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New Book: Folk Song in England

GUEST,Christopher Thomas 15 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 05:47 PM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 04:37 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 03:58 PM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 03:39 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 10 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 11:47 AM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 07:07 AM
Steve Gardham 09 Oct 17 - 03:06 PM
RTim 09 Oct 17 - 11:08 AM
RTim 08 Oct 17 - 06:07 PM
RTim 08 Oct 17 - 05:54 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:35 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:30 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 04:50 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 04:15 PM
Richard Mellish 08 Oct 17 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,matt milton 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM
Richard Mellish 08 Oct 17 - 04:46 AM
GUEST,matt milton 07 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM
RTim 06 Oct 17 - 07:17 PM
Richard Mellish 06 Oct 17 - 06:32 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 01:15 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 12:29 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 12:15 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 10:56 AM
RTim 06 Oct 17 - 10:54 AM
Brian Peters 06 Oct 17 - 08:18 AM
GUEST,matt milton 06 Oct 17 - 07:51 AM
Brian Peters 06 Oct 17 - 07:36 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 06 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM
GUEST,matt milton 06 Oct 17 - 05:03 AM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 04:54 AM
Steve Gardham 06 Oct 17 - 04:38 AM
Lighter 05 Oct 17 - 08:57 PM
JHW 05 Oct 17 - 07:02 PM
Richard Mellish 05 Oct 17 - 06:46 PM
GUEST 05 Oct 17 - 05:56 PM
Marje 05 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM
Brian Peters 05 Oct 17 - 03:37 PM
Vic Smith 05 Oct 17 - 03:30 PM
Brian Peters 05 Oct 17 - 03:16 PM
Brian Peters 05 Oct 17 - 03:14 PM
Vic Smith 05 Oct 17 - 03:11 PM
RTim 05 Oct 17 - 02:53 PM
Brian Peters 05 Oct 17 - 02:34 PM
RTim 05 Oct 17 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,matt milton 05 Oct 17 - 12:53 PM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Christopher Thomas
Date: 15 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM

There's a few interesting hares in this thread. You might like to look at the review in my blog at


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 05:47 PM

Yes, localisation was one of their tricks, but it wasn't that common. The printers were generally in too much of a hurry to worry about the finer points. The type setting of the ballads was often left to an apprentice. Perhaps this was down to the writers.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 04:37 PM

Steve wrote:-
...the likes of Sharp would have wanted the songs to have a universal appeal in order to sell books which would exclude many songs with a local flavour.

Interestingly, The broadside printers seemed to have the opposite approach; they seemed to want place names to relate to their particular area to increase their local appeal.

In the various Van Diemans Land printings, how many different towns did "Poor Tom Brown" come from?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 03:58 PM

Yes, well worthy of a song collector's attention. As far as publishing goes the likes of Sharp would have wanted the songs to have a universal appeal in order to sell books which would exclude many songs with a local flavour. Perhaps they also had something of this in the back of their minds whilst they were collecting. However songs like 'Lakes of Colephin' reached a universal audience in print and oral tradition. Only a small percentage of both printed and local songs made it into the national corpus and dispersed print certainly had a lot to do with this. Maybe simple chance accounts for a lot of what survived.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 03:39 PM

When I read Martin's comment that I quoted above where he writes:-
He also realised that some singers were capable of creating songs from scratch – to record a local event, for example.

I couldn't help thinking of Jim's long list from his post on 04 Oct 17 - 08:03 PM. I don't recognise any of these songs from their titles but the content they suggest - elections, fairs, drownings etc. seem to put them in the category that Martin was describing; and well worthy of a song collector's attention.

Yes, Steve, I will contribute to the thread that you have started, but first I have somehow to give an impression of this fascinating, wide-reaching book in a 400 word review.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 12:21 PM

You are absolutely right, Peter, that it is a lovely fillum to watch and listen to and songmaking something like what occurs here undoubtedly went on in other places.

Unfortunately by the time the collectors came along to record this in England any local songs were completely swamped by the printed songs that were being spread around the whole country. I can think of something similar in the Hunt supper gatherings that can still be found in the north. For some of them the repertoire is being constantly added to in this way, but the folk scene has passed it by and is unaware of it. One area where this was very lively was the West Pennine area near Sheffield, but here the local interest has died out and the singers are now part of the folk scene. The carols in the same area is another example of a lively scene still flourishing.

If you look at the wonderful film of the singers in the Blaxhall Ship in East Anglia from the 50s there are no local songs being sung. They are all songs from the general English repertoire. I have given examples of rural songwriters in my local area but none of their songs have survived to become part of oral tradition.

It may well be that 250 years ago England had something like what is shown in Diarmuid's film but if it did precious little has survived.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM

I couldn't help thinking of a part of this discussion when watching this 1981 documentary about Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. I know, an Irish context but the part where the Muscrai songmakers get mention underlines Jim Carroll's point made earlier. I would find it very hard to believe nothing of the sort would have happened elsewhere.

That aside, it is a lovely fillum to watch.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 11:47 AM

***He came to understand that this was not always the case and that many of the songs were older than the broadsides***

To pinch one of Jim's most often used arguments: How could he possibly have known that? If he was referring to the late 18thc/early 19thc broadsides, yes there's plenty of evidence but mainly from older printed sources. Those in manuscripts are few and far between.

There is also the fact that although SBG spent some time in the BL and had his own collection of 19thc broadsides he did not have access to anything like the resources we have today. This also applies to Frank Kidson who was also very clued up on song origins and histories. These are not criticisms by the way, just observations.

I've just started on the new book, Vic, and looking forward to it immensely. We perhaps need a new thread. I'll start one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 07:07 AM

This morning, I finished reading the book about Sabine Baring-Gould by Martin Graebe. It is a mighty read in more senses that one. By the time that I got to page 339 of tiny print, I came to the penultimate paragraph which I reproduce below. I knew that in honesty and fairness that I had to give it here as a counterweight to my post of 03 Oct 17 - 06:01 AM where I quoted that S-B was firmly of the opinion that the majority of the songs that he has collected as a young man were derived from broadsides. In this paragraph Martin writes -
One of Baring-Gould’s characteristics was that he had some mental flexibility and could change his mind if the evidence showed that his hypothesis was wrong. In respect of folk song his mind changed on several topics over the years. Having initially neglected the words of songs in favour of tunes he came to believe that the words were also important and deserved as good treatment as the tunes. Part of the reason for not having valued the words was his initial assumption that most traditional songs were derived from broadsides and other printer sources. He came to understand that this was not always the case and that many of the songs were older than the broadsides and better in many respects than the printed versions. He also realised that some, particularly the younger singers like John Woodridge and Sam Fone, had learned their songs from broadsides and he recognised that not only could singers fit broadside words to tunes that they knew, but that some could compose tunes themselves. He also realise hat some singers were capable of creating songs from scratch – to record a local event, for example. The flexibility of understanding on Baring-Gould’s part was not a characteristic of other folk song collectors and theorists of the time demonstrated.

I think that the key words are flexibility of understanding rather than approaching this (or any) subject with a rigidity of thinking.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Oct 17 - 03:06 PM

Thanks, Tim
Great interview!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 09 Oct 17 - 11:08 AM

Here is a link to an Interview with Steve on Grizzly Folk.......

https://www.grizzlyfolk.com/2017/08/30/what-is-folk-music-an-interview-with-steve-roud/


Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:07 PM

Ah - I see it now - Three Hearty Young Poachers - Roud 1690 - and I see what you mean about it appearing local - and both versions from close to Winchester.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:54 PM

Steve - Thanks - I thought you might be thinking of Avington Pond (obviously local) - but as you say on one version. You certainly had me searching in both Southern Harvest and the Manuscripts.
I will be looking into Young Henry the Poacher.........3 versions spread over a widish area.....

Best - Tim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:35 PM

*** I will use some other method of quoting from previous posts in future*** Just testing.


The text was retrieved and displayed in a simple set of brackets. ---mudelf


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM

04.50 posting.
It would appear the forum is struggling with my use of <<>>>. I will use some other method of quoting from previous posts in future.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:30 PM

Tim, struggling. The nearest I can get at the moment is either Avington Pond (but seemingly only 1 version) and Three Hearty Young Poachers (2 versions, perhaps that's the one I was thinking of). I'll have another try. I thought I had plotted the 3 versions of the song I referred to as coming from within a 20-mile radius of Winchester but it might have been just the 2. I've just turned 70 so I'm allowed a little senility.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:50 PM

Matt [Another thing that's just occurred to me is there's not much discussion of the Child ballads, which are a pretty canonical part of folk singing today]
Not that many of the Child Ballads actually were found in oral tradition in England in the late 19th/early 20th century. In fact if you look at the Child Ballads, the 305, not many of these seem to have existed in oral tradition in the British Isles for very long. There are obvious exceptions of course. Many of them were revived by the likes of MacColl, but their claim to substantial oral tradition is very slim. Quite a large portion have only been found in print, most of the Robin Hood ballads for instance.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:15 PM

Despite it's great breadth, Steve's book is only an overview of the subject. Just think how long the book would have been if at every touch and turn he had included examples. And if he had included even one example it could easily have gone to 50 pages on its own demonstrating the evolution of the song through say theatre, print, oral tradition. If you want chapter and verse on individual songs might I suggest Steve's other recent book The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, or even the Marrow Bones series edited by myself and Malcolm Douglas. Or my Dungbeetle articles on Mustrad.

Matt>>>>it rather begs the question of where they got such gifted talents and broad general knowledge from - being able to knock out so many songs with geographical and technical details about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices<<<<<<

As Richard writes, these songs only actually form a small percentage of the corpus of material under discussion. The vast majority of the corpus is songs of a generic nature. The writers were obviously literate but generally at the bottom end of the poets scale, sometimes poets trying to turn a quick buck (bob). Writing poetry/songs has always been a precarious existence even at best. Many of the naval engagements were common knowledge and the taverns had plenty of seamen who wished to impart their knowledge of the battle. We have evidence they used newspaper reports occasionally. Of course they recycled older ballads, but as I said, as a rule even these can be traced back to what appears to be an original. Most of the songs attached to customs we have no idea how and where they originated and these form a major part of the 5%. However even some of these have their earliest extant versions in cheap print.

Here's a challenge for you, Matt. Give me a song that is part of the corpus that includes information that would be exclusive to rural dwellers. (Apart from which, we know there was a massive drift of country people into towns and cities to find work at the time when cheap broadsides were at their height. Some of these may have been literate enough to have become broadside writers.)

Tim, will find that song for you shortly.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 11:36 AM

Fair comment from GUEST,matt milton Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM! It seems there's plenty of scope for another book. But still I remain grateful for what Steve and Julia have put into this one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM

I am perhaps in danger of projecting my own predilections outwards here I've never bothered to learn those Colin and Phoebe type songs.

But one frustrating aspect of Roud's book is that I feel he doesn't involve himself in the repercussions of some of his findings. If a wassail song or May song or a seasonal songs relating to winter mendicant traditions was probably written by an urban broadsheet writer, that to me gives rise to all sorts of questions. Did much that we take for granted about the content of those traditions never actually exist in practice? Were broadsheet writers actively intervening/shaping the content of those traditions? Given that such songs are a significant part of what many folk singers today would regard as canonical, it seems odd to me that this wouldn't be explored in a large social history of folk music.

Another omission that I find odd in the book is that, given Roud's scholarship, he's uniquely placed to provide informative demonstrations of the folk process at work: while he mentions the fact that, just because working people did not write the songs, they liked them enough to learn them and shape them, it seems bizarre that he doesn't present any examples of how transformative (or not) this was.

I say bizarre because this is pretty much the key element of folk song. I had generally adumbrated broadsides as flowery, laborious and over-written, as compared to a folk-processed poetic, streamlined economy in a folk song as I have learned it. I mentioned the Streams of Lovely Nancy earlier because it was the most dramatic example I could think of of the folk process at work: a song that common sense suggests probably wasn't first written the way it has come down to most of us. But there are much more lucid examples I can think of off the top of my head: Six Dukes Went A Fishing for example, or the version of 'Brisk Young Sailor' collected in the Vaughn Williams 'Bushes and Briars' book. Or the genuinely weird song 'The Pelican' (collected by Gardiner, I think).

It seems odd to me that someone writing such a mammoth project, entitled 'Folk Song in England' wouldn't want to discuss the folk process more, and provide examples from his considerable research showing it at work. Those conclusions might be "actually, songs don't change that much"; or they might be "it's interesting to note what the song loses in unnecessary detail from this broadside of 1860 to the version collected by Cecil Sharp in..." There's none of that (so far as I've read) in Roud's book. Which is one of many reasons I'm finding it quite a frustrating read.

Another thing that's just occurred to me is there's not much discussion of the Child ballads, which are a pretty canonical part of folk singing today. But I guess Roud would point me to the bit in his introduction where he states that the book is about what folk music was, rather than what it is. I'm increasingly feeling that Roud's own priorities about what's important to discuss, to expand on, to go into detail on, or to include or exclude, are very different from my own interests in folk music. I think I was expecting a very different book to this one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:46 AM

There can hardly be any doubt that some songs were originally made by people who had been there to see the events described, some were made for the stage or pleasure gardens, some were made by known authors such as Laurence Price, and some by anonymous hacks. We're in danger of focussing on a few examples that clearly fall into one of these categories and generalising to conclude that this category covers a large proportion of the whole corpus.

For example GUEST,matt milton refers to "often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices". How many songs describe such things? Versus how many tell idealised bucolic stories of Colins and Phoebes, ploughboys, love at first sight on a May morning, etc? Or songs that reflect a landsman's ideas of life at sea rather than the experience of real sailors?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 07 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM

"We found a fair amount of evidence that some of them had indeed most likely been taken from oral tradition, but when we traced them back to the earliest extant version this was overwhelmingly a printed or commercial source."

"The fact that printers all lived in urban areas adds to the fact that their suppliers, the ballad writers were close at hand."

I apologise for being a bit of a stuck record on this, but what generally have you considered evidence for composition? ie evidence that a broadside was actually composed by a broadside writer, rather than just supplied?

It does indeed stand to reason that a supplier to a printer would have lived nearby, but, if 90% of those songs were indeed actually composed (rather than just supplied) by broadside writers, it rather begs the question of where they got such gifted talents and broad general knowledge from - being able to knock out so many songs with geographical and technical details about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices. I don't suppose they had that many research resources, or much time on their hands.

There's also the question of audience demand; what I've read in Roud's book so far corresponds with what I'd expect about the topics popular in broadsides, and no mention has been made (so far, don't want to prejudge!) about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices in public tastes. If they did indeed compose all those songs, then it seems strange to me that no scholar yet has remarked on what literary titans these writers were, where they acquired their knowledge, and why their subjects so often appear to be out of step with what you'd expect to be commercial. Where did their knowledge and interest in seasonal rural customs spring from? Where did the commercial demand for a song like 'Herrings Heads' spring from?

"generally speaking they had not got ready access to printers and so those creatively inclined did not very often see their work spread to other areas like our folk songs and printed ballads did."

See, it also seems to me that if we allow "ready access to printers" to be a consideration, surely we have to bear in mind that, de facto, a printed version of any given song is more likely to be the earliest extant discoverable version simply because, well, if I write a song down in my diary, that's not as likely to still be findable 100 years later than if it had been printed 300 or more times.

If the earliest printed or written iteration of a song being from a printed ballad is considered to be best evidence of a song's authorship by a professional ballad writer then, de facto, a not-especially-literate populace, with no access to print, cannot have written them – by default. There's an element of circularity to that logic.

Roud suggests himself that broadside publishers would merrily pillage all sorts of sources: it seems therefore odd to me that they would be pillaging all sources APART from oral traditions, especially considered music is ultimately an auditory one. It is surely far more likely that the existence of songs anomalous to urban tastes and experiences are evidence of pillaging from oral traditions; the alternative would be that London's broadside writers were singular literary titans, creative visionaries with a remarkable general knowledge, and that we should be using the word "genius", not "hack" to describe them.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 07:17 PM

Steve Gardham - I am also intrigued by your note -
"a local song that survived in 3 versions in villages around Winchester" - which song do you have in mind???

This is totally highjacking this thread - but while Jim is having is Hip done - what else is worth talking about (Good luck Jim....)

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 06:32 PM

Did Stephen Reynolds's work (with Steve's input) eventually get published in the Folk Music Journal? I don't recall seeing it.

I note that "One outcome was that the 3 songs were eventually given separate Roud numbers having all been lumped together prior to that." I therefore need to correct my reference above to the Carrie Grover version, which I now see doesn't count as a version of "Streams" (Roud 688) but of "Green Mountain" (Roud 18820, index S217728).

However these songs do have a lot of shared content, and not just typical floaters.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 01:15 PM

Matt.
The 'probably'.

Both Steve and I, sometimes together sometimes independently, have spent the last 30 years and more studying in great depth not only the broadside ballads that became folk songs but others pretty similar that may have become folk songs but didn't make it to be collected as folk songs. We have found some that have named authors but by the very nature of the beast the great majority don't have information on the author.

We found a fair amount of evidence that some of them had indeed most likely been taken from oral tradition, but when we traced them back to the earliest extant version this was overwhelmingly a printed or commercial source. I say commercial, one notable example is the theatre and pleasure gardens. These are often easily noted on stylistic grounds as being somewhat flowery in their language and subject.

The fact that printers all lived in urban areas adds to the fact that their suppliers, the ballad writers were close at hand. I have presented above plenty of evidence that rural working people sometimes wrote ballads but generally speaking they had not got ready access to printers and so those creatively inclined did not very often see their work spread to other areas like our folk songs and printed ballads did. In close-knit communities these songs no doubt will have had some currency but for one reason or another the majority didn't last or were not spread any further than that. There is a good example in Southern Harvest, a local song that survived in 3 versions in villages around Winchester, but these songs are very few and far between in published collections.

I have made it very clear on numerous occasions that our figures apply only to published traditional songs from England. Elsewhere different dynamics produced different statistics as Jim keeps telling us quite rightly. (Hence the title of this thread!)


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 12:29 PM

I found a very long study and correspondence in my notes dating back to 2005. Having assembled as many versions as possible of 'Streams' and 2 related songs 'Come all ye little streamers' and 'The Green Mountain(US)' I started corresponding with Stephen Reynolds of Oregon and with John Moulden in which I found that Stephen was already well down the line in preparing a long article for the FM Journal, so instead of publishing myself I assisted Stephen with his work. One outcome was that the 3 songs were eventually given separate Roud numbers having all been lumped together prior to that.

I still have all the notes, maps of Magilligan and Loch Foyle where I believe it originated. John who had researched Irish broadsides more than anyone else had never seen an Irish broadside of the song. It is quite flowery and descriptive in keeping with other ballads from that part of Ireland. (IMO) If anyone wants to see versions of The Strands of Magilligan there are 2 in Hugh Shields' Shamrock, Rose & Thistle and one in the Sam Henry collection. I don't remember seeing an article. Is Stephen Reynolds still around?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 12:15 PM

Profuse apologies, Tim.
I remember writing the article and just assumed that's where it ended up as with most of my studies. With wrist slapped I will try to find where it ended up. I know John Moulden has also studied the progress of the ballad.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 10:56 AM

Pace-egging songs indeed appeared in chapbooks along with the texts of the plays. There are as you know lots of different mumming plays and not all of them appeared in chapbooks. They vary considerably and with these oral tradition is the major factor. However the Pace Egg specifically owes much of its spread to print.

The Cutty Wren can be traced back to 1744. I haven't seen a street lit version. See the ODNR no.447. As part of an annual custom in past centuries it does indeed appear to be part of the 11%.

The seasonallly based begging included carols, Poor Old Horse, Six Jolly Miners, Deby Ram many of which were printed on broadsides.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 10:54 AM

Steve Gardham says earlier -
"I have carried out a pretty comprehensive study of Streams/Strands which is in the Dungbeetle articles on the Mustrad website."

I can see the song mentioned in No. 17 on your Dungheap list - is this what you mean? Because it is not mentioned much? Or am I missing a more complete look at the song from somewhere else???

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 08:18 AM

what would have been the motivation/inspiration for an urban professional writer in writing a song that facilitated seasonally-based begging at the Big House with opaque lyrics about wrens and/or sprigs of May?

A quick look at the Roud index doesn't show any broadside copies of either 'Pace-Egg' or 'Cutty Wren'. Maybe Steve G will know that such things exist somewhere. Or maybe these are part of the 5-10% that never appeared as street literature.

I don't have any agenda here either, just trying to respond as best I can.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 07:51 AM

"It's always going to be very difficult to provide a smoking gun for a lot of these songs, since most broadsides were anonymous, and in any case there's always the possibility that another version existed before the oldest known copy."

Of course - that's why I'm interested in the assertion that most of them were probably written by professional urban writers or poets. If most of them are anonymous, and we don't have bookkeeping records of broadside printers and their scribes, where does this "probably..." evidence come from? Is is just simple assumption: that the earliest broadside printing of a given song "probably" means that was when it was written? That's an eminently reasonable presumption, but it's still a presumption.

I'm interested in these "probablies" and that 90–95%, not because I'm unwilling to be disabused of any romantic notions, but because I'm genuinely curious as to why there are so many odd folk songs in the canon. If, as Roud's own research suggests, broadsheets about scurillous murders were the biggest sellers, how have we ended up with so many pastoral folk songs with often quite arcane words and practices?

Sure, I can see why all those songs about lads and lasses rolling in the meadows could have come about, but what would have been the motivation/inspiration for an urban professional writer in writing a song that facilitated seasonally-based begging at the Big House with opaque lyrics about wrens and/or sprigs of May? (And not just one, of course, but whole schools of them?)


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 07:36 AM

...evidence that the appearance on a broadside... means that Fred Bloggs, professional broadside writer, wrote it more or less around the same date it was printed.

It's always going to be very difficult to provide a smoking gun for a lot of these songs, since most broadsides were anonymous, and in any case there's always the possibility that another version existed before the oldest known copy.

However, in the specific case of the 'Wild Rover' I was talking about earlier, we have a known composer (Thomas Lanfiere) of the 17th century 'Good-fellow's Resolution' broadside - which is very clearly a 'Wild Rover' precursor - and we know that this author specialised in writing moralistic 'Bad Husband' ballads of this type. That suggests that his is the original copy. It is exactly the kind of turgid doggerel that people have been talking about above, but following on from Lanfiere's original over the next two centuries you can trace a number of edits, in which bits of his ballad have been cherry-picked, rearranged and eventually assembled into something resembling a folk song.

That's one well-documented example, and I daresay it won't be possible to do that for all the 90%.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM

Congratulations Jim you are a legend in your own lunch time.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 05:03 AM

"try rereading p13"

You mean sentences such as: "Most songs which were later recorded as folk songs were not written by the singing and dancing throng, or by ploughboys, milkmaids, miners or weavers, but by professional or semi-professional urban songwriters or poets"

Well, personally I don't have any particular vested interest (ideological or otherwise) in whether this is true or false, likely or unlikely. Even from a class perspective, the professional or semi-professional urban songwriters are hardly likely to have been aristocrats; there was money to be made, but I doubt there was a huge amount of it (especially given how much broadside printers nicked each others material) – Roud describes broadside sellers as one step above beggars, so presumably the writers were essentially the urban working class (albeit perhaps more literate than most?).

But I'd point out that p.13 doesn't cite evidence, it makes statements. It sounds like there might be more back-up to such statements in the parts of the book I've not yet got to. I need to finish reading the book to see how much evidence of specific authorship there is. Evidence that moves beyond pointing out that a song appeared as street literature to evidence that that appearance was originary; evidence that the appearance on a broadside of, say, a Cutty Wren song or a pace egging song, or Six Dukes Went a Fishing means that Fred Bloggs, professional broadside writer, wrote it more or less around the same date it was printed.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 04:54 AM

Matt, see my posting, 1st of Oct. 12.26.

These figures are mine, but Steve and I worked together on much of this angle.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 04:38 AM

I have carried out a pretty comprehensive study of Streams/Strands which is in the Dungbeetle articles on the Mustrad website. The Strands of Magilligan did indeed have its origins in northern Ireland and its progress through the hands of various printers and oral tradition can be traced in ever changing forms from Liverpool to Manchester to Birmingham and then to the southern counties by when it had become a rather garbled 'Streams of Lovely Nancy'. Eventually once scholars started studying the song they came up with a whole load of weird and wonderful theories as to what it meant.

This is one of the few where I wouldn't hazard a guess as to whether it first surfaced in print or was written by some hedge poet, perhaps both.

Matt, try rereading p13.
Jim, avoid this page at all costs.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 08:57 PM

> I know that 'The Streams of Lovely Nancy' was printed on a broadside, but it seems hard to imagine that a broadside writer would have consciously sat down and penned so many non-sequiturs.

Semi-seriously, what if he was drunk?

More seriously, why would a rural singer be more likely to have done so?

Someone, hack or otherwise, who was vaguely familiar with the convoluted diction of some 17th and 18th century poetry might conceivably have thought that this was how a lyric was supposed to sound.

Just my 2 cents.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: JHW
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 07:02 PM

Sorry but I don't have time to read these posts and the book. I've read the Introduction up to now but it's very heavy to hold up.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 06:46 PM

For me neither link works if I just click on it. But right-click, copy link location, and paste into the address bar works for both of them. Make sense of that if you can. (As it happens, I've also today had an HTML part of an email that opens perfectly in two browsers and displays a totally blank page in two others.)

I'm glad that The Streams of Lovely Nancy has come up. That song on its own could make an interesting case study of the folk process. Wherever, whenever and however it originated, it was widely propagated both orally and through print, implying that singers liked it and broadside printers saw a market, but none of the extant versions makes much sense. More coherent than most is the version collected from Carrie Grover across the Pond, which has a castle decked (plausibly) with ivy rather than ivory, and "limestone so bright" rather than diamonds as the beacon for sailors.

I am very sorry that Jim should feel insulted by anything that I have written. Jim has good reasons for believing what he does and I am in no position to say he is wrong. And origins do indeed matter if one's purpose is to take a song as evidence of social history and what people thought and believed at some past time. But unless we can be sure who wrote a song, we can't be sure whose beliefs it reflects, if indeed it reflects anyone's. Broadside hacks could and did write pieces of total fiction.

Steve Roud's book is concerned with the phenomenon of folk song defined by various criteria but more by who sang the songs in what circumstances than by where they originated.

It's getting late at night and if I add any more to this post it will probably make less sense rather than more.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 05:56 PM

I'm sorry Marje, but your doubtlessly well meaning observation doesn't help the intriguing argument move forward at all. Sorry


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Marje
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM

Well, I can report that none of the four links work in Devon on a Kindle Fire tablet.
Hope this helps!
Marje


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 03:37 PM

Lewes is a strange place, Vic, you must admit.

I think we need some independent evidence about whose links work the best.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 03:30 PM

Neither of Brian's links work in Lewes
Both of my links work in Lewes.

Good. A contentious interview on radio can make interesting listening, whereas long contentious threads on folk music forums.......


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 03:16 PM

... however, Vic's second one doesn't work. I'm looking forward to that discussion, Vic.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 03:14 PM

I'm sure that Making links on Mudcat will be fascinating listening when it it broadcast.

But they work fine for me! Internet down everywhere but Glossop, it seems?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 03:11 PM

I suspect that these are the correct links -

http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/static/images/sheets/20000/17810.gif

http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/static/images/sheets/10000/07200.gif

I am recording an interview with Brian on Saturday morning, I now have an extra subject to talk to him about. I'm sure that Making links on Mudcat will be fascinating listening when it it broadcast.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 02:53 PM

I am afraid - Brian - neither of your "Streams" links work...But I think I know what you have in mind.

Best - Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 02:34 PM

Just to clear, by "folk songs" here, is Roud referring to songs he's given a Roud Index Number to – all the folk songs he's ever come across? Is he saying 90–95% of the folk songs he's ever encountered have appeared in street literature?

He means 'folk songs' as notated by collectors in late 19th / early 20th century England.

As to the other evidence, I'll let you finish the chapter rather than try to paraphrase. However I don't think SR would dispute that broadside writers were quite capable of plagiarising traditional songs as well as other people's broadsides.

'Streams of Lovely Nancy' is an interesting one. As my old friend Roy Harris once wrote: "One of the loveliest jumbles in English folk song. Impossible (so far) to know what it's all about." But then, the song as sung in the revival didn't always include all available verses.

I had a quick look at the Bodleian site, where there are loads of SOLN broadsides, with at least two different versions of the story (such as it is). One follows the standard opening with verses about a woman parting from her sailor lover, while in another the opening is the same, but he seems to be a soldier judging by the reference to 'marching away'. The place names change as well. What that tells me is that at least one and possibly both of these are rewrites of another text, but that the writer wasn't particularly worried that the opening verses didn't make much sense or have anything to do with the tale of the parted lovers. Here are two examples:

'Streams of Lovely Nancy' (1)

'Streams of Lovely Nancy' (2)


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 01:13 PM

Regarding "Streams of Lovely Nancy" - Roud 688 - there is an Irish version of the song - The Strands of Magilligan - I am not 100% sure of how old it is, but it was collected in 1933 and published in Huntington, Songs of the People (1990) p.259 (according to Roud) from the singer Sam Henry.
Several years ago in heard Dave MacLurg sing it at Mystic and it made me revive my singing of Streams (as collected from William & Turp Brown in Hampshire)
This "Strands" version is NOT in the Bodleian Ballads - but may "Streams" are with dates as early as 1813.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 12:53 PM

"In the chapter on 'Back-street printers, ballad sellers and buskers', the '90-95%' figure for the number of folk songs appearing in street literature is on p 442, and although SR does enter the caveat that this is not in itself evidence of a direct link, other evidence suggests to him that there is."

OK, that's the chapter I'm currently reading. I'll look out for that. But I did use the word "originated" - not "appeared". Just because a song appears in a broadside, doesn't mean it was written for that broadside. I mean, I know that 'The Streams of Lovely Nancy' was printed on a broadside, but it seems hard to imagine that a broadside writer would have consciously sat down and penned so many non-sequiturs.

So I'd be interested in the evidence behind: "probably written by ... broadside hacks" too – as I can't really imagine what that evidence would look like. (Given how, as Roud points out, broadside printers nicked each others' material.) I wonder what percentage of broadside songs have known authors?

Just to clear, by "folk songs" here, is Roud referring to songs he's given a Roud Index Number to – all the folk songs he's ever come across? Is he saying 90–95% of the folk songs he's ever encountered have appeared in street literature?


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