> The Watersons > Records > New Voices: Harry Boardman, Maureen Craik, The Watersons
New Voices: Harry Boardman, Maureen Craik, The Watersons
Recorded by Bill Leader in 1964 in Manchester (Boardman), Stanley, County Durham (Craik), London (Watersons).
All five Watersons tracks were re-released in 1994 on their CD
The Greenland Whale Fishery was included in the compilation Blow the Man Down: Sea Songs and Shanties.
King Arthur's Servants was included in the compilation New Electric Muse II - The Continuing Story of Folk into Rock.
Harry Boardman: vocals [2, 4, 6, 11, 13, 15],
banjo [2, 4, 11, 15];
Maureen Craik: vocals [3, 7, 10, 12];
The Watersons: Mike, Norma and Lal Waterson, John Harrison: vocals [1, 5, 8-9, 14]
|Side 1||Side 2|
All tracks trad. except
Track 4 unknown, initial ‘H’;
Track 6 words Harry B. Whitehead;
Track 13 words Sam Laycock;
Track 15 words Ben Brierley
Sleeve Notes by A. L. Lloyd
The voices are new on record, though familiar in folk song clubs and not only in their own localities. They're northern voices, from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Tyneside, and they're distinctive. They're voices that have attracted special attention among the connoisseurs of the folk song scene, and now are fast becoming known and appreciated by wide audiences. Topic are delighted to introduce them to record-buyers. It's customary for recording companies to blow big fanfares when introducing new artists and to use windy words such as "honour" and "pride". Well, it is an honour, and Topic are proud to present these singers, but we feel their own songs and singing are their best recommendation, and they need no other.
The Waterson family comprises Norma, Michael and [Elaine], with their second-cousin John Harrison. They come from Hull and the three, orphaned early, were brought up by their grandmother, a second-hand dealer. They're partly of Irish gipsy descent. Like thousands of others they came to folk song through an early interest in jazz and skiffle. They formed a group called The Mariners and played for a while in a coffee-house. Then, as their style became progressively less 'popped-up', more serious, they decided to start a folk song club. At present they're singing to capacity houses on Sunday nights in the largest available pub room in Hull, at the 'Bluebell'. They have a wide repertory but their abiding interest is in the songs and customs of their native East Yorkshire. They make their own harmonies to the songs and in all the world of the folk song revival there's nothing quite like the ' Waterson sound'.
Harry Boardman was born in 1930 in Failsworth, a cotton town near Oldham, Lancs. His grandparents and his mother were weavers and spinners. Harry himself, formerly a railway worker, is now a printer. Local history and traditions, especially the traditions and songs of the cotton industry have fascinated him for years and he is devoted to the task of reviving interest in the fine dialect poets of his native region. Many local songs that had lingered in obscurity for generations have been restored to vigorous life through the Manchester folk song club that Harry has been leading for over ten years (it was one of the first clubs in the North of England).
Maureen Craik lives in Newcastle. She was born in 1944, and sang for the first time in public at the Miner's Welfare Institute in Birtley, County Durham in the company of the well-known singing family of colliers, the Elliotts. She became a helper in the organising side of the Birtley folk song club, and since then has sung in many clubs throughout Britain, and has appeared on television—in the TV studio this quiet modest-looking girl positively electrified the technicians by the sudden vigour and candour of her singing and at rehearsal the camera crews quite forgot their job, stood spellbound, and burst into applause at the end of the song which was, as it happened, The White Cockade which appears on this record.
Notes to the Songs
[The notes to the Watersons' songs are on the individual songs' web pages.]
To the Begging
What was it in Scots history that gave the beggar such an important place in society across the Border? Nearly all the good songs about beggars are Scottish in origin and this one is no exception though a version of it was printed in London in 1719, in Vol. III of Durfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy. This version was obtained by Ewan MacColl from Beckett Whitehead, an amateur local historian and geologist of Delph, near Oldham.
The White Cockade
This song, also called It was one summer morning is deep-rooted in Maureen's native Tyneside. As early as 1821, Blackwood s Magazine printed it in a version received from Thomas Doubleday, a Newcastle soap boiler and fiery radical who was also an excellent collector of Northumbrian song (the fine Captain Rover is one of his discoveries). The Yorkshireman Frank Kidson noted a version of The White Cockade (not quite so good as this one) from his mother who heard it sung in Leeds about 1820. The tune is probably older than the words, which belong to the closing years of the eighteenth century.
To some the industrial landscape has more charm than green nature ever possessed. The writer of this wry tribute to Oldham was such a one. His name is unknown. He signed the verses with his initial, 'H', and the poem was published in a local compilation called the Lancashire Miscellany. It appears here by permission of the publishers, set to a tune adapted by Harry Boardman, ripe to take up its place as a firm part of the Lancashire tradition.
The song tells its own story, and a bitter story it is at that. The words are by Harry B. Whitehead, a living Lancashire dialect poet. The tune is by Harry Boardman.
The Sandgate Girl's Lament
Till the middle of the nineteenth century the Tyne was too shallow for sizeable ships to come upriver and load the coal direct from the riverside staiths. Instead, the coal was sculled from the staiths downriver by means of flat barges called 'keels'. The keelmen were notoriously a rough independent vivid lot, and songs about them are numerous, in praise or otherwise. This one is otherwise. The genial and somewhat eccentric John Bell first collected the song when he was scouring the northeastern countryside to put together his collection of Rhymes of Northern Bards (1812).
Bonny at Morn
Northumbria is the only part of England with its own regional music-dialect, its own stock of melodies that are distinct in style from tunes anywhere else in the country. And of this style, Bonny at Morn is one of the masterpieces. Its peculiarity no doubt derives from the character of the local northeastern bagpipe, and the tune was surely an instrumental one before words became attached to it. A great, if neglected, pioneer folk song collector, John Bell, noted the song at the outset of the nineteenth century, but it wasn't printed until 1882, in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy. The poem takes a curious twofold form; in part it's a lullaby addressed to a baby, and in part it's reproach to a lazy son who is 'ower lang' in his bed and won't get up.
The Hand-Loom Versus the Power-Loom
Handloom weavers were generally poor but at least they had a measure of independence, whether they were itinerate or working at home in their own cottages. But with the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the machine-looms, their independence went and they had to crowd into factories under the eye of the overseer. This song relates to the period towards the end of the eighteenth century when the switchover from hand-weaving to power-weaving was taking place. It's printed in Harland's Ballads and Songs of Lancashire, with a note that it “was sung by John Grimshaw, better known by his sobriquet of “common”, of Gorton, near Manchester.” The words of the last verse are related to another ballad: The Weaver and the Factory Maid (recorded on The Iron Muse, Topic 12T86). The tune here is adapted by Lesley Boardman.
A U Hinny Burd
'Hinny' means honey; 'burd' means girl. It's another song whose tune is affected by the Northumbrian small-pipes, and this one too, like The Sandgate Girl's Lament, Bonny at Morn and many other fine characteristic Tyneside songs, comes originally from the collect ion of John Bell. It's a sweet anthem in praise of the Tyneside locality of which Northeasterners are so proud. Some humble local poet made the words probably in the latter half of the eighteenth century. 'Trolleybags', by the way is another word for tripe.
The Shurat Weaver
Shurat was the East India Company's depot near Bombay. When the ports of the U.S. South were blockaded during the Civil War, very little American cotton could reach Lancashire. Such cotton as arrived from other parts of the world was mostly poor in quality, and notably that from India. Unemployment among spinners and weavers was rife, and such work as could be obtained was with such poor cotton that the workers' pride was wounded and their pockets sadly affected, for the stuff was hard to work up and this often resulted in "batings" (pay deductions for poor work). The words were written by a Yorkshireman Sam Laycock, a weaver who became librarian at the Stalybridge Mechanics Institute. In Laycock's day the song was sung to the tune of Rory O'Moore, but in this instance Harry Boardman has supplied a melody of his own.
The Weaver of Wellbrook
The words of this song, with its fine use of weaving terms and tool names in the chorus, are by the Radical weaver-poet Ben Brierley, born at Failsworth near Oldham in 1825. Brierley was a self-educated man who had started work at the bobbin-wheel at the age of five. His poem appeared in Harland’s Modern Songs and Ballads of Lancashire nearly a hundred years ago. The tune is one adapted by Harry Boardman.
[A. L. Lloyd]