Article MT050

George Townshend

Come Hand to Me the Glass

[Track List] [Introduction] [Brian Matthews] [George Townshend] [The Songs] [Credits] [Repertoire]

Musical Traditions' first 21st century CD release: George Townshend: Come Hand to Me the Glass (MT CD 304), is now available.  See our Publications page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, we have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

Track List:

  1. The Echoing Horn
  2. I Wish They'd Do it Now
  3. The Garden Gate
  4. Blow Me Up the Apple Tree
  5. Pretty Nancy from Yarmouth
  6. Bold Reynolds
  7. All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough
  8. I Mounted My Neddy
  9. Hark, the Rock
  10. Dame Durden
  11. The Trees They're All Bare
  12. 'Twas Early One Morning
  13. Mowing Down the Meadow
  14. The Mistletoe Bough
  15. The Life of a Man
  16. Twenty, Eighteen ...
  17. The Farmer's Boy
  18. We'll All Go a-Hunting Today
  19. Twanky Dillo
  20. When Adam Was First Created
  21. My Grandfather's Clock
  22. Young Collins
  23. Joe The Carrier Lad
  24. When Spring Comes In
  25. Compilation of five songs


This CD came into existence very quickly and completely by chance.  A Musical Traditions reader, Steve Pennells, wrote to me at the end of 1999 saying that someone he once knew named Brian Matthews used to take a tape recorder around the pubs in Sussex in the late '50s and early '60s, and should have a lot of very interesting recordings.  Steve had lost touch with Brian around 1964 when he moved from Brighton out into the country "over Heathfield way", but he'd just seen a recently re-bound antique atlas, with Brian Matthews named as the binder, and giving an address in Punnetts Town (two miles from Heathfield).

Steve gave me a list of some of the singers he knew Brian had recorded (Brick Harber, Jim Wilson, Scan Tester, Pop Maynard, George Townshend), and kindly stated: " ... if the tapes are still in existence, they should be of considerable interest to you and Musical Traditions - about the only people willing and able to deal properly with them".

I duly wrote to Brian and didn't have to wait too long before I had a phone call from him - Yes, he'd be pleased to let me have the stuff to do with as I saw fit ... and a week later a parcel containing eight 5" reels of tape arrived on my doorstep.  There's a lot of material on eight tapes … and it took a good while to listen to it all, transfer it to DAT, load it into the computer for basic editing and output it onto CD-R for safe storage - but the job is now done and I hope that the originals (now returned to their owner) will soon be sent for safekeeping to the National Sound Archive of the British Library.  Copies of this CD will be lodged with them and with the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, in London.

The George Townshend material was chosen for the first MT Brian Matthews Collection release, because it provides a complete CD's-worth of songs, all from the one source.  Several other future publications lurk in the collection, but I think they will need supplementing with material from other collectors in order to give a representative picture of the singers concerned ... so their production is likely to be a more prolonged process.  Watch, as they say, this space!

The recordings were made in George's home at 11 Garden Street, Lewes - most at a session on the 7th of February, 1960, and some others on an un-noted date in 1961.  Brian also recorded George at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne, and The Royal Oak, Lewes, and at his daughter's home in Landport, Lewes, but these recordings were not of suitable quality to be used.  None of the tapes were ever intended for anything more than personal interest and were recorded on a domestic machine of mid-fifties vintage.  The result is a very thin signal which has proved extremely difficult to clean without sacrificing too much of the singing ... the sound quality is not as good as I would wish - but I hope it is adequate.

Also, on the occasion of the second recordings, George had a nice big chestnut log on the fire, and its loud cracks and creaks can be heard at times in a few songs.  I was able to manually remove those which occurred between words, but not the others.  Strangely, the software algorithm which will remove shellac or vinyl clicks and crackles effortlessly has no effect at all on a chestnut log!

Brian Matthews

My interest in English folk music followed the same route as that of many of my contemporaries; from traditional jazz, blues and American folk song, and eventually back to England.  I was strangely unaware of our tradition, yet here it was all around.  My own grandfather sang at special family gatherings.  Always the same two songs, I Wish I Were Single Again and The Female Drummer, songs he'd learned from the cook when first employed at Crawley Down, near East Grinstead, in the 1880s.  As children, my brothers and I were reduced to laughter when he sang in all seriousness, "When I was a young girl about the age of sixteen."  Sadly I never recorded him, although had I tape recorder at the time, I would have had every opportunity, for in his latter years he lived at home with us.  Later I was to record my mother singing The Female Drummer, but for the moment that tape has gone missing.

In the late '50s I happened upon The Left Bookshop in Gloucester Road, Brighton, run by Jack Perkins, where my interest was further kindled when I found various folk song booklets and two 78rpm records of Ewan MacColl, all published by the Workers' Music Association.

In 1958 a friend and I started a coffee bar in King Street which we called The Ballad Tree after Evelyn Kendrick Wells' book, which I happened to be reading at the time.  The Ballad Tree was popular with the local art students, at least until opening time at The Running Horse, a splendid pub just a few doors up the street.  At weekends the coffee bar was packed with student types from London and elsewhere, who descended on the coast with bedroll and guitar and were termed 'beatniks' by the local press.  Among them there were some fine players, notably Pete Stanley, Wizz Jones, Long John Baldry and John Pierce, who occasionally sang something from the British Isles to a largely unimpressed audience.  The predominance of American song only made me more determined to hear more English traditional song.

It so happened that at the southern end of King Street a new bank was under construction, and it was from a stone mason working on the site that I collected just one verse of Joan's Ale, a song that he, Tom Hill of Tottenham, had learned from his father.  That was enough to get me hooked, and at the first opportunity, and when funds permitted, I purchased a small 5" spool tape recorder, a Stellaphone domestic machine.

With my grandfather in mind, Crawley Down seemed an obvious first choice, and as it turned out a lucky one, for just a few miles south in The Punchbowl pub I made contact with George Spicer and managed to arrange and record his singing at The Oak Tree, Ardingly.  That evening in November 1959 he gave me five songs and told me about The Cherry Tree at Copthorne, Pop Maynard's local.  Subsequently a visit to Copthorne brought me into contact with Ken Stubbs who, much to my surprise, was already working in that area, along with Steve Pennells, Frank Purslow and Reg Hall.  Recording these pub sessions was difficult, for they were invariably noisy and, with several singers present, the very song you would like to record would start at the other side of the bar, or when you were least prepared.

In common with most of my generation, I did not own a car, which considering the number of pubs I was visiting was probably just as well.  So I had to rely on public transport and my own legs.  The lightest of recorders gets surprisingly heavy after a few miles.  Whenever possible I cut across country and was often reminded of a tale told me by Bill Wratten, a stonedresser at Isfield Flow Mill:

A lady was pushing her wheelbarrow across a neighbouring farmer's field, when she just caught sight of his hat over the top of a hedge, and fast approaching.  She quickly turned her barrow back round to the direction she had come from, and sat on it.  At being told off for trespassing, she apologised and said, "Oh well, I'll go back the way I came".  So she turned her barrow round again and continued.
As it happened I never had to resort to anything similar.  I've trespassed all my life and have only been turned off by townsfolk playing the rural game.

After a serious ear operation, and my business partner's move to Germany, the Ballad Tree closed and I found myself working as an 18th Century furniture restorer for Stephen Moore at Castle Place, Lewes.  Here was an excellent opportunity to make contact with George Townshend, who I already knew of from Ken Stubbs.  A meeting was arranged and on the 7th February, at his home at 11 Garden Street, Lewes, I recorded 20 songs and 4 fragments.  George was a truly delightful man, a real gentleman, a sprightly 80 year old who obviously loved singing and the songs he sang.  I was to record him several times in the future and I must say it was always a pleasure.  On the last occasion in 1964 when he had moved in with his daughter to 38 Crisp Road, Landport, Lewes, his voice had deteriorated a little, but he surprised me by singing The Cunning Cobbler, and A Bricklayer Bold; songs I would have thought untypical of him.

I have been interested in singing styles for some time now and believe that they are often shaped by the environment and/or the life style, as with the Gypsies and their wild rendering of a song.  To me George Townshend's style, as with the Copper Family, speaks of the Sussex Downs.

Eighty two years of age,
White haired and weathered
Songs from his lips, like cream,
Tell of shepherds, courtship
And harsh rule of the land.
Words drift; dew in cool night air.
Melodies moulded by
The lilt of the hills
And clear running streams.
'Cellos in the landscape
Throb to the rhythms of the earth
While in deep wooded coombes
A million branches
Orchestrate the wind.

Brian Matthews

George Townshend

... was born at Wootten Farm, East Chiltington, near Lewes, on August 29th, 1882.  He was the only boy among six sisters, five of them older and one his twin.  His father (also named George) was bailiff or manager of Wootten Farm at that time.  He started school at the apparently early age of three years, but this was because he had older sisters at school to look after him, and no doubt his mother was glad of the break from her family of seven.  When George was seven years old, his father decided to leave farming for the life of a publican.  He took over a country pub called The Jolly Sportsman at East Chiltington on September 29th 1888, and upon the new landlord first opening his doors a celebration was held and all the locals received free drinks.

On that occasion George made his first public appearance as a singer.  He was stood on a form beside his father and together they sang the two songs with which they were to make a practice of opening their double turn: The Glittering Dewdrops and When the Spring Comes In, two songs which his father had taught him.  His father was well-known locally as a singer, and for many years they sang together in harmony, the older singer taking the bass part.  For the rest of the opening night the local singers gave forth, until 10 p.m. when the pub closed.

The pub was always crowded on Saturday night for the weekly sing-song, and there were many fine singers, including Luke and Leonard Welfare, Leonard Reed, Tim Taylor, S Scarase, G Vine, S Wood, Charles Major, Mr Johnson, Mr Bodle and his son Harry, and George Reed, who often sang with George Townshend after his father's death.

From the age of five until eleven, when his father left the pub, George was a choir boy at East Chiltington Church and on Sunday evenings he and his sisters would sing to their father, who rarely attended the service, the hymns that they had sung in church earlier that day.  The Townshends were at The Jolly Sportsman for four years, and then they moved to Plumpton, near The Half Moon, and George and his father were in great demand in this pub on Saturday evenings, as there were few singers using two-part harmony in the locality.  After the move to Plumpton, George sang in the church there, which at that time was in the middle of fields.  He was the only member of the family to play an instrument - at about the age of eleven he began playing the melodeon, but gave it up in later years.

For about a year George Townshend Senior looked after some grazing fields at East Chiltington and Plumpton, fattening young bullocks for market.  With his only son, he took them for sale to the local markets, sometimes three times a week.  George said his father "... had always lived at the bottom of the hill and he did not want to live at the top.  He wanted to keep down among his mates. He could always get a job.  Well, he had got these fields to look after."  He also bought young horses from Welsh drovers, when they brought them through the country for sale.  One year he picked out six to work in Stanmer Park and the two other farms he looked after.  "I walked at eleven years of age from Plumpton right over to Mary's farm and we broke them in [the six horses], my father and me.  My father broke them in with the carter, and then walked over the front hill late at night.  Got up there early in the morning, started at five o'clock, and that was from 29th September, when he left the Quarter Night, right round to 9th April.  He said he'd go up the top, and I walked there all that winter, back and forward each day - not Sundays.  Then father took over the farm".

This was when his father took over the management of Mary's Farm and Balmer Farm, both owned by the Earl of Chichester of Stanmer Park, Falmer, near Brighton.  They lived at the large new farm house (oddly renamed Saint Mary's Farmhouse.  The old farmhouse, in common with many other isolated downland buildings, was used for target practice by troops during the Second World War).  George and his mother would often stand at the farmhouse door around closing time and listen for the sounds of singing drifting over the downs from Falmer, several miles away.  They then knew that the Swan had closed.  This and the Oldmarket were the Falmer pubs that his father frequented - and the Coppers also used these pubs, which may help to account for the number of songs the two families had in common.

At eleven years old, George started work at the farm (for the first six months he walked about 2½ miles each day to get to work).  He worked at farming for 7½ years, much of the time with his father, often singing together as they worked.

George's first job was as a carter boy - "I don't just say this ... I've gone alongside of the front horse in the winter when it's been cold and sleeting (but not enough for to drive you home) and I've cried, I've gone cried.  I didn't let my carter see me.  You fancy a kiddy going to and fro on those fields".

A carter lad's life was not an easy one, although there were compensations; George loved best the haying and harvesting, but the rest of the year consisted of almost continuous walking in heavy boots, mostly ploughing and sowing.  But when hay-making time came round, it meant loading the hay on wagons and carrying it in to the farmstead to make a rick.  There was also usually a drop of beer, which you didn't get at other jobs.  Harvesting was even better. Cutting grass was only a two horse job, and the man could ride on the machine, which was like heaven after walking for all the other jobs on the farm.  The binder for cutting corn used two horses on the binder pole, and one horse in front, and a boy could ride this one.  "I rode chain horse for three whole days, without a saddle, and wasn't I tender? ...   But it was worth it for the chance to ride."

There was at least a fortnight's cutting at Stanmer Park, and a Harvest month at the two farms managed by Mr Townshend.  Then on September 25th was the annual Great Lewes Sheep and All Cattle Fair, and all the farm employees and their wives had a half-day off to go to it.  The wives would go shopping in Lewes and buy things for all the family, such as clothing, boots, etc., using the extra Haying and Harvest money.  It was the biggest day of the year for the Lewes shopkeepers, and later in the day when the cattle had been sold, George and his father, together with others who liked singing, would retire to a large tent or booth for about three hours of songs.  That was the day in the year when you could really hear songs, as there were singers from miles around, including many shepherds who were normally unable to join in the pub evenings.

Work on the farm at this time was all done by the farm hands themselves, as there was no machinery.  At Stanmer Park there were sixteen horses making up four teams, plus one odd horse for taking food to the sheep and similar work.  There were also twelve large oxen for ploughing - two teams: six Welsh Blacks and six Sussex Reds.  Although there were often eight oxen to a team, only six were used at one time as a rule, as the ground was light hill-soil.  Sixteen men and boys were employed on this one farm.  Nowadays two tractors would do all the ploughing and sowing, which once needed four teams of horses.  By the time he was fifteen, George was ploughing with a pair of horses on his own (two horses were always called a Pair, three or four horses were a Team).

When the Oxman was ill, George volunteered to drive one of the ox teams.  His father warned him that he wouldn't enjoy the work after dealing with horses, as oxen were not as quick and understanding and did not react to the tone of voice as the horses did.  A fortnight of this work was quite enough for George, and he was glad to return to his horses (though he also told Brian Matthews that, although he loved his horses, he quite enjoyed working with the oxen).  Often when he was ploughing on the hill towards Ditchling Beacon, he didn't see another man or woman from the time he left home in the morning until he returned again in the afternoon.  The working day was from 6.30 a.m. until 2.30 or 3.0 p.m., with half-an-hour for lunch at 11.0 am.  Cold tea was usually carried, as vacuum flasks were still in the future.

One weekend, a farm roller had been pushed down a steep valley, and on Monday morning George's father said that he wanted to speak to him.  "Of course they didn't spoonfeed, that time of day.  If they got a thing to say to you, they said it - at least he did, anyway - because he was a big fine fellow.  Anyway, he said, "Can you tell me who pushed that roller over the Forge Bank into the valley?"  I don't know ... I supposed I kind of grinned.  I said, "I don't know anything about it Dad".  Then he gave me a smack beside the head - sent me flying.  "Now", he said, "perhaps you'll tell me!"  I said. "I'm going to tell you just what I want to. I'm leaving you a week tonight".  Because all the other boys at Falmer, when they got of age, they went on the railway, see?  Eighteen bob a week, privilege tickets, three days holiday a year.  Just fancy what it was!"

So George entered the employ of the Brighton & South Coast Railway company, going into the engineer's office as a timekeeper.  That was in 1901.  In 1908 he married a local woman (I'm afraid we don't know her name).  He was a sergeant in the Volunteer Company of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and in 1914 he joined up, full time.  He was sent to France, railroading.

When he was demobilised, George returned to the railway and was accepted for the railway police (his upright carriage, even during his eighties, made many people liken him to an ex-policeman).  "I'd had a few testimonials for doing good work and I'd received a little money from the public for it, and so anyway they wanted me to go to London.  They didn't tell me what for.  They said they had a right to shift me, which they had, no doubt.  But, anyway, I wouldn't go, so they put me like a shop's policeman at Brighton Works.  Of course they took a little money off me.  Well, I belonged to the Police Federation and I put it in their hands and I fought them through it and when they found I was going to fight them they offered me £100 for nothing - so I fought them.  I got £200 and they had to find me a job, as I wasn't supposed (in the years I had done before) to be any worse off.  Of course, I was.  It was quite a tale happened at the arbitration court, but of course I didn't make it any better for myself ... but I made it better for others".  The company was forced to take back men who had been discharged, and pay them compensation too.

He remained in the employ of the Railway until December 31st 1949.  During the last eight years he was Personal Messenger to the Chief Mechanical Engineer at Brighton.

George was widowed soon after the war; he had a son and two daughters, and he lived with one of the daughters (Mrs E Herbert Smith) at 11 Garden Street, in Lewes.  "Well the only work I do now is I am an usher at the police courts for the Quarter Sessions and an usher for the divorce courts which is held in Lewes".

Intermediate sessions began to be held around that period and George had to give more time to this part-time work.  "I used to go round when I retired.  I used to go and do old people's hedges or to their gardens and like that".  Later he did gardening for his son-in-law only.  When not working he was never at a loss as to what to do.  He walked on the South Downs, watched steeplechase races and followed the Southdown Hunt, on foot.  He was taken by his father to see fox hunting when he was three years of age, and he continued to follow the hounds until 1964 when, because of a third fall downstairs (which shook him up badly), his health prevented him.  Hunting songs had a great appeal for him - his favourite was The Glittering Dewdrops.

Some of George's most vivid early recollections were of the November 5th celebrations at Lewes.  One year the soldiers were brought out to stop the Bonfire Boys from tossing their blazing tar barrels down the Cliffe High Street, from the headquarters, The Dorset Arms in Mailing Street.  This was the night when the Riot Act was read by, George thought, Lord Lakefield who was the Lord Lieutenant of the County.

His father knew the nearby Copper Family: "I knew the old gentlemen.  When I was a boy my father was friendly with their father ... These young Coppers, I am sure he used to sing with their father, because he kept a pub at Rottingdean."

Through singing at his old folk's club, his songs came to the notice of a wider circle.  A Mrs FifieId took him to the first Folk Music Festival at Cecil Sharp House, where Ken Stubbs first met him and subsequently recorded him.

Tony Wales first met George in March 1957, and recorded five songs from him.  During the following years he saw him fairly regularly and made further recordings of his songs and recollections on several occasions.  He was a familiar figure at Sussex folk song events and festivals, and also sang several times at Cecil Sharp House Festivals.  He had a comparatively small repertoire of songs, but he was always welcome because of his fine voice and his pleasing personality.  He kept his voice well into his eighties, though it suffered in the winter of 1963 and was not so strong thereafter, but his notes rarely wavered.  It was a great worry to him that one day he might be unable to sing.

He enjoyed singing even more than most traditional singers, and was always ready and willing to face any audience of any size with assurance and obvious pleasure.  He never sang any of his songs without first talking to his audience about them, and he took great delight in the fact that people liked to hear him sing, although he looked upon this as perfectly right and proper.  A proud recollection of his later life was of Clive Carey, veteran folk song collector, summing up at a Cecil Sharp House Festival and pointing out George's apparently effortless style of singing as a fine example to be studied by many younger singers.  His singing was to be heard on the LP Welcome to the Festival (FB12 101) and the Folktape FTA 102.

By 1964 (when Brian Matthews recorded George for the last time) he and the Smith family had moved to 38 Crisp Road, Landport, Lewes, and a couple of years later they moved again, to the Shirley area of Southampton.  George Townshend died there at the age of 84, on February 18th 1967.  All of his great many friends missed this upright country gentleman, and fine singer.

The Songs:

George Townshend, in common with many (though by no means all) older Sussex singers, often aspirated the start of a word beginning with a vowel: thus the Hechoing Horn.  Whilst attempting to transcribe his texts accurately, I have decided to omit this aspect of local dialect, for fear of rendering the printed texts risible.

Words shown in (brackets) - mainly in choruses or refrains - are alternatives at this point.  Words shown in [square brackets] are either translations of dialect words, or guesses/suggestions from a standard text where George's word is unclear or obviously wrong.

Roud Numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud.  Currently containing over 200,000 records between them, they are described by him as "extensive, but not yet exhaustive".  Copies are held at The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London, Taisce Ceoil Dúchais Éireann, Dublin and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.

Child Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, 1882-98.  Laws Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, 1957.

1   The Echoing Horn (The Glittering Dewdrops)   (Roud 878)

The glittering dewdrops that spangles in the morn,
The glittering dewdrops that spangles in the morn,
Oh the bright shining dewdrops, oh the bright shining dewdrops
Oh the bright shining dewdrops, that spangles in the morn.

Oh echo, bright echo, the echoing horn
Oh echo, bright echo, the echoing horn,
As she skim(s) through the dew on a bright smiling (summer's) morn,
We will follow the hounds with an echoing horn;
How sweet it is to follow the echoing horn.

All nature's so charming, so pleasant is the morn,
All nature's so charming, so pleasant is the morn
We will all join together, we will all join together,
We will all join together at the sound of the horn.

When Puss rose from cover, 'twas early in the morn,
When Puss rose from cover, 'twas early in the morn.
Oh how sweet it is to follow, oh how sweet it is to follow,
Oh how sweet it is to follow, at the sound of the horn.

This was one of the first songs George learned from his father, and the first he sang in public, back on the 29th of September, 1888, in The Jolly Sportsman.  It's not a well-known song - Steve Roud's Folk Song Index has but three separate sightings.  Inevitably, the Copper family sing it, and it also turns up as song No 12 in the Holme Valley (Yorkshire) tradition's book of hunting songs.

2   I Wish They'd Do it Now   (Roud 1401)

I was born in Tipperary, one day when I was young,
And that's the reason I have got the blarney on my tongue.
I'm the picture of my Dad and the doctor he did vow
And the girls'd run to kiss me - Oh, I wish they'd do it now!

Oh, I wish they'd do it now! Oh, I wish they'd do it now!
And the girls'd run to kiss me - Oh, I wish they'd do it now!

And as I grew older, the girls would laugh with glee,
They would press me to their bosom, they would dance me on their knee.
They would rock me in the cradle, and if I made a row,
They would tickle me so funny - Oh, I wish they'd do it now!

At five years old, a finer boy, there never was seen,
They would take me out to play upon the meadows green,
They would gather all the buttercups to deck my boyish brow,
They would rollick me all in the grass - I wish they'd do it now!

They would take me out to bathe when the weather it was mild,
We would swim and jump about like little [indecipherable] so wild,
They would splash the water 'til it shone like pearls upon my brow,
They would wash me nice all over - Oh, I wish they'd do it now!

My father sent me to school to learn my ABC,
And the naughty girls in my class, they would not let me be,
They would stick pins in my breeches and that [weren't fair I'll allow ?]
And the Master he would whack me - Oh, I wish they'd do it now!

Now it's lonesome for a boy to lead a single life,
So I just made up my mind tonight and try and get a wife,
My fortune is six thumping pigs, likewise the old fat sow,
So there's plenty love and bacon for the girl that'll have me now.

It must seem strange that the lively polka tune to this song was played, seemingly, in every village in southern England at one time, and anyone over 50 will happily join in the chorus even today - yet Roud has only six instances of the song being collected.  These are incredibly widespread - USA, N Ireland, Scotland, Yorkshire, Hampshire ... and George in Sussex.

3   The Garden Gate   (Roud 418)

The day's far spent, the moon shone bright, the village clock struck eight,
Young Mary paced in great delight unto the garden gate,
But what was there to make her sad - the gate was there, but not the lad,
Which made poor Mary to sigh and say
"Was there ever a poor girl so sad as I?"

She traced the garden here and there, 'til the village clock struck nine,
Which made poor Mary to sigh and say "Thou shan't, thou shan't be mine.
For you promised to meet me at the gate at eight,
You never shall keep me nor make me wait,
For I'll let all such creatures see that they never shall make such a fool of me."

She traced the garden here and there, 'til the village clock stuck ten,
Young William caught her in his arms, never to part again,
For he had been to buy the ring that day, and he had been such a long, long way,
How could young Mary so cruelly prove
As to vanish from the lad she so dearly loved?

The very next morn the sun did shine, to the church they went straightway,
And all the village bells did ring upon that wedding day,
Now it's in a little cot by the riverside where William and Mary they both reside,
She blesses the hour that she did wait
For her absent swain at the garden gate.

A song which, while once quite popular, failed to last into the era of sound recording.  Roud has 41 instances - many from Scotland (ten in Geig-Duncan alone), but only five from England, of which two are from Sussex - the extraordinary Henry Burstow of Horsham being the other.  George's is the only known sound recording.

4   Blow Me Up the Apple Tree   (Roud 15134)

Blow me up me the apple tree, chop me into bits,
Strike me on a matchbox, drive me into fits,
Walk around the lamp-post, and walk around the Pells,
But never could I walk around old Jones's girl.

I've not been able to find out anything about this charming little snatch of what sounds like a children's song.  It may possibly be kin to an American one which begins 'Wind up the apple tree, hold on tight' and can be found in Singing Games & Playparty Games (1949/1967), Chase, pp.30-31.  The Pells is an area in Lewes, down beside the river - a public pleasure-gardens in Victorian times.

5   Pretty Nancy From Yarmouth   (Roud 407)

Pretty Nancy from Yarmouth, our joy and delight!
It's of a kind letter I'm now going to write;
It is to inform you what we undergo
All on the salt sea, my love, where the stormy winds blow.

It was early one evening, just before it grew dark,
Our captain came to us and he showed us a mark;
He showed us a mark boys produced in the sky,
He said he was sure there was a storm very nigh.

It was early the next morning just before it grew day,
Our captain came to us and these words he did say,
"Be all of good heart, boys, be all of good cheer,
For whilst we 'ave sea roads [?] brave boys, never fear."

You see, my dearest jewel, how we were toss'd about,
Like a army of soldiers going forth for to fight;
But a soldier may fly to his sword or his gun,
But a sailor must submit to his watery tomb.

Many songs and ballads tell of the exploits of a young girl called Nancy.  One lengthy ballad, which runs to fifty-six verses in some versions, is called The Yarmouth Tragedy or Nancy of Yarmouth and when John Pitts first printed this present song in the early 19th century he gave it the title Nancy of London to distinguish it from the longer, and better known, Yarmouth Tragedy.  Well, that was the idea.  Singers, however, had other ideas and when one encounters the song nowadays, be it in East Anglia or along the American Maritime coast where it is highly popular, the sailor's sweetheart is usually said to live in Yarmouth.

Only four other sound recordings are known to Roud - and all are from Suffolk.  In fact of the 18 English instances of the song, except for this batch of fairly recent East Anglian recordings, all are from the Southwest ... and Eva M Ashton collected an example from Edmund Pack, of Robertsbridge, Sussex, in 1906.  George's version seems to have got a line from The Bold Princess Royal into its penultimate verse.

6   Bold Reynolds (You Gentlemen of High Renown)   (Roud 190)

Bold gent-er-y of high renown, come listen unto me,
That takes delight in fox and hounds in every high degree.
A story true I'll tell to you, concerning of a fox.
In Oxford town, in Oxfordshire there is some mighty hounds.

Bold Reynold being all in his den and standing on the ground,
Bold Reynard being all in his den and hearing, 'Hark those hounds!'
Thinks he, 'I can hear some mighty hounds, coming for me to kill,
Before they should kill me in my den, I'll climb those lofty hills.'

Bold Reynard cocked up his head and up those hills he went,
Bold Reynard cocked out his brush and he left such a gall-i-ant scent;
'Your hounds are staunch, I know them well, they drive me like the wind,
I'll step so lightly o'er the ground and leave no scent behind.

We drove Bold Reynold five hours or more, through parish towns sixteen,
We drove Bold Reynard five hours or more, till we came to Oxford Green,
There we caught Bold Reynard all by his brush, and we never let him go.
He shan't have no more o' our feathered fowls down in the village below.

Our huntsman blows a joyful sound, 'All up, my boys, for the kill;
He shan't have no more o' our feathered fowls nor the lambs on yonder hill;'
'O pardon, huntsman!' then he cries; 'No pardon you shan't have,
We'll take off your brush, likewise your head and we'll give you three hurrays.'

One of several hunting songs in George's repertoire, reflecting his lifelong interest in the pursuit undoubtedly engendered by his father's first taking him to see fox hunting when he was only three years of age.  Despite its popularity throughout the revival, probably due to the Waterson Family's singing, this is not a very frequently-found song in the tradition.  Only 9 instances are known, almost all from Sussex.  Dave Bland recorded a version from Barry Bridgewater and Jim Brookes in Yorkshire (1973) called Old Snowball, and Vaughan Williams had one called just The Foxhunt from Stephen Pole of Tilney St Lawrence, Norfolk (1905).

Oddly, it does not seem to have been found in Oxfordshire, despite the fact that most versions set the action in that county.  It, or at least the Sussex version, is unusual for an English song, in that it is furnished with a fine tune in 5/4 time - not many are so endowed.

7   All Jolly Fellows That Follow the Plough   (Roud 346)

'Twas early one morning at the break of day,
The cocks were a-crowing, the farmer did say,
Come rise you good fellows, arise with good will,
For your horses want something their bellies to fill.

When four o'clock comes, then up we all rise,
And into our stables so merrily fly,
With rubbing and scrubbing our horses we vow,
We're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

Then six o'clock comes, at breakfast we meet,
Peat bread and pork pies we heartily eat,
With a piece in our pocket, I'll swear and I'll vow,
We're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

Then we harness our horses, our way then we go
And trip o'er the plain boys so merrily-O,
And when we come there, so jolly and bold,
To see which of us the straight furrow can hold.

Our master came to us and thus he did say,
"What have you been doing boys, all this long day?
Well you've not ploughed an acre, I'll swear and I'll vow.
And you're all idle fellows that follow the plough."

I stepped up to him and made this reply,
"We have all ploughed an acre, so you tell a lie.
We have all ploughed an acre, I'll swear and I'll vow,
And we're all jolly fellows that follow the plough."

He turned himself round and he laughed in a joke,
"It's past two o'clock, boys; it's time to unyoke.
Unharness your horses and rub them down well,
And I'll give you a jug of the very best ale.

So come all you brave fellows, where e'er you be,
Take this advice and be ruled by me,
And never fear your masters, I'll swear and I'll vow,
For you're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

A very popular song in England (only one reference to it elsewhere - Frank Steele in Banffshire, Scotland), with 103 listings in Roud.  It may be of quite late composition, and it has certainly survived well into the era of sound recording - almost all country singers have a version, and there are 20 recordings, almost all from central and southern England.  George himself followed the plough for several years as a young teenager.

8   I Mounted My Neddy   (Roud 1045)

I mounted me Neddy and away I did ride,
I rode off to London, to seek for a bride,
It's lasses there were plenty, but money they had none,
So I told 'em all I'd marry, I told 'em all I'd marry,
But I never told 'em when.

I courted a widow with a purse full of gold,
I courted her as long as her money …
[indecipherable - possibly 'bid behold'],
Until she proved deceitful and walked with other men,
So I told her I would marry, I told her I would marry,
But I never told her when.

I courted a pretty girl, I loved her as me life,
I told her that I would make her my wife.
The kisses that I gave to her was six hundred and ten,
And I told her I would marry, I told her I would marry,
But I never told her when.

I mounted me Neddy and away I did ride,
I come back from London, without e'er a bride,
And if they should run after me, then catch me if they can,
For I told them all I'd marry, I told them all I'd marry,
But I never told 'em when.

Not a song that was collected very often: Baring-Gould in Devon (late 19th cent), Gavin Greig in Aberdeenshire (early 20th), Mervyn Plunkett in Sussex (late 1950s), Brian Matthews and Ken Stubbs from George Townshend 1960/2.  Only three broadside printings are known, under title of The London Rover - one by Pitts (London) would date it to first three decades of 19th century.

9   Hark, the Rock (Cease Ye Stormy Winds to Blow)   (Roud 1299)

Cease ye stormy winds to blow,
Cease ye murmuring streams to flow,
Hushed be every sounding noise,
I think I hear my true love's voice.

Hark, the rock, the brook, the tree,
Hark, hark the voice, don't you think it is he?
Oh it is not he, and the storm is coming on
Oh where is my lord, I wonder, gone?

Lord, she calls to make him hear,
'Tis she that calls "My love, my dear.
Oh where does he wander, oh where does he stay?
I'm afraid my true love has lost his way."

The moon behind the clouds is lost,
And every crag appears in his ghost
The lightning's gleam shall shine no more.
Hark how the host for thunder's roar

Hark, the rock, the brook, the tree,
Hark, hark the voice, don't you think it is he?
Oh yes, it is he, and the storm is come and past
Oh here is my lord, has come at last.

Another very rare song - only one other instance of it being collected is known; Alfred Williams had it from a Mrs Moss, in Driffield, Gloucestershire, and published it in his Folk Songs of the Upper Thames.

10   Dame Durden   (Roud 1209)

Dame Durden kept five servant maids, to carry the milking pail,
Also she kept five labouring men, to use the spade and flail.

There was Moll and Bet, and Doll and Kate,
And Dorothy Draggletail.
(There was) Tom and Dick and Joe and Jack,
Old Humphrey with his frail [flail],
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail.
'Twas Tom kissed Molly, 'twas Dick kissed Betty,
'Twas Joe kissed Polly, 'twas Jack kissed Kitty,
And old Humphrey with his frail [flail],
Kissed Dorothy Draggletail
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail,
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail.

Dame Durden, in the morn so soon, when she began to brawl [bawl],
To rouse her servant maids and men, so loudly she did call ...

'Twas on the morn of Valentine, when birds began to prate,
Dame Durden's servant maids and men, they all began to mate [meet] ...

A song which seems to be unknown outside the central/southern part of England - all the known examples being from Sussex, Somerset or Wiltshire.  The majority are associated with members of the Copper family of Peacehaven, not far from Lewes, with whom the Townshend family are known to have had musical connections.  The song started life as a glee, and was published as such a number of times in the 1820s, and there was a Dame Durden Polka of 1852-1853.  Brewer’s first edition of 1894 called it a 'famous English song' and confirmed George's 'Dorothy Draggletail' in the chorus.

George said that Dame Durden was always sung at Harvest Home.  The men, particularly, "... liked to sing that'n, for they had a bit of kissing - they'd grab the girls and kiss 'em" in the chorus.

11   The Trees They're All Bare   (Roud 1170)

The trees they're all bare, not one green leaf to be seen,
And those little doves [indecipherable] at morn;
As for the leaves, they are all fallen from the trees
And the streams are fast, and the streams are fast,
Fast bound down by the hoarfrost.

The poor little small birds to the barn doors fly for food,
Silent they restle on the spray;
Our poor timid hare search the woods all for her food,
Lest her footsteps should, lest her footsteps should,
Her innocence betray.

The poor little pigeons sit shivering on the barn,
Coldly the north winds do blow;
Our poor innocent sheep from the downs unto their fold,
With their fleeces all, with their fleeces all
Quite covered with snow.

The poor little oxen in the yard all foddered on straw
Sends forth their breath like the steam;
Our sweet-looking milkmaid she finds that she must go.
Flakes of ice finds she, flakes of ice finds she,
She finds all on her cream.

Now Christmas is come and our song we have sung,
Soon will come the Springtime of year;
Come hand to me the glass and I'll drink your healths all round,
And I wish you all, and I wish you all
A bright and happy New Year.

A song unknown outside Sussex, it would seem - Roud knows of only two singers apart from George who knew it.  One was the Downs shepherd, Michael Blann from Upper Beeding, whose MS songbook is in the Sussex Library, and whose story is told in the Andrews book Shepherd of the Downs.  The other singer(s) being various specified and unspecified members of the Copper family.

The song crops up in a four part harmony version in Sussex, suggesting that, like Dame Durden, it made an easy crossing between written and oral tradition.

12   'Twas Early One Morning (Dido, Spendago)   (Roud 584)

'Twas early one morning just as I was a-riding,
I heard of some lovell fox hunting;
There were horse and gentlemen and the bugle rattl'd in,
So early as I was a-riding.  (Repeat last two lines)

There were Dido, Spendago, Gentry was there O.
Truelove never looks behind her,
Countess, Rover, Bonny Lass and Trover [?]
Those were the hounds that did find him.

Our fox being young, and our day's sport just begun,
Straightway took out of the cover,
He went up the highest hill and came down the lowest hill,
Expecting his life for his labour.

Bonny Whelp tripp'd o'er the plain, and we rattled him over again,
His horse nor his hounds never failing;
It's forever and a day our huntsman he will say,
"Hark! Forward my brave hounds, all together!"

Our fox being young, and our day's sport almost done,
Straightway he jumped into the river;
Young Dido she jump'd in and soon after him did swim
And there she destroyed him for ever.

There was Dido, Spendago, Gentry was there O.
Truelove never looks behind her,
Countess and Rover, Bonny Lass and Trover,
Those were the hounds that did kill him.

There is one American version of this song, but all the 14 others listed by Roud are English - and, unusually, are spread through the length and breadth of the land, from Cumberland to Cornwall.  George's is the only one from Sussex.  It's possible that he may have added it to his repertoire from a non-local source - a book, perhaps - since he clearly had an attachment to hunting songs.

13   Mowing Down My Meadow   (Roud 143)

There's one good man, there's two good men, a-mowing down my meadow.
There's three good men, there's four good men, a-getting my hay together.
Me four, me three, and me two, and me one, and they all work well,
Cutting my hay and carrying it away, and they are jolly good fellows.

... and so on, by ones to twenty, and then by tens to a hundred.

A widely-known 'counting song' in southern England - it has been collected 26 times, with only a couple of examples from outside that area (Canada and Australia).  The majority are from further west - Dorset, Somerset and Devon - George's is the only one from Sussex.  Unsurprisingly, there are no Broadside versions listed.
Having sung the entire last verse (despite his daughter's protestations), from one hundred down to zero in one breath, George has enough left (at the age of 78), to call to Brian Matthews "See if you can do that!"

14   The Mistletoe Bough   (Roud 2336)

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
The holly branch hung on the old oak wall
And the baron's retainers were blithe and gay,
And keeping their Christmas holiday.
The Baron beheld with a father's pride,
His beautiful child, young Lovell's bride...
While she with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of the goodly company
Oh the mistletoe bough, oh the mistletoe bough.

"I am weary of dancing now", she cried
"Pray tarry a moment, I'll hide, I'll hide
And Lovell, be sure the first to trace
The clue to my secret flirting place."
Away she ran, and her friends began
Each bower to search and each nook to scan
And young Lovell cried "Oh where dost thou hide?
I'm lonesome without thee, own dear bride"
Oh the mistletoe bough, oh the mistletoe bough.

They sought her that night, they sought her next day
They sought her in vain when a week passed away
In the highest, the lowest, the lowliest spot
Young Lovell sought widely and found her not
And years flew by and the grief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past
And when Lovell appeared the children cried
"See the old man weeps for his fairy bride
Oh the mistletoe bough, oh the mistletoe bough.

At length an old chest that had long lain hid
Was found in the castle, they raised the lid
And the skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of the lady fair
Oh sad was her fate, and the sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest
It closed with a spring and the bridal bloom
Lay withering there in a living tomb
Oh the mistletoe bough, oh the mistletoe bough.

Written by Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839), who also wrote the words of Home Sweet Home, this has been extremely popular throughout southern England and the USA and appears in a number of popular song books.  It relates well to the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the general Gothic Novel movement.  Roud has 70 versions, almost all from broadsides, with only eight recorded examples - Bob Copper is the only other Sussex man listed.  One must assume that the element of pastiche in the song (trying hard to seem an older song than it actually is) meant that the earlier English collectors ignored it (for they surely must have encountered it), since it appears only in Henry Burstow's book listing his own songs - and much else - Reminiscences of Horsham (1911).

15   The Life of a Man   (Roud 848)

As I was a-walking one morning at ease,
Viewing the leaves as they fell from the trees,
They were all in full motion, appearing to be,
And those that were withered, they fell from the tree.

What's the life of a man, any more than a leaf?
A man has his season - then why should he grieve?
Although in this wide world, he appears fine and gay,
Like a leaf, he shall wither and soon fade away.

You should have seen the leaves, but a short time ago,
They were all in full motion, appearing to grow,
'Til the frost came and bit them, and withered them all,
And the storm came upon them - and down they did fall.

Down in yonder churchyard, many names you will see,
That are fallen from this world, as the leaves from the tree,
Old age and affliction upon them did fall,
And death and disease came and blighted them all.

Quite a common song in southern England, with only two examples known from out of the area (both being from Ontario, Canada).   Roud has 26 versions of which 14 are sound recordings, and four of these are from Sussex - all by people George knew.

Unusually, there are no Broadside versions listed, despite the fact that it's undoubtedly the sort of song which would have been lapped up by the printers ... which might mean that it's a fairly recent song.  However, Vic Gammon mentions the textual overlap between this song and The Moon Shines Bright as well as various May songs, and suggests that the song may not be all that modern. His feeling is at least 18th century, although he's not sure I can give any hard evidence as to why he thinks so.

16   Twenty, Eighteen ...   (Roud 146)

Oh yonder stands a most beauty creature, who she is I do not know,
I will go and court her, let her answer me yes or no.

With me twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, four, two, none,
Nineteen, seventeen, fifteen, thirteen, 'leven, nine, sev'n, five, three and one.

Oh madam, I am come to court you, if your favour I can win,
And if you use me kind and welcome, I will surely come again.

George is joined by his 11-year-old granddaughter Angela for the two verses he sang of this song - it's counting-song version of Oh, No John which Brian Matthews also recorded from Alfred Patching of Fulking, Sussex.  It seems to be known all over England and in the USA, Canada, and even Tristan da Cunha! but Scotland has only produced one sighting.  Frank Harte sings an almost identical version to George's from Ireland.

17   The Farmer's Boy   (Roud 408 / Laws Q30)

The sun was set behind yon hill, across yon dreary moor,
When weary and lame, a boy there came up to a farmer's door,
"Can you tell me if any th' be, that will give me employ,
For to plough, to sow, to reap and mow, and t' be a farmer's boy,
And t' be a farmer's boy."

"If you will [will not] me employ, one favour I would ask,
Will you shelter me 'til break of day from this cold winter's blast.
And at break of day, I'll trudge away, elsewhere to seek employ ... "

The farmer's wife cries "Try the lad, let him no further seek"
"Oh yes, dear Father" the daughter cries, as the tears roll down his [her] cheek,
"For for those that will work, it's hard to want, and to wander for employ ...
Don't turn him away, but let him stay, and be a farmer's ... "

In length of time, he grew a man - this good old farmer died,
He left the lad the farm he had and his daughter for his bride,
Now the lad that was - the farmer he is, and he oftimes smiles with joy,
On that lucky, lucky day that he came that way, for to be a farmer's ...

One of the most popular of collected songs in England (Roud has 153 instances), probably dating from about the 1820s … and it is one of the songs sung by the Boggins prior to the Hood game on January 6th at Haxey, Lincs.  It was very common on 19th century broadsides and songsters, and also collected quite regularly in USA and Canada, but not much, apparently, in Scotland.  It was once fairly popular in Irish songbooks and ballad sheets, but is seldom sung there now.  The known texts vary very little - maybe due to a popular 78 from the 1930s.  The tune is apparently Ye Sons of Albion - which dates from the Napoleonic Wars and the earliest record of the song so far is The Lucky Farmer's Boy in the 1832 Catnach catalogue.  There 17 sound recordings, only two of which are from Sussex - and the other one is from F H 'Gabriel' Figg, of George's birthplace in East Chiltington.

In mid-Cheshire there is a tradition that the original 'farmer's boy' of the song was the Reverend Thomas Smith, to whose memory there is a tablet in the Baptist Chapel at Little Leigh, near Northwich.  He is said to have come to the village 'weary and lame', looking for work.  He called at Heath House Farm, was given a job, and in time married the farmer's daughter - just as the song relates.  Later he became a Baptist minister and he is buried in the graveyard of the Chapel.

18   We'll All Go A-Hunting Today   (Roud 1172)

It's a fine hunting day, it's as balmy as May,
The hounds to the village will come;
Every friend will be there, but all trouble and care
Will be left far behind them at home;
It's a-roaming along on the way,
Each one to the other did say,
We'll join the glad throng that goes laughing along,
And we'll all go a-hunting today!

We'll all go a-hunting today,
All nature looks smiling and gay.
Let us join the glad throng that goes laughing along,
And we'll all go a-hunting today.

Farmer Hodge to his dame cries, 'I'm sixty and lame,
Though hard times and rent I must pay;
I don't care a jot if I raise it or not,
For I must go a-hunting today;
There's a fox in the spinney a-lying.
We'll find him and get him away,
I'll make the first rush to ride hard for his brush,
For I will go a-hunting today.'

The village bells chime, there 's a wedding at nine,
The parson unites the fond pair;
He hears the sweet sound of the horn and the hounds,
And he knows it is time to be there;
He says, "For your welfare I'll pray,
Regret I no longer can stay;
You're safely made one and I must quickly be gone,
For I must go a-hunting today."

Not a very well-known song: it was heard from William Rickard of Egloshayle, Cornwall in 1936, Peter Kennedy recorded it for the BBC from Miles Wilson of Cockermouth, Cumberland, in 1959, Beth Bond of Blackpool sang it for Nick and Molly Dow, and George Fradley of Sudbury, Derbyshire, recorded it (released on Veteran Tapes VT 114) and sang it around the folk clubs in the 1980s.  The Holm Valley hunters still do.

19   Twankydillo   (Roud 2409)

Here's a health to jolly blacksmith the best of all fellows,
Who works at his anvil whilst the boy blows the bellows.

Which (for it) makes my bright hammer to rise and to fall.
Here's to old Cole and to young Cole and to old Cole of all.
Twanky dillo, twanky dillo, twanky dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo,
A roaring pair o' bagpipes made of the green willow.

If a gentleman calls, his horse for to shoe,
He makes no denial of one pot or two ...

Here's a health to King Charlie and likewise his Queen
And to all the Royal little-ones where'er they are seen ...

A popular song in southern England - but not elsewhere, according to Roud.  Yet our next-door-neighbour, 'Paddy' Walker, regularly sang it at Christmas house-parties and sing-songs in the early '50s - and he was a Lancastrian!

We know of 27 instances, including two other sound recordings: the Copper family and 'Gabriel' Figg, of East Chiltington.  The Hammond Collection has some quite rude verses - which suggests the song might have had a more risqué life than some of the published versions suggest.  It is the sort of song that new verses can be easily added to (like Cosher Bailey).

20   When Adam Was First Created (Old Adam)   (Roud 728)

When Adam at was first created
And Lord of the universe crowned,
His happiness was not completed
Until that a helpmate was found.

He'd all things in food that were wanting,
To keep and support him in life,
He'd horses and foxes for hunting,
Which some men love more than a wife.

He'd a garden so planted by nature
Man cannot produce in his life,
But yet the all-wise Creator
Still saw that he wanted a wife.

Then Adam he lay in a slumber
And there he lost part of his side,
And when he awoke with a wonder,
He beheld his most beautiful bride.

In raptures he gazed upon her,
His happiness now was complete,
He praised his beautiful donor,
Who had thus bestowed him a mate.

She was not took out of his head, sir,
To reign and triumph o'er man;
Nor was she took out of his feet, sir,
By man to be trampled upon.

But she was took out of his side, sir,
His equal and partner to be,
But as they're united in one, sir,
The man is the top of the tree.

Then let not the fair be despised
By man, as she's part of himself,
For woman by Adam was prized
More than the whole world full of wealth.

Man without woman's a beggar,
Suppose the whole world he possessed;
And the beggar that's got a good woman
With more than the world he is blest.

With some 50 collected instances (the great majority from southern England), this song might be accounted quite common ... but most are from book sources, and only four broadsides and three other sound recordings are known - all by the Copper family.  The song was quite popular in the USA and Sharp heard it in N Carolina around 1916, and Greig found a couple of examples in Scotland.

21   My Grandfather's Clock   (Roud 4326)

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed on a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride -
But it stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering - tick, tick, tick, tick ...
His life's seconds numbering - tick, tick, tick, tick ...
It stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours he had spent when a boy,
And his childhood and 's manhood the clock seemed to know,
And to share all his grief and his joy.
For it stuck twenty-four, when he entered at the door
With a blooming and beautiful bride,
But it stopped ...

My grandfather said, that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful be found.
For it wasted no time and had no [but one] desire -
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place, not a frown upon its face,
And its hands never hung by its side,
But it stopped ...

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night -
An alarm that for years had been dumb,
And we knew that his spirit was blooming for flight -
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,
And we silently stood by his side,
But it stopped ...

Ninety years without slumbering - tick, tick, tick, tick ...
His life's seconds numbering - tick, tick, tick, tick ...
Stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.

Written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), a Connecticut Yankee who, next to Stephen Foster was probably the most important American popular song writer of the nineteenth century.  His main period of productivity dates from the 1860s and '70s and he wrote some of the great songs of the Civil War.  He was a staunch anti-slavery campaigner (his father had helped slaves escape) and a number of his songs passed into oral tradition and were reprinted on broadsheets.  His songs included Marching Through Georgia, The Ship that Never Returned (Harry Upton of Balcombe used to sing this) and Father, Dear Father Come Home With Me Now.  The tune and form of his Ring the Bell, Sextant became a number of other songs including Strike the Bell, Second Mate and Click go the Shears.  My Grandfather's Clock is probably his most popular and enduring work, reprinted many times in popular song books.

This song must have been extremely popular in England in the early-middle years of the 20th century, since everyone used to know it in my younger days.  Oddly, Roud has only 16 instances, and all but two of theses are from the USA or Canada - the two English versions being the sound recordings by George and by Charlie Pitman, of Padstow, Cornwall.  Another song largely ignored by British collectors.

22   Young Collins   (Roud 1720)

Young Collins on one summer's morn
Went whistling through some fields of corn
Young Collins on one summer's morn
Wwent whistling through some fields of corn
He met a milkmaid neat and trim
Going to milk her cow - going to milk her cow,
Going to milk her cow tripped o'er the plain.

This fair maid she blushed all as she passed
He says "My dear, my fair young lass"
This fair maid she blushed all as she passed
He says "My dear, my fairy lass"
"Will you consent for me to go ..."
But her answer was, but her answer was
But her answer was "No, Collins, no."

He says "Me pretty fair maid, I means you no harm
I'll make you the Mistress of yonder little farm"
He says "Me pretty fair maid, I means you no harm
I'll make you the Mistress of yonder little farm"
Where there's ewes, and lambs, and poultry too
If you will be mine, if you will be mine,
If you will be mine - say yes or no"

This fair maid she blushed as she gave consent
Straightway unto the church they went,
This fair maid she blushed as she gave consent
Straightway unto the church they went,
To church they went and the knot was tied
And now she is, and so she is
And still she is young Collins' bride.

Another very rare song, and presumably a local one, since the only two other known instances of it are both in Sussex - from Bob Lewis, who grew up in the Midhurst area, and Henry Hills, of Lodsworth.  It is not the same Young Collins as either of the two in Child (Nos 42 and 85).

23   Joe the Carrier Lad   (Roud 1080)

My name is Joe the carrier lad, a merry chap am I.
I always am contented, be the weather-wet or dry.
I snap my fingers at the frost, I whistle at the rain.
I've braved the storms for many a day and will do so again.

Oh crack, crack, goes the whip, I whistle and I sing.
I sit upon my wagon, I'm as happy as a king.
My horse is always willing and I am never sad,
For who should lead a life more gay than Joe the carrier lad?

My father was a carrier a twenty year ago
To market of a Thursday almost regularly he would go
Sometimes he'd take me with him, particular in the spring.
Then up I'd step upon the box and hear my father sing.

The girls they do laugh at me as I go riding past.
My horse he is a beauty as he trots along so fast.
For many a mile we've put behind and happy days we've had.
There's none can treat a horse more kind than Joe the carrier lad.

I never thinks of politics, or anything so great,
I care not for the high bred talk about the Church and State,
I has to [indecipherable] man to man and that's what makes me glad
You'll find there beats an honest heart in Joe the carrier lad.

Like All Jolly Fellows That Follow the Plough, this is another popular song among English country singers up to the present day.  We know of 35 instances, including two from Scotland and three having crossed the water to America.  It is very well-known around Sussex, having been recorded from George Belton, George Spicer, Jim Swain and Cyril Phillips.

Obviously, the song would have considerable resonance for George, who began his working life as a carter boy.  He is again joined by his granddaughter Angela on this song.

24   When Spring Comes In   (Roud 439)

When the Spring comes in the birds do sing, the lambs do play and the bells do ring,
When the Spring comes in the birds do sing, the lambs do play and the bells do ring.
The primrose blooms and the cowslip too,
The violets in their sweet attire, the bluebells shining through the briar,
The daffy-dilly we all admire, while daisies fade away.

From mountains high and meadows green, young men and maidens will be seen.
From mountains high and meadows green, young men and maidens will be seen.
Through woods and groves, they will take their way,
They talks of tales and courts and sales, all little lambs around them play,
And at night they onward bend their way when th' evening stars appear.

The dairymaid to milking goes with her blooming cheeks as red as a rose,
The dairymaid to milking goes with her blooming cheeks as red as a rose,
She milks, she sings, makes the valleys ring,
The small birds on the branches there are listening to this lovely fair.
For she is her master's trust and care, she is the ploughboy's joy.

It would seem that this song is found only in England, from the 18 examples we know about.  Twelve of these are from Sussex, but this is rather misleading, since 11 of those are accounted for by George and the Copper family!  Despite being named Spring Glee on several Coppers records, it was only actually collected with that name from Sam Bennett of Ilmington, Warwickshire, by Peter Kennedy in 1950 - who just may have had a hand in its subsequent renaming when he recorded the Coppers in the '60s.

The tune of this song is a version of Malbrouck s'en va-t-en guerre - a widespread tune which is also the forerunner of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and We Won't Go Home 'Til Morning.

This was one of the first songs George learned from his father, and the first he sang in public, back on the 29th of September 1888 in The Jolly Sportsman.

25   Compilation of one verse each from General Munro, The Larks they Sang Melodious, The Bricklayer's Dream, and The Burial of Sir John Moore

Brian Matthews recorded these songs (together with The Gypsy's Warning and The Old Rustic Bridge) in 1964, when George was living in Landport, Lewes, with his daughter's family.  As noted elsewhere, George's voice had deteriorated in the winter of 1963, and also, for some reason, the recordings have a lot of hum and hiss in the background - the removal of which renders the remaining vocal extremely lifeless.  This is an enormous pity, since several of songs had not been recorded by anyone else, as far as I know, and two are quite rare.  I've created a compilation track of one verse of each, so that at least his melody for these songs can be heard.

General Munro   (Roud 1166)

This is an Irish song which, in its full version, gives an account of the exploits of a United Irishman, Henry Munro, at the battle of Ballynahinch, Co Down, during the 1798 Irish Uprising, and of his subsequent betrayal, capture and execution. It was not widely collected from traditional sources in Ireland, but has become popular in recent years among younger singers, probably due to the bicentenary of the Revolution.

Roud has no English examples listed - but Brian Matthews also collected it from and English Gypsy, Sarah Porter, in Punnetts Town, Sussex, and I know of a few other similar examples.  The fact that members of most British Traveller families frequently visited Ireland accounts for the relatively high proportion of Irish songs in their repertoires, and these have filtered out into the wider singing fraternity.  Many English country singers also learned songs from the Navigators (Navvies) who built the Navigations (canals), railways and new roads in the 18th and 19th centuries - and many of these men were Irish.  So - while unusual, it's not so surprising to find General Munro in George's repertoire.

The Larks they Sang Melodious (Pleasant and Delightful)   (Roud 660)

This song may be of quite recent origin, since almost half of the known examples are sound recordings, and there's only one broadside printing.  On the other hand, there's an older and widely printed broadside Jimmy and his True Love, which might well be an earlier version - or it may just be a song with universal appeal and a good chorus that people still enjoy singing.  Of the 40 or so instances in Roud, most are from the south west of England or East Anglia - though Gavin Greig collected a dozen examples in Scotland in the early years of last century.  No other Sussex version has been collected.

John Barleycorn   (Roud 2141)

This is not the widely-known song which recounts the death, burial, rebirth, growth and subsequent ill-treatment of Sir John Barleycorn, before he emerges as ale or beer.  Rather, it praises and lists the virtues of the beverage (so much more than just a breakfast drink!), and could easily have once been the latter half of the better-known one - and could certainly be added to it should anyone be so inclined ...  I bet Gordon Hall already did it!

This version appears in only a couple of broadsides, plus Cecil Sharp collected it from Albert Poole of Exford, Somerset, in 1906 and Bob Copper recorded it for the BBC from George Attrill of Fittleworth, Sussex, in 1954.

The Burial of Sir John Moore   (Roud 1979)

Something of a rarity in the tradition, this - although it was extremely popular on broadsides and songsters, may well have been taught in schools, and seems to have had a genuine popular life - unusual for such a literary work.  It was written as a poem in 1817 and picked up its tune later - a tune was added by one John Barnett not too long after its publication, but we're not sure if this is the same one George uses.  It was published as a song in Our Familiar Songs and Their Authors, Helen Kendrick Johnson, 1881. The only other known traditional singer was the shepherd Michael Blann of Upper Beeding - with whom George had several other songs in common.

Sir John Moore (1761-1809) was a British general who in 1808 commanded a force sent to strengthen the army in the Iberian Peninsula War.  After news of the fall of Madrid, and faced by 70,000 of Napoleon’s troops, he was forced to retreat. Moore’s army of 25,000 marched over 200 miles through mountains, snow, and rain, before making a stand at La Coruña to protect the embarkation.  The French attacked on January 16, 1809, and were defeated, losing more than 2,000 men.  Moore, wounded by grapeshot, died at the moment of victory, and was buried the next morning.  The poem, by Rev Charles Wolfe (1791-1823), described the scene: 'We buried him darkly at dead of night, the sods with our bayonets turning.'

The Credits:

The above information is culled from three main sources: the article 'George Townsend [sic] of Sussex' by Tony Wales in English Dance & Song, Autumn 1967, pp. 70 to 73; the article 'Talking with George Townsend [sic]' by Ken Stubbs in Ballads & Songs, No 5, 1965; and The Folk Song Revival in and Around Brighton 1961-1999 by Clive Bennett, supplemented by information and reminiscences from Brian Matthews.  Factual information on the songs come mainly from the Roud Folk Song Index database cited above.

All the recordings were made by Brian Matthews, most at a session on 7.2.60, and some others on an un-noted date in 1961, in George's home at 11 Garden Street, Lewes.  Brian also recorded George on 18.2.60 at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne, and on 27.5.60 at The Royal Oak, Milton Street, Lewes, but these live recordings in very noisy pubs were not of suitable quality to be used.

He also recorded him at his daughter's home at 38 Crisp Road, Landport, Lewes, in 1964.  As noted above, George's voice had deteriorated in the winter of 1963, and also, for some reason, the recordings have a lot more hum and hiss in the background - the removal of which renders the remaining vocal extremely lifeless.  This is an enormous pity, since he sings several songs which have never been recorded by Stubbs or Wales, such as The Bricklayer's Dream, The Larks they Sang Melodious, The Burial of Sir John Moore and General Monro.  I've created a compilation track of one verse of each, so that at least his melody for these songs can be heard.

My sincere thanks to Brian, and to everyone who has helped to make this project a reality …

Booklet: some text, all editing, DTP, printing;  CD: formatting, digital editing, sound restoration, production - by Rod Stradling, Spring 2000

George Townshend's repertoire:

(43 songs - sources: Matthews, Stubbs and Wales recordings and writings.)
  1. All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough
  2. Anchors Weighed
  3. Blow Me Up the Apple Tree
  4. Bold Reynolds
  5. Bricklayer's Dream, The
  6. Bundle Rolled In Her Apron, The
  7. Burial of Sir John Moore, The
  8. Common Man, The
  9. Cunning Cobbler, The
  10. Dame Durden
  11. Early I Was a-Riding (Dido, Spendago)
  12. Early Morn, The
  13. Echoing Horn, The
  14. Farmer's Boy, The
  15. Garden Gate, The
  16. General Munro
  17. Gypsy's Warning, The
  18. Hark the Rock (Cease Ye Stormy Winds to Blow)
  19. I Mounted My Neddy
  20. I Must Go a-Hunting Today
  21. I Wish I Were Single Again
  22. I Wish They'd Do it Now
  23. Jim the Carrier Lad
  24. John Barleycorn
  25. Larks they Sang Melodious, The
  26. Life of a Man, The
  27. Merry Mountain Band, The
  28. Mistletoe Bough, The
  29. Mowing Down My Meadow
  30. My Grandfather's Clock
  31. Old Adam (When Adam Was First Created)
  32. Old Rustic Bridge, The
  33. Pretty Nancy from Yarmouth
  34. Remember Me
  35. Thousands or More
  36. Trees They're All Bare, The
  37. Twankydillo
  38. Twenty, Eighteen ...
  39. Wanderer, The
  40. When Spring Comes In
  41. Wild Rover, The
  42. Young Brickmaker, The
  43. Young Collins

Rod Stradling - 13.4.00

Article MT050

[Track List] [Introduction] [Brian Matthews] [George Townshend] [The Songs] [Credits] [Repertoire]

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