Scythe, Sword and Anchor – Track list and details

  1. Scythe, Sword and Anchor front coverJohn Barleycorn
  2. Cold Haily Windy Night
  3. The Grey Funnel Line
  4. The Half Century
  5. A Song for Cyril
  6. Only Remembered
  7. As the Sun Was Setting
  8. The Agincourt Carol
  9. The Rose of No Man’s Land
  10. Night Piece / Mad Dick
  11. John Ball
  12. Chippenham / A Break in the Weather
  13. The Dutch in the Medway
  14. Will Your Anchor Hold?
  15. No John, No!
  16. The Bus Pass / Squeeze the Pot
  17. Sally Free and Easy
  18. All of a Row

John Barleycorn (trad.)

A well-known song about death, resurrection and spirituous liquor. Versions have appeared in print throughout the British Isles since at least 1635. Ours is broadly that sung by Shepherd Haden of Bampton, Oxon, to Cecil Sharp in 1909, as learnt from various folk club singers and recordings, including A.L. Lloyd, Martin Carthy and The Watersons. The idea for the chorus was suggested to Mark by the late Dik Brooker.  The fact that the grain is ground before the mash suggests the production of whisky, not beer.

3 vocals: Mark – melody; Ian – bass; Dick – tenor.

Cold Haily Windy Night (trad.)

A warning against inviting soldiers indoors, no matter how foul the weather outside; learnt from Steeleye Span or Martin Carthy in the 1970s, who found it in Baring-Gould’s collection. Forgotten and re-assembled from our collective memories. The contrasting instrumental tune is, appropriately, The Cuckoo’s Nest, a morris dance from Sherborne, Glos.

Ian – Lead vocal; Mark – electric guitar, harmony vocals; Dick – piano accordion, Hohner melodeon; Sam Doolin – violin.

The Grey Funnel Line (Cyril Tawney)

Cyril served in the Royal Navy (a.k.a. The Grey Funnel Line) in 1946–59 and this was the last song he composed before leaving the service. He wrote “It’s a straightforward song about a sailor leaving home and the loved one. He’s extremely fed up with the Senior Service and he’d rather be outside, but he has to go away yet again. On occasions like this I think the close of the first day out, as the sun is setting, is the time when we’re most vulnerable to nostalgia. There’s a shanty with the refrain ‘Rock and roll me over for one more day’, and this gave me the idea for my own refrain ‘It’s one more day on the Grey Funnel Line’.”

3 vocals: Ian – melody; Mark – bass; Dick – tenor.

The Half Century (Mark Fry)

An English or ‘Three-two’ hornpipe, written as a birthday present for Dick Wolff. You can see the sheet music for this tune on the Music For Friends pages.

Mark – treble English concertina; Ian – C/G Anglo concertina; Dick – keyboard.

A Song for Cyril (Barbara Payne / Mark Fry)

Cyril Braunton was a very fine fellow who taught Barbara all he knew about pottery, and many other things besides. When he died, she wrote this tribute to him and asked Mark to provide a tune. “Hundreds of buns raining down from the sky” refers to Abingdon’s age-old celebratory tradition of the Mayor and Corporation throwing bread rolls from the roof of the Country Hall, to the waiting crowds in the Market Place.

Mark – lead vocal, treble English concertina, bass guitar; Ian – harmony vocals, G/D Anglo concertina; Dick – guitar.

Only Remembered (Bonar / Tams / Sankey)

Coope, Boyes & Simpson have been a strong influence on us. We learned this from their first album, Funny Old World. The original words are by Dr. Horatius Bonar of Edinburgh and the tune is by Ira Sankey. The final verse was added by John Tams.

3 vocals: Mark – melody; Ian – bass; Dick – tenor.

As the Sun Was Setting (John Kirkpatrick)

A song by John Kirkpatrick – minus its words – arranged for three concertinas.

Dick – G/D Anglo concertina; Ian – C/G Anglo concertina; Mark – baritone English concertina.

The Agincourt Carol (anon.)

An ancient song relating Henry V’s victory over the French at Agincourt on 25th October 1415, possibly used during the pageant staged in London a month later. Two versions survive in later manuscripts.  We use the music and four of the six verses in the Selden Carol Book in Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

3 vocals: Ian – melody; Mark – melody / bass; Dick – tenor.

The Rose of No Man’s Land (Caddigan / Brennan)

Another song about fighting in northern France, but in a rather different vein. This is a tribute to the Red Cross nurses of the First World War. The earliest version we can find is a recording by William Thomas in 1916.

Mark – lead vocal; Ian – harmony vocals; Dick – piano accordion.

The Night Piece / Mad Dick (trad.)

Two dance tunes from The Dancing Master, first published by John Playford in 1651 and kept in print by his successors for more than 70 years. These tunes first appeared in the 1st and 3rd (1657) editions, respectively.

Dick – Saltarelle melodeon, whistle; Mark – bass English concertina; Ian – G/D Anglo concertina

John Ball (Sydney Carter)

This is one of Sydney Carter’s songs about English religious dissenters. In 1381, Lollard priest John Ball was the spiritual leader of the Peasant’s Revolt – in part a protest against the Poll Tax. In his famous sermon at Blackheath, he asked “When Adam dalf and Eve span, Who was thane a gentilman?” Ball denounced serfdom as un-biblical and “unjust oppression [by] naughty men”. The sound effects were recorded during the 1990 London poll-tax riot.

Mark – lead vocal, guitar; Ian – harmony vocal, C/G Anglo concertina; Dick – Saltarelle melodeon. Sound effects prepared by Sam Wolff.

Chippenham / A Break in the Weather (Mark Fry)

Two weather-inspired schottisches, composed when sheltering from heavy rain at Chippenham Folk Festival and at the end of a spell of scorching days while cruising the Oxford Canal.

Mark – treble English concertina; Ian – C/G Anglo concertina; Dick – Beltuna melodeon.

The Dutch in the Medway (Kipling / trad.)

One of 23 poems that Rudyard Kipling wrote for A School History of England (1911), describing the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the English fleet at anchor when the Dutch navy sailed up the Medway in 1667. Set to the tune of the traditional song The Farmer’s Boy by Don Morgan of Curate’s Egg. It also appears on Tundra’s (Doug & Sue Hudson) album The Kentish Songster. We learnt this song from original Pressed Man, Dave Wilmshurst.

3 vocals: Mark – melody; Ian – bass; Dick – tenor.

Will Your Anchor Hold (Owens / Kirkpatrick, arr. Dick Wolff)

Words by Priscilla Owens, music by William Kirkpatrick, first published 1882. Adopted by The Boys’ Brigade as their anthem.

3 vocals: Dick – melody; Mark – bass; Ian – tenor.

No John, No! (trad., arr. Cecil Sharp & Three Pressed Men)

A traditional and rather bawdy song, rewritten and rearranged as a polite parlour song, suitable for inclusion in school song books. In the original, it is not the father who goes to sea, but the woman’s husband. Dick plays almost exactly what Cecil Sharp wrote in his piano arrangement. Ian doesn’t!

Mark – vocal; Ian – C/G Anglo concertina; Dick – G/D Anglo concertina

The Bus Pass / Squeeze the Pot (Mark Fry)

Two schottisches: a 65th birthday present for Mark’s dad and a Valentine’s day present for a girlfriend. This recording was produced by Dick’s son, Sam Wolff, for an A-level music project.

Mark – treble English concertina; Ian – C/G Anglo concertina; Dick – Saltarelle melodeon, keyboard, tambourine.

Sally Free and Easy (Cyril Tawney)

Partly inspired by W.H. Auden’s Roman Wall Blues, partly by the opening scene of the film On the Town, Cyril Tawney composed this song in the fifteen minutes it took him to walk across Portsmouth dockyard to his ship, tied up at North Corner. It’s arguably the first ‘English Blues’.

Ian – lead vocal; Dick – keyboard; Mark – harmony vocal, mandolin.

All of a Row (trad.)

Mostly as sung by George Roper in Blandford workhouse to H.E.D. Hammond in 1905, with a few variations from other versions collected by Hammond and Baring-Gould. Recorded in concert at Duns Tew in October 2014.

3 vocals: Mark – melody; Ian – bass; Dick – tenor.


Dick plays: Pagini piano accordion, Hohner 2-row melodeon in C/F, Saltarelle 2-and-a-half row melodeon in G/D, Beltuna 2-and-a-half row melodeon in G/D, Yamaha digital keyboard, Martin OO-18 acoustic guitar, Overton tenor whistle,

Ian plays: Jeffries Anglo concertina in C/G

Dick and Ian share Dick’s G/D Anglo concertina by C & R Dipper!

Mark plays: Dreadnought-style acoustic guitar by Robin Greenwood, Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, Ashbory bass guitar, Wheatstone Aeola treble and baritone English concertinas, bass English concertina (known as Max) by C & R Dipper, flat-back mandolin by Kai Tönjes.

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