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Penguin: The Red Herring

DigiTrad:
HERRING'S HEAD
THE HARRIN'S HEID [Herring's Head]


Related threads:
Sardine Songs, Herring Hymns (40)
Lyr Req: The Herring Song (79)
Lyr Req: Harrin's Heed (6)
Tune Req: Herring song (2) (closed)
Eliza C Herring Song chorus (2)
Lyr Add: The Herring's Head (from Chris Foster) (7)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Red Herring (from The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs)


Alan of Australia 01 Jul 00 - 11:04 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Jul 01 - 02:45 PM
Joe Offer 21 Jan 05 - 03:25 AM
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Subject: Penguin: The Red Herring ^^
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 01 Jul 00 - 11:04 PM

G'day,
From the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, Ed Pellow's rendition of the tune of The Red Herring can be found here.

THE RED HERRING

What have I done with my old herring's head?
I'll make as good oven as ever baked bread.
Ovens and baking and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

2nd Voice: Why didn't you tell me so?
1st Voice: So I did, long ago.
(Spoken) 2nd Voice: Thou lie!
(Spoken) 1st Voice: Thou lie!
Well, well, everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

What have I made with my old herring's eyes?
Forty jackdaws and fifty magpies,
Linnets and larks and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

What have I made of my old herring's ribs?
Blooming great tower and a blooming great bridge.
Bridges, towers, and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

What have I made of my old herring's guts?
Forty bright women and fifty bright sluts,
Wantons and sluts and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

What have I made of my old herring's navel?
As good a wheelbarrow as ever drawed gravel,
Wheelbarrow, shovel, and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

'What have I made of my old herring's tail?
I'll make as good ship as ever set sail,
Sailcloth, rigging, and everything.
Do you think I've done well with my jolly herring?

Sung by Mr Trump, North Petherton, Somerset (C.3.S. 1906)

Click here for another version.

Previous song: Ratcliffe Highway.
Next song: Robin Hood And The Pedlar.


Cheers,
Alan ^^


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Red Herring
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Jul 01 - 02:45 PM

A recent revival of a discussion on this song prompts me to add the following:

From the notes to the Penguin Book (1959):

" A nonsense song of the sort of The Mallard,  The Jolly Old Hawk,  The Sow Took the Measles, and  The Hunting of the Wren  (a well-known foreign relative is the French-Canadian  Alouette).  Perhaps at one time these pieces were by no means nonsensical, but accompanied a magic ritual connected with a sacred beast.  The primitive dance tunes usually associated with this kind of song, remarked upon by Miss Lucy Broadwood, may point to a former ceremonial use.  Whatever the case, to singers nowadays The Red Herring is merely a piece of amiable tomfoolery.  Cecil Sharp printed three versions from Somerset (Folk Song Journal No.20, 1916, pp. 283-5) and a version from Wiltshire appears in Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (Alfred Williams, 1923)."   -R.Vaughan Williams /A.L.Lloyd.

This version of the song was noted by Cecil Sharp from Mr. Trump of North Petherton, Somerset, in 1906, and was originally published in the Folk Song Journal, vol.V , issue no. 20, 1916, p.284.  Versions have been found all over England, and have also turned up in Ireland.  Here are links to some material available online; as usual, I list only stable sites which contain substantive information.

In the DT:

HERRING'S HEAD   Apparantly an Irish version; no source named, though it is a transcription from Eliza Carthy's recording; the only comment is "tune is in Irish Songs of the Sea."  Very similar to (and probably derived from) the text Seamus Ennis used to sing, and which Peter Kennedy printed in his Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (1975 and 1984).

A midi made from the notation in Kennedy is available at the  Mudcat Midi Pages:

Herring's Head.  At the time I made it, I hadn't realised that the DT text was transcribed from Eliza's singing, so my comments attached to the file are now largely redundant.

In the Forum:

Lyr Req: Eliza Carthy lyrics  Includes a transcription from Eliza Carthy's recording; no tune.  Also in the DT file cited above.

Lyr Add: The Harrin's Heed  Northumbrian text, harvested for DT.  No tune indication.

LYR ADD: The Herring's Head  Text as recorded by Chris Foster; no tune or traditional source named.

Lyric:The Herring Song  Includes the text from Foster again, a partial transcription made by ear from the recording by Eliza Carthy, and some speculation on her source and on the meaning of the refrain she sings.  At various points the discussion wanders off into other herring-related topics, including the inevitable Shoals of Herring, and a rather nice parody of it.  Towards the end, two traditional, Gaelic forms of the refrain in question are cited, and the Northumbrian text is posted again, with a few extra bits.

Eliza C Herring Song chorus  Brief thread on that troublesome refrain, with a comment from Eliza herself.

There is an entry at the  The Traditional Ballad Index:

Red Herring, The

A great many performers have recorded arrangements of traditional versions of this song, and I wouldn't really want to encourage anyone to start listing their own personal favourites in this thread, unless it were to involve posting genuine traditional sets, attributed to their original sources and significantly different from what we already have.


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Red Herring
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Jan 05 - 03:25 AM

Here is the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Red Herring, The

DESCRIPTION: Song describes the uses made of various parts of the herring, e.g., "Herring's eyes, puddings and pies/Herring's head, loaves of bread."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1903 ("Cape Cod Dialect")
KEYWORDS: fishing ritual cumulative nonballad humorous animal
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North,South))
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 86-87, "The Red Herring" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy 296, "The Herring Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
MacSeegTrav 118, "The Jolly Herring" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 578-579, "The Herring Song" (1 text)

Roud #128
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Sow Took the Measles"
cf. "The Mallard"
cf. "Alouette"
cf. "The Farmer and the Crow"
cf. "The Derby Ram" (theme)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Herring's Head
The Herring's Heid
The Jovial Herring
The Jolly Red Herring
Notes: This is essentially the same song as the American "Sow Took the Measles" [and Roud lumps them - RBW]; "The Farmer and the Crow" (also American, but also found in Sweden) marries this song to "The Carrion Crow." -PJS
Kennedy declares his "Herring Song" and "The Red Herring" to be the same. I'm not sure I agree; while the theme is the same, the lyrics and stanza form are different. But he's seen more versions than I have; I tentatively follow his lead. - RBW
File: VWL086

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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