The Recruited Collier


Jon says, “There’s something very convincing about this song, regardless of how far Lloyd re-wrote it. The mix of industrial and rural imagery is very evocative and quite compelling. I know it from Anne Briggs.”

I’ll agree with that with slight reservations. It’s also interesting to note that Bert’s re-write of this is both extensive and has also been acknowledged for some time. Erring on the generous side, he was economical with his source information and as this Mudcat thread makes clear we know the original author as a Robert Anderson. You can read the original text, complete with its regional inflexion. Note it originally had a totally rural setting and the new recruit was a farm worker rather than miner­, which I think leads to a couple of awkward little moments in the lyrics. It’s also very likely that this is a Bert Lloyd tune. I should perhaps make clear that I’m one of the people who have no issues with Bert’s ‘editing’ and ‘adapting.’ I doubt that the true ‘blood-line’ of a song was ever much of a concern with singers until the collectors set about the work of preserving the folk-heritage. The need for authenticity simply came with that as part of the package. In this case the original survives quite independently anyway. Either way, the story works well and I wonder how often this scenario has been played out with the distinct possibility that it will all unravel on the battlefield.



13 Responses to “The Recruited Collier”

  1. the_otter says:

    Like the song and Jon’s singing. The Anne Briggs version is good as well. Both are plaintive.

    Anderson’s Geordie ballad is great. I never knew about it before. I like:

    If owre the stibble fields I gang
    I think I see him ploughin,
    And ev’ry bit o’ bread I eat,
    It seems o’ Jemmy’s sowin’

    I admire Lloyd’s efforts as part of the folk revival, but don’t much I approve of his habits as a collector of traditional songs, which seems to me to be more of an academic than a creative endeavor.

  2. Stephen Aal says:

    There is a brilliant version of this on a little-known LP by Barbara Dickson ‘From a Beggar’s Mantle Fringed with Gold’. The album dates from her early days as a folk artist.

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    Wonderfully well-sung, Jon, and thanks to Otter and Stephen for pointers to other recordings. Here’s some links for listening:;1rKISrXhTWY.html

  4. Phil says:

    No offence to Jon, but I really hate what Lloyd did to this song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice enough song; if he’d reworked it a bit more it could have stood up on its own merits, as a new song written by Bert Lloyd (lots of Ewan MacColl’s songs started out with MacColl singing new words to old tunes). But passing it off as a traditional song, and then making out that Anderson’s original poem was a garbled version – ! I don’t know what to call it except forgery and fraud. The Revival deserved better.

  5. Diana says:

    Well another not very happy folk song – always images of lying in a grave – dead cheerful. Jon sings it very nicely and there’s not much I can add – a lot is written above which is properly more relevant than my comments.

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

    How devestating must it have been to be downing a pint in your little local one minute and whisked off to the wars in the next!
    It was a beastly business…along with the press gang!(OOOer…see me getting angry!)
    The original version was heartfelt and excellent.
    I agree with Phil that: if Old Bert wanted to do his own ‘Collier’ version he should have opted for a more defined ‘mining theme’ and called THAT one his own.
    Ref ‘The very sight o’ his cockade,It sets us all a crying’…..that’s why I hate having a shower at my time of life!
    As for Admin Simon’s Properganda link……..I’ll be here all night….listening to ‘Red Sky July’……..ask me who thought they were Texan country gals….until the BBC interview…excellent.

  7. […] Some folk songs have lived double lives, beginning in a rural setting and then being recast in an urban context. Jon Boden has recorded one such composition, ‘The Recruited Collier’, as part of his Folk Song in a Day project. According to the website of the project, the collier of the title was, in a former version, a farmer (more information can be found here). […]

  8. Old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    I’m still LURKIN’ !!!

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ha ha, Muzza. Is it the colon detox or the reduction of man-boobs ads that’s holding your interest on here? There is some right sh1te getting in! Skyman, we need you!!!

  10. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    And to think I was hoping this would cheer me up!

  11. Mog Ball says:

    The female point of view is very interesting in this song: What do you do about a bloke who has been brutalised – by the army, by war – when acting.on your distaste means you’ll end up alone. It’s a contemporary dilemma, although being alone is no longer such a bad situation for women. A really good song in either version.

  12. It is a good folk song on a recurring theme. It sits well with others in the folk Canon sich as Mrs McGrath, and Arthur McBride. Thanks for your informative site.

  13. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK)) says:

    Ha….ref Martin K comment immediately above….looks as though young Martin was skipping through the song index to comment in January!!
    That’s the beauty of AFSAD index.

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