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Thousands or More

[ Roud 1220 ; Ballad Index K284 ; trad.]

Thousands or More is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family and can be found in the Copper Family Song Book. Jim Copper sang it on 24 April 1952 in a BBC recording made by Séamus Ennis, which was included in 2001 on their Topic anthology Come Write Me Down. This anthology's booklet noted:

This song was known by some of Mervyn Plunkett's Sussex singers in the 1950s, but, surprisingly for such a singable song, no other versions have been reported, and nor have any broadside printings come to light.

Bob, Ron and John Copper sang it in 1971 on their Leader 4 LP box A Song for Every Season, where they name ‘Bing’ Dudeney as their source.

The whole Copper Family sang Thousands or More on their 1988 EFDSS album Coppersongs: A Living Tradition.

And Bob Copper and Bob Lewis sang Thousands or More at a concert at Nellie’s Folk Club, The Rose and Crown Hotel, Tonbridge, Kent, on 17 October 1999. A recording of this concert was released in 2017 on their Musical Traditions CD The Two Bobs' Worth.

This YouTube video is from Barry Callaghan's 1986 film on the Copper Family. It was made for the EFDSS and was issued on VHS:

Oak sang Thousands or More in 1971 too on their Topic LP Welcome to Our Fair. They and A.L. Lloyd noted:

Oak got this one from the singing of the Copper family of Peacehaven, Sussex. The good old folk singer George Townsend, who lived not far from Peacehaven, used to sing a similar version in two-part harmony with his father. It’s a composition by Samuel Arnold, proprietor of the Marylebone Entertainment Gardens and founder of several London glee clubs at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thousands or More became popular with country singers towards the middle of last century, when the choral society and part-singing club movement began to affect villages close to the towns.

Louis and Sally Killen sang Thousands or More in 1973 at the Fox Hollow Festival. This recording was included in 1975 on A Place to Be: Fox Hollow Festival 10th Anniversary Album.

Barry Dransfield sang Thousands or More in 1996 on his CD Wings of the Sphinx.

The Poozies sang Sorrows Away in 1998 on their CD Infinite Blue. They noted:

A song with wonderful sentiment, given to Kate [Rusby] by Barnsley buddy Ray Padgett (thanks Ray!)

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Thousands or More with a slightly different second verse on his 2010 CD Back to You. Shirley Collins noted in the album's booklet:

Thousands or More could be claimed to be the most anthemic of the songs from the Copper Family of Sussex. They are the unique source of this song. The first recording of it, made for the BBC by Séamus Ennis in 1952 in Rottingdean, was stoutly sung as a solo by Jim Copper. We are, of course, more used to it now sung in full, rich and glorious harmony by all the family. Who could forget a Copper evening at The Royal Oak in Lewes? There is Bob Copper sitting behind a table laden with Harvey's beer in jugs and tankards, sounding a note on his tuning fork to start the song, his family and the audience swelling the singing, wishing this splendid four-verse song would last for ever—as indeed it will in our memories.

We'll always be in Bob's debt, and these eloquent words from a Sussex gypsy carol could have been written for him:

Had we as many years to live as there are blades of grass,
We could never do for him all he has done for us.

Bellowhead recorded Thousand or More in March 2012 for their album Broadside. They noted:

A drinking song from the repertoire of the Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex. It's a common song in pub sessions, and has been recorded a fair few times too. But while all the previous arrangements we've heard are clearly about beer, this new version pairs nicely with an absinthe frappé.

Lyrics

Jim Copper sings Thousands or More

The time passes over more cheerful and gay,
Since we've learnt a new act to drive sorrows away.
Sorrows away, sorrows away, sorrows away,
Since we've learnt a new act to drive sorrows away.

Bright Phoebe awakes so high up in the sky
With her red rosy cheeks and her sparkaling eye,
Sparkaling eye, sparkaling eye, sparkaling eye,
With her red rosy cheeks and her sparkaling eye.

If you ask for my credit, you'll find I have none,
With my bottle and friend you will find me at home.
Find me at home, find me at home, find me at home,
With my bottle and friend you will find me at home.

Although I'm not rich and although I'm not poor
I'm as happy as those that's got thousands or more,
Thousands or more, thousands or more, thousands or more,
I'm as happy as those that's got thousands or more.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings Thousands or More

The time passes over more cheerful and gay,
Since we've learnt a new act to drive sorrows away.
Sorrows away, sorrows away, sorrows away,
Since we've learnt a new act to drive sorrows away.

Bright Phoebus arises so high up in the skies
With her red rosy cheeks and her sparkaling eyes,
Sparkaling eyes, sparkaling eyes, sparkaling eyes,
With her red rosy cheeks and her sparkaling eyes.

If you ask for my credit, you'll find I have none,
With my bottle and friend you will find me at home.
Find me at home, find me at home, find me at home,
With my bottle and friend you will find me at home.

Although I'm not rich and although I'm not poor
I'm as happy as those that's got thousands or more,
Thousands or more, thousands or more, thousands or more,
I'm as happy as those that's got thousands or more.