Following the Old
Oss – Written by Tony Dean of Sussex in honour of the Padstow May Day
custom. The snatch of tune at the
end is from the Padstow May Day carol.
Tony tells me
that once when he sang the song in a Padstow pub he was told not to sing it
again and to “leave the Cornish songs to the Cornish”. The reference to "Merv and Charlie"
in verse 2 concerns those 2 great characters of Padstow, Mervyn Vincent and Charlie
Across the Blue
Mountains – collected
occasionally in the Appalachian Mountains.
I learnt this from the traditional singer Colleen Cleveland from New York
State. The tune is obviously a
version of “I Gave my Love a Cherry”.
A verse from the song “High Germany” has crept in there
Gallant Hussar/Black Joke – 2 of my
favourite Morris dance tunes, the first from Bledington in Gloucestershire and
the second from Adderbury in Oxfordshire.
Bold Sir Rylas –
originally collected by Alfred Williams from Daniel Morgan of Cheltenham. Later, Daniel’s son recorded the song for song collector John Baldwin
and this version is based on his tune, melded with a version from West
Virginia where the song is known as "Bangum".
George Collins – This old ballad
was sung in the 1950s by Enos White of Axford, Hampshire, to Bob Copper.
Of the versions collected in England, a large proportion turn up in
Tither – an Appalachian version of the song known variously as “The Yorkshire
Bite” or “Jack and the Robber". This song was
given to me years ago by Annie MacFie (was Anne Albin) a Kentucky singer on a
tour to England. She wrote to me “I learned the song during the
early 1980s from an old neighbor on Cow Creek Rd. in Powell County, Kentucky. His
name was Ralph Knox, and he would have been in his 70s then, a
veteran of WWII, who had served in England. Ralph called the song "Rye Tither,"
as I still do, though I've seen it in British collections as "The Crafty Farmer." Rather
remarkably, Ralph remembered it from his youth as one
of many ballads sung by his father, John Knox. I doubt he had heard it for 50
years, yet he was able to recollect all these lines except for "Where did you get
that horse, pray tell? Why, I swapped for the cow that I went to sell," which I
came up with to fill in the one blank spot in his memory. Ralph passed away around
25 years ago [i.e. about 1990].” I was very excited to hear an American
version of this song as I had previously recorded a version from the
Gloucestershire gypsy Danny Brazil.
a-Growing – basically as collected by me from Harry Brazil, a gypsy singer
from Gloucestershire, with some amendments.
John Blunt –
a cheeky song which continues in oral tradition to this day. Collected in 1906 from Mrs Seale of
Dorchester Union (workhouse), Dorset.
Freddie Archer – Freddie Archer was born in Cheltenham in 1857 and
became England’s leading jockey of the time. He took his own life in a fit of
depression in 1886 at the height of his fame and fortune. The broadside following his death went
into oral tradition and collected various times, usually incomplete. The tune and some of the words
here are as collected with additions by me. I have collected fragmentary
versions from the Gloucestershire gypsies Danny Brazil and Biggun Smith.
Fair – From a broadside published in Cirencester. The broadside left the place name
blank for you to insert your own neighbourhood fair. My friend Tony suggested that the
words would fit the tune “Buttercup Joe”. Old records state that the
name of the town used to be prononounced "Cisister" but these days people
refer to it just as "Ciren".
Carpenter – epic Appalachian ballad derived from England’s west country. This version is based on that sung
by Doug Wallin of North Carolina. The ballad derives from a Devon
ballad of about 1600 entitled "A Warning to Married Women". I like the
supernatural implications of this song, which is still current in oral
tradition in the Appalachians .
Serpent – an old Gloucestershire folk tale set to words and music by me.
I like to think of this song, and also Bold Sir Rylas on this album, as
versions of the St George and the Dragon legend.
Collected from James Blooming of Upper Farringdon, Hampshire, by George
Gardiner in 1909. The tune to my ear sounds very Irish. Limbo was the nickname for debtor's
Tom Barbary – Other versions of this ballad are known as
“Willie of Winsbury”. This tune
was collected from Charles Bull of Marchwood, Hampshire, in 1907 with text
from Fred Osman of Lower Bartley, also in Hampshire.
Stow Fair – a Cotwold version of “Widdecombe Fair”,
collected in 1928 by Harry Albino from Thomas Lanchbury of Wyck Rissington,
Oxfordshire. “Djud” is Cotswold
dialect for “dead”. I rather like the nption of tourists visiting
Stow-on-the-Wold to buy their "Uncle Tom Goblin" souvenir mugs!