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Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)

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Bat Goddess 24 Nov 02 - 06:49 PM
Leadfingers 24 Nov 02 - 07:09 PM
Bat Goddess 24 Nov 02 - 07:11 PM
Bat Goddess 24 Nov 02 - 07:18 PM
Bat Goddess 25 Nov 02 - 01:40 PM
Charley Noble 25 Nov 02 - 05:12 PM
Charley Noble 09 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM
Bat Goddess 09 Feb 03 - 01:50 PM
delphinium 09 Feb 03 - 03:22 PM
Jeri 09 Feb 03 - 03:37 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Feb 03 - 03:52 PM
delphinium 09 Feb 03 - 04:58 PM
Bob Bolton 09 Feb 03 - 10:36 PM
Dave Bryant 10 Feb 03 - 06:11 AM
Bat Goddess 10 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM
GUEST 02 Oct 11 - 07:05 PM
Charley Noble 03 Oct 11 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Oct 11 - 08:43 AM
Ross Campbell 03 Oct 11 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 03 Oct 11 - 10:42 AM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Oct 11 - 12:54 PM
EBarnacle 03 Oct 11 - 03:52 PM
Charley Noble 03 Oct 11 - 05:53 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: RACE OF LONG AGO (from Webber & Fentiman
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 24 Nov 02 - 06:49 PM

Ayuh -- Charlie gave me the original Cecily Fox Smith words for this poem. There was quite a bit of "tweaking" to sing the poem, actually. I'm glad I transcribed it before Charlie so kindly got me the copy of the poem. Now I suppose I have to learn it -- I've had it in my head all night and morning (and for the last several weeks since Dave and Anni were in York, Maine).

It's on Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman's new CD "Away From It All." Words credited to Cecily Fox Smith and tune to "Trad." The notes say they got it from the singing of Bob Roberts, bargeman, but they left off where he's from. (Typo.) They said he said he got the song from an engineer he worked with. And Dave said he tweaked the words yet further to make them "more acceptable in modern times."

But here it is.

Linn



RACE OF LONG AGO
from a poem by Cicely Fox Smith ("Racing Clippers"),
sung by Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman

Now I've never done much good in me time
I've been a waster through and through.
And the only things that I've ever done
Was the things I wanted to do.
Like blowing me chances and wasting me pay
Of these things I've had me share
But I was one of the Clansmen's crowd
When we raced the Robin Adair.

There was a big tough Scouser and a cockeyed Swede
And a kid from the County Clare
And we made up the starboard watch
When we raced the Robin Adair.
Murphy fell from a topsail yard in the Pole Star years ago.
And Clancy died with a knife in his side in a bar in Callao.
Bill got married and settled down and the rest are God knows where.
But that was all so long ago when we racedthe Robin Adair.

We was yardarm to yardarm in Sidney Head
And then she started to blow.
And soon the Clansmen was reeling them off
At 15 knots or so.
The old man grinned as he faced the wind,
Saying, "This is the weather for her."
"Me lads," he cried, "You've seen the last
Of the wonderful Robin Adair."

Til early one morning when the sun arose
And the day had just begun.
We spied a ship hauled down astern
And a-coming along like fun.
The old man swept his glass to his eye
And you should have heard him swear
For up from the south with a bone in her mouth
There came the Robin Adair.

So we started piling the canvas on
And it had to stay there, too.
'Twas a fair old breeze in the morning time
But, by God, that night it blew.
I've seen some strange things in me time
But it surely made me swear.
Crackin on sail in a Biscay gale
Just to beat the Robin Adair.

Now we made the London river at last
By 12 of the Wapping clock.
I counted the chimes as we tied her up
To the buoys in the London dock.
We made that race in 69 days
With a tale of a time to spare
But that was all so long ago
When we raced the raced the Robin Adair.

Now these old ships have gone to chips
Nigh 40 year or more.
She was sold away to a foreign bunch
And the blighters they run her ashore.
But somewhere south of the Ramarees
And north of the Straits LeMaire
With the fishes cruising around her ribs
There lies the Robin Adair.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Leadfingers
Date: 24 Nov 02 - 07:09 PM

The new tradition seems to be setting C Fox Smith to music.Some right
good lyrics about all sorts of things.A clever lady.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 24 Nov 02 - 07:11 PM

Of course, I screwed up the first line -- should be:

"Now I've never done much good in me time"

And I'm sure you can find the extra space in "south" in the last verse.

Where are the Joe Clones when you need them? (she said with a grin)

Linn
    Looks like somebody fixed it - did they, Linn?
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 24 Nov 02 - 07:18 PM

"Ramirees" is from the poem -- I think it's different in the song.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 25 Nov 02 - 01:40 PM

Thanks, "Somebody"!

And Charley Noble made a modest proposal:

"We was yardarm to yardarm in Sidney Head"

This line describes the start of the race from Sydney, Australia, and generally
people who have been there say "Sydney Heads", there being two of them at the harbor entrance. "In" Sidney Head makes no sense to me either. I [Charley] would suggest:

We was yardarm to yardarm off Sidney Heads


"In" is probably another typo of mine -- "off" is the only thing that makes sense. Well, maybe "at."

Thanks, Charley!

Linn


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Nov 02 - 05:12 PM

Linn-

Nice to learn that Bob Roberts, the "last of the spritsail barge captains", helped folk process this fine poem back in the early 1960's. I always suspected that an earlier generation of folk song singers would have discovered C. Fox Smith's sea poems.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 01:50 PM

As I said earlier, now I have to actually learn it.

I "Bruced it" at the Press Room shanty session last night (meaning I used a cheat sheet).

Linn


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: delphinium
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 03:22 PM

Apparently Bob Roberts recorded "Race of Long Ago" on "Breeze for a Bargeman" issued by Solent Records in 1981 - referenced in Musical Traditions (here):

I don't know this recording (or Webber/Fentimann's) but I do have and very much like Roy Harris' a cappella version entitled "When We Raced the Robin Adair" on his LP "Utter Simplicity" (Fellside FE044 - 1985). Roy's notes about it on the album cover say (in part) he first heard it from Jim Jewell of the Isle of Wight and "I loved it straight away – especially the line "Up from the south with a bone in her mouth"."

Yes, the "bone in her mouth" line is good. I've seen this phrase used about ships before - guess it just means speeding along?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Jeri
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 03:37 PM

Delphinium, We had a discussion on the phrase "bone in her mouth" here a while back. I found it and added it to the list of grouped threads. You can find it at the top of the thread.

Interesting. I thought it fit the picture of a dog grabbing a bone and taking off, but then I'm a land-lubber.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 03:52 PM

Tim Laycock sings it from Bob Roberts singing. And I think he's recorded it too.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: delphinium
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 04:58 PM

Thank you Jeri, you can find about anything in Mudcat if you think to look ... and it is a good image.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 09 Feb 03 - 10:36 PM

G'day Bat Goddess - and Charlie Noble - ,

Strictly speaking, Charlie's statement: "Sydney Heads", there being two of them at the harbor entrance ... " is not quite accurate - there are three of them: North and South Heads, on either side of the Harbour mouth ... and Middle Head, at the eastern end of the Manly Peninsula, where we build a coastal artillery battery during the Crimean War, neatly covering the entire Harbour entrance.

I have played for "bush dances' at the Officers' quarters of the Middle Head Artillery Station, then an officers' training school (men's and women's ... if you were worried), now privatised as an international training institute of some sort.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 06:11 AM

I remember a session in Cowes I-O-W many years ago when the song was sung by Uffa Fox, the famous yacht designer. Uffa, who died in 1972, was quite a singer and knew Bob Roberts who originally came from Hampshire and had crewed racing yachts - in fact Bob retired to the I-O-W later. I wonder who got the song from who.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 10 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM

Interesting . . .

I've only got Roy Harris' "Live at The Lion" CD so I didn't know he had recorded it. (And here I am, trying to learn "Millworkers' Children", too, as soon as I transcribe it.) I'll have to get a copy.

I love watching (and hearing, of course) Dave and Anni singing it together.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Oct 11 - 07:05 PM

Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I came on it after listening to Bob Roberts recording and was a bit surprised t the 'tweaking' in the version shown. It may be accepted practice to remove terms that would cause offence these days although from a historical perspective it gives completely the wrong impression of contemporary attitudes. What caused me to write though was the complete hash made of the storyline. Even supposing the ships left from Sydney rather than the more likely Adelaide, being together at the Heads wouldn't warrant a mention, they left on the same tide and would have had tugs to get them into the seaway. The original mentions being 'neck and neck' at the Snares which is much more relevant, and why 'fifteen knots' rather than 'a steady seventeen or so'? The omitted phrase 'Climbing the trades' is not only a wonderfully evocative line but also places the ships where they are most likely to meet up again after taking different routes North from the Cape and through the doldrums. The final verse shown though is complete nonsense, the Ramirees are roughly 150nm SSW of St Maire strait! Cicely Fox Smith knew her subject, but I'm afraid Webber and Fentiman don't.

PeteM


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Subject: Lyr Add: RACING CLIPPERS (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 08:02 AM

PeteM-

Here's the original poem as published by Cicely Fox Smith with references:

Racing Clippers: a Wool Fleet Memory

I've not made much o' my life, Lord knows;
I'm a has-been through an' through,
An' meanin' 's as far as I've mostly got
With the things as I've meant to do;
Of muckin' my chances and blowin' my pay
I reckon I've had my share,
But - I was one of the Clansman's crowd
When she raced the Robin Adair.

There was Dan an' Clancy an' Liverpool Bill –
An' they were the pick of the lot -
An' a Glasgow lad as skenned like mad,
But his name I've clean forgot;
A big buck nigger an' a cross-eyed Swede,
An' a feller from County Clare -
Them was the chaps in the starboard watch
When we raced the Robin Adair.

An' Dan was lost off the topsail yard
O' the Pole Star years ago,
An' Clancy died with a knife in his side
In a dive in Callao;
An' Bill he's married and livin' ashore,
An' the rest of 'em's Lord knows where,
As I sailed with once in the Clansman's crowd
When we raced the Robin Adair.

Neck an' neck to the Snares we was,
An' then it started to blow,
An' soon the Clansman was reelin' 'em off
A steady seventeen or so,
An' the skipper grinned as he paced the poop,
For that was the weather for her,
An' "Ah 'm thenkin' we've seen the last," says he,
"O' their wonderful Robin Adair!"

But there come a time as we climbed the Trade,
The day was just begun
When we sighted a ship hull down astern
An' comin' along like fun,
An' the Old Man clapped his glass to his eye,
An' you should ha' heard him swear,
For out o' the South with a bone in her mouth
Up romps the Robin Adair.

We started pilin' the canvas on,
And it 'ad to stop there too;
It was breezin' up when we sighted 'er first,
An' afore it was dark it blew!
I've seen some carryin' on in my time
But I tell you he made me stare
Crackin' it on in the Biscay gales
To beat the Robin Adair.

But we made the London river at last -
It was twelve by St. George's clock,
I counted the chimes as we made her fast
To the buoys in the London Dock -
An' we'd won the race from the width o' the world
With the tail of a tide to spare -
That was the way of it, long ago,
When we raced the Robin Adair!

The grand ol' ship's been gone to chips
This fourteen year and more;
They sold 'er away to a Dago bunch,
An' the blighters run 'er ashore;
An' somewheres round by the Ramirees
An' south o' the Straits o' Le Maire,
With the fishes cruisin' among her ribs,
Lies drowned the Robin Adair.

There ain't no racin' clippers now,
Nor never will be again,
And most o' the ships are gone by now,
The same as most o' the men,
An' nobody left but a few old shells
Like us in the world to care
For the great ol' skippers an' the great ol' ships
An' the great ol' days they were,
And the way they had in the Wool Fleet once
When we raced the Robin Adair.

Notes:

From Sailor's Delight, edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by Methuen & Co., London, © 1931, pp. 51-55. First published in Punch Magazine, Volume 173, July 13, 1927, p. 36.

Also known as "Race of Long Ago" as sung through the years by a number of folk singers beginning with Bob Roberts (UK) in 1981 as recorded on his album Breeze for a Bargeman on Solent Records, and more recently by Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman also from the UK. Later adapted for singing by Bob Zentz (US), as recorded on Closehauled on the Wind of a Dream, © 2007.

I do also wonder at some of the changes that have happened in this poem through the years, from Bob Roberts on down. Folk processing does happen and in this case it's happened over 30 years of singing the poem. Some of the changes are inaccurate as you say, and some are not evident "improvements." Others seem to work better, at least when I hear the poem song.

With regard to removing offensive terms for performing before a contemporary audience, the phrase "A big buck nigger" in the 2nd verse merits serious consideration. There is little doubt that sailors of the early 1900's would use such terms, and consider them relatively unoffensive or even colorful, but a performer using such a term today, without explanation, would run the risk of offending a large part of his or her audience. I find it hard to imagine why a performer would want to do that. I don't believe you would advocate singing such a line as composed, but please correct me if I'm mistaken.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 08:43 AM

I know the song from the Bob Robert's 1981 album. Interestingly he doesn't credit CFS in the sleeve-note, and sings the offending line in a way that sticks in the craw to hear it. In 1981 one would have hoped people would have known better - especially a journalist and writer like Bob Roberts.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 10:05 AM

Thanks for posting the original lyrics, Charley. I meant to do that last night.

Can't say that I see any improvement on the original in the "sung" version. I would put the authenticity of the "voice" in the original over modern sensibilities. The "voice" in this case isn't that of the singer, nor even of Cicely Fox Smith, but her sailor recalling a time long before in the language he knew. CFS was recognized long before the folk revival interest in her material as someone who well knew the words and ways of the people she described, and as someone who had a facility for telling a story in a way that sounded true and right.

If you like it, leave it as it is - if you don't like it, leave it alone.

Ross


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 10:42 AM

Such lines blur out of cultural necessity - and the singer always sings the song in their own voice. No song is ever purely (or merely) historical in that sense, neither can we allow a quest for 'authenticity' to interfere with that for a deeper humanity. How 'authentic' is the poem anyway? How 'authentic' can a poem be? It exists at several removes from the life it purports to be describing anyway. As a piece of salty-romance the poem is a nice one - but the fact remains that its essentially unsingable unless we take out the offending line, which is barely incidental to the sense of the thing.

I like the poem, I always have; I used to sing it myself 28 years back from the Bob Robert's record - replacing the offending line with a Persikonkaitas pearl-man and a blue-eyed Swede (a mouthful I admit but I was listening to a record of Persian Gulf Pearl-fishing songs at the time) although it shames me to say I allowed the Dago bunch to remain. These days I'd change that as well...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 12:54 PM

"A big black scouser" would be a way to avoid causing offence, but retaining more of the original mixed-up crew. It's good to remind people that lots of the sailors were black.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: EBarnacle
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 03:52 PM

in re: abone in her mouth, I believe the more commonly used variant is "a bone in her teeth" when referring to a foaming bow wave.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Race of Long Ago (Cicely Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Oct 11 - 05:53 PM

I'm convinced that Bob Roberts knew the song was based on a poem by C. Fox Smith but you're correct, he doesn't credit her. Odd.

If I were singing this song at a small C. Fox Smith workshop at Mystic I'd stick closer to her words. If I were singing it at a general concert, I would seriously consider replacing racist or other ethnic slurs. But everyone needs to make that decision themselves. Preferably well before they are up on stage about to lead the song.

Sometimes I drop "dago" as in "dago fiddler's tune" in "Lee Force Brace," replacing it with "a good old fiddler's tune" but in the same poem I keep "Dago Pete," one of the sailors swept overboard, because that's what the sailor telling the tale knew him as. In "Port o' Dreams" I keep "dago dancing hall" primarily because of alliteration but my wife prefers "rowdy dancing hall." Just a couple of examples which illustrate my choices. I don't think I'd ever use the "N-word" referring to a Black sailor; the term is, and has been for much of its history, derogatory.

Charley Noble


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