Category Archives: Music

Smile In Your Sleep – song about Scottish Highland Clearances

Ewan McLennan just suggested this song ‘Smile In Your Sleep‘ to me, written by Jim McLean about the Highland Clearances.

Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby

Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken

We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin

Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean

No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby

Ewan MacColl – Bring The Summer Home – 1381 The Great Revolt

Peggy Seeger also sent over this track called ‘Bring The Summer Home’ from Ewan MacColl’s 1998 reissue compilation album Antiquities.

It is about the Peasants’ Revolt (or the Great Revolt as it should be know!), the 100 Year War with France, the first attempt at an English Poll Tax and the Black Death.

Someone on the Mudcat forums has a bash at working out the lyrics here – http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=141748.

You can hear it online via this youtube mix tape…

The Bold Poachers (The Oakham Poachers)

Peggy Seeger just pointed us at this old poaching ballad called The Bold Poachers or The Oakham Poachers.

If you look at this page you can see how most versions have a poacher killing a keeper but in one, the keepers kill one of the poachers… https://mainlynorfolk.info/martin.carthy/songs/theboldpoachers.html

Digging into Roy Palmer’s Ballad History Of England, the first poaching song I come across again had the keepers killing a poacher… Which makes one wonder which is the ‘correct’ version of the The Bold Poachers or The Oakham Poachers!

A place called England – Maggie Holland

I was lucky enough to hear The Young’Uns open with ‘A Place Called England’ at a gig in Bristol last night. Here’s the original version by Maggie Holland – it won the award for Best Song at the BBC Folk Awards 1999. It’s all about gardens and English soil and has a nice reference to the diggers!

I rode out on a bright May morning like a hero in a song,
Looking for a place called England, trying to find where I belong.
Couldn’t find the old flood meadow or the house that I once knew;
No trace of the little river or the garden where I grew.

I saw town and I saw country, motorway and sink estate;
Rich man in his rolling acres, poor man still outside the gate;
Retail park and burger kingdom, prairie field and factory farm,
Run by men who think that England’s only a place to park their car.

But as the train pulled from the station through the wastelands of despair
From the corner of my eye a brightness filled the filthy air.
Someone’s grown a patch of sunflowers though the soil is sooty black,
Marigolds and a few tomatoes right beside the railway track.

Down behind the terraced houses, in between the concrete towers,
Compost heaps and scarlet runners, secret gardens full of flowers.
Meeta grows her scented roses right beneath the big jets’ path.
Bid a fortune for her garden—Eileen turns away and laughs.

So rise up, George, and wake up, Arthur, time to rouse out from your sleep.
Deck the horse with sea-green ribbons, drag the old sword from the deep.
Hold the line for Dave and Daniel as they tunnel through the clay,
While the oak in all its glory soaks up sun for one more day.

Come all you at home with freedom whatever the land that gave you birth,
There’s room for you both root and branch as long as you love the English earth.
Room for vole and room for orchid, room for all to grow and thrive;
Just less room for the fat landowner on his arse in his four-wheel drive.

For England is not flag or Empire, it is not money, it is not blood.
It’s limestone gorge and granite fell, it’s Wealden clay and Severn mud,
It’s blackbird singing from the May tree, lark ascending through the scales,
Robin watching from your spade and English earth beneath your nails.

So here’s two cheers for a place called England, sore abused but not yet dead;
A Mr Harding sort of England hanging in there by a thread.
Here’s two cheers for the crazy diggers, now their hour shall come around;
We shall plant the seed they saved us, common wealth and common ground.

Tony Benn and Roy Bailey’s show ‘The Writing on the Wall’

roy and tony

Tony Benn and Roy Bailey used to tour a show called ‘The Writing on the Wall’ which has much overlap with the spirit, content and format of ‘Three Acres And A Cow’.

There is a newspaper review of one of the shows here and it can be found on iTunes, Spotify and many other virtual and real places… You might be able to stream it from the player below if you are lucky!

More info on Roy Bailey’s website but he has sold out of cds! http://roybailey.net/shop/items/writing-on-the-wall


thewritingonthewall_cfcd405

Hey Ho, Cook and Rowe by Peggy Seeger

This song by Peggy Seeger is about the St Pancras rent strikes in 1960

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE! (Or The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
In 1960, the local council of the Borough of St. Pancras raised the rents of municipal flats.    Many working people found it difficult to meet the increased financial burden imposed upon them by these rents and, under the leadership of two “desert rats”   (Don Cook and Arthur Rowe), they organized a rent-strike which in a matter of two or three weeks became a national topic of conversation. The council’s bailiffs were sent in but were repelled after a preliminary skirmish and from that time on the rent strike took on the character of a military siege.

The tenants barricaded the buildings with barbed wire, old pianos and junk of all kinds, and from sympathisers the country over came a constant supply of canned food. The television coverage provided Britain with one of its most popular daily shows. An army of the police finally battoned their way through demonstrators to find that their only possible point of entry was through the roof. A group of intrepid police officers effected an entry and were greeted with the offer of a cup of tea from the strikers’ general staff.

See also http://www.ccradio.org/programmes/StPancrasRentStrike.html
http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/2010/oct/feature-st-pancras-rent-strike-1960-50-years
http://www.andrewwhitehead.net/nw5-and-around.html (at the bottom of the page)

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
(or: The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
Words and Music by Peggy Seeger

As true a story I’ll relate
(With a) HEY HOI COOK AND ROWE!
How the landlord told Don Cook one night,
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
You must answer questions nine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
To see if your flat is yours or mine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!

CHORUS:
Hey, ho, tell them no
With a barb-wire fence and a piano,
Took a thousand cops to make them go,
Three cheers for Cook and Rowe!

What is higher than a tree? (With a, etc.)
And what is lower than a flea?
My rent is higher than a tree,
And the landlord’s lower than a flea.
(CHORUS)

What goes on and never stops?
And what is gentler than a cop?
The tenants’ fight will never stop
And the devil is gentler than a cop.
(CHORUS)

What is stronger than a door?
And tell me what a roof is for?
Barb-wire is stronger, here’s your proof,
The bailiffs came in through the roof.
(CHORUS)
Will you get off my property?
Or will you pay the rent to me?
We’ve settled in as you can see,
Now, won’t you stop for a cup of tea?
(CHORUS)

O, now I’ve lost my board and bed,
I’ll barricade the streets instead.
So all you tenants, settle in,
Keep up the fight, you’re bound to win.
(CHORUS)

Manchester Rambler by Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl was on the first Kinder Scout trespass and wrote this amazingly catchy tune inspired by the experience.

From http://www.kindertrespass.com/

In April 1932 over 400 people participated in a mass trespass onto Kinder Scout, a bleak moorland plateau, the highest terrain in the Peak District.

The event was organised by the Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation. They chose to notify the local press in advance, and as a result, Derbyshire Constabulary turned out in force. A smaller group of ramblers from Sheffield set off from Edale and met up with the main party on the Kinder edge path.

Five men from Manchester, including the leader, Benny Rothman, were subsequently jailed.

75 years later the trespass was described as: “the most successful direct action in British history” by Lord Roy Hattersley.

April 2012 saw the 80th Anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout celebrated by a week of walks, talks, and exhibitions, with a launch ceremony featuring Mike Harding, Stuart Maconie, and the leaders of major agencies involved in access to countryside. A new book was published, and commemorative posters are on sale.

The trespass is widely credited with leading to:

  • legislation in 1949 to establish the National Parks.
  • contributing to the development of the Pennine Way and many other long distance footpath.
  • securing walkers’ rights over open country and common land in the C.R.O.W. Act of 2000.

The trespass was controversial at the time, being seen as a working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands for grouse shooting.

Song On The Times

A song from 1840s

You can see an original copy of it here – http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/static/images/sheets/20000/18540.gif

You working men of England, one moment now attend
While I unfold the treatment of the poor upon this land
For nowadays the factory lords have brought the labor low
And daily are contriving plans to prove our overthrow

So arouse you sons of freedom, the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

There’s different parts in Ireland, it’s true what I do state
There’s hundreds that are starving for they can’t get food to eat
And if they go unto the rich to ask them for relief
They bang their door all in their face as if they were a thief

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

Alas how altered are the times, rich men despise the poor
And pay them off without remorse quite scornful at their door
And if a man is out of work, his Parish pay is small
Enough to starve himself and wife, his children and all

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

So to conclude and finish these few verses I have made
I hope to see before it’s long men for their labor paid
Then we’ll rejoice with heart and voice and banish all our woes
Before we do old England must pay us what she owes

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

Three Acres And A Cow – unattributed broadside from late 1800’s

Three Acres And A Cow – unattributed broadside from late 1800’s

IMG_1101

**Please note I have changed some of the lyrics and a bit of the melody – this is fine and you are welcome to change them too – that is how music works #notsacred**

You’ve heard a lot of talk about three acres and a cow
And if they mean to give us why don’t they give it now?
For if I do not get it I may go out of my mind
There’s nothing but the land and cow will keep me satisfied

Don’t you wish you had it now, three acres and a cow!
Oh you can make good cheese and butter when you get the cow.

There’s a certain class in England that is holding fortune great
Yet they give a man a starving wage to work on their estate
The land’s been stolen from the poor and those that hold it now
They do not want to give a man three acres and a cow

D’y’ think they’ll ever want to give three acres and a cow
When they can get a man to take low wage to drive the plough
To live a man he has to work from daylight until dark
So the lord can have both bulls and cattle grazing in his park

But now there is a pretty go in all the country though
The workers they all want to know what the government will do
And what we have been looking for, I wish they’d give us now
We’re sure to live if they only give three acres and a cow

If all the land in England was divided up quite fair
There would be some for everyone to earn an honest share
Well some have thousand acre farms which they have got somehow
But I’ll be satisfied to get three acres and a cow

Lyrics in the public domain
Scan taken from ‘The Painful Plough
‘ by Roy Palmer and reprinted with permission.

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611 – The Fens – Trad

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611

Come, Brethren of the water and let us all assemble
To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble;
For we shall rue, if it be true, that the Fens be undertaken,
And where we feed in Fen and Reed, they’ll feed both Beef and Bacon.

They’ll sow both beans and oats where never man yet thought it,
Where men did row in boat, ere the undertakers bought it:
But, Ceres, thou behold us now, let wild oats be their venture,
Oh let the frogs and miry bogs destroy where they do enter.

Behold the great design, which they do now determine,
Will make our bodies pine, a prey to crows and vermine:
For they do mean all Fens to drain, and waters overmaster,
All will be dry, and we must die, ’cause Essex calves want pasture.

Away with boats and rudder, farewell both boots and skatches,
No need of one nor th’other, men now make better matches;
Stilt-makers all and tanners shall complain of this distaster;
For they will make each muddy lake for Essex calves a pasture.

The feather’d fowls have wings, to fly to other nations;
But we have no such things, to aid our transportations;
We must give place (oh grievous case) to horned beasts and cattle,
Except that we can all agree to drive them out by battle.

Wherefore let us intreat our ancient water nurses,
To shew their power so great as t’ help to drain their purses;
And send us good old Captain Flood to lead us out to battle,
Then two-penny Jack, with skales on’s back, will drive out all the cattle.

This noble Captain yet was never know to fail us,
But did the conquest get of all that did assail us;
His furious rage none could assuage; but, to the world’s great wonder,
He bears down banks, and breaks their cranks and whirlygigs asunder.

God Eolus, we do pray, that thou wilt not be wanting,
Thou never said’st us nay, now listen to our canting:
Do thou deride their hope and pride, that purpose our confusion;
And send a blast, that they in haste may work no good conclusion.

Great Neptune (God of seas), this work must needs provoke thee;
They mean thee to disease, and with Fen water choke thee:
But, with thy mace, do thou deface, and quite confound this matter;
And send thy sands, to make dry lands, when they shall want fresh water.

And eke we pray thee Moon, that thou wilt be propitious,
To see that nought be done to prosper the malicious;
Though summer’s heat hath wrought a feat, whereby themselves they flatter,
Yet be so good as send a flood, lest Essex calves want water.

Song about enclosure of land in the Fens from 1611. Lyrics in the
public domain – taken from ‘A Ballad History Of England’ by Roy Palmer.

“Of Rente Raysers” by Robert Crowley 1550

Today’s discovery, some lovely words from 1550…

“Of Rente Raysers” by Robert Crowley

————————Original

A Manne that had landes of tenne pounde by yere,
Surueyed the same and lette it out deare;

So that of tenne pounde he made well a score (20)
Moe poundes by the yere than other dyd before.

But when he was told whan daunger it was
to oppresse his tenauntes, he sayed he did not passe.

For thys thynge, he sayde, full certayne he wyste,
That wyth hys owne he myghte alwayes do as he lyste.

But immediatlye, I trowe thys oppressoure fyl sicke
Of a voyce that he harde, “geue accountes of thy baliwicke!”

———————–my adaptation

A man that had lands worth ten pound each year,
Surveyed the same and then let it out dear;

So that of ten pound he made well a score (20)
More pounds by the year than all others before.

But when he was told what danger it was
To oppress his tenants, he said I don’t pause,

For this thing, he said, full certain he wist,
That with his own, he might do as he list.

But immediately, I trow, this oppressor fell sick:
Of a voice that he heard, ‘Give accounts of thy bailiwick!’

John Ball by Sydney Carter

 

I am utterly in love with this song about John Ball, one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.

I first heard it via Chris Wood and soon worked out a version of my own. Dolly May came up with some lovely harmonies and then one cheeky Sunday we ended up recording the song with the brilliant Nick Hart on concertina.

The melody is a traditional Northumberland tune, with lyrics written on the 300th anniversary in 1981 by Camden-based folk-singer Sydney Carter who died in 2004. He is best known for penning ‘Lord Of The Dance’ and most of the other songs I used to sing in Sunday School.

Tolpuddle Man by Graham Moore

Graham Moore has written a number of brilliant songs about historical figures and events including one about Tom Paine and this one about the Tolpuddle Martyrs who got on the wrong side of the establishment for starting a workers’ union in the 1830’s.

His album is really good and can be bought from the usual suspects – iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.

He seems to be without website at the moment and I need to check to see if he minds me posting some lyrics up here.

In the meantime have a listen to this –

I set my friend Tim Graham the challenge of learning one of Graham’s songs about the Tolpuddle Martyrs called ‘Road To Dorchester’ and this is what he came up with: