Long and Wishing Eye

‘Long and Wishing’ may have been a Victorian printer miss-hearing the word languishing, but the result is an apt phrase for a delightful song.

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Husband Without Courage


James Reeves, commenting on the words of this rather sad song, wrote that over the centuries various foods have been associated with aphrodisiac qualities, but “rhubarb is less well-known in this connection”.

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Sunday Arternoon

Billy Cotton sang a song called ‘Sunday Afternoon Arter Dinner’ on his weekly radio programme in the 1950s. I’ve searched for a recording or any mention in print without success. All I remember is the title, so I built my song on that.

I imagined two young people in Edwardian times; he doing manual work, she in service at a big house, and both having little time to themselves. Perhaps at the back of my mind was a girl I once knew whose parents restricted our meetings to an hour a week so that she could continue her studies without distraction. Unlike the couple in the song our friendship only lasted two weeks or, as you might say, two hours.

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The New Mown Hay


This, the epitome of English traditional song, was sung by Alfred Edgell of Chew Magna, Somerset, to Cecil Sharp on 26 December 1907. The painting is by George Clausen.

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Jenny Lies In Care’s Bed

This is another of the many gems brought in to me by children I taught. The song is, or was, best known in Scotland. The refrain ‘In mickle doule and pine’ means ‘with much doleful pining’. The drawing is by Randolph Caldecott.

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Jack The Sailor

It’s common knowledge that it isn’t what you’ve got that counts, but how much of it you have. Our song (which is about money, not how well you can dance!) was collected by Henry Hammond in 1906 from Jack Panley of Sherborne, Dorset.

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Gypsy Davy

You’d think a song about a woman leaving her husband and baby to live with a gypsy was an unsuitable subject for children. But we sang and loved it at school.

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Love Of My Heart

In a 1946 BBC broadcast, repeated on Radio 4 on 24th July 1980, James Stephens said that his friend James Joyce told him he’d learned the song from his grandfather, that it was the world’s best loved song and that only he knew it. Stephens said that he and Joyce were outside a Paris cafĂ© when Joyce sang it to him, and he learned it on one hearing – “A knack I have since lost.”

I did the same. It would be interesting to hear that broadcast again and see how close I got. The Nidderdale photograph was taken by Janina Holubecki.

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Cannily, Cannily

The song was written by Ewan MacColl and published by the Workers’ Music Association 1954. Nick Hedges photos were part of a 1966 charity campaign for Shelter.

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Tramps And Hawkers

I sang this Scottish song to my cycling companion when we were on our pleasant cycle ride from London to the Isle of Skye. Singing – and the frequent appearance of tramps and sundry odd folk – took our minds off the occasional shower.

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