Article MT266

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Bill Smith

A country life
Songs and stories of a Shropshire man
(MTCD351)



  Musical Traditions Records' fourth CD release of 2011: Bill Smith: A country life (MTCD351) is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the record, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

Track List:

1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
20 -
21 -
22 -
23 -
24 -
25 -
26 -
27 -
28 -
29 -
30 -
31 -
32 -
33 -
Over the Garden Wall
Tommy Suet's Ball
The Cat's Got the Weasel - Jew's Harp
The Outlandish Knight
Henry My Son
Creeping Jane
AII of a Sudden He Stopped
l Reckon I Missed My Chancel - Story      
l'm Billy Muggins
The Cuckoo
Ram She Ad-a-dee
Ram She Ad-a-dee 1958
The Children's Home
Seventeen Come Sunday
Seventeen Come Sunday 1958
AII Been Havin' a Go
Young Sailor Cut Down
Banks of Sweet Dundee
The Camera Boy
An Old German Clockmaker
The Bramble Briar
PC49
The Cinderella
A Group of Young Soldiers
The Willow Tree
Jack Bostock's Whisky - Story
The Irish Girl
A Drunken Family
lt's A Pretty Melody
Coming from a Music Hall
Barbara Ellen
Christmas Day in the Workhouse
Come Lasses and Lads
34 -
35 -
36 -
37 -
38 -
39 -
40 -
41 -
42 -
43 -
44 -
45 -
46 -
47 -
48 -
49 -
50 -
51 -
52 -
53 -
54 -
55 -
56 -
57 -
58 -
59 -
60 -
61 -
62 -
63 -
64 -
65 -
Don't Send My Boy to Prison
Down the Road
Flanagan
lf There Wasn't Any Women in theWorld      
lt's a Lie
My Name is John Giles
AII Jolly Good Fellows
Little Fish
McCaffery
Prisoners in the War - Story
Old Mrs Biggar
Ours Is A Nice House
Pistol - Dreadful OId Joke
Ring Ting-a-ling
l'm Sixty Three
Some Folks Sing Like a Lark
Ten Little Fingers
The Little Shirt My Mother Made for Me
The Agricultural Show
The Circus Tent
The Cobbler
The Mountain and the Squirrel - Fable
The Nightingale
ln These Hard Times
Three Men Went a-Hunting
The Village Pump
The Two Magicians
Wheel the P'rambulator, John
Your Sweetheart Grace
Will the Angels Play their Harps for Me?
Khaki Trousers
Wheezy Anna

Duration: 79:23

Cover picture

Introduction:

A few years before Bill was born, a major event occurred in the life of his family; a collector of folk songs came to visit Bill's grandfather and noted down a number of songs.  It was an event that became part of the family's identity.1 Bill's mother, Emily Elizabeth (1877 - 1977), still talked about it in the 1960s; an important man had come all the way from London, just to meet Bill's grandfather and hear him sing.  Bill's younger brother Harry 1913 - 2009 remembered hearing all about it in his youth.

Bill's grandfather, John Smith, had a legendary repertoire.  Stories were told of competitions where two singers would take turns to sing songs, the winner being the one who kept going longest without repeating or forgetting a song.  Bill's grandfather could sing all day without repeating a song.  But when my mother asked Emily to name the songs that John Smith had known, she could only remember Barbree Alling: "Oh, do you mean Barbara Allen?" "No, Barbree Alling."

John Smith was born in 1835 in Clee St Margaret, a village some seven miles north-east of Ludlow, near the Brown Clee Hill, in Shropshire.  By 1861 he was married to Sarah, from Stanton Long, with three children, and had moved about three miles to the village of Peaton, and there he remained until the census of 1891.  By 1901 he was in Diddlebury, a mile from Peaton.  His occupation listed as 'agricultural labourer' throughout.  (This is in stark contrast to the story Harry told of their grandfather; that he travelled and made money financing other farmers.)

Bill's parents. Frank and Emily.  Wedding photo, 1897. Bill's father, Frank, was born in 1868, married Emily Jones from the same village in 1897 and is recorded as having held various agricultural jobs; 'pig butcher', 'shepherd', and 'cowman on farm'.  On Bill's birth certificate he is listed as 'farm labourer'.

Bill was born in 1909, one of ten children, nine of whom survived into adulthood.  The family lived in the village of Diddlebury, about five miles from Ludlow in the area known as Corve Dale.  He attended Diddlebury Primary School where singing was part of the curriculum.  He was still singing several songs from English Folk Songs for Schools 2.  Published 1906.2 by Baring-Gould and Sharp over sixty years later.  Bill was recognised as a good singer but it soon became clear that he could only sing on his own terms; he didn't like to be exhibited.  "Oh I was the best singer in the school but it used to be as if the least little thing went wrong, it was like as though I'd freeze.  There's many a time I've been thrashed across the back and across the shoulders, and the more they've thrashed me the more I couldna' sing." "Oh, I was a stubborn fool."

When the contralto Dame Clara Butt 3.  1872 - 1936.3 performed in Ludlow, a young Bill was introduced to her.  He sat on her lap and sang a few lines.  Dame Clara's splendidly non-committal comment became another part of the family legend; "Oh, he's got a good pair of lungs on him!"

Bill left school at fourteen and immediately went to work for a local farmer, moving into the farmhouse.  He remembered the shock of those first summer evenings; he had to go to bed while it was still light, and outside he could hear his former school friends playing.  "You go to sleep boy, you'll be workin' at five o'clock."

Around 1930 Bill went to work for Jack Bostock at Sutton Court Farm near Peaton.  "He was the best owd boss I ever 'ad." It could be that Bostock saw Bill as a potential husband for his daughter Jessie.  Bostock had two sons, neither of whom were interested enough to take on the tenancy, but Jessie looked after all the farm accounts.  Bill came into the household and was immediately given a place at the family dining table.  The other workers ate at a separate table.

Around this time Bill became a regular at the Tally Ho! in Boulden.  In the Tally Ho! the men sang every evening.  Bill recalled several pubs well known for their singers, including the New Inn and the Royal Oak in Ludlow.  It may be that the relatively isolated position of the Tally Ho! prolonged the old singing tradition there, but it was also the closest 'singing' pub to where Bill was living and working.

In later life Bill often spoke about those nights in the Tally Ho! (See notes to track 8 - I reckon I missed my chance.) The customers were working men in their working clothes.  Very rarely did anyone get drunk, the men simply couldn't afford that much alcohol.  At some stage in the evening one of the older men would decide it was time for a song.  Everyone else would listen in complete silence.  Respect for the singer was required and anyone speaking or moving when another man was singing could expect trouble.  At the end of the song appreciation would be spoken; for a good singer a general murmur of "Ah! Well sung, well sung." For a less capable singer the appreciation might be directed toward the choice of song, "That's a good little owd song, that."

A wide variety of songs were sung at the Tally Ho!; old ballads, music hall songs, Victorian parlour ballads and various popular ditties.  A glance at the publication dates of the original versions of the songs that Bill sang reveals that many were, at the time, recently written.  Bill recalled some of the singers.  There was Francis Lee, the landlord, from whom he learned the Outlandish Knight (or Six Pretty Maids).  Edwin Luscott (Titch) who sang Tommy Suet's Ball, a very short man, a farm worker and reputedly as strong as an ox.  Tom Sherris who sang amusing songs like Old Mrs Biggar.  Old Tom Vaughn retired and crippled with arthritis, specialised in sentimental parlour ballads.  Others in the Tally Ho! included a very young Fred Jordan ("he never sang, he just sat there soakin' it all up") and Arthur Lane, subsequently recorded by Fred Hamer. 

A less regular visitor to the Tally Ho! was Joe Locke, a gypsy fiddler and singer.  Bill recalled him visiting the farm, sometimes in search of casual work, sometimes simply begging.  "You'd hear 'im scraping away on his fiddle, then it'd all go quiet, then you'd hear 'im quietly say, 'You cunna spare a bit o' bread and cheese can ya? I anna 'ad nothin' t'eat t'day.'"

Other regular visitors to the pub were the quarry men who worked on the nearby Brown Clee Hill.  They would arrive on cold winter nights with their hob nail boots caked in mud or snow, and mischievous young Bill would immediately call on them to do a step dance.  "Give us a step, just to warm yourselves up." Every time they would oblige and within minutes the floor and walls would be spattered with mud.

(Many years later I took Bill to a traditional song session and his first reaction was one of astonishment that people should clap.  He felt that with this kind of singing in a small room the correct thing to do was just to say "well done" to the singer.  And for a while, whenever I recorded a song from him he would applaud himself vigorously as he finished!)

But there come a different lot of blokes there.  All kids an' girls an' these owd juke boxes an' all this sort o' thing, and this spoilt everything.  You know, spoilt everything that did." 4.  Recorded 10th July 1982.4

Not that Bill was always well behaved: "I was sittin' there.  There was Arthur Lane there, me here and George Hardy there, and I was tormenting Arthur Lane, you know, an' of course, he says, "You'll have this," (makes a fist) "if you keep on." An, my gad he went womph! I leant back an' he 'it poor owd George Hardy smack on the nose.  I was out through that door and gone like a shot.  "Great fun" I said." 5.  Recorded January 1982.5

Bill would visit his mother and younger brothers and sisters whenever he could, and he would always be asked to sing any new songs he had learned.  His mother would always ask to hear her favourite song, Billy Muggins.

When the Second World War broke out the management of farming was transformed, so important was food security to the war effort.  The local estate was put under the management of the Church Commission.  As an experienced farm worker Bill was considered to be in a 'reserved occupation'.  He was conscripted into the local Home Guard, Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, "KSLI; we called it the Kings Sloppy Little Infants." He served from June 1940 until December 1944.  The Tally Ho! was still important but new people came into Bill's life, not least Veronica Margaret Broome Weigall, a land girl from Chelsea.  Poor Jessie was quickly forgotten.

Veronica remembered Bill as a young man of great energy and charisma.  She spoke of Bill being the centre of song and laughter where ever he was, whether working in the fields, eating at meal breaks, or in the pub.

Veronica's family were keen letter writers, and many of her letters from the time survive.  Although her letters are undated, the first reference to Bill seems to come in a letter to her older sister Zippa (Philippa), "it's nearly nine before Will gets his tractor started.  He's a curly haired chap, full of fun and up to tricks & practical jokes all the time, and more fun to work with than the steady yokel I was working with." It seems that a day spent working together on the seed drill cemented their relationship.

Soon however, Veronica was writing letters in response to the family's disapproval, justifying her relationship with Bill, and emphasising his potential; "I've had several talks with Bill since you've gone - last night he said again that he thought he wasn't good enough - I said he'd be good enough if he was a farmer, but not if he were just a labourer all the rest of his life." And later, shortly after she had received an inheritance of £7,000, "I've certainly no intention of buying a farm yet, and for many a year to come.  I know perfectly well that Bill is not capable of farming to my standards yet, but he is good at every practical job on the farm ...  but of course, that doesn't make a good farmer.  He is far too ignorant." "He's not a farmer yet, but I think he will be, and anyway being independent and having his own place probably will make a big difference." Veronica's older brother Alured, writing to Zippa said, "well I never thought the marriage could be stopped ... but she'd better not be a laughing-stock or a bore - & that she can be told."

Bill and Veronica, wedding photo, 24th March 1945. They were married in March 1945 by the Rev George Craggs (Veronica's step-grandfather, known to her as Uncle Tony) in his church of Heston in North London.  On their return to Shropshire, Bill and Veronica were offered a tied cottage on the estate by the Church Commission's Manager of the estate, the Hon Geoffrey Bourke, also a relative of Veronica.  Bill turned down the cottage ("It wasn't good enough for Veronica") and was immediately fired.  He took a farming job in the village of Haughton, near Bridgnorth.

In 1951 Bill and Veronica bought a 32 acre small-holding in Middleton Scriven.  They moved in during September, (and I was born in December).  The kitchen window overlooked a valley, on the other side was a single field, almost the size of their farm, given over to wheat.  Shortly after they moved in Veronica witnessed a tractor and plough making its way, out of control, from the top to the bottom of that field, leaving a dog-leg furrow.  She pointed it out to Bill on his return to the house.  Bill knew immediately that he would have to help.  He went down to the brook at the base of the valley and helped his new neighbours rescue the tractor.  Nothing could be done for the boy who had been driving it, he had fallen under the plough.

Throughout the next season the dog-leg was clearly visible in the growing and ripening crop.  That incident set the tone of their tenure of the farm.  It was lonely and constant work for Bill.  The farm didn't generate enough income to pay for additional help, so Bill had to do practically everything himself.  He ran the farm in a way that, even in the 1950s, was old fashioned.  He had a few milking cows, thirty sheep, half a dozen pigs, a few beef cattle, a deep litter of chickens and then there was any other cash crop he chose to try.6.  I remember sugar-beet and kale.6 His equipment was old and inefficient; the tractor was an early Allis-Chalmers Model B.  The mower and hay turner were pre-war.  Mains electricity wasn't fitted until 1957 so milking was done by hand.  There was a large vegetable garden and Bill grew most of the household requirements.

Veronica immersed herself in country life, transforming herself into Bill's image of the farmer's wife.  She looked after the poultry, helped with the lambing and often drove the tractor.  She could prepare and cook all the creatures that fell victim to Bill's twelve-bore - rabbits, pheasants, partridges, pigeons etc.  She would preserve fruit in Kilner jars, having picked it from her good old fashioned orchard, and make jams and chutneys.

Bill sheep shearing, using the old Allis-Chalmers, Sidbury 1969. Bill had always wanted a farm of his own, but the reality was a disappointment.  He missed the camaraderie of the gang of workers on the estate, and found it stressful being constantly on duty with no breaks.  And yet I can remember him sitting on his three legged stool singing to his cows as he did the milking (usually Seventeen come Sunday or Ram she ad a di).  Perhaps it calmed the cows?

As times went on farming became less profitable, and this little farm wasn't even making enough money to service the overdraft that had been used in its purchase.  Bill became morose and short tempered.  He must have been exhausted.  In the early 1960s he took a second job, as a barman, to make ends meet.  The foot and mouth outbreak of 1967 was the final straw for many small farmers.  Bill and Veronica were forced to sell up (at the very bottom of the market).

We moved to a small house in Bridgnorth and Bill took a job as a farm labourer.  Then in 1972 Bill was offered a job at the local golf course, working as a groundsman with a team of much younger men.  He was sixty three years old and suddenly his life was transformed.  He was the centre of attention again, with a lifetime's experience in preparing soil and growing plants, there was much that he could teach his workmates.  He regained much of his youthful spirit, joking, playing tricks on his colleagues and singing as he drove the tractor, "Sometimes when I'm on the tractor it'll come straight away, a song you know, an' I'll burst out into song! You'll hear me goin' round an' the golfers goin' 'good ole Bill!'"

Veronica died in 1981.  Bill worked on at the golf club until 1985 when ill health forced him to retire.  His journey to the hospital made it into the paper:

Bill told me the story several times and, after the event, came to enjoy the humour of the situation.  The way he told the story went like this:

"Cor it did bloody 'urt.  Course it didna 'urt quite as much by the time th' ambulance got there.  But it was a bloody long wait before th' ambulance come.  An' when we got started we'd only got 'alfway down th' 'ill when we 'ad to stop.  The road was that slippy an' there was a tree down.  An' they 'ad to call the police.  Get someone out to clear the road.  So we was sat there for an hour.

So I said to the ambulance driver, "Right! I'm going to 'ave a fag!"

An' 'e said, "No, I mustn't let you smoke in 'ere, I shall get the sack."

I said, "What's it matter if I smoke? I'm the one as is dying! An' when we get to the 'ospital they'll make me stop altogether.  So this might as well be my last fag anyway."

So 'e says to me, "'Ere, 'ave one of mine."

An' he came round to the back an' opened the doors an' we sat on the back step enjoyin' our fags until they'd cleared the road.

An' I never did 'ave another fag since."


Bill died in 1987.

Recording Bill

I became interested in folk music in the early seventies, following the usual 'guitar hero' route of Carthy, Jones etc.  To my great shame it took me years to recognise that the songs that I had grown up hearing my father sing were real folk songs.  And it took some effort to make Bill realise that what he had was of genuine interest.  I would play him records of Nic Jones singing 'The Outlandish Knight' and he would say "No, never heard nothin' like that before." Then one day I took him to see Fred Jordan singing.  Fred recognised him immediately, "You'm Billy Smith int cha?" And the two men were lost in recollections of the people they had known back in the old days.  "Ah, I knowed 'im but he's bloody jed now."

I started recording Bill in 1979, but he was a reluctant performer.  He knew that I (and my late wife Sue) were regular singers in our local folk club, so he agreed to give us a couple of verses, "Just to get you started", but then, "You can get the rest from a book." Living a hundred and fifty miles away, I only had irregular weekends at home.  I would arrive on a Friday evening with my reel-to-reel tape recorder, and record him using two hand-held microphones and wearing the oversized headphones that were popular at the time.

At first Bill found the whole process rather exciting, he would jump from one song to another, just a few lines of each.  He would play tricks on me; "here's a song I anna sang for you before - 'Hurlie in the mornin', hurlie in the mornin'" "That's interesting Dad, where did you hear that?" "Oh, some silly bugger was singin' it on Top of the Pops last night.  Then it goes 'Postman Pat, Postman Pat'."

Bill's conversational style always included lines of verse, advertising jingles and songs.  He would jump effortlessly from one to another.  So my technique evolved into one of just carrying on a normal conversation, all the time with the pause button pressed on the recorder, then asking Bill to repeat any song or poem that had come into his head.  Frustratingly, there are several occasions on the original tapes where I can be heard saying, "OK sing me the song you just sang." To which Bill replies to the effect, "What song? I can't remember it.  Never heard of such a song in me life."

Veronica became ill during 1980 and died the next year.  Bill felt it somehow disrespectful to be singing while his wife was in hospital.  (I rather hoped that it would give him something else to think about.) Bill started to find the recording process intimidating, and it became easier to use whatever equipment was to hand.  I'd given Bill a radio-cassette recorder and I'd use that, trying to press the 'record' button without him noticing.  The quality, through the built-in microphone, was not great, but it was all that could be achieved at the time.

Notes:

1.  I have never been able to identify the collector.  If such a meeting ever did take place it would appear that John Smith's contribution wasn't considered significant enough to warrant publication. 

2.  Published 1906. 

3.  1872 - 1936. 

4.  Recorded 10th July 1982. 

5.  Recorded January 1982. 

6.  I remember sugar-beet and kale. 

7.  Sunday Mercury, 10th Feb 1985.

Andrew Smith - Summer 2011

Song Notes:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud.  Currently containing over 311,000 records between them, they are described by him as 'extensive, but not yet exhaustive'.  Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceol Duchais Eireann, Dublin; and The School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  The Folk Song Index is also accessible on-line at: http://library.efdss.org They can also be purchased direct from Steve at: Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.  E-mail: sroud@btinternet.com

Child numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, Boston, 1882-98.  Laws numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, Philadelphia, 1957.

In the following Song Notes, all Musical Traditions Records' CDs are referred to only by their Catalogue Numbers (i.e.  MTCDxxx), as are all Topic Records' CDs (i.e.  TSCDxxx) and Veteran CDs (i.e.  VTxxx).  The names of all other CD publishers are given in full.

Many of Bill Smith's songs are only partially remembered, since these recordings were made many years after he had stopped singing most of them.  Accordingly, the transcriptions of the texts may contain verses, shown in italics, found in other sources.

1 - Over the Garden Wall  (Roud 19232)
Recorded 1980

Over the garden wall
You let the baby fall
Me father came in and he ordered me out
And I asked him what it was all about
He said "You let the baby fall
Over the garden wall."

Now when I was a chicken as big as a hen
Me mother hit me and I hit her again
Me father came in and he ordered me out
And I asked him what it was all about
He said "You let the baby fall
Over the garden wall."

Over the garden wall
Over the garden wall
She whispered to me
She wanted to pee
So I took her to the W.C.
But the dirty little beggar she pissed on me
Over the garden wall.

Probably a school yard two-ball song.  Roud has 15 instances, mostly from Scotland and Ireland.

2 - Tommy Suet's Ball (Roud 2139)
Recorded 7th September 1979

Now Tommy Suet had been married
Just a twelvemonth and a day
When he sent his friends a letter
On which it had to say
Just about three months ago
A baby had been sent
And Tommy Suet gave a ball
For this most glorious event.

Chorus: Young Bill
And with me la da day
Me deedle um a deedle
We'll dance to the fiddle
And its up and down the middle
With me jolly lads and pretty girls
I hope to please you all
We'll have a regular brilliant spree
At Tommy Suet's ball.

Now there's the Broxtons, the James's
The Bullock's by the score
The Coxes and the Evans's
And half a dozen more
There wasn't room in Tommy's house
To crack a blooming louse
So we took those lovely damsels
All into the slaughter house.

Now we introduced the baby
And we kissed it twice all round
Mrs Suet she was overcome
And she fainted to the ground
So I fetched her a glass of water
With a little something in
And oh my word when she came round
The dancing did begin.

In and out and round about
Such a ball was never seen
And now and then we had to stop
To have a drink between
To tell you how it ended
I really am not able
For I found myself next morning
Lying underneath the table.

Learned from Edwin 'Titch' Luscott, one of Bill's singing pals from the Tally Ho! in Boulden.  Fred Jordan knew the first three verses, having learned it from the same source.  'Tommy Suet' would have been a nickname for a butcher, hence 'the slaughter house'. 

Roud has just three examples of this song - one from Fred Jordan, one from Ray Hartland, in Gloucestershire, and one from Peter Reilly, in Armagh, which Peter Kennedy published in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, 1975, as Billy Johnson's Ball.  The italicised last verse is from that song.

3 - The Cat's Got the Weasel - Jew's Harp
Recorded July 1982

A well-known schottische tune, more usually called The Cat's Got the Measles.  Bill also used to play this on the mouth-organ, or sing it whilst strumming a tin tray for rhythm.

4 - The Outlandish Knight (Six Pretty Maids) (Roud 21, Child 4)
Recorded 27th May 1979

"Go fetch me some of your father's gold
And some of your mother's fee
And two of the best nags out of the stable
Where there stood thirty and three
Where there stood thirty and three."

She fetched him some of her father's gold
And some of her mother's fee
And two of the best nags out of the stable
Where there stood thirty and three
Where there stood thirty and three

She mounted on her milk white steed
And he on the dapple grey
They rode 'til they came to the deep North Sea
Three hours before it was day
Three hours before it was day

"Light off, light off thy milk white steed
And deliver it unto me
For six pretty maidens I have drownded here
And the seventh one you shall be
And the seventh one you shall be."

"Now take off, take off thine Hallen smock
And deliver it unto me
For I think its too rich and too good to rot
All in the deep North Sea
All in the deep North Sea."

"If I should take off mine Hallen smock
And deliver it unto thee
You turn your back for a ruffian like you
Is not fit a naked woman to see
A naked woman to see."

He turned his back towards her
And gazed on the grass so green
She caught him by his waist so small
And threw him right into the sea
And threw him right into the sea

He groupeth high, he groupeth low
"Take hold of my hand" he cried
"Take hold of my hand my pretty fair maid
And I will make you my bride
And I will make you my bride."

"Lie there, lie there you false hearted man
Lie there instead of me
For six pretty maids you've drownded here
But the seventh had drownded thee
And the seventh had drownded thee."

She mounted on her milk white steed
And led the dapple grey
She rode till she came to her father's own home
Three hours before it was day
Three hours before it was day

The parrot being up in the window so high
And seeing the maiden did say
"I'm afraid that some ruffian has led thee astray
That you tarry so long before day
That you tarry so long before day."

Don't prattle nor prattle my pretty parrot
Nor tell no tales on me
For thy cage shall be made of the glitterin' gold
And the door of the best ivory
And the door of the best ivory

Learned from Francis Lee, landlord of the Tally Ho! Bill insisted that it was 'Allen smock' but sang 'Hallen'.  Midway perhaps, between Allen and Holland, or a southern English aspiration has crept in? Fred Jordan called his now-well-known version, like Bill, Six Pretty Maids.

Bill knew the 'Light off' light off ...  ' verse but missed it on this occasion.  He did not recognise the often-used first verse 'An outlandish knight from the north land came .  .  .  ' or the last verses 'The king he sat up in his chamber so high ...' etc. 

As The Outlandish Knight, not to mention a host of other titles, this ballad is exceptionally well-known all over the Anglophone world; Roud has 708 examples cited.  It was frequently found in England and Scotland, but less so in Ireland.

Also available on CD by: Sarah Porter (MTCD309-10); Kevin Mitchell (MTCD315-6); Bill Cassidy (MTCD325-6); Jumbo Brightwell (Rounder CD1741 & VT140CD); Fred Jordan (Rounder CD1775 & TSCD600); Mary Ann Haynes (TSCD661) Lena Bourne Fish (Appleseed APRCD1035).

5 - Henry My Son (Roud 10, Child 12)
Recorded 27th May 1979

Where have you been all the day, Henry my son?
Where have you been all the day, my beloved one?
In the meadow, in the meadow
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.

What have you been eating, Henry my son?
What have you been eating, my beloved one?
Poisonous berries, poisonous berries
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.
Who gave you poisonous berries, Henry my son?
Who gave you poisonous berries, my beloved one?
Sister Mary, Sister Mary
(My sister, Mother, it was my sister, Mother)
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.

What will you leave your mother, Henry my son?
What will you leave your mother, my beloved one?
Love and kisses, love and kisses
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.

What will you leave your father, Henry my son?
What will you leave your father, my beloved one?
Gold and silver, gold and silver
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.

What will you leave your sister, Henry my son?
What will you leave your sister, my beloved one?
A rope to hang her, a rope to hang her
Make my bed; I've a pain in my head
And I want to lie down.

Bill sings "Sister Mary" on this recording, but later thought this to be a mistake.  Even so he refused to record it again.

Another very well-known ballad, with 587 entries in Roud's Index - half of which are from North America.  Professor Child called this Lord Randal, and gives over a dozen examples.  It is known in one form or another all over Europe; Child noted that the ballad was popular in Italy c.1629, so it is probably quite an old story.

Like the ballad Edward (Roud 200, Child 13), we have little idea of what actually lies behind this apparently motiveless murder.  Not that this has bothered singers, who continue to enjoy the piece.  Usually we find that the ballad's victim has been poisoned by eating either small fish, snakes or eels.  But Bill's version, with its 'poisonous berries', reminds us of two other Shropshire versions: from Fred Jordan (MTCD333); and Ray Driscoll's curious The Wild, Wild Berry (EFDSS CD02).

There are quite a number of other versions available on CD, including those by: George Spicer (MTCD311-2); George Dunn (MTCD317-8); Paddy Reily (MTCD325-6); Gordon Hall (Country Branch CBCD095); Mary Delaney (TSCD667) and Joe Heaney (TSCD518D - this latter being sung in Irish).  Jeannie Robertson's superb version, Lord Donald, is regrettably only available in a truncated form (along with similar versions from Elizabeth Cronin, Thomas Moran, Colm McDonagh and Eirlys & Eddis Thomas) on Rounder CD 1775.

6 - Creeping Jane (Roud 1012, Laws Q23)
Recorded 27th May 1979

When Creeping Jane to the racecourse came
Three gentlemen they viewed her up and down
And all that they could say concerning Creeping Jane
She'd never gallop all over the ground
Fol the day.

When Creeping Jane to the first post came
Oh she was far behind them
But the rider threw his whip all around her bonny neck
And said 'Pretty maiden never mind then'

But when Creeping Jane to the third post came
For she looked gay and smart
For she'd buck up her lily white feet
And passed them all like a dart
Fol the day

This is the only song that Bill learned from his father, who in turn, learned it from his father.

Roud has 64 entries for this splendid song - all but one from England - and, apart from Joseph Taylor (TSCD658), there are another 22 singers who knew it.  Sadly, apart from Joseph Taylor, it was only recorded by one other singer - Charlie Hill, of Spreyton, Devon.

7 - All of a Sudden He Stopped (Roud 23314)
Recorded 7th September 1979

Now Muggins went out in a motor car once
At motor car work he was only a dunce
He flew over churches (ditches) and mangled a tyke
But he still keeps on going as fast as you like
And it's really believed he'd be going on still
Until quite unexpected he came to a hill
He flew down this hill in a wonderful style
Beating all records for over a mile
Bill, centre, brother Jack, right, friend J Tolly left.  Blackpool, c.1929.
But all of a sudden he stopped, he stopped
All of a sudden he stopped
He met a brick wall
At the bottom that's all
And all of a sudden he stopped

Now my brother by craft he whispered to me
That a job very high up in the world he would be
So into the steeple-jack business he went
And a job very high up in the world he was sent
But a gale it sprung up and the poor chap was hurled
This gale it sprang up, he came down in the world
And them as stood watching and saw him descend
They thought that his journey it never would end

But all of a sudden he stopped, he stopped
All of a sudden he stopped
He turned round and round
'Til he came to the ground
And all of a sudden he stopped

Now all servant girls as they are it's well known
But our servant girl's got an idea of her own
At breaking the crockery at first was her boast
But sliding down banisters pleases her most
I saw her this morning, she didn't see me
The way she came down it was pleasing to see
She slid down like greased lightening, well, part of the way
All top of the voice shouting "hip hip hooray"

But all of a sudden she stopped, she stopped
But all of a sudden she stopped
A little tin tack
Got caught in a track
And all of a sudden she stopped

This was sung on the Halls by Alf Gibson, 1860-1920.

8 - I Reckon I Missed My Chance! - Story
Recorded 10th July 1982

God, I reckon I missed my chance, but I never thought I'd ever want a song.  Else I'd a' give them folks a tanner each for all the songs they'd write for me and I should a' had every one.  You know, 'cos I knowed all the tunes of every song, as soon as ever they'd do one verse I'd got the tune of that song then. 

Oh they sung in one or two pubs in Ludlow, like the Tally-Ho! and New Inn, and the Royal Oak.  Tally-Ho! was the main.  Tally-Ho! was so very ...  oh dear, if you spoke when somebody was singing they'd be down your throat. 

Used to get some beautiful songs.  Real old fashioned songs, you know, it used to be great.  But you couldn't ...  an' if you wanted to go outside, you'd gotta wait 'til they'd finished that song.  Oh, they was very particular.  An' you know they was the roughest lot of blokes you ever saw in your life.  Ten times rougher than I am when I go to work.  Ripped jackets and sleeves. But, d'you know what? They was in the Tally-Ho! days, they was stricter than in your club:

"Shut yer bloody mouth."
"If you gotta speak, get outside!"
"Let the chap sing! You've asked him to sing haven't you?"
"If you car shut your mouth get outside!"
Oh, they was snotty, lad, you know, if a bloke was singing, mate, you'd got to ...  and not only that, you hadna' got to go and walk across the room to fetch a pint of beer.  Mate!
"Wait 'til 'e's finished.  He's obligin' you by singin'!"
And they was all such old-fashioned old cronies you know.  Great big strong buggers in them days, you know, strong chaps.  Like in their fifties then. 
Poor owd Tom Vaughn he was a real, he was a very friendly chap and a very happy-go-lucky chap, but he, oh he got arthritis or rheumatic terrible.  He walkin' about with two sticks.  An' he used to walk all down these bank, for his beer.  Him and Billy Thomas, as used to live with 'im, to lodge with 'im like.  An' 'e'd walk.  An' when 'e got down there 'e'd be puffin' and blowin', an' 'e'd give 'em a song, Billy Muggins was 'is song. 
Our Mam used to love me to sing Billy Muggins.  'Er used to laff at that song.  I'd sing there at 'ome.  If I was in a good temper.

But there come a different lot of blokes there.  All kids an' girls an' these owd juke boxes an' all this sort o' thing, and this spoilt everything.  You know, spoilt everything that did.

From Andrew Smith's conversation with his father.  The sections in italics are in Andrew's transcription of the story, but don't appear in this recording.

9 - Billy Muggins (Roud 23307)
Recorded 7th September 1979

I'm Billy Muggins although I'm not to blame
Some people seem to think that I am just as silly as my name
I'm working in the factory
My workmates never mix with me
Each night they all go in the pub
But I go home and have some grub
'Cos I'm Billy Muggins
I'm commonly known as the juggins
Silly Billy, that's what they all call me
Why do my landlady call me a dear?
Treats me to smokes and to bottles of beer
'Cos I'm muggins, the juggins
And muggins I'll always be.

My brother lost a bl(br)each of promise case the other day
Them nice love letters he'd wrote to this girl gave him away
I courted once this self same miss
She might have bl(br)breach of promised this
Although I swore she should be mine
To her I never wrote a line
'Cos I'm Billy Muggins
I'm commonly known as the juggins
Silly Billy, that's what my friends call me
When she said love letters gave her delight
Why did I tell her that I could not write?
'Cos I'm muggins, the juggins
And muggins I'll always be.

I had an invitation from some friends the other day
They had a large card party and I went there to play
When I arrived 'twas plain to see
A mug they thought they'd got in me
But when I'd finished playing there
I'd won ten pounds I do declare
'Cos I'm Billy Muggins
Commonly known as the juggins
Silly Billy, that's what my friends call me
When I had won their ten sovereigns all right
Why did I get up and wish them 'Goodnight'
'Cos I'm muggins, the juggins
And muggins I'll always be.

Spoken:
I never stay out late at night, I never wish to roam
My landlady is good to me so Muggins stays at home
Her husband thinks it's only right
That he should go out every night
Why does he leave a chap like me
To keep his missus company
'Cos I'm Billy Muggins
I'm commonly known as the juggins
Silly, Billy, that's what my friends call me
Why do my landlady call me a dear?
Treats me to smokes and to bottles of beer
'Cos I'm muggins, the juggins
And muggins I'll always be.

An early version of Clever Trevor? Learned from Tom Vaughn, at the Tally Ho!, Bouldon, Shropshire in the 1930s.  Sung by Charles R Whittle, and written by Charles Ridgwell.

10 - The Cuckoo (Roud 413)
Recorded 1979

The cuckoo is a pretty bird, she singeth as she flies
She bringeth us good tidings,she telleth us no lies
She sucketh all sweet flowers to keep her throttle clear
And every time she singeth Cuckoo, the summer draweth near.

The cuckoo is a giddy bird, no other is as she
She flits across the meadow and sings in every tree
A nest she never buildeth, a vargrant she doth roam
Her music is but tearful Cuckoo, I nowhere have a home.

Learned at school from English Folk Songs for Schools by Baring-Gould and Sharp.  Bill was adamant about the pronunciation of 'vargrant', not vagrant.

This is an extremely popular song, with 253 entries in Roud - more than half of which are from North America - though it's rare in Scotland and Ireland.  In fact, it's really just a collection of 'floating verses' which combine to form any number of songs.  This tendency is so pronounced that Roud has two numbers for it - 413 for the Cuckoo variant, and 414 for the On Top of Old Smokey variant (which shows a further 235 entries, all from North America).

It's available on CD by: Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6); Minty Smith (MTCD320) and Hobart Smith (Rounder CD 1799).

11 - Ram She Ad-a-Dee  (Roud 1212)
Recorded 7th September 1979

Now I once did court a bonny lass and a bonny lass was Sue
Her name was Tittle-ma-tarra-ma-ti and mine was Tarra-ma-too
I once did go a courtin' her when her old man was at home
He says if I catches you here again by gad I'll tittle your ...

Chorus:
Ram she ad a dee, ad a dee, ad a dee
Ram she ad a dee ay
Ram she ad a dee, ad a dee, ad a dee
Ram she ad a dee ay.

So Kitty and I we made it up as a ladder I should being
We fixed it up to her window and by gad it was just the thing
We tittled and chaffed and chaffed and laughed until at last by gum
My foot slipped through her window and I fell and I caught me ... 
Chorus

They took me to the doctor's shop and there I told me case
By gad I couldn't help but laugh when I looked the chap in the face
I thought I was making a fool of him but a fool of him by gum
I thought he was making a fool of me when he turpentined me ... 

Chorus

So they wheeled me home in a wheelbarrow and they wheeled me home with care
The people they all laughed and they stared when they brought me there
'What ever have you been doin' now?' said my brother Tom
I said 'I've been a courting and I fell and I caught me ...

Chorus

Not a very widely collected song, with only 13 Roud entries ...  but some well-known singers: the Copper family; Harry Green; Bill House; and Pop Maynard - this latter being the only other available on CD (MTCD309-10 or 401-2).

12 - Ram She Ad-a-dee - 1958 recording.
Recorded by Alured Weigall, Veronica's older brother.

13 - The Children's Home (Roud 23315)
Recorded 1980

They played in those beautiful gardens, the children of high degree
Outside the gates the beggars passed on in their misery.
But there was one of the children who could not join the play
And a little beggar maiden watched for him day by day.

Once he had given her a flower, but oh how he smiled to see
Those thin white hands through the railings stretched out so eagerly.

He came again to the garden he saw the children play
But that little white face had vanished, those little feet gone away.

But that high born child and the beggar, passed homeward side by side
For the ways of men are narrow, but the gates of Heaven are wide
For the ways of men are narrow, but the gates of Heaven are wide

Recorded separately;
She crept away to her corner, down by the murky stream
For the thin white hands through the railings shone through her restless dream.

The Children's Home, words by F E Weatherley, music by Frederic H Cowan, was published by W Morley & Co, c.1890.  The rear cover of the sheet music says, 'The most popular song of the century - a certain encore for all'.

14 - Seventeen Come Sunday (Roud 277,Laws O17)
Recorded 1980

Now as I arose one May morning
One May morning so early
I chanced to see a pretty fair maid
Across the fields of barley
Bill, centre, with brother and friends, Blackpool, c.1930.
Chorus:
With my rue bon a die
Fol da riddle ay rie
Fold a riddle ay

Will you take a man my pretty fair maid?
Will you take a man my honey?
She answered me quite cheerfully
I daresn't for my mummy

Chorus

But if you'll come down to me mummy's house
When the moon shines bright and clearly
I'll creep downstairs and I'll let you in
And me mummy shall not hear me
Chorus
So I went right down to her mummy's house
When the moon shone bright and clearly
She crept downstairs and she let me in
And I laid in her arms 'til morning
(or: And her mummy did not hear me.)

Chorus

How old are you my pretty fair maid?
How old are you my honey?
She's answered me quite cheerfully
I'm seventeen on Sunday

Chorus

An' her shoes were bright her stockings were white
And her buckles shone like silver
With a red rosy face and a naughty little eye
And her hair hung down her shoulder

Chorus

Bill was inclined to miss out the chorus; the unedited recording features Veronica reminding him that he's forgotten the chorus, to which he replies, "Ah, but I'm not goin' t' sing that bloody piffle!"

A very popular song with 296 instances in Roud from all over the British Isles, USA, Canada and Australia (the wonderful Sally Sloane).  It appears with numerous titles, among the most appealing of which is Flash Gals and Airy, Too - used by both Win Ryan and Caroline Hughes.  Obviously it has remained a favourite with country singers, and particularly Travellers, into the present era, since there are 59 sound recordings.

Of these, the following are available on CD: Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Mary Delaney (MTCD325-6); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Jumbo Brightwell (VT154CD); Jean Orchard (VT151CD); and Joe Heaney (TSCD518D).

15 - Seventeen Come Sunday
1958 recording by Alured Weigall, Veronica's older brother.

16 - All Been Havin' a Go at It  (Roud 23316)
Recorded 1979

Oh we've got a lodger a' living with us
And he makes such a terrible fuss
For he bought a chicken for dinner today
He wanted it cooked 'cos I heard him say
So mother she placed it on the hob
And charged a bob for doin' the job
But when the lodger come in oh Lord
He asked where his chicken was
I answered, "Oh ...

We have all been havin' a go at it
All been havin' a go at it
Some on 'em collared the wings and toes
But I had a bit of the parson's nose
And it's Oh good gracious
Didn't we make a show
There's seventeen of us besides meself
And we've all been havin' a go."

Mr Brown the fellow next door
He went away for a week or more
He left his bicycle out in the shed
One day we saw it and we said
Let's go out and take a ride
Each of us tried, quite satisfied
Oh that bicycle fit for a prince
It isn't worth tuppence for old lumber, since ...

We have all been havin' a go at it
All been havin' a go at it
Mother she rode it down the street
Punctured the tyres and broke the seat
And it's oh good gracious
Didn't we make a show
There's seventeen of us besides meself
And we've all been havin' a go.

The second verse was given to me in a folk club at sometime in the 1990s.

This song was written by Harry Leighton and Harry Wincott in 1896, and sung on the Halls by Harry Champion.

17 - Young Sailor Cut Down (Roud 2, Laws Q26/B1)
Recorded 1980

As I stood alone in the streets of St Albans
Dark was the morning and cold was the day
And who should I spy but one of my shipmates
Lapped in a blanket so cold as clay.

He asked for a candle to light him to bed with
And also a pillow to lay down his head
For his head it was aching and his heart it was breaking
It's a brave young sailor cut down in his prime.

And at the street corner those two girls were standing
And one to the other they whispered and said
"Here comes the young sailor whose money we squandered
Here comes the young sailor cut down in his prime."

"We'll carry him into the churchyard and fire three volleys over him
We'll say the dead march as we carry him along"
"Never go courting flash girls of the city
Flash girls of the city was the ruins of me."

Quite an old ballad, with 355 Roud entries, almost 100 of which are from England.  Given that there are 106 sound recordings listed, it's clear that it has remained popular right up to the present era.

It is available on CD by: Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Harry Holman (MTCD309-10); Bill Ellson (MTCD320); Harry Brazil (MTCD345-7); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Viv Legg (VT153CD); Harry Upton (TSCD652); Hobert Stallard (MTCD503-4); and Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800).

18 - The Banks of Sweet Dundee (Roud 148, Laws M25)
Recorded 1979

It was all for a farmer's daughter
So beautiful I'm told
Her parents died and left to her
Five thousand pound in gold.
Bill, at Captainís Road, 1968.
She lived with her uncle
Because of all her woes
And you shall hear this maiden fair
Approve his overthrow.

One morning very early
He came knocking at her bedroom door
"Come arise my pretty maiden
For a lady you shall be
For the squire is waiting for you
On the banks of the sweet Dundee."

"A fig for all your squires
Lords and dukes likewise
I'd rather have my ploughboy
On the banks of the sweet Dundee'

"Be gone you unruly female
You ne're shall happy be
For I mean to banish William
From the banks of the sweet Dundee."

The press gang came to William
When he was all alone
He bravely fought for liberty
But there was ten to one.
The blood rolled down in torrents
"Come kill me now" said he
"For I'd rather die for Mary
On the banks of sweet Dundee."

After a lifetime of farm work, Bill was offered a job as groundsman at Bridgnorth golf course.  He said it was the easiest job he'd ever had.  It was also the least stressful, and probably best paid job he'd ever had:

Sometimes when I'm on the tractor it'll come straight away, a song you know, an' I'll burst out into song! You'll hear me goin' round an' the golfers goin' "Good ole Bill!"

I don't do it lately, I haven't done it for a long time.  I used to think the revs of the tractor drownded it, but it doesn't.  Anybody can hear you quite a long way off.  So I haven't done it lately, it's no good lad.  Giving the golfers bloody entertainment for nothink? Andrew, how could you?

I was on the tractor, I was goin' across the field an' it come to me about the farmer's daughter, and damned if I didna sing it, straight away.  An all the golfers lookin' at me!

"'Allo Will, you sound 'appy."

"'Appy yes."

Song recorded 1979, conversations recorded 1981 and Easter 1983.  Further verses from Albert Shaw of Staffordshire:

The maid next day was walking
Lamenting her sweet love
She saw that wealthy squire
All in her uncle's grove

He threw his arms around her
'Stand off base man' said she
''Twas you that bribed the press gang
On the banks of the sweet Dundee'

He threw his arms around her
He tried to throw her down
Two pistols and a sword she spied
Beneath his morning gown
So Mary took the pistols
The sword he used so free
And she did fire and she shot the squire
On the banks of the sweet Dundee

Her uncle overheard the noise
And hastened to the sound
'Since you have killed the squire
I'll give you your death wound'
'Stand off, stand off' said Mary
'Undaunted I shall be'
And the trigger she drew and her uncle slew
On the banks of the sweet Dundee

A doctor then was sent for
A man of noted skill
Likewise there came a lawyer
For him to read the will
And he willed his gold to Mary
Who fought so manfully
Then he closed his eyes no more to rise
On the banks of the sweet Dundee

Widely popular throughout the English speaking world, with 281 Roud entries, this was described by Cecil Sharp as being 'known to every singer of the present day'.  It was even found as a capstan shanty with the words 'Heave away my Johnny, heave away' sung after every line.

While most versions, as here, have the two lovers being parted, never to re-unite, there are a number that end with William returning; and one broadside, An Answer to Undaunted Mary, describes his adventures at sea and his coming back in disguise in order to test Mary's faithfulness.

Other recordings on CD: Danny Brazil (MTCD345-7); 'Straighty' Flanagan (MTCD331-2); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Walter Pardon (TSCD515); Bob Brader (TSCD665); Maggie Murphy (VT134CD); Reg Bacon (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 5/6); Walter Gedge (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 54).

19 - The Camera Boy (Roud 23313)
Recorded 1980

Now Johnny Biggs was the pet of dogs, he was the pet of Pall Mall
He was such a pet they've lately bought for him a camera
They've took it out and placed it on the artful little dog
When he saw some rampin' girls a playin' at leapfrog.

Chorus:
Then up come Johnny with his camera and he's took the bloomin' lot
Up come Johnny with his camera and oh what a nice snapshot
And now he's got the photograph and the girls all near and far
Have sworn that they will do away with Johnny and his old camera.

Now Johnny walks down a country road, he gave his hat a twist
When he saw there coming up a lady cyclist
And then there was a scrimmage (pothole) and the lady hit the dust
And when she discovered herself she found her pneumatic tyre was bust.

Chorus

Now Johnny went to the football match a ladies football team
And for a while the game went on as any pleasant dream
Until there was a scrimmage and the blue team fell the ground
And very quickly some of them become turned upside down.

Chorus

Now Johnny went to the seaside - oh a quiet little spot
For the girls they were all bathing for the weather it was so hot
But when they came on shore, Lawks how they did scream
Some tramps had stolen all their clothes and left one towel each.

Chorus

20 - An Old German Clockmaker (Roud 241)
Recorded 1980

An old German clockmaker to England once came
Benjamin Snooks was that old German's name
Round the town with his wares to sell
Clocks to mend he would ring on his bell.

Chorus:
With his too ral aye ay
Too ral aye ay
Too ral aye, too ral aye, too ral aye ay.

Now this German was handsome to the ladies delight
He was often invited to put their clocks right
Some was too fast, others too slow
Nine times out of ten he would make 'em all go

Chorus

He met a young lady in Finsbury Square
She told him her clock was in need of repair
Invited him round and to her great delight
In less than ten minutes he'd put her clock right
Chorus

One day that old German was winding a clock
All of a sudden he heard a loud knock
In walked the husband and great was the shock
To see that old German winding up his wife's clock

Chorus

The husband said, 'wife; my dear Mary Ann
Why is it you always invite this strange man
To wind up your clock and leave me on the shelf
If your clock needs winding I'll wind it myself

Chorus

Come all you young fellows, take warning by me
If the German clockmaker you happen to see
Take hold of your lassie as firm as a rock
If you leave her behind he'll be winding her clock

Chorus

Verses in italics are from the singing of Albert Shaw of Staffordshire.

Although we think of this as a popular song amongst the revival, it wasn't much taken up by the oral tradition, with only nine examples in Roud.  Essentially, it's the same song as The Old German Musicianer (Roud 17774), and that only has seven entries!

21 - The Blackberry Grove (Roud 9176)
Recorded 1980

Early one morning I rose to admire
I saw the bright blackberries on the green briar
I saw the bright blackberries on the green briar
I saw the bright blackberries on the green briar.

And when I walked further I chanced to see
A cow and a pretty maid under a tree
A cow and a pretty maid under a tree
A cow and a pretty maid under a tree.

I stepped to the damsel and to her said I
A penn'orth of milk if you please for I'm dry
A penn'orth of milk if you please for I'm dry
A penn'orth of milk if you please for I'm dry.

"Look yonder" she answered "a cow with black tail
Has spilt all the milk and kicked over the pail
She has spilt all the milk and kicked over the pail
She has spilt all the milk and kicked over the pail."

Bill knew this song as 'Early one morning I rose to admire'.  The remainder of the song goes on to suggest that the hero takes advantage of the pretty maid in distress - not behaviour that Bill would have approved of, and I suspect that he has self-censored.

It has rarely been collected, Roud has only two instances: Henry Hammond heard it from George Roper in Charlton St Mary, Dorset, in 1905 (it was published in Purslow's Foggy Dew (1974); and Seamus Ennis recorded it in 1952 for the BBC from Ted Lambourne, in North Marston, Buckinghamshire.

22 - PC 49 (Roud 23312)
Recorded Spring 1981

Now when I was out of work the missus nagged so much you see
So I went down to the station to see if I could make a 'D'
They dressed me up in uniform and then they said to me
You're PC 49.

But the first time I went out the kids threw mud and spoilt my clothes
A dozen navvies took at me and punched me on the nose
I don't suppose Jack Johnson ever stopped so many blows
As PC 49.

But how those women mauled me when they caught me by the throat
They tore my clothes all off my back to try and get the vote
And all they left me wearing was the collar of my coat
With PC 49.

Part of a music hall song written by William Hargreaves in 1913, and popularised by both Harry Fay and J W Rickaby.

23 - The Cinderella (It Won't Last Very, Very Long) (Roud 10710)
Recorded Spring 1981

Late last night I toddled to a dance which the people called the Cinderella
And all of the people at that dance said I was a cheeky little fella
Up to me came Isabella Brown pulling up her railway socks
Come Mr Whittlepip, come and have a dance 'cos it's just gone twelve o'clock
So around we go, till I shout "Whoa,
There'll be trouble in a sec' I know
'Cos I got no buttons on me trousers and the pins aren't over strong
Run away Miss Brown, I can feel 'em coming down
And it won't last very, very long".

Recorded separately:

All last year I went to buy a horse and I ought a took 'im to the knackers
For to make 'im go I had to sew on his tail a pair of crackers
I whitewashed this old horse down and sold it for an old milking cow
Down came the rain and the whitewash dripped
The farmer with his milkpail slipped
The farmer's wife said "It's an overflow of milk
And it won't last very, very long'

Learned from Tom Vaughn, one of Bill's singing pals from the Tally Ho! in Boulden, who presumably learned it from Harry Champion.  Not a well-known song in the oral tradition, with just 5 Roud entries, although 4 are of sound recordings.  Clifford Arbon, of Manewden, Suffolk, sang it, and it's available on CD from Ray Driscoll (Artesion CD 703) and George Cowle (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 8).

24 - A Group of Young Soldiers (Roud 1783)
Recorded Spring 1981

A group of young soldiers
Round the campfire one night
Were talking of sweethearts they'd had
They all seemed contented
Excepting one lad Bill and Fly, Birch Hall Farm, c.1961.
But he was downhearted and sad
"Come cheer up young chappie"
His comrades replied
"I am sure there's some girl which loves you"
But Jack shook his head
And sadly he said
"The sweethearts I have they are two"

Chorus:
"The one has hair of silvery grey
The other has hair like gold
The one is young and beautiful
The other is bent and old
Dear are their lives are both to me
Neither of them would I part
For the one is my mother
God bless her I love her
And the other is my sweetheart."

"Now the girlie I love best
She's a factory lass
She's the one I'm determined to wed
But me father said 'No,
That cannot be so
You must marry a lady instead'."
I've talked with my mother
She knows how things are
When father met her she was poor
She said "Boy never fret
She'll be your bride yet
With father's consent I am sure."

Chorus

Lines in italics from the singing of Harry Green of Essex.  It's strange to find a song which was known to so many singers, having only 11 entries in Roud's Index.  All the Blaxhall Ship singers knew it.  It could be that it's not the sort of song many collectors would bother with, or it may be a comparatively recent one ...  Roy Harvey first recorded it with the North Carolina Ramblers in 1927, and all the collections date from the late-1960s onwards.

Other versions available on CD: Joan Taylor (MTCD345-7); Geoff Ling (VT154CD); Viv Legg (VT153CD).

25 - The Willow Tree (Roud 18831)
Recorded Spring 1981

As I passed by a willow tree
A willow leaf flew after me
I picked it up it would not break
I met my love she would not speak.

Come speak to me and don't be shy
Come speak to me don't pass me by
If I only had the one I love
How happy, happy would I be.
As friends we'll meet and friends we'll part
So take my hand but not my heart.

I wish your heart was made of glass
That I could view it through and through
To view the secrets of your heart
If he loves one he can't love two.

Then bring me back the one I love
Oh bring, oh bring him back to me
If I only had the one I love
How happy, happy I would be

My love he is a sailor boy
He sails across the raging sea
And when he gets so far away
He hardly thinks no more of me

Then bring me back the one I love
Oh bring, oh bring him back to me
If I only had the one I love
How happy, happy I would be

Lines in italics from the singing of May Bradley, who lived nearby.  Bill didn't know her, but when shown a photograph of May and her husband published in the Fred Hamer collection Garners Gay, said, "No, I don't know her, but 'im! He owes me a pint!"

Roud has 14 versions of this lovely song, four of which are from North America.  The earliest entry is Lucy Broadwood's 1909 collection of it from Shadres Petulengro, in Kendal, Westmorland.  The others are from May Bradley (MTCD349), plus Sam Richards collected it from Bill 'Pop' Hingston, of Dittisham, Devon, in the 1970s, as did Gavin Greig from a Miss Ross, in Scotland.

26 - Jack Bostock's Whisky - Story
Recorded 1981

I was workin' on this farm, all by meself, nobody else workin' on this farm but me.
Anyway, one day I was talkin' to Jack Bostock, in the middle of the day, in workin' hours like, and the boss said to me, "I'll give you the sack" he said, "for talkin'."
I said, "Now's yer bloody time!  When 'ave I gotta finish?"  And I kept on at him, and I said, "Well say Friday!"  I kept on an on an on at 'im. 
"Oh!" he said, "All right!"  Just for fun he said that. 
So I took 'im at 'is word and I finished on the Friday.  And I went to see Bostock. 
"Oh by gum arr!  Coom down!  Coom an' start tomorrow."
Great!  So I went down, and I went and lived in the house.  And my word!  It wonna long 'til I 'd got me fit under their table!
But I used to feel very much out of place.  For a start there was Jim Jukes workin' there, an' livin' in, an' 'e gotta sit at a little table, 'cross there, but I was sittin' on the table where the Bostocks was eatin'.  It was a bit embarrasin' for me.  Anyway, Jim never said nothing, nor uttered a word about it.  But I used to think about it, you know.

We was pullin' swedes one day, an' Bostock said, "Bill, go down an see how many pheasants they've got.1 - Bostock was a tenant farmer.  The pheasants belonged to the estate.1  Go down an count 'em," he said, "I'm keepin' a lot of them birds.  They ought a give us a brace."
So I went down.  And there was a lot of whisky bottles in the car.2 - The 'cars' were portable sheds used as house and nesting box for the pheasants.2  So of course, instead of countin' the birds I was drinkin' the whisky. 
So I went back up and I said, "Ooh, they've got a lot of birds in the cars."
"How many?  Well" he said "go an' bloody count 'em!"
So I went back an' got me cheeks full of whisky.  An' when I pulled the bottle from me mouth it came back down me nose!  God!  You never in your life!  I was bloody spittin' an' coughin' an sneezin'. 
An' when I come back I couldn't get over the hedge.  I could bloody see it, but as soon as I tried to put me hands on it, it 'ud be gone!  I'd fall back on me ass.  Anyway, they come and got me over the hedge.  They put me on the top of a load of swedes.  You can imagine what a load of swedes is like!  In the middle of winter!  Chucked me on the top, an' I went snorin' asleep.

The comfort was beautiful, lyin' on them swedes, me 'ead on a swede for a pillow.  'An' the bloody swedes was 'ard as flints with frost!  Me 'ands was amongst the swedes, an' I was 'ot as can be, not a bit of cold, an' I could not wake up, they couldna' wake me.

An' they took me up to the 'ouse, up to the shutter 'ole where they was goin' to unload the swedes an' they went an' 'ad their dinner. 
An' when they come out, I was still asleep.  An' so they carried me into the house, me legs wouldna' go nor nothin', put me on the couch, an' there I was, same next mornin'. 
An' they sent for the doctor.  The Doctor come an' said, "Doh well," he said, "He's absolutely drunk, that's all that's the matter with 'im."  An' he said, "Now don't you, for heavens sake, give 'im a spot of liquid!  Else 'e'll be ten times worse!  If he can eat, let 'im eat.  Anything dry, to soak it up, but don't give 'im any liquid."  An' I was like that from the Monday 'til the Friday.  An' d'you know what?  I thought I was being burnt to death!

But, they never said a word.  Anyway, one mornin' I got up, my God, I did feel ill, it was like my mouth was full of feathers.  So I had 'arf a cup o' tea, all I was allowed.  So I got out, and I went to milk the cows, an' I started to drink the milk out of the bucket.  God I was that thirsty!  Anyway after that I was better, though I didna' have no more whisky for years. 

I've been a devil, haven't I, in me time?  Never done any wrong though.  I should have brought a couple of bottles of whisky back, and drunk 'em quietly.  Not guzzle it like that.  I hadn't drunk whisky before in me life.  Well, I'd hear 'em say whisky was good for you, an' I thought I might as well taste it.  I was about twenty, twenty two or three pr'aps.3 - Therefore the events in this story took place around 1930.3  Just the right time of me life to be soft!

1 - Bostock was a tenant farmer.  The pheasants belonged to the estate.
2 - The 'cars' were portable sheds used as house and nesting box for the pheasants.
3 - Therefore the events in this story took place around 1930.

From Andrew Smith's conversation with his father.  The sections in italics are in Andrew's transcription of the story, but don't appear in this recording.

27 - The Irish Girl (Roud 308)
Recorded May 1982

I wish my love was a red rose bud and in the garden grew
And I to be the gardener to her I would be true
There's not a month throughout the year my love I would renew
I'd roll her in mine arms once more let the wind blow high or low

I wish I was in Manchester all seated on the grass
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand and on my knee a lass
I'd call for liquors merrily and pay before they go
I'd sit and sing to my old thing let the wind blow high or low

Bill just sang two floating verses which, presumably, came from The Irish Girl.  There follows, in italics, a hybrid that Andrew put together to sing.

As I walked out one May morning down by a riverside
And gazing all around me an Irish girl I spied
So red and rosy were her cheeks and coal black was her hair
How costly were the robes of gold this Irish girl did wear

Her shoes were of the Spanish black bespattered with dew
But she wrung her hands she tore her hair crying 'Oh what shall I do?
I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home' says she
'Why would I go a roving for my own true love' says she

'The last time that I saw my love he seemed to be in pain
With chilling grief and anguish his heart was broke in twain
There's many a man that's worse than me so why should I complain
Oh love it is a killing thing did you ever feel the pain?'

I wish I was a butterfly I would fly to my loves breast
I wish I was a linnet I would sing my love to rest
I wish I was a nightingale I'd sing till morning clear
I'd sit and sing to my true love whom once I loved so dear

I wish my love was a red rose bud and in the garden grew
And I to be the gardener to her I would be true
There's not a month throughout the year my love I would renew
With flowers three I would give to thee sweet William thyme and rue

I wish I was in Manchester all seated on the grass
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand and on my knee a lass
I'd call for liquor merrily and pay before we go
I'd sit and sing for my young thing, let the wind blow high or low.

A well-known song which is often called Let the Wind Blow High or Low.  Though, as it's little more than a collection of floating verses, it's difficult to know for sure what is and what isn't the same song.  Versions were widely printed on broadsides and in books.  Roud has 157 instances, and most of these are English.

Although there are 28 sound recordings listed, only four are available on CD: James McDermott (MTCD329-0); Lemmie Brazil (MTCD345-7); Walter Pardon (TSCD660); Bob Copper (Coppersongs CD 2).

28 - A Drunken Family (Roud 10531)
Recorded Spring 1981

I was drunk last night
I was drunk the night before
And I'm going to get drunk tonight
If I never get drunk any more
For the more I get drunk
The better it is for me
'Cos I belong
To a drunken family.
Spoken: Y' see, that's all I know.

Learned from Bert Schumer, one of Bill's singing pals from the Tally Ho! in Boulden.  Roud has 11 instances, from England, Australia and the USA.  Only one is a sound recording, and it's available on CD by Ray Driscoll (Artesion CD 703).

29 - It's A Pretty Melody (Roud 23317)
Recorded Easter 1983

It's a pretty melody, it's a funny melody
Someone brought it over from across at the sea
Ever since the day it came,
I've tried to learn it's name
What it's all about and you can help me out
It goes like hi did a die did a die did a die die di
It goes like doe did a doe did a doe did a doe doe
It goes like hi did a die did a die
It goes doe did a doe did a doe
And right in the middle of the doggone thing
Everybody starts to sing
Ah dah dah dah it goes like this
Doo doo doo it goes like that
What can the name of it be?

A song by Friend and Cesar, originally recorded by Cliff Edwards on 15th August 1928.

30 - Coming from a Music Hall (Roud 23311)
Recorded 1979

As coming from a music hall one evening
As I climbed up farmer Giles's apple tree
And all the birds that noon were sweetly singing
And everything contented as could be
With apples I had stuffed my little Mary
When coming down I thought I'd better stay
For I saw the farmer coming with a shov-u-el
I never shall forget that awful day.
There was a bulldog in waiting with me
He was sat at the trunk of the tree
And he took such a bite
Out of my ambulite
As I fell from the trunk of the tree.

31.  Barbara Allen  (Roud 54, Child 84)
Recorded 10th July 1982

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
Made every youth cry "Well a day"
Her name was Barbara Helen

All in the merry month of May
When green buds they were swelling
Young Jimmy Grove on his death bed lay
For love of Barbara Helen

When he was dead and laid in grave
Her heart was struck with sorrow
"Oh mother, mother, make my bed
For I shall die tomorrow."

"Farewell" she said "Ye maidens all
And shun the fault I fell in
Henceforth take warning by the fall
Of cruel Barbara Helen."

Bill's family were proud of the fact that songs had been collected from his grandfather by 'A big mon from London'.  When Veronica asked Bill's mother what songs his grandfather had sung, she replied "Barbaree Aling".  "Oh, do you mean Barbara Allen?" "No, Barbaree Aling!" As this is quite a conventional - albeit very short - version; it is quite possible that Bill learned it at school.

This is perhaps the most widely-known ballad in Steve Roud's Song Index, with an astonishing 1127 instances (including 284 sound recordings) listed there.  Needless to say, it's found everywhere English is spoken - though Australia boasts only one version in the Index - and, very unusually, there's even one from Wales ...  although it comes from Phil Tanner in that 'little England', the Gower Peninsula.  The USA has 656 entries! It doesn't appear to be quite so well-known in Ireland, with only 30 entries.

Other versions currently on CD: The Brazil Family (MTCD345-6); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Wiggy Smith (MTCD307); Jim Wilson (MTCD309-0); Debbie and Pennie Davies (MTCD333 & 345-7); Patsy Flynn (MTCD329-0); Andy Cash (MTCD326-7); Stanley Hicks (MTCD321-2); Garrett and Norah Arwood (MTCD323-4); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Joe Heaney (TSCD518D); Jane Turriff (Springthyme SPRCD1038); Phoebe Smith (VT136CD); Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800); Rebecca Jones (Appleseed APR CD 1035); Frank Hinchliffe (VTC7CD); Jessie Murray (Rounder CD 11661).

32 - Christmas Day in the Workhouse - Recitation
Recorded 1980

(Spoken)
It was Christmas Day in the workhouse
The happiest day of the year
Their hearts all filled with gladness
And their bellies all filled with beer
In came the workhouse master
And he gazed on the whitewashed walls
He wished them a merry Christmas
And somebody shouted - "How's your father?"

"Ah-ha" said the workhouse master
And he swore by all his Gods
"I'll stop your Christmas pudding
You rotten lot of sods."
Up jumped a gay old pauper
With his face as bold as brass
"You keep your Christmas pudding ... 
And take it to Hereford!"

A parody of George R Simms 1879 poem; In the Workhouse; Christmas Day.

33 - Come Lasses and Lads (Roud 22885)
Recorded 11th July 1982

Come lasses and lads get leave of your dads
And away to the maypole high
For every fair has a sweetheart there
And a fiddler standing by
For Molly shall dance with Jane
And Johnny has got his Joan
And every girl do tripi tripi
Trip it up and down
And every girl do tripi tripi
Trip it up and down

"Good night" says Harry "Good night" says Mary
"Goodnight "says Poll to John
"Goodnight" says Sue to her sweetheart Hugh
"Goodnight" say everyone
Some walked and some did run
Some loitered on the way
And bound themselves by kisses twelve
To meet the next holiday.

Almost certainly another song Bill learnt at school.  Roud has 24 instances, but most are broadsides.  D'Urfey had it in Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-1720), but the only time it has been noted in the oral tradition was when James Madison Carpenter heard it sung by Phyllis Thomas, in Camborne, Cornwall, in the 1930s.

34 - The Prisoner Lad (Roud 19679)
Recorded Spring 1981

Spoken: "Oud Bert Schumer used to sing this song, and I wish I knowed it."

As I stood in a police court
Not many miles from here
A boy stood in the witness box
And his mother she stood near
The boy was quite a youngster
And his cheeks all deadly pale
(Who'd been lately led astray)
And from his master's cash box
One coin he'd stole away.
Bill and Veronica at  Birch Hall Farm, 1967.
(Spoken)
And the mother spoke up for him and said:

Don't send my boy to prison
For that would drive me mad
Remember I'm his mother
And I'm pleading for my lad.

The prosecuting lawyer
Acting for the crown
Turning to his lordship
Ask that woman please sit down
But the widow's eyes turned fire
And her cheeks turned deathly pale
She said I'm here to try and save
My orphan from the jail.

Don't send my boy to prison
For that would drive me mad
Remember I'm his mother
And I'm pleading for my lad
And gentlemen please remember
It's the first crime that he's had.

The judge turned to the prisoner
And said mercy will be shown
I understand your mother
I have children of my own
So go home to your mother
And no more make her sad
And remember there is no one
Like a mother for a lad.

Don't send my boy to prison
For that would drive me mad
Remember I'm a widow
And that prisoner is my lad.

Lines in italics from the singing of Viv Legg (VT153CD).  Bill heard the song from Bert Schumer.  The original recording features an embarrassing exchange where Andrew is convinced that Bill is trying to remember a better known song; 'Don't send my boy to prison, it's the first crime what he done, six months replied his lordship, Oh gawd help my erring son'.  Bill patiently tries to tells him "Ah, but this is a different song." Thirty years after his death, Andrew heard Viv Legg singing Bill's song.

35 - Down the Road (Roud 15128)
Recorded 26th May 1979

Now at first I copped a tiny bit of swag
I always tried to keep a decent nag
An' the one I'm goin' to sing about to you now
Was worth a million guineas in a bag
I matched her with the best that could be found
And then I run a race for fifty pounds
The race was duly run and I'll tell you how I won
And this is how we did it and served the rout.

It was down the road
Away went Polly with her step so jolly
'Cos I knew she'd win
Down the road
The mare was willin' and the pace was killin'
For a lightning spin
All the rest was licked that much
As well they'd ne'er been borned
Whoa mare, whoa mare
You've earned your little bit of corn.

Now Jones the butcher he was firm and true
He says to me, "I tell you what I'll do
Your mare shall trot my cob again next Monday
And sixty more bright sovereigns I'll blew
And if your mare shall trot my cob again
I swear I shall never more touch a rein."
Well I knew he had no chance
But he insisted at the dance
Now I'll tell you how we slew the slain

It was down the road
Away went Polly with her step so jolly
'Cos I knew she'd win
Down the road
The mare was willin' and the pace was killin'
For a lightning spin
Jones's cob was licked that much
As well he'd ne'er been borned
Whoa mare, whoa mare
You've earned your little bit of corn

Soon after that she reached her final goal
Now I've had that little pony from a foal
And grief it was to me to say "goodbye" lads
When we carted poor ald Poll to fill the hole
The missus and the kids they come with me
The last of our pet pony Poll to see
Our neighbours shared our grief
And it was felt beyond belief
As we buried poor ald Polly R.I.P.

It was down the road
We dragged poor Polly not a face was jolly
It seemed a sin
Down the road

The dead mare willin' and the pace not killin'
To the wayside inn
Everybody looked so sad
And I was all forlorn
Whoa mare, whoa mare
You've earned your little bit of corn

Verses in italics from Fred Jordan.  Composed by F Gilbert in 1893 and originally recorded by 'Coster Comedian' Gus Elen in 1933; for many years this song was part of Fred Jordan's repertoire - uniquely so, according to Roud, though I'm sure Albert Shaw sang it, too.

36 - Flanagan (Roud 23310)
Recorded 1980

Flanagan said to his wife one day
"Holiday time it'll soon be here
Haven't you thought where you'd like to go?
Hurry up dear for I'd like to know
The Isle of Wight will suit all right
To the Isle of Wight we'll go."
But she thought one mo
And she hung her head
"If it's all the same to you …

Flanagan, Flanagan
Take me to the Isle of Flanagan (Man again)
Take me where the folks all cry
K-E-double-L-Y
Flanagan, Flanagan
If you love your Mary Anne
Oh Oh Oh Oh Flanagan
Take me to the Isle of Man."

A song associated with Florrie Forde (Florence Flanagan).  Written by Murphy and Letters, presumably as a follow-up, or companion to, Has Anybody here seen Kelly?

37 - If There Wasn't Any Women in the World (Roud 11534)
Recorded 1979

There'd be lots of little things we should have to do without
If there wasn't any women in the world
We should have to put the patchin' on our trousers I suppose
We should have to do the washing we should have to mend the clothes
If there wasn't any women in the world.

An American song, recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson and Rosa Lee Carson on Okeh in 1926, now available on (Document DOCD 8016)

38 - Oh It's a Lie (Roud 23318)
Recorded April 1980 and July 1982

It was in the month of May
When the terrible war broke out
I was in a grand hotel
I was having a bottle of stout

Chorus:
Oh it's a lie, Oh it's a lie
Oh you know you're tellin' a lie
You son of a gun you're tellin' a lie
Oh you know you're telling' a lie.

Now we've got a new invention
And it's what we call the tank
And when old Jerry saw it
Oh they all reported krank.

Chorus

They sent a thousand Zeppelins
To bomb the women and men
They dropped a thousand bombs
And they nearly killed a hen.

Chorus

We had a sergeant major
And he'd never seen a Hun
We had a sergeant major
You should see the bugger run.

Oh the bravery on the field
Oh the bravery on the field
Oh the bravery on the field
Fal la lar di liddle
Lar di liddle

Lar di liddle ay.

Bill recalled hearing American soldiers singing this song in the Second World War.

39 - My name is John Giles (Roud 847)
Recorded 27th May 1979

I went to the country my name is John Giles
I've travelled a hundred and fifty odd miles
And to a soft sort of farmer bloke I have been took
But I'll tell thee I'm not such a fool as I look.

She went down to the cow house to milk the old cow
The stool overbalanced and she fell there somehow
I said, "Are you hurt dear?" I started to yell
She said, "It's my elbow but it's not there I fell."

She went into the kitchen to put all things right
And five pounds of fat bacon she put out of sight
And she said, "Now Joe, can you do with a dumpling or two?"
And I said, "I don't care if I do."

(Spoken) Then it goes;
Too-del-oo
Too-del-ay
You don't get five pounds off a pig every day

This seems to be a fragment of a song called Joe Muggins, or I Don't Care if I Do - although there are several other songs of a similar nature, like Sarie-I (Roud 16652), or Down in the Fields where the Buttercups all Grow (Roud 1736), in which some of these verses appear.

40 - All Jolly Fellows (Roud 346)
Recorded 1980

It was early one morning before the break of day
The cocks were a crowin' and the old farmer did say
Come arise my good fellows come rise with good will
Your horses want something their bellies to fill.

When five o'clock comes then up we will rise
Into the stable we merrily flies
With a rubbin' and scrubbin' our horses I'll vow
We're all jolly good fellows that follow the plough.

When seven o'clock comes then to breakfast we'll meet
Beef, bread and pork boys we'll heartily eat
With a bit in our pockets I'll swear and I'll vow
We're all jolly good fellows that follow the plough.

At five o'clock our master comes round
And he ...  (said sommat)
You've not ploughed your acre I'll swear and I'll vow
You're all damned idle fellows that follow the plough.

I stepped up to my master and I made this reply
We've each ploughed our acre so you tell a damned lie
We've each ploughed our acre I'll swear and I'll vow
We're all jolly good fellows that follow the plough.

A very popular song in England with 148 listings in Roud (only 5 references to it elsewhere - 3 from Scotland and 2 from North America).  It may be of quite late composition, and it has certainly survived well into the era of sound recording - almost all country singers had it in their repertoire and there are 29 sound recordings, almost all from central and southern England.  Most versions stick pretty close to Catnatch's broadside text, first printed around 1820.

Other available CD versions include: May Bradley (MTCD349); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); George Townshend (MTCD304); Jeff Wesley (Veteran VTC4CD); and Fred Jordan (Topic TSCD655).

41 - Little Fish (Roud 23319)
Recorded Easter 1983

Oh I wish little fish
I could swim in a dish
In a dish, little fish, like you.

42 - McCaffery (Roud 1148)
Recorded 1980

When barely eighteen years of age
Into the army I did engage
I left my job with full intent
To join the forty-second regiment.
Bill, hay turning, driving the old Allis-Chalmers, c.1965.
To Fulwood Barracks I did go
To spend some time in that depot
But out of trouble I never could be
Captain Hansen took a great dislike to me.

'Twas on the barrack square one day
Some soldier's children came there to play
From my officer's quarters my captain came
And ordered me to take their parents' name.

My captain's orders I did fulfil
But I done it sorely against my will
I took one name instead of three
For neglect of duty he then charged me.

In the barracks court I did appear
But they would not my story hear
Two weeks' C.B.  and loss of pay
That's what it cost me for those children's pay.

For fourteen nights and thirteen days
My sentence rose and filled my gaze
What I resolved to do each night
Was to shoot my captain dead on sight.

One day across the barrack square
I saw him walking with colonel Blair
I raised my rifle, I shot to kill
But I killed the colonel against my will.

At Liverpool Assize my trial I stood
The jury they all banged on wood
The judge he said McCafferty
Prepare yourself for the gallows tree.

I had no father to take my part
I had no mother to break her heart
I've just one friend, a girl is she
She'd lay down her life for McCafferty.

Now all young officers take heed of me
Have nothing to do with the British army
For bloody lies and tyranny
Have made a murderer of McCafferty.

Bill was uneasy about this song - it carries its own stories and superstition.  There was a strongly held (but quite erroneous) belief that it was illegal to sing McCaffery in public.  This may account for the fact that Roud has only 35 instances of a song which almost all singers used to know, in my experience.

Bill recorded just the three verses in plain text.  The rest is adapted from Karl Dallas, The Cruel Wars, 1972, and Roy Palmer The Rambling Soldier, 1977, into a version that Andrew occasionally sings in clubs and sessions.

Other available CD versions include: Danny Brazil (MTCD345-7); Bob Manning (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 5/6); Jimmy McBeath (Rounder CD 1834).

43 - Prisoners in the War
Recorded 1980

Like old Lavington - we'd got to go and clear up all the rubbish up from round the farm an' that, and put it in a big quarry on the park.  An' I'd say, "Come on,"
They'd all come round me like [The Italian Prisoners of War] an' I'd go an' pick up these things meself, you know, an' chuck it on the trailer.  And Lavington [The boss] would say; "Don't you touch those bloody things! Make them lazy buggers do it!"
I said, "Look, that's no way to damn well work with these blokes; the blokes is all right." I said, "I've got to try and work so that they'll know what I want 'em to do." So I said, "Bugger off!"
An' you know; that's the only way I could get 'em to work.  An' after a bit they'd say, "Me, me, me!" You know, they wouldn't let yer do it.  They was very, very nice chaps."
"There was only one lot of prisoners I was afraid of, an' I was really bloody well afraid.  That was our own prisoners; English blokes! They were criminals but they was let out to work.  An' there was a corporal at the top end of the field and a corporal at the bottom, each with a loaded rifle.  And one bugger got away then! But I was really afraid o' them.  I'm not kiddin' you I was scared bloody stiff.  You could hear 'em sayin' quietly, "He's comin', He's comin'." I'd walk up the field, you know, "Look out he's coming." And before they'd pick a tater up they was doin' this; treadin' them in the ground.
I told you before - there was a Sergeant Major, like, over these lot, but he'd got lots here an' lots there all over the place.  I rung 'im up and asked if he'd like a brace of pheasants.  "By God, I'd love a brace of birds." he said.  I said, "I tell you what, if you'll come and work with these bloody prisoners for a day I'll get you a brace of pheasants." "Right!"
I bet you those prisoners, they'd a' gone through the eye of a needle from 'im.  By Christ, if he'd looked at 'em, they'd run.  He said, "I'll blow their bloody brains out, first little thing they do." Mate! There wasn't a word said and the tractor was never stopped.  Up and down the field; and every tater was picked up.
An' 'e (a prisoner) said, "Right, that's finished 'em." "You've not finished, you'll carry every spud and put 'em in that tump." And the trailer was brought, and a bloke on the tractor, drove round.  "You sit on that tractor," said the sergeant major, "I'll see as they're put on the tump." Kid, the trailer was loaded in a second.  Off the top; unloaded; back.  Every tater was off the field.
But these two corporals; they couldn't care bloody less for 'em, they wouldn't do a thing.  An' me the same.  Mind you I never spoke to them, 'cos it wanna' my place to say 'Get on with it' or anything like that.  Else I should a' only been, buildin' it up for a row.  But this bloke he was marvellous.  I tell you this much, I dare say he would a' shot 'em, you know.  By God, and he was a awfully nice chap.  He was a real nice chap."
I said, "Now you can take 'em away mate, I don't want any more o' them buggers.  I'd rather have the foreigners! Don't you send any more here."

44 - Old Mrs Biggar (Roud 19111)
Recorded 1980

There's old Mrs Biggar went to bathe one day
She got her left leg stuck in the clay
She would have been there, there is no doubt
But she run for the shovel and she dug herself out

Now old Mr Biggar he thought it a sin
To rub his wife's leg well with gin
So he got this gin all down his throttle
And he rubbed his wife's leg well with the bottle.

Spoken: That's owd Tom Sherris ued to sing that.
Singing I do believe
I do believe
Old Johnny Bigger was a gay old Bigger
And a gay old bugger was he.

God made man, man made money
God made the bees
And the bees made the honey.
God made the Devil and the Devil made sin
So we'll have to dig a hole,
For to put the bugger in.
Singing I do believe …

Spoken: That's a good little song that was but, oh dear … know no more.

Learned from Tom Sherris.  Bampton Morris Men sing the song, calling it Old Johnny Bigger - from which the italicised lines come.  Roud has 6 instances, 3 of which are sound recordings - you can hear Jack Elliott, of Birtley, sing it on TSCD664.

Nursery Rhymes and Children's Jingles:

God made man and man made money
God made the bees and the bees made honey
God made a little man to plough and to sow
God made a little bow to keep away the crow
God made a woman to brew and to bake
God made a little maid to eat plum-cake

Ludlow: from Shropshire Folk-Lore; A sheaf of gleanings.  Ed.  Charlotte Sophia Burne, published, Trübner & Co, London 1886.

45 - Ours Is A Nice House (Roud 23308)
Recorded May 1982

Ours is a nice house ours is
What a nice little house ours is
For the roof's on the top
Of the pretty little shack
The front's at the front
And the back's at the back
Ours is a nice house ours is.

Ours is a nice house ours is
We've got no rats nor mouses
For the roof's on the top
Of the pretty little shack
The front's at the front
And the back's at the back
Ours is a nice house ours is.

Written by Herbert Rule and Fred Holt, published 1921 by J Albert & Son, Sydney, Australia.  Bill just sings a slightly reorganised version of the chorus.

46 - Pistol - A Dreadful Old Joke
Recorded September 1979

Now the school mistress, teachin' all her class at school, and she said on Friday afternoon she said, "Now children, I want you to make me a rhyme up, with 'pistol' - there's got to be 'pistol' in this rhyme, and I'll give you until Monday mornin' to, make a decision."
So the one very smart little boy came on Monday mornin' he said:

"My father is a policeman,
He's got a suit of blue
He's on his job at nine o'clock
And he's got a pistol too"

"Oh that's excellent, excellent!"

So a poor little boy with the behind out of his trousers an' really dirty and scruffy, said:

"My father's not a policeman,
He's not got a suit of blue
But he draws the dole at nine o'clock
And he's on the piss till two."

47 - Ring Ting-a-ling (Roud 23309)

Recorded January 1982
Bill in September 1981.
Ring ting a ling on the telephone
And ring me up tonight
Ring ting a ling on the telephone
You've got my number right
Ring ting a ling on the telephone
And send a kiss or two
If you don't ring a ling ting a ling a ling a ling
I'll ring a ling a ding for you.

Jones went to a (worlden?) once
With a friend to dine
Not a man, a lady friend
Which knew a friend of mine
Rung his little wifey up
"I can't get home my dear
'Tis very late, so don't you wait
'Cos I'm sweatin' business here."
But darling little Flo said "Dear
Where are you now?"

Ring ting a ling on the telephone
"I'm in my office dear"
Ring ting a ling on the telephone
"And it's ringing in my ear"
Ring ting a ling on the telephone
"And send a kiss or two
If you don't ring a ling ting a ling a ling a ling
Then I'll ring a ling a ding for you."

48 - I'm Sixty Three (Roud 23322)
Recorded 1980

I'm sixty three and it seems to me
As I'm just as young as I used to be
So I take me pint (pipe) and I take me glass
And I sit in the chimney corner.

49 - Some Folks Sing Just Like a Lark (Roud 23326)
Recorded Easter 1983

Some folks sing just like a lark
But I can't sing of course
But how can I sing like a lark
When I'm a little hoarse?

50 - Ten Little Fingers (Roud 23304)
Recorded 1980

Spoken: And old Tom Vaughan used to sing another song

Ten little fingers
Ten little toes
Two little eyes
And a bloody great nose.

Ten little fingers can earn a quid
Do the washing and spank the kid.

Ten little fingers can quickly trace
Ten commandments down father's face.

Ten little fingers can help a pal
They can take him by the hand
Spoken: And sommat else, and
These are a few of the wonderful things
That ten little fingers can do.
Spoken:He used to sing that song.

Recorded in 1915 by Ernie Mayne; written by J P Long.

51 - The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me (Roud 10437)
Recorded; January 1982

I shall never forget the day that I was born
It was on one golden frosty winterous morn
And the doctor said I was a spiffing chap
When the nurse she took me on her lap.

All the girls on the beach were staring
Taking snapshots I declare
It's a good job for me that I was wearing
That little shirt me mother made for me.

Written by Harry Wincott in 1933.  Bill seems to sing the first half of the first verse, and the second half of the last (4th) verse.  Bill, or his friends, may have heard Bradley Kincaid's 1963 American record - though 9 of the 24 Roud instances are from England.  Freda Palmer, Bob Arnold, Lucy Reader, Aileen Stollery and Bob Mills have all been recorded singing it, though none are available on CD, except Fred Moss (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 8).

52 - The Agricultural Show (Roud 21219)
Recorded 1980

There'll be horses and carts and patent ploughs
Mares and stallions, bulls and cows
Hens and chickens, and cocks that crow
All to be seen at the agricultural show.

Learned from Edwin (Titch) Luscott in the Tally Ho! An odd little advertising jingle.

The following was collected by Alfred Williams in Wiltshire, and could plausibly be part of the same song:

There's soldiers and sailors and boys from the plough
And four headed oxen and two headed cow,
But the best thing of all I
'm sure 'twas there,
But I could not tell one half that was there.

I
'll tell you the truth and I don't give a pin,
There
's a lot of old women gets drunk with gin.

Bathe / Clissold – 'Copied from page 43 of Alfred William's notebook.  [This item marked 'copied' but no trace of it can be found among the manuscript texts]'.  Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2007, source; Wiltshire Community History Website.

There are numerous 19th century broadsides called The Agricultural Show, The Grand Agricultural Show, and so on.  They're all very similar in tone, and the same motifs keep appearing, but they are rarely exactly the same.  Steve Roud is inclined to give them all the same number - 21219.

53 - The Circus Tent (Roud 23327)
Recorded Spring 1981

Come into the tent and see the spotted leopard, there's forty spots upon his back and one upon his ...  cock your eye over yonder and see the elephant playing with his ...  Dick turn those boys out who haven't paid their pennies.

Steve Roud has given this a new number, but it could be part of any number of songs which use the same teasing device of implying a rude word (e.g.  Cock-a-doodle-do).  We presume you know of the genre of children's rhymes which they often call 'Chinese verses' etc.  which use the same device.  See Roud's Lore of the Playground pp.429-432 for a sampling.

54 - The Cobbler (Roud 23323)
Recorded Spring 1981

(Spoken)
As I went across the fields one day
I peeped through a window over the way
And pullin' her needle through and through
There sat a cobbler mendin' her shoe
Tic-a-tac-to, tic-a-tac-to
There sat a cobbler mendin' her shoe.

55 - The Mountain and the Squirrel - Fable
Recorded 26th May 1979

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel
And the former called the latter 'little prig'
And the bon replied
You are doubtless very big
And all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year, and a spear
So I think it's no disgrace
To occupy my place
If I'm not so large as you
You are not so small as I
And not half so spry
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put
If I cannot carry forests on my back
Neither can you crack a nut.

An early poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 – 1882.  Bill learned this at school.  For comparison the original text is set out below.

The Fable

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter, "little prig":
Bun replied,
You are doubtless very big,
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year,
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.

56 - The Nightingale (Roud 371)
Recorded January 1982

My sweetheart, come along!
Don
't you hear the fond song,
The sweet notes of the nightingale flow?
Don
't you hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As she sings in those valleys below?
As she sings in those valleys below?


Pretty Betsy, don't fail,
For I
'll carry your pail,
Safe home to your cot as we go;
You shall hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As he sings in those valleys below;
As he sings in those valleys below.


Pray let me alone,
I have hands of my own;
Along with you I will not go,
To hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As he sings in those valleys below;
As he sings in those valleys below.


Pray sit yourself down
With me on the ground
On this bank where the primroses grow
You shall hear the fond tale
Of the sweet Nightingale
As she sings in the valley below;
As she sings in the valley below.

The couple agreed
And married in speed
And soon to the church they did go
No more is she afraid
To walk in the shade
Or to sit in those valleys below;
Or to sit in those valleys below.

Yet another English song which we think of as being well-known, yet Roud has only 39 instances, of which only two are sound recordings - one from Cornwall and one from Derry; all the other sources are printed.  Bill probably learned this at school, and only sang the final two verses, so the rest of the song is included here in italics.

57 - In These Hard Times (Roud 23324)
Recorded May 1982

Oh in these hard times
You've gotta put up with anything
In these hard times
You must not pick nor choose
For that fancy sort of a dress you wear
Leaves all your neck and your shoulders bare
But you're lucky to get dressed up to there
In these hard times.

Written by R P Weston and Fred J Barnes, and recorded by Whit Cunliffe in 1915.

58 - Three Men Went a-Hunting (Roud 283)
Recorded 11th July 1982

Three men went a' hunting
And nothing could they find
But an 'ay stack in a meadow, me boys
And that they left behind
The Englishman said it was an 'ay stack
The Scotsman said 'Nay, nay'
The Irishman said it was a public house
But the sign had blown away.

These same three men went hunting
And nothing could they find
But a cow turd in the meadow, me boys
And this they left behind
The Englishman said it was a cow turd
And the Scotsman said 'Nay, nay'
The Irishman said it was an apple tart
But the crust had blown away.

This little bit of doggerel seems quite well-known, with some versions having dozens of verses employing a similar, simple theme.  Roud shows 95 instances, mostly from England and the USA.  Although there are 22 sound recordings, only Ruby Lanham (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 5) is available on CD.

59 - The Village Pump (Roud 21820)
Recorded 1980

There's a pretty little village far away
Where they grow new potatoes every day
There's a pretty little rill
That drives a little mill
And the mill keeps working all the day.

There's some pretty little houses on the lump
And a pub called the Magpie on the Stump
And you make no mistake
It's that as takes the cake
It's the pride of our old village pump.
But we've got a new policeman down out street
He's a sloppy sort of fellow so to meet
And the people all declare
They say he's not all there
He's the worst, worst fellow on our street.

One night we met him coming from the cump
He got hold of a fair biggish lump
And then we took him back
And then we took him back
We took him back and dipped him at the pump.

The village pump
The village pump
The village P-U-M-P pump

Originally written and performed by Archie Naish in 1907.  Widely known in the revival, sung and subjected to the folk process, though not much taken up in the oral tradition - Roud has just 6 instances.  Only the Jack Tarling recording (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 5/6) is available on CD.

60 - The Two Magicians (Roud 1350, Child 44)
Recorded Easter 1983

Oh she looked into the window as white as any milk
But he looked into the window as black as any silk
Hello, hello, hello, hello you coal black smith
Oh what is your silly song?
You never shall change my maiden name that I have kept so long
I'd rather die a maid a yes
But then she said and be buried all in me grave
Than to have such a nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky coal black smith
A maiden I will die.

Then she became a hare, a hare all on the plain
And he became a greyhound dog and fetched her back again.
Hello, hello, hello, hello …

Then she became a fly, a fly all in the air
And he became a spider then and fetched her to his lair.
Hello, hello, hello, hello …

Another song Bill learned at school, probably from Baring-Gould/Sharp's English Folk Songs for Schools.  Although Roud has 27 instances of the ballad, only five singers are named amongst them - three from England and two from Scotland.

61 - Wheel the P'rambulator, John  (Roud 1496)
Recorded January 1982

Wheel the p'rambulator John be careful how you go
Don't get wild and mind the child and wheel it very slow
If you turn the corner John or if you cross the road
Lift the front wheels up and mind you don't upset the load.

Me and my wife we went one day out for a country walk
She chanced to meet a soldier and with him she had a talk
Now if I should ask or grumble I should only get a clout
And told to go behind the tree and hold the baby out.

It's look you here and look you there and look you over yonder
And there you'll see the old goose go a beggaring after the gonder.

Me mother she brought the donkey
And me sister brought the cart
Me father bought the gingerbreads
Which made the donkey start.

There seem to be numerous instances of this song in the oral tradition: all have Bill's chorus (verse 1), and almost all include the verse:

Last night I took the baby out, took it in the pram,
I turned the blooming thing upside down, I don't know where I am.
I cracked the baby's head and took a little bit off its nose
And now I daren't go home again for fear of my life of Rose.
or: ...  for fear of my life I'll lose.

...  but none of the other verses seem to have anything whatever to do with the chorus!

Original writer unknown.  Bill sings a chorus and one verse, that verse is quite different from others we have found, many of which adopt an unacceptably misogynistic humour, which Bill wouldn't have liked.

A song made 'famous' by Percy Webb in East Suffolk and elsewhere, and found on Topic's 1968 Flash Company LP (12TS243).  Rather surprisingly, Sheila Stewart knew a verse of it, but the only available CD recording is a fragment from Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6).

62 - Your Sweetheart Grace (Roud 23325)
Recorded 27th May 1979

Jack dear, you soon will forget me
Soon forget your sweetheart Grace
How it breaks my heart to think lad
I no more shall see your loving face
Some day you'll wed another
This what worries my poor mind
I always thought that I should be your wife, Jack
It's too late now, Sweetheart, I'm blind.

Learned from Tom Vaughn in the Tally Ho!, Bouldon, Shropshire.

63 - Will the Angels Play their Harps for Me? (Roud 23305)
Recorded 1980

I was passing by a churchyard in the city
When I saw a beggar old and grey
With his hands outstretched
He asked the folks for pity
And it made me sad to hear him say:

Oh I wonder yes I wonder
Will the angels be up yonder?
Will the angels play their harps for me?

For a million miles I've travelled
And a million sights I've seen
And I'm ready for the glory soon to be.

Oh I wonder yes I wonder
Will the angels be up yonder?
Will the angels play their harps for me?

Will I ride up to the pearly gates in glory?
In a chariot of shining gold
Will I see the folks who went up there before me?
When I'm safely gathered in the fold

Oh I wonder yes I wonder
Will the angels be up yonder?
Will the angels play their harps for me?

Words; Walter Hirsch, music; Monte White.  Recorded in 1928 by 'America's first cowboy radio singer', Carson J Robison.  While one might think it more likely that Bill learned it from the 1940s' Josef Locke record, he has the Robison 'pearly gates in glory' verse, which Locke didn't sing.

64 - Khaki Trousers (Roud 21943)
Recorded 27th May 1979

I can tell what you're lookin' at me for
What you got your eyes on I can tell
It is this big pair of khaki trousers
Wishing you'd a pair like them as well
My Grandad he gave them to me
that I should be a toff
And he said, 'til he was dead
I should never never take them off

So in these old khaki trousers
Hopped and skipped and skated
Drunk old ale, drunk champagne
I've been up the pole and down the drain
I've tickled the fancy of me little Mabel Jane
In these old khaki trousers.

All last year I were goin' to Blackpool
Hadn't got a bag nor a trunk you see
Packed all me luggage in these khaki trousers
I was walkin' porchment three
My wife said "Don't pay for the kid
Smuggle him in the train
Walk straight through, pay for two"
Lizzie she has got the brain

So in these old khaki trousers
Smuggled our Sammy
Walked straight through, paid for two
Me and his dear mammy
But this here kid when the guard came round
He got me pinched and found (fined) a pound
He was peeping his nose through a little hole he found
In these old khaki trousers.

Also recorded separately:
All of a sudden I felt so shockin'
I was seen with this margarine
Running down my stocking
All these eggs was hatching too
And each little chick cried cock-a-doodle-do
In these old khaki trousers.

Better known as Lavender Trousers, this 1912 music hall song had passed through a world war before reaching Bill.  Perhaps that is why the colour changed to Khaki; perhaps it's just easier to sing? Bill insisted that the expression 'porchment three' was an old fashioned term for 'third class'.

Roud has only one entry for this song; it was sung by Sid Cook, of Peasenhall, Suffolk, in 1964, and is still available on CD as Helions Bumpstead NLCD 8.

In these old Lavender Trousers
Words and music by R P Weston and Harry Bedford, 1912.

I know what you're looking at, people.
What you've got your eyes on I can tell.
It's these dear old lavender trousers,

Wishing you'd a pair like them as well.
My granddad left them to me
So I could look a toff,
And I said till I was dead,
I would never take them off.
Bill in September 1981.
In these old lavender trousers
I've skipped and jumped and skated,
Laughed and wept, worked and slept,

And twice been vaccinated.
I've drunk four ale, I've drunk champagne,

Been up the pole and down a drain.
I won the heart of Mary Jane
In these old lavender trousers!


Late last night I toddled in Lipton's.

Everybody yelled, "Here's someone big!
Who's that in those lavender trousers?

Henery the eighth or Lipton's pig?"
I ran round the counter quick,

And when I wasn't seen,
Down my legs I stowed some eggs,

And a roll of margarine ...

In these old lavender trousers. 

But soon I did feel shocking!
I turned green.  The margarine

Was running down my stocking.
Lipton called a man in blue,

Then all the eggs were hatching too.
All the little chicks went, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

In these old lavender trousers.

Once when I was staying in Brighton,

Mashing all the girls on the prom, what-what!
Dazzling them with my lavender trousers,

Suddenly the girls yelled out, "Great Scott!"
Some old chap was running round

Wrapped up in wet seaweed,
Shouting, "Dogs, they've pinched my togs!"

So like a friend in need ...

In these old lavender trousers,

Said I, "There's room for two, sir!
Though you're fat, and I'm like that,

I'm sure there's room for you, sir!"
And all the girls began to screech,

For he and I had one leg each,
And arm in arm we toddled up the beach

In these old lavender trousers.
Last year we had a week in Blackpool,
Hadn't got a trunk or a bag, and so -
Packed the things in the back of my trousers. 

I was a walking portmanteau.
When we reached the station,

Oh! My missus, what a brain!
Said, "don't pay for the kid, you jay!

Smuggle him into the train."

In these old lavender trousers,
I pushed our little Sammy,
Walked right thro', and paid for two:

Me and his dear mammy.
But that kid, when the guard came round,

Got me pinched and fined a pound,
'Cos he poked his head through a hole that he had found

In these old lavender trousers.

Once I was a tragedy actor
Thirty bob a week, and a real big star!
When the limelight shone on these trousers,

Ladies in the stalls would faint—ah, ah!
In the drama "Dirty Dick"

I fairly froze their blood,
Till the lords up in the "gawds"

Started throwing lumps of mud.

In these old lavender trousers,

To act I wasn't willin'.
They kicked me on and the limelight shone,

And the heroine said, "Vill'in!
Have you no heart for a woman's woe?

No tender feeling at all? No, no!"
Then I rubbed my patch and I said, "What oh!"

In these old lavender trousers.

65 - Wheezy Anna  (Roud 23306)
Recorded 7th September 1979

There was a girl, a pretty girl
Perhaps you've never seen her
Every time she draws her breath
She's like a concertina
She bought a small mouth organ one day
She bought it for a tanner
And ever since that bloomin' day
They call her Wheezy Anna.

Wheezy Anna, Wheezy Anna
Down where the watermelons grow
(Melons wet your ears)
So Wheezy Anna, Wheezy Anna
That was the nicest girl I know.

Who's got eyes as black as night?
Wheezy Anna
The one looks left, the other looks right
Wheezy Anna.

Wheezy Anna, Wheezy Anna
Down where the watermelons grow
(Melons wet your ears)
So Wheezy Anna, Wheezy Anna
That was the nicest girl I know.

Spoken: Dar know no more.

Originally written and sung by Leslie Sarony, 1933.

Credits:

Digital editing, audio restoration, noise reduction by Paul Marsh, 2005.  The high fidelity of the CD medium tend to highlight any limitations in the original recordings.

The recordings of Bill Smith were all made by his son, Andrew, over the period 1979 - 1983.  Bill gave up singing soon after - his health was deteriorating and his wife, Veronica, had not long died.  Bill himself died in 1987.

These home recordings include the everyday sounds of Bill's home - a crackling fire, other voices, creaking chairs, and even cutlery being laid on the table.

They also include, most importantly, perhaps the only available example of the completely unmediated repertoire of an ordinary countryman, from the centre of England, in the middle of the 20th century.  Andrew wasn't a song collector, and didn't choose what to record and what to omit - he just recorded what Bill remembered … songs, recitations, stories, jokes.

The biographical notes were written by Andrew Smith; the song notes were written by Rod Stradling with some additional material from Andrew Smith.

Thanks to Danny Stradling for proof reading.

Thanks to Steve Roud for allocating new Roud Numbers to songs as yet not included in the Index.

Booklet: editing, DTP, printing
CD: production by Rod Stradling

A Musical Traditions Records production
© 2011

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