The Swallow Tail.  Michael Coleman (Sligo) - Gael-Linn CEFCD 161.

27  The Ideal Schottische (Jack Thompson’s Fancy) played by the Cheviot Ranters, rec. London, 1972.

28  Kelso Accordion and Fiddle Club / Linda McFarlane / The Scairlaveg played on the fiddle by Willy Taylor, the Northumbrian small pipes by Joe Hutton and the mouth-organ by Will Atkinson, Sutton, Bonnington, Leicestershire, 1991.

The Kelso Accordion and Fiddle Club was composed shortly before this recording was made by Robert (Bob) Liddle, a Kelso policeman and musician.

Volume 20: There is a Man Upon the Farm - Working Men & Women in Song (Topic TSCD 670)  Review

The Overgate sung by Belle Stewart, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, 1976.  Roud 866.

According to Robert Ford, this songs owes it popularity to one ‘Singing Sandy’ - Alexander Smith - who was well-known throughout Perthshire and Fife in the nineteenth century.  There are at least two versions of the tune, this one being related to the song Seventeen on Sunday.  The song A Waukrife Minnie, which Burns sent to the Scots Musical Museum (1790) would seem to be an antecedent of the song.  Belle learnt the song from a sheet printed in Dundee, where there is an area known as the Overgate.  Almost all the 24 entries in Roud relate to the Robertson/Higgins/Stewart group of Traveller families.

Other Recordings:  Jeannie Robertson (Aberdeen) - Rounder CD 1720.

The Wee Weaver sung by Paddy Tunney, London, 1975.  Roud 3378.

A song which appears to be unique to the Tunney family.

We Shepherds Are the Best of Men sung by Fred Jordan, rec. Altringham, Cheshire, 1966.  Roud 284.

‘A well-known and oft quoted piece’, says Alfred Williams, who found several sets of this good pastoral song in Gloucestershire, where it is particularly well-established (though it has also turned up in Hampshire and Dorset as well).  Fred learnt this from the song-collector Fred Hamer, who had it from Lucy Broadwood’s English County Songs.  The tune is related, rather distantly, to the widespread melody known in Scotland as Drumdelgie, in Wales as Dydd Llun y Boreu and in England as The Gentleman Soldier.

Other recordings:  Bob Lewis (Sussex) - Veteran cassette VT120.

The Job of Journeywork played by the Belhavel Trio, Dublin, 1938.  Roud

Other Recordings:  Michael Coleman (Sligo) - Gael-Linn CEFCD 161.

The Flies are on the Tummits sung by Ted Laurence, Shelfanger, Norfolk, 1976.  Roud 1376.

Although sometimes thought of as the county anthem of Wiltshire, there's only one Roud entry for that county; the remainder of the 17 examples being well spread throughout southern England.

Other Recordings:  George Withers (Somerset) - Veteran cassette VT133.

Come All You Tramps and Hawkers sung by Jimmy McBeath, rec.  London, 1966 or ‘67.  Roud 1874.

Often described as Jimmy’s ‘calling card’, this song is thought, by some, to be the work of a 19th century Angus-born hawker, and besom-maker, called Besom Jimmy, who was said.  ‘to travel wearing a coat covered in feathers’.  It was first collected from both James Angus and James Morrison in 1909 and appears in the Greig-Duncan Collection Vol 3 p.271.

Other Recordings:  Davie Stewart (Perthshire) - Rounder CD 1833 and Saydisc CD-SDL 407.

Muddley Barracks sung by Jumbo Brightwell, Leiston, Suffolk, 1975.  Roud 1735.

John Howson believes this anti-recruiting song to date from the days of the Napoleonic Wars, when it was titled The Awkward Recruit.  The Cantwell Family of Oxfordshire called it The Yorkshire Blinder (Veteran cassette VT109), Charlie Hancy of Suffolk called it Bungay Roger (Veteran VTC2CD), while Charlie Bate of Padstow, in Cornwall, apparently sang a version that he called the St Merryn Grinder.

The Shepherd’s Song sung by Willie Scott, London, 1967.  Roud 5124.

Willie (born 1897) learnt this sometime around 1906 from his brother Tom, who may have had it from a John Irvine of Langholm.  Local tradition has it that the song was composed in the 1880s by a shephered called Amos who came from the Etterick Valley.  It is quite amazing to find how many people in the Borders know at least the chorus of this song, usually through hearing Willie sing it at all kinds of ‘suppers’.

In the Bar Room sung by Jack Elliott, Birtley, Co Durham, 1960s.  Roud 3486.

Also known as The Celebrated Working Man, it was composed by an Irish miner in Pennsylvania, Ed Foley, who first sang it at a wedding in 1892.  It was brought to Durham by a Wobbly collier from Kentucky, Yankee Jim Roberts, some time around the period of the Great War.

10  An Spailpin Fanach (The Migrant Labourer) sung by Sean Mac Donnchadha, Connemara, Co Galway, 1967.

No Roud number or entries for this fine song, since it's not in the English language - one of the criteria for inclusion.

11  Come to the Hiring sung by Jamesy McCarthy, Mullagh, Co Clare, 1976.  Roud 12936.

This is the only Roud entry for this song.

12  The Wandering Shepherd Laddie sung by John MacDonald, Elgin, Morayshire, 1974.  Roud 5150.

A set of words composed by John and sung to the tune that he uses for the song The Roving Ploughboy - which comprises traditional verses with some of his own.  This is the only Roud entry for this song.

13  There Was a Poor Thresherman sung by Harry Holman, Copthorne, Sussex, 1960.  Roud 19.

Robert Burns contributed a version of this to The Scots Musical Museum, but it was old even then in 1792, earlier versions being in the Roxburghe and Euing collection of blackletter broadsides.  In England, where most of Roud's 106 instances are from, it's usually called The Nobleman and the Thresher.

Other Recordings:  another recording of Harry Holman on Musical Traditions MT CD 309-10.  Frank Hinchliffe (Yorkshire) - Musical Traditions MT CD 311-2.  Will Noble (Yorkshire) - Veteran VT 124.  Eleazar Tillett (North Carolina Outer Banks) - Appleseed CD 1035.

14  The Neatly Thatched Cabin sung by Big John Maguire, Newtonbutler, Co Fermanagh, 1980.  Roud 8121.

Sam Henry had a version of this from a Mrs James Mullan of Draperstown, Co Derry, in 1925, as did Bobbie Hanvey from Willie McElroy of Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, in 1977.

15  The Banks of the Dee sung by Jack Elliott, Birtley, mid-1960s.  Roud 3484.

A L Lloyd collected this moving song from James White in Houghton-Le-Spring, Co Durham, in 1951 and published it in Come All Ye Bold Miners (London, 1952), and Bert says that Jack learnt it from his book.  The tune is related to one used for the older song The Coal Owner and the Pitman’s Wife.

16  My Father’s a Hedger and Ditcher sung by Mary Ann Carolan, Hill o' Rath, Co Louth, 1978.  Roud 846.

This lilting little song sounds like a fragment of a longer piece, but, interestingly, a version was sung in Wiltshire made up of the same verses as Mrs Carolan’s (Alfred Williams, Folksongs of the Upper Thames, 1923, p.226) and, curiously, hers is the only instance of the song in Ireland.  The song was printed in a number of books in England and Scotland, and Gavin Greig gives a text from Buchan which begins, ‘My Daddy’s a delver o’ dykes...’ He considered it to be a ‘variant of the old English Ballad Nobody’s Coming to Marry Me.  An American version (Gardiner & Chickering Ballads and Songs of Michigan no.181) begins ‘Me father’s a lawyer in England, Me mother’s a justice of peace’, but also has the verse Me father’s a hedger and ditcher’ etc.  The basic ingredients of the song also appear as floating verses in many American songs as, for example, the well-known Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.

17  Ground for the Floor sung by Pop Maynard, Copthorne, Sussex, 1956.  Roud 1269.

Alfred Williams noted this from one George Barrett of Marston Meysey, in the Thames Valley.  According to Williams, the song was ‘fairly well known’, although Roud's list of 34 instances includes only five named singers.  Mike suggests that other collectors - apart from Kidson, Sharp, Gardiner and Broadwood - seem to have ignored the piece, perhaps because it sounds as though it is from the pen of some unknown, and lesser, urban poet.

18  Arlin’s Fine Braes sung by Jimmy McBeath, Scotland, 1971.  Roud 517, Greig/Duncan 415.

Versions of this have turned up bearing a number of different titles, including The Carse o' Pommaize/Bremise/Brindese, Earth of Braemese and Ireland’s Fine Braes, as well as Arlin’s Fine Braes.  Greig noted that it was printed by Glasgow’s ‘Poet’s Box’ in 1877.  The only other sound recording was by Bill Elvin of Banff, for the BBC, in 1952.

Other Recordings:  Bill Elvin (Banffshire) - Greentrax CDTRAX 9001.

19  The Little Ball of Yarn sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton, Sussex, 1974.  Roud 1404.

Popular with singers, particularly in the southern half England - if not with collectors who, in the past, have tended to ignore the piece because of its subject matter.  At one point, Topic Records had versions by Mary Ann Haynes, Geoff Ling (Suffolk), Bob Roberts (Suffolk), and Ben Willett (Middlesex) all on separate LPs.  The BBC recorded a splendid version from Win Ryan in Belfast in 1952 - the only known Irish example of the song.

It seems to be related to a Scottish song, The Yellow, Yellow Yorlin - yellowhammer in English - which Robert Burns collected and included in his collection of bawdy songs The Merry Muses of Caledonia (c.1800).  Stan Hugill reports that the song was once used as a shanty and, in 1937, it was recorded commercially by the Southern Melody Boys, an American string-band from the Virginia and Kentucky areas.  American folklorist Vance Randolph once suggested that the ‘little ball of yarn’ could, perhaps, have been a primitive contraceptive device.  Nobody else seems to have followed this idea up.

Other Recordings:  Walter Pardon (Suffolk) - Musical Traditions MT CD 305-6.  Gordon Woods (Suffolk) - Veteran VTC2CD.  Hubert Smith (Suffolk) - Veteran VTVS01/02.  Ray Hartland (Gloucestershire) - Veteran VT 109.

20  To Reap and Mow the Hay sung by Paddy & Jimmy Halpin, Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, 1977.  Roud 12937.

The only version of this song in Roud's Index.

21  The Roaming Journeyman sung by Tom Willett, Ashford, Middlesex, 1962.  Roud 360.

A widely spread broadside that is known throughout Britain, Ireland and America.  Baring-Gould found the song being sung in the west of England at the beginning of the 20th century and it continues to be sung by both English and Scottish travellers.

Other Recordings: Packie Manus Byrne (Donegal) - Veteran VT132CD.  Paddy Doran (Belfast) - Saydisc CD-SDL 407.  John McGettigan (Philadelphia) - Globestyle ORBD 082). 

22  When the Kye Comes Hame sung by Willie Scott, Elland, Yorkshire, 1976.  Roud 12919.

From the pen of James Hogg (‘The Etterick Shepherd’).  A number of other singers in the Borders continue to sing this.  Fiddler Rob Hobkirk can be heard playing the tune on the CD Border Traditions (The Living Tradition) LTCD 4001.

23  The Berry Fields o' Blair sung by Belle Stewart, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, 1967.  Roud 2154.

A song written by Belle herself and sung to the well-known tune A Pair of Nicky Tams, for which, see Vol 5(14).

Site designed and maintained by   Updated: 15.1.04