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The Holmfirth Anthem (Abroad for Pleasure)

[ Roud 1046 ; TYG 55 ; Wiltshire Roud 1046 ; trad.]

The Watersons sang the beautiful Holmfirth Anthem in 1966 on their eponymous LP, The Watersons. Like all but one tracks from this LP, it was re-released in 1994 on the CD Early Days. It was also reissued in 2003 on the Watersons' The Definitive Collection. The Albion Band included this song as Abroad for Pleasure in Keith Dewhurst's theatre production Lark Rise to Candleford with Bill Caddick singing.

A.L. Lloyd commented in the Watersons' album's sleeve notes:

This florid and idyllic fragment was called the The Holmfirth Anthem because the people of Holmfirth, Yorkshire, were so fond of singing it. It is also known as The Pretty Flowers or Through the Groves and may still be heard in the Yorkshire Dales.

Frank Kidson possessed a music sheet, with the text which the Watersons sing here, giving a certain Joe Perkins as the composer of the song. Joe Perkins lived near Holmfirth and was so musical he called one of his sons Mendelssohn Perkins. But Kidson thought he had not really written the song at all, merely gained fame by arranging it for four voices, and that the song was far older than Joe Perkins. It occurs in various forms outside Yorkshire. Vaughan Williams noted a version in Hampshire and F. Keel found a variant in Surrey in 1913.

Bob Hudson notes:

Although the liner notes to The Watersons do not indicate the Watersons' source for this song, the following is as likely a source as any: A Fine Hunting Day: Songs of the Holme Valley Beagles, recorded by David Bland on March 24, 1973 and released in 1975. It just doesn't get more authentic than this recording: the Holmfirth Anthem sung by the citizens of Holmfirth itself. This beautiful rendition is led by a local sheep farmer, Arthur Howard, at the Village Hall in Upperthong (in the Holme Valley). If one needs any confirmation that the singers are a touch lubricated (this was the last song of the evening), one need only listen for the crash of a trestle table at the end of the song. The Watersons may well have learned this song from the Holmfirth singers themselves and not from the recording, but the harmonies and phrasing of the original seem to indicate a strong link.

Tony Hall sang the Holmfirth Anthem in 1977 on his Free Reed album Fieldvole Music. Robin and Barry Dransfield sang it in the same year on the Free Reed album Popular to Contrary Belief; this recording was also included in 1997 on their anthology Up to Now.

Another version of The Holmfirth Anthem, here called Pratty Flowers, was sung by the Holmfirth Choral Society on the Sounds of Yorkshire promotional LP (1985). The sleeve notes comment:

Holmfirth, in the Southern Pennines, has many claims to fame, including its own famous anthem, Pratty Flowers. This is still sung every year at Holmfirth Feast Sing, which takes place on the Sunday before Whit Sunday. The origins of the song lie in a pure folk ballad, traditionally sung by leader and chorus. It is thought that some verses must have been lost from those sung here, which date from the 19th century. Joe Perkins, conductor of the Holmfirth Choral Society in 1850, made the song famous by writing four-part harmony and having it published locally.

(On the same LP are two rare Watersons recordings, Young Banker and Chickens in the Garden. Luckily, both were included in 2004 on the Watersons' 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song.)

Will Noble sang The Holmfirth Anthem, at Dewsbury Town Hall with the audience and cast of Folkwork's English Roots Tour, Waterson:Carthy, Robert Harbron, Chris Wood, and Dog Rose Morris on December 4, 2002. This recording was released a year later on the Holmfirth Festival's 25 Years Anniversary CD Roots & Wings. In this YouTube snippet the magnificent Will Noble and John Cocking lead the room in the Holmfirth Anthem as part of their set in the Football Club at Whitby Folk Week 2010:

Jon Boden sang Abroad for Pleasure as the August 19, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in the project blog:

This is sung at the Royal [in Dungworth] during carolling season but I know it originally from Lark Rise to Candleford, which is a slightly different version, perhaps from Derbyshire.

Kate Rusby sang The Holmfirth Anthem on her 2011 Christmas album, While Mortals Sleep.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing The Holmfirth Anthem

𝄆 Abroad for pleasure as I was a-walking
On one summer summer's evening clear 𝄇
There I beheld a most beautiful damsel
𝄆 Lamenting for her shepherd swain 𝄇

𝄆 The fairest evening that e'er I beheld thee
Evermore with the lad I adore 𝄇
Wilt thou go fight the French and the Spaniards
𝄆 Wilt thou leave me thus my dear? 𝄇

𝄆 No more to yon green banks will I take thee
With pleasure for to rest myself and view the lambs 𝄇
But I will take you to yon green garden
𝄆 Where the pretty pretty flowers grow 𝄇

Bill Caddick and the Albion Band sing Abroad for Pleasure

𝄆 Abroad for pleasure as I was a-walking
It was on a summer, summer calm and clear 𝄇
𝄆 There I beheld a most beautiful damsel
Lamenting for her shepherd swain 𝄇
Lamenting for her shepherd swain

𝄆 The fairest evening that e'er I beheld thee
Evermore with the lad I adore 𝄇
𝄆 Wilt thou go fight the French and the Spaniards
Wilt thou leave me thus my dear? 𝄇
Wilt thou leave me thus my dear?

𝄆 No more to yon green banks will I take thee
With pleasure for to rest myself and view the lambs 𝄇
𝄆 But I will take me to yon green gardens
Where the pratty flowers grow 𝄇
Where the pratty flowers grow

Jon Boden sings Abroad for Pleasure

Abroad for pleasure as I was walking
It was on a summer, summer calm and clear
There I beheld a most beautiful damsel
𝄆 Lamenting for her shepherd dear 𝄇

The fairest evening that e'er I beheld was
Ever, ever, ever with the lass I adore
Wilt thou go fight the French and Spaniards
𝄆 Wilt thou leave me thus my dear? 𝄇

No more to yon green banks will I take thee
With pleasure for to rest myself and view the lambs
But I will take me to yon green gardens
Where the pratty flowers grow
Where the pratty, pratty flowers grow

But I will take me to yon green gardens
Where the pratty flowers grow
Where the pratty, pratty flowers grow

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard. Thanks to Steve Willis for corrections of the transcription, and to Bob Hudson for the note.