(1969) Cyril Tawney – Children’s Songs From Devon and Cornwall
Availability: long deleted, never issued on CD
Cyril Tawney – vocals
Tom Paley – guitar
Trevor Crozier – jaw’s harp, mandolin, concertina, chorus
The Three Huntsmen – CT vocals, TC mandolin
John Jago – CT unacc.
Harvey Darvey – CT unacc.
The Old Grey Duck – CT vocal, TP guitar
The Herring’s Head – CT unacc.
Old Daddy Fox – CT vocal, TP guitar
The Tree in the Valley – CT unacc.
A Lying Tale – CT vocal, TP guitar
My Father Had a Horse – CT vocal, TP guitar, ?TC chorus
Carrion Crow – CT vocal, TP guitar
Cradle Song – CT unacc.
The Snail – CT vocal, TP guitar
Jonathan, James and John – CT unacc.
The Jolly Shilling – CT vocal, TP guitar, TC jaw’s harp
Tommy and the Apples – CT unacc.
The Foolish Boy – CT vocal, TP guitar
The Cuckoo – CT unacc.
Johnny Greyman and his Grey Mare – CT vocal, TP guitar, TC concertina
I Had a Little Cock – CT vocal, TP guitar
Jinny Jan – CT unacc.
Three Scamping Rogues – CT vocal, TP guitar
There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone – CT unacc.
What do we mean by ‘Children’s Songs’? Hmmm. In the sleeve notes Cyril Tawney confesses “I just do not know”.
“To some it means nursery songs crooned by Nanny,” he says, “but it is doubtful whether the vast majority of underprivileged children in the old days ever heard these. Then there are adult songs which are sufficiently simple and humorous to appeal equally to young folk. Finally there are the ‘game songs’ employed by children at play nowadays, but whose ancestry may be far from juvenile.
“On this record we have tried to give a selection of all these kinds of songs, as they were sung in Devon and Cornwall.
“The main sources have been the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould’s manuscripts in Plymouth Central Library and Dr Ralph Dunstan’s ‘Cornish Dialect & Folk Songs’; through them we are also indebted to people such as Jim Thomas of Cambourne, people who preserved these old songs and rhymes and, with admirable unselfishness and patience, passed them on to the collectors.
“In fact, it is rather nice in a way to realise that, with the possible exception of ‘Jinny Jan’, all the ‘Children’s Songs’ on this record were obtained from grown-ups”.
Reviewing the album, the Gramophone magazine wondered how familiar the songs on the album would be to “the children of Devon and Cornwall today”. Up for review at the same time was an album of ‘Favourite Songs for Favourite Children’ in which Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, the presenter of the BBC’s massively popular kids’ request show, Junior Choice, was joined by a choir of children for ten tracks, including songs from Dr Dolittle, The Wizard of Oz and some traditional songs.
“I have no doubt at all that most youngsters will plump for that by Ed Stewart. The others (including Tawney’s) may well appeal more to older people who enjoy children’s songs,” the reviewer said.
Hunters and hunted
I’ve often wondered what life on the road must really have been like for those song collectors – Alan Lomax in the isolated and impoverished rural communities of Franco’s Spain in the early 1950s, Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian mountains during the First World War, and people like Sabine Baring-Gould, one of the main sources for the songs on this album.
I suppose I hadn’t looked properly.
The Lomax field recording journals are awaiting publication (still), but today I found an objective blow by blow account of the Sharp-Karpeles trip (written by Mike Yates and published on the Mustrad website) and an essay by Baring-Gould himself full of jolly anecdotes about his collecting in the West Country. They’re both pretty fascinating – with loads of insights into the protagonists (hunters and hunted) and the process itself of getting to hear the songs and taking them down.
For an appreciation of the life of Cyril Tawney (and to get hold of some of his recordings) the best place to start is the website that’s still maintained by his widow Rosemary.
Ralph Dunstan’s 1929 book, The Cornish Song Book, is now available in digital form online.
‘Songs of the West – Folk Songs of Devon and Cornwall collected from the mouths of the people’ by Baring-Gould and his sidekick Henry Fleetwood Sheppard has been reprinted too and is available here.
(More as and when)