The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878 Message #4029677
Posted By: GUEST,Jon Dudley
22-Jan-20 - 04:48 PM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Well, this is all very interesting. As one who very occasionally puts his head above the parapet, and if you don’t mind me returning rather late to the observations being made of the ‘collecting’ of the Copper Family, might I offer a few thoughts?...
Much of what has been written is in a language unfamiliar to me, of ‘socio’ this and ‘postconstructionalist’ that, so I’ve spent more time flying to the OED than is necessarily good for me. However, I think I see at least some of the points being made. The background of the situation surrrounding Mrs Kate Lee’s collecting from the two Copper brothers James and Tom is documented in the family exactly as Vic and Brian have indicated , that is through the prompting of Jim Copper’s memory by Francis Collinson. Quite simply it was an event that had occurred some 50+ years previously, but had not been of continuing significance to the family. Naturally, once Frank had pointed out the fact, Bob was fascinated and asked his father what he knew. Bearing in mind the social niceties of that time (the late 1890’s), attitudes were very different. The Rottingdean ‘squirearchy’ was predominantly Quaker and therefore of a more liberal persuasion than might have been encountered elsewhere, nonetheless, it was most unusual for women to use the local pubs which would have precluded any such musical interviews there by Mrs (not ‘Lady’ by the way) Lee. Apparently Kate Lee, already a noted singer and musicologist, had asked staff at Sir Edward Carson’s house where she was staying on a seaside holiday, if they knew of anyone who might be able to sing her the type of songs in which she was interested. The two Copper brothers were recommended and invited to attend the house at a given time. It would have been normal for farm workers, tradesmen or indeed anyone of the ‘working class’ to attend the back rather than the front door - historic and social convention. We know that they didn’t go in their working clothes, and they wouldn’t have had a vast wardrobe, so they would have donned their Sunday’ suits, worn and old as they were. Again, as others have noted, Mrs Lee had already placed a bottle of whisky, a jug of water and two glasses on the kitchen table, for this was all conducted in the scullery. The intention was clear, to put them at their ease. Whilst they were not the type of men to be easily discomfited, this would not have been a normal situation, and something for which they would have been unprepared. Being asked to sing to order in itself was unusual, unless it was in the realms of the pub, a sheep fair, or even at work, when a ‘gives us Shepherd of The Downs’ might have been shouted out in a busy bar. To ‘perform’ was the unusual bit, and not only that but to sings songs repeatedly in order that Kate Lee could gather both words and tune. The process was fairly time consuming so it was conducted over the course of three evenings with a bottle of whisky placed on the table each time!
Kate Lee obtained the songs by the simple stratagem of saying ‘do you have a love song’ or ‘do you have a song of the plough’ ‘a sea song’ or whatever - she wrote this in her account of her visit to Rottingdean which appeared in the first journal of The Folk Song Society. Because of their relatively elevated positions in the farm labouring community the Copper brothers would have mixed with the ‘gentry’ and indeed have been consulted on agricultural and sporting (hunting) matters so they were not cowed or inexperienced in their dealings. To say that they would have been surprised at anyone being quite so interested in their songs would I think be closer to the truth, but it didn’t alter the course of their lives! Incidentally, family lore tells us that the brothers were made honorary founder members of the FSS whereas in fact we now believe that Kate Lee paid their subscriptions - no matter, they were recognised for their contribution.
Coming late to Vic’s comments re. ‘consummate performers’, he has it right when he uses the term ‘shambolic’ - it’s sincere though and done with love!