The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #104692   Message #4074722
Posted By: GUEST,Tony Bird, Northridge, California
08-Oct-20 - 06:47 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Widecombe Fair / Widdecombe Fair
Subject: RE: Origins: Widecombe Fair
I listened to this on a Burl Ives album back in the day, but it popped into my head recently and I thought I'd dig into it.

Seems to be based on the "Scarborough Fair" melody, but it adds its own remarkable lilt and the charm of the string of local names. There's no song quite like it, and I can see why it has had such appeal.

Thanks to Lucy from Devonshire for weighing in on this thread--she really grounds its history.

So, way over here in California, I googlemapped the place of origin and looked around. Isn't it wonderful to be able to do that? There's Widecombe, and I guess the fair keeps going strong. If you get the close-up images of St. Pancras Church, you can see the monument they made portraying the eight men with this poor gray mare!

You can also see that it's about a 20-mile ride to Widecombe from Sticklepath, where, according to Lucy, the locals may have asked Tom (Tam, being a rendering of "Tom", pronounced with a short "a") to borrow his horse. You wouldn't get to Widecombe without one in the early 1800s, when this song is thought to have been made.

But this is in the heart of Dartmoor National Park! Browse around that park and you will see the remnants of many stone circles, a la the more famous Stonehenge, way out on the wild, empty moors.

This seems to be a song about the disappearance of eight men and a horse. Could it be that this isn't a song about overloading a horse, but about riding through the wrong stone circle at the wrong time? It does have a spooky edge to it ...