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Long Time Travelling (White)

[ Roud 5732 ; Sacred Harp 288 ; Ballad Index DTlongti ; Mudcat 21315 , 33922 ; Elder Edmund Dumas, 1856]

This hymn is normally called White in tribute to Benjamin Franklin White, compiler of The Sacred Harp (1844). Frank Proffitt sang it with the title I’m a Long Time Travelling Here Below in 1961 to Sandy Paton. This recording was included in 1968 on his posthumous Folk-Legacy record, Memorial Album.

Peter Bellamy sang Long Time Travelling on his 1979 Topic album Both Sides Then with the Watersons and Ante Bellamy singing vocal harmonies. It was also included in 1999 on Free Reed’s 3 CD Peter Bellamy anthology, Wake the Vaulted Echoes. The original record’s sleeve notes commented:

Entitled White in the Alabama hymnal Original Sacred Harp (1911), this was learned from the 1927 recording of J.T. Allison’s Sacred Harp Singers.

Jolly Jack sang White in 1988 on their Fellside album named after this song, A Long Time Travelling. This recording was also included in 1994 on the Fellside anthology Banklands. Jolly Jack commented in their album’s liner notes:

This song appeared in the Original Sacred Harp as revised in 1859 in which we learn that it was composed by Elder Edmund Dumas in honour of B.F. White of whom unfortunately we are told nothing.

Convention Singing developed in the Appalachians as a form of worship practised by huge choirs and peculiar in that they used a system of music reading known as Shape Notes. In this system all the notes are identified by a different shape, and although they are usually shown on a staff they relate only to what is known as a ‘movable doh’. Thus by using a giving starting note quite complicated music could be read. The Sacred Harp shows the songs in Shape Notes, also in four parts, and whilst we don’t follow the harmonies precisely we try to create as much as possible the atmosphere of this stirring form of Gospel singing.

Cath & Phil Tyler sang Long Time Travelling in 2009 on their CD The Hind Wheels of Bad Luck.

Jeff Warner sang Long Time Travelling in 2011 as the title track of his WildGoose CD Long Time Travelling. He commented:

Molly Tenenbaum, Seattle, Washington old-time banjo player, matched this banjo tuning (fDGCD, tuned down to F) to Frank Proffitt’s song. It’s on her album Instead of a Pony. Frank said his father Wiley may have learned it from singers at a black church near where he lived in northwestern North Carolina. “He used to go there occasionally and listen on the outside as he was fascinated by their singing.” The hymn is well known in both black and white churches.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle sang Long Time Travelin’ in 2015 on their eponymous CD Anna & Elizabeth. This video shows them at The Waiting Room, Stockton-on-Tees, on 17 May 2015:


Peter Bellamy sings Long Time Travelling

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I’m a long time travelling here below,
I’m a long time a-travelling away from home.
I’m a long time travelling here below
To lay this body down.

Ye fleeting charms of earth farewell,
Your springs of joy are dry.
My soul now seeks a better home,
A brighter world on high.

Farewell my friends whose tender cares
Has long engaged my love.
Your fond embrace I now exchange
For better friends above.