STEADFAST – Margaret Walters
Notes to the songs
GANG BY ME Traditional
Learned from Scottish singer Aileen Carr in 1992. Earlier that year, at a females-only session at a festival in the south of England, I endured countless plaintive songs in which lovers had passed the heroine by; a week later in Scotland, I heard many examples of songs that showed how the lasses there cope with the same situation – with steel-tipped boots!
THE DEVIL’S NINE QUESTIONS Traditional
An American version of a Child ballad; it sometimes has the refrain ‘And you are the weaver’s bonny’. I learned the song from the singing of Terry Masterman at the Lewes Arms Folk Club, Sussex, circa 1980.
THE GYPSY POACHER Bob Davenport
The centuries-old right for a man to graze livestock and gather food on public land was taken away when such lands were enclosed – a practice intensified between 1760 and 1820. The wealthy landowners hired keepers and set man traps to deter poachers. The traps were not outlawed until 1827. I heard Bob Davenport sing the song at a concert in Sussex about 1980 and Eddie Upton kindly sent me the words. The song appears on Davenport’s 1977 Topic LP titled ‘Postcards Home’.
MANNUM AND THE DRUM [aka The Year of the Drum] Wendy E. Joseph
Mannum is a small town in South Australia and the birthplace of the Murray River Paddle Steamer. The town lost the highest number of men, per capita, in both World Wars. During the war, women were employed in manufacturing munitions at Shearer Brothers’ factory. The characters are fictitious. Melaleuca, paper bark trees, thrive on river banks.
THE GOBLIN’S RIDDLE Bernard Parry
I learned this magic song from the wonderful English singer, Johnny Collins back in the ‘80s.
ROSEMARIE Anne Lister (traditional Flemish origins)
Learned from the singing of Sarah Morgan in England around 1980. Anne Lister wrote: “I found the original Flemish song on an album by Gerard van Maasakkers called ‘Vur de Wind’, recorded in 1980. He calls it ‘het liedeken von rosemarijn’ and attributes it to traditional, found in a book by Jan Buis called ‘A hundred old Flemish songs’ – ‘honderd oude vlaamsche liederen’. My translation is rough as I don’t speak Flemish and I think I changed the key from minor to major along the way.”
THE COLONIAL WIDOW Traditional; Trad tune arr Margaret Walters
I chose the tune of a song called ‘The Black Cook’ for this tale of a sensitive immigrant following her ne-er-do-well husband to the goldfields. Someone from ‘t’other side was likely to be a twice-convicted convict from Tasmania. The words were printed in John Lahey’s ‘Great Australian Folk Songs’ from Coxon’s Comic Songster: full of pungent parodies, quaint qizzicalities, odd oddities, local hits, colonial sayings and doings, &c. (1859).
THE COLOUR Thomas Hardy/Robin Milford
Words by Thomas Hardy ‘partly original, partly remembered from a Wessex folk-rhyme’. Judith Morrison sang this song to me back in the 1980s; she’d learned it from Dave Goulder (author of ‘The January Man’). The tune is by Robin Milford.
BACK TO THE KITCHEN AGAIN Roger Watson
A song composed by Roger Watson for a play called Steeltown about Scunthorpe by Rupert Cread. Mike Wilson sang another song from the play at a folk club in Billingham in 1998 and I am grateful to Paul Dalton for subsequently supplying a tape of the other songs in the play. I sing other songs about women connected with the steel industry in Australia on The Roaring Forties CD, ‘We Made the Steel’.
FOUR MINUTE WARNING Peggy Seeger/Judy Small
Peggy Seeger wrote the words about a nuclear strike on London and Judy Small adapted the place names to suit Sydney. Accidents like the one at the Fukushima power plant remind us how dangerous nuclear technology can be and we should also remember that nine countries around the world have nuclear stockpiles with over 17,000 weapons awaiting deployment.
BUSH LULLABY [aka Cradle Song] Louis Esson; Chris Kempster
Louis Esson (1878-1943) was an Australian journalist, critic and playwright. I used to sing this song with Chris Kempster back in the ‘80s. Chris was a much-loved singer who gave us numerous settings of poems, particularly those of Henry Lawson. His publication of the latter has been reproduced by the Folk Federation of New South Wales.
THE HUNGRY MILE Ernest Anthony; trad tune arranged Peter Parkhill
The Hungry Mile was the colloquial name given during the Depression to a stretch of Hickson Road in Sydney’s Docklands where men struggled to find casual work loading and unloading ships. The name was officially recognized in 2009, acknowledging the historical significance of the area. The surrounding prime real estate, now called Barangaroo, has been the centre of attention with the proposed building of a casino. Ernest Anthony was a radical poet of the 1930s whose poems were gathered into a publication for the MUA through the work of Mark Gregory and Rowan Cahill; Peter Parkhill set the work to the tune of the Rufford Park Poachers (as sung by Joseph Taylor and Martin Carthy).
WILD GOOSE SHANTY Traditional
There are many sea shanties listing the names of working girls willing to oblige a lustful sailor, so it’s a change to find a song where the lass effectively tells the fellow to get lost. Usually sung in the company of my bearded friends in The Roaring Forties.
MACHINES ARE CLOSING IN Paul Spencer, 1998
Not only an excellent poet and songwriter, Paul is a precious combination of philosopher and activist – the sort of young man who gives you real hope for the future. Many of his songs are sung by the environmental group, Ecopella.
SHALL THERE BE WOMANLY TIMES Frankie Armstrong
The title line is from Ian McEwan (author of The Comfort of Strangers) who wrote a libretto called Or Shall We Die (1983). The Peace Movement and the Women’s Movement are not given the coverage they were in the ‘80s, but we need to find ‘men unafraid of gentleness … strength without aggression … strength to bring feeling to the intellect’. Frankie is an inspirational writer and singer from the UK who has been conducting singing workshops in Australia since the early ‘80s and has been a powerful influence on me and many other singers.
Harmony vocals: Christina Mimmocchi
Disc photo: Catherine Hourihan; Other photos: Prue Cancian, Ben Walters, Katy Hutchison, Gordon Young