Categotry Archives: Source Singers


Five Finger Frank’s Foto Album!

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Categories: Blog Posts, EFDSS, Family Photographs, Mary Kidson (Roberts), Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Over the duration of this project we have attempted to trace members of the Kidson family as well as those related to the contributors to his fine collection. We were fortunate enough to be able to invite members of Charles Lolley’s family to our CD launch and this year Pete has been in regular contact with another wing of the Kidson family who made initial contact via the website…

Rather excitingly there was mention of a photo album and this month Pete went down to Essex to see it and then took it along to Cecil Sharp House to scan the images contained within. Even more exciting is thatt, after a little bit of detective work by Pete, it seems this photograph album came from an auction sale of what may well have been Frank Kidson’s possessions… We think that it is, in fact, his own personal photograph album!

We’re still confirming a few of the faces but here’s a little preview of some of the photos.

Many thanks to Brenda Roberts for the loan of her precious family heirloom and also to Cecil Sharp House and The EFDSS for their assistance and the loan of their facilities.

Frank Kidson c1900

Frank Kidson c1900

Francis Prince Kidson 1810-1872 Father of Frank Kidson

Francis Prince Kidson 1810-1872
Father of Frank Kidson

Mary Kidson (nee Roberts) Mother of Frank Kidson

Mary Kidson (nee Roberts)
Mother of Frank Kidson

John Kidson and James Kidson Brothers of Frank Kidson

John Kidson and James Kidson
Brothers of Frank Kidson

Frank Kidson pictured in 1923 upon receipt of his honorary MA in Music from Leeds University.

Frank Kidson pictured in 1923 when he received his honorary MA in Music from Leeds University.

Frank Kidson pictured at an unknown event in the 1920's with a group of as yet unidentified people.

From left to right: Sir Michael Sadler (Vice Chancellor of Leeds University), Lady Wilson, Sir Edward Brotherton, Lady Sadler, Sir Charles Wilson, Mr A.E. Wheeler, Mr E.G. Arnold (Pro-Chancellor of Leeds University) and Frank Kidson. Photograph from Leeds Newspaper Cuttings, Leeds People, Vol.10, p173.

If you are related to Frank Kidson or any of his contributors please do get in touch at the same address.




Springy Update

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Categories: EDS Magazine, EFDSS, Kate Thompson, Songlines Magazine, Tags: , , , , ,


So far this year we’ve had some fabulous gigs. Here’s some of what we’ve been up to…

On the 16th January 2015 we performed to a full house at the Ilkley Manor House. We had a fabulous night in what is a truly amazing venue. We were told that the museum is currently at risk of being sold by the council so take a look at the website and help Ilkley keep this amazing historical building open to the public and available for other artists to display their art and music within it’s beautiful walls!

We also performed at the Halsway Manor 50th Anniversary Event on the 7th February 2015 at Cecil Sharp House. Thanks to Paul James, Gavin Davenport, the staff of Halsway Manor and everyone that supported the event and came to our performance of “The Search for Five Finger Frank”.

Halsway Manor 50th Anniversary Event 7th Feb 2015 2             Halsway Manor 50th Anniversary Event 7th Feb 2015 1

Check out the current edition of English Dance and Song Magazine.

EDS Magazine Spring 2015 Edition

This issue’s “Singer, Song and Source” articles focus on a song from the Frank Kidson collection that happens to also be a track from our CD “The Search for Five Finger Frank”. The feature looks at both our version and the version recorded by Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman on their latest album “Tomorrow Will Follow Today” along with an article about the source singer Kate Thompson written by yours truly…

Alice Jones at Sidmouth 2014

We’ve had this lovely review in this edition of Songlines Magazine

Songlines Magazine: The Search for Five Finger Frank Review

 And finally there are a couple of new dates added to the “Live Date” page. This month we will be playing at:

Rivelin Folk Club, Sheffield – 11th March 2015

The Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham – 25th March 2015

La Rosa Hotel, Whitby – 28th March 2015 (E-mail:

We’d love it if you could come along and join us for a sing!



Kate Thompson

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Categories: Blog Posts, Kate Thompson, Source Singers, Tags: , , , ,


This blog post concerns another key contributor to Frank Kidson’s collection…

Kate Thompson was born Catherine Benson in Tockwith, a village approximately 10 miles away from Knaresborough situated in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Her parents were John Benson, a plumber by trade, and Mary Ann Jefferson. They already had a son, Joseph, from a previous relationship when they married in 1846 and in 1848 Catherine was born, followed shortly by her sister Ann who was born in 1849. Sadly in about 1849, John Benson died and Kate’s mother went on to marry a widower, William Robinson, in 1850. Robinson was an agricultural labourer born in Wreaks in about 1825 and he too had a son, James Robinson born in 1842, from his previous marriage. Kate’s mother and William went on to have four children together: William born 1851, Matthew born 1855, Mark born 1858 and Mary born 1860. All in all, Kate Thompson was brought up by her mother and stepfather along with seven “siblings”, the children of five different combinations of parents!

In the 1851 census Catherine Benson is three years old and living with her family in Fisher Garden, Knaresborough. She was still living in Knaresborough by the next census of 1861 though she is described as a general servant residing, still with her family, in Brewerton Street. On the 29th July 1866 at St. Phillips Church in Leeds, records show that a nineteen year old Catherine Benson married Squire Thompson, a twenty-eight year old widower with four children. He is described as a publican son of Samuel Thompson and they both give their residence as Wellington Street, Leeds, where there were several public houses at the time. Shortly after the marriage however, in 1867, Squire Thompson was declared bankrupt.

St. Phillip's Church, Wellington Street, Leeds circa 1866

St. Phillip’s Church, Wellington Street, Leeds circa 1866

The next census of 1871 shows Kate Thompson living at 22 Alfred Place, Leeds along with her husband now described as a “cabinet maker”, four step children: Mary, Frederick Henry, Florence and Samuel Victor and her own two children: Squire Albert born about 1868 and Walter Albert born in 1870. Later that same year, on the 31st December, Squire Albert and Walter Albert were baptised at St. Matthew’s Church, Little London, Leeds. These church records show the family now living at 49 Reuben Street and Squire Thompson’s trade is listed as “publican” (N.B. This address may be the “London Tavern”). In 1881 however, records show that the family’s circumstances had changed quite considerably. Squire Thompson is listed as living with his children: Florence, Samuel Victor, Squire Albert and a six month old daughter Clarabel; his occupation is given as a “waiter in dram shop”. Kate Thompson’s census entry shows her working as a “housemaid (domestic servant)” at a Boy’s Refuge in Brunswick Terrace, Leeds.

By 1891 Kate and her husband were now recorded as living together without any dependants in three rooms at 10 Haigh Place in Leeds and Squire’s trade is now listed as “Forge man”. Sadly, in the second quarter of 1898 a death is registered in Leeds for Squire Thompson and by the 1901 census Kate is shown residing with her son Squire Albert and his family at Manor House Farm Cottage in High Ackworth. It was in 1891 that Kate Thompson became acquainted with Frank Kidson and he collected a number of songs from her. In total he noted twenty-six songs or fragments of songs attributed to “Kate Thompson of Knaresborough”. It is interesting to note that Kidson chooses to refer to Kate as “Mrs Thompson of Knaresborough” as, by this time, we know that she had been residing in Leeds for over twenty years! Kidson had indeed visited Knaresborough on painting excursions but it is not clear if this was the initial source of contact for the pair and it is unlikely that he actually collected the songs from her in that location. Many of the songs she recalled were certainly first heard and learnt in her native Knaresborough so it remains a debatable issue as to whether Kidson was justified in consistently identifying her as “of Knaresborough”. Roy Palmer, in his article “Kidson’s Collecting” from the Folk Song Journal Vol.5 No.2, asserts that Kate Thompson was “by far the most important singer both in quantity and quality”. Frank Kidson collected from her over a period of six years, 1891-1897, and was set to include many of these songs in his planned, but ultimately incomplete, second edition of Traditional Tunes. A number of her contributions were also featured in Frank Kidson’s articles in the Folk Song Society Journals published in 1904 (Vol.1 No.5) and 1906 (Vol.2 No.9).

Kate Thompson’s death was registered in Leeds during the first quarter of 1911.

During our project we have chosen to feature a number of Kate Thompson’s songs. She appears to have been a very rich source of interesting songs and a true bearer of the oral tradition. Kidson himself comments that “she also remembers many of my published airs” implying that Kate Thompson possessed quite an extensive repertoire. We know that Kidson actually chose to omit some of her offerings as the words or tunes (or at least a closely similar set) were deemed to be already represented and readily available elsewhere. In the case of one song “The Roving Heckler Lad” her fragment was ignored because of its similarity with a text published in Traditional Tunes. In another instance the song “The Unfortunate Rake” was rejected by Kidson who dismissed the words as “objectionable” probably on account of its suggestive connotations!

Frank Kidson's manuscript of The Unfortunate Rake collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough in September 1892.

Frank Kidson’s manuscript of The Unfortunate Rake collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough in September 1892.

In total there are five of her songs on our album “The Search for Five Finger Frank”: The Highwayman Outwitted, Young Riley the Fisherman, The Deserter, One Moonlit Night and Young Banker (also collected from Charles Lolley).



New Notes on Old Tunes 02 – One Summer’s Morning

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Categories: Blog Posts, Mary Kidson (Roberts), New Notes On Old Tunes, One Summer's Morning, Source Singers, Video, Tags: , , , , , ,


This version of “One Summer’s Morning” was collected by Frank Kidson from the singing of his mother Mary Kidson (Roberts) who is said to have heard it sung in Leeds in approximately 1820. It was a popular song particularly in Yorkshire but also in the North East at that time although the tune is likely to be much older. In “Traditional Tunes” Frank Kidson states: “The song itself is apparently of the date of the latter part of the eighteenth century, and as some reference is made to the “Hollanders,” it may perhaps be more distinctly referred to the period of an expedition to repel French encroachments in Flanders and the Netherlands in 1793. The tune is no doubt older than this date, and may have belonged to an earlier song, now lost or which has changed its tune.”

The song as printed in “Traditional Tunes” consists of six verses although many broadside versions of the lyrics often only featured the first, second, fourth and fifth stanzas. It is unclear as to whether Mary Kidson included all six of these verses in her version of the song as this is not stated in “Traditional Tunes”. However, Frank Kidson does make reference to the words printed in J.H. Dixon’s 1857 publication; “Songs of the Peasantry of England” Again, all six verses of the ballad are printed in the Dixon book, but with the addition of the following information; “we have met with a copy printed at Devonport. The readings are in general not so good; but in one or two instances they are apparently more ancient, and are, consequently, here adopted.  The Devonport copy contains two verses, not preserved in our traditional version.  These we have incorporated in our present text, in which they form the third and last stanzas.” I think it very possible that Kidson used the lyrics printed in “Songs of the Peasantry of England” to augment the narrative of the version sung by his mother.

This song is also commonly known as “The White Cockade” although there are many versions of the story featuring different coloured cockades (e.g. blue, green, orange). For those of you who don’t know, a cockade is a rosette style brooch worn by both men and women on a hat or a lapel. These cockades were usually of a circular or oval design, made from ribbon and would depict a particular political, ethical or social allegiance depending on the colours that were incorporated. In the case of this song the white cockade depicts the soldier’s military allegiance as he enlists to fight against the Hollander’s. It is documented that the white cockade was worn by supporters of the Jacobite Rebellions. There were three main Jacobite uprisings; the first occurring in 1689, the second in 1715-16 and the third in 1745-46. James VII (Scotland) and II (England) ruled from 1685 until 1689 when he was replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband the Dutch Prince, William of Orange. This change of power inspired the first Jacobite uprising. “In 1689, the Jacobites were opposed by the Williamites, or Whigs; those Britons who supported the Protestant cause and would not tolerate a Catholic kingdom.”

Subject wearing a white cockade pinned to his hat.

Subject wearing a white cockade pinned to his hat.

In light of this information, and of the reference to “Hollanders” within the song, it would seem to lend some credibility to the suggestion that this song was established much earlier than 1820.


It was one summer’s morning as I went o’er the moss,
I had no thought of ‘listing, till the soldiers did me cross;
They kindly did invite me to a flowing bowl and down
They advanced me some money, they advanced me some money,
They advanced me some money, ten guineas and a crown.

‘Tis true my love has ‘listed and he wears a white cockade,
He is a handsome, tall young man, besides a roving blade;
He is a handsome, tall young man and he’s gone to serve the King,
Oh, my very heart is breaking, my very heart is breaking,
My very heart is breaking, all for the love of him.

My love is tall and handsome and comely for to see,
And by a sad misfortune a soldier now is he;
I hope the man that ‘listed him may not prosper night or day,
For I wish that the Hollanders, I wish that the Hollanders,
I wish that the Hollanders may sink him in the sea.

Oh, may he never prosper and may he never thrive,
Nor anything he takes in hand so long as he’s alive;
May the very grass he treads upon, the ground refuse to grow,
Since he’s been the only cause, since he’s been the only cause,
Since he’s been the only cause of my sorrow, grief and woe.

Then he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her flowing eyes,
“Leave off those lamentations, likewise those doleful sighs,
Leave off your grief and sorrow, while I march o’er the plain,
We’ll be married in the springtime, we’ll be married in the springtime,
We’ll be married in the springtime, when I return again.”

So now my love has ‘listed, and I for him will rove,
I’ll write his name on every tree that grows in yonder grove;
Where the huntsman he does hallo and the hounds do sweetly cry,
To remind me of my ploughboy, to remind me of my ploughboy,
To remind me of my ploughboy until the day I die.

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New Notes On Old Tunes 01 – The Sprig of Thyme

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Categories: Blog Posts, Charles Lolley, New Notes On Old Tunes, The Sprig of Thyme, Tags: , , , , , , , ,


“Notes On Old Tunes” was a series of articles written in 1886-7 by Frank Kidson for the Leeds Mercury Newspaper. He was known to many as “the musical Sherlock Holmes” for his forensic investigation into the origins of folk songs. Aided by his vast collection of books, broadsides and manuscripts Kidson was able to trace a song’s passage through time and uncover the oldest, and what he regarded to be the truest version of an air.

This series of blog posts “New Notes On Old Tunes” focuses primarily on the songs, taken from the Frank Kidson collection, that feature in “The Search For Five Finger Frank” CD and show by Pete Coe and Alice Jones.

It is perhaps fitting that the first song featured in this series of blog posts should be “The Sprig of Thyme” as this song was obtained from Mr Charles Lolley, a key contributor and collaborator of Frank Kidson’s. Lolley first made contact with Kidson in response to the ”Notes On Old Tunes” articles. They corresponded extensively on the matter of folk songs and the collecting of them and they soon developed a firm and longstanding friendship. Indeed, Lolley submitted a large number of songs and tunes to Kidson’s vast collection.

This version of “The Sprig of Thyme” came from Mr Charles Lolley and seems to be a variant of the song hailing from the East Riding. This is, indeed, where Lolley was born and raised; in Hemingbrough and later Howden, but he also acquired many songs from his mother (who was apparently born in Brompton, London) and he also later moved to live and work in the north-east of Leeds. In light of this information and the scant detail given by Frank Kidson in his book ”Traditional Tunes”, it is impossible to identify this particular version of the song as originating from one specific geographical location.

“The Seeds of Love”, “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme”, “Garner’s Gay” are seemingly all variants of “The Sprig of Thyme” although this would appear to be a matter still very much up for debate amongst folk song scholars today. Many argue that the differing symbolism and language utilised in ”The Seeds of Love” and “The Sprig of Thyme” sets them apart, making them distinct from one another. It is also suggested, for various reasons, that “The Seeds of Love” is a song from the male perspective whereas “The Sprig of Thyme” is from a female perspective. In the Folk Song Society Journal Vol 1 (1902) Frank Kidson, himself, writes: “The air and words of ”I Sowed the Seeds of Love” are so entangled with those of “The Sprig of Thyme” that the two ballads are often regarded as identical”.

This version of the song features thyme, rue and an oak tree. In this instance it is likely that the thyme symbolises virginity and that rue is a symbol of regret. The oak tree, interestingly, appears to have been entirely edited out of the version printed in ”Traditional Tunes”. Between the 4th and 5th verse Kidson has inserted only a line of dots which appears to indicate an omission. Since becoming familiar with his workings, I am of the opinion that this is an act of censorship. Kidson genuinely seems to be disapproving of obvious sexual symbolism and it is possible that, to him, the overtly suggestive image of the oak tree was an unnecessary inclusion in the song’s narrative. In “The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs” Steve Roud and Julia Bishop include this additional verse, taken from a very similar version of the song from a broadside printed by Forth of Hull.

In “Traditional Tunes 1891″ Frank Kidson writes:

“There are several ballads extant in the same strain of allegory. The better known one, “I Sowed the Seeds of Love,” is an instance; they appear to date from the latter end of the century. The tune is pretty, and, I think, is not much corrupted from it’s original form.”

The Sprig of Thyme

Come all you pretty fair maids,
That are just in your prime,
I would have you weed your garden clear,
And let no one steal your time.

I once had a sprig of thyme,
It prospered both night and day,
By chance there came a false young man,
And he stole my thyme away,

Thyme it is the prettiest flower
That grows under the sun,
It’s time that brings all things to an end,
So now my thyme runs on.

Now my old thyme it is dead,
I’ve no room for any new,
For in that place where my old thyme grew,
Has changed into a running rue.

I’ll put a stop to that running rue,
And plant a fair oak tree,
Stand you up, stand you up, you fair oak tree,
And do not wither and die.

It’s very well drinking ale,
And it’s very well drinking wine,
But it’s far better sitting by a young man’s side,
That has won this heart of mine.

(the 5th verse is not printed in Frank Kidson’s Traditional Tunes 1891)

“The Sprig of Thyme” features as track 7 on disc 1 of “The Search For Five Finger Frank” by Pete Coe and Alice Jones.

“The Search For Five Finger Frank” CD and the book “Traditional Tunes” by Frank Kidson are both available to purchase online. You can also buy them directly from us at one of our gigs; have a look here to see where we’re playing!



Charles Lolley and The Lolley Family

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Categories: Blog Posts, CD Launch Event, Charles Lolley, Source Singers, Tags: , , , ,


Whilst reseraching the material for “The Search For Five Finger Frank” Album and Show we have drawn extensively on contributions from one of Frank Kidson’s key collaborators: Mr Charles Lolley. He first established contact in response to a series of articles by Kidson in the Leeds Mercury 1886-87 entitled “Notes on Old Tunes”.  They began to correspond regularly on the subject of folk song and folk song collecting.

Charles and Jane Lolley

Charles and Jane Lolley

Charles Lolley 1857-1935 was born in Hemingbrough, East Yorkshire. He was a fine fiddle player and a bricklayer by trade, later becaming a Builder’s Foreman for a building company in Leeds. Like Kidson, Charles Lolley also took inspiration from his own mother’s singing and collected a number of songs from her. Indeed, the sheer quantity of material submitted by Charles Lolley strongly indicates that he too, was a folk song collector in his own right. It appears that they struck up a firm friendship and there are many fine songs and tunes from Charles Lolley contained within the Kidson collection.

We feature many songs collected from Charles Lolley in our CD and Show: “The Search For Five Finger Frank”. Many of these songs still hold a prominent place in the folk repertoire of today: “Young Banker”, “Outward Bound” and “The Sprig of Thyme” are all examples of this. However, a number of the songs contributed by Charles Lolley also offer most unusual versions of popular classics, sometimes differing substantially from what later became the more commonly established melodies. “The Bonny Bunch of Roses”, “Captain Glen” and “My True Love Once He Courted Me” are all distinctive for their haunting melodic twists and turns.

At our CD Launch event on Sunday 13th April 2014, we were very honoured to have descendants of Charles Lolley in the audience;

Jessie Hall (Lolley’s grand-daughter), Ruth Trousdale (Jessie’s daughter and Lolley’s great grand-daughter) and Edna Lolley (Lolley’s grand-daughter)

From L to R: Pete Coe, Jessie Hall, Ruth Trowsdale, Edna Lolley, Alice Jones

From L to R: Pete Coe, Jessie Hall, Ruth Trousdale, Edna Lolley, Alice Jones

It was an absolute privilage to sing the songs that Frank Kidson collected from Charles Lolley to members of his own family. We would like to say a huge thank-you to them for coming and also to genealogist Gill Baldwin for all her time and energy spent on tracing Charles Lolley’s relations and for researching Frank Kidson and the other contributors to his collection.