Palaces Of Gold


Jon says “An amazing song this, written by Leon Rosselson, whose lack of national treasure status is shameful. Ian Giles sings this and it was always a big song at the Half Moon. I also recently saw Roy Bailey perform it, which was something special.”

This was recorded by Martin Carthy and it’s no surprise to see that it was inspired at least in part by The Aberfan disaster, although there is clearly a degree of bottled rage spiked by wider injustice and inequality. Rosselson is a very clever wordsmith and no slouch on the guitar either and if you aren’t familiar, Rosselsongs is a nifty CD primer, on which you’ll find this. He certainly wears his political heart on his sleeve and the topical songwriting was doubtless fuelled by being part of David Frost’s That was The Week That Was team. I guess poking barbs at the rich and ruling is always likely to ‘do’ for your national treasure ratings. In the alternate world, where fairness is the rule and rewards are just, however, Leon is right up there. Whilst Aberfan may be a tragic blot on the historical landscape (surely never again), depravation and the blight of inequality it fosters are not.



22 Responses to “Palaces Of Gold”

  1. John Biggs says:

    I know I have said this before but ‘Nothing Changes’. What chance of fairness and just rewards when our present cabinet is made up largely of millionaires educated at Eton and the likes. I have heard Roy Bailey sing this many times over the years, he is a great performer of the songs of Leon Rosselson. You can hear this on his recent c.d., ‘Sit Down & Sing’, then go to track 16, ‘More Than Enough’, by Rob Johnson, to really put you in a good humour for the rest of the day !
    Beautifully sung Jon as always, thank you.

  2. Mike Armstrong says:

    Magic 🙂

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    Playing catch-up again with this unusual song. Not sure how much I like the actual song, which is to me another of those difficult no-tune tunes, but brilliantly sung, Jon!

  4. Diana says:

    Had to get the lyrics from Mainly Norfolk and read them through several times before I decided what I thought of this song. As John B says nothing changes – the rich get rich etc. It’s dreadful to look at the conditions in which people lived or still live. I am sorry to say that I did not care for the music at all but that’s just my opinion. I can see the connection with the Aberfan disaster and I think there is no job as awful as a miner’s, and after visits to several museum mines (which is not the same as working ones) I have nothing but admiration for the men who work down the pits.

  5. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    A year later and still ‘nothing changes’, but fortunately, the voices wanting change do not go away either. I heard Roy Bailey sing this, and many other great songs of a similar nature in concert just a few weeks ago, stunning ! Furthermore, it is evident that there are still many singers and writers of protest songs in the folk song movement today, thankfully.

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

    Prompted by Diana’s comment above, I went to Mainly Norfolk and, as she said, you need to read the words to get the full impact…I would have left it as prose.
    Such is the power of Mainly N……I read more about LeonRosselson and found a reference to “History Lesson”…a song which I heard and noted in ‘my book’ back in 1966 but have never heard again and only now am able to complete the page of lyrics with the writer’s name…Thanks Reynard.

  7. Diana says:

    Muzza glad you agreed with me re: the words of this song. It was hard to assimilate by just hearing Jon’s singing but the lyrics in front of you gave meaning to the song. Reynard’s site is very interesting and entertaining and great for moving around as you have obviously found.

  8. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Lovely to have the memory jolted like that. I have not heard ‘History Lesson’ since the time Muzza was making note of it. Again it would have been sung in a folk club, probably by Roy Bailey. Yes Leon Rosselson has written some wonderful songs.
    Thank you Muzza and Diana, it is a wet afternoon and I’m off to Mainly Norfolk.

  9. Reynard says:

    Well, I’m back to Mainly Hamburg from an Easter visit to my old parents and thank you very much for all your kind praise.

    And I’m back to some detective work and maybe you can help. Sam Sweeney’s website shows a tracklist for Fay’s forthcoming album Orfeo. I think I recognise all tracks but one which is just called Henry. Obviously this won’t be King Henry from her previous CD. Could it be Henry the Poacher (Roud 221)? Has anybody heard Fay sing this song in a concert? Of course I could just wait seven weeks to solve this riddle but what’s the fun in that?

  10. Diana says:

    Nothing has been said or rather written which is not true. I have wandered around your site quite a lot and now it looks like you might get some more visitors. I have done a little detective work in the past but I am no use in this instance so looks like you will have to wait till May.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    Stunningly sung, Jon!

    For those who want the experience of Leon Rosselson singing his own song from 1968, follow the YouTube link below. The way he breaks the lyrics up makes it a bit easier to grasp the message. I like his accompaniment, which seems to lift the otherwise no-tune tune of the song:

    Having finally seen his long-time collaborator, Roy Bailey, at last year’s Raise Yer Banners, I’m delighted that Leon Rosselson is now coming to our Topic Folk Club (Irish Centre, Rebecca Street, Bradford) on May 10th. Yeh!

    Amongst the many Leon R/Roy B YouTube postings, I found this (to me) absolute gem, ‘The Rose of York’ – Enjoy!

    Lyrics can be found at The Yorkshire Garland web site:

    Mention is made of the first group to record this song, Bitter Withy, & their harmonious version can also be heard on YouTube:

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Rats! My other comments are awaiting moderation, no doubt because I have included 4 links and the spammy filter does not like them!

    However, picking up on Reynard’s point about Fay Hield’s forthcoming ‘Orfeo’ I am assuming her song ‘Henry’ is not Leon Rosselson’s ‘Harry’s Gone Fishing!’ (I note she is covering ‘Springfield Mountain’ (aka ‘The Wicked Serpent’) ‘Pretty Nancy,’ ‘The Weaver’s Daughter’ and the wonderful ‘Old ‘Arris Mill’ wot we all know from here!)

    I don’t suppose it is Henry Martyn (Child 250) either, with its original 82 verses, or could it be ‘Henry, My Son,’ a variant of ‘Lord Randall?’ Surely not ‘Henry King?!’

    The Chief Defect of Henry King
    Was chewing little bits of string.
    At last he swallowed some that tied
    Itself in ugly Knots inside.
    Physicians of the utmost fame
    Were called at once; but when they came
    They answered, as they took their Fees,
    `There is no Cure for this Disease.
    Henry will very soon be dead.’
    His Parents stood about his bed
    Lamenting his Untimely Death,
    When Henry with his Latest Breath,
    Cried – `Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,
    That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
    Are all the Human Frame requires . . .’
    With that, the Wretched Child expires.

    From Cautionary Tales, Hilaire Belloc.

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    Skyman is out of his office ’til Thursday, so my comments canny be moderaTed until at least then… the world will have to wait… hahahahahaha!

  14. Diana says:

    What a wonderful piece of poetry Jane. I am also awaiting moderation on Propermusic so after the last occurance on here I am not so concerned, cos again it was quite a flattering remark. Will await with bated breath till Thursday with you then.

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

    @Jane……surprised that little Henry spoke so elequently on his death bed…
    thought he’d have been tongue-tied..Ta Daaa

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Oh you’re so sharp! Get back in that knife drawer, clever ‘un! Kids were more eloquent and made of sterner stuff in those days. He just had a string of bad luck… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  17. Diana says:

    I like the string of bad luck – really fitting!

  18. Phil says:

    Good song for today – well, yesterday, to be precise, but it’s close enough.

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    This song grows on me every time I hear it. Apart from Jon’s resounding unaccompanied version above, I heard it most recently sung by Martin Simpson at The Live Room in Saltaire Heritage Village late last year. It’s on his ‘Vagrant Stanzas’ CD. Here’s his version with the most lovely slide guitar:

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    Another and new song about the effects local industry have on local history is ‘Boat Sheds & Lime Kilns’ by my FB friend Karl Robins (music) and fellow musicians Andy Waterhouse (lyrics) and Gary Hetherington (music). Listen to it here on Soundcloud:

    Then visit the Dancing With Ghosts’ beautifully-constructed & informative website for biographical & musical details about the group members, the album ‘Spirit of Beblow – Visions of Holy island’ that the above song is taken from, wonderful photographs of the area that fit the tracks (including of boat sheds and lime kilns!) & a video of Karl playing another song from the album called ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ There are 15 original tracks on the CD which can be briefly sampled – 7 songs (the even numbers) and 8 instrumental pieces. It’s not only lovely to listen to, but a real bargain!

  21. Palaces of Gold first heard by Roy Bailey of course, absolutely brilliant ~ Rosselson and his political songs and delivery not everyone’ s cup of tea ~ but he is still a very respected songwriter ~saw him at Towersey ff many years ago

    Rose of York sung by Roy Bailey ~ Lesley Hale was a bit annoyed that he didn’t record the correct words, and authorship! from memory the harmony group included Lesley (f) Hale and Tich Frier? a great Scottish folk singer/entertainer and fierce Scot ~ more on YG and mudcat btw
    Rose of York lyrics based a novel Covenant with Death ~about the PALS who joined up, the novel which I have read supplied and returned to by Bruce Gomersal has cleverly disguised place names but relates to Sheffield! The characters are young Journalists on a “Sheffield” Newspaper who join up!

  22. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Lots of things have happened since AFSAD started….
    little snippets over the years give us a sense of time .Just for the record The Duke of Edinburgh died today (9th)……and snow in Surrey and on12th we start to come out of Virus lockdown!

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