Mudcat Café message #3879670 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3879670
Posted By: Vic Smith
01-Oct-17 - 05:59 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
"THE LITTLE SHIRT MY MOTHER MADE FOR ME"
This song was written by Harry Wincott. It was recorded by music hall singers not long after it was written. Wincott was born in London on New Year's Day 1867. He wrote a number of songs that have had an enduring popularity including "The Old Dun Cow", "Mademoiselle from Armentières" and the one I give above. My dad (born in rural Oxfordshire in 1914) used to sing it frequently around the house and as a youngster it drove me mad, but he sang it so frequently that I learned it word for word by osmosis. When I started encouraging the old singers of Sussex to come to our folk club, I started to hear it again. George Belton might sing it next to "The Bold Fisherman". George Spicer might sing it next to "The Barley Mow" Spicer's tune was substantially the same as my dad's but he had an extra verse that Wincott did not write. Belton's tune and rhythm was noticeably different from the way my dad sang it. The words all three sang were different from the way it was written. Belton had an extra verse that Wincott did not write. Bradley Kincaid's version (recorded 1933) and Wilf Carter's (1942) brought it into circulation again but not as much as Marty Robbins' from 1983. For a while it became a Country music standard.
In sense that we know who wrote it this is not a folk song. However, it behaves like a folk song; it has entered the oral tradition; it changes and develops; in the Sussex versions it becomes localised in Brighton; the people who sing it have no idea who wrote it or where it came from.
Steve Roud has included the various changed versions of The Little Shirt Me Mother Made For Me that were collected by prominent and well-respected song collectors from highly regarded traditional singers in Sussex.
Some here will right that this is right; others will say that it is wrong. I wonder how much it matters.