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Lyr Req: The Cottage Thatched with Straw

GUEST,Sooz(at work) 13 May 04 - 08:02 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 May 04 - 08:56 AM
IanC 13 May 04 - 09:11 AM
Strollin' Johnny 13 May 04 - 09:27 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 May 04 - 11:43 AM
Sooz 13 May 04 - 12:33 PM
nutty 13 May 04 - 02:57 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 May 04 - 03:20 PM
RoyH (Burl) 13 May 04 - 05:49 PM
BB 14 May 04 - 07:56 AM
Jim Dixon 15 May 04 - 01:08 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: GUEST,Sooz(at work)
Date: 13 May 04 - 08:02 AM

I was asked last night if I knew the words to this song. I didn't but was amazed that they weren't already here! Can anybody help?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 May 04 - 08:56 AM

There are so many thousands of old songs that they can't all be here. This one hasn't been found all that often (though no doubt it was common enough a century ago, and apparently very popular in Devon); the Roud Folk Song Index currently lists two examples only. One of them, noted by Sabine Baring-Gould in Devon and published in Songs of the West (1905), can be seen, with music, at folkinfo.org:

The Cottage Thatched with Straw

Baring-Gould was pretty sure that it was a "published composition", though he didn't manage to track down the original; and no later than the early 19th century.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: IanC
Date: 13 May 04 - 09:11 AM

I'm surprised, Malcolm, that you aren't aware that this one is/was very well known and quite common with "country" singers during the last half of the 20th Century.

This is probably due to its appearance in numerous songbooks published in the 1920s and 30s during the boom in Community Singing partially fuelled by the newspapers of the time. Most of the main newspapers published at least one volume of Community Songs and "A Cottage Well Thatched With Straw" was in nearly all of them. I have a small collecion of these books and, though they aren't always very helpful with information about songs, they are a good guide to what was popular at the time.

My father knew the song well, and I suspect that Harry Cox would have given a rendition of it had anyone asked him. It's one of those songs which collectors liked to ignore because they knew the songbooks it came from.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 13 May 04 - 09:27 AM

Sooz, Dave Fletcher does - ask him! Isn't it on the 'new' CD??
Johnny :0)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 May 04 - 11:43 AM

Oh, there are gaps in everybody's knowledge. I'm not well-up on the community songbook genre (I only have a few, and the song isn't in them), but I'd put a modest bet on all of those printed examples deriving either from Songs of the West or from Kidson and Moffat's Garland of English Folk-Songs (more likely the former).

It would be no surprise, then, if Harry Cox had known it; but if he did, he seems never to have mentioned it. George Orwell evidently knew it, and complained in an article in the Tribune (29 December 1944) that he couldn't get hold of a recording. Earlier in the same year, an arrangement for SATB of the Songs of the West set had been published, which was later recorded by the BBC West of England Singers and doubtless others.

Later collectors are less likely to have ignored the song as deriving from modern songbooks, but they are still unlikely to have bothered to publish it if it was clear that it came from such a source. I expect that there are examples in tape collections, of course. The National Sound Archive lists one (Topic Records archive) sung by a Mrs Foxworthy in 1972. (It also mistakenly lists the composer as Reginald Redman: he was the arranger of the 1944 choral version).

Probably it remained current in "un-revived" form in the West Country for some while after Baring-Gould heard it, and Alfred Williams (Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames, 1923, 154-155) printed a text with the comment that "This was commonly heard at Bampton and Buckland, Berks." Peter Kennedy has a 1936 recording of one verse from the Evershot Mummers in Dorset. Tracing lines of transmission is often impossible, of course, so it would be hard to tell, I should think, who got the song from a book or record and who had it from a continuing tradition; nor would many people think the distinction of any importance.

It would be interesting to know about the presumed 19th century original.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: Sooz
Date: 13 May 04 - 12:33 PM

Thanks Malcolm
The guy who asked me about it has heard it on Bill and Daves new CD but couldn't make out all the words. He should now be delighted!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: nutty
Date: 13 May 04 - 02:57 PM

Bill and Dave sing "home-brewed brown ale" which does seem to make more sense.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 May 04 - 03:20 PM

The published sets taken from tradition all have "home-brewed, brown bread, And...", which suggests that the putative original also had it so. The comma is intended to make it clear that two different things are being listed; the brown bread is not home-brewed! Possibly not everybody who sings it has realised that.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 13 May 04 - 05:49 PM

I remember Lea Nicholson singing this some years ago, with an excellent backing on concertina. Whatever happened to him?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cottage well thatched with straw
From: BB
Date: 14 May 04 - 07:56 AM

It's on 'Prevailing Winds' CD by Tom & Barbara Brown (yes, that's me!) WGS 306 CD. Tom got it originally from a Cornish singer, thirty-odd years ago, but it was sung all over the West Country. When he sang it up on Exmoor, an old lady said, 'Oh, I did enjoy that. My grandfather used to sing it.'


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE COTTAGE THATCH'D WITH STRAW
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 15 May 04 - 01:08 PM

Lyrics and notes copied from http://www.folkinfo.org/songs/displaysong.asp?SongID=424

THE COTTAGE THATCH'D WITH STRAW

In the days of yore, there sat at his door,
An old farmer and thus sang he,
'With my pipe and my glass, I wish every class
On the earth were as well as me!'
For he envied not any man his lot,
The richest, the proudest, he saw,
For he had home-brew'd brown bread,
And a cottage well thatch'd with straw,
A cottage well thatch'd with straw,
And a cottage well thatch'd with straw,
For he had home-brew'd, brown bread,
And a cottage well thatch'd with straw.

'My dear old dad this snug cottage had,
And he got it, I'll tell you how.
He won it, I wot, with the best coin got,
With the sweat of an honest brow.
Then says my old dad, be careful lad
To keep out of the lawyer's claw.
So you'll have home-brew'd brown bread,
And a cottage well thatch'd with straw.
A cottage well thatch'd with straw &c:

The ragged, the torn, from my door I don't turn,
But I give them a crust of brown;
And a drop of good ale, my lad, without fail,
For to wash the brown crust down.
Tho' rich I may be, it may chance to me,
That misfortune should spoil my store,
So I'd lack home-brew'd brown bread,
And a cottage well thatch'd with straw,
A cottage well thatch'd with straw, &c:

'Then in frost and snow to the Church I go,
No matter the weather how.
And the service and prayer that I put up there,
Is to Him who speeds the plough.
Sunday saints, i'feck, who cheat all the week,
With a ranting and a canting jaw,
Not for them is my home-brew'd brown bread,
And my cottage well thatch'd with straw.
My cottage well thatch'd with straw
My cottage well thatch'd with straw.
Not for them is my home-brew'd brown bread,
And my cottage well thatch'd with straw.

Source: Songs of the West by S. Baring-Gould.

Notes:
The words and the melody were taken down from John Watts, quarry man, Alder, Thrushleton, Devon. This is one of the best known and, next to 'Widdecombe Fair,' most favourite songs of the Devon peasantry. Mr Kidson has noted the song from a Worcestershire man. We have been unable to trace either words or melody, though neither can be earlier than the beginning of the nineteenth century. The song has all the character of a published composition, and no spontaneous composition of a peasant.


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