Mudcat Café message #3898417 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3898417
Posted By: Vic Smith
09-Jan-18 - 03:09 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
There is nothing wrong in historical research in saying As yet we do not know the answer. We hope that future evidence will reveal this. It is a much more sensible and honest than saying, These are the facts and need to be regarded as the truth. when there is nothing concrete to back up a statement.

Let's take a couple of recent examples from this thread.
Firstly Bothy Ballads. We can date their heyday to 1830 to 1890. We know that they continued to be sung well into the 20th century by the rural population of the north-east. We know that they appeared in print from the earliest time and that there was a good distribution system and a ready market in farms and villages. We know that by the beginning of the 20th century any new song that entered the repertoire as a cornkister was likely to have been written by a professional entertainer. We know that the songs of Harry Lauder & Will Fyfe gained great currency in the north-east; Jane Turriff seemed to sing them all. What we don't know is who composed the earlier songs, let's say those that appeared before 1850, and of those, the ones that gained currency. They may have been commissioned by those who printed the sheets, they may have been written by farm workers. It may be a combination of both. In the majority of cases, we just don't know.
That's why Scotland has a fine repertoire of Bothie Songs made by farmworkers makes me uncomfortable because, in fact, we do not know for certain who made them.
That's why statements like First I've heard of it Vic are unhelpful because whether you or I or anyone else has heard of it proves nothing.

Let's move on to a subject we know even less about, the class and location of those who wrote the broadside ballads.
Urban people, not particularly skilled as poets and living outside of the subjects of our folk songs - all of which makes them highly unlikely as possible authors
Again I feel very uncomfortable about this because the amount of knowledge that we have is minimal about the poets' names, their education, their class, their other occupations if any, whether they were itinerant, living in town or country whether they were the printers or ballad sellers themselves or whether their ranks encompassed all or most of these. It would be honest to say that we don't have enough information so we should admit that, on the whole, we just don't know. We know from reading the survivors that their standard varied from drivel to some quite moving pieces. To claim otherwise as the statement above seems to me to be being economic with the actuality.

Finally, there have been a few statements of the nature of -
It most certainly is not - it's a well documented fact, including in Hindleys Hindley in teh Catnach biography and Leslie Shepherd's books on the subject
Vic has described the pressure they worked under quite adequately

Well, I certainly was not referring to any song printed as a broadside I was merely trying to make a joke (failed obviously) of the fact that the printer would not be able to wait for a polished edit of the tiresome prose of Last words of.... or Confessions of.... documents to be mulled over and corrected before the body was swinging at the end of a rope, Like football programmes, these sheets had a very short shelf life before they were discarded.