Letters: Jan-April 2002
I've just seen the booklet and notes accompanying your recent George Dunn CD and can add the following information with regard to one of George' songs, Lay Him Away on the Hillside, and its connection to the circumstances surrounding the execution of Private Jim Daly of the Connaught Rangers in India in 1920. I should point out that what follows represents prolonged correspondence among and meetings with all the principals (living!) mentioned below to whom credit must be due for additions, adjustments and corrections.
Firstly, Alfred Williams collected a version from a Mrs W(h)infield (the name was used variously) of Holwell Green, near Burford, Oxfordshire which was entitled Sentenced to Death. The chronology of Williams' activity puts this before November 1916, though Andrew Bathe, who is researching the collecting of Alfred Williams, points out that, since there is no forename attached to the singer, there are several candidates in the village to choose from. At any rate, this date of collecting throws some light on the Connaught Rangers episode - which Roy Palmer referred to first in his book, What A Lovely War (1990), but which connection had been made earlier by Gordon Cox in an article in Lore and Language (1982). Mr Cox's article contained two somewhat conflicting suggestions; the first to the effect that the song was 'about the mutiny of the Connaught Rangers' and the second, less specifically, that it was 'just one of the songs that was a fairly recent composition at the time'. Given the Williams version, it does seem that the Jim Daly affair must have been, as it were, an afterthought, attached to an earlier song-text.
Secondly, both Ken Lees and Steve Gardham heard versions from, in Ken's case, his grandmother and, in Steve's, both from his grandparents in Hull, and from another Yorkshire singer, John Hodson of Aldborough. The consensus seems to have been that the song might have come out of the 1916 insurrection in Ireland. One might also add that Mervyn Plunkett apparently recorded the song (or a fragment of it) from 'Pop' Maynard (b.1872) which seems to have been in Pop's repertoire at about the same time that the Lees and Gardham informants sang it. I've not been able to hear this version. All these versions appear to have the title of Lay Him Away on the Hillside which encapsulates the first line of a refrain.
(I can add that it was also sung by Jack Smith. Jack was a settled Gypsy, living in Milford, near Godalming, Surrey, in the mid-1960s when I knew him. Jack had a considerable number of songs in common with Pop, and was, I should guess, some 15 years his junior. I'm also certain that George Townshend (b. 1882), of Lewes, knew at least some of it, as a fragment appears within Brian Matthews' tape collection - Ed.)
Thirdly, I did get hold of a printed text from the Irish Traditional Music Archives some years ago and had formed an idea for myself that it might have been attached to the 1916 insurrection. It had the title Sentenced to Death. John Moulden has since dug up more information and it appears that this printing looks likely to have been from Warren of Kilmainham, Dublin, whose operative dates John is working on. He was able to add that the text appeared in publications such as The Fenian Songbook and the 1916 Song Book but that these seem not to have been issued until much later, possibly even after 1922. I also have a copy of a later version still from Walton's New Treasury…(1966). The title of this is Lay Him Away on the Hillside.
Perhaps the change of title in all the slightly later versions helps to confirm an attachment to an event taking place subsequent to the first appearance of the song. Ultimately, then, confirmation of a first issue and the history of the song is still not a clear matter.
Roly Brown - 21.3.02
Rather late in the day I'd like to make a couple of comments on the CDs by George Dunn. I enjoyed them very much as I did the booklet that went with them.
I bought them because I live in the Black Country (Walsall), but our accent is very different from that of Quarry Bank. That part of the area (Dudley, Gornal, etc) has a more sing-song style than mine, which tends to be much harsher.
Track 6. Where are you Going to, my Pretty Maid. We used to sing this song at family parties, most of the generation before me seemed to be familiar with it. (I was born 1933)
Track 19. Nelson's Death. A contemporary who was a member of the local Round Table used to perform this as a dramatic poem, complete with actions.
Track 25. Here we Come a-Wasslin'. All my family seem to have know this, and they were all local.
Track 16. Don't go Down in the Mine, Dad. An elderly Uncle who sang as a semi-pro at smokers, Masonic functions, etc; also used to sing it at family gatherings.
Track 21. Polly Oliver. I learnt this at school, it was in the 'National Song Book' along with many other 'folk' songs from the British Isles. I would imagine most people of my age would know it.
Track 25. Hear the Nightingale Sing. I have a version of this by the popular singer, Jo Stafford, recorded Los Angeles, October 1947, issued on Capitol CL-13752 as The Nightingale.
None of these comments will change the course of history, but there's a chance that they may be of some little interest.
Bill Dean-Myatt - 20.3.02
The wrong order on the Armenian came about so the group woulf have CDs in time for a set of concerts. The master which included the chanqes the band and I wanted same from the studio in Michigan with the note don't play. The were afraid that dust would mess up the CD etc. The band told me the CD was correct. I sent it to the plant and it had major digital dropout problems when a test was run on it to produce the glass master. Since time was short I sent up a oldel master so the first run could go on and the band would have copies to offer back to the community. The reordering of tunes would be done for the second run of manufacture.
A thing that reviewers miss is that every project need not be a lifes work. Until all the information is gathered and extra expenses of a large booklet are incurred two things are guaranteed. 1. No one will hear the music for years. 2. For the limited interest it will have it will never pay back or take so long that other picccs will not get out in anyone's lifetime. As I do not do projects with grants and everything has to pay its way back I just count myself luck that any of this community based music ever sees the light of day.
Even if all the work is there it still creates unhappy people. A university level professor of Italian language in Amerca had his library send back our 4 volumes of Italian music. They had 36 pages 11 by 11 booklets and all the fancy trapping that people don't read. He sent them back saying he would not allow his university library to pay for them or have them in the library because they were "an offense to the Italian people." If I am going to offend people I might as well do it within a small budget.
The Norwegian piece almost didn't come out. I recorded it because there was not a CD of Hauk Buen out and he was visiting New York that day. When his brother turned a cassette of Hauk to a CD it made me hold the projet up for a year because it was no longer unique. I'll always do what others don't. If others do it I won't.
I've just saved a great deal of money this weekend by not recording a group of Ethiopian Jews. They were here with a theater company. Their papers did not seem to be correct and immigrations stopped the show and sent the people home.
Michael Schlesinger - 11.2.02
Harry's set is as follows:
They told me in the gaolIn my Musical Traditions review of the CDs I mentioned that, textually, the song follows the same structural pattern that can be found in songs such as Jack Hall and Aikendrum, but that, melodically, it is different.
Not to drink no more strong ale
Till I die, till I die,
Not to drink no more strong ale
Till I die.
The told me in the gaol
The candle that I stole
It would light me to the hole
When I die, when I die,
It would light me to the hole
When I die.
Recently, glancing through some broadsides, I realized that Harry's two stanzas are, in fact, a part of the song Jack the Chimney Sweep, a version of Jack Hall (Roud 369), as printed by John Pitts in the first quarter of the 19th century. Other singers had the song in a slightly different form. Walter Pardon for example, did not include Harry's couple of verses in his versions of the song, and so I did not make the connection when I first heard the Topic CDs.
The Pitts' text is as shown:
Jack the Chimney Sweep
My name it is Jack All chimney sweep chimney sweep,
O my name it is Jack All chimney sweep;
My name it is Jack All, and rob both great and small,
And my life must pay for all when I die, when I die,
And my life must pay for all when I die.
I furnish'd all my rooms every one, every one,
I furnish'd all my rooms every one;
I furnish'd all my rooms with black brushes and black brooms,
Besides the chimney pot which I stole which I stole.
I sold candles short of weight, that's no joke, that's no joke,
I sold candles short of weight that's no joke;
I sold candles short of weight and they nap'd me by the sly,
All rogues must have their right so must I, so must I,
All rogues must have their right so must I.
O they told me in the jail where I lay where I lay,
O they told me in the jail where I lay,
They told me in the jail that I should drink no more brown ale,
But I swore I'd never fail 'till I die 'till I die.
O they told me in the hole where I lay where I lay,
They told me in the hole where I lay,
They told me in the hole, that the candles that I stole,
Was to light me to the hole where I lay where I lay,
Was to light me to the hole where I lay.
A going up Holborn hill in a cart, in a cart,
Going up Holborn hill in a cart;
Going up Holborn hill, at St.Giles' had my fill,
And at Tyburn made my will that went hard that went hard,
And at Tyburn made my will that went hard.
Now I must leave the cart toll the bell, toll the bell,
Now I must leave the cart toll the bell;
Now I must leave the cart sorrowful broken heart,
And the best of friends must part so farewell, so farewell,
And the best of friends must part so farewell.
Michael Yates - 10.2.02
Although it has taken me a little time to get round to it, here are some comments on Geoff Wallis' review of the reissue of the great LP: All Ireland Champions - Violin (September 1, 2001). To start with, the question of its new title: An Historic Recording of Irish Traditional Music from County Clare and East Galway. Geoff questions the validity of the original, claiming that only 'Paddy Canny was an All-Ireland Senior title winner in his own right'. But I think that is a rather pedantic approach as I think that the use of the phrase 'All-Ireland Champions' was just a simple - and not totally inaccurate - marketing ploy. The device was used for most of the Dublin Record Co's releases; e.g. An Irish Dance Party: Laichtin Naofa Ceili Band, Munster Champions 1959; Kilfenora Ceili Band - All Ireland Champions for 3 years!; Tulla Ceili Band - All-Ireland Champions '57.
We should note that, in addition to Paddy's fiddle championship in Cavan (1954), Peadar O'Loughlin was flute champion in Ennis (1956) and Dungarvan (1957) and also won Oireachtas titles (prized as highly as All-Ireland's at that time) on flute (1955) and fiddle (1957). P Joe and Paddy were members of the ensemble that won the All-Ireland quartet competition in Cavan (along with Joe McNamara and Martin Talty), while Hayes and Canny were members of 1957 All-Ireland champion Tulla Band and were joined by O'Loughlin for the Tulla Band's repeat win in Dungarvan in 1960. Taking into account that the Dublin Record Co was based in New York and that the recordings were mainly aimed at the US market, I don't think that we can accuse them of 'over-gilding the lily'. However, the re-titling is another matter all together!
Geoff claims that the proximity of East Clare and Galway justifies the re-titling of the LP, as '...P J's birthplace of Maghera is but a short distance from the county border with Galway'. This suggests a lack of familiarity with both the geography of the region and life of its people until fairly recent times. Although Maghera may be 'but a short distance' from the East Galway border (perhaps fifteen miles to the nearest point, as the crow flies), it is a damn long way on bicycle, particularly as there are several fairly substantial mountains and even a couple of lakes in between! Until the late 1950s, most of Paddy and P Joe's journeys would have been by bicycle or on foot. I remember P Joe telling me of the time when Paddy and himself cycled to Ennis to ask Sean Reid to join the Tulla in 1947. In P Joe's mind, that was a major expedition, and I can tell you that cycling to Ennis would be a lot easier than to any part of East Galway!
P Joe and Paddy's musical education occurred during the twenties and thirties, when they cycled or walked to local house dances. At that time, people rarely travelled much beyond their own parish and a visit to East Galway would have been an exceptional occurrence and I'm pretty certain that there was very little contact with East Galway musicians during the period of their youth. Given this, I find it hard to understand the claims for a shared East Clare/East Galway tradition and believe that the CD's new title is both erroneous and misleading. As a footnote to this discussion, I believe that there is considerable confusion over the nature of regional styles. I have never found anyone who can produce a body of musicians who demonstrate such stylistic similarities as to justify the label of an East Clare style. Firstly, there is the problem of defining what is East Clare, as the title has no historic, political or geographical validity. Just the other day, I met a person from Newmarket-on-Fergus who described herself as coming from East Clare! Even the musicians within a ten-mile (or so) radius of Maghera (such as Martin Rochford, Vincent Griffin and Joe Clancy) have quite different styles. In fact, although P Joe and Paddy learned together under Pat Canny, (with Paddy very much P Joe's mentor) and although they play together very nicely, when considered separately, their styles are really quite different.
Regarding the change in track sequence, I believe that there are several questions that need to be resolved. Firstly, the puzzle of the 'missing' tracks: I have never talked with either Paddy or Peadar about this matter but I did talk extensively to P Joe about the recording. P Joe always said that there was one track on the LP on which he did not play (Original track 1: Kitty Gone a-Milking / Music in the Glen) but he never mentioned any other recorded duets by Paddy and Peadar. So, whether the recordings were made and then ditched or whether the two played in the studio but these sets were not recorded will probably never be solved. On the switching of the track order, personally, I prefer to have the trios and quartets on spearate sides, as on the original LP, rather than mixed as on the CD - but, I have had the original for more than 25 years, so have probably just got used to it!
However, I think that there is a bigger point at issue than this and that is the purpose of the original running order. I must admit that I was puzzled for many years as to why the original record had most of the reels on one side and most of the jigs on the other. But, some recent research as thrown a new light on this matter for me and I think we have to give the record's producers a bit more credit than is accorded in Geoff's review. A key to this is to look at the other records in the 'Dublin series' (see above), where we will see that, remarkably, they have almost identical sequencing of tracks. During some recent work on the Laichtin Naofa Ceili Band, I was fortunate to meet Mary O'Connor, the widow of the Band's pianist and 'musical director', Colm O'Connor. Mary very kindly gave me several of Colm's 'band books' and among them is the projected track listing and sequence for their Dublin record. It shows that the organisation of the record was carefully planned and, although a few changes were made for the actual recording (mainly, I think, because Colm over-estimated the number of tracks that might fit onto the vinyl), the final production generally follows the original plan. In my opinion, the sequence reels/reels/reels/reels/jigs/hornpipe (or polka) was intended to enable the record to be used for set dancing. The most commonly danced set in Clare is the Caledonian and, although the precise sequence of figures varies a little from place to place, the sequence used on the LP records is probably the most common, and it could also be used for the Plain set. Moving onto the 'other side', there is also a fair degree of correspondence in the sequences used. All four records start with three sets of jigs and the remaining tracks are made up of either a polka, set dance or march and a couple more reels. There are a number of set dances for which the standard opening three jigs could be used (see Pat Murphy's Toss the Feathers for more information), while the inclusion of the other dance forms would enable them to be used for ceili dances.
Two other specific matters: I heartily endorse Geoff's comments on the editing out of the opening piano chords, which seems to be yet another crude attempt to obliterate the memory of the ceili bands and the part they played in saving the dance music for later generations. Geoff is also quite right to point out the deficiencies in the photo identification of the Tulla Band - but, when correcting others, you have to be fairly sure of your facts! The 'bespectacled' figure (far right, back row) is not Michael Tubridy but J C Talty of Caherrush, who played flute with the Tulla for more than twenty years! To my knowledge, Michael has never played with the Tulla, as he has lived in Dublin for much of his adult life and was too occupied with such as the Castle Ceili Band, Ceoltoiri Chulann and The Chieftains, among others! The photograph is virtually identical with that on p.95 of Chris Keane's book (The Tulla Band: 1946 - 1997), which is captioned: '1963, on the occasion of the marriage of Peter O'Loughlin [when] the Band performed at Queens Hotel, Ennis'. The musicians in the photo in the CD sleeve are (back row - left to right) Aggie Whyte (an original Band member), Paddy Canny, Peadar O'Loughlin (wearing his wedding rose!), P Joe Hayes, Sean Reid and J C Talty; (front row - left to right) Mattie Ryan, Martin Vaughan, Martin Garrihy, Paddy McNamara and George Byrt.
A few comments on the music: first and contrary to Geoff, I have never thought of Paddy's playing as harsh. I'm rather at a loss to know how Geoff identifies that it is Paddy's playing that is harsh, particularly as his playing on the only track in which he appears without P Joe hardly fits that description. Paddy is he generally regarded as a fairly sweet and melodic player and this is how he comes over to me. But then, I can't detect the discordance mentioned with regard to the reel set Egan's / Lafferty's! Regarding the reels (not jigs!), Bunker Hill / The Bush (reel not Hill!): I have listened to this track over and over again and I can't detect that the three melody instruments are out of tune or that Peadar is 'behind the melody' (whatever that may mean). Bridie Lafferty does struggle to cope with the modal structure of these tunes and it may be this that gives the slightly odd sound - but it is still a great track. I can only say "Geoff, if that sounds 'blooming terrible', you've not suffered some of the stuff that I've had to endure over the last 30 years!" Re: the comment that Dr O'Neill sounds dated 'more ... due to the tempo which, though bouncy, is a little slower than today's fashion' - thank goodness for that is all that I can say!
Geoff states 'The addition of Peadar O'Loughlin is not always successful but the reason for that is completely understandable, bearing in mind how long his seniors had been playing together'. Again, whether Paddy, P Joe and Peadar gel as a trio is a matter of opinion and I must say that, to my ear, they work admirably together. But to suggest that they were not familiar with each other's playing is simply not the case. Although Peadar only joined the Tulla Band as a permanent member in 1958 (replacing Seamus Cooley), he had played with the Band for several years before that and was actually on the Band's 1956 HMV recordings. I also understand from P Joe that Peadar was always a regular visitor to Maghera and played with both P Joe and Paddy on many occasions long before the LP was recorded.
Finally, the two hornpipes: while I would agree that these are not the standout items on the LP/CD, they do reflect the way that hornpipes tended to be played at that time (the hornpipe selections on all the 'Dublin' records are in much the same tempo). In fact, they reflect the way that the hornpipe figure is and was danced in Clare, particularly by the older generation. The 78 rpm records made by the Tulla Band in 1956 give a good idea of the tempo of the music of the time.
So, how to conclude? Firstly, much credit must be given to James O'Neill for having the foresight - donkey's years before anyone else bothered - to make this and the other records in the series. The Dublin Record Co had no studio in Ireland (or even the USA?) and often struggled to find suitable facilities (I believe that the Laichtin Naofa Ceili Band record was made in the Gaelic League's HQ in Parnell Square). Secondly - and most important - I would simply say that, when you are listening to this record/CD, you are listening to the real sound of four musicians. It doesn't matter if these are the first or the hundred and first takes, like Joe Cooley's LP, or Paddy in the Smoke, this is the real thing and not some studio engineered concoction. This is how P Joe, Paddy, Peadar and Bridie would have sounded if you'd caught them playing anywhere at that time. Don't buy this record just because it was 'groundbreaking' at the time or as some kind of 'museum piece', buy it because it is great music and extremely enjoyable both for listening and for dancing.
Barry Taylor - 18.1.02
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