Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sit thi Deawn by the Houghton Weavers

Today we go into the Lancashire Folk genre.  What is that you may ask.  Well it is music written by Lancashire folk musicians which mostly center on the Industrial work of the North of England and nostalgia of the working class of hearth and home and Northern Humour.   Some of the best of these are Houghton Weavers and The Fivepenny Piece. The music ranges from what might be described as 'pop-folk' (typified by The Seekers), to Easy Listening/Pop, to 'Lancashire' music - songs in the Lancashire idiom reflecting their roots. The apparent simplicity of the songs and the accompaniment is belied by the complexity of many of the lyrics which are by turns meaningful (as in folk protest songs); humorous (Lancashire humour, of course!); surreal (occasionally verging on being nonsensical); and romantic (love songs) - but even that doesn't cover the full spectrum of their work. The variety of material nearly always makes for interesting listening.

The Houghton Weavers are an English folk music band formed in 1975 in Westhoughton, in the borough of Bolton in Greater Manchester, England. The current three band members are David Littler (acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, banjo-ukulele, bouzouki, piano accordion and vocals), Steve Millington (bass guitar, keyboards, acoustic guitar, piano accordion and vocals) and Tony Berry (lead vocalist).

In 1978 they made an album. They are best known for their BBC TV show Sit Thi Deawn (Lancashire dialect for "sit you down", referring to the supposed hospitality of Lancashire people). The programme ran for six series or seven years and was a mixture of easy listening music and comedy for a local audience.

Here is the album track listing:

Sit Thi Deawn (Sit thee Down); is a nostalgic song about "grandad's and hospitality.  I guess it's how I remember the North of England too. 

There's a cosy little spot I know
Lies just inside of howfen
Who's praises I will sing to you in rhyme
Where lives my dear owd (old) grandad
And my granny too, god bless 'em
And many an hour I've spent theer (There) in my time
They have a little garden
And a slap up loosely constructed) little green house
Where grandad passes many an hour away
He's happy and contented
Among his plants and flowers
And if I should pop in he's sure to say….

Ay mon I'm fain (glad) to see thi, sit thi deawn
I'm as fain us if thed (thoued) give me half a crown
Neaw(Now) you munna (must not) go away
You mun (must) stop an have your tay
Fer i'm gradely (greatly) fain to see thi sit thi deawn

God bless their silver yeds
They are both very owd and feeble
They're getting very near their journey's end
But still I feel quite certain
That when death shall separate 'em
In heaven above their lives again will blend
They've always been contented
They've tried to do their duty
No beggar from their door's been turned away
However ragged and tattered
He's always asked 'em inside
And then he with a smile to them would say....

I think we might a lesson learn
From this owd pair so humble
And try like them to lead a blameless life
And if we're ever tempted
To be selfish and hard hearted
Let's throw those nasty feelings clean away
Let's try to do to others
As we'd have 'em do to us
And remember what mi grandad used to say....  

The Lancashire Fusilier;This is a story of a young man who enlists in the Lancashire Fusiliers for a "golden Guinea" .  He is off to the army and tells this to his girlfriend Jenny. "Holding a musket instead of my Jenny Dear."
File:Soldier of 20th regiment 1742.jpg

Let No Man Steal Your Thyme; This is a class of lyric songs which I call the "warning songs". These songs are found both here and in the U.K. The use of plants and herbs as symbols is an old tradition and appears in folk songs all over the world. The rose represents true love, and the rue plant stands for regret. There are two or three versions of the lyric.

Come all ye maidens young and fair
All those who are blooming in their prime
Always beware and keep your garden fair
Let no man steal away your thyme

For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things to my mind
Thyme with all its labours
Along with all its joys
Thyme brings all things to an end

The Manchester Rambler; This is a song written by Ewan MacColl for a protest to allow access to all land for hiking. The first of MacColl's great angry protest songs was [...] a campaign song for one of the great mass actions of the thirties. Hiking was a popular sport [...]. The only problem was that many favourite areas were privately owned grouse moors, where the keepers didn't take kindly to the working-class invasion. There were several cases of hikers being attacked. The solution was a confrontation, a mass trespass over the area around Kinder Scout. MacColl says he expected just a few hundred to join the Trespass, 'but eight or nine thousand turned up'. Police and keepers were waiting, there were pitched battles, and many hikers were jailed. MacColl himself wrote Moorland walking, or rambling as it was known in the industrial towns bordering on the Pennines, was a mass sport [in the 1930s] and tens of thousands of young people - and few who were not so young - used to leave the Manchester and Sheffield districts each weekend bound for the moors and dales of Derbyshire. [...] [My friend] Bob and I had become seasoned walkers during the months we had been knocking around together. Every Sunday we were out on the Derbyshire moors, mostly on Kinder or Bleaklow, driving ourselves to cover more and more miles. [...] The old days when I had toiled up Jacob's Ladder like an old man were behind me now. I was as limber, and almost as tough, as Bob and just as fast. We prided ourselves on the way we could lope for hours on end over broken moorland and on the speed with which we could ascend Wild Boar Clough, Middle and Far Black and the Alport. (MacColl, Journeyman 165ff.)

Calton Weaver; This is another warning song about the effects of "Nancy Whiskey"  The Calton weavers were a community of handweavers established in the community of Calton, then in Lanarkshire just outside Glasgow, Scotland in the 18th century. In the early 19th century, many of the weavers emigrated to Canada, settling in Carleton Place and other communities in eastern Ontario, where they continued their trade. In 1787 the weavers went on strike. Troops opened fire on the demonstrators and six weavers were killed. Calton is a district of the city of Glasgow which was important in the weaving industry. Though this is the best-known setting for this song about the perils of drink, there are variations such as "The Longford Weaver", "The Darkley Weaver", "The Dublin Weaver", "Long Cookstown" - or just "Nancy Whisky".One of the earliest known versions was sung by Ewan MacColl. It has also been recorded by Ian and Sylvia, Andy Irvine, Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, Ryan's Fancy and Shane McGowan and the Popes.

My Brother Sylveste;

Have you heard about the big strong man
Who lived in a caravan?
Have you heard about the Johnson Jeffrey fight
Where the black man fought the white?
He plays all the organs in the belfry,
And he wants to fight Jack Dempsey.
So they'll all come out to see
Well who?My Brother Sylvest and me.

He's my brother Sylvest
And what has he got?
He's got a row of bloody medals on his chest,
Big chest!Killed forty thousand Indians in the West,
He takes no rest,
He's got an arm like a leg,
And a fist that would sink a battle ship.
Big ship!Takes all the Army and the Navy
To put the wind up Sylvest

Howfen Wakes: "Howfen Wakes", (the word howfen
is local dialect for Westhoughton and the wakes were the annual local holiday week),

Poverty Knock; This is a song written in the !890's by workers in the mills. According to the book Victoria's Inferno (songs of the old mills, mines, manufacturies, canals, and railways, edited by Jon Raven, 1978: Poverty Knock "text and melody: from the singing of Tom Daniel, a Batley, Yorkshire weaver (collected by A.E. Green 1965). Tom Daniel died in April 1970 aged 76."  A. L. Lloyd wrote in his book, "Folk Song in England" that Tom Daniel told Green in 1965 that he learned the song 60 years earlier in the first mill he worked in after leaving school. Doing the arithmetic,, Mr. Daniel was born in 1894, and started working in the mills in 1905, age 11... 

My Grandma Grimshaw was a mill worker and she told the tale that she was the one that had to retrieve the shuttle if it broke from the yarn and get it set back up.  it was a very dangerous job for a young girl. 

Up in the morning at five, it's a wonder that we stay alive
It sets me yawning to great the cold dawning
And back to the old, dreary drive

Oh dear, I'm going to be late, Gaffer is standing at gate
With his hands in his pockets our wages he'll dock us
We'll have to buy grub on the slate

     Poverty poverty knock, my loom it is saying all day
     Poverty poverty knock, Gaffer's too skinny to pay
     Poverty poverty knock, always one eye on the clock
     I know I can guttle when I hear me shuttle go
     Poverty poverty knock

Farewell She; Sometimes called Farewell He in various forms this was once spread all over England. Baring-Gould noted it in Devon, and Frank Kidson found a fairly long version near Leeds (he called it Let Him Go). Usually, a girl is the 'victim' of the song.
 Fare thee well, cold winter
And fare thee well, cold frost;
Nothing have I gained by thee
But a false young girl at last.
But if she's got another one
And they both can't agree,
She's welcome to stay with him
And think no more of me.

Thinking I should keep it
To never pass her by,
For what I'd have a true young girl
I'd lay me down and die.

Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats & Dogs; a tribute to the artist L. S. Lowry, who had died two years previously. For the song, Coleman drew on his own memories of Salford and Ancoats as well as the paintings of L. S. Lowry. St Winifred's School Choir appeared on the record, singing the children's song "The Big Ship Sails on the Alley-Alley-O". The single spent three weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart. The b-side of the record was entitled "The Old Rocking Chair".The tune of the song has been adapted into a song sung by fans of Scottish football club Celtic FC, entitled Willie Maley, who was a prominent figure in the early history of the club. The song can be heard on a weekly basis sung by fans, and played over the loudspeaker system at Celtic.

Seth Davey; This popular song, variously known as Seth Davy, Whiskey On A Sunday or Come Day, Go Day, concerns the Liverpool street entertainer with his dancing dolls, who died in the early 1900s. Now a bit of a folk standard.
SETH DAVY was a real person, he really existed, and he died a couple of years into the 20th century. There was a street and a pub, both called "Bevington Bush" just north of Liverpool City Centre, and Seth Davy did do a "busking" act outside.In his book 'Liverpool: Our City - Our Heritage', Freddie O'Connor tells us that in 1760, half a mile from Marybone ("St Patrick's Cross") along Bevington Bush Road was a hamlet named Bevington Bush which had an inn called simply the 'Bush', which became a favourite haunt for folk to travel 'out into the country', to the 'Bevy Inn' as it became fondly known. The Liverpool slang for 'bevvy' ...may have derived from this old inn.Liverpool Pictorial says, "Bevington Bush was the name of a thickly wooded valley between Bevington Hill and Everton Hill. An inn on Bevington Hill was called `The Bush'. With the opening of Scotland Road, the ancient Bevington Bush Road became a minor road amidst the massive slum district that would soon engulf it. As the district was built up it also lost its original name.

SETH DAVY., by Glyn Hughes.

He sat on the corner of Bevington Bush,
astride an old packing case,
And the dolls on the end of the plank went dancing,
as he crooned with a smile on his face.
CHORUS: "Come day, go day. Wishing me heart for Sunday.
Drinking buttermilk all the week; whisky on a Sunday."

2; His tired old hands drummed the wooden plank,
and the puppet dolls they danced the gear.
A far better show then you ever would see,
at the Pivvy or new Brighton Pier.
CHORUS; Come day go day........

3; But in 1905, old Seth Davy died,
and his song was heard no more.
And the three dancing dolls ended up in a bin,
and the plank went to mend a back-door.
CHORUS:"Come day, go day

4; But on some stormy nights, down Scotty Road way,
when the wind blows up from the sea,
You can still hear the song of old Seth Davy,
that he sang to his dancing dolls three;
CHORUS; "Come day, go day...

Lord Of The Dance; It is a hymn set to the music of an American Quaker hymn Simple Gifts.  My daughter Amy and I made up an arrangements singing both versions alternately.  Song with Christian overtones that has become a folk standard and recorded by just about everyone from Abba to ZZ Top - well, the Houghton Weavers to the Spinners, anyroad.

All Around My Hat; The song "All Around my Hat" is of nineteenth century English origin. A young man is forced to leave his lover, usually to go to sea. On his return he finds her on the point of being married to another man. In some versions he goes into mourning, with the green willow as a symbol of his unhappiness (willow is considered to be a weeping tree). In other versions he reminds her of her broken promise, and she dies mysteriously. In some versions he simply contemplates his lover left behind, without actually returning to find her being married. In other versions, the young man is a street hawker who is mourning his separation from his lover who has been transported to Australia for stealing.

All around my hat I will wear a green willow
All around my hat for twelve months and a day
And if any one should ask me the reason why I'm wearing it
It's all because my true love is far far away

My love he is fair and my love he is handsome so
My love he's as honest as the dawning of the day
But when he said goodbye well I couldn't even cry a while
Since I am awaitin' him by the dark and lonely bay


Now why is it so that my letters are unanswered oh
And why is it so that from him I never hear
Or as he found a new love in France or in Germany
Or his he lying dead or tis this that I do fear


Now do you remember the walks along the hillside?
Many's the happy word that we spoke along the way
But now he's far away and he never will return so
Farewell those songs and laughter of my love so young and gay

The Minstrel A song to close the show

Goodbye and Adieu and Farewell
I love you but now I must leave you
With a smile and a song in my heart
The Shows over its time to be gone
But perhaps I will see you next year
And I'll have a new tale to amuse you
And Many more tunes you will hear
I'm a Minstrel, a peddler of songs.
I'm a weaver, a Calton weaver,
    I'm a rash and a roving blade;
I've got siller in my poaches,
    I'll gang and follow the roving trade,
O whiskey, whiskey, Nancy whiskey
Whiskey, whiskey, Nancy, O.
As I cam' in by Glesca city,
    Nancy Whiskey I chanced to smell,
So I gaed in, sat doon beside her,
    Seven lang years I lo'ed her well,
O whiskey & c

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