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PREFACE.


THE lover of old songs need not be versed in the dialect of the locality whence they originate in order to appreciate their flavour.  Any of the songs in this book may be sung from the proper English versions of the words printed under the music.  But the dialect unlocks the key to the heart of the native.  In these days of travel there are exiles from home everywhere.  I have sung one or two of these songs in wood and camp in America, and have watched Cumbrian eyes glistening as youthful days were recalled.  And a few days since, I walked over a Yorkshire moor with a well-known doctor of music and talked earnestly of masterpieces of music, but the "song that reached his heart," one that he had not heard for fifty years, was "Come whoam to thi childer an' me;" it was still fresh in his memory, and he sang it with the energy that he possessed when he first heard it in Lancashire.  We yearn nowadays for the simple life, and if we cannot have it in the large cities where most of us live, we at least have the pleasures of memory if we store up songs and visions of rustic simplicity.  Whenever I hear "Sally Gray" or "John Peel" the picture is clear before me of the Cumberland homes where I heard them, and the singers who first sang them in my hearing.  "Dalston parish," where Sally lived, and "Caldbeck churchyard," where Peel lies, are places that I have visited in the spirit of the pilgrim.  These pretty spots endear these lovely songs, and the songs justify the pilgrimage.  In the same mood, I have walked the eleven miles from Shap to the inn at Mardale, not on the great day of the year, but to see the place where the shepherds sing the old songs and "like them best pure," i.e., without accompaniment.  I will describe the "meet."

    To all appearances Mardale consists of a church, an inn, and a dwelling-house, nestling in the shelter of several giant hills, including Harter-fell, High Street, Branstree, and Riggindale.  On the Saturday nearest the l0th of November of each year (I was told by Miss Mary Wilson) shepherds from the outlying districts come to Mardale, bringing with them sheep that have strayed into their flocks on the fells during the past year.  Each shepherd, of course, has some particular mark on his own sheep by which he knows them.  All the shepherds meet at the "Dun Bull," where the sheep are exchanged and given back to their rightful owners.  It generally happens that Joe Bowman, the huntsman, and his famous foxhounds come over from Patterdale for a hunt the same week end.  There is also a hound trail arranged.  After a day's thorough sport, huntsmen, shepherds, visitors, sheep-dogs, and terriers (hounds are not admitted) all turn into the "Dun Bull" for a hearty meal.  In the evening a smoking-concert is held in the dining-room.  A long table on trestles stands in the middle of the room, and around it sit all those who have gathered during the day.  A chairman is appointed, and sits at the head of the table, whilst under the table are sheep-dogs and terriers galore.  Toasts are proposed in the usual way; then the chairman calls for a song, and if there is a chorus so much the better.  Everybody is supposed to sing at least one song.  The chairman sends the hat round, and a collection is made for the next lot of drinks; the chairman pays all.  Sometimes, if a song has a good swing, the men get particularly enthusiastic.  The shepherds beat on the table with their sticks, and the sheep-dogs and terriers join the chorus with enthusiasm or execration, no man knows which.

    In several cases (those marked *) the tunes are taken from a very fine MS. collection purchased in 1910 by J. Curwen and Sons Ltd. from the grand-daughter of Moses Hale, who died in 1875, aged 101 years, and the versions of the airs here used are therefore those which were current in the latter part of the eighteenth century.  In his boyhood Moses Hale was apprenticed for seven years at Bath to the profession of the violin.  He was by many considered to be the best player in the district.  Certainly he had an excellent habit when he noted down every tune that he heard for the first time, and preserved it in the books already referred to.  The sources of the tunes noted down by me in Lancashire and Cumberland are given at the head of the music in each case.  I ask singers who are tired of singing the surfeit of songs written about flowers that grow in the garden of the heart to give these sincerer old songs a chance of a hearing.  The best reward for my pains is to find that they are appreciated.

J. GRAHAM.


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Ed.—the following collection is a miscellany of songs, some being to words by, among others, Waugh, Laycock and Brierley. Each is available to download in .pdf format.  To download, click on the page number.



INDEX.

 

PAGE

*BASHFUL WOOER, THE

16.

BOLTON'S YARD

4.

CARLISLE FAIR

24.

COME HOME TO YOUR CHILDREN AND ME

2.

*I'LL NOT HAVE HIM

10.

JOHN PEEL

22.

*KING ROGER

20.

*KISS BENEATH THE HOLLY, THE

28.

MY OLD WIFE

1.

RUSHBEARING, THE

26.

SALLY GRAY

14.

*SING HO ! FOR OUR LADS

18.

SONG OF THE SOUL-CAKERS

12.

*THREE JOLLY HUNTERS

6.

*WEAVER OF WELLBROOK, THE

8.


* Old tunes from MSS.

 


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