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What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?

DigiTrad:
HAL AN TOW
SUMER IS ICUMEN IN


Related threads:
Lisa Knapp's Hal-an-Tow (11)
Lyr Req: Hal n Toe? / Hal an Tow (26)
Lyr Req: Sumer Is Icumen In/Summer Is A-Coming In (30)
Lyr/Tune Add: Helston Hal an Tow (21)
Lyr Req: May songs (5)
Want first verse to Hal an Tow. (26)
Lyr Req: alt. verses to Hal An Tow (21)
Hal and Toe / Hal and Tow (20)
Hal An Tow: notes? (43)
hal an tow. What's it about? (5)
Hal an Tow (34)
Hal an Tow (10)
Hal and Tow (5)


DeanC 24 Oct 01 - 12:17 PM
Wolfgang 24 Oct 01 - 12:22 PM
annamill 24 Oct 01 - 12:31 PM
GUEST,English Jon 24 Oct 01 - 12:59 PM
Uncle_DaveO 24 Oct 01 - 01:25 PM
Big Tim 24 Oct 01 - 01:50 PM
CapriUni 24 Oct 01 - 03:20 PM
Kernow John 24 Oct 01 - 07:15 PM
The_one_and_only_Dai 24 Oct 01 - 07:22 PM
DeanC 25 Oct 01 - 09:08 AM
The_one_and_only_Dai 25 Oct 01 - 09:23 AM
The_one_and_only_Dai 25 Oct 01 - 09:34 AM
Noreen 25 Oct 01 - 06:40 PM
The_one_and_only_Dai 25 Oct 01 - 06:46 PM
Nancy King 26 Oct 01 - 01:49 AM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Oct 01 - 02:45 AM
Garry Gillard 26 Oct 01 - 03:16 AM
GUEST,Jody Kruskal 07 Dec 01 - 01:22 AM
GUEST,Upstreeter 07 Dec 01 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,Ann-Marie 27 Apr 04 - 12:11 PM
Betsy 27 Apr 04 - 02:40 PM
GUEST 28 Apr 04 - 05:33 AM
Betsy 28 Apr 04 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,Sieffe 05 May 04 - 05:17 PM
GUEST, Mikefule 06 May 04 - 02:44 AM
GUEST,Paul Burke 06 May 04 - 03:19 AM
Fred Miller 06 May 04 - 11:36 PM
GUEST,Darowyn 06 Feb 05 - 05:16 AM
GUEST 06 Feb 05 - 05:59 AM
Big Al Whittle 06 Feb 05 - 07:16 PM
open mike 22 Mar 05 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,Winfree 05 May 07 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,Winfree 05 May 07 - 01:15 PM
stallion 05 May 07 - 01:45 PM
gnu 05 May 07 - 02:12 PM
Little Robyn 05 May 07 - 06:14 PM
Malcolm Douglas 05 May 07 - 07:54 PM
Bonecruncher 05 May 07 - 10:28 PM
catspaw49 06 May 07 - 01:01 AM
GUEST,mom 19 Apr 08 - 08:39 AM
Bill D 19 Apr 08 - 11:05 AM
Folkiedave 19 Apr 08 - 01:10 PM
JeffB 19 Apr 08 - 04:17 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Apr 08 - 06:17 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Apr 08 - 06:21 PM
An Pluiméir Ceolmhar 19 Apr 08 - 06:51 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Apr 08 - 07:12 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Apr 08 - 07:44 PM
Dave Hunt 19 Apr 08 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,Jim Martin 20 Apr 08 - 05:57 AM
Gervase 20 Apr 08 - 01:40 PM
Dave Earl 20 Apr 08 - 07:43 PM
JeffB 21 Apr 08 - 06:40 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Apr 08 - 08:24 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Apr 08 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,Suffolk Miracle 21 Apr 08 - 09:56 AM
Malcolm Douglas 22 Apr 08 - 04:34 AM
Big Al Whittle 22 Apr 08 - 04:52 AM
JeffB 22 Apr 08 - 12:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Apr 08 - 01:20 PM
JeffB 22 Apr 08 - 01:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Apr 08 - 01:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Apr 08 - 03:37 PM
JeffB 24 Apr 08 - 12:32 PM
GUEST 17 May 08 - 08:07 PM
GUEST,Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin 18 May 08 - 05:14 PM
GUEST,Mike Garvin 04 Sep 08 - 12:13 PM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Sep 08 - 09:28 PM
Greg B 04 Sep 08 - 09:45 PM
GUEST 16 May 09 - 08:48 AM
GUEST 23 Sep 10 - 08:39 PM
MGM·Lion 24 Sep 10 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,Seonaid 24 Sep 10 - 02:01 PM
GUEST 24 Sep 10 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,Nicole 24 Apr 12 - 11:26 AM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 12 - 11:27 AM
MGM·Lion 24 Apr 12 - 11:50 AM
Phil Edwards 24 Apr 12 - 03:20 PM
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MGM·Lion 25 Apr 12 - 12:11 AM
Phil Edwards 25 Apr 12 - 02:44 AM
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Les in Chorlton 25 Apr 12 - 05:07 AM
Phil Edwards 25 Apr 12 - 03:56 PM
MGM·Lion 25 Apr 12 - 05:41 PM
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Subject: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: DeanC
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 12:17 PM

The DT lists the first line of the chorus as "Hal an tow, jolly rumbalo." Does any one have an explanation for where this came from, what it means, or alternative interpretations of what the words are? Having never seen it written out before I always thought of it as "Hall and toe, jolly run below," but that makes no more sense than the DT version.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 12:22 PM

An old post answering all or close to all questions.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: annamill
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 12:31 PM

Funny. The thought "Heel and Toe" came right to my mind. Could there be a connection to this phrase?

Love, Annamill


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,English Jon
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 12:59 PM

As far as I know:

"Hal An" is an old root of "Calends", I.e. Springtime.

A Hal-an Tow is a a spring garland.

Jolly Rumbelow is a fat man who laughs a lot and sells televisions.

Jon


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 01:25 PM

Calends was a Roman "calendrical" word. The calends (or kalends) was the first of the month, from which dates were reckoned backwards, as "three days before the calends of July", and counted back as far as the ides of the previous month.

The ides was the other signpost of each month, which floated to different dates in different months, and dates would also be counted as so many days before the ides of the month. The ides of March (which Caesar was told to beware) is on the 15th, but the ides falls on other dates in other months.

Calends has nothing specifically to do with spring.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Tim
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 01:50 PM

Check out the version by the Oyster Band on their "Trawler" album (1991).

On the subject of folk customs: anyone know what "moneymore" means as in "The Bantry Girls Lament"..."when Moneymore comes round". (I believe this song is not from bantry in Cork, but in Bantry in north Wexford/south Carlow and the song is set during The Peninsula War, circa 1810).


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: CapriUni
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 03:20 PM

Howdy! When I was in high school, we started celebrating May Day as a school community thing, and Hal an' Tow was one of the songs we sang. The tune we sang, though, was about as different as you can get from the one in the DT... that one, I can't seem to make match the words at all. Ours was a bit faster, in a different key and had fewer notes...And the only "source" I have for our version was the school's old headmaster... he sang it for us, and we sang along, no score or sheet music provided -- just the lyrics on a xeroxed sheet (how's that for "folk process"?! ;-)).

And "our" version had an opening (perhaps a modern, "paganized") verse that went like this:

Since Man was first created
His life has been debated
And we have celebrated
The coming of the spring!

Never thought much about "Hal and Tow" -- just sort of assumed it meant "haul and tow", but now that I think about, "heel and toe" makes more sense.

On our lyric sheets, "jolly rumbalo" was written as "Jolly rumble-o", and I always took it to mean that those singing guys were celebrating the 'jolly rumble' they've just come back from in the forest... ;-)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Kernow John
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 07:15 PM

Jon
Your joke wasn't wasted!
KJ


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 24 Oct 01 - 07:22 PM

no indeed, I laughed too, but what do you expect if you allow colonials into our forum? :-)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: DeanC
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 09:08 AM

Thanks to those of you who replied. The bottom line seems to be that we are not all that sure what it really means.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 09:23 AM

Hang on Dean, I suspect a quick trip to a Kernowek dictionary may resolve this...


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 09:34 AM

...nope, it didn't. But the mummers' play in Helston is called the Hal an Tow, and to me it sounds too much like 'hwyl a...' something but that's probably just cognitive dissonance. But I have a feeling this is a phoenetic rendition of a bona fide phrase in Kernewek... Let me try putting the phrase through a Fubar transform, I'll let you know what I come up with. :-)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Noreen
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 06:40 PM

It's already been through the Fubar transform, Dai! Shame there's no reverse process- I could use it often.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 25 Oct 01 - 06:46 PM

I think 'spaw probably has one up his sleeve, the paper is awaiting publication. ;-)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Nancy King
Date: 26 Oct 01 - 01:49 AM

Jeez, I always thought it meant "heel and toe," too. And being somewhat familiar with the habits of sailors, I thought the next line was "jolly rum below". I'll have to admit I never did really try to make sense out of the song though.

Cheers, Nancy


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Oct 01 - 02:45 AM

This comes up from time to time, and it's all pretty much been said; a search of the Forum will reveal a number of answers, some less likely than others.  Wolfgang has already pointed to one detailed reference; here is a list of all the past discussions here that contain substantive information:

lyr and tune Helston Hal an Tow  Text with tune (source unspecified) and a tune of 1802.

Lyr Req: alt. verses to Hal An Tow  Includes modern translation into Cornish, links to earlier discussions and text of a modern song based on it.

Lyr Req: Hal n Toe  Discussion of historical record, the meaning of Hal An Tow, and the identity and location of Rumbelow.

Want first verse to Hal an Tow  Text, source unspecified; brief discussion of horns.

Hal An Tow: notes  A number of texts (many scarcely related) and discussion mainly on the significance of horns.

The DT file is at  HAL AN TOW.  No specific source is named, so it's probably taken from a record by a Revival performer of some sort.  The tune given, as CapriUni mentioned, is not the familiar one; since no source is acknowledged, it's hard to say whether or not it's authentic.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Garry Gillard
Date: 26 Oct 01 - 03:16 AM

Here is a link to The Watersons' version of this song, with further notes, including A. L. Lloyd's, and links back to the Mudcat links.

Garry


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Jody Kruskal
Date: 07 Dec 01 - 01:22 AM

I have no idea what Hal an Tow means. I first heard the song from the Watersons on Frost & Fire decades ago and have always loved the mystery of the title.

Now, I am musical director and composer for a NY-USA production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. In ActIV Scene II I'm considering what tune I will give to the actors for these lyrics...

SONG:
What shall he have that kill'd the deer?
His leather skin and horns to wear.
Then sing him home

[The rest shall bear this burden]

Take thou no scorn to wear the horn;
It was the crest ere thou wast born:
Thy father's father wore it
And thy father bore it:
The horn, the horn, the lusty horn
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.

The Waterson's melody and song Hal an Tow does not scan with these words, and of course, as composer, I can do what I like. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 13-Jan-02.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Upstreeter
Date: 07 Dec 01 - 09:33 AM

One of you knowledgeable guys must be able to enlighten me as to derivation of the ancient refrain heard in the Crystals recording... met him on a monday and my heart stood still, da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron... What exactly is a 'doo ron ron', should it be a 'bit of a to do Ron, Ron'...where Ron is the would-be boyfriend? Please help if I'm not too off-thread, I'm dying to know.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Ann-Marie
Date: 27 Apr 04 - 12:11 PM

Dear All,

Looked it up in Ronald Hutton's 'Stations of the Sun' and apparently it does mean the Calends, or begining of the month (Halan) and garland (tow), making it the first day of the month of garlands; i.e. lst May. Well, that's what it says in the book anyway!


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Betsy
Date: 27 Apr 04 - 02:40 PM

None of you can give a definitive answer - you're waffling along so I feel moved to join-in with my waffle.
Call my bluff:-
1.Hal and Tow - Haul and Pull - to hoist up a May pole or equipment for May Day festivities, or
2.Traditional Tug of war on the Village green (on May Day) for men to display their strength /virility to the gathered young ladies - May Day being the accepted day for beginning of such arousal.

Makes as much sense / credible as some of the shite in this thread .
Thankyou Jon - for Rumbelows sounds about right to me - but could it be a local word referring to a "rumble in the hay" - type of thing.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Apr 04 - 05:33 AM

"Tow" in Scots is twine or string, so I go with the Calend garland theory.
G E


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Betsy
Date: 28 Apr 04 - 08:02 AM

Fairground people / gypsies always referred to Tow Rope - with a hard "W" - like Toww, whereas our Dads and Uncles etc.referred to them with a soft "W" as in Toe.
I'm still convinced for example that the song Dainty Davie ( see a different thread ) has a misspelt word curly "pow" - it makes sense for it to be a curly tow ( rope ). Many many people are trying to justify the existence of the word "pow", however,coming from Middlesbrough I am quite happy to accept a simple spelling mistake ,as , when our town got its royal charter (or whatever the exact thing was called ) the Town Clerk mispelt the name by not putting an "o" in between the "b" and the "r" like normal English town names - end of mystery !!!
Incidentally it would have been a prized and expensive piece of equipment in the days when these songs evolved , and definitely a " must have " for the daring night visitor.
Hal and Tow - I'll stick to my previous assertions - the English language has evolved gently and I can't believe the words Hal and Tow have changed so dramatically as some would like , or suppose.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Sieffe
Date: 05 May 04 - 05:17 PM

Nice reasoning there! My own guess is that Hal and Tow is Heel and Toe (dancing) and Jolly Rum Below is another merrymaking reference.
All translated to the land from the sea of course (sailors have to go home sometime!!) Why anyone would want to dig up arcane meanings when the easiest answer is there I do not know . . . .some people have great trouble seeing the simple in life . . . cheers, Sieffe (who has been singing this rubbish for 30 years! . . . .)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST, Mikefule
Date: 06 May 04 - 02:44 AM

I like the Da Doo Ron Ron comparison.

Hal an Tow is simply 17th Century English for A Wop Bop A Lula, A Wop Bam Boo.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 06 May 04 - 03:19 AM

Betsy:

"I'm still convinced for example that the song Dainty Davie ( see a different thread ) has a misspelt word curly "pow" - it makes sense for it to be a curly tow ( rope ). Many many people are trying to justify the existence of the word "pow", however,coming from Middlesbrough I am quite happy to accept a simple spelling mistake"

I like your subtle sense of humour- for a moment I thought you were serious. Or are you? "Pow" for hair was used in Lancashire at least as late as the 60s, "Getting powed" meant having a haircut.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Fred Miller
Date: 06 May 04 - 11:36 PM

I've only heard the Waterson's--I thought they were saying All in tow, as in with everyone along. whoops.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Darowyn
Date: 06 Feb 05 - 05:16 AM

The comparison with "Wop Bop a Loo Mop a Lop Bam Boom!" and "Da Doo Ron Ron" is interesting, but not very helpful.
Both of those have a traceable origin.
Little Richard was singing the drum fill that he wanted to start the song with. Any drummer could play that.
"Da doo ron ron" is "they do run run" from an old children's song, a version of Three blind mice.
Any song writer would know not to start the chorus of a song with a meaningless fill. Actually, I have always wondered how many of the "To me rye fol..." and "Tourelay..." choruses in folk are actually the record of the collectors writing down some old buffer's attempt to sing the instrumental break. Most villages would have had a band for Church and Pub, and I just can't imagine a pub full of drunken Englishmen singing nonsense words (Except folkies of course, who are daft enough for anything!)
Why does the "Jolly (Johnny?)Rumbelow" get so little attention? The phrase does turn up in shanties, often as a name. I don't know of any Celtic deities or pre-christian spirits with a name that sounds similar. I think the first line needs to be looked at as a whole.
If it's not Cornish of Breton, does anyone know Basque? (not a sort of corset, calm down) supposed to be the basis of the secret language of witches.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Feb 05 - 05:59 AM

Have you sad people got nowt better to do than discuss meaningless expressions in old songs. What are you looking for FFS the meaning of life or something ?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Feb 05 - 07:16 PM

The watersons got it wrong. hal and his two sisters were a very popular song and dance act in the 1450's. their manager was dyslectic.

Jolly Rumbalow was rhythm guitar. he went on to form the Rumballow dynasty. they used to sell washing machines.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: open mike
Date: 22 Mar 05 - 02:01 PM

hal is the computer on board the space ship in 2001 space odyssey


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Winfree
Date: 05 May 07 - 12:44 PM

This is part of a sea chanty

"Haul and Tow" are the call to pull the lines on the sails

"Jolly Rum Below" is the cargo, or supplies for the sailors.

Some of the words are a little garbled - probably from healthul draughts of the jolly run

Confusion came when a group of self-appointed pagans tried to find pagan lyrics and ended up with a number of confused statements, as jumbled as their haul and tow...

They did produce some old seas songs like the Pace egging song - which comes from the time of queen Elizabeth the ist, when sailors who had fought the Spanish armada were told to stay on board ship or they would not get paid - to stave off starvation the good Admiral and a few crewmen went begging for eggs and bread and the memory remains in the English today. Not paganism, but Christian charity, is the memory.

They also sang about a wren, that is taken from door to door annually in small villages and coins collected. This is a little closer to pagan...the wren represents a companion of one of the English kings who was very extravigant, riased taxes, cruel to commoners and a homosexual! When people learned of the companions death there were great celebrations and his body was carted from place to place, to prove he was really dead - for smaller villages, a dead bird, which made a pun on his name, was dressed in fragments of his clothing - "his gay ribbons" - and it was carried from door to door - coins were given in celebration of the news of his passing...This became a custom but few remember its origin.

Our pagans would have found better references to their newly invented beleifs by seeking Celtic songs about St Bridget, Lou of the Long Hand, the gift of Gab, and other tunes referring to the pre-roman times. Kipling's "Oak and Ash and Thorn", a Tree song probably hold more of what they were seeking...It would be interesting to see what his trees spelt in the old druid language.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Winfree
Date: 05 May 07 - 01:15 PM

A bit more from the Hal an Tow song also gives some historical background and points to the time of the Chanty's origin:

We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O;
For summer is a comin'in,
And winter's gone away-O!

May was when ships put out for long trips - the spring tides and summer winds made travel more pleasant - The sailors really haven't gone a'Maying, but they are enjoying the fair winds and following seas

What 'appened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast-O?
They shall eat the feathered goose,
And we shall eat the roast-O...

This verse is a reference to the battle with the Spainish Armada, the Spaniards boasted that they would defeat England and take it over, since Elizabeth refused to marry their prince.

The sailors, who have just enjoyed the Spainish defeat declare that the Spainish will only eat arrows which have goose feathers on them
for stabalization (fletching)

But the victors get to eat the bird which provided the arrows - this suggest that this is a song dating back to the war with the Spainish and a time when arrows were still used as weapons aboard ship. It also suggests that the English sailors were not as well armed as the spainish.

Robin Hood and Little John,
They've both gone to the fair-O.
And we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare-O...

This may be from an older song, or it may refer to a story about Robin hoods good shooting - again the sailors are saying they sent accurate arrows against the Spainish

God bless Aunt Mary Moses
In all her power and might-O,
And send us peace to England,
Send peace both day and night-O...

The first line is a bit garbled but it blesses both the Virgin Mary for her help with the war
And it wishes a blessing on Moses, in this case representing the Jewish merchants who were funding the ship's expedition - this blessing on Moses occurs in other sea songs.

Other version include something that delights pagans - references to wearing deer horns, skins, and the deer head crest.   The stags head crest may have been an old symbol for England,just as is the English Lion, and Unicorn are symbols, or it may have represented the ship owners or captains crest.

There is references to it as belonging to your father and grand father but, this version also includes a rude joke about how having horns means that your wife is committing adultry - a sailor on an extended trip would worry about this - and the joke would be don't worry, that's how you and your whole sea faring family came to be!


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: stallion
Date: 05 May 07 - 01:45 PM

perhaps the greenwood reference is to the ship as in the pirate song " ...a home in the greenwood a life on the sea..." I believe they were made of green wood (unseasoned)


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: gnu
Date: 05 May 07 - 02:12 PM

Around these here parts, it means a heck of a good show! Bernie Houlahan is half of "Hal an Tow". Bernie is a Mudcatter who doesn't post much. He's also a 'Cat who has been acclaimed by some such as Kendall as one of the best guitar players he has ever seen. The only pic I could find roght off is here.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 05 May 07 - 06:14 PM

The Mayday edition of the Padstow Echo has just arrived and it contains an interesting article by John Buckingham.
Apparently the Day Song back in the 1890s was much more like the Halantow and at one point has:

With Hal-an-tow, and jolly rumble O.
For summer is acome, and winter is ago,
And in every land O, the land that ere we go.

It appeared in print in 1895 as a broadsheet by Harding the stationer, then the same words were published by Williams and Son in 1903 and by Thurstan Peter in 1913 in his book "The Hobby Horse".
Sometime between then and 1950 the Day Song was abbreviated to the few lines now sung when the Oss dies, with no mention of Halantow.
The tune sung today doesn't appear to fit to the old words.

The tune given in Malcolm's first link above is the Furry dance tune but was the Halantow originally sung to the same tune?

Was that song widely known throughout Cornwall but gradually lost to all but Helston and Padstow?
Was it originally a Helston song adopted in Padstow?
Or was it part of the Padstow festivities and adopted by Helston?

Padstow was a shipbuilding, sailing community up until the early 20th C (unless you count fishing which is still important there today) but Helston is a little further from a port, if Winfree is correct and it was a sea shanty.
The Padstow version has 'French Dogs' eating the grey goose feather, not Spaniards, and there is a legend that a French privateer was headed for Padstow but was frightened off by seeing the Oss dancing up on a hill. They thought it was the devil and the rest of the dancers in red were his imps. Some put the date for this in the 18thC, others say "in ancient times" but the dancers in red were supposedly women in their red capes, because the men were away fighting somewhere else.
One verse of the current May song could have an answer to that:

Where are the young men that here now should dance?
For summer is acome unto day,
Well, some they are in England and some they are in France,
In the merry morning of May.

At Helston there is a black-clothed devil and red 'imps' who are chased away by St Michael.
So perhaps there is a link between the festivities at Helston and Padstow - or perhaps they're the only remaining examples of something that was once widespread throughout Cornwall/England/the world??
Robyn


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 05 May 07 - 07:54 PM

My heart sinks when I see an ancient thread of this kind revived, as it usually means that someone wants to post either something that has already been said in every other discussion here on the same subject, or a pet theory which for them is self-evident fact but which (since they never cite verifiable sources) comes over as an unsubstantiated mishmash of selective fact and wishful thinking. Sometimes somebody actually adds some useful information, but it usually has to be extracted with tweezers and a magnifying glass from the surrounding junk and digression. I make an exception for Robyn, who raises some useful questions. Whether or not anyone can provide useful answers remains to be seen.

When I provided links to other discussions here five years ago, I didn't guarantee that they were accurate or reliable; nor do I now. To quote from A Dictionary of English Folklore (Simpson and Roud, OUP 2000, 'Helston Furry Day'):

'...the words of the verses are sufficiently obscure to have excited the vivid imaginations of amateur folklorists for decades...'

Clearly that hasn't changed.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Bonecruncher
Date: 05 May 07 - 10:28 PM

Little Robyn's comment on "ladies in red capes" is probably a reference to the time during the Napoleonic Wars when French troops landed in Caermarthenshire, in an attempt to invade Britain.
They surrendered to a group of Welsh women, wearing traditional costume of dark skirt and red capes, who they thought were English Redcoats. Like in many stories, time/place seems to have been portable!
Guest WINFREE seems to be somewhat confused regarding history, unless the post was to have been made on 1st. April!
By the time of the Spanish Armada the use of the bow and arrow had long been dispensed with. After all, the first use of gunpowder in war was during the battle of Agincourt (1415) and by Elizabethan times firearms were well-developed.
Any student of history knows that Pace-Egging is nothing to do with sailing. It is from page-egging that we obtain the decorated eggs that we today give at Easter. Rolling eggs downhill was a sport in many parts of the country. Like many customs, it died out after the first World War.
Colyn.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: catspaw49
Date: 06 May 07 - 01:01 AM

Malcolm........It is the ungoing problem with the forum style in general. We have threads refreshed as you suggest all the time and I would add that in virtually all cases, the new poster has read niether the thread nor any relevant links and older threads. Mostly they just wish to show how much they know (and are generally wrong).

There is no solution to this so it is usually treated with ridicule and sarcasm which is about all that's left.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,mom
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 08:39 AM

Please an explanation of the words Hal an Tow?? I have been searching the web a lot. Doesn't anyone know?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 11:05 AM

look at the top of the thread and read and follow the various links! This has been answered in excruciating detail over the last 8-9 years.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 01:10 PM

And if you sing:

Since man was first created his works have been debated
And we have celebrated the coming of the spring.

- Mike Waterson wrote that bit.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: JeffB
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 04:17 PM

And "rumbelow" (and its variants) was the normal 17th-18th century term for rum.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 06:17 PM

I think we'd need some evidence for that. See the late Bruce Olson's comments in earlier discussions here of the subject for what seems to be the most likely explanation for 'Rumbelow'.

The answer to 'mom's' question is that nobody knows; though a lot of people think they know.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 06:21 PM

I think it is a celebration of the earth's fecundity and the fact that it's roots lie in an act of act of mischief and impropiety.

The horns are the horns of the cuckold. Referred to in Shakespeare, and as Evelyn Waugh put it in Brideshead Revisited, "My cuckold's horns made me Lord of the Forest."

I bet thats why the Abbotts Bromley dancers have stags antlers when they dance.

A hymn to licentiousness and fornication.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 06:51 PM

Hmmmm...

Even without bothering myself with the facts, my immediate reaction just looking at the thread title in a forum in which sea shanties are a significant part of the shared interes (and living as I curently do in the Low Countries, from which so much nautical English comes) was that Haul and Tow was probably a mondeverdant anglicisation of the Dutch "Haal an 't touw" (pull on the rope), and that it was a phrase from a sea shanty.

One of the frustrating things about folk culture and the process that linguists deride as "folk etymology" is that it's easy to surmise but hard to prove anything. Wouldn't it be nice to imagine that a whole school of "heel and toe" dancing might have sprung from a misunderstanding of a foreign phrase?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 07:12 PM

That's one of many theories already gone into in these old, tired and depressingly repetitive discussions. Unless anybody has anything new to add having read what has already been said (which seems pretty unlikely) can we please let this ancient thread slip quietly back into the grave where it belongs?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 07:44 PM

Oh Malcolm. why are you so impatient with us ignoramuses?

Most of us us predicate an entire body of work on all our daft mistaken beliefs. That's allright, ain't it?

al


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Dave Hunt
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 08:17 PM

Haul and Tow is an ancient (and still practised) method of oyster dredging on the Helford river. - they are still using boats under sail for part of the process - they used to sail, (now motor) up stream, and then drift sideways down on the current whilst dredging, and the use of engines is not allowed. This method of fishery has helped sustain the oyster stocks!
Dave.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 20 Apr 08 - 05:57 AM

Sustainable fishing, whatever next? We can't have that!


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Gervase
Date: 20 Apr 08 - 01:40 PM

Little Robyn's comment on "ladies in red capes" is probably a reference to the time during the Napoleonic Wars when French troops landed in Caermarthenshire, in an attempt to invade Britain.
They surrendered to a group of Welsh women, wearing traditional costume of dark skirt and red capes, who they thought were English Redcoats. Like in many stories, time/place seems to have been portable!

Don't tell that to the folk of Abergwaun. It was there that the last French invasion of Britain, led by an Irish American, was seen off in 1797,with the help of a hefty lass called Jemima Nicholas, and they're very proud of the old battleaxe.
These days there's a music session every Tuesday in the Royal Oak, the pub where the French signed the surrender documents.
You can find a fairly comprehensive account here.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Dave Earl
Date: 20 Apr 08 - 07:43 PM

Oy Gervase

Did us not have a sing in that Royal Oak a year or two ago?

Dave


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: JeffB
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 06:40 AM

As for "rumbelow" - from Walter Skeat's Dictionary of English Etymology (1882) Rum: called "rumbo" in Smollett ... this is short for the sailors' word "rumbowling", grog. Originally called "rumbullion" in Barbadoes, 1651; from Devonshire "rumbullion", uproar, rumpus. Founded on F "ramper".


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 08:24 AM


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 08:28 AM

You ain't a real man til you've had one or two jolly rumbelows.

You lot'll be tellling me you've never been keen on 'titty fa la! titty fal lay!' next.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Suffolk Miracle
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 09:56 AM

I always explain it as Heel and Toe. It may be wrong BUT I want to remind the audience that it is a dance and not, as some appear to want to make it, a two mile an hour funeral dirge!!


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 04:34 AM

Does Skeat actually mention 'rumbelow', or are you just guessing at a connection? Do have a look at Bruce Olson's comments in earlier discussions if you haven't already; most particularly Lyr Req: Hal n Toe. His references are mainly earlier, and make it clear that Rumbelow was at that time considered a place rather than a beverage. That doesn't mean that it was understood in this song in that way, but it does mean that we can't say for sure one way or the other.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 04:52 AM

A place....?

I hadn't considered that. A two-bedroomed rumbelow with central heating...


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: JeffB
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:13 PM

If you re-read Bruce Olson's quotes you might agree with me that they do not at all make it clear that "rumbelo" or "rumbylow" are places. Skeat does not print "rumbelow" in what has become the accepted spelling of this word in "Hal and tow". However, there is no official orthography with such non-standard words, and there was certainly comparatively little recognised orthography in the 18th C and earlier. Consequently we have to take a common-sense approach to questions of this sort. If you can accept, for instance, Olson's "rumbelo" as being a relation of the word in "Hal and tow", I fail to see why a connection cannot also be made between Smollett's "rumbo" and Skeat's "rumbowling".


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:20 PM

No one seems industrious enough any more to use the Oxford English Dictionary, which goes into the history of the word in detail, with many quotes.

The word first surfaces in print in Cour de Leon and in 1315 in Brut as a "meaningless combination of syllables serving as a refrain, orig. sung by sailors when rowing."
From Cour de Leon: They rowede hard and sungge ther too, with heuelow and rumbeloo." This usage continued, along with others, given below, into the 1700s.

The word also used as a place-name:
1530- Hickscomer, "I have been in Gene and in Cowe, also in the londe of Rumbelowe,..."

Also used to mean a blow or stroke:
1400- Land Troy Book,..., He gave him such a rumbelow, That he went ouer his sadil-bowe."

Also to mean rumbling, or resounding 1582, etc.

Also to mean "a woman of light behaviour:"
1611- J. Davies "Then yee descend, where he sits in a Gondolow With Eggs thrown at him by a wanton Room-be-low."

Also to mean a type of carriage:
1881- Blackmore, "Let the other flys, and rumbelows, come down first."

Enough? I suppose some will continue to invent new meanings rather than accept any authority.

____________________________________
One more interesting quote, with bearing on the overdone thread "Hal and Tow:
1790- Gentl. Mag. LX.. "I have recollected the first verse of the song used on that day (i. c., Flora, Day at Helston, Cornwall)... "Hel-an-tow, Rumbelow.""


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: JeffB
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:49 PM

Thanks for that, Q. I didn't quote from the OED, not because I'm lazy but because I don't have a copy.

Your first quote, "the londe of Rumbelowe", still does not exclude the meaning "rum". Perhaps a more extended quote might make this clearer one way or another. Your other indicating a carriage doesn't make sense in the context of the song. However your others, a blow or a loose woman, obviously could.

I assume you are not referring to me in your comment about others making up new meanings. I merely quoted a plausible derivation from a reference I happen to have.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:54 PM

Long ago Betsy and Winfree gave the likely meaning of 'hal,' which could be the same word as 'hale,' an old Germanic word meaning to haul or pull, halen,, "They setten mast, and halen saile."

The word has been superceded by 'haul.' The spelling 'hall' persisted until at least 1700. See Dampier, Smith, and other nautical writings, where it is spelled 'hall.'
OED


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 03:37 PM

Londe is an obsolete word for land, in the sentence quoted it means the region of or tract of Rumbelowe. The name 'Rumbelow' is a surname in England; more than one district has the name- one near Birmingham, one in Aston, another a division of County Warwick, and one in Staffordshire known in 1430 as Romylowe- the exact locations are now unknown.
http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DBY/NamesPersonal/Rumbelow.html.

Genealogists have looked into the surname, and the above is from their researches.

The OED has no reference to rum in their article on Rumbelow.

I was giving the various meanings of 'rumbelow' as printed in the OED; none is specifically meant to relate to the song.

Rumbo (rumbowling) was a grog (mostly rum); no indications of a relationship to 'rumbelow.' Rumbo was a slang word for rope stolen from a Royal shipyard, and also slang for gaol (jail).
Rumbowling also was a slang term for anything inferior.
OED


The name as used for a type of carriage is a late one. No idea what type of carriage is meant; could have been the name of a maker, or a reference to the ride or sound as the vehicle moved along. The curator of a carriage museum probably could help.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: JeffB
Date: 24 Apr 08 - 12:32 PM

Well, you gotta laff! I thought we were talking about rumbelow in the song!

Now we know know the multifarious meanings of the word I expect we are all thoroughly bored with it. On to something else, which I wanted to bring up earlier - one of the things that really interests me about "Hal and Tow" is the mention of Robin Hood and Little John. They are a long way from their usual haunts of the Midlands and the Borders, in fact this is the only time I can recall their appearance in a West Country song. Is this holiday of theirs in Cornwall unique, or has anyone come across them in the West before?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 May 08 - 08:07 PM

City: London
Publisher: Printed by Iohn Windet the Assigne of William Barley [etc.]
Date: 1606

Songs 30 & 31 here   http://dev.hil.unb.ca/Texts/EPD/UNB/view-works.cgi?c=songbook.1616&pos=79

This line therein to be found

"heaue and ho, Rumbelo,"


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin
Date: 18 May 08 - 05:14 PM

I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but -

My partner is Helston born, and she's pointed out to me, the two lines as they sing them in Helston don't actually rhyme.

Tow rhymes with 'how' or 'now' (ie, definitely not to rhyme with 'hoe' or 'know'),

whereas the second bit, 'jolly rumbelow', rhymes with 'hoe'/'know'.

Shoh slaynt,

Bobby Bob


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Mike Garvin
Date: 04 Sep 08 - 12:13 PM

"Hal an Tow" is derived from old saxen.The modern Dutch is "Haal aan het touw"...meaning to pull or tug on the rope. Many such Saxen terms are found in Cornish festivals. Robin Hood and Maid Marion, and Saint George, to name a few.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Sep 08 - 09:28 PM

How do you know?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Greg B
Date: 04 Sep 08 - 09:45 PM

Hey...that rhymes!

Hal an tow
How do you know...

You made a pome.

Have some Mead.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 09 - 08:48 AM

Some information for you that is not mentioned clearly anyone in this long thread, and which is possibly assumed by the experts -

(1) "The Hal An Tow" is used to refer to the performance and song, done every year, in Helston Cornwall on May 8th, where it has been performed and sung for a very very long time. No doubt it may have older / wider origins, but the Helston 'version' is certainly older and more authentic than the versions by the Watersons or the Oyster Band, much as we may love them.

If we take the view that the meaning of a word is its use, as Wittgenstien would have it, then this is the meaning of The Hal An Tow. For example, an old man in the Blue Anchor pub in Helston, at around 9.15am this year, finished his very early pint and said "I am going to go now and watch The Hal An Tow" - and off he went (this is true, I heard him say it).

(2) The lyrics sung in Helston are exactly as here -
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4211

- except that recently, Cornish enthusiasts have added a verse about St Piran.

(3) This years performance (May 8th 2009) was filmed by an amateur here -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDYkfNfrxWE

a slightly clearer view, from last years performance -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JWd6mpR-fY


Note they do it around 8 times in different locations. These are just local people following an old tradition.

I suppose my point in posting this is to say that The Hal An Tow is not some old dead song lost in mists of time and folk singer tributes. At 8.30 on a brisk May morning, with whistles and oggie oggies, its very much alive.

My personal interest here is that I used see this every year in early 1970s when I was a child, as we lived hear Helston and my father played St Michael, being a drama teacher at the school. It was the same then as it is now, with the exception of the people in blue / the St Piran verse.

Why not go to Helston early on May 8th and see for yourself ?

Hope this helps,
Gabriel


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Sep 10 - 08:39 PM

I can't tell you what it means, but I have a version of it in one of my songbooks, and it is written as,"Hal-an-toe, jolly lu mallow". I always just assumed it was nonsense words because it was such a happy song.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 04:06 AM

Notable [but no-one seems to have noted it above, or any of the many other threads about all this that I have found] is that the Watersons' first "Take thou no scorn to wear the horn" verse does not appear in any of the traditional versions there cited. I once thought I would try to write an article for OUP's Notes·&·Queries or some such on how a verse from Shakespeare's As You Like It (I once played Amiens, who sings it in the play) should have fused into this traditional but ongoing ritual. Unable to find any annotations in any edition of AYLI I consulted, I rang Norma Waterson to explain what I was working on & ask her where they got the verse from. "Oh, no problem," she said; "we got it from As You Like It and thought it sounded good there."

So ~ question answered, and one scholarly article that never got written. But it had better be known that that verse used in that song is no older than the Watersons' rendition: just as, according to a post a bit back [Folkiedave 19 Apr 08], Mike Waterson appears to have written the 'man created...works debated' jingle himself.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 02:01 PM

Thanks, everyone --
Fine diversion for the Cornish in me...
Takes me back to my Ren-Faire days, and following the "oss" about.
And thanks so much for introducing me to the word "mondeverdant"!!
Now, from my Scots half --
Re "curly pow" above, "pow" is, I believe, a variant of "poll".
Definitely has to do with things on the head -- hair, horns, etc.
Cheers!


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 10 - 03:10 PM

Yes, as political "polls" are *head* counts.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: GUEST,Nicole
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 11:26 AM

Who is Aunt Mary Moses?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 11:27 AM

She's the one with all the power and might - O

L in C#


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 11:50 AM

Suggestion on one website, http://piereligion.org/mayday2.html#furry ~~

"Poor Aunt Mary Moses was surely once Saint Mary, but she got desainted after the Reformation in England. Before that she was probably a version of the Pagan Goddess of spring, almost certainly Freya. And if you don't happen to be in England, you can ask her to send "peace through all the land."

All speculative, I guess; but probably as good a guess as any.

This website, BTW, explicitly quoting the Watersons' version as reference, includes unquestioned the "Take no scorn to wear the horn" verse, showing that the poster had not taken on board my post above, 24 Sep 10, 0406 AM, where I state on the authority of Norma herself that the Watersons got that verse from Shax's As You Like It because they thought it sounded good there. It does not appear in any of the traditional on-the-spot or field recordings I have ever heard.

~M~


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 03:20 PM

she got desainted after the Reformation in England. Before that she was probably a version of the Pagan Goddess of spring

Before what, exactly? Before Christianity? It would be nice to think that the singing of Hal-an-Tow (or something like it) dated back to before the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, but it's a bit of a stretch.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 05:21 PM

No ~~ before the Reformation, c mid-C16: not an absurd stretch of time.

~M~


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 24 Apr 12 - 06:59 PM

Before the Reformation she was one of the Saints Mary, possibly the Blessed Virgin herself. Were medieval Cornish Christians telling their beads to "a version of the Pagan Goddess of spring"?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 12:11 AM

Syncretically ~~ perfectly natural & true to form when newer faiths replace ancient.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 02:44 AM

True, but where's the evidence of this particular ancient faith feeding into this particular newer one? And what's it got to do with this song?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 03:20 AM

Don't know. & don't know. Just that you asked a question and I found a possible, speculative, answer by searching. If it doesn't satisfy you, that's OK. But not a topic I have particular interest in pursuing.

~M~


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 05:07 AM

Phil, Phil let it lie

Les


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 03:56 PM

Michael - someone else asked the original question, and I wasn't criticising anything you'd contributed. (I hadn't realised the Watersons had contributed the 'Shakespeare' verse; I was quite spooked when I happened upon it, leafing through As you like it one day for reasons I forget.)

The hazy chronology on that page you quoted just struck me as a typical example of woozy folkie retro-paganism, something that always irritates me (all right, Les, I'll let it lie in just a minute, OK...). When I sing the Holly and the Ivy I like to introduce it by saying that it's a song that preserves many symbols and images of an ancient faith that was once practised throughout England... a faith called "Christianity". The serious point is that you don't need to go that far back - perhaps to around the time my grandparents were born - to get to a world without electric lighting but with universal observance of Christian ritual. The people Cecil Sharp and Vaughan Williams collected from would have had an immediate understanding of the sentiments of a song like the Holly and the Ivy or the Boar's Head Carol, in a way that we can't any more. (Those sentiments being: (a) "it's really cold and dark out there" and (b) "praise our Lord and Saviour".) Chin-stroking neo-pagan "explanations" of the "symbolism" of these songs just make the past into much more of a foreign country than it was - or maybe it would be closer to the point to say that they make the past easier to understand, by glossing over the taken-for-granted Christian faith which genuinely does seem exotic to us now.

I like the idea of "Aunt Mary Moses" as a codeword for the BVM; not sure if there's anything to support it, but it's a nice folk-explanation at the very least. But I can't see any reason to drag pre-Xtian deities into it.


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Apr 12 - 05:41 PM

Yes ~ but, Phil. Without going all Golden Bough, there is surely always some traceable syncretic continuum? Though I agree with you it is too simple to go to the other extreme & insist on over-interpretation of everything. Perhaps someone had an Aunt called Mary Moses, for that matter, and pagan fertility goddesses had nothing to do with it!

~M~


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Apr 12 - 03:13 AM

The Christian Church in in Enland has been one of the most powerful influences on the lives of working people and 'society in general' since the Anglo-Saxons were converted.

The Church matched the pattern of the agricultural year to aspects of the life of JC as descibed in the new testament and embued almost everything they could with 'christian significance'. The poor old pagens never had a chance.

When you consider the ferocity with which protestant reformers treated catholics and at various times vice versa it is hardley surprising that anything that might be described at all as 'pre-christian' or pagan has survived at all.

In fact I am tempted to say their is no evidence of survival at all. Maybe a few re-introductions and massive significance thrown on to a few features of seasonal.

Hal an Tow? A strange old song that's great fun to sing.

Les


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Apr 12 - 04:36 AM

I think there's a big difference between "pagan" and "seasonal". There are still seasonal festivals - they're called things like Christmas and Easter and Bank Holiday Monday. 100 or 150 years ago, the seasonal meaning of festivals like that would have been much more vivid - and so would the religious (Christian) meaning. I think people who try to find spiritual significance in old songs by spotting parallels with pre-Christian religions are looking in the wrong place.

Anyway, this is all way off topic - maybe I should hang on to this thought until the next time somebody starts sounding off about Saturnalia.

How was Swarb?


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Subject: RE: What does 'Hal an Tow' mean?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Apr 12 - 05:02 AM

Dave Swarbrick last night:

Well it was an extraordinary performance. To miss-quote other people: He played all the notes and in the right order and most of the other notes as well. He played in a number of keys and in many, many time sigs. sometimes in the same tune. I felt that sometimes the tunes dissappeared only to re-emerge a few bars later. I think the tunes fought back and did well in the second half.

And he didn't mention Hal an Tow once

Les


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