A curious one all round this and keeping us in diseased territory with Bellamy’s setting of Kipling’s words. It’s also on Matachin of course and Jon says, “The original chorus is ‘O Lord for it’s the killing of us so’. It’s tricky with Kipling’s archaisms because one doesn’t want to second guess a genius. On the other hand I can never really enjoy singing something like that so I’ve changed it to ‘killing of us all’. This can lead to rival chorusing factions at a singing session mind.” Mainly Norfolk covers Bellamy here and I’ll note it’s from where his title Rummy Conjurin’ Tricks is derived. There’s a certain gallows humour at work, perhaps it’s just resignation, as this pernicious infection generally only had one outcome in Kipling’s day. The reality of this must have been every bit as horrific, if not more so, than any battle. At least in the latter case you could generally see your enemy. I’ve read a fascinating book called The Ghost Map about the major London outbreak of the disease in 1854 and how two men made unconnected, but similar discoveries about the cause that would eventually lead to treatment and cure. Reverend Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow battled the pervading scientific opinion and theories of miasma to point to the water borne source of the infection that killed many thousands. Unfortunately it took years for their work to be recognised and action taken. Even more regrettably the disease is currently back in the news in Haiti. I’d add that I think the understated fiddle here adds a suitably mournful tone to Bellamy’s paradoxically jaunty melody. What I’ve read, however, make this somewhat uncomfortable listening.
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