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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 café 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.
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.