Article MT229

George Gardiner,

Ralph Vaughan Williams and the Journal of 1909

1909 promised to be a year of fulfilment for George Gardiner.  He had amassed over 1400 songs after five years of collecting, and he looked forward to publication of his Hampshire songs in the Folk Song Journal of that year1, and also in Cecil Sharp’s Folk Songs of England series.2  Posterity was not kind to George Gardiner however, and after his death in Jan 1910 his songs were forgotten for a long period.Appendix 1  Eighteen of his best songs in the Journal are still widely attributed to Ralph Vaughan Williams.  This article investigates why this could have happened.

English folk song collecting was a relatively new activity when George Gardiner started his work in 1904.  Traditional song in Scotland, for example, had been collected, studied and published for over 150 years.  Serious systematic collecting and publication only really started in England around 1890, when the Rev Sabine Baring Gould, Frank Kidson and Lucy Broadwood published their songs.  The Folk Song Society was set up in 1897, but it was in decline before 1903 when Lucy Broadwood took over as secretary, and Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams joined and began to collect songs and publicise their activities to the country as a whole.

George Gardiner

George Gardiner was a Scotsman, born in Kincardine, Perthshire, in 1853.  He had been a Classics teacher at Edinburgh Academy, and retired to translate and publish textbooks in the 1890s.  He loved a wide variety of music, including the traditional folk songs of his native Scotland.  He travelled on the continent in the early 1900s, and in 1903 he started a systematic study of the folk songs of all Europe (he acquired a huge collection of publications of the continental collectors, and learned songs from every European country).  In 1904 he realised that England might have uncollected folk songs, and he joined the Folk Song Society to research the situation.  He started collecting in Somerset with his friend Henry Hammond, whose family home was in the county.  It must have been annoying to them to find that the Londoner, Cecil Sharp, had beaten them by a year, and was undertaking his second summer’s collecting in the Hammond’s own ‘backyard’.  Lucy Broadwood suggested they collect in other promising counties, and they happily agreed that Henry Hammond should collect with his brother Robert in Dorset.  George Gardiner would collect in Hampshire, with the help of Lucy’s friend, the composer Henry Balfour Gardiner.

George Gardiner was new to Hampshire and, unlike Cecil Sharp and most other collectors at this time, he did not have a network of acquaintances to make the initial contacts with the singers.  He had to do the time-consuming searching himself.  He remarked that he spent a week searching the Kings Sombourne area, and caught ‘nothing but a cold!’3  When he had found the singers, he selected the songs and noted down the words.  He then employed professional musicians to take down the tune accurately.  Gardiner wanted a specialist to do this, although he was very skilled at reading music, and spent much time analysing the tunes and collating them.  ‘I have just sent off to you two registered boxes containing 340 songs, representing 8 months continuous collecting and 6 months study’.4  The music notation would usually be done quickly after Gardiner had made the initial contact.  Sometimes Gardiner collected simultaneously with his musical colleague, especially in places like the Workhouses where singers were easier to locate, and were readily available to sing.

Gardiner’s Musicians

Gardiner employed several musicians to note the music in Hampshire.  They are interesting personalities in their own right. 

Henry Hammond was Gardiner’s friend of many years.  He was a fellow teacher at Edinburgh Academy.  He had taken up a prestigious education post in Rhodesia, but contracted a disease which returned him to England as an invalid.  Henry did some initial collecting with Gardiner in Somerset in 1904, and they later collected songs together in the Bath area and Hampshire in the Spring of 1906.  Henry taught himself to note down tunes by ear, and collected with his brother Robert in Dorset.  He had an interest and knowledge of folksong, but he did not analyse and collate the songs as Gardiner did.  The brothers sent the songs straight to the FSS for others to evaluate.

Henry Balfour Gardiner was not related to George Gardiner, despite the same surname.  He was a minor composer, well known to Lucy Broadwood and Percy Grainger.  There is a simple folk song tune with his name on it in Lucy Broadwood’s collection dated 1899, so it would seem that Balfour Gardiner had an interest in folksong for some years.  Lucy Broadwood suggested that he do the music notation for Gardiner, and they seem to have got on very well.  ‘I am getting on harmoniously with Mr Balfour Gardiner, as musical colleagues should do’.5  He noted the tunes for Gardiner in the northern half of Hampshire1905 and 1906, but Gardiner also started employing Charles Gamblin for this area in 1906.  This would suggest that Balfour Gardiner did not have as much time for collecting as Gardiner needed.  Balfour Gardiner stopped completely in 1907.  Cecil Sharp had given a very blunt refusal to publish one of his folk song arrangements.6  It seems to have soured his interest in collecting, and he did no more notation, despite Gardiner’s attempts to mollify him by paying for the publishing himself.  It seems a sad loss to the folk song collecting movement.  Balfour Gardiner had said to Percy Grainger in 1907 that he intended to buy a phonograph, so he appears to have been keen to take up audio collecting.7

Charles Gamblin was employed to do music notation in the north Hampshire area, alongside Balfour Gardiner in 1906, but after his withdrawal, he became Gardiner’s sole musician in the area.  He was a schoolteacher and ‘professor of music’.  He was well known in Winchester for his organisation of a community orchestra and choir.  He was proficient in many instruments including violin and piano, and he was the organist for the St Cross church and almshouse complex.  He was elderly, aged 72 in 1906, but he seems to have had his full powers.  There are three songs in Gardiner’s collection with Gamblin credited as the singer.  This would suggest that Gamblin sang traditional songs, and had a personal interest in them before he met Gardiner.  He retired as organist at St Cross in 1907-8, so he may have begun to show some signs of senile decline at this point.  Gamblin was greatly respected in his community.  His death in 1921 instigated glowing tributes in the local newspaper and a large turnout at his funeral.

John Guyer was employed to note the tunes in the south of Hampshire from 1906 until Gardiner’s death.  He grew up in Berkshire, but he had lived in Edinburgh for a decade in the 1890s, and he may have known Gardiner there.  He certainly would have had a lot in common with Gardiner through living in the same city.  He was a violin teacher who gave private tuition in Southampton.  He was also a member of a cycling club, so we can envisage him cycling to visit the singers found by Gardiner.  He seems a very sensitive tune-noter, who later modified his methods to include the variations that are an important part of traditional song.  Guyer seems to have worked very closely with Gardiner, looking at texts, as well as the tunes on occasion.  He came to London and searched the British Museum ballad collection for Gardiner in the winter 1906-7.  When Gardiner was preparing to publish his songs in 1908-9 he seems to have asked Guyer to check the music manuscripts, and to revisit some of Gamblin’s singers to get a second opinion.  Guyer seems to have been in direct communication with Vaughan Williams prior to Gardiner’s Journal publication. 

Since the latter half of the twentieth century, ten of Gardiner’s best songs have been published as Ralph Vaughan Williams' own, and seventeen more are widely regarded as belonging to RVW’s collection.  How did Gardiner’s songs become attributed to Ralph Vaughan Williams?

George Gardiner had amassed one of the biggest collections of English folk songs between 1904 and 1909: over 1,400 songs.  In the summer of 1909 fifty of his best songs were published in the Folk Song Society’s Journal.8  Since his death in January 1910, however, he seems to have been sidelined from his rightful place alongside the other great collectors of English folk songs.  There were such a small number of people involved with the Folk Song Society that Gardiner’s work was forgotten after it had been archived.

When the songs were rediscovered and published in the folk revival from the 1950s, Gardiner missed out again because several prominent publications attributed his songs to RVW, including The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs and Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (now republished under the title Bushes and Briars).  It even happened in professor Bronson’s great work The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads e.g. The Cherry Tree Carol’ no13, attributed to RVW and Gamblin (Vol II p.7).

The Folk Song Journal of 1909

Why were Gardiner’s songs attributed to Ralph Vaughan Williams?  I believe that the problem stems from the way that the songs were presented in the FSS Journal of1909.  It is quite clear from the introduction that the whole Journal is devoted to the songs of George Gardiner: he explains his collection, and clearly signs himself George B Gardiner.  If, however, someone merely looked up a reference, or flipped through the pages, they would find a song with the name of the musician who notated the tune for Gardiner at the top.  This is because Gardiner wished his musicians to receive credit for their work.  There was no need to put Gardiner’s name at the head of every song, as every song was from his collection!  Poor study skills then resulted in Gardiner’s songs being attributed to his musical assistants!  People looked at the songs, saw only the musician’s name on the top of the page, and concluded the songs were collected by RVW, or Gardiner’s other musical assistants!  They did not read Gardiner’s introduction, which makes it clear that they are all songs from his collection.  This mistake was even made in the Journal itself in 1950 where, in an obituary for H Balfour Gardiner, it says ‘The Journal for 1909 is devoted to songs collected in Hampshire, chiefly between Basingstoke and Alton.  The tunes for these songs were noted by Mr Gamblin of Winchester, Mr Guyer of Southampton, Dr R Vaughan Williams and Mr H Balfour Gardiner’.9  No mention of George Gardiner at all!  Most people did not check the original reference, so this has resulted in the perpetuation of this mistake.

Why was RVW credited for the music notation in the Journal of 1909?  Gardiner thanks him in the introduction ‘for his great kindness in verifying certain tunes which presented modal or other problems’.  RVW was merely assisting Gardiner to prepare Gardiner’s collection for publication.  All of the songs in the Journal were first collected by Gardiner and his musicians between 1906 and 1907, not by RVW in 1909.  The songs can all be found with the dates of Gardiner’s original collecting in the Gardiner archive at the VWML (This can now be easily accessed on the Take 6 Site - ).  It would seem to be unfair that RVW should be given musician’s credit when the tune had been noted by another musician two or three years previously.  It could be argued that RVW made a fresh new transcription of all the tunes from phonograph recordings.  But if this is so, why are there only five songs stated as ‘noted from a phonograph recording’Appendix 3.  Surely this suggests that the phonograph was only used for these five tunes.  I believe that RVW worked on the original music manuscripts to prepare them for publishing in a format uniform with the Journal’s previous policy.  With a few difficult tunes he may have asked for a second transcription from another of Gardiner’s musical assistants: John Guyer.  I think it more likely, however, that Gardiner and Guyer had already double-checked selected tunes on their own volition.  There are a number of Gamblin’s manuscripts in the archive that have alterations and variants from John Guyer.

I believe that a phonograph recording was sent to RVW for a few songs so that he could notate directly from it.  (If he were there in person, it seems very unlikely that RVW would have made phonograph recordings of another person’s collection, as he preferred to note directly by ear in 99% of his own collecting).  I believe that Gardiner himself made these recordings.  This is confirmed by a note in RVW’s Scrapbook at the VWML.  It is a short letter from Gardiner to RVW stating that Gardiner would pay for the cylinders and that a couple of them had broken.  It could be possible that Gardiner borrowed Henry Balfour Gardiner’s phonograph, but it is most likely that they used the Folk Song Society’s machine.  Gardiner made the generous donation to the society that was used to buy the first phonograph, so it is most probable that he had loan of this machine.  It is interesting that one of the surviving recordings: Fred White’s Claudy Banks, has no reference to RVW in the Journal publication.  I believe that this underlines that the recording was made by Gardiner and not RVW.  One of the surviving cylinder cases has ‘Gardiner?’ written on it, again suggesting that Gardiner recorded them.10

RVW had a very busy life in the classical music world, and I do not believe that he could have physically visited all of the singers.  It is just possible, however, that he could have made a visit to hear a few songs that especially interested him.Appendix 2.  If he then heard a radically different rendition of the tune, he would then have noted it down in a notebook.  If this was the case, it is perhaps appropriate that RVW is given whole credit for the musical notation for that song, although I still think it fairer that Gamblin be credited as well.  It is, however, virtually impossible to verify RVW’s movements in January 1909, as he has not left a detailed diary, and he had a great reputation for filing the waste-paper bin!

There is, however, no evidence that RVW visited the singers at all.  None of these songs are in RVW’s manuscript archive: their only reference is in an appendix to the index, and this is to their publication in the 1909 Journal!  There is only one bare transcription in RVW’s own hand in the Gardiner collection, and this reveals little, beyond the fact that his handwriting was terrible!

Ralph Vaughan Williams Attributions in the 1909 Journal

Singers in Alphabetical Order:

It can be seen that the Journal is inconsistent in its attributions for musical notation.  David Clement’s three songs illustrate the confusion: The Banks of Green Willow is ‘noted (and corrected from a phonograph record) by RVW 1/1909’.  The Foggy Dew is ‘noted by RVW 1/1909’.  Oh Mother, Go make my Bed is ‘noted by RVW (sung by David Clements 1/1909)’.

There is a different note for each of the three songs!  Surely, if RVW visited David Clements, he would have listened and noted all three songs, and all three would have a consistent phrase e.g: ‘noted by RVW 1/1909’.

I think the Journal’s inconsistency could be the result of it going through different Editor’s hands.  Lucy Broadwood resigned as Secretary in 1908, and as Editor of the Journal in 1909.  This Journal may have suffered from the confusion of replacement.

Charles Gamblin lost out greatly, but Gardiner’s other musicians seem to get fair credit: Out of Gardiner’s 50 songs in the Journal, John Guyer is given sole musical credit for 15 songs.  Henry Balfour Gardiner is credited for 10, including one jointly with John Guyer.  Henry Hammond is credited with his one song.  Charles Gamblin, however is treated very unfairly: He is given sole musical credit for only three of his 25 transcriptions.  RVW is given sole credit for the notation of eighteen songs originally notated by Gamblin, including five credited to RVW as ‘noted from a phonograph recording’.  Four more of Gamblin’s songs are credited jointly with RVW.  This means that Gamblin was denied any credit for almost 75% of the songs that he notated in three years of work.  RVW seems to have done a good job unifying the musical notation, but the accreditation was another matter!  Gardiner does not seem to have come to London, so he probably lost some control once he submitted his selection, although he would have been in close touch by post.  Gamblin’s original draft for Pretty Nancy survives along with RVW’s version, marked ‘revised by RVW’.  It is essentially the same tune with one or two minor alterations, such as splitting a note to fit the words.  If RVW is claiming this as his own notation, someone could have searched out every one of Cecil Sharp’s singers, renoted the songs, and claimed themselves as the greatest collector of English folk songs!

The notes about phonograph recording are similarly confusing.  Why does it twice say ‘noted from a phonograph recording’, and three times: ‘noted and corrected from a phonograph recording’.  All five songs were notated previously by Gamblin, and the manuscripts were in the possession of the FSS.  The phonograph must have been used to ‘correct’ or ‘verify’ the manuscripts in all five cases.  I can see no point to the reference to the phonograph, unless the society wanted to advertise itself as ‘up to date’ in its use of modern gadgets.  The songs had all been notated by Gamblin and redrafted by RVW.  ‘Notation by C Gamblin and RVW’ would seem to be more appropriate.  In the previous Journal of 1908, Lucy Broadwood is given dual credit with Percy Grainger’s phonograph notation.11

It seems that Charles Gamblin was treated very unfairly for his three years work with Gardiner, especially when it is realised that RVW gave his spare time for a month at the most!  It would seem that Gardiner, Guyer and the board of the FSS had some suspicion about Gamblin’s accuracy.  This may have been stimulated by a sudden decline in his powers due to old age, as Gamblin was 74 at this time.  When Frank Purslow examined the transcriptions closely in the1950s, however, he came to the conclusion that Gamblin was an accurate song notator, and that there were certainly no signs of the ‘adjustments’ that classically trained musicians often made.  The variations between Gamblin’s notations and of RVW can be explained by the fact that the singers tended to vary their performance of a song from time to time.  Some singers were also very elderly and possibly shaky in their singing.  (There are even instances of singers singing a totally different tune when revisited!) Appendix 3

The FSS seem to have deprived Gamblin of credit for his work in a cavalier manner.  They did not do this with Gardiner’s other musical assistants.  The younger violin teacher, James Guyer of Southampton, who was working very closely with George Gardiner on the publication, received sole musical credit for most of his notations.  When a slight alteration is made to a notation of Henry Balfour Gardiner, there is even an apologetic remark ‘Mr Balfour Gardiner having marked his copy a little uncertain’.  On the other hand, when Cecil Sharp gave a second opinion to RVW, he is dully credited with RVW, but Gamblin left out!12

The musical attributions to Gardiner’s songs in the 1909 Journal seem inconsistent and confusing.  Vaughan Williams was called in to ensure that the musical notations were uniform with the previous issues of the Journal.  Doubts over Charles Gamblin’s accuracy resulted in some minor and some major redrafting of his manuscripts.  A consistant dual-crediting of Gamblin and RVW could have been acceptable where there was redrafting.  It might be fair to give RVW sole credit where there was very major redrafting, but RVW’s sole musical credit for 18 of Gamblin’s notations is unfair, and has led to confusion to this day.  It must have been heart-breaking for George Gardiner to find his musical colleague’s hard work over three years casually dismissed when the songs finally achieved publication.

Whatever the musician’s accreditation, however, these songs are obviously from George Gardiner’s collection.  He spent five years researching the localities and locating the singers; he selected the songs, recorded the words and then paid for a musician to transcribe the tune.  He then did extensive research on the song, and sent the song and research details to the FSS.  It is wrong to say that RVW collected them, even if he continues to be credited for all of these music notations for Gardiner’s songs.  I do hope that the songs will be restored to George Gardiner, and that people will cease suggesting that RVW collected and phonographed them, when his main contribution was to assist in publishing them.  These are important songs and Gardiner should receive his rightful credit as their collector.

Thanks to Malcolm Taylor and the staff of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library for their unwearied assistance, Chris Bearman, Andrew King, Tim Radford and Linda Champ and many others for advice and sharing information.

Bob Askew - 7.10.09


Appendix 1

George Gardiner’s collection of over 1,400 songs was rediscovered in the 1950s.  The texts to some songs were published in James Reeves The Everlasting Circle and then in the 1960s Frank Purslow published about 180 of Gardiner’s songs in full in his great Marrowbones series.  Posterity has continued to be unkind to Gardiner, however.  Frank Purslow’s Marrowbones series may finally have given a large number of Gardiner’s songs to the general public.  But Frank jumbled Gardiner’s and Hammond’s songs in all four books, and singers today continue to say "I got the songs from Marrowbones" rather than from Gardiner (or Hammond).  People even sometimes say ‘the Gardiner-Hammond Collection’, which is again confusing.  This continues to deprive Gardiner and Hammond of their reputation, and takes the songs from their localities of Hampshire or Dorset.

Appendix 2

It is just possible that RVW could have visited those singers with ‘sung by - 1/1909’ in RH column: Daniel Wigg x 2, W Bone, D Clements, W Alexander, Mrs Goodyear, Mrs Randall.  Gardiner could have forewarned the singers and met him from the train.  RVW could have come by train to Basingstoke and visited W Alexander in the workhouse.  He could then have gone on to visit D Wigg, Mrs Randall and Mrs Goodyear at Mrs Goodyear’s house in Axford, going on to Wm Bone a few miles away in Medstead.  Given the thorough job done by Gardiner, Gamblin and Guyer, however, I do not think that RVW visited Hampshire at all.

Songs with ‘Sung By’ on R/H side of Title:

Appendix 3

Frank Purslow on RVW/Gamblin’s notation.  EFDSS Journal 1967 p132:
Unfortunately some of these new notations have not survived, but those that have show that in about a third of the cases there was little or no variation.  The slight differences can be explained as the usual ‘variants’ which singers introduce into their songs …  There are, however, instances of tunes originally noted in the Aeolian mode being re-noted in the Dorian; and Dorian tunes being re-noted as Mixolydian.  Also one or two tunes of indeterminate modality have been firmly pushed into a definite mode.  In a handful of cases, probably because of a bad singer, or one in poor health, Gamblin does seem to have had trouble: a few songs with accidentials in the strangest degrees, such as the 5th or 2nd for instance, or songs starting in one key and finishing in another a degree higher or lower.  In about two cases the singers sang something completely different, but this was obviously the whim of the singers and not anything to do with the possible shortcomings on the part of Gamblin.  The majority of his tunes, I think, are faithful records of what he heard: to anyone familiar with English folk song they sound right.  Certainly there is no attempt to make them agree with preconceived notions derived from art music; in fact rather the reverse!  It is as well to be fair and say that these odd intervals, etc, were probably what the singer actually sang.

Appendix 3.  Phonograph Recordings:

Appendix 4.  Songs listed in Alphabetical Order:

Bob Askew - 14.1.10

Article MT229

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