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Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?

Jim Carroll 11 May 18 - 01:38 PM
Keith A of Hertford 11 May 18 - 02:12 PM
Keith A of Hertford 11 May 18 - 02:22 PM
Jim Carroll 11 May 18 - 08:09 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 11 May 18 - 08:54 PM
Joe Offer 12 May 18 - 01:58 AM
GUEST,Observer 12 May 18 - 02:28 AM
Dave the Gnome 12 May 18 - 02:41 AM
GUEST,Observer 12 May 18 - 03:12 AM
BobL 12 May 18 - 03:30 AM
David Carter (UK) 12 May 18 - 03:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 12 May 18 - 03:45 AM
Dave the Gnome 12 May 18 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 12 May 18 - 03:55 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 18 - 04:23 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 12 May 18 - 05:35 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 18 - 06:32 AM
theleveller 12 May 18 - 06:38 AM
David Carter (UK) 12 May 18 - 06:45 AM
David Carter (UK) 12 May 18 - 06:47 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 18 - 07:02 AM
GUEST,Dalillama 12 May 18 - 07:12 AM
John Moulden 12 May 18 - 07:19 AM
GUEST,Dalillama 12 May 18 - 07:28 AM
Keith A of Hertford 12 May 18 - 07:29 AM
Keith A of Hertford 12 May 18 - 07:31 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 18 - 08:25 AM
Joe Offer 12 May 18 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Nemo 12 May 18 - 10:58 AM
Joe Offer 12 May 18 - 11:37 AM
Jim Carroll 12 May 18 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Nemo 12 May 18 - 12:56 PM
Steve Gardham 12 May 18 - 02:40 PM
Jack Campin 12 May 18 - 05:07 PM
Allan Conn 12 May 18 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 12 May 18 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Observer 13 May 18 - 03:46 AM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 03:56 AM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 06:22 AM
GUEST,Observer 13 May 18 - 07:05 AM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 07:23 AM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 08:26 AM
Steve Gardham 13 May 18 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,Observer 13 May 18 - 11:26 AM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 12:17 PM
Steve Gardham 13 May 18 - 01:02 PM
Jim Carroll 13 May 18 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,Nemo 13 May 18 - 02:22 PM
Howard Jones 14 May 18 - 06:17 AM
Jim Carroll 14 May 18 - 08:20 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 18 - 01:38 PM

Yesterday I sent a posting to the “Censorship-songs of certain folk singers” which met with rather more opposition than I expected
The historical importance of folk songs has been my interest for some time now so, as it was suggested that I took the argument elsewhere – here goes
Below are the first shot fired in the argument – you may read the other thread to see the whole battle, but rather the confine the discussion to one event, perhaps the more general “how reliable is folk history” might be better
I’ve also included the BBC note to the song
It was suggested that this discussion should be in the B.S. section, but if we can’t discuss folk songs in theis secrtio, why bother discussing them ?
Jim Carroll

In the 1950s the BBC embarked on a collecting campaign recording songs and music throughout the British Isles
They recorded a song from Mohill singer, Thomas Moran, concerning the assassination of William Sidney Clements, Third Earl of Leitrim in 1878
Lord Leitrim was one of the worst landlords of 19th century Ireland, reputed to have exercised the Medieval right of Droit du seigneur - "breaking-in" the brides of his tenants on their wedding night.
The notes to the song in the Beeb catalogue describe it as scurrilous and defamatory - they gave it an "S" number to indicate that it could only be played with special written permission
As far as I know, there is only one other folksong with this number
It transpires from an article I am reading by D K Wilgus and Eleanor Long that there are around two dozen other songs on the same subject

LORD LEITRIM
O you boys of the shamrock, pay attention to my ditty.
Be alive to your duty, be wise and be witty.
Keep your powder dry, and we’ll make the tyrant fall,
And we’ll give them what Lord Leitrim got below in Donegal.
Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

It being on the 2nd of April, this old debaucher left his den,
He left bailiffs, bums and harlots in the castle of Lough Rynn.
To Makim and Kincaid he gave a hellish bawl,
Saying: ‘We’ll tumble down the cabins in the County Donegal!’
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

‘Twas two crafty-looking renegades old Shiney did obey,
Saying: ‘We’ll hurl out the Papish and we’ll drown them in the sea.
As Cromwell did in days of yore, we’ll waste ‘em, great and small,
And we’ll desolate their farms here below in Donegal.’
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

‘Oh, me lord, I’ll feel so horrified,’ poor Makim he did say
‘For it has foretold me we’ll meet Rory on the way.”
His lordship then made answer in the presence of Kincaid:
‘Of Rory or the devil, sure, I never was afraid!”.
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

So they druv away together on that unlucky day,
Until they came to Cretlagh Wood, near an angle of the sea,
Where bold Rory he was standing there, just threatened by a squall,*
All to protect the widows in the County Donegal.
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

When young Rory seen him coming, his heart did jump for glee.
He gave three cheers for Tenant Right, Home Rule and liberty.
‘Our maiden fairs and Colleen Bawns that was proper, straight and tall,
Caused by you they were sent o’er the seas, far, far from Donegal.’**
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

Oh, this monster’s face began to foam.
His venom he did spew,
And roared out in a hellish tone: ‘Sir, Tell me who are you?
‘Well, my Lord, I’m Rory of the Hill, that makes you welcome all
To a hearty dose of bullet pills below in Donegal.’
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

Oh, young Makim cries: ‘Spare us our lives, Miser Rory, if you please!’
‘No, no, for when you lie with dogs you’re sure to rise with fleas.’
The boys was laughing at the joke, they stood behind the wall,
Saying: ‘We’ll pepper ‘em up with powder and smoke this day in Donegal.’
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

‘Oh, go on, my boys,’ says Rory. ‘Make ready, present and fire!’
At his old brain they took fair aim and they hurled him in the mire.
To revenge the joke, his head they broke, and his carcass there did maul.
They stuck him in a pool, his head to cool, below in Donegal.
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

‘Well done, my boys,’ says Rory, as he turned to the sea,
Where the men they jumped into a boat that there at anchor lay.
‘We can paddle our own canoe, we’ve got a speedy shawl,
And hooray, me boys,’ say Rory, ‘For the maids of Donegal?’
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

Oh, the policemen like beagles gathered round this dirty beast,
And the devils all, both great and small, they had a sumptuous feast.
He was dissected like a bullock down at Manorvaughan Hall,
And the devils ate him, rump and stump, that night in Donegal.
With me Riddle-addle-day-ri, fol-the–rol-the–ree.

(Source: This text is published and discussed by A.L. Lloyd in ‘Rebels and Their Causes’, Maurice Cornforth (ed), Lawrence and Wishart, London 1978, pp177-179. This is substantially the version as sung by the late Thomas Moran, Mohill, Co. Leitim and recorded by Séamus Ennis in 1954 [BBC recording S21899])

1   Singer: Miles Duggan                                                                4.45
S/19356
Beleek, Co. Fermanagh.
10.8.2 (P.K - S.O’B.)
'You boys of the shamrock
2.   Singer: Thomas Moran                                                                3.51
S/21899
Mohill, Leitrim.
December 1954 (S.E.)
'O you gentlemen of the shamrock ...'
This is a violent and scurrilous diatribe: Lord Leitrim, according to Miles Duggan, was a landlord from Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim., who had an estate in Donegal, where he carried out evictions.   He was assassinated, according to the song, on April 2nd by Rory of the Hill, who shot him from an ambush, The singer maintains that he was killed on account of his exercise of the 'droit de seigneur'.
The tune is similar to that of the English folk song 'The Crabfish'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 11 May 18 - 02:12 PM

Battle of New Orleans. The British did not run and Packenham was their leader.
Plains of Mexico. Most versions give Santa Anna as the victor, not Gen.Taylor.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 11 May 18 - 02:22 PM

D Day Dodgers. Lady Astor never said that.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 May 18 - 08:09 PM

"D Day Dodgers"
It's a moot point whether Lady Astor made the comment that was attributed to her, but it was hardly out of character with the type of woman she was
An anti- Catholic, anti semitic supporter of Hitler, a researcher describes her -

"It is generally believed that it was Lady Astor who, during a World War II speech, first referred to the men of the 8th Army who were fighting in the Italian campaign as the "D-Day Dodgers." Her implication was that they had it easy because they were avoiding the "real war" in France and the future invasion. The Allied soldiers in Italy were so incensed that they composed a bitingly sarcastic song to the tune of the haunting German song Lili Marleen (popularized in English by Marlene Dietrich) that they called "The Ballad Of The D-Day Dodgers," written by Major Hamish Henderson of the 51st Highland Division.
She also made a disparaging remark about troops involved in the Burma Campaign, warning the public to "Beware the men with crows' feet." This was an allusion to the white lines often found around the eyes of white soldiers in hot climates due to squinting in the bright sunlight as it tanned their faces. Soldiers of the 14th Army were slightly bemused to be accorded such attention and it was strongly rumored among them that her prejudice was the result of a 14th Army officer on leave either impregnating Astor's daughter or infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease."

Maybe a case of the anonymous songsmakers Hamish Henderson compilled his song fro got it only partly right
It could be the case with many of these songs
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 11 May 18 - 08:54 PM

Bahamian folk history is tourist fare, infotainment. It moves along with all the other popular fashions.

Battle of New Orleans
Jimmy Driftwood (James C. Morris, 1907-1998)

“...started writing songs during his teaching career to teach his students history in an entertaining manner.” [wiki]

Steinbeck, Guthrie and Offer's creosoted peaches never happened. Truth would be the 1932-33 Soviet famines (4 million dead) and California's Madera Plan (zero dead in all North America) but that wouldn't sell in Hollywoodland.

Debating the spelling of shanty-v-chantey; video games; Afro-Caribbean roots ad nauseum whilst failing to mention the word 'celeusma' even once in 20+ years is… not reliable.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 May 18 - 01:58 AM

Well, Phil, I worked up and down the Central Valley of California for thirty years, and I had a lot of contact with ag people from farmworkers to ranchers to processors to USDA officials. I guess the only crop that I myself personally saw destroyed, was a huge supply of marijuana that the sheriff and fire chief of Madera County were burning when I went to interview them (I was hoping, but the smoke had no effect on me). But I often saw fruit in Dumpsters; and I heard tales of excess milk being dumped and of produce that was dumped because it did not meet the size or quality specifications of marketing orders. I also heard stories of substances being poured on dumped produce to make it inedible - not creosote, but other noxious substances.

So, I still believe that creosote may have been dumped on excess oranges to make them inedible and thus unmarketable. You made a valiant effort to disprove Woody and Steinbeck (and me), but I don't buy your argument yet. I know California agriculture at many levels and find the use of creosote credible -although I don't have knowledge of it beyond Guthrie and Steinbeck. Woody didn't have much ag experience, but Steinbeck certainly knew the Central Valley and its agriculture well. I saw excess crops being dumped and read newspaper reports of dumped crops being made inedible; and since creosote was readily available on every farm, the use of creosote to destroy dumped crops seems entirely credible.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 12 May 18 - 02:28 AM

What a strange conclusion to draw Joe.

Your own personal experience confirms what was stated by Phil, yet because you have "often heard tales" and "often heard stories" none mentioning the use of creosote you come out with - "So, I still believe that creosote may have been dumped on excess oranges to make them inedible and thus unmarketable."

That sort of reasoning would suggest that to you - If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a leopard because Woody and Steinbeck told you so. Some "investigator" you must have been, also please never sit on any jury in any criminal trial where only evidence can be considered in reaching a verdict.

I dare say with a fair degree of certainty that "folk history" in both song and story in some instances will be based on fact, on myth and coloured by political thinking and leanings. There will also be a marked difference depending upon when the song was written in relation to the subject being written about. Folk history would therefore be best taken with a very large pinch of salt and should never outweigh studied historical work.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 12 May 18 - 02:41 AM

Interesting topic. I think that whether the song is factual or not is only part of the story. As long as the song is contemporary to the event it tells us a lot more about how people felt and the ordinary man's views than any dry tome in a mainstream bookshop ever could. We will always see some 'poetic licence' as well but, that aside, if, for instance, the soldiers at the time were singing that Lady Astor did make that remark then it is a good indication of how they felt about her. Or if the people of Donegal were celebrating Rory of the Hill as a hero then it gives us an idea what they thought of Lord Leitrim!

FWIW, Jim, I think this should remain firmly above the line.

Also, out of interest, the song in question contains the phrase 'bailiffs, bums and harlots'. I always though 'bum' was an Americanism for 'tramp' but it obviously has roots elsewhere. Whatever it means here seems to have connections with the Lancashire phrase 'bum bailiff', used in old children's songs and elsewhere so there we have another window on life and language as it was.

Folk songs contemporary to the event are, in my opinion, a good source of how people thought, reacted and described events. A window on to times gone by that plain old facts can never show.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:12 AM

Much to agree with in what you say there Dave, but the following should have been qualified:

"As long as the song is contemporary to the event it tells us a lot more about how those people affected by the event and its aftermath felt and the ordinary man's views than any dry tome in a mainstream bookshop ever could."

Would also add the ordinary man's views is a bit too far and too great a claim to make as the ordinary man, back in the day. in nine instances out of ten would not know that anything had occurred at all.

"Folk songs contemporary to the event are, in my opinion, a good source of how some people thought, reacted and described events."

You have it spot on when you state - A window on to times gone by that plain old facts can never show.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: BobL
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:30 AM

Blow away a burglar, you know that it makes sense,
Grind him up for dog food so they eat the evidence.
And if you are invited to explain to the assize,
Ask for consideration for a Tony Martin prize.


Topical at one time, but treat it as comment rather than accurate reporting.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:31 AM

Sorry, but if by a "dry tome in a bookshop" you mean a researched historical text, then I would rely on that to inform me about the event in question. Various people, whether ordinary or not, might write a broadsheet or sing a song about the event from their perspective, but that will inevitably be coloured by their prior viewpoint. So folk songs may be a good source of how people thought and reacted. As a source of what really happened, they are not so good.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:45 AM

Good points, Observer, but I think there are probably more people who knew about and had contemporary views on the events than you indicate. Ok, the was not the mass media we have now but there were broadsheets and musicians did wander about. Of course this in itself has the 'Chinese whispers' effect which may contribute to the facts being mangled:-) but the feelings still remain.

There are also the songs that helped to make history. The calls to arms or the tales of political misdeeds that helped to raise armies or undo the career of a particularly nasty politician. All these things are inexorably linked and I don't think any single source tells the whole picture.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:48 AM

Is that not what I said, David Carter?

I thought it was so I apologise if it was not clear enough and thank you for clarifying what I meant.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 12 May 18 - 03:55 AM

The Dogon people of Mali have a whole range of tales, which have been studied over the years by countless people. (Joke: How many people make up an average Dogon family? Answer: Mum, Dad, two children and the resident French anthropologist.)One story involves a bright red star seen at a certain point in the sky. Nobody bothered much about this, until it was worked out that an exploding star would have been seen in that spot in the 12th century. This was the bright red star and had been remembered, orally, throughout the remaining centuries.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 18 - 04:23 AM

These songs are certainly evidence that the events took place - we have a number regarding undocumented information which, when asked about drew the response "I'd forgotten all about that", which led to more details emerging.
"but that will inevitably be coloured by their prior viewpoint."
Not too sure of this - the survival of many songs depends on their being accepted by the community.
It's true that some songs were deliberately composed to mislead; the bard who made The Haughs of Cromdale brought together two different battles to cover the ignominy of the Cromdale defeat
I'm left with the impression of the local songs we collected that they are basically accurate but sometimes over-creative in detail
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 12 May 18 - 05:35 AM

Joe: "You made a valiant effort to disprove Woody and Steinbeck (and me), but I don't buy your argument yet."

My argument is The Grapes of Wrath is shelved under fiction and Mudcatters invented the rest in circular reporting and gossip. You've admitted that much, twice. We're good.

Unless mental illness or substance abuse are involved, nobody dies of starvation or famine in the U.S. and the system Steinbeck, Guthrie and you champion has killed untold millions. That's big truth behind this folk history.

It doesn't meet any kind of standard for reliable. Caveat emptor.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 18 - 06:32 AM

Seems to me the 'Grapes of Wrath' was steeped in fundamentalist controversy from day one - it was publicly burned, banned and shops which sold it were set on fire
THIS is the most convincing account I have read of the condditions which gave rise to it
Like, Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle', it had an enormous impact in drawing the public's attention to appalling conditions, though, in the case of the latter, rather than bringing about changes in those conditions, it caused a widespread panic about food hygiene (following the description of a worker falling into a meat-chopping machine and being canned and shipped off to be sold) and brought about massive reforms
My father related with some amusement that 'The Jungle' was the onlr progressive books allowed in the prison library when he was incarcerated during the Spanish Civil War - they thought it was a travel book !
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: theleveller
Date: 12 May 18 - 06:38 AM

It's been said that the victors write the history - or at least the educated, privileged classes. Historians like Hobsbawm, E P Thompson and Christopher Hill tried to redress the balance and Hill's excellent book, Liberty Against the Law, draws on popular ballads, poem and plays to paint a different perspective on history. Well worth a read.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 12 May 18 - 06:45 AM

Sorry DtG, yes it is mostly what you said, but I did feel that when you wrote "dry tome in a mainstream bookshop", you were intending that phrase to be a bit pejorative. Those "dry tomes" are fundamental studies of events. and it is what happened that I want to know, not what people felt about it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 12 May 18 - 06:47 AM

Jim wrote:

"Not too sure of this - the survival of many songs depends on their being accepted by the community."

So sadly is the survival of the Daily Mail, but I think we can agree that this is not a good thing.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:02 AM

A little different Dave - one is news shipped in from outside, the other is home recorded information recording the lives of those living in the communities in which they thrived
You can hardly describe a copy of the Daily Mail "surviving" - when I worked on the docks it was torn into squares and hung in the jacks for future use
Not a thing I'd like to keep in my mouth!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Dalillama
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:12 AM

Phil, you seem to be possessed of a peculiar idea that peaches and oranges are staple crops, deliberate destruction of which would result in a famine, and that lack of such a famine means the destruction described did not happen.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: John Moulden
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:19 AM

All I know (just about) is cotained in my thesis "The Printed Ballad in Ireland: a guide to the popular printing of songs in Ireland, 1760-1920" which may be freely downloaded:
https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/5020


Abstract
This thesis is concerned with the survival, influence and scholarly use of songs printed cheaply in Ireland, from the beginnings of the trade in the middle 18th century until its decline in the early 20th. It aims to make songs printed on ballad sheets and in small (8-page) song books accessible to students of history and cultural studies, to survey trade practices and their history, judge the influence such songs exerted upon the knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and actions of 'ordinary' people and to assess how such materials have been used as evidence, presenting a range of methods whereby the songs may be questioned. The thesis is organised in four parts with a prefatory section setting out problems and discussing definitions. The first part presents a guide to all the known collections in Ireland and to the most significant in Britain, and lists their contents. The listing approaches a comprehensive survey of the corpus. The second section considers trade practices, production and distribution, and examines the careers of some of the personnel. The third outlines the nature of the oral song culture into which songs were introduced, how trade considerations conditioned what was produced; describes interactions between songs and the people and considers the effects of literacy and how the form and language of certain songs militated against their absorption. Finally in this section attempts are made to gauge the influence of the ballad trade upon the oral tradition and how the ballad trades of Britain and Ireland interacted. The last part discusses a range of methods of using ballads in historical and cultural study and exemplifies them using a range of case studies. It also assesses the state of scholarly study of the ballad trade and scholarly use of ballads as evidence in Ireland, Britain and North America.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Dalillama
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:28 AM

Re: Dave the Gnome's poibt, and the OP,
in The Wheels of the World a verse goes

Wellington he was a spinning
his wheels they were at Waterloo
But if Grouchy had never been bribed
the French would have split him in two

In fact Emanuel de Grouchy was not bribed, and his failure to intervene at a key point in the battle was simply the vagaries of war, but his reputation was destroyed and his career ended. Clearly thr song was written when gis name hadn't yet been cleared or the author didn't believe it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:29 AM

You can hardly describe a copy of the Daily Mail "surviving" - when I worked on the docks it was torn into squares and hung in the jacks for future use

It is not just surviving, it is by far the biggest selling paper.
The Guardian is surviving, running at a loss and needing donations.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:31 AM

Wrong thread somehow. Sorry!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 18 - 08:25 AM

Not sure the argument of who made the songs is relevant here John (I would certainly like to avoid re-opening the argument)
It was you who kindly gave me a copy of the 'Lord Leitrim' article and we have discussed the importance of locally made songs over a pint
Many of the songs we have discovered were spontaneously made, never (to my knowledge) written down and have survived orally
Even the 'ballad selling' trade' largely by non-literate Travellers, was based on orally transmitted songs recited to a printer.
There is evidence that orally made and transmitted songs have existed in these islands since the time of the Venerable Bede so we can safely assume that the practice of oral composition continued right into the twentieth century and may still be alive among Travellers - it most certainly was thirty years ago.
Right thread Keith - wrong answer
I was referring to individual copies not the industry
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 May 18 - 10:09 AM

Observer and Phil, the only missing piece of my puzzle is the specific use of creosote to make dumped produce inedible. The rest is common knowledge in the ag industry of the Central Valley of California. In recent years, the ag industry has prided itself in finding less wasteful ways of utilizing excess produce, but it is still common practice to withdraw excess produce from the market to stabilize prices. It's used for "cogeneration" of electric power, for animal feed, for organic fertilizer, and for countless other purposes.

But the California ag industry was in its infancy in the 1940s, and dumping was a common practice for disposal of excess produce to stabilize prices. If that dumped produce was easily obtained by scavengers, it could be sold at prices far lower than the market order, thus destabilizing the market. So, yes, it was common to mix produce with a noxious substance to make it inedible and unsaleable. To this day, there is excess produce everywhere in the Central Valley at harvest time - oranges and tomatoes strewn from open trucks at every freeway interchange. Excess produce is a fact of life in large-scale farming, and excess produce that gets into the black market is bad for business. Woody and maybe Steinbeck may have condemned dumping as a social evil, but I see it as "just business" when it isn't a time of famine. And there has been no famine in the rich Central Valley.

The only thing I couldn't document or observe myself is the use of creosote as the particular noxious substance used. Since creosote was cheap and readily available on every farm for wood treatment for fence posts and other wood, it certainly seems likely that farmers could have used it.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Nemo
Date: 12 May 18 - 10:58 AM

Unless mental illness or substance abuse are involved, nobody dies of starvation or famine in the U.S....

Excuse me?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 May 18 - 11:37 AM

In a perverse sort of way, "Observer" makes a point in questioning my believing Steinbeck and in this:
    I dare say with a fair degree of certainty that "folk history" in both song and story in some instances will be based on fact, on myth and coloured by political thinking and leanings. There will also be a marked difference depending upon when the song was written in relation to the subject being written about. Folk history would therefore be best taken with a very large pinch of salt and should never outweigh studied historical work.


I think that "folk history" and and other fiction have a high level of accuracy, although that accuracy is different from that found in historical research. Although a novelist may be writing fiction, that fiction must be truthful. People can't relate to fiction unless it tells the truth about life experience. Steinbeck may have used fictional characters and fictional stories, but he presented a very real and accurate and credible picture of agricultural life in California. I've lived in Steinbeck Country for most of the time since 1973, and I can tell you that he's telling the truth.

As for creosote, I think it's unimportant to know exactly what substance was mixed with the dumped produce. I've known of fuel oil and lime, but creosote would do the job just as well - so I don't really care whether it's fuel oil, lime, or creosote. No doubt that took black market money away from poor farm workers, so no doubt they resented that. But I can see why dumped produce would be made inedible if there's a pilferage problem, so I don't make a judgment against the practice.

I suppose one could debate where there's starvation or famine in the U.S., but it's clear that undernourishment is common.

As for "folk history" - it may lack accuracy in some details and it may be fictional, but it still can do a good job of portraying the realities and attitudes of the times it stems from.

Fiction is often more truthful than fact.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 May 18 - 12:04 PM

I assume everybody is aware of this, composed by my old comrade,JACK WARSHAW
Still moistens an eye after all these years
Based, of course, on Woodie's 'Los Gatos'
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Nemo
Date: 12 May 18 - 12:56 PM

Fiction is often more truthful than fact.

Absolutely. Just ask Mr. Trump.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 May 18 - 02:40 PM

The problem with any media, both now and in the past, is not so much what they do tell us as much as what they don't tell us. At least folk material and street literature often give a slant that is more in tune with the people, and as we have seen with some examples given here, they cover things that the established media ignore or deliberately hide from us.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 May 18 - 05:07 PM

Apart from the very obvious fuckups of songs like The Haughs of Cromdale (which mixes up two battles decades apart to make a story about one that never happened) or Chevy Chase/The Battle of Otterbourne (two sides of the same fight where one major character is unhurt in one version and chopped to pieces in the other) the more important issue is - what never makes it into songs.

It seems that the more catastrophic a historic event the less likely it is there will be songs about it. There are a lot of sad songs from the Middle Ages but nothing about the Black Death. A lot of songs from the mediaeval Islamic world but nothing about the Mongol invasions. Quite a few songs about the smaller conflicts of WW1 but nothing from Russia (with by far the highest death toll of any combatant nation) and nothing about the pandemic influenza that killed more people than the entire war. A few songs and military tunes about the colonial wars of the late 19th century, but about the Leopoldian genocide (20 million dead), nothing. 20 million Chinese dead from Japanese militarism and nothing but a few Maoist rallying songs. Lots of songs about the relatively bloodless Irish war for independence and nothing but patriotic fluff about the partition of India (about a million dead).

The most important historic events are just too horrible to sing about.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Allan Conn
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:26 PM

I heard the suggestion that Haughs of Cromdale can be explained by it being about two battles,that is Cromdale itself and an earlier battle of Montrose's campaign but that still doesn't work. Where does Cromwell and the English army come into it? It would need to be at least three battles as Cromdale didn't involve an English army and neither did any of the Montrose campaign. Plus Montrose was executed by the Scottish gvt some time before Cromwell set foot in Scotland. Lyric makes no sense@


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 12 May 18 - 07:40 PM

Joe: Fiction is fiction and you either can't or won't do fact. Doesn't matter which.

Dalillama: No, just that Joe never saw anything like what he said and the trio's motivation was to promote a lethaly inferior ag system.

Now we waffle, move the target and change the subject in a half dozen ways but the bottom line is still a mean spirited fiction.

Union activism has left tonnes of crops to rot in the field on purpose. Vegetable oil and wine are being denatured by the tank car every season. I've never met the U.S. field worker who would suffer an Amazon warehouse for five minutes nor healthcare pro who thinks hunger is a bigger problem than obesity. So what?

On topic, the folk history of the Yank's so-called creosote dumps is not reliable in letter or spirit.

Good thread.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 13 May 18 - 03:46 AM

rom Steve Gardham

The problem with any media, both now and in the past, is not so much what they do tell us as much as what they don't tell us.

How do you know what you are not being told if you were not there, or unless you have not studied the facts of the matter from all perspectives?

At least folk material and street literature often give a slant that is more in tune with the people,

Only some of the people.

and as we have seen with some examples given here, they cover things that the established media ignore or deliberately hide from us.

What examples given here?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 03:56 AM

"Union activism has left tonnes of crops to rot in the field on purpose. "
I think this is a statement of "which side ou are aon", which is why I didn't want this discussion to go below the line on this forum
Is there any chance we can keep this on the songs rather than turn it into a political battle ?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 06:22 AM

Specifically on songs
I believe Steve Gardham's statement on information is spot on regarding the access to information
The Irish Famine (1845-1850) was Ireland's greatest catastrophe - at least one million dead and another million were left wih no other alternative but to emigrate - that emigration goes on to the present day.
Up to the 150th anniversary of the event there was one serious study of the subject, by an Englishwoman (The Great Hunger, Mrs Cecil Woodham Smith 1962).
Until Independence in 1922 the news was heavily influenced by British colonial interests and after independence, by the Irish need to maintain friendly relations with her English neighbors for the purposes of keeping the door open to the continuing flow of emigrants.
There were few songs made about the Famine while it was occurring, ("people were too busy dying") but the period from 1798 to the middle of the 20th century is rich in historical accounts of Irish life, from its politics to everyday living - songs about emigration represent the largest number in the folk repertoire, next to love songs   
As I said on the other thread, to quote a 90 year old farmer/singer we recorded a couple of years ago, "In those days, if a man farted in church, somebody made a song about it"
That to me, puts the importance of songs, as entertainment and as carriers of information, in a nutshell
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 13 May 18 - 07:05 AM

Just an observation but

In his post of 13 May 18 - 03:56 AM, Jim Carroll makes the specific request - Is there any chance we can keep this on the songs rather than turn it into a political battle ?

Which he then immediately follows with a subjective post addressing politics. Strange.

Can't really see how a song about someone farting in church would be considered important, but I suppose it takes all sorts.

Regarding newspapers in Ireland in the 19th century. On the evidence of census information, the rural population of Ireland from 1851 to 1911 was well educated. The percentage of the population over five years of age which claimed to be able to read rose from 53% to 88%. The number of newspapers and periodicals published and distributed in Ireland rose from 109 in 1853 to 230 in 1913. The papers became synonymous with political literature in nationalist Ireland. The Dublin based newspapers, especially The Nation became the leading voices of nationalist opinions, the same could be said of The Connaught Telegraph and The Kerry Sentinel.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 07:23 AM

I have no objection whatever to discussing the political implications of songs - that wa what my first song example was about, but I believe "Union activism has left tonnes of crops to rot in the field on purpose" heads the discussion off into an entirely new direction, (leading to a cul-de-sac as some of us have often discovered) - unless of course you can produce songs about workers having done so
I have no power to prevent this discussion heading in whatever direction the posters choose but I'd hate it to end up in a left-right catfight
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 08:26 AM

Incidentally
My comments were not politically "subjective" - the facts I put forward are an undisputed matter of history
My point was about the availability and flow of information - a gap filled by the song repertoire
The efforts to limit information is pretty plain from the number of books on the famine, but is underlined by the fact that, despite large swathes of Ireland being Irish-speaking a conscious effort was being made to suppress the language
We have recorded a number of accounts of children being given the "stick" treatment at school - a short stick was hung around the necks of pupils and each time they were heard speaking Irish, a notch was put in it
At the end of the week, the pupil received the indicated number of strokes of the cane
What is this if it is not an attempt to control expression of opinion ?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 18 - 11:04 AM

>>How do you know what you are not being told if you were not there, or unless you have not studied the facts of the matter from all perspectives?<<   Observer.
Our past (and present) gives us numerous examples of those in positions of power manipulating the media by twisting reality and hiding/ignoring important information, among other crimes. We are at least more aware of this nowadays, partly because of the increase in different types of media.

In the past ballads have been used in a similar way, but at least many of them, give a different point of view, even if that can also be distorted. A man in the street can write a ballad but he can't influence what is printed in the national press or what is spewed out by the BBC.

>>Only some of the people.<< Okay I meant the common people, those not in a position of power.

'Whistleblowers' are still treated abominably by the powers that be.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 13 May 18 - 11:26 AM

The balladeers also do their fair share of "twisting reality" and hiding/ignoring important information Steve.

In the song about LL there is scant mention of his alleged misconduct with young girls. There is absolutely no evidence to support the allegations leveled against him over the mythical "Droit du seigneur" also known as jus primae noctis. There is no evidence of the right being exercised in medieval Europe, overall, medieval jus primae noctis can be considered a historical fiction fabricated after that era.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 12:17 PM

"In the song about LL there is scant mention of his alleged misconduct with young girls."
There are twenty or so other songs an him some mention his sexual appetites
"the mythical "Droit du seigneur"
THere is a great deal of local information about it from simple farmers to the clergy - it is hardly something the establishment were going to publicise
Even Leitrim's peers considered him a "bad lot"
As for the rest - what an incredibly sweeping statement - masses have been written about the murderous activities of Gilles de Rais, the Hellfire Clubs, - Havelock Ellis mantions the practice, writers like Gershon Legman dealt with the practice in detail....
THere's quite a readable book on the sexual proclivities of our betters 'Love Lockes Out' by James Cleugh
This seems to be an attempted public whitewashing of history
Much of the evidence is anecdotal - mainly contemporary to the events - the gentry were hardly likely too allow their dirty linen to be washed in public
Jim Caaarroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 May 18 - 01:02 PM

Absolutely, Obs, but the twisting done from the bottom up pales into insignificance alongside the twisting done from top down. Another factor is we make our own decisions generally on what ballads contain, but the media is believed by an awful lot of gullible people.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 May 18 - 01:11 PM

Sorry to bring this up but may as well get it out of the way
I believe the "Balladeers" are largely the people who make songs because they happen, Steve argues that they are largely those who make a living from making songs
Don't want to make an issue of this here but I think there is an essential difference
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: GUEST,Nemo
Date: 13 May 18 - 02:22 PM

Regarding The Great Creosote War Of 2018, there are any number of searchable, on-line newspaper historical databases available these days.

A search of California newspapers from the Steinbeck/Guthrie era for "Creosote" or "creosote and crops" & other variations might actually turn up something germane.

Go for it & report back to the class..


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 14 May 18 - 06:17 AM

I am no historian, but I suspect folk songs are often fairly unreliable as historical sources, at least without additional evidence. Firstly, even impartial and entirely honest witnesses may report the same event differently, as no once can see the whole. Creators of folk songs may not be impartial, they may be prejudiced because of their social class or position, because of more overt political opinions, or because they have a personal interest in the event or people involved.

Secondly, the overriding imperative of a song is to tell a good story, so if facts have to be changed to achieve that, or simply to make a rhyme, that's artistically acceptable.

In the case of Lord Leitrim, there seems to be some uncertainty over the motives for his murder and it seems more likely to have been political, but the allegations of 'droit du seigneur' seem to be unfounded. However it's a good story to tell about an unpopular landlord (today it would be alleged he was a paedo) and no doubt the audience were more than willing to believe it. To accept the ballad at face value is dangerous, as we cannot know without additional evidence whether it simply reflects local rumours, may even be the source of them, or is in fact the truth, or a partial version of it

That's not to say folk songs cannot play a part, they may contain some truth, and they may show how an event was perceived by the public. However they cannot be treated as reliable evidence.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 May 18 - 08:20 AM

Hard to know whwre this "additional evidence' is going to come from Howard
In the case of Lord Leitrim, although he was condemned by his fellow members of The House of Lords, scarcely anything is written about him so we largely have to rely on passed-down experiences
When you consider it took a far more open society over thirty years to acknowledge that the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre was unlawful and the consequences of that event are still being squabbled over, what chance do we have of knowing what happened over a century and a half ago in a rigidly class-bound situation in one of the colonies?
I think this is a perfect example of an encapsulated piece of history in song
THIS ALMOST FORGOTTEN PIECE OF HISTORY IS ANOTHER

King George met Joe Devlin a short time ago,
And he said ‘Good morning, how do you do, Joe?
Will you drop into breakfast, and see Mary, too?’
‘Oh, be God then’, said Joe, ‘I don’t mind if I do.’

To the palace they rambled – T.P. he was there,
John Dillon he sat on a plush-covered chair,
‘Will you all’, says Queen Mary , ‘have some Irish stew?’
Oh they roared in one voice, ‘We don’t mind if we do.’

‘Sinn Feiners’, said Georgie, ‘are spoiling my plan.
DeValera, their leader, he seems a strong man.
Will you tell him his flag should be red, white and blue?’
‘It’s no use’, says T.P., ‘he won’t mind if I do.’

‘Behind prison walls they should all be’, said Joe.
‘When you had them in there sure you let them all go.
To spread their sedition each county around,
And to knock out the men with the four hundred pounds.’

‘That’s right’, said T.P., ‘I agree with you there.
The rod on the rebels, oh Georgie, don’t spare!
The whole world over sure they’ve knocked me flat,
I am back from the States with a big empty hat.’

The flag of Sinn Fein everywhere it do fly,
And ‘Down with the Party’ is now Ireland’s cry.
The green, white and orange, alas and alack,
Has taken the place of the old Union Jack.

‘Recruiting’, said Mary, ‘is now very low.
To the trenches in Flanders the Irish won’t go.
Why not try conscription – oh John, what says you?’
‘Oh be God then’, said Joe, ‘there’ll be hell if we do.’

“According to historical accounts the 1910 British General Election left the Liberals as a minority government dependent upon the votes of Irish Nationalist parliamentarians so, in order to gain their support, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, introduced legislation that would give Ireland Home Rule; the bill was opposed by the Conservatives and Unionists. Desperate to avoid the prospect of Civil War in Ireland, King George V called a meeting of all parties at Buckingham Palace in July 1914 in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. After four days the conference ended without an agreement so, on 18 September 1914, the King, having considered vetoing the legislation, gave his assent to the Home Rule Bill after it had been passed by Westminster. Its implementation was postponed due to the outbreak of the First World War. Joseph Devlin, mentioned in the song, was an Irish journalist and influential nationalist politician, a member of the British parliament for the Irish Parliamentary Party. This wonderful parody commemorates ‘The Buckingham Palace Meeting’.”
LISTEN HERE

Jim Carroll


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