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BROWNE, JOHN PADDY -(EDITOR) FOLK SONGS OF OLD HAMPSHIRE 1987 Milestone Press.  

 

Browne makes a sweeping, eclectic definition of traditional folk songs by including some modern verses by known composers along with the more anonymous ballads of yesteryear. He is indebted to George Balford Gardiner, who collected 1,500 such songs together between 1905 and 1911. The Battle Of Trafalgar summarises the battle in a few verses, paying immense tribute to the bravery of the English navy. Beware Chalk Pit is about Sir Pallet Saint John, who in 1733 rashly rode his horse at full gallop over a hedgerow without looking at the other side first. Horse and rider fell down a deep chalk pit. Remarkably, both survived unscathed, so song, and a monument, commemorates the event. The Bounty relates a relatively accurate if incomplete version of the events leading to the infamous mutiny. It tells how Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers were so taken by the Tahitian (actually Pitcairn Island) girls that they took over their ship in order to be able to stay with them. The song ends in bloodshed without showing that the captain, Bligh, and a few other senior officers survived the events. The Execution Of Frederick Baker tells of the trial and subsequent hanging of a man over the senseless murder of a child called Fanny Adams (hence the phrase Sweet Fanny Adams implying that there is no hope at all for success or even survival in some circumstances). By contrast to such dark despair, Gosport relates a scathing satire on the less desirable aspects of Gosport life. It relates the town’s abundance of medicinal plasters as a positive spin on how you can expect to be treated after being mugged in Gosport. Jack The Painter is a very grim piece about a real life dockyard arsonist who we are told rots in chains in death while the dockyard survives and flourishes despite his murderous efforts to destroy it. The Knife And Scissors Man is a much lighter work, simply celebrating the work of well-loved craftsmen who travelled round Hampshire sharpening knives and scissors for people. The Monmouth Rebel gives the story of a fictional supporter of the Monmouth Rebellion, who gets pardoned for his part in the doomed rising (against King James 2cd). However, the pardoned rebel’s fiancé is less fortunate, being condemned by Judge Jeffries (of the Bloody Assizes notoriety) when she is found guilty of hiding known rebels who were being treated as outlaws. She is sent for execution, leaving the live, free rebel alone and dejected in the World. The Outlandish Knight is a Bluebeard like fable in which an evil knight seduces women into stealing their family jewels and running off to sea with him. He later kills the women, drowning them and keeping the wealth to him. He has drowned seven women, but his eighth victim drowns him instead. The Owlsebury Lads is about the capture and harsh incarceration of some Luddite machine breakers condemned in 1813 (though the folk song mistakenly dates the event to 1830). It is a savage condemnation of the prison system of the day. The Ship In Distress tells of near maritime cannibalism. A group of adventurers steal a boat, but get lost at sea, and argue about who should eat who. Fortunately, they are rescued just in time. The leader is hanged for his part in the piracy. Another humorous song is Three Drunken Maids  (though there are four in the song), which is just about inebriated ladies having fun. A very entertaining and diverse collection, mixing tragedy and hilarity in near equal measure. http://homepages.rya-online.net/mikebailey/harvest_programme.htm

 

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