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Joseph Baker

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 12607 ; Pete Coe]

Pete and Chris Coe sang Joseph Baker in 1972 on their Trailer album Open the Door and Let Us In and Pete Coe returned to it in 2017 on his CD The Man in the Red Van. He noted:

Peter Massey, of Chester, sent me a broadside about a long-distance runner who ran around Chester in the 1890’s and whose ultimate achievements were a mile in five minutes and an early grave. I didn’t like the original words of the broadside, tried to rewrite it, failed miserably, but eventually succeeded in making a new song about Joseph Baker, taking considerable liberties with the rather doubtful background information I had about him.

Barry Skinner sang Joseph Baker on his 1975 album Abroad As I Working.

Legend sang the Ballad of Joseph Baker in 1977 on the Blagdon Arms Folk Club’s album Once a Week’s Enough.

Danny Spooner sang Joseph Baker in 2008 on his CD Brave Bold Boys. He noted:

I first heard this song introduced as a 19c broadside. In fact it was written by Pete Coe in late 20c England. However, I’m sure Pete would have felt quite pleased about such an introduction. It reminds us of the simple pleasures and pastimes some people enjoy and the renown it might bring. At the end of WW2, 1 was sent to Birmingham and I remember a number of local heroes whose feats of strength, sporting prowess or good voices gave them great kudos in the community.

Johnny Coppin sang Joseph Baker on his 2014 CD Borderland.


Pete Coe sings Joseph Baker

You sporting men of Chester
I’d have you all to hear
Of a man called Joseph Baker
Who lived near Delamere
He ran faster than the old red fox
And further than the hound
And of all the men who challenged him
No equal could be found.

For he rose up every morning
Before the day was clear
And through the shady forest
He pursued the royal deer
And he chased the wind across the field
And the mist right off the hill
And he raced the dust along the road
And the stream down to the mill.

Now sportsmen came from far and near
To challenge Baker’s speed
At every place in every race
They swore to do that deed
And a tailor he came from Frodsham
And a soldier came from Hale
And a sailor came from Birkenhead
And a butcher came from Sale.

He was never beaten in a race
Until that fatal day
When death at last defeated him
And took his breath away
But if you should watch on a winter’s night
You’ll see him running still
As his ghost runs down from Kelsall Church
Right up to Helsby Hill
Yes if you should watch on a winter’s night
You’ll see him running still
As his ghost runs down from Kelsall Church
Right up to Helsby Hill.