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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jess A Lyr Req: Death of Nelson (43) Lyr Add: DEATH OF NELSON 22 Oct 04


Thanks for all this everybody. I've now discovered that we were wrong about it being the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar this year (it took place in 1805 not 1804!!) so I've got a whole extra year to learn the song properly - although in fact I've nearly learnt the words now so will be singing it on Sunday anyhow at the Sheffield singing session . Nowt wrong with commemorating the 199th anniversary anyhow I guess :)

I got in touch with Richard Grainger (thanks to Steve for putting me on to him) and this is what he said about the song (following taken from his mail, with his permission)

There are several songs I believe carrying the title or indeed similar ones. Rarely do you find it as simply Death of Nelson but more often Death of Nelson and his Victory at Trafalagar and other such mutterings....

My song 'Death of Nelson' was composed from fragments puiblished from a collection by a trad singer published in a Folk Music Journal I think 1973. It was in 1973 that I was searching through this book for possible material when I came across the fragment. I have to say there were more gaps and dashes than surviving words or phrases. However unlike other folk who will have looked once and turned the page I seemed to feel that even what was left was worthy of salvage.
So I took the words from the Journal and added my own lines and phrases to fill in the gaps.

However by the time I had rewritten the words and added a chorus I really had to invent a tune for it as it really changed its character completely. So the tune is original. I had no knowledge of any other songs of that title at the time I wrote it. However naturally as it happens I came across many versions of the same story afterwards.
The song was first recorded by me in 1984 on Fellside FE038 'Herbs on the Heart' my first solo album.That is the definitive version. The Wilsons alas thinking they had heard me sing a wholly traditional song decided to go adding other verses from other songs which I personally think destoys the immediacy and power of the piece.
I would ask you please to tell people about who rewrote the words, composed the chorus and invented the tune.
However I am delighted that you like the song. My lyrics are as follows;-

DEATH OF NELSON

On the 21st of October before the rising sun
We formed a line for battle and at twelve o clock begun
Old Nelson to his men did say t he lord will prosper us this day
Set fire the broadside fire away on board a man of war

Chorus
Let him die in peace, God bless you all
On board a man of war. ( Repeated)

From roadside to broadside the cannon balls did fly
Like hailstone the small shot across our decks did fly
Our main mast was blown away besides some hundreds on that day
Were killed or wounded in the fray on board a man of war

Chorus

And then our great commander with grief he shook his head
There's no reprieve, no relief, old Nelson he is dead
It was a fateful musketball that caused old Nelson for to fall
Let him die in peace god bless you all on board a man of war

Chorus


I'll be recording this song once again in December to include on an album for 'Sea Britain 2005'.


So there we go. The lyrics that Richard put together look to me very much like the Bellamy words and are presumably from the same root source - but I presume the tune is completely different. Richard's tune is brilliant and has a very trad feel and the chorus makes it a really good one to join in with. I need to learn how to make midi files or whatever but once I have I'll put the tune on here.

From what I can remember of the additional verses that the Wilsons sing, they were probably taken from this version which Malcolm Douglas had linked to on the earlier thread.

They certainly sing a verse which goes something like

Heaven reward Lord Nelson and protect his men
Nineteen of the combined fleets were sunk and taken then
The Achilles blew up among them all
Which made the French for mercy call
But Nelson was slain by a musket ball
On board a man of war


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