Have you ever spent an evening in early summer sipping ale on a wooden bench
outside a country pub, while the old man at your side spins yars
of his early manhood? Have you sat in a chimney
corner in a flag-stoned taproom as an ancient singer, in a quavering tenor,
sings a song that was old when Lord Nelson was a boy? If you
have, then cherish the memory. For these are the last remaining drops
of the living essence of old English country life.
Thus beings Songs and Southern Breezes, the story of Bob Copper's
wanderings in Sussex and Hampshire in search of old songs
and stories of the English countryside. By now the last generation of country people
to be brought up in a way unchanged in centuries has begun to die out; there is a danger
that the wealth of spoken dialect anecdote and old songs handed
down from father to son might disappear with them - for what has been a living
tradition is now rapidly becoming history.
A well-known countryman and folk singer himself, Bob Copper makes
vivid portraits of some of the men and women he has met: the story-tellers like ex-steam threshing machine
driver Len Page, for example, who could [unreadable text]...; Frank (Mush) Bond, fairground
hand and casual farm labourer, who turned out to have been a startling
literary magpie and home philosopher in his spare time;
and splendid old Fanny Thorn who awarded the B.E.M. for a lifetime of service
on the land, was still going strong at ninety-three.
Then there are the singers: fishermen of Hastings recalling contemporary
accounts of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in their songs; the council hedger
keeping alive memories of long forgotten crimes such as a young girl's murder
in "Poison In A Glass of Wine"; and many others. Fifty songs are
collected with full words and music at the back of this book, some wistful, some
eartherly comic, telling of the old life, its hardships, its rewards
and perhaps most appealing of all, the rich sense of fun of the people
who lived it.
Bob Copper was the winner of the 1971 Robert Pitman Literary Prize awarded by
Haverbrook Newspapers for his first book, A Song For Every Season.
About the Author
Bob Copper was born in Rottinghamd in 1915 and went to the village school there.
In 1929, he left to become a 'lather-boy' with the local barber; he served in the
Life Guards, and later spent 10 years with the WEst Sussex
Constabulary. He left to take over a social
club close to his native village, where, with a two-year break described in this
book, he has remained ever since. Bob Copper and his family keep
alive the old singing traditions, appearing on television, broadcasting, making records
and singing at folk clubs.