The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63902   Message #1042753
Posted By: GUEST,Lighter
27-Oct-03 - 03:03 PM
Thread Name: 'Patrick Spens' and 'Hughie Graeme'
Subject: RE: 'Patrick Spens' and 'Hughie Graeme'
MacColl recorded "Sir Patrick Spens" on Vol. 2 of "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads" (Riverside RLP-624), released in 1956. According to the notes by Kenneth Goldstein, the song came "from MacColl's father" (i.e., William Miller, of the town of Stirling).

MacColl sang the same version on "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Volume 1" (Folkways FG4509), released about 1962.

To me, the Folkways track remains one of the finest unaccompanied ballad performances on record. If MacColl, or his father, or somebody else, simply cobbled this version together, they did a fabulous job. The story is actually fuller and more dramatic than that told in Percy's often reprinted "classic" text. Unlike so many recent attempts to "rewrite" or "adapt" traditional ballads, MacColl's "Spens" does not strike one false note, IMO, in words or melody. Bronson gives text and tune as No. 58.11 in his collection.

MacColl recorded two versions of "Hughie Graeme." The first, now little known, appears on vol. 3 of the Riverside set (RLP-626). The text is Sir Walter Scott's, from "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,"
minus stanzas 10, 11, and 16. The tune, on the other hand, came "from
Thomas Armstrong of Newcastle." Bronson transcribes the tune as No. 191.6.

MacColl acknowledged that his other "Hughie" tune came from Mrs. Lyall, via Greig and Keith. The text is collated. He recorded this song at least three times: on "Classic Scots Ballads" (Tradition TLP 1015) and "Chorus from the Gallows" (Topic 12T16) (both 1959, the latter released in 1960, and on "English and Scottish Folk Ballads" (Topic 12T103) in 1964. (Peggy Seeger's American-style guitar accompaniment on the 1959 tracks is tasteful and unobtrusive, but can't hold a candle for "atmosphere" to Alf Edward's concertina in 1964.

As Malcolm observes, Bronson gives Mrs. Lyall's tune as 191.4. The DT's version, as indicated, comes from MacColl's songbook. When Daithi Sproule performed the song around 1980, he changed the politically distracting "Londonderry" in the refrain to "dandle derry." Later singers have done the same.

BTW, my wife says she instantly knew the meaning of "the old moon in the new moon's arms." It took me years to figure it out.