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Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets

GUEST, Paul Slade 07 Sep 14 - 09:18 AM
Steve Gardham 07 Sep 14 - 01:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Sep 14 - 01:27 PM
Jack Campin 08 Sep 14 - 04:59 AM
GUEST, Paul Slade 08 Sep 14 - 06:26 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Sep 14 - 06:48 AM
Jack Campin 08 Sep 14 - 07:08 AM
GUEST, Paul Slade 09 Sep 14 - 03:56 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Sep 14 - 04:21 AM
GUEST, Paul Slade 16 Sep 14 - 02:31 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Sep 14 - 02:52 PM
Jack Campin 16 Sep 14 - 03:13 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Sep 14 - 03:15 PM
michaelr 16 Sep 14 - 07:50 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Sep 14 - 08:11 PM
GUEST, Paul Slade 17 Sep 14 - 04:19 AM
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Subject: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 07 Sep 14 - 09:18 AM

Last month, I gave a talk on Burke & Hare ballad sheets at an Edinburgh Fringe event devoted to that unlovely pair. My subject was the many ballad sheets produced about their 16-corpse career, knocked out by enterprising Edinburgh printers and sold among the crowd watching William Burke's execution in January 1829.

Steve Byrne from the Scottish folk band Malinky closed my talk with his own rendition of Poor Daft Jamie, one of the 1829 ballads I'd just been discussing.

I've now put all this material up online as a free essay, YouTube video slideshow and SoundCloud recording of Steve's performance. You'll find links to all of it here.


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Sep 14 - 01:03 PM

Thanks, Paul.
Well done!


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Sep 14 - 01:27 PM

A nice slice of the times!


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Sep 14 - 04:59 AM

I covered Burke and Hare ballads as part of my survey of topical music in Edinburgh:

Oh, Let Me Aff This Ae Time

Did Steve find a tune for Daft Jamie, or invent one from scratch? I couldn't identify the intended one (the only instance in all those 250-odd songs where I failed).

Daft Jamie


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 08 Sep 14 - 06:26 AM

Jack:

The Daft Jamie I gave Steve to do was actually a different ballad to the one you link above. "Our" Daft Jamie is the one shown HERE.
on the National Library of Scotland's Word On The Street website. Let's call that one Poor Daft Jamie just to differentiate the two.

As you'll see, there's no indication on Poor Daft Jamie's sheet what tune the lyrics' writer had in mind. I just gave the raw lyrics to Steve and left him to make up a tune that would fit them. Whether he did this from scratch or took inspiration from some existing traditional tune, I don't know.

Right, I'm off to read your piece now.


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Sep 14 - 06:48 AM

Nice one
Another you might find interesting
Jim Carroll

BURKE AND HARE
William Burke it is my name
I stand condemned alone.
I left my native Ireland
In the county of Tyrone.
And o'er to Scotland I did sail,
Employment for to find;
No thought of cruel murder
Was then into my mind.

At Edinburgh trade was slack,
No work there could I find;
And so I took the road again,
To Glasgow was inclined;
But stopping at the West-port
To find refreshment there,
0 cursed be the evil hour
I met with William Hare!

With flattering words he greeted me
And said good fortune smiled;
He treated me to food and drink
And I was soon beguiled;
He said:"There's riches to be had,
And fortune's to be made,
For atomists have need of us.
So join me in that trade.

Hare he kept a lodging-house
Therein a man had died,
His death went unreported
And of burial was denied
We put the dead man in a cart
And through the streets did ride.
And Robert Knox,the atomist,
The dead man he did buy.

To rob the new dug graves by night
It was not our intent;
To be taken by the nightwatch
Or by spies was not our bent.
The plan belonged to William Hare
And so the plot was laid,
He said that "murder's safer
Than the resurrection trade."

Two women they were in the plot
The wife of William Hare,
The other called McDougal,
And travellers they did sanre;
They lured them to the lodging house
And when they'd drunken deep,
Hare and me, we smothered them
As they lay fast asleep.

At first in fear and dread I was
But later grew more bold,
In nine short months we killed fifteen
And then their bodies sold.
The doctors did not question us,
But quickly paid our fee,
The price they paid,it prospered us,
Both William Hare and me.

But soon our crimes they were found out
In jail we were confined,
And cruel guilt it tore my heart
And much despairs my mind;
And Hare, who first ensnared me
And led me far astray
Has turned King's evidence on me
And sworn my life away


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Sep 14 - 07:08 AM

"Poor Daft Jamie" is pretty generic in metrical scheme and there are no obvious pastiche-allusions to other songs, so it made sense for Steve to make one up.

The other "Daft Jamie" has a distinctive metrical scheme and I really doubt the writer made it up. But I can't figure out where he got it. Dibdin? Moore? Hood?


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 03:56 AM

I'm struck by how rigorously the ballad Jim quotes above sticks to the facts of Burke & Hare's career - something's that not always true of ballads like these.

Hare really did come up with the body-selling scheme, recruiting Burke to help him and starting with a man who'd died of natural causes. Their method of killing, the accepted total of their murder victims, the approximate span of their killing career, the two women's part in their activities and Hare's final betrayal of his former partner are all accurately described in the ballad.

That's by no means the only way of judging a ballad's success, of course, but it is interesting to consider. Where did you find this one, Jim, and what sort of vintage is it?


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Sep 14 - 04:21 AM

"Where did you find this one, Jim, and what sort of vintage is it?"
I heard it sung at a club by MacColl years ago
He said he was pointed out to him by a researcher friend who got it from a 19th century broadside - it might have been Bob Thomson, who was doing extensive work on the Madden Collection in the late 1960 and was a great friend of Ewan's.
It was just after that time I heard him sing it.
There's no guarantee that MacColl didn't tinker with it to make it singable, in fact he most certainly did.
As a singer, he was strongly in favour of the practice, though he usually hung on to copies of the original.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 02:31 PM

A PlanetSlade reader wrote in after seeing my Burke & Hare stuff to suggest I track down a copy of Val Lewton's 1945 film The Bodysnatcher. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's short story of (nearly) the same name, this tells the tale of John Knox's former assistant, now forced to deal with one of the pair's murderous successors himself.

I've now found a DVD of the film, which I've just watched, and I can confirm it is terrific: hugely atmospheric in the way it's filmed and full of surprisingly accurate little details from Burke & Hare's real career.

One highlight for me was the moment when the sinister cabman Gray (played by Boris Karloff) sings a couple of snatches from Poor Daft Jamie itself: "The ruffian dogs, the hellish pair / The villain Burke, the meagre Hare" and - a moment or two later - "Nor did they handle axe or knife / To take away their victims' life / No sooner done than in a chest / They crammed this lately welcomed guest."

Aside from replacing Daft Jamie's name with the words "their victims", that's a verbatim rendition of the original 1829 ballad. Not only that, but it's BORIS KARLOFF singing it. Not bad, eh?


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 02:52 PM

We stayed in Edinburgh years ago with a relative of my wife's, who is a amateur local historian.
On the way to visit Stevenson's home village, she stopped off at a churchyard containing a 'mortsafe' - a big metal box which was dropped over the newly-dug graves to protect them from the attention of 'The Burkers'
That was certainly 'atmospheric' particularly at the time we were there, just as the sun was going down.
'The burkers' were a favourite subject of many Scots Travellers tales - many of them still feared being dug up after thy had died.
Oddly enough, we recorded som information about them from Irish Travellers, though I am not aware that the practice of grave-robbing was a major problem in Ireland.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 03:13 PM

I think I may have mentioned this somewhere in "Embro, Embro" - while researching it I came across a newspaper report of Scottish customs officials in the early 19th century searching a ship from Ireland that was carrying several salted and crated-up corpses intended for Scottish medical schools. If a resulting investigation ever found out who they were I didn't read that far.


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 03:15 PM

Daft Jamie is played to great effect (by Aubrey Woods) in Tod Slaughter's 1949 film 'The Greed of William Hart' (AKA "Horror Maniacs') which could only get released if the names of Burke, Hare and Knox were overdubbed with Hart, Moore and Cox. This they did, making it as obvious as possible. An awesome slab of Reekiana, and highly recommended for Burke & Hare fans.

Turn down the lights and watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObR-oh5PNfQ


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: michaelr
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 07:50 PM

Unrelated to Burke and Hart, but perhaps inspired by their story, is the 2008 film "I Sell the Dead", starring Dominic Monaghan (Merry Brandybuck in LOTR) and Ron Perlman. A bit of gruesome fun.


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 14 - 08:11 PM

Somewhat different, but with a touch of the same gruesomeness:
On a visit to The Peloponnese years ago, we visited the uninhabited Island of Spinalonga - which is dominated by a beautiful abandoned Venetian Town once used as a leper colony.
We were told of a medical student living on the mainland who decided to take a boat and see if he could avail himself of a human skull to assist in his studies, from the former leper graveyard.
During his search, the ground under his feet gave way, dropping him into a large mass-burial crypt.
Unable to climb out, he remained there for several days until he was missed by his friends, who took a boat out and lifted him out of the tomb.
We were told he turned his back on medicine and sought a new career
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Daft Jamie: Burke & Hare ballad sheets
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 17 Sep 14 - 04:19 AM

The other Burke & Hare movies my correspondent mentioned were:

The Flesh & the Fiends (aka Mania) from 1960, which stars George Rose, Donald Pleasance and Peter Cushing as Burke, Hare and Knox respectively. The Radio Times Film Guide calls it "an unflinching shocker".

The Doctor & the Devils (1985), produced by Mel Brooks from a forgotten Dylan Thomas screenplay. The Burke, Hare and Knox equivalents here are played by Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea and Timothy Dalton respectively. Patrick Stewart, Beryl Reid and Sian Phillips all put in an appearance too. "High on period detail, but low on Grand Guignol chills," says the RT guide.

Stay tuned to PlanetSlade for more details!


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