Gorgeous Game Girls
Danny Spooner, 2013
The Spotted Cow
Cold and Raw
Big Poll the Grog Seller
Scrumptious young gals
Jackie Munro [Jackie Munroe]
The Spinner's Wedding
Artichokes and Cauliflowers
The Drunken Maidens
The Indian Lass
The Fair Maid of Islington
The Lovely Joan
The Wallaby Track
A gentle amorous encounter instigated by the young woman. The song appears in a number of versions in various traditional song collections of the British Isles, including that of the Copper Family of Rottendean [sic; actually Rottingdean] in Sussex.
I learnt this as a lad from Pa Johnson whose family I lived with up north at the end of World War II. A version appears in Roy Palmer's Rambling Soldier (Penguin 1977). I later heard a recording of it made by Percy Grainger which proved the value of the recording machine over the pad and pencil method of collecting. Note in the second and third verses how the third line extends.
Our heroine here is a gallant little mare. Given no chance by the gentlemen spectators she nonetheless wins her race in great syle, showing the strength and courage so admired by the racing fraternity. However, that her jockey has to plead with the owner, 'To keep her little body from the hounds', reminds us of an awful truth about racing which is that once the horse stops making money she's bound for the knacker's yard.
Some people believe that money can buy whatever they desire. Here the astute young woman dampens her suitor's ardour with a few home truths. This neat piece of moral rhetoric appears to have originally been published in a huge collection of songs collected by Thomas d'Urfey betweeen 1698-1720 and called Pills to purge melancholy. I learned it from an old lighter-man friend George Phillips.
This is one of many broken token ballads popular among traditional singers. Versions of this song appear all over the British Isles generally in broadside from. It is hardly surprising that a young woman wouldn't be able to recognise her sailor love returning after years at sea, so she'd want proof of his identity in the token she'd kept the other half of all the while.
This song is the work of 'The Inimitable', Charles Thatcher, bard of the Victorian and New Zealand goldfields during the 1850s and 60s. I got it, with many other songs and information, from scholar and folklorist Hugh Anderson. Alcohol was prohibited on the early goldfields; however, it was available, at a price, from cunning operators. Big Poll is an excellent example of a wide awake survivor.
Another of Thatcher's offerings, this song reflects how things were changing on the goldfields by the 1860s. The numbers of womenfolk were growing, and as towns grew more prosperous they tried to move away from the image of the Roaring Days; to appear more civilized. Thatcher, who enjoyed the company of women, saw their contribution to the civilizing of the goldfields societies as evident.
Jackie Munro [Jackie Munroe, Jackaroe, etc.]
One of the many broadside ballads about female warriors, I learnt this from A.L. Lloyd when he visited Melbourne for the third anti-war moratorium in 1971. Bert probably contribued to the re-creation process of this version. There is plenty of evidence of women who dressed as men and went to sea or joined the army and served as a man. Hannah Snell and Anne Bonney are two of the best known.
This industrial song from the Scottish Tradition tells of the happiness of colleagues about the forthcoming wedding of a friend. Industrial spinners had a hard life - but would her married life be any easier? It's unlikely, but they all hoped well for her.
Coming from the East End of London and having been an apprentice waterman and lighterman, I'm reminded in this song of my own background. I first heard it sung by my Aunt Jess who used to belt out many songs like this one. She was a darlin' an' right 'ansom' like this young 'barra gel'.
These girls, out of town and on a spree, do it in style and nothing is going to interfere with their fun, least of all worrying about the bill or where the next drink is coming from!
I got this version from the EFDS publication Marrowbones (1965) but later found a version in Joanna C. Colcord's book Songs of the American sailormen (1924), where it's called The lass of Mohea. She said it was popular among the Arctic whalers. Here a lonely sailor is comforted by a beautiful young woman and left with a lasting memory of something grand.
Sovay, or The female highwayman
In folksongs it's usually the male who uses a disguise to test the fidelity of his sweetheart. In this song, however, the situation is reversed and one is left wondering whether she would have carried out her threat had he handed over the ring.
A wonderful tale of getting one's just desserts. Often in songs of amorous dalliance the young woman is left to cope as best she can with the outcome. Here the male is cleverly and rightly made aware of his responsibility arising from the encounter.
The many versions of this song all remind us of the old adage 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'.*
This London song appears in a number of broadside collections and applauds the overthrow of an unscrupulous vintner by the quick witted girl. The tune is a variant of When a man's in love.
Here the young woman quickly sizes up an awkward situation and works it to her own advantage. The song apears in The Penguin Book of English Folksongs (1959-75). The tune was used along with that of Green-sleeves by R. Vaughan Williams in his musical composition Fantasy on Green-sleeves.
This song was picked up a number of Australian collectors in the 1970s and I wonder if the song made its way to Australia from England. While this version is uniquely Australian, it is reminiscent of the English The spotted cow. But perhaps that's just what happens in the country? Alan Scott gave me my first version of the song, but I've added a verse by Dave de Hugard whose lovely version has had a hand in the continuing tradition of this song.
Piece by Tony Smith about this album.
* Originally from William Congreve's The Mourning Bride (1697): 'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned'.
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