FTX-384 - CONSTANT
BILLY WELLS - Morris Dancing
At Bampton "Jinkey", or Billy Wells (1868-1953), fool, dancer & fiddler
recounts his life-story to Peter Kennedy in 1952 & talks about the dances together
with pre-war recordings of him playing in the street. Other musicians & dancers
were recorded in the streets on Whitmonday in 1955, playing and talking, including
Bertie Clark, Jim Buckingham, Arnold Woodley, Jimmy and Albert Townsend, Michael
Bowden, Billy Flux & William Brooks (known locally as "Brannen").
1. CONSTANT BILLY - Billy Wells playing fiddle for dancers in the street
at Bampton rec 1943 - 0'45"
2. Talk about his family & nickname - 1'30"
3. Birthplace, brother & education - 0'55"
4. His first job & start in the Morris - 0'56"
5. Various other jobs - 0'29"
6. Family involvement, his first costume, odd stockings & Enoch Tanner -
7. The Fool (his own poem) - 3'00"
8. Explanation of Sword in the cake & diddles HIGHLAND MARY- 1'03"
9. HIGHLAND MARY (played on fiddle with humming)- 1'54"
10. Talk about finding dances and playing at Leafield (Field Town); tune
and & description of THE FORESTER (or FORESTRY-KEEPER'S JIG)- 2'15"
11. OLD TOM OF OXFORD - talk about hawkers living in a caravan - 1'15"
12. Words of OLD TOM OF OXFORD & further talk about hawkers, two men & 1
woman & own experience of living in a caravasn himself; "they never quarrelled"
13. THE QUAKER - words of song & LUMPS OF PLUM PUDDING - 0'42"
14. THE PIPE DANCE ('Bacca Pipes) "Some say the devil's dead" words and
hums tune 1'28"
15. THE WEBBLEY he named the dance after a man called Webb (Tune: "Banks
and braes") disapproved by Cecil Sharp House - 1'36"
16. CONSTANT BILLY - talk about it being the longest dance & done three
different ways then hums the tune - 1'54"
17. THE MAID OF THE MILL - sings the words - 0'31"
18. THE MAID OF THE MILL - title then plays tune on fiddle with humming
19. Names of the various dances, words of BONNY GREEN GARTERS spoken & hums
tune of PRINCESS ROYAL and explains the various capers - 1'27"
20. BONNY GREEN GARTERS - song - 0'29"
21. BOBBING AROUND - title then tune on fiddle with humming - 1'24"
22. "I bis the only man": his achievements as fool, fiddler, dancer & trainer,
and performed in front of two princesses and had three generations in one set
23. Playing the tunes on six different instruments: penny-tin-whistle, mandoleon,
concertina, melodeon, violin, swiss pipe but "you can't beat the fiddle - 1'12"
24. Song fragment: THE DUMB MAID - 0'30"
25. recites words, a fragment of his own song composition: "Being a gentleman's
son" - 1'07"
26. THE FLOWERS OF EDINBURGH - title then tune on fiddle with humming -
27. Talk about tent covering a dancing booth, twopence a dance paid by men
& boys - 2'50"
28. STEP AND FETCH HER ("Pretty little dear") - sings tune - 0'22"
29. THE HANDKERCHIEF DANCE with description - 1'48"
30. TOMMY, MAKE ROOM FOR YOUR UNCLE - words of song - 0'34"
31. "Every dog has his day" - 1'20"
32. THE QUAKER - title before then tune on fiddle with humming for dancing
in the street followed by applause (BBC 1321 rec 1937) - 2'26"
Other performers at Bampton:-
33. BOBBING AROUND - Jim Buckingham (melodeon) playing for team in 1955
34. THE FLOWERS OF EDINBURGH - Arnold Woodley (fiddle) - 2'12"
35. Interviews in street with Jim Buckingham, young Jimmy Townsend, young
Michael Bowden and Billy Flux - 3'30"
36. THE MAID OF THE MILL - Bertie Clark (fiddle) - 2'25"
37. SHEPHERDS HEY - (As previous) - 3'02"
38. CONSTANT BILLY - Arnold Woodley (fiddle) - 1'06"
39. BONNY GREEN GARTERS - (As previous) - 0'42"
With the exception of the street recordings, tracks 1-32 were recorded by
Peter Kennedy at Billy Well's bedside in his house at Bampton in October 1952.
Tracks 33-39 were recorded in the streets of Bampton on Whitmonday in 1955 and
for the two actuality tracks we are grateful to the BBC for their kind permission.
The album was edited by Peter Kennedy & first published on Folktrax Cassettes
WILLIAM WELLS (1868-1953) Cecil Sharp paid his tribute to him in his description
of the Bampton Morris Dancers in Part 3 of The Morris Book (Novello 1910). Douglas
Kennedy wrote about him in The Journal of The English Folk Dance and Song Society
for 1956, where there is a transcript of our 1951 conversation- recording with
Peter Kennedy, as well as tunes and other biographical information. In addition
there is an extract from "Billy's book", written mainly around 1914. There is
a black-and-white photograph of him as frontispiece to the 1956 Journal. There
are also two portraits of him at Cecil Sharp House in London: a full-length
pencil drawing by Sir William Rothenstein made in 1931 and a water-colour by
Mrs. E.M.Bateman, a portrait of head and shoulders. Billy presented his own
English three-hole pipe ("wittle") and tabor ("dub") to Helen Kennedy, the first
Secretary of The English Folk Dance and Song Society, and these, together with
some copies, are now in the custody of the Kennedy family. Peter also has a
photograph of a cigar-tin fiddle made by Billy Wells.