Gather round Mudcatters and interlopers all, for I bring tidings --- of success, I believe.
Regular readers will recall that I was given an address to write to. That name was Joan Horrocks, and I began to believe that she would be a relative of John Horrocks and could solve our mystery.
Then Joan e-mailed me to say that John Horrocks was definitely not the lyricist. However, she promised to contact the WMA archivist for info.
Now comes a 6-page e-mail from Laurie Bielby, Joan's partner. fascinating as it is (and it is) I won't take up space here. Anyone who wants to see all of it can e-mail me at www.barrieroberts.com. The main points are as follows:
1. John Jordan, archivist of WMA (he says it means that, 'all the WMA archives are in cardboard boxes tied up with string under MY bed instead of someone ele's') confirms that he has a copy of the song showing the composer as Arnold Clayton and the lyricist as B.Woolf;
2. Arnold Clayton wasa composer, dance band arranger and copyist who was involved with Unity Theatre from time to time and was in the MU Directory. This gels with what John Foreman recalls of him;
3. Barnet 'Doggie' Woolf was a scientist (later an animal geneticist) who provided lyrics for many Unity Theatre productions, sometimes under the pen-name of Arthur Pooley;
4. The song may have been created duwing WWII (but contains no bombing references?) but was more probably composed between 1945 and 1960. John Jordan's cvopy is undated, but he has a WMA songbook, published in 1949 which features the song;
5. Laurie speculates that the song may have appeared in a special show put on by Unity in 1946 for those involved in a 'mass squate'; by homeless families of empty Kensington flats. Unity was then performing 'Gold Is Where You Find It', music by Arnold Clayon, book & lyrics by Bill Owen (yes --- that Bill Owen of the long-running & still-running TV comedy 'Last of the Summer Wine'). Clayton would undoubtedly have worked such an appropriate song into a squatters' protest show;
6. How did it cross the Atlantic and appear in the People's Songbook? Probably via Pete Seeger, who was a Vice-President of WMA from the beginning and would have recieved copies of their songs;
7. The Weavers recorded it in the early 50s. Alfie bass and the 'Four Bailiffs' made a Topic single of it in 1955 (Topic TRC 87). Stan Kelly put it on 'Songs For Swinging Landlords to'.
There it is, folks. I fervently, hope, believe and pray that we have now got the pukka gen, but that's what you get when you set a former criminal lawyer and writer of thrillers on the trail!
All the best!