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The Wexford Carol - also known as the Enniscorthy Carol - is said to be one of Europe's most ancient Christmas songs, but the truth is even more interesting. In this festive episode I take a look at the singing traditions that produced this lovely song, and put out a little theory of my own.Thank you for following the podcast during 2022, I'll keep making episodes while people keep listening.Have a wonderful Christmas!MusicWexford Carol (instrumental)All You Who Are To Mirth Inclined (recorder consort)Carol for St Sylvester - W. DevereauxO Viridissima Virga (extract) - Hildegard von BingenThe Wexford CarolReferencesThe video that started it all off - Aileen Lambert sings The Enniscorthy (Wexford)  Carol in St Aiden's Cathedral, Enniscorthy: Oldest version of The Sinners Redemption, from the Roxburghe Collection c. 1634 Details of the Sheffield Carols tradition from Tradfolk: List of the Kilmore Carols with original source books: Copy of “A Pious Garland” of “A Garland of Old Castleton Christmas Carols”  
You don't find many traditional songs where the woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock and yet it all turns our wonderfully. But then Willy O' Winsbury is not your run of the mill folk song. King’s daughter Janet knew what she wanted… and it seems that her father wanted it too. Once he’d established that Willy wasn’t too foreign that is. He especially noticed his blond hair and milky white skin… oh dear.As well as picking up on some of these themes, the episode looks at the twists and turns of this song’s journey over time and the real events that may (or may not) have prompted it. There’s also a review of medieval virginity tests and musings on why a light scorching of the nether regions might actually be a good outcome, all things considered.  MusicL’Homme Armé (Anon) Medieval popular songDe moi doleros vos chant (Gillebert de Berneville) 13th Century song Lord Thomas of Winesberrie (Kinloch – Ancient Scottish Ballads – see below) Instrumental: Fair Margaret and Sweet William (ballad from the Percy/Parsons correspondence) 1770s – though the tune may be more recent Johnny Barbary (tune from Bertrand Harris Bronson – see below) Fause Foodrage  Willie O’Winsbury ReferencesMainly Norfolk have an excellent overview of the song and its recorded versions:  Kinloch, George Richie (1827) Ancient Scottish Ballads:  Karpeles, Maud (1934) Folk Songs From Newfoundland Fresno State University’s Traditional Ballad Index: Child, Francis James (between 1882-98) The English and Scottish Popular Ballads v2 (Child 100)  Bronson B H (1976) The Singing Tradition of Child’s Popular Ballads  Bronson B H (1959) The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads A legal document relating to the lease of property by Thomas, son of William de Winsbury Cartwright, Jane (2003) Virginity and Chastity Tests in Medieval Welsh Prose in Bernau A, Evans R and Salih S (2003) Medieval Virginities University of Toronto Press.        
Many of us know The Keeper as a slightly odd - but fun - song from our school days. All together now:JACKIE BOY!MASTER!No need to shout! reprimands a weary teacher.But away from the sanitised and bowdlerised versions of our childhoods lurks a dark song of sexual pursuit. You didn’t really think all those does were female deer, did you?We talk about Camus, the band Andrew has been a part of for four decades, and explore its influences from the Northumbrian, Shetland and Irish traditions. The band’s version of The Keeper combines different versions and makes some deliberate choices. They often run a competition for keen-eared listeners at their gigs, and if you listen to this episode you will get the answer, and if you then go to one of their gigs you’ll win a free CD!As we talk about this traditional song and its themes, we also chat about the time that Andrew asked Martin Carthy about guitar tunings in a folk club toilet, and a rare sighting of Steve Roud at St Neots' folk club (but did he join in with the chorus?)Andrew is a Northumbrian piper and we chat about the way that the lockdown brought together the national and international Northumbrian piping community, creating such a surge of competition entries that the queen of Northumbrian pipes Kathryn Tickell herself had to get involved.If you’ve ever wondered how this podcast got started, stay tuned because all is revealed! This leads to a chat about children’s songs on which Andrew – or Professor Burn as he’s also known – is an expert. Will you, like me, suddenly remember those childhood skipping songs? And, in a world of wonderful diversity, what new songs from around the world can we hear in today’s playgrounds? MusicThe Keeper (trad) performed live by Camus at the Ely Folk Club. You can see a video of this recording here Boys (Brian Cleary) performed by Camus. You can see a video of this recording here Hornpipe (Andrew Burn) There are also excerpts from two sets of tunes from Camus’ 2021 EP Time and Again:Da Day Dawn (trad), Christmas Day I’ da Morning (trad), Da Alamoutie (trad). Three traditional Shetland tunes. Three Day Week/Alan Burn’s Memorial Jig (Andrew Burn). Time and Again can be found on various streaming services, please visit the band’s website for all the links, and there's a preview of the forthcoming album here.Other linksThe Mudcat thread that Andrew references, featuring Malcolm Douglas, can be found here.  The Opie archive can be found here.  You can find out more about Professor Andrew Burn’s research interests here. 
Our first ever live show was recorded on 4th September 2022 as part of the Folk at the Folk Festival. This is a field recording of an acoustic show in a beautiful but very echoey space with the bells of Gloucester Cathedral occasionally in the background, so the audio is a little different from usual.Features the following:Sainte Nicholas by Godric of Finchale (12th Century)Account of Eleanor and Rosamond from the French Chronical of London (14th Century)Fair Rosamond (trad - New England)Extract from The Knight's Tale by Geoffrey ChaucerExtract from The Lark Ascending by George MeredithThe Lark Ascending/Lark in the Morn (tune)Letter to The Times from G. Henry Latchmore concerning Cecil Sharp (1931)Version of Lark in the Morning collected by Cecil Sharp (1 verse)Version of Lark in the Morning collected by Vaughan WilliamsDoffin Mistress (trad)Extract from the diary of Samuel PepysBarbara Allan's Cruelty from the Roxburge Collection (1 verse)Barbary Ellen (compiled from two Appalachian versions)I Dreamed a Dream (Ashley Hutchings)Thanks go to my family, especially Steven Shaw, for listening to all of these songs and tunes endlessly over the summer.
Sitting in a quiet(ish!) part of the site, near the river, Jo tells us why The Castle of Dromore is so special to her and her daughter.
I met up with Louisa on the final day of the festival. Her favourite song is the beautiful The Flower of Magherally, and she sang a wonderful verse with the unorthodox accompaniment of a drumming workshop.
We're in the bar at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. Katie Whitehouse talks about running a management agency for folk artists, and why Reg Meuross's song England Green and England Grey will be a folk song for future generations.
Backstage at Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Marion talks about the music of the late Sandy Denny, and why The Lady is her favourite folk song.
Backstage at the Turtle Doves stage of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Phil Beer told me why he loves the song Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy.
Irish singer Molly Donnery shares her favourite folk song, My Belfast Love, shortly before going on stage with The Haar at Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
Singer songwriter Reg Meuross shares his favourite folk song, Bob Dylan's Girl from the North Country
In the first of a mini-series of short interviews at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Iain talks about his favourite folk song Flower of Scotland and sings a very beautiful version.
Put on your Sunday best, we're going to the fair!A handsome young man, a  moonlight tryst and a young woman is left to bear the consequences. It's an age old tale, but why did it become so popular in the early 19th Century? We might have the answer. We're also looking more widely at English fairs through the ages; the fun, strange and sometimes scandalous things that happen there, and the songs people sing about them.This episode features bit of mild swearing thanks to our cheeky friend Samuel Pepys.MusicBrimbledon Fair is from Folk Songs From Somerset by Cecil SharpSelby Fair words are from the Bodleian Library Ballad Index, but I made the tune upThe Ewan MacColl version of Bartholomew Fair can be found hereThe full words of Jockey to the Fair can be found at the Bodleian Library hereThe tune behind the Thomas Hardy extract is Brigg FairThe full version of Ramble Away is the one I learned from Shirley Collins' recorded versionYou can find the full lyrics of Answer to Young Ramble Away (if you really want to!) here and the tune is a Derrydown Fair variant that I found on  Mudcat.ReferencesThere are some great discussions about Ramble Away on the Mudcat Cafe, and the Mainly Norfolk website has a very informative summary about the song.The episode features extracts from A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain 1724-1727 by Daniel Defoe (which also features on the Mainly Norfolk website), from the Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy and the diaries of Samuel Pepys. Vic Gammon (1982) Song, Sex and Society in England 1600-1850 Folk Music Journal 4 (3) 208-245
It's another epic ballad this week as I catch up with Franz Andres Morrissey to learn more about this song, that was originally collected in Scotland. We also chat about the ups and downs of the Swiss folk scene, have a good old gossip about Robert Burns, and I learn where Martin Carthy gets his tunes from.Brown Adam, or Broun Edom, is a rare song with some old, even pre-Christian, themes and motifs. It unfolds in true storytelling style and includes such colourful characters  as a False Knight, a faithful Lady, and Brown Adam himself, a magnificent young Smith. Shenanigans ensue and there's quite a bit of gratuitous bird shooting before the story moves on. Who needs Netflix when you've got songs like this?Franz is an academic (though he carries it  lightly) and an experienced folk musician, and we talk about his book, Language, the Singer and the Song. We also discuss his play which tells the stories of slavery through words and song.His band Taradiddle ( has just recorded an album that will be out soon, and there's a rumour that there'll be tour dates announced shortly. You can hear more of Franz's music on Soundcloud.MusicBrown Adam was performed and produced by by Franz. The episode also features three live recordings by Taradiddle: Benediction Song, Who's The Fool Now, Hey Ca' Thro and Leaving Limerick. You can find more here. There's also a snippet of the song that Franz and I recorded together remotely, Now Westlin Winds.AcknowledgementsFranz and I met through The Barnstoners, a self-organising group of musicians who have all been to the fabulous Stones Barn run by Maddy Prior and Rose-Ellen Kemp up in Cumbria. It goes without saying that we're big fans of theirs and recommend them highly.
Bessy (or Betsy) Bell and Mary Gray were two bonny lasses, and they may even have been historical figures, but the plague came from yon borough town and slew them both regardless. And thus was created a most romantic and picturesque place of pilgrimage.Bessy Bell is also a tune and we take a look at it's surprising history, from being scrawled in a book of sermons to the part it played in the heyday of a theatrical phenomenon. The tune we sing today isn't the traditional one; a quite different tune accompanied this song for a couple of hundred years. And yet there's a far better tune lurking in an old broadside, and I'm giving it a world premiere as the tune for Bessy Bell and Mary Gray.MusicInstrumental version of Betsy Bell and Mary Gray (trad)Betsy Bell and Mary Gray in the style of Maddy Prior and Martin CarthyHarp improvisationBessy Bell tune (trad)Go To Bed Sweet Muse (Robert Jones)Bessy Bell to the tune of A Health To Betty (trad)Beggar's Opera Overture (Johann Christoph Pepusch)'Twas Within A Furlong of Edinburgh Town (tune from Playford but sometimes attributed to Henry Purcell; words quite possibly by D'Urfey, arranged by Jayne Morrison)Betsy Bell and Mary Gray - full song (trad)FX from Freesound contributors djangoaltona, inchadney, boodabomb and bruno-auzetReferencesFrancis James Child (1904) English and Scottish Popular Ballads Letter written by Major Barry: Highland Notebook, Robert Carruthers: Bertrand Harris Bronson (1976) The Singing Tradition of Child’s Popular Ballads: Fourpence Halfpenny farthing, from A Pepysian garland : black-letter broadside ballads of the years 1595-1639, chiefly from the collection of Samuel Pepys (1922) Bessy Bell from Orpheus Caledonius Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes: Bumpus (2010) BALLAD OPERA IN ENGLAND: ITS SONGS, CONTRIBUTORS, AND INFLUENCE: Miscellaneous works of that celebrated Scotch poet Allan Ramsay: Edinburgh Literary Journal, 1829 
It's May. The meadows and hedgerows are in bloom, the sun is ablaze and the lark is on the wing.Song: The Lark in the Morning - CSPoem: The Lark Ascending (extract) by George MeredithTune: The Lark Ascending by R Vaughan Williams/The Lark in the morning (jig)Poem: The Green Cornfield by Christina RosettiSong: All Things Are Quite Silent - CarysPoem: Extract from The Night's Tale by Geoffrey ChaucerSong: The Skylark, words by Fredrick Tennyson, tune by Neal Jolly - Neal JollyPoem: Extract from Cymbeline by William ShakespeareTune: The Chirping of the Lark, from Playford, arr. J ShawLetter regarding a lecture given by Cecil Sharp, dated December 23rd, 1931 - Paul ReeveSong: The Lark in the Morn, as collected by Cecil SharpSong: The Lark in the Morn - Paul ReevePoem: To a Skylark (1805) (extract) by William WordsworthTune: My Singing BirdPoem: To a Skylark (extract) by Percy Bysshe ShelleySong: Kate of Arglyn, collected by Cecil Sharp from John Murphy in Marylebone Workhouse 1909Poem: The Lark Song by James W Wilt - Diana WhittakerSong: O Nancy My HeartPoem: To a Skylark (1825) (extract) by William WordsworthSong: Pleasant and DelightfulPoem: To the Lark by Robert HerrickSong: Lark in the Clear Air - Diana WhittakerPoem: Lottie Lane (broadside ballad)Song: Lark in the Park by John Devine - John DevinePoem: Limerick by Edward LearTune: Lark in the Morn arr Lynne Morley - Lynne MorleyLark song FX recorded by urupin, from FreesoundWhere not attributed, songs and poems performed by Jenny ShawSome of the songs were discovered using the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, others came out of our memories or our imaginations.The Barnstoners is a group of people who have loved their time at Stones Barn and continue to stay in touch. This podcast would never have been born without the support and encouragement of The Barnstoners, and the hugely empowering tuition at Stones Barn from the amazing Rose Ellen Kemp and Maddy Prior.
When I interviewed The Haar about the song Wild Rover, we had such a great chat about music that there was just too much to fit into a single episode! So, for all you music lovers out there, here are Molly, Cormac, Adam and Murray talk about their musical backgrounds and why they love traditional music so much.Do buy their new album Where Old Ghosts Meet because it's excellent, and while you're at it you might want to snap up their equally wonderful first album too.The Haar are:Adam Summerhayes – fiddle Murray Grainger – accordion and vibrandoneon Cormac Byrne – bodhrán Molly Donnery – vocal Episode includes short excerpts of Wild Mountain Thyme and Whiskey in the Jar from Where Old Ghosts Meet.Handed down is presented and produced by Jenny Shaw.
The Wild Rover is a sailors' song, known in most of the places where seafarers from these isles gathered.  But I can guarantee you've never heard it done like this before!In today's episode I'm with The Haar, shortly before the release of their new album Where Old Ghosts Meet. We chat about this song, described as being like a handshake for sailors meeting in far away places, and why they chose to add a new verse.They also talk about their approach to traditional music, and improvising in a style in which a whole host of musical backgrounds and traditions meet. What could be more fitting for such a well travelled song?The Haar are:Adam Summerhayes – fiddle Murray Grainger – accordion and vibrandoneon Cormac Byrne – bodhrán Molly Donnery – vocal You can find their website at episode includes excerpts of the following songs, all from their forthcoming album:Danny BoyDónal ÓgCarrickfergusWhiskey in the JarWild Rover (in full)You can buy the album at and I would heartily recommend it.
We're diving even deeper into this Lancashire favourite, thanks to today's guest Colin Ormston. His research uncovers an enigmatic pair of brothers and a treasure trove of songs and local lore, and we get to hear the original tune and arrangement of this popular song.You can find Colin's research and copies of the two original songbooks here and his folk website here. You can also hear his music on Youtube.The original podcast with guest Peter Madeley can be found here.Music etcInstrumental version of Old Pendle (modern version) recorded by Peter MadeleyOriginal tune for Old Pendle played by Jenny ShawPendle Witches (from Songs of the Pendle Country Book 2) played by Jenny ShawOld Pendle (full song) recorded by Colin Ormston and 3DSpoken excerpts from Songs of the Pendle Country Book 1
The Doffin' Mistress was the overseer in a linen mill who took care of the young mill girls. Jennie Higgins shares her early memories of singing this Northern Irish industrial song with her sister, and the importance it has as an early song of female empowerment.In the same vein, we talk about Jennie's important work in supporting female artists through the Folky Union of Women, and her new mythbusting segment on the fantastic Thank Folk For Feminism podcast.IMPORTANT: Jennie is making an album called Where Are The Women and needs your support! If you'd like to hear more of her music, and see women's perspectives better represented in folk music then please back her Kickstarter.
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