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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 - 3'19"

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" - 1'14"

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 - 1'05"

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 - 1'21"

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 - 1'57"

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 - 1'58"

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 1975.

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.

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