The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56447   Message #1514325
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
03-Jul-05 - 12:19 AM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Captain Ward
Subject: RE: DTStudy: Captain Ward
I didn't spot poor old Cyril Poacher on the end there! He was the real thing alright, from the Blaxhall (Suffolk) tradition.

Re the set in Roy Palmer's Bushes and Briars. You need to refer also to the previous note (no 53, The Captain's Apprentice) to see that the singer was James Carter, a fisherman of North End, King's Lynn, Norfolk. The John Bayley referred to, also of King's Lynn, sang another version of the song for Vaughan Williams. So far as I know, that set has never been published; indeed, it isn't mentioned at all in Michael Kennedy's Index of Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, so it would be necessary to look at the MS books to see if it was even noted.

Palmer quotes Carter's text as printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, II (8) 1906, 163-4; although no comment on provenance is made in the Journal, a note in Vaughan Williams' Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (where the text is printed with only 5 verses and a few slight changes of wording) to the effect that "The above words have been completed partly from a Sussex version (sung to another tune) and partly from a printed copy" implies that RVW, as so often, got only part of the song on that occasion and re-constructed the rest later. He did get a set from Peter and Harriet Verrall (Horsham, Sussex), so perhaps that was part of it. I think that, too, is unpublished, so again the MSS may provide the only answer.

If we're looking at the history of a song and considering what it meant to the people who sang it as part of their lives, then re-interpretations by today's professional performers don't really enter the equation; we need to be looking at the forms of the song that were actually found by the folk song collectors (insofar as that is possible; see my comments above) and at other "fixed" forms such as broadside editions.

The further changes introduced by modern recording artists are liable tell us nothing about the songs (and often, as past discussions here have demonstrated, can lead to great confusion), though as I've said, they may offer a linked (but distinct) area for study in their own right. It's important to make that distinction, though, so that everybody knows what is being talked about. Of the arrangements of the "Norfolk" set quoted above, it's unsurprising that Peter Bellamy's shows the most departure from the published text; he was a very individual stylist.