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Lyr Req: Old Clem

richardw 02 Feb 01 - 08:25 PM
Sorcha 03 Feb 01 - 10:35 PM
richardw 04 Feb 01 - 11:12 AM
GUEST 22 Oct 01 - 08:48 PM
GUEST,Mikeof Northumbria 23 Oct 01 - 10:43 AM
Greyeyes 23 Oct 01 - 11:26 AM
MMario 24 Oct 01 - 11:15 AM
Jim Dixon 13 Jan 12 - 12:48 AM
Jim Dixon 13 Jan 12 - 01:47 AM
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Subject: Old Clem
From: richardw
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 08:25 PM

Has anyone ever found the source or the real song refered to in Charles Dickin's Great Expectations, the blacksmith's song Old Clem.

"There was a song Joe used to hum fragments of at the forge, of which the burden was Old Clem. This was not a very ceremonious way of rendering homage to a patron saint; but, I believe Old Clem stood in that relation towards smiths. It was a song that imitated the measure of beating upon iron, and was a mere lyrical excuse for the introduction of Old Clem's respected name. Thus, you were to hammer boys round - Old Clem! With a thump and a sound - Old Clem! Beat it out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout - Old Clem! Blow the fire, blow the fire - Old Clem! Roaring dryer, soaring higher - Old Clem!"

The endnotes of the Penguin edition (Angus Calder, editor) go on to say of the song: "The smiths' chorus to their patron saint, St Clement. The blacksmiths of Chatham dockyard used to march to it on their annual festival (23 November - St Clements Day). Dickens heard it as a boy, and could very well have renewed aquaintance with it as a man." Anyone have ideas?

Richard Wright

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: Sorcha
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 10:35 PM

By the Power of MudCat I command thee:


(I couldn't find it, anybody else?)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: richardw
Date: 04 Feb 01 - 11:12 AM

Thanks Sorcha; I've searched everywhere I can think of but no luck. Don't tell me Mudcat draws a blank?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 08:48 PM


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: GUEST,Mikeof Northumbria
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 10:43 AM

I think there may be something about traditions associated with St Clement's day in Ronald Hutton's book "The Stations of the Sun: a History of the Ritual Year in England" (which is a very good read, by the way).

I'll check it out and report back tomorrow, if there are any references to songs.

Meanwhile, can someone enlighten me - why am I having to post as a guest all of a sudden? - Did someone just steal my cookie?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: Greyeyes
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 11:26 AM

This site contains the following information:

"Throughout the novel there are numerous references to the song "Old Clem." The first one occurs when Pip is pushing Miss Havisham around her room and she asks him to sing a song. Pip states, "It was a song that imitated the measure of beating upon iron" (104; ch. 12). The song comes from the blacksmith's patron Saint Clement. He is said to have an anvil as an emblem and was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea (Webber 28). Blacksmiths took a holiday on November 23rd, The Day of Saint Clement. It was often celebrated with loud explosions of gunpowder on anvils. A senior apprentice dressed in a cloak and mask to represent Old Clem and was carried in a procession that would move around town and stopped at all the taverns along the way. At all their stops the blacksmiths told the brief history of Old Clem and then passed a box around for donations. The money paid for the apprentices' supper. The story of Saint Clement has numerous origins, but all are relatively the same. King Alfred, who wished to build a palace, called all the craftsmen and announced that the man doing the best work would be proclaimed "Father of all craftsmen." As the palace was finished, the King held a banquet and all the craftsmen were to attend, each bringing a specimen of his work and the tools he used. All the laborers did such a good job that in order to avoid jealousy King Alfred gave the title to his tailor, who had made a coat of "surpassing beauty of colour and exquisite fashion." The blacksmith was terribly upset and did not return to his forge after the banquet. Because of this the mason and carpenter could not get new tools, and the warriors could not get new armor or weapons. King Alfred and all the craftsmen broke into the smithy and tried to do the work themselves, only to fail. St. Clement walked in and witnessed all the confusion and disaster in his forge and seemed to enjoy it. The frustrated king bowed to St. Clement and apologized and then held another banquet in his honor. This upset the tailor and during the banquet he crept under the table and snipped the apron of St. Clement, and to this day blacksmiths often have fringe on the bottom of their aprons, paying homage to Old Clem."

I am still looking for information regarding the provenance of the song, but I'm fairly sure there's nothing on the Net. Hard copy sources take a bit longer to access but watch this space.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: MMario
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 11:15 AM

mike - try going to the "reset your cookie" link in the "quicklinks" box above.

I ran across a recent takeoff on the St. Clement story called "The Smith is the king of all trades" - basically telling the same story with a slightly different setting.

Anyone have more of the lyrics then those quoted in "Great Expectations"?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Clem
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 12:48 AM

From The Every-Day Book: Or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements..., Vol. 1 by William Hone (London: William Hone, 1826), page 1501:

November 23....

St. Clement, at Woolwich.

R. R. obligingly communicates with his name, the following account of an annual ceremony on the evening of St. Clement's day, by the blacksmiths' apprentices of the dockyard there.

(For the Every-Day Book.)

One of the senior apprentices being chosen to serve as old Clem, (so called by them,) is attired in a great coat, having his head covered with an oakham wig, face masked, and a long white beard flowing therefrom; thus attired, he seats himself in a large wooden chair, chiefly covered with a sort of stuff called buntin, with a crown and anchor, made of wood, on the top, and around it, four transparencies, representing "the blacksmiths' arms," "anchor smiths at work," "Britannia with her anchor," and "Mount Etna." He has before him a wooden anvil, and in his hands a pair of tongs and wooden hammer which, in general, he makes good use of whilst reciting his speech. A mate, also masked, attends him with a wooden sledge-hammer; he is also surrounded by a number of other attendants, some of whom carry torches, banners, flags, &c.; others battle-axes, tomahawkes, and other accoutrements of war. This procession, headed by a drum and fife, and six men with old Clem mounted on their shoulders, proceed round the town, stopping and refreshing at nearly every public house, (which, by the by, are pretty numerous,) not forgetting to call on the blacksmiths and officers of the dockyard: there the money-box is pretty freely handed, after old Clem and his mate have recited their speeches, which commence by the mate calling for order, with

"Gentlemen all, attention give,
And wish St. Clem, long, long to live."

Old Clem then recites the following speech:—

"I am the real St Clement, the first founder of brass, iron, and steel, from the ore. I have been to Mount Etna, where the god Vulcan first built his forge, and forged the armour and thunderbolts for the god Jupiter. I have been through the deserts of Arabia; through Asia, Africa, and America; through the city of Pongrove; through the town of Tipmingo; and all the northern parts of Scotland. I arrived in London on the twenty-third of November, and came down to his majesty's dockyard, at Woolwich, to see how all the gentlemen Vulcans came on there. I found them all hard at work, and wish to leave them well on the twenty-fourth."

The mate then subjoins:—

"Come all you Vulcans stout and strong,
Unto St. Clem we do belong,
I know this house is well prepared
With plenty of money and good strong beer.
And we must drink before we part,
All for to cheer each merry heart.
Come all you Vulcans, strong and stout,
Unto St. Clem I pray turn out;
For now St. Clem's going round the town.
His coach and six goes merrily round.

After having gone round the town and collected a pretty decent sum, they retire to some public house, where they enjoy as good a supper as the money collected will allow. R. R.

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From: Jim Dixon
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 01:47 AM

From an article "Sussex Songs and Music" by F. E. Sawyer, Esq., F.S.A., in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Volume 42 (London: British Archaeological Association, 1886), page 313:

We now arrive at songs connected with popular customs. St. Clement, as everybody knows, is the patron Saint of blacksmiths, and in Sussex his day (October 23) is regularly observed in old fashioned style by them, in firing their anvils, and dressing up a figure of "Old Clem" with a beard and pipe. A curious legend on the subject was written down by Edmund Young, Esq., M.R.C.S., of Steyning, from the lips of a Sussex blacksmith, then in a deep decline. It runs as follows:—
"On the 17th March, A.D. 871, when good King Alfred ruled this land, he called together all the trades (seven in number), and declared his intention of making that tradesman king over all the trades who could best get on without the help of all the others for the longest period. He proclaimed a banquet, to which he invited a representative from each trade, and made it a condition that each should bring a specimen of his work, with the tools he used in working it. 1st, the blacksmith brought his hammer and a horseshoe; 2nd, the tailor brought his shears and a new coat; 3rd, the baker, his peel and a loaf; 4th, the shoemaker, his awl and a new pair of shoes; 5th, the carpenter brought his saw and a deal trunk; 6th, the butcher, his chopper and a joint; 7th, the mason, his chisels and a corner-stone.

"Now the tailor's coat was of such surpassing beauty of colour and exquisite fashion, that all the guests with one consent declared it a marvel of workmanship, and entirely eclipsing the handicraft of all the others. Upon which the horseshoe, bread, shoes, trunk, meat, and corner-stone were all thrown on one side as unfit for competition. Upon this the tailor was unanimously pronounced by the good King and the general company the fittest to be king of the trades, and was duly installed. This decision made the blacksmith very jealous and angry, and he declared that he would do no more work whilst the tailor was king; so he shut up his forge, and 'sloped' no one knew whither.

"Now it came to pass that King Alfred was the first to need the services of the blacksmith, his horse having cast a shoe; but he could gain no admittance. Then came one trade, then another; in fact, all the six, each having broken his tools, thereby preventing him from carrying on his business until he could get them mended. The last of the six who came to grief was the tailor, who had broken his shears, and was compelled to stop working. This all happened on the 23rd November (St. Clement's Day) in the same year.

"Now King Alfred and all the trades determined to break open the forge, and do the work themselves. So the King began to shoe his horse, the tailor began to mend his shears, and each trade in succession essayed to repair his tools, but all failed. The horse kicked the King, the tailor bruised his fingers, the fire would not burn, and everybody got into everybody's way. The butcher began to shove the baker, he shoved the shoemaker, who in his turn shoved the carpenter, and the latter revenged himself by shoving the mason, who passed the compliment on to the tailor, until in the general confusion the anvil was knocked over, and exploded. At this juncture in walked St. Clement with the blacksmith on his arm, the latter looking very angry at the wreck of his once tidy forge. St. Clement said nothing, but seemed to enjoy the discomfiture of the King and company.

"At length the King, making a humble bow to St. Clement and the blacksmith, said: 'I have made a great mistake in allowing my judgment in this important matter to be governed by the gaudy colour and stylish cut of the tailor's coat; and in justice to the blacksmith, without whom none of us can do, proclaim him king.'

"Immediately all the trades, except the tailor (deposed), begged the blacksmith to mend their tools So he shod the King's horse, and obligingly mended the tools of all who asked; but he made and presented to the tailor a new pair of shears. This presentation took place at a feast given by the King to celebrate the event, who, in a neat speech, admitted having been taken in by the tailor's beautiful coat, but now felt the greatest pleasure in announcing that for all time the blacksmith should be regarded as the king of all the trades. 'So let us all drink good health and long life to the jolly blacksmith.'

"The King then proposed that, to restore the harmony, each should sing a song, and called upon the blacksmith to make a beginning, who sang the following:—

"Here's a health to the jolly Blacksmith, the best of all fellows,
Who works at his anvil while the boy blows the bellows,
For it makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall,
Says the Old Cole to the Young Cole, and the Old Cole of all.

CHORUS: Twankie dillo, twankie dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo,
With a roaring pair of bagpipes made of the green willow.

"If a gentleman calls, his horse for to shoe,
He makes no denial to one pot or two;
For it makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall,
Says the Old Cole to the Young Cole and the Old Cole of all.

Chorus.—Twankie dillo, etc

"Here's a health to the pretty girl, the one he loves best;
She kindles a fire all in his own breast,
Which makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall.
Says the Old Cole to the Young Cole and to the Old Cole of all.

Chorus.—Twankie dillo, etc

"Here's a health to King George and likewise his Queen,
And all the Royal Family wherever they're seen;
Which maker his bright hammer to rise and to fall,
Says the Old Cole to the Young Cole and to the Old Cole of all.

Chorus—Twankie dillo, etc."
The spirited music, which is traditional, and does not occur in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, was kindly written down by Mr. Samuel Willett of Cuckfield, Sussex, and is confirmed by several Sussex people.
"Whilst this song was being sung, the tailor crawled under the table, and slit up the blacksmith's leather apron, with his new shears, into a regular fringe; and from that day no blacksmith ever wears an apron which is not so ornamented or mutilated."
The following notes on the modern observance of the day are furnished by Mr. Thompson:—
"A supper takes place on the 23rd Nov. annually. I have made inquiries of the oldest smith in my shop. From him I gather that it is customary in some places to personate 'Old Clem.', particularly in the Government dockyards. In many private establishments it has also been the custom for the master to give the smiths a 'way-goose'; that is, a leg of pork with the bone drawn, and the pork stuffed with sage and onions, and roasted. This has been the custom in Bristol, Liverpool, and even in Brighton. In all cases it is usual for the oldest blacksmith to take the chair, and the youngest the vice-chair. The first toast is:—
'Here's to old Vulcan, as bold as a lion,
A large shop and no iron,
A big hearth and no coal,
And a large pair of bellowses full of holes.'
Then follows the song, 'Here's to the Jolly Blacksmith.' The next toast is:—
'True hearts and sound bottoms.
Checked shirts and leather aprons.'
This is followed by a song:—
'Tubal Cain, our ancient father.
Sought the earth for iron and ore.
More precious than the glittering gold,
Be it ever so great a store.'
The Chairman, rising, says, 'Gentlemen, I invite you to drink with me the toast of the evening, To the memory of Old Clem., and prosperity to all his descendants.'"

[The book contains musical notation for OLD CLEM, THE JOLLY BLACKSMITH. Note that the words, at least, are very similar to TWANKY DILLO in the DT.]

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