Words from Roberts Barrett, Piddletown, Dorset, September 1905; Joseph Elliot, Todber, & Daniel Wigg, Preston Candover, July 1907. Tune from Sam Gregory & Mrs Tuck, Beaminster, June 1906. Collected by Henry Hammond & George Gardiner.
Scarborough Fair is one of many songs in British folklore in which there are impossible tasks and questions which cannot be answered. In its oldest form it’s associated with outwitting the evil one by having the last word. In this song there’s no hint of the supernatural, but a verbal battle between old lovers.
From Whitby fisherman William Moat, printed in English County Songs by Lucy Broadwood, 1893. The photo is Roseberry Topping, in the North York Moors National Park, a giant’s stroll from Scarborough.
Sung to Cecil Sharp by John Voke at Castle of Comfort, Mendip, Somerset, 15 April 1904.
The tune and first verse were collected by George Gardiner from George Smith, Fareham, Hampshire c.1908. The remainder came from Frank Purslow. Perhaps it was the last line of the song, which has a definite air of Christian hope, that gave Ralph Vaughan Williams the idea to ‘iron out the tune’ and set to it John Bunyan’s 1684 poem To Be A Pilgrim.
The painting is Sweethearts and Wives by John Ingle Lee, 1860, courtesy of The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Written by Robin Williamson c.1967
Thanks to Helen & Ian for the photo
Written by John Mathews, a superb artist and folk club friend from long ago, about the last ‘Medieval’ fair held in 1976 at Barsham, on the Norfolk and Suffolk border. I added the traditional tune ‘Nantwich Fair’ at the end. I wish I knew the names of the two musicians at Barsham and that of the photographer, and where they are now. In fact I wish I knew where all my old friends are. They’re still in their late teens and early twenties. It’s only me who’s 72.
Kim wrote: I remember the pink policemen running around the campsite, telling people off for having a good time. They were hilarious.
The 1st & 2nd photographs are from the FairsArchive where you’ll find lots more and all the information about the East Anglian fairs.