How Baring-Gould Collected Folk Songs, The people that he collected from and some of the songs that he heard
Collecting Folk Songs in Devon and
Sabine Baring-Gould was interested in folk-life from his childhood and he writes that, as a child, he wrote down the songs that the household staff sang. Later he recorded songs and folklore that he heard in Iceland, Yorkshire and Essex, but it was in 1888 that his real quest for songs began. He had been dining with his friend Daniel Radford in Tavistock. The men around the table were talking about the 'old songs' and how they didn't seem to hear them any more. Radford proposed to Baring-Gould that he should set about collecting them - a challenge that he accepted.
Baring-Gould started by going about his acquaintances and asking them whether they knew songs or knew of singers. He also wrote letters to the newspapers asking for songs. The response was only good, but he was sure he was not getting all that he could. He invited some of the singers he had heard about, like James Parson's and John Woodridge to come to the house and sing for him.
This was more productive, but he was restricted to people within walking distance. Though some heroes from Bridestowe and Lydford walked over to Lewtrenchard, he realised that he had to get out and meet the singers in their homes and in the pubs where the men sang. There was also another difficulty. He was finding it hard to note the melodies correctly, though he could pick them out on the piano. Clearly he could not rely on there being a piano wherever he was. He resolved the difficulty by enlisting the aid of two capable musicians, Henry Fleetwood-Sheppard and Frederick Bussell, to go with him when he visited the old singers in their homes or at their work. Baring-Gould would then write down the words while Sheppard or Bussell 'pricked down' the tune. Baring-Gould describes one of these occasions as follows:
"One wild and stormy day, Mr Bussell and I visited Huccaby to interview old Sally Satterly, who knew a number of songs. Her father was a notable singer and his old daughter, now a grandmother, remembered some of his songs. But old Sally could not sit down and sing. We found that the sole way in which we could extract the ballads from her was by following her about as she did her usual work. Accordingly we went after her when she fed the pigs, or got sticks from the firewood rick or filled a pail from the spring, pencil and notebook in hand, dotting down words and melody. Finally she did sit to peel some potatoes, when Mr Bussell with a manuscript music-book in hand, seated himself on the copper. This position he maintained as she sang the ballad of "Lord Thomas and the Fair Eleanor", till her daughter applied fire under the cauldron and Mr Bussell was forced to skip from his perch."
"Henry Fleetwood Sheppard was a graduate of Trinity Hall,
When he resigned the incumbency of Thurnscoe, he retired to
Baring-Gould also indicates that Sheppard's papers were destroyed by his family after his death and it is believed that this included much of the work done by Sheppard on tunes.
There is little that survives of correspondence between Sheppard and Baring-Gould. One letter that does survive is pasted into Baring-Gould's journal. It is hard to read but one can guess that it was a response to some self-doubt on Baring-Gould's part and reads:
Dec 7 1897
My Dear Baring-Gould
I quite feel with you about S of W. Whether the world will endorse your opinion that it is your magnum opus I cannot say. You have done so much and in so many ways. But it certainly has a special value …… when the time shall come for the whole question of English Folksong to be scientifically, comparatively and critically examined - then the worth of S of W will be felt.
I rather incline to prefer the
"I had built a pretty cottage … on the Lime Quarry Ramps, and this I let to a Mrs. Bussell, whose son, FW Bussell, was at the time at Magdalen College, Oxford; but having passed a brilliant examination for his degree he was elected fellow of Brasenose, the fellows of Magdalen rather despising him for his eccentricities. When congratulated on his success he dryly remarked: 'Either the fellows of Magdalen or those of Brasenose have made a great mistake.'
Bussell was a dandy, wore very showy ties, and had hot-house flowers sent him from
Frederick Bussell was born in 1862 in Marlow, Buckinhamshire where his father was the Vicar. After gaining his degree at
It is not, perhaps, a surprise that he was accounted as much of a 'character' in
The archive at
"We had very pleasant times together, collecting songs all over Devon and