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happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusilier)


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Abby Sale 07 Sep 05 - 09:42 AM
Bob Bolton 08 Sep 05 - 01:47 AM
Abby Sale 08 Sep 05 - 10:10 AM
Bob Bolton 08 Sep 05 - 07:33 PM
GUEST 15 Oct 14 - 03:30 AM
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Subject: happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusilier)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 07 Sep 05 - 09:42 AM

An anti-French/Spanish alliance was formed Sept. 7, 1701 by England, the Dutch Republic, and the emperor Leopold to start the War of the Spanish Succession, (1701-14). After William III of England died in 1702, Queen Anne ascended & kept doing it with John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, in the lead. They duly changed the war's name to Queen Anne's War (especially in the Colonies.)

        A gay fusilier marched through the streets of Rochester
        Bound for the wars in the Low Countries.
        He sang as he marched through those crowded streets of Rochester
        Who'll be a soldier with Marlborough and me?

                "The Gay Fusilier" or "The Bold Fusilier" or "Marching Through Rochester"
                – sung to the tune of "Waltzing Matilda", which was written a couple of hundred
                years later. (The rest of "Fusilier" is by Peter Coe) [thanx Coe, "E.B.,"
                Dennison, Suffet, McCombs, Nielson & me]

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky

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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusillier)
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 01:47 AM

G'day Abby,

Well, there is no trace of The Gay Fusilier ... anywhere in collections until roughly WW 1 ... 20+ years after 'Banjo' Paterson cobbled up the words of Waltzing Matilda to fit Christina McPherson's remembered version of WS Barr's 1805 tune to Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea.

The chances of a 1701 song being totally missed by the fervour of folksong collection in the 18th - 20th centuries ... and then being remembered by several unrelated Australian families on the far side of the world and 2 centuries later - but all of them having had male relatives in the Boer War and WW 1 - strains more than mere credulity! The Gay Fusilier was, almost certainly, a short (one verse) parody flung together by British troops (either in South Africa or france) starting to get heartily tired of the Aussies singing Waltzing Matilda.

When the Aussies pinched that one back - well ... got around to singing it in beery gatherings with their mates at the the local R(eturned) Soldiers L(eague) ... their descendants decided it must be "really old" ... even before Peter Coe added his own pastiche.


Bob Bolton

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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusillier)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 10:10 AM


Thank you for the good summary. I cannot refute it. You've given five (I think) of the 12 reasons I never mention this song when I'm in the same room as an Australian - especially one who feels I'm within punching distance.

There's also the whole discussion of how much Paterson actually contributed to the words of "WM." (I try to stay out of missile distance for that one.) That is that J.Meredith, himself, in Folk Songs of Australia mentions the song and gives the verse above and a chorus, he says that it was widely sung in Australia in the 19th Century but doesn't give any more info other than the fact that    Waltzing Matilda probably predates Banjo Paterson by 20 years and he 'polished' an existing version.

My extensive notes on the three songs are in a text file, which I've intentionally renamed to something, I couldn't remember and buried somewhere 5 directories down among tech files.

In a private communication, Mr Coe, is forthright about his own contribution to text, verifies the words of his own (Copyright, 1970, BTW. He should be mentioned if you sing it), that he contributed the title change to "bold" to avoid modern confusion as to the fusilier's proclivities. Wisely, he pretends to no scholarship on the origins of the core verse. However, before writing his own, he did as thorough a search as he could for any additional verses. He found none.

Several sources give:
The tune of "The Gay (Bold) Fusilier" was later used for "Thee Bonny Wood of Craigielea" and its tune was later used for "Waltzing Matilda" and its tune was later used for "Marching Through Rochester."

I think that should settle it.

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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusilier)
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 08 Sep 05 - 07:33 PM

G'day Abby,

"I think that should settle it. "

Well ... no! As I said earlier,

nobody has any shred of evidence of existence of the elusive Fusilier before the late inter-war period. John's belief in pre-existence of some version that the "right-wing bounder" Paterson must have "stolen from the folk ... " was a blend of his political stance and his behaviour as a good country lad in always believing what local elders said. Unfortunately this, by the time he was collecting, in the early 1950s, meant accepting that when his contemporaries rememembered Dad (or Granddad) used to sing a snatch of song like Waltzing Matilda ... then it must older ... and it must be the original. We discussed the matter a few times over the 4 decades I knew him ... agreed to disagree ... and continuing research disagrees more.

It surprises me that John fell in with the determination to create/manufacture a "Good English origin" for our iconic song, given his own Celtic background - but such examples are endemic in countries determined to put their chosen "spin" onto their history ... look at the way the Americans put together a committee to invent an American origin for the old (and long-discarded) English game of baseball!



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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 7 (a happy Fusilier)
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 03:30 AM


Please bear in mind that the main reason that there is little or no documented record of "The Gay Fusilier" is the same reason that there is little record of the origin of hundreds of other traditional folk tunes. They were passed on audibly through being sung in family homes, mills, factories, fields, taverns, barrack rooms, at sea, etc and were not written down since most of those who sang them were illiterate. Within the realms of (audio) recorded English folk music, you'll find many examples of totally different lyrics sung to identical tunes, since a tune will stick in someones' head once they've heard a few verses, whilst lyrics do not.

Getting back to "Waltzing Matilda"... the rather regular timing and rhythm of the tune hints at a possible "fife and drum" arrangement which of course might suggest military origins. Banjo Patterson obviously wrote the lyrics as we know them today, but my opinion (and it is only an opinion) is that the tune most likely found its way to Australia via transported English convicts, which of course would push the date back to the late 18th - early 19th century. This ties in with the Peninsular Wars (c.1780-1815)which is where "The Gay Fusilier" comes in. Just a thought..... ;-)

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