Horn Fair


Jon calls this “One of my favourite songs. I came across this in Roy Palmer’s Vaughan-Williams book. It didn’t have a tune and it wasn’t my book so I decided to sing the words into my phone. I improvised a tune and it more or less stuck.”

Well as Ashley Hutchings with Shirley Collins singing seems to be the only musician other that Spiers & Boden ( and now Jon solo) to have had a bash at reviving this, that seems fair enough. I like the notes at Mainly Norfolk, with the suggestions of the song’s and more importantly the Horn Fair’s origins. Tsk! Despite my new found knowledge about Turkey Rhubarb, I couldn’t help but feel that we have hit a little seam of song titles with words that don’t naturally belong together. I am sure there must be a grammatical term for that, I just don’t know what it is.



19 Responses to “Horn Fair”

  1. Patrick Rose says:

    Another lovely one Mr Boden.

    I feel quite terrible about the fact I’m the first to comment again. Maybe I shouldn’t stay up just for this…

  2. Reinhard says:

    I presume Jon selected this song because of its first line as today is the first day of spring in the UK (here in Germany and in time zones further east we’ll have to wait until tomorrow).
    So we’ve gone through three quarters of the year with AFSAD and an impressiive load of wonderful songs. Thank you very much, Jon!

  3. Brian Leach says:

    Probably one of my favourite S & B tracks so I’m with Jon here.

  4. Shelley says:

    Nice to hear I’m not the only person who sings tunes into their phone!

    This is lovely and works really well a cappella.

    (“crumple my muslin and uncurl my hair” – oo-er!)

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    I particularly liked this song, & so very nice to have the second accompanied Spiers & Boden version via the Mudcat link.

    There seems to be a number of Horn Fairs around apart from the one in Ebernoe, Sussex, but commonly granted (reputedly) by King Henry III. Revelry, licentiousness and cross-dressing seemed to be the order of the day!

    In the 1720s, the Horn Fair at Charleton was described by Daniel Defoe as follows:

    “Charleton, a village famous, or rather infamous for the yearly collected rabble of mad-people, at Horn-Fair; the rudeness of which I cannot but think, is such as ought to be suppressed, and indeed in a civilis’d well-govern’d nation, it may well be said to be unsufferable. The mob indeed at that time take all kinds of liberties, and the women are especially impudent for that day; as if it was a day that justify’d the giving themselves a loose to all manner of indecency and immodesty, without any reproach, or without suffering the censure which such behaviour would deserve at another time.”

    At the Hockham Horn Fair, anyone visiting the village had to undergo the custom of “doshing” or “dossing” as it is also referred, before they were allowed to the fair itself. This custom consisted of strangers removing their hats and butting the hairy pad between the ox or ram’s horns! There was a penalty for dodging the “doss”, of either the forfeit of a farthing, or the purchase of some free ale for the locals.

    Wherever the fair, people seem to dress up like sthg out of the final Wicker Man film procession! I quite fancy being ‘impudent’ for a day! Great song, Jon!


  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Some serious horns here – hahahaha!


  7. Karen says:

    Another recent recording of this song is by Bob Lewis of Sussex on the Springthyme label and further details about it’s history are on http://www.springthyme.co.uk/ah09/

  8. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    Blimey………Ref the two versions in Mainly Norfolk: I had to re-read the first line of verse 2 Version 1…….. and the second line of verse 3 version 2……as the singers seem to have gone off on their individual fantasies ! .calm down lads!
    Ref Jane’s Link above….12 people is hardly a procession but at least they tried.
    A comment under one of the videos quoted thus:-

    “In the 1820s Daniel Defoe wrote of the fair: The mob indeed at that time take all kinds of liberties, and the women are especially impudent for that day; as if it was a day that justifyd the giving themselves a loose to all manner of indecency and immodesty, without any reproach, or without suffering the censure which such behaviour would deserve at another time”.

    That’s Just what I need …an impudent woman!(there are at least 3 on AFSAD)

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: At least 3 impudent wimmin… can’t be me then, being a Ted. However, there appears to be just the ONE impudent man… you’d have yer work cut out at Horn Fair!

    Here’s another impudent woman… not Kate Rusby, singing a song I know from June Tabor and Maddy Prior on their ‘Silly Sisters’ album… but a fair lass from Lincolnshire she sings about, who needs no grey mare, just a modest pack of cards:


    Kate could do with picking up the pace here tho! Lol.

  10. Diana says:

    I particularly like the version on “The Works” CD with Spiers and Boden along with Maddy Prior and Martin Simpson. But Jon solo does a good job too.

    @Muzza since I know that you can’t possibly mean me, I am wondering which three women you mean. Jane says she isn’t one of them either so can’t imagine who you are thinking of. 😀

  11. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Jane&Diana……….did I say 3….trouble at my age..just can’t remember.
    THanks for the link to Kate Rusby Jane…after the “risque” title……I was a bit disappointed to read that they just had a game of cards!

  12. Diana says:

    @Muzza so that’s your excuse and you are sticking with it – forgetfulness! I don’t think so. You are chickening out from naming names because you could end up in trouble with us women as we are definately not impudent. 😆

    Wherefore art thou John Biggs – we have not seen hair or hind of you for quite a while. Hope you are well and have not caught the flu bug again.

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: I think they were playing more than just cards… In fact, calling it ‘The Game of All Fours’ rather gives the game away, as I know it as just ‘The Game of Cards.’ Must have bin playing pok_’er, or mebbe Happy Families… Anyhow, it needs to be sung with more pace and suggestive innuendo to work really well!

  14. Diana says:

    A great song and so well sung.

  15. Diana says:


  16. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Just listened to the Kate Rusby link again
    I think the fella who typed the lyric was in ‘smutty mode’ and got carried away with a Freudian slip.
    He surely meant to type ‘DUCE’ rather than what he did type in line three!
    (oh-just me then!)
    “I dealt the last time, it’s your turn to shuffle
    My turn to show the best card in the pack
    Once more she’d the ace, and juice for to beat me
    Once more I lost when I laid down poor jack

  17. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Happy Equinox everybody

  18. OldMuzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    wey hey…..Crumple my muslin………..those were the days (very far off days!!!)
    I often compose tunes down the phone but they just seem to come out as heavy breathing.

    Wont be a minute officer…..just putting a comment on AFSAD

  19. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Happy Spring Equinox…sun over the equator..night as long as day…here comes summer..
    wooHoo…….oh promise us we’ll have some sun( and rain) clocks spring forward next Sunday!

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