It’s been a while since we’ve had a Kipling/Bellamy number and Jon says, “I first heard this from Jess Arrowsmith who has just recorded it on a rather spendid CD of children’s songs featuring, amongst many others, yours truly contributing a deeply unconvincing pig sound effect in Old Macdonald. I actually learnt this to record at Bateman’s, Kipling’s house, now owned by the National Trust. Duncan Miller from Vulcan Recordings recorded me straight to wax cylinder and has now pressed the recording onto vinyl cylinder, and it is part of a hands-on phonograph sound exhibit in the museum. Certainly the best excuse I’ve ever been able to give for missing a meeting was ‘Sorry, can’t be there, have to record a song on wax cylinder in Rudyard Kipling’s front room.’”
I’ve said before how much I’ve enjoyed these Kipling adaptations. There’s something very straightforward about the way he writes, capturing so much with equally great economy. This is no disappointment either, delighting in the moral ambiguity that the subject deserved. It led me to this link about Sussex smugglers and another of those “I really do know nothing” moments. I’d never considered the wool trade as being at the root of it. Anyway, it’s the turn a blind eye sentiment that’s telling in this song, with “Baccy for the Parson, brandy for the clerk” (or vice versa!), as two figures of respectability benefit from the illicit trade. I wonder how many of us haven’t also benefited in some little way. At the same time there’s menace to the instruction to “watch the wall as the gentlemen go by.” Clearly the gangs involved were prone to violence back then, perhaps because of the ultimate sanction if caught. But it’s a lot harder to be ambivalent about smuggling these days. The cargo has changed and much misery results. Even the avoidance of duty impacts on the welfare state and more, whereas perhaps the levy was once bound to simply swell the coffers of war. As an aside and to end on a brighter note, those with young children might appreciate this link.
You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores: