Cecil Sharp House

My friend Chardine recommended Cecil Sharp House as a possible resource and I spent the morning there. It’s home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society. I visited their library to research Miner’s Rants which several Geordies, including Richard the landlord of London’s top poetry pub the Betsey Trotwood, had been telling me about.

cecil sharp

The librarian, Laura, was very helpful and quickly found had some books sorted for me that she thought might be helpful. I said I was after anything ‘working class and angry’ at which point other people started chipping in suggestions.

There were loads of songs collected relating to mining and working class struggle. Whilst ranting poetry isn’t folk music, it is working people having a voice. It wasn’t lost on 80s ‘zine writers that the broadsheets and songs of the Georgians and Victorians were also the voice of ordinary people, just as the newspapers of their time held the agenda of the upper classes, so do the media today.

This Geordie song comes from the 1880s.


As me an’ me marra was gannin’ to wark, We met wi’ the devil, it was i’ the dark;
Aw up wi’ mi pick, it being i’ the neet, Aw knock’t off his horns, likewise his club-feet.

Foller the horses, Johnny me laddie, Foller them through, me canny lad, oh!
Foller the horses, Johnny me laddie, Oh lad lye away, me canny lad, oh!

As me an’ me marra was loadin’ the tram, The lowe it went oot, and me marra went wrang;
Ye wad ha’ laughed at such a fine gam; Old Nick took me marra, but aw gat the tram.

Oh marra, oh marra, what dost thou think? I’ve broken me bottle and spilt a’ me drink;
I’ve lost aal me tools amang the greet styens; Draw me to the shaft, it’s time to gan hyem.

Oh Marra, oh Marra, where hest thou been? Drivin’ the drift frae the low seam,
Drivin’ the drift frae the low seam, Ha’d up the lowe, lad, De’Il stop oot thy e’en!

Oh marra, oh marra, this is wor pay week, We’ll get penny loaves, and drink to wor beek;
And we’ll fill up wor bumper, and roond it shall go, Follow the horses, me Johnny lad, oh!

Noo, there is me horse an’ here is the tram.Two tins full o’ grease will make her te gan.                                                                                                                                                          There is me marra stretched oot on the groond. Ye can tear up his shirt, for his mini’s aal done.            

Here are those nice lads The Spinners singing it.

This 1911 verse from Ireland is similar to many of the ranting poems from Britain in 1984, denouncing the scabs from Miner’s Strike.

Description of a Scab

Who steals along the silent street? 

Who dreads a shopmate’s eye to meet? 

Who skulks in some obscure retreat?

The Scab.

Whose sprit shrinks within its cell,

Like a snail within its shell? 

Whose bosom is a living hell?

The Scab.

Who shuns the face of open day?

Who wanders out in gloomy grey?

Who gets his price and sneaks away?

The Scab.

Who never yet did give his mite 

For to uphold the thing that’s right,

So is always found in needy plight?

The Scab.

Roy Palmer’s books ‘Poverty Knock’ and ‘Working Songs’ were particularly helpful. In 1888 the match girls from Bryant and May’s factory in the East End had a successful strike for the right to organise a union. In and interview with Roy Palmer, Mr Samuel Webber, born in 1874, recalled, “When they went on strike they walked through Bow, all the way up Mile End Road, Whitechapel Road and Leadenhall Street, and stright through to Trafalgar Square. And on the way through Leadenhall Street particularly they used to sing {to the tune of John Brown’s Body}

We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree, We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree, We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree, As we go marchin’ in.   

Glory, glory, hallelujah, glory, glory, hallelujah, Glory, glory, hallelujah. As we go marchin’ in.

And while they were walking along, the people in the offices overhead would throw some coppers down; and then there’d be a scramble among the girls to get these coppers up. That caused a bit of an interlude from the singing; and when they’d picked up all the coppers, on they’d go again, singing and marching.”

The EFDSS website is http://www.efdss.org

I was very excited to find a poem written by a Luddite, more of that another time.


3 thoughts on “Cecil Sharp House

  1. Pingback: A Poem By a Luddite | standupandspit

  2. Pingback: Cecil Sharp House | Satis Shroff's ZEITGEISTLITERATURE | Just another WordPress.com ... https://satisshroff.wordpress.com/

  3. Pingback: 500th Post! | standupandspit

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