Article MT334.  Note: place cursor on red asterisks for footnotes.

Time Has Made a Change - some reflections

In 1963 I got a job as assistant to the song collector Peter Kennedy.  We worked in the Sound Library at Cecil Sharp House, the London headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and Peter would often send me to the ground floor library to research this or that song.  It was here that I discovered the Journals of the Folk Song Society, which I was soon reading from page to page.  I was fascinated to see songs collected by Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger etc.  and to read article by such experts as Anne Gilchrist and Lucy Broadwood.  One article, published in 1915 by Lucy Broadwood, really stood out.  It was about the folksong The Bold Fisherman (Roud 291) and according to Miss Broadwood, it was possibly an allegory based on a Medieval Gnostic hymn about Christ - the Fisher King.  I thought that this was quite amazing and, for years, accepted this interpretation of the song.

There was, of course one problem with this idea, namely where was the 'original hymn'?  Nobody, it seems, could find it.  As for The Bold Fisherman itself, well the words could only be found on a number of broadsides dating from 1813 to 1885.  There was nothing earlier.  And then an American Professor published a paper showing that The Bold Fisherman was simply one of a number of broadside ballads concerning a lover who returns to his sweetheart in disguise to test her fidelity.  There was no religious mysticism, no allegorical allusions.  Instead, all that we had was a simple folksong, and one which carried no hidden meanings.  I was, to put it mildly, somewhat crestfallen.

I was born in Lancashire in 1943, in the middle of a world war.  At the time of my birth my father was fighting Rommel's troops in North Africa and I spent much of my early life being looked after by my maternal grandfather.  I attended the village school in Whalley, a school where Anne Gilchrist had previously collected singing games.  Once a week we would gather in the school hall and listen to a BBC radio program of songs.  We had booklets with the words to the songs and we would sing along to the tunes, which were being played on the radio.  One week, when I must have been aged about 8 or 9 years old, we sang a wassail song.  At lunchtime I would go home for an hour to have lunch which my grandfather would have prepared.  That lunchtime I went home singing the wassail song.  My grandfather listened, then told me that I had it wrong.  He then sang me another version of the song, one which he had heard his father sing many years before.  I was confused.  Surely the song on the radio had to be right, it was, after all, on the BBC! But why did my grandfather sing it differently?

We were not what you might call a 'singing family', not like the Copper Family from Sussex, although at Christmas my grandfather would sing the hunting song Owd Towler (Roud 1240) with its long, drawn-out chorus, and The Bonny Hawthorn (Roud 9268), a song which he apparently sang to my grandmother when they were courting.  My father would also sing, his favourite songs being ones which he had picked up in the army, such as Suvla Bay (Roud 5350), Nelly Coming Home from the Wake (Roud 1606) and Kevin Barry (Roud 3014), an odd song to be sung at Christmas by an Englishman, I used to think.  I also remember hearing a few of the 'As I Roved Out' BBC radio programs, which were broadcast on a Sunday morning.  Here collectors such as Peter Kennedy would play recordings of singers that they had discovered around the country.  It certainly beat being dragged off the church! In 1958 the poet James Reeves published a collection of song texts from the Cecil Sharp collection.  This was 'The Idiom of the People' and, having seen it reviewed in a Sunday newspaper, I ordered a copy.  By this time my grandfather was bedridden and so, having got home from school, I would take the book to him and he would look at the texts.  Sometimes, if he knew the song, he would sing me a tune to go with the words.  These were the days of skiffle.  I learnt to play three chords on the guitar and was soon singing songs by Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, initially via Lonny Donegan's recordings.

Soon after this we moved to Altringham in Cheshire, a few miles to the south of Manchester, and I soon discovered a couple of places in Manchester where visiting American bluesmen were playing.  Among the people I saw were Josh White, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Jessie Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy and, most amazing of all, Muddy Waters and fully electrified band.  They were making so much noise that the audience started to move backwards, row by row, to avoid damaging our ears! And there were also American jazzmen.  Again, I remember nights spent listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Thelonious Monk, the Modern Jazz Quartet and, on one very memorable night indeed, Louis Armstrong and his band.  I doubt if Louis himself played more than twenty notes that night.  He just stood there on stage, beaming at the very large audience.  It was probably the only time that I had seen Manchester's Free Trade Hall totally full.  By comparison, the night that the New Lost City Ramblers played there, there were probably less than fifty people in the audience.  It never crossed my mind that, years later, I would be helping John Cohen, one of the Ramblers, to make a film about the Norfolk singer Walter Pardon.

On one occasion I recall hearing a radio program made by the American song collector Alan Lomax, who had just made a recent collecting trip to the Appalachians.  One person, the blind Virginian singer Horton Barker, was especially moving when I heard him sing a line from the hymn Amazing Grace, 'I once was blind, but now can see', and that was probably the point when I first realized that I would love to visit that part of America in search of similar singers and musicians.  It was, though, to be some years before that would happen.

I left school in 1962 and, being accepted by Voluntary Service Oversea (VSO), I headed off to the Solomon Islands where I was attached to the Geological Survey Department.  I would spend a month in Honiara, the capital, where I would sometimes sing folksongs on the local radio, before sailing to another island for a month where I would work on a geological survey, mapping bauxite deposits.  I soon discovered that many of the local Melanesians played in pan-pipe ensembles and so I persuaded the radio station to loan me a tape recorded, which I took with me on my travels.  The recordings that I made were then played on the Honiara radio, when I returned home to the Survey Department.

It was through hearing Melanesian music that I became fascinated by what is today called World Music, which used to be called either Tribal or else Ethnic music.  Back in England I discovered that Folkway Records of New York were now being sold in London.  Folkways had a World Music 4000 series of album, a number of which soon found their way into my growing record collection.  Many of these albums had pictures of tribal masks and figure carvings, often from the collection of Moe Asch, the founder of Folkways.  I was fascinated by these pictures and, having found a couple of shops in London which sold such items, I found myself collecting Tribal art as well as records.

I do sometimes wonder just what it is that drives people to collect things.  For collectors, every single piece has meaning.  Where did they acquire this piece from?  Who was with them at the time?  Who sold it to them, or where did they find it?  What drew them to the piece in the first place?  'Collections are essentially a narrative of experience…'1  They are waypoints - 'physical and emotional reminders of people, place and time'2  Collections also 'address a perceived absence… emotional, social and intellectual'3  In an essay devoted to Sigmund Freud's collection of antiquities Lynn Gamwell agreed: 'His antiquities collection is inexhaustibly layered with meanings and associations, surrounded by endless anecdotes.'4

Over the years I have noted down many quotations about collectors and their collections, possibly in an attempt to try to explain my own activities.  The Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist feels that, 'To make a collection is to find, acquire, organize and store items, whether in a room, a house, a library, a warehouse.  It is also, inevitably, a way of thinking about the world - the connections and principals that produce a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, findings, experimental possibilities and associations.  Collection-making, you could say, is a method of producing knowledge.'5  According to the writer Arnaldur Indriason in his novel Jar City, 'Collectors make a world for themselves.  They make a little world all around them, select certain icons from reality and turn them into the chief characters in that artificial world.'6  Whereas the philosopher A C Grayling sees collecting in terms of the enquiring mind: 'The history of collecting illuminates something striking: the human mind's unquenchable curiosity, and its love for the wonder of the world.'7

I wonder whether or not Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Lucy Broadwood, George Butterworth, Anne Gilchrist or Percy Grainger collected folk songs out of an 'unquenchable curiosity' or else out of 'a love for the wonder of the world'?  They were all classically trained musicians and I suspect that they were first drawn to folk songs because of the melodies, many of which contained so-called Modal scales.  We do know that Cecil Sharp felt that the traditional singing of folk songs would soon be over, once the singers that he was hearing were no longer alive.  And so he felt that he was working with only limited time.  Other collectors, those who had problems writing down tunes such as George Gardiner, Henry and Robert Hammond, and Alfred Williams.  May have had other motives.  Gardiner, originally from Scotland, had made a study of folk music from various parts of the world before deciding - out of 'curiosity' - that he might as well see if he could find anything in southern England.  Henry Hammond had suffered a break-down while working in southern Africa and, on his return home, had been told to take up a hobby to take his mind off his illness.  He too decided to have a look to see if he could find anything.  Alfred Williams, the 'hammerman-poet' from Swindon, may have first encountered folk songs while visiting outlying villages in search of material for his books on the English countryside.  Unlike all the other people mentioned in this paragraph, Williams was not a member of the Folk Song Society, nor could he write down music.  So, unlike Gardiner and the Hammond brothers who took musicians with them on their collecting trips to write down the tunes, Williams simply wrote down the words to the songs that he heard, not only folk songs, but also the words to songs which members of the Folk Song Society would probably have ignored.  'Let it at once be understood,' wrote Alfred Williams in the introduction to his book 'Folk Songs of the Upper Thames' (1923), 'that my intention never was merely to gather folk-songs for the purpose of adding to the more or less undigested mass of materials in the collections already existing.  That is not my business.  What I wanted to do was, as nearly as I could, to complete the work I have undertaken in my prose volumes and to leave a permanent record of the language and activities of the district in which I find myself.'

The early years of the 20th century were a time of rapid change, exploration and discovery.  Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution had been taken on board by many and, when in 1912 Piltdown Man, the 'missing link' between apes and man, was discovered in East Sussex, people were only too willing to accept this find, which was extensively reported in the newspapers.  It was, of course, a fake.  But Tutankhamun's tomb, discovered in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, in 1922 by Howard Carter, was as genuine as they come.  Interest in ancient history had never before been so popular.  I was never particularly interested in history while at school.  It was only years later, while researching the stories behind many of the songs that I was collecting, that I came to understand just how fascinating history can be.

In 1964 my parents gave me a Uher 4000 tape recorder for my 21st birthday.  One of my first song collecting trips was to Shropshire, to visit Fred Jordan.  Fred had previously been recorded for the radio program 'As I Roved Out' and had sung in quite a number of folk clubs and festivals.  He was quite used to singing into a microphone and was quite happy for me to record many of his songs.  Shortly afterwards I contacted Topic Records in London and asked if they might like to issue an album.  Gerry Sharp, then Topic's managing director, liked the idea and Bill Leader, Topic's recording engineer (and a man who taught me a lot about recording techniques), collected Fred en-route to my parent's pub in Altringham.  We recorded the album -'Songs of a Shropshire Farm Worker', Topic 12T150 - in my bedroom over a couple of days. 

Topic used one of my photographs of Fred, taken outside his cottage, for the front cover picture.  Fred was wearing a well-worn shirt at the time and when I later returned to Shropshire several of Fred's neighbours complained about this.  Most of the fourteen songs included on the album had been chosen by Fred himself.  Some songs, We're All Jolly Fellows That Follow the Plough (Roud 346), The Watery Grave (Roud 172)8, The Dark-Eyed Sailor (Roud 265), Three Old Crows (Roud 5), John Barleycorn (Roud 164), The Banks of Sweet Primroses (Roud 586), The Bonny Boy (Roud 31), The Royal Albert (Roud 2), Down the Green Groves (Roud 1478) and The Farmer's Boy (Roud 408), fitted Cecil Sharp's definition of a 'folk song'.  Fred also wished to include three songs, The Ship That Never Returned (Roud 775),  Down the Road (Roud 15128) and Polly's Father Lived in Lincolnshire (Roud 1767), which were from the Music Hall stage and which were not the sort of thing that Sharp was looking for.  There was just room for another song and so I asked Fred if he would sing We Shepherds are the Best of Men (Roud 284) to complete the album.  At first Fred was reluctant, saying that he had only recently learned the songs, from Fred Hamer, a visiting song collector, and that he didn't know the song well-enough to make a good job of it.  I disagreed, and in the end Fred let us record it.  In fact, it was such a good recording that we used this track to open the album.

Elsewhere I mentioned an occasion with Fred in a Ludlow pub:

Another Gypsy singer that I got to know was Mary Ann Haynes from Brighton in Sussex.  Like Fred Jordan, Mary had a vast number of songs in her head.  The first song that she sang to me was her version of the old Child ballad The Outlandish Knight (Roud 21).  I had asked her if she could sing me an 'old song' and this was what she sang, quickly followed by The Old Miser (Roud 3913), Riding Down to Portsmouth (Roud 1534), The Oyster Girl (Roud 875), Wexford Town (Roud 263), The Folkestone Murder (Roud 897), All Through Mi Rakli (Roud 852), At the Atchin Tan (Roud 1732), An Old Gypsy's Waggon (Roud 13213) and Erin's Lovely Home (Roud 1427).  Mary also knew a number of more modern songs, such as this piece from World War Two: I would often ask singers for 'old songs' and, of course, this was rather subjective, depending upon the age of the singer.  A song that was 'old' to a fifty year old singer might sound quite 'modern' to an eighty year old.  On one occasion I had been told about a singer in Kent, but my request to him for 'old songs' led to him saying that he did not know any such songs.  After a while I started to leave, but not before the person suddenly said, 'Oh, you mean those old historical songs like "The Shannon Frigate" '.  If I had left five minutes earlier, then we would not have had his songs down on tape for posterity.  Once a singer got going I would ask what their favourite song was, and this could lead to all different kinds of songs.  If a singer said that his parents sang, then I would ask if he or she knew any of their songs.

In a 2005 doctoral thesis, David Hillery noted that David Atkinson had suggested that when singers use the terms 'old songs' or 'folk songs' this could be because they have picked these terms up from collectors.  Hillery (p.312) though that the idea could be extended, especially when applied to singers who were 'celebrated by folk enthusiasts' adding that 'Encounters with (such singers) carried an inevitable, though perhaps unconscious, exerting of cultural influence.'10  Hillery also makes an important distinction between the motivations and practices of early 20th century collectors - often from a social class 'above' that of their singers - and collectors, such as myself, who were collecting many years later.  'The more democratic milieu of the 1970s made for a more relaxed social relationship between (singers) and those recording, though this brought other problems of intensified mediation inherent in collectors' attempts to embed themselves deeper and deeper into the lives of their informants.'11

I believe that when Walter Pardon first encountered the outside 'folk world' he could remember and sing about twenty songs.  Gradually, other songs came back to him and he would practice singing them at home on his own, before singing these songs in public.  When I first met Walter he had been recorded by Bill Leader for two LPs, had been visited by a number of other folklorists and collectors, and had been invited by A L Lloyd to join a group of British folk singers and musicians who had been invited to Washington in 1976 to help celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of America.  We first met at a weekend folk festival.  We were both early risers and bumped into each other while having a pre-breakfast walk.  Walter knew my name - I had written something about one of his songs in a magazine which Walter had seen - and he promptly invited me back to his room to see the list of songs that he knew.

Walter had a small notebook where he had written the titles to well over one hundred songs.  Interesting, most of these songs easily fitted Cecil Sharp's definition of 'folk songs'.  There were also a few songs from the Music Hall, such as Old Brown's Daughter (Roud 1426) and Eggs for Your Breakfast in the Morning (Roud 1752).  Just about all the songs told a story, in one way or another, and it seemed to me that this story element was what had first attracted Walter to these specific songs.

On one occasion Walter Pardon, while talking about working conditions in his area of Norfolk, told me that both his father and his Uncle Billy Gee (who taught Walter most of his songs) had been early members of the Eastern Counties Agricultural Labourer's and Small Holder Union, which had been founded in 1906 by Norfolk-born George Edwards, a man whom Walter clearly admired.  The Union later changed its name to The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers.  The Union had produced a booklet of songs and Walter was proud to tell me that he knew, and could sing three of these songs.  These were We Meet Today in Freedom's Cause (Roud 1774), An Old Man's Advice (Roud 1482) and Sons of Labour (Roud 5368).  I was delighted to find these songs and wrote an article about them.12  In the article I gave a short quote from Karl Marx, 'Men make their own history, but they do not know that they are making it.' I am sure that this was the reason why, almost forty years later, one academic assumed, incorrectly, that I was a communist.  I later contacted the National Farmers Union, thinking that they would be interested in the songs.  But that was not the case and I was told that they were only interested in present-day legislation!  How sad, I thought.

When I first heard Walter sing these three Union songs I was not aware that one song, We Meet Today in Freedom's Cause, had also been used by other Unions and Left-wing causes.  The song, based on a Gospel song written in 1870 by Philip P Bliss, is also known under the title Hold the Fort, and it is believed to be based on an event that occurred in October, 1864, during the American Civil War battle of Altoona Pass in Georgia.  Union troops were surrounded by Confederate soldiers, who were set to take the fort.  However a message, 'Hold the fort, for I am coming' sent by Union General W T Sherman, was seen by the Confederates, who, fearing the arrival of more Union troops, decided to leave the area and the Fort was saved.

Bliss's hymn has the following chorus:

And the hymn was taken to England in 1873 by Ira D Sankey who led a revival tour of Britain in that year.

Versions of the political rewrite first seem to have first appeared c.1890 on the lips of the American organization, The Knights of Labour.  It was also popular with American soldiers and the words were included in 'The Little Red Songbook' of 1914 which was published by the Industrial Workers of the World (better known as the 'Wobblies').  The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers was not the first British Union to use the song.  It appears that members of the Transport Worker's Union were already singing it c.  1890.  The song also appeared in a Spanish Republican booklet, 'Canciones de las Brigada Internacionales', which was published on behalf of the International Brigade in Barcelona in 1938.13

It is information like this that has always fascinated me.  I love to research the history of songs, tunes and stories.  I love to see how verses and tunes can move from one song to another, or just what the story is behind a song that is based on an actual historical event.  Songs and tunes can provide entries into past worlds.  We can hear how our ancestors felt about the world around them.  In many ways they were similar to ourselves, though at times, they were very different and held different views from those held today.  Here is something that the Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson once said to me before singing his version of the ballad The Cruel Grave (Roud 179):

In Duncan's ballad the ghost of the sailor returns to his sweetheart and they spend a night together.  But at dawn, when the cock begins to crow, he say that he must leave.  The girl pleads for him to say, but to no avail and the ballad ends with this verse: Then there is the language of songs and tales, a language which often includes obsolete and obscure words.  One cante fable that I recorded included the word quod, a word meaning 'prison' which was first in use c.1820.  In one song a person rides a prad, meaning a 'horse'.  It seems that the word was first noted in England c.1788 and probably came into the country via a Dutch word for horse, paard

Another singer, this time in Oxfordshire, once asked me to take the recordings that we had just made to his son, who lived in the same village.  It was a Saturday afternoon.  The son was watching horse racing on the television and showing no interest whatsoever in hearing the recordings.  Here, I thought, was one family tradition which had come to an end.  But this was not always the case.  After I had recorded the ballad of Lord Bateman (Roud 40) from Alice Penfold, a Sussex Gypsy singer, I was fascinated to hear her daughters arguing about whether or not, like Lord Bateman, it was possible for a man to marry two women within a single day.  This family had certainly been listening to their family tradition.

It was occasions like this that really inspired me to continue making recordings.  It was fine to hear singers in folk clubs, at festivals, on the radio or television, but there was nothing quite like being in the company of a traditional singer, musician or story teller and having the privilege of being able to record their repertoires.  I had decided early on that I wanted the recordings to be of a high technical quality, so that they could be included on record albums, and I was able to produce solo albums of George Spicer, from Sussex, Harry Upton from Sussex, Johnny Doughty also from Sussex, George Fradley of Derbyshire, Yorkshire singer Frank Hinchliffe, Norfolk's Walter Pardon (actually four albums, two LPs and two CDs) and Packie Manus Byrne, originally from Donegal, but recorded in various English locations.  There were also anthologies of Gypsy singers as well as anthologies of singers from various parts of England - especially from Sussex, Suffolk, Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater London, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.  Many of these recordings came out on the Topic label, then run by Tony Engle, while others appeared on John Howson's Veteran label or else on albums issued by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.  A handful of albums also appeared on my own Home-Made Music label.

Folk song collecting is not always done in isolation and I have been lucky to have received help from a number of other collectors, such as John and Katy Howson in Suffolk, Keith Summers, also in Suffolk, Ken Stubbs in Sussex, Frank Purslow in Oxfordshire, Paul and Angela Carter in Shropshire, Gwilym Davies in Gloucestershire and Rory and Alvina Greig in Yorkshire.  Derek Schofield helped out when I was recording George Fradley in Derbyshire, as did Tufty Swift, and Frank and Sylvia Weston were on hand on numerous occasions when I needed their help and advice.  Nor should I forget the support that I was given from the staff at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London, especially Dave Bland and Malcolm Taylor who always went out of their ways to be helpful.

In 1979 I paid my first visit to America, where I spent two weeks in Virginia.  It was to be the first of three collecting trips to Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee (in 1979, 1980 and 1983) and I have already written about them in a Musical Traditions article.15  I had been inspired to visit Appalachia because Cecil Sharp had visited there during the period 1916 - 1918.  Sharp had collected some 1,600 songs and tunes in the mountains and I wanted to see what had happened in the intervening years.  In fact, I found several people who remembered watching Cecil Sharp collect songs from older family members.  And there were still many singers around when I revisited Sharp's old haunts.  But, when I returned to the mountains on a non-collecting trip in 1998 I found that only two of the singers that I had previously recorded were still alive.  Many of the singers that I had met were relatively well-off, but some were still finding life hard, and the 'American dream' had clearly not reached all parts of America.  What was I supposed to do when I came across an elderly singer who had no food in the house?  Or a singer who had run out of vital medicine and had no money to buy some more?  In the first case I drove the singer to the nearest store and paid for what she needed.  In the second, I drove to town and bought the medicine myself.  I don't think that I was trying 'to embed (myself) deeper and deeper into the lives of (my) informants' as the academics would have it.16  Rather, I was trying to be a decent human being, doing the right thing.

One of the main differences that I found between the English and American singers was that the latter often sang versions of British songs and ballads which were no longer sung in England.  For example, when the Virginian singer Dan Tate sang me his version of The Crabfish (Roud 149) he used the term 'sea crab'.

And this was the term used in a known version, called The Sea Crabb, which can be found in Bishop Percy's folio manuscript from the year1660.  Similarly, when Dan sang a version of the song known as The Foggy Dew (Roud 558) in England, he omitted this meaningless phrase, instead he used the term bugaboo, which was in the original song.  In its original form an apprentice seduces his master's daughter with the help of a friend disguised as a ghost (or bugaboo).  The poor girl jumps into the apprentice's bed to escape from the ghost and finds comfort in the young man's arms.  In England the term bugaboo somehow or other changed into the foggy dew, though in America the original term survived.

In 1999 I moved to the Scottish Borders, an area where I had previously visited on holiday with my parents.  I started recording a number of local, and not so local, Scottish singers including some excellent Traveller performers, including Stanley Robertson, Duncan Williamson and Sheila Stewart, who I had known for over thirty years.  Sheila's mother, Belle Stewart, had been an old friend as had the accordion player and singer Davy Stewart.  Some of these recordings appeared on my Kyloe label, named after a local range of hills, and I also managed to issue two very important CDs of historical recordings that had been made by Hamish Henderson of Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies.  I am not an academic and had never previously worked with an academic institution, although I did get to know, and admire, an American academic and collector called Dr Kenny Goldstein.  Kenny had collected and recorded folk material in the American South in the 1950's, a time when the Klu Klux Klan was still active.  He was a northerner and a Jew, things that would normally have really annoyed the Klan members, and he soon discovered that some of the people he was recording were Klan associates.  Luckily for Kenny, he was liked because of his knowledge of southern music and the Klan members began calling Kenny 'an honorary southerner'.  The members - clearly not the brightest! - had obviously never seen a Jew before and had no idea that the name Goldstein might be Jewish!

When I was collecting in the Thames Valley I would sometimes visit Rod and Danny Stradling at their then home in Cricklade.  In 2002 Rod issued a Musical Traditions CD of the Suffolk singer Cyril Poacher.  He included a fragment of the rare ballad Captain Ward and the Rainbow (Roud 224) that I had recorded from this singer.  This was to be the start of a musical partnership between myself and Rod which, over the years, produced a vast body of work.  There were fourteen CDs of material that I had recorded, a further four CDs which contained a track or two from my collection, and seven CDs that I had produced of material recorded by other people which helped to tell the story of certain types of American/British music.  Each CD came with a booklet of notes, in many cases extensive notes, which were also published separately as articles in the on-line Musical Traditions website.  I also wrote a number of other articles and if we add the CD articles to these, then there are now about fifty articles currently on-line.  At least one article, Cecil Sharp in America, has been used as course material by several Appalachian colleges for their Appalachian/folklore courses and I am pleased to say that the CD set Far in the Mountains has been one of Musical Traditions' best-sellers.

Throughout my folk song collecting career I had always been self-funding, apart from one occasion when I was awarded a grant from the EFDSS.  all of my collecting trips in England and Scotland were self-funded, while my American trips were also paid for out of my own savings.  Was it worth it?  Yes, of course it was.  To see the look on Johnny Doughty's face when I first showed him his LP was just indescribable, as was the look on Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander's face when she realized that I had travelled some three thousand miles to hear her sing.  Would I do it all again?  Of course, except that there now seem to be fewer 'source' singers around (I really hate the term 'informants' that some academics use) and I am now considerably older and less able to get about so easily.  Change is, of course, inevitable.  I now spend most of my time writing, collecting and studying art.  I have a special fascination with the American Abstract Expressionist painters as well as with European Studio Potters.  I am still a collector, but one who no longer collects folk songs.

Let me end with these lines from an old hymn that an Appalachian singer, Cas Wallin, once sang to me:

Time has made a change in the old home place;
Time has made a change in each smiling face,
And I know my friends can plainly see,
Time has made a change in me.

Mike Yates - 28.2.21


1.  Pearse, Susan M On Collecting: An Investigation into Collecting in the European Tradition.  Routledge.  London.  1999.
2.  Potter Jack Doherty, writing in Ceramic Review 275 (September/October), 2015.  p.56.
3.  Fraser, J Lynn.  Ceramic Review 269 (September/October), 2014.  p.26. 
4.  Gay, Peter.  Sigmund Freud and Art.  His Personal Collection of Antiquities.  Thames & Hudson, in association with State University of New York, and the Freud Museum, London.  1989.  p.21.
5.  Obrist, Hans Ulrich.  Ways of Curating.  Penguin Books, London, 2014, p.39.
6.  Jar City was first published in Iceland in 2000.  An English translation appeared in 2004.
7.  Grayllng, A C The Mystery of Things.  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.  2004.  p.27.
8.  A L Lloyd, who wrote the song notes to the songs, thought that 'The Watery Grave' was a version of Child Ballad # 24.  I disagree.
9.  Musical Traditions article 239, 'American Songs in the British Folk Repertoire'.  2000.
10.  David Hillery.  'Vernacular Songs from a Yorkshire Hill Farm: Culture, Contexts and Comparisons.' Doctoral Thesis.  International Centre for Music Studies University of Newcastle.  2005.
11.  Ibid.
12.  Musical Traditions on-line article 'Stand Up ye Men of Labour - the Socio-Political songs of Walter Pardon'.  Article 54, Mid 1983.
13.  I am indebted to members of the on-line 'Mudcat Café' website for this information.
14.  For the ballad 'The Cruel Grave' and preceding speech, see Michael Yates, Traveller's Joy - Songs of English and Scottish Travellers and Gypsies.  London.  English Folk Dance and Song Society.2006.  Book with accompanying song CD.
15.  Yates, Michael 'Far in the Mountains, volumes 1 to 5.  Some thoughts, comments and memories'.  Musical Traditions on-line article no.  281 (2013).
16.  See foot notes 9 and 10 above.

Article MT334

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