MT logo Letters - Jun / Sept 2003

Various points

Dear Rod,

Re: the dancing Granny (Harper) picture; being a bit of an anorak, like most collectors, I'm curious to know if can anybody identify the fiddle player?  I've been down to my local Tesco branch and purchased a bottle of their own-label Bourbon which bears the same photograph on the label, but it doesn't help - well it does help certainly, but not to identify musicians.

Re: Fred McCormick's Kentucky box set review; I'm sure he's had a minor memory lapse re: Doc Boggs.  Surely Doc Boggs' home town was Norton, Virginia, not quite Kentucky.

Regarding his suggestion for popularity polls - I do hope that was a joke.

Keep up the excellent work

Frank Weston - 29.9.03

Re: An Open Letter ... (6)

The National Council considered Dr Bearman's letter of 5th September at its meeting of 13th September 2003 and resolved that Malcolm Taylor, Librarian of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and Hazel Miller, Chief Officer of the English Folk Dance & Song Society enjoy the full support of the National Council.

We have considered Dr Bearman's letter carefully and will be writing to him privately to address the matters raised.  We consider that the allegations made by Dr Bearman are unwarranted and that any call for resignations would be presumptuous.

Finally, we are grateful to all those whose efforts made the Seeds of Love possible - the vast majority of whom are not Society employees -­ and hope that it may have brought folk song to a wider audience.

Yours faithfully

Jeremy West - 21.9.03
Chair, National Council, English Folk Dance and Song Society

Re: An Open Letter ... (5)

Dr Bearman does not seem to realise that neither the Seeds of Love radio program or the Sunday Telegraph article are academic documents.  There were clearly not intended as such and should not be judged as such.  It is my personal opinion that the radio program was exemplary broadcasting: entertaining, unpatronising, balanced and informative.  Like other listeners I was perfectly capable of forming my own opinions about the validity of Vic Gammon linking Sharp's work to facism (i.e. I thought that it was nonsense, but I'm willing to debate the point with anyone who has time and inclination), and Dr Bearman should allow me and others access to all points of the debate in order that we can make up our own minds.  If he believes that Sharp was misrepresented then he has several sensible ways of redressing this, not least the letters column of the Sunday Telegraph and the plethora of feedback channels the BBC offers.

Demanding the resignation of Malcolm Taylor is a ludicrous over-reaction and suggesting that the EFDSS 'restrict Taylor's access to the media' is somewhat hypocritical coming from someone whose published work strongly implies that academia censors politically incorrect opinion.  Removing research materials from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library is entirely self-defeating.

I for one am mystifed by Dr Bearman's 'anger and disgust': when I asked for biographical information on Sharp, Malcolm immediately gave me copies of Dr Bearman's work, telling me that it was the best work in the field.  How I wish that someone would proselytise my academic work in that manner!

Dr Richard Butterworth - 10.9.03
Middlesex University

Re: An Open Letter ... (4)

Judging by Mr Bearman’s rather cowardly ‘Open Letter’ approach, he would appear to be rapidly descending the same path as his hero, Cecil Sharp, of whose behaviour the latter’s contemporaries lamented:
... not being a gentleman, he huffed and boomed and shoved and ousted, and used the Press to advertise himself; so that, although we pioneers were the people from whom he originally learnt all he knew of the subjects, he came to believe himself to be King of the whole movement ...
for the saddest aspect of his ill-tempered attack on Malcolm Taylor is that Taylor is the one person who has done the most to support, help, assist and encourage Bearman (and, furthermore, speak up for him against all those whom Bearman has steadily alienated by his infantile behaviour and attitudes - typified by this ‘Open’ letter).

When Malcolm Taylor was recently awarded an OBE it was not simply in recognition of his nationally and internationally recognised skills as an archivist and librarian, it also represented the gratitude felt by those all over the world who have benefited richly from working with this uniquely knowledgeable, generous and gentle man.

For Bearman now to demand viciously in Grand Duchess manner (even more imperiously in this recast of his ‘Open’ letter) that Malcolm Taylor be reprimanded, censored and summarily dismissed by his ‘superiors’ forthwith, purely on the puerile grounds that Taylor (though a Sharp admirer himself) appears to permit views on Sharp to be aired other than those bearing Bearman’s approval, is immature ingratitude.

Ian Olson - 7.9.03

Re: An Open Letter ... (3)

How strange.  Chris Bearman's ranting attack on Malcolm Taylor has, overnight, changed into a slightly less caustic affair.  Perhaps readers should be told that what now appears on the MT website is a second draft.

I have known Malcolm Taylor for many, many years.  He has, over the years, helped just about everybody who has even the slightest bit of interest in folkmusic, including Chris Bearman, and it should, perhaps, be pointed out that Malcolm's recent award of an OBE was justly deserved.  In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that without Malcolm the EFDSS would probably have faded away year ago.  Malcolm has maintained the Society's Library in spite of inadequade funding and, unlike many academic librarians, has welcomed everyone, be they dancers, folkies or academics, into this unique institution.

Dr Bearman's attack is, I feel, totally unwarranted and his call for Malcolm's resignation or sacking is an insult to an outstanding person.  Bearman seems to belong to the 'conspiracy school' of thought.  (In the one letter that he wrote to me he said that he had always believed me to be 'one of them'.  I don't know who 'they' are, although I can hazard a guess, and if 'they' include such fine persons as the late A L Lloyd, then I am quite happy to be included).  I cannot comment on the Sunday Telegraph article because I have not read it.  I did, however, listen to, and greatly enjoy, Malcolm's radio programme The Seeds of Love, which has so annoyed Bearman.  Much of his bile is directed against Vic Gammon and Georgina Boyes, who, together, were given about one minute's airtime (out of a thirty minute programme) and, as such, seems to be a total over-reaction.  Yes, Vic did reflect, briefly, on Cecil Sharp's ideas on nationalism, but he (Vic) clearly stated that Sharp was not a fascist.  Also, I believe that Ms Boyes was right to ask whether or not Sharp had the right to appropriate, and change, the songs that he was collecting.  This is an important question, one which deserves serious study and debate, and I am glad that it was raised in the programme.

If Chris Bearman wishes to remove his papers from the Vaughan Williams Library, then so be it; but I would be sorry if he does so.  Bearman is clearly proud of his work - although he seems to feel that he is being overlooked and marginalized - and removal would only mean that even fewer people will be able to read what he has to say.  If he wishes to change attitudes then he must realize that, without his findings being made available to the public, there will be no change.

Michael Yates - 6.9.03

Re: An Open Letter ... (2)

Like Mike Sutton I take no pleasure in seeing Chris Bearman's tirade . However, as he mentions my work in apparent support of his position, I do want to make one clarification.

Bearman does not identify me by name, but only as 'the Editor of Folk Music Journal'.  As I have made clear in the pages of the Journal in the past, care should be taken to distinguish between my editorial role and my occasional role as a contributor.  Like other scholarly journal publishers, the English Folk Dance and Song Society does not endorse the content of the contributions.  The material to which Bearman refers was published over my name as contributor, and not in my role as Editor of the Society's Journal.  The only items in the Journal which might be taken to reflect a position taken in my capacity as Editor (and which therefore might reflect on the Society) are the Editorial and items explicitly signed as 'The Editor'.

I do not endorse any of the views expressed in Chris Bearman's letter either personally or as Editor of Folk Music Journal.

Michael Heaney - 6.9.03
The Editor, Folk Music Journal

Re: An Open Letter ... (1)

Oh dear!  Here we go again!  This new kerfuffle will come as no great surprise to anyone who has had their toes bitten while paddling in these shark-infested waters.  Nevertheless, it still makes me 'prostrate with dismal' (as Jim Copper once said) to see folklorists falling out so acrimoniously.

Although I've disagreed publicly with Dave Harker and Georgina Boyes on various issues, I respect the substantial efforts they've put into folklore studies, and accept absolutely their right to interpret the facts differently from me.  On this particular question, Mr Bearman's judgement may eventually prove to be correct.  But presenting it in the form of an intemperate rant is unlikely to improve its chances of becoming accepted.

There are more than enough people - in academia, in the world of the 'serious' arts, in the media, and among the general public at large - who seize any opportunity to give the traditional arts and their practitioners a good kicking.  Why should those of us inside the folk community do their job for them?  Can't we have a debate without turning it into a punch-up?

Mike Sutton - 05.9.03

An Open Letter to:

The Chief Executive of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (2nd draft)

Dear Madam,

This is an open letter of protest - it will also be published on the Musical Traditions website - about the untruths and disinformation recently fed to the media by your employee Malcolm Taylor, with regard to the radio programme The Seeds of Love broadcast on 26 August and to the article It's time to try Morris Dancing published in the Sunday Telegraph on 10 August.

The major theme of the radio programme was that folk music represented a 'working class' cultural tradition which was appropriated by Cecil Sharp and transferred to another class or classes.  The Times's summary of the programme (T2, 26 August, p.29) asked: 'Did he [Sharp] misappropriate a working class culture or reclaim a vanishing tradition? Malcolm Taylor finds out'.

Malcolm Taylor did no such thing, because he only examined one side of the question and ignored the only relevant research, which happens to be my own.  In 2000 I published Who were the Folk? The Demography of Cecil Sharp's Somerset Folk Singers (Historical Journal Vol.43 No.3).  In that essay I showed that about 30 per cent of Sharp's singers were not 'working class' according to dictionary definitions, and that social mobility operated among them as among any other group of people.  Since then, I have extended my researches to cover the work of other folk song collectors and have shown that the main influence on the social composition of folk singers was collecting methods.  For example, more than half Sabine Baring-Gould's sources in Devon and Cornwall were not 'working class'.  I presented these conclusions in my paper Towards the Social History of Folk Music, given at the conference of the International Ballad Commission at the University of Texas, and to the recent English Folk Song - Cecil Sharp in Context conference.

This is not a matter of two equally valid points of view depending on the same research base.  The fact is that I am the only person to have applied large-scale biographical and demographic methods to this question, while the persons allowed to present their views on the programme were relying on assumptions and suppositions which I challenged and discredited.  These assumptions and suppositions were politically motivated.  The allegation that folk music represents a specifically 'working class' cultural form allows Marxist scholarship to claim the subject for its own and to apply a set of ready-made concepts which derive from their political and cultural theory, such as the doctrines of 'expropriation', the 'invented tradition', and the theory of cultural 'hegemony'.  The person most responsible for this interpretation, and for applying it to the work of Cecil Sharp, is David Harker.  In Who were the Folk? I began a demolition of Harker's analysis which I completed in Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Reflections on the Work of David Harker, in Folklore Vol.113 No.1 (2002).  The 'debate' for which Taylor was responsible did not merely ignore my research; it also repeated discredited material.

In both the radio programme and the Sunday Telegraph article, associations were made between Cecil Sharp and the Nazi party, and between the morris dance movement and fascism in more general terms.  In the programme, the association was made by V A F Gammon.  In the article, the idea appeared to have been fed to the Sunday Telegraph's reporter by Taylor himself.  I will deal with Gammon's association presently.  The Sunday Telegraph alleged that Sharp had 'leanings towards fascism' which depended partly on guilt by association (because Sharp was an enthusiast of Wagner) and partly on a false quotation.  The article alleged that Sharp insisted 'that folk song was a pure.  Aryan 'race-product''.  Taylor should be forced either to show that Sharp used those words in conjunction with one another, as the article printed them, or to write to the Sunday Telegraph and publish a true quotation with a retraction and an apology.  He should also be forced to state precisely what he means by the allegation that Sharp has 'leanings towards fascism' and justify them by direct reference to Sharp's life and work, or acknowledge that the allegation is utterly baseless and publish an apology and retraction.

The association of morris dancing with fascism rests on the allegation of the 'supposedly brownshirt sympathies of prominent figures in the morris-dance revival'.  Once again, Taylor should be forced to provide adequate evidence, or to publish an apology and retraction.  In this case it would be necessary to prove that 'prominent figures' in the revival - i.e., more than one - either had actually founded organisations or had a major role in their organisation, and had direct links or publicly expressed support for the Nazi party's private army.  (This is what the allegation implies).  Needless to say, no such proof can be provided: in fact, the assertion rests on allegations made by Georgina Boyes, first in her book The Imagined Village and then in her own contribution to her edited collection Step Change, that Rolf Gardiner was the indirect founder or motivating spirit behind the Morris Ring.  Boyes has never been able to produce any evidence for this allegation and it has been refuted again and again, most notably by actual participants in the foundation of the Ring such as Walter Abson.  They have shown, not only that Gardiner did not take any part, but that some of the organisers had entirely different political affiliations, such as the Marxist allegiance of Joseph Needham.  Indeed, the Editor of the Folk Music Journal recently drew attention to the fact that Boyes had no evidence whatsoever for her allegation and had ignored the many refutations of her association of Gardiner with the Ring, and concluded that: 'it is rare to find a published work which so misrepresents the source material' (Folk Music Journal, Vol.8 No.2, p.369).  This is one more instance in which Taylor not only ignored the most authoritative research, but repeated discredited material.

I am a social historian, and if there really was any evidence that Cecil Sharp had 'leanings towards fascism', or that the morris dance revival had drawn on 'supposedly brownshirt sympathies', I would be the first to want them brought to public attention and discussion.  Likewise, Taylor, Gammon, and Boyes are entitled to their opinions and are free to express them, within the limits set by scholarly principles and the presumption of innocence.  But 'Fascist' and 'Nazi' are common words of abuse, and to accuse a person or a movement of such sympathies is highly perjorative.  The very strongest evidence, therefore, is required before such allegations should be made, and in this case the 'evidence' is non-existent or has been disproved in public debate - it is noteworthy, incidentally, that Gammon has never presented any evidence beyond his bare statement that Sharp had ideas in common with the Nazis, and that Boyes has never attempted to answer her critics about Gardiner's supposed influence on the Morris Ring: instead, she has simply repeated her baseless allegations.  It follows, I think, that these allegations cannot be made through any intention to engage in serious debate about Cecil Sharp's work and the legacy he left us; rather, the intention of this smearing and mud-slinging seems to be the silencing of Sharp; to shut him up, to deny him a hearing by associating him with political ideas which are not tolerated in the modern world.  Taylor, Gammon, and Boyes seem to have despaired of demolishing Sharp's reputation by discrediting his work, and instead attack him on irrelevant personal grounds

There is a further dimension to this question.  If it is acceptable to attack a person through the political principles and ideas with which they are associated (even in the most indirect and loose way, as shown by the manner in which Taylor, Gammon, and Boyes have attacked Sharp and the morris dance movement), should not their own political affiliations and sympathies be public knowledge and open to such guilt by association? Gammon's motive for associating Sharp with the Nazi party appears to be the importance he attaches to ideas, and the propensity of ideas for causing human suffering.  The first time he made this association was in 1988, in a book review.  The relevant passage reads:

I admire Sharp and his work, but in a different context such ideas formed a cornerstone of a regime that perpetrated untold human suffering, misery, torture, and genocide.  Ideas are important.  (Folk Music Journal Vol.5, No.4, p.497)
Those words were written the year before the Berlin Wall fell and the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed with it.  Since then, the opening-up of various archives has exposed the full horror of the Leninist and Stalinist regimes, even (one hopes) to those who had denied their crimes before.  We know now that where Hitler slew his millions, Lenin and Stalin slew their tens of millions.  It is as ridiculous and unfair to blame the ideas of Karl Marx for this untold slaughter as it is to blame the ideas of 'German romanticism' for the Holocaust, but, if people like Gammon and Boyes choose to sling mud through far-fetched political associations, it is fair to point out that a lot of mud can be slung back at them.

Please note that I am not actually saying that Gammon and Boyes are Marxists, but the links between them and Marxist ideas are far, far stronger and more plain than those between Sharp and the Nazis, or those between the morris dance revival and fascism.  As I have already pointed out, the starting point for their discredited interpretations is the work of David Harker, a self-declared Trotskyite (Fakesong [1985] pp.256-257).  In the course of a whole article devoted to Harker's work in 1986, Gammon described it his treatment of Cecil Sharp and the early folksong movement as 'the beginning of serious scholarly work in this area' (History Workshop Journal No.21, p.147).  In his own PhD thesis, he declared himself uncertain whether or not it was a Marxist work.  It has be said that, in a letter to the Musical Traditions website earlier this year, Georgina Boyes denied that Harker was the starting-point for her own work, but in a reply (published on the same website) I showed how one of her attacks on Cecil Sharp was clearly derived from Harker and challenged her either to deny this, or produce the independent research on which it was based.  And, in any case, it would be an exceptionally innocent and politically unaware reader who did not notice the ideological direction of The Imagined Village.  If it is fair to associate Cecil Sharp and morris dancing with fascism and the Nazis through common ideas, and to point out how these ideas were responsible for untold suffering, genocide, etc, it is fair to point out that Gammon and Boyes share Marxist ideas which, at a similar remove, were also responsible for untold suffering, genocide, etc.

These are not solely academic questions.  In the Sunday Telegraph article, the reporter alleged that 'an echo of potentially dark associations does survive in the name of Sharp's enduring legacy, the English ... Folk Dance and Song Society', and that the Society's mission statement ('to put English traditions into the hearts and minds of the people of Britain') 'doesn't sound good ... in Blairite Britain'.  There is nothing intrinsically 'dark' or disgraceful about England or English traditions: it is only these trumped-up, unprovable, and discredited associations with political causes which make them so, made by people whose own political associations will not bear examination - as I have pointed out.  It is foolish to assume that sensational stories about fascist associations do not have repercussions among those who might otherwise consider becoming EFDSS members, or among the great and good who may make important decisions about your funding.  In these circumstances, it is utter folly and suicidal stupidity for the EFDSS to allow such politicised smearing and mud-slinging to be perpetrated and assisted by its own staff such as Taylor.  Wise birds do not foul their own nests, but that is exactly what you have done by allowing Taylor to make such untrue, stupid, and irresponsible statements.  He, and you have brought the folk music movement into disrepute for the sake of your own self-importance and notoriety.

If I was a member of the EFDSS, I would call on you to sack Taylor and submit your own resignation.  Like very many others, I am not a member because I have no confidence in an organisation so badly led, and which offers so little value for money.  I would restrict my protest to this letter if I had any confidence that you and your organisation would actually do something about it, such as restrict Taylor's access to the media, but I know from past experience that your organisation's reaction to protests about abuses perpetrated by its staff is to allow those responsible to lie their way out of trouble.  I am therefore taking the only action open to me, and withdrawing my copyright work from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library as a token of my anger and disgust.

Yours faithfully,

C J Bearman - 5.9.03

Re: New Zealand recordings - 2

Dear Rod

I was pleased recently to discover your website, which is exceptionally detailed and rewarding reading.  It is great to see recordings like the Voice of the People series covered in such depth.

Finally, I came across your letters page, where I see the subject of New Zealand folk music has cropped up.  Having researched this over the last few years, I hope I may be able to shed some light for Keith, Fred and anyone else who's interested.

The NZ folk music tradition (deriving from music of the European settlers, not the Maori) is, as your writers guessed, not very well covered territory.  As Fred says, most of the pioneering field work was done from the 1950s to the 1970s by a small group of enthusiasts - Frank Fyfe, Les Cleveland, Rona Bailey, Herbert Roth, Neil Colquhoun and Phil Garland.  Mona Tracy was collecting on a small scale in the early 20th century.  John Leebrick was an American song collector from whom Neil Colquhoun in the 1950s obtained a number of 19th century New Zealand sea songs (Davy Lowston is probably the most well-known, having been recorded in slightly different version by Martin Carthy).  Ruth Park was a NZ novelist, notable in folk circles for popularising the Otago goldfields rhyme Bright Fine Gold, for which she also wrote new verses.

These collectors managed to gather a modest, but interesting and varied array of folk lyrics and music from New Zealand sources, much of which appeared in the book Songs of a Young Country.  A certain amount of this material was 'reconstructed', that is, where only a text still existed, a tune was found that seemed 'appropriate' to the collector.  In some cases, entirely new music was composed.  As some of these enthusiasts were also performing the songs, I suppose they had no choice.  All of this is acknowledged and credited in the various publications though.

Apparently, most collectors gained that impression that a fair amount of imported and 'nativised' folk-music had disappeared by the time they set to work in the 1950s.  Sadly, we really had no equivalents to Cecil Sharpe, Banjo Patterson or John Lomax, otherwise many more songs would have survived.  As early as 1912, the historian James Cowan had lamented that no one was recording the 'bush ballads' of his day.  However, new traditional songs are still appearing in most recent publications, so the hunt goes on.

The folk songs still in existence include songs of the sea regarding whaling, sealing and fishing, and various other occupational songs - about timber milling, shearing, cattle droving, gum-digging, railways work, mining and farming.  Most abundant of all are the gold-digging songs.  Quite a few of these have been traced to travelling songsters like the Irishman Joe Small and the Englishman Charles Thatcher (who also left Australia with songs like Where's Your Licence?).  Also collected have been songs of immigration, recruits ballads from the NZ Wars with the Maori, various protest and union songs and swagging ballads.  No 'classic' ballads have turned up, though there are several songs that clearly derive from older British songs (e.g. NZ's The Gay Deserter is a local adaptation of the English Deserter from Kent).  The musical influences include well known folk tunes, modal tunes, music hall, modified sea shanties and popular 19th century ballads like Finnegan's Wake and The Little Log Cabin in the Woods.

Unfortunately, there are no public releases of field recordings.  I am not even sure any actually exist, though tunes were definitely notated down from people who had been found in the field.  (I admit I could be wrong here though, so don't take this as the last word.)  Historic recordings are something I've been on the lookout for, and possibly some exist in the archives of Radio New Zealand.  Various LPs and 45s exist from the revival period of the '60s and '70s by Colquhoun's group 'The Songspinners', Les Cleveland, Phil Garland (who is still recording) and others.  None of it is truly 'traditional' in sense of a singer like Sally Sloane or Duke Tritton.  Singers like Sally Sloane probably did once exist here, though I understand she is something of an exception even in Australia.  I've only come across one available recording of Australian field recordings (the CD Sharing the Harvest), so the chances of a similar recording coming out here in NZ are fairly remote.

With books of lyrics and tunes, there are better possibilities on offer.  Although they'd be hard to get outside New Zealand, I'd recommend the following beside Colquhoun's book:

Shanties By the Way, by Rona Bailey and Herbert Roth, 1967.  Contains about 90 sets of lyrics and a few tunes (mostly 'reconstructions').

The Singing Kiwi, by Phil Garland, 1996.  Contains about 100 songs, about half from Phil's pen.  Many 'reconstructions' but also some good traditional stuff he's collected, mainly from people living in rural parts.

The Great New Zealand Songbook, by Les Cleveland, 1991.  Contains all sorts of songs, popular and folk, mostly from the 20th century.  Les Cleveland is best known as an authority on songs that sprang out of the NZ Armed Services in WW1 and WW2.

When the Pakeha Sings of Home, by Mike Harding, 1992.  An extensive bibliography of New Zealand folk/popular music in general.  This doesn't have any words or tunes, but is a comprehensive guide to sources, articles and recordings.

The following website also has some useful listings.  Don't let the colour scheme and layout put you off!  This site tends to democratically lump together all sorts of music that could be categorised as 'folk music' in the widest possible sense of the term, which requires a bit of sifting through.  But certain parts of this site are quite interesting (like the discussion of the song Bright Fine Gold).

NZers in general have not been very conscious about this part of their heritage.  A few people I've talked to in Wellington dimly remember the songs of the revival period, but not much else.  The folk scene here revolves mainly around singer-songwriters, Irish and bluegrass music, with a few hardy types like Phil Garland and Rudy Sunde holding the torch for 'nativised' music.  In the past, I suppose post-colonial cultures like ours have selected and discarded from their original music traditions as they needed and much has been lost on the way.  The colonial population in NZ was also a bit different from Australia, which has a much stronger folk tradition.  Here, there were no convicts or transportees (only those escaped from Australia), and many of the working-class song-carrying communities were transient groups like whalers, gold-diggers and shearers - and only a smattering of songs got left behind.

However, there is some good stuff that remains and maybe there are more discoveries to be made.  The body of folksong in NZ is due for reconsideration and study here and I hope this happens soon!

I trust all this is of some use to Keith, Fred and others.  If anyone wants more information they could email me and I'll do my best to help, or they could possibly try John Archer at the website I mentioned above.

Best regards

Michael Brown - 25.8.03
Wellington, New Zealand

On-Line Treasure Trove

PS Books are an online company dealing in remaindered stock.  They currently have a number of volumes which dovetail with the coverage of this magazine.  Their website can be viewed at http//

Having dealt with them, I can confirm that their books are mint, prices are reasonable, and orders are despatched promptly and arrive in good condition.  Moreover, their post and packing rates are extremely moderate, especially when ordering in bulk.  The books I've picked out are listed below and the Paul Oliver in particular is a remarkable bargain.  It is currently in the Red Lick catalogue at £35-00, and contains a breathtaking 70 minute CD, which alone is worth far more than the PS Books price.

Further information is given at the PS Books website, together with the original retail prices.  The ones quoted above are those charged by PS Books.

Note: Since this announcement was posted, several of the books itemised have sold out.  They include Conversation with the Blues, which was listed by PS as a new addition to their catalogue.  From the sound of it, users of this service will need to be on the ball!

Fred McCormick - 16.8.03

Re: New Zealand recordings - 1

Keith's query (below) about New Zealand field recordings has been up now for over a month and no expert in that field has so far come forward.  Therefore it may be worth my imparting what little I know, or possibly (mis)remember.

A friend of mine, Paddy Doody, now alas deceased, spent several years in NZ in the early sixties before moving to Liverpool about 1965.  He reported a fairly lively NZ folkscene, albeit one which sounded very American oriented.

American orientation could have been just a sign of the times.  Indeed, the British folkscene of those days was also very American in outlook.  However, by the time Paddy arrived in Liverpool, a degree of nativisation had begun to set into the local clubs.  This was reflected both in terms both of style and repertoire.

He was doubtful that a similar nativisation was likely to emerge in New Zealand, simply because very little collecting work had been done there.  There was no Edwardian equivalent of Cecil Sharp and Vaughan Williams and there was no 1930s equivalent of John and Alan Lomax.  Nor was there anybody of the stature of Hugh Anderson in Australia or Edith Fowke in Canada.  If things had been otherwise, who knows how many Sally Sloanes or O J Abbotts might been have discovered in the New Zealand countryside?

I do not know whether any serious collecting work has been done in NZ since the mid '60s.  However, searches through Steve Roud's Folk Song Index and the Internet proved virtually negative.  The former had just one listing for a New Zealand singer, but the song in question was collected by Sam Henry in Northern Ireland.  The latter turned up a few "New Zealand Folksong" sites, but I could not find anything one would give serious credence to.

Like Keith, I have never come across any audio collections of New Zealand field recordings.  The only hard copy collection I have ever found is called New Zealand Folksongs; Song of a Young Country (Originally published 1965 by the Auckland Workers' Education Association.  2nd expanded edition published in Britain by Bailey Brothers and Swinfen; Folkestone, 1973.  ISBN 561 00189 8).  This latter contains 51 songs.  It is edited by somebody called Neil Colquhoun, and has some interesting material.  However, it also includes some songs which appear to have been composed by revival folksingers.  There is very little information on sources beyond a tabulation at the back of the book.  This lists local newspapers, local poetry collections, anthologies published outside New Zealand, and various singers.  Several collectors are mentioned; ie. John Leebrick, Mona Tracy, Ruth Park and Rona Bailey.  However, very little information on these people is given, and none at all on their source singers.

Incidentally, the book's layout is very similar to that which used to be favoured by Oak publications of New York; a fact which possibly underlines the degree of American influence in the NZ revival at that time.

Overall, I feel that New Zealand must have once been rich in British folksongs, simply because it was once rich in British emigrants.  Indeed, the fact that Song of a Young Country contains 12 songs collected by Rona Bailey is possible testament to that richness.  I would love to know whether any more of her collection has ever been published.  Also, the book's introduction mentions that a New Zealand Folklore Society came into existence sometime between 1965 and 1972.  I can find no trace of it on the Internet, but it would be reassuring to know if this organisation still survives.

Fred McCormick - 10.8.03

New Zealand recordings?

Does anyone have, or know of, any LPs or CDs of field recordings of British songs or music from New Zealand?  In 40 years of collecting records I don't think I have ever seen one ...  Surely that can't be the case?

Keith Summers - 6.7.03
49 Crossfield Road, Southend, SS2 4LS, UK
01702 618136

Re: Stepdancing Granny picture

The woman in the picture is Granny Harper, I think.  I believe that the players and Granny were part of the Renfro Valley Barndance group.  They had broadcasts over various radio stations during the late '30s and '40s, in the order of The Grand Olde Opry.

Renfro Valley is a music venue in Kentucky, created by broadcaster John Lair; the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame museum is located there.  The music played at Renfro Valley has now deteriorated to mostly 'Nashville Sound'.

I enjoy your site very much - thank you.

Janey Robertson - 9.6.03
Louisville, Kentucky, USA


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

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