Where the songs were sung we can only guess.
Singing was a part of the social life of working folk in towns and villages, particularly in the early 1900s. It helped to pass the long and often solitary hours spent working at monotonous jobs. Many of the labouring class were highly skilled in their particular tasks and their ability to remember songs and stories gained them respect and a certain standing within their community. Those who entertained with their songs in the inns, or at village functions or social events, were often rewarded with drink, and so would be keen to add the latest song to their repertoire. Others would be called upon for one particular song their party piece.
These songs have been sung, enjoyed, passed down and subtly re-worked over generations. The subjects covered: love, lust, greed, deception, betrayal, work, the lot of the poor, ridicule of officialdom, politics, customs, fertility, heroes and battles, hunting, myth, magic, and the vices of gambling and drinking are timeless. They appeal because the stories they tell convey the essence of our life experiences. Songs are still being made up today about local events and people and some of those can end up being absorbed into the tradition.
Its very difficult to apply modern sensibilities to what we now term folk songs. Some might not be considered politically correct in these times, but many such songs remain popular and are still sung.
In times when the majority of working people were illiterate or had little access to books and newspapers, songs were a way of passing on information, collective experience and wisdom.
Songs were quickly made up about things that were topical or controversial at the time, and they often enjoyed mass appeal, much like the topics and stories in tabloid newspapers and TV soaps today.
Several singers knew a large number of songs and fragments of songs. Songs were also handed down through the family. When they were sung, the previous singers were usually acknowledged. "This is ol' so and so's song." or "My ol' dad used to sing this one." Women sang too, whilst at work and in the home. They didnt get to sing much in public, because although women worked alongside the men in domestic service or labouring in the fields, the social restraints of the time prevented them from mixing with men in the tap rooms and bars.
Of course not all of the singers were local people. People travelled from a wide area to work in domestic service, or followed the seasonal work on farms. Others were labourers and road-menders moving from job to job and place to place. There were also many who worked on the building of the railways. Armies of migrant railway and canal workers, many from Ireland and Scotland, settled in an area, sometimes for months on end. They spent their leisure time in the local inns, where songs from their own communities would be sung alongside and absorbed into the local tradition.
Nor is there a typical traditional singer. Men and women of all ages sang the songs because they enjoyed them. Although many that sang for Gardiner were labourers, both agricultural and general, the occupations of the singers ranged from fishermen, farm-workers, ex-servicemen, all kinds of tradesmen, gardeners to domestic servants. He also collected songs from the wives and children of many of those singers.
Dr. Gardiner collected a great number of songs in the Workhouses. During the period Gardiner was collecting there were 33 Workhouses in Hampshire. They took in the poor and infirm of all ages, and that would, of course, include those born elsewhere who had moved into the area to work, bringing their local songs with them.
Both Henry Hammond and George Gardiner submitted articles to the Folk Song Societys Journal detailing their collecting activities.
In the introduction to his article JFSS 3 (1909): 247-317, Gardiner refers to the modes in which the tunes were sung.
About a third of the present selection are Major tunes, less than a third are Dorian, less than a fifth Æolian, and less than a sixth Mixolydian. The modal tunes were chiefly collected in the heart of the county in the district between the Basingstoke and the Alton lines of railway; the New Forest yeilded only two Dorian tunes. My musical colleagues inform me that most of the tunes they have noted are Major tunes. Hampshire would therefore appear to be less rich in modal tunes than the counties farther west.
Frank Purslow makes the following observation in his 1967 Folk Music Journal article:
Gardiner, too, seems to have been one of the few early collectors to be aware of quite distinct local mannerisms. He mentions that especially the singers of Preston Candover, Axford and district who, instead of ending a phrase on the tonic on the strong beat, preferred to land on the 7th or the 2nd on the strong beat and move up or down to the tonic on the next not in every song, of course, but certainly where the rhythm of the words allowed for it.
And then there is the case of the people of East Stratton who, like Hammonds Mrs. Russell, had a distinct preference for singing in the more unusual modes and mixtures of modes.
Hampshire Songs Group founder Bob Askew has kindly explained Modes. To read his explanation click here.
There are songs that don't have the tune noted. There could be several reasons for this:
a. Gardiner felt that the tune had been already collected by himself or others.
b. Gardiner did not think the tune good enough to record.
c. The tune was taken down but lost in the intervening 50 years. (There were periods when the EFDSS library was very lax about lending material without even noting that it went out).
d. The singer moved away and was difficult to find. (Some people were difficult to find because of their way of life or occupation, e.g. Gypsies, and William Alexander, the shepherd, might have been hard to locate up on the hills.)
e. On very rare occasions the singer was ill.
f. Upon revisits to the singer a year later, one or two may have been too ill to perform or had died. William Garrat at Petersfield had died when Gardiner returned in 1909.
When Bob Copper was travelling from village to village through the Hampshire lanes looking for old songs in the mid 1950s, he often encountered people who recalled the old singers and the visits of Gardiner, Gamblin and Guyer, some half a century earlier. He wrote about this in his book - Songs & Southern Breezes (Heinemann, 1973)
"No matter where I turned in this particular part of Hampshire I seemed to find someone who remembered or had heard tell of the visits of Dr. Vaughan Williams and Dr. Gardiner. The names of the old singers were still on peoples' lips. Dan'l Wigg, 'Marty' Munday, Granny Goodyear, Moses Mills....."
"Ol' Vaughan Williams got some songs offen my wife's mother, y'know, said Enos White. 'Er name was Randall an' she lived up Ellisfield."
Vaughan Williams is 'remembered' by Enos, but it was Gardiner that collected from Mrs. Randall in 1907.
It has been long held and widely accepted that Vaughan Williams re-visited several of the singers along with Gardiner in 1909 to notate the songs himself. This was thought to be because of concerns that some of the musical notation taken down by Guyer and Gamblin could be inaccurate, It was also thought that the cylinder recordings were made by Vaughan Williams during that time.
It is now generally felt amongst many that have made a close study of Gardiner and his collection that Vaughan Williams did not make the Hampshire cylinder recordings, and that he probably never visited Hampshire when Gardiner was collecting. There is a note in the Lucy Broadwood collection from Gardiner to Vaughan Williams which makes it clear that Gardiner paid for the cylinders, and he had them with him in a 'car' when the recording was done.
Guyer made some additional visits to some of Gamblin's singers, and his transcriptions were sent on to Vaughan Williams. Hence Vaughan Williams is given musician's credit on a lot of Gamblin's songs. Gardiner was then forgotten for 50 years.
In a Journal obituary for Balfour Gardiner around 1945 all of Gardiner's musicians plus Ralph Vaughan Williams are mentioned as 'Hampshire collectors', but Gardiner is not mentioned at all! No wonder that Bob Copper should believe that Vaughan Williams visited Hampshire!
It is even possible Bob gave Vaughan Williams' name to Enos White and others when enquiring about the old songs and the singers.
"Ol' Vaughan Williams? O, a-agh,' said Enos White, dismissing a fifty-year interval as if it had never existed. ''E druv up 'ere in an 'orse and fly from Micheldever railway station.'Ee warn't on 'is own, look. 'E 'ad some other chep along wi' 'im. Black suits an' 'ard' ats they 'ad on an' they wen' an' got some songs offen ol' Granny Goodye'r. One av 'em wuz the song-getter, like, an tother'en wuz the music writer, d'y'see."
The 'two men in hard hats', recalled by Enos White in Songs & Southern Breezes, must have been Gardiner and Gamblin, or Gardiner and Guyer. Enos said they came in a horse and fly, while a motor car is mentioned by Gardiner when he made the phonograph recordings.
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