Mudcat Café message #3939585 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3939585
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
26-Jul-18 - 08:41 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Hello Richard

Two versions, though, of course, Lloyd doesn't explain that in 'Folk Song in England', which supports my criticism of his approach in that book. I assume that lack of clarity about the authenticity of the text as printed by Lloyd may be precisely why Harker was asking Lloyd about it in the first place.

But this looks like another of those ones that could run because the liner notes to a MacColl/Seeger version say that the written version of the song from JS Dell and the tune have different sources. I quote:

4. The Coal-owner and the Pitman's Wife
This ballad is believed to date from the Durham strike of 1844 and to have been written by William Hornsby, a collier of Shotton Moor, Durham. The ballad was discovered among a collection of papers relating to the strike by a studious Lancashire miner, J.S. Dell. The tune was supplied by J. Dennison. of WaIker and together with the text can be found in A.L Lloyd's 'Come all ye Bold Miners'.

Link to the liner notes:    https://www.wcml.org.uk/maccoll/maccoll/maccoll/music/industrial-songs/

Hello Jim

I'm sorry to disagree with you, in part.

If we alter traditional lyrics for performance we don't necessarily document the changes. I don't see why we should. Thus far I am with you.

But we don't (and could not due to the changes!) then give the impression that the lyrics we are singing are over one hundred years old, which would be dishonest, fake.


But I was not discussing modifying lyrics to suit different contexts I was discussing written work purporting to be 'research' into folklore.

The point I made about this song is in my view right. I was referring to Lloyd's book 'Folk Song in England' and not to performances. This is supposed to be a resource book, textbook. He printed his own 'tinkered'version and said how wonderful it was without mentioning his tinkerings and without printing the originals so that people could judge for themselves in possession of the facts. This is journalism. In view of just what a nightmare that strike was Lloyd's romanticising remarks about some medieval French genre strike me as verging on the crass.

I don't count Lloyd as 'working class', if that is what you are trying to say when you refer to a song being sung by somebody working class. Though I am now aware that he did misrepresent his background and that it was misrepresented on some LP covers. One thing that seems to emerge from the biography is that Lloyd doesn't seem to have had very much to do with working class people (the lifts he cadged from Jim Carroll, which might be an exception, not being mentioned).


Just to clarify one point in case readers of the thread misunderstood the context, Lloyd, I believe persuaded the Coal Board to let him carry out his project, it wasn't a case of them looking for somebody to do it. I think the prize for the best submission was his idea. The project was not especially successful according to Lloyd's biographer in that not much was submitted, not much of it was any good, and a lot of material was missed, including anything in Welsh, due to bad advice Lloyd was given, and, incredibly, accepted about Welsh miners not singing much or some such.

Nor was MacColl, who seems to have sung this song quite a lot, working class, though he may have started off as such. He was, from my perspective a sort of 'pop star', albeit one who produced 'lefty' stuff. (I was interested that the author of the Lloyd biography called Kenneth Goldstein a 'folklorist' when he was at that time a record company executive in the business of packaging up folk-like (revival?) performances and selling the results often with liner notes he wrote for money. the topic of liner notes crops up in the biography, with care being taken at one point not to spark a copyright suit! The commercial angle on the revival seems clear to me from my distant perspective. These people had to make a living, and Lloyd decided to do it out of folklore. )

And on one site I found it seems that on recordings 'The Coal Owner' was called 'traditional', odd since the actual author appears to have been known (usual for a 'folk' song).

The copy of Lloyd's book I have calls it 'scholarly'. This sort of journalistic and, in my view, less than fully honest praise of a piece that is at the end of the day of your own making, without offering the 'raw data' or a full account of the provenance is not 'scholarly'.

We do not appear to have a version 'unpolluted by commerciality' for several reasons; Bert got money for his book, and from his reputation as somebody who knew stuff and could and would communicate it. He was in the business of 'folk' both as a journalist and as a recording artist and live performer. It was obtained via a competition for the best song submitted. It isn't 'unpolluted' either, it is a tinkered version.

I don't know about this one, but lots of songs for the Durham strike seem to have been written by *literate* Primitive Methodists in order to support the strike by earning money. At least one miner's leader was a lay preacher. I believe they may have been 'sold' which is a form of commerciality albeit with a purpose I for one would agree with. There would have been quite a lot of literacy around if these Methodists had anything to do with it: they regarded it as important and would have been teaching it at Sunday Schools.

Moreover, I have an idea that the version JS Bell had was not passed down via oral tradition but was written. He found it in papers he had collected: he worked for the Coal Board but was doing research. This is how he got the papers. But I cannot find the web page where I learned about the background when googling the first time you came up with the song.