Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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8             Ballads and Songs of Michigan
to outsing one another. When the meeting broke up, sometimes at daybreak, the man who still had a song or more in reserve was declared the winner.
Like Mr. Evilsizer, many of our informants possess remarkable memories. A few who have always lived in isolated communities have a repertoire which rivals that of Mrs. Brown of Falkland, who is said to have sung from memory for Sir Walter Scott and Robert Jamieson, thirty-six songs, which they used respectively in The Mm-strelsy of the Scottish Border (1802) and Popular Ballads and Songs (i8o6).° Mrs. Chickering found one informant, Mrs. Muchlcr, who sang thirty-three songs. Mr. Harns, with a taste for history and travel, said that he had learned "Kate and Her Horns" from hearing it sung but once, in 1875. These are only a few of our singers who demonstrate that literacy is no barrier to the transmission of ballads and who in common with those of Maine lend support to the theory held by Phillips Barry that "illiteracy is a negative factor in ballad tradition; it distinctly inhibits the chances of survival."7
Some informants when we asked them to sing old songs responded with alacrity and sang all they could recall. Among these were descendants of the Scotch who migrated in the last half of the nine­teenth century from Canada to Sheridan Township, Huron County.8 Our Scotch songs, in general, range from those with a slight thread o£ narrative like "Bony's Lament" and "The Lass of Glcnshec" to the more ballad-like compositions such as "The Three Scotch Robbers" and "Archie o' Cawficld," and to later ones like "Prince Charlie" and "Charlie's Awa" (sec MSS collection). The fine versions and the spirited singing of the last two clearly indicate that the affection of the Highlanders for the Young Pretender still persists in the hearts of their descendants. Equally true reflections of a time when the lives of many Scotch, Irish, and English lads were cruelly sacrificed are the songs "Bloody Waterloo," "The Heights at Alma," and "The Crimean War." The remembrance of these old songs concerning tragic events long past is not more amazing than is that for the humorous details of "Pat's Wedding," "The First Night's Courtship," and "Robin Tamson's Smiddy."
A most delightful singer was Mrs. Allan McClellan, of Sheridan Township, who, like others already mentioned, had an excellent
* Cited from G. Greig, Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Atrs, p. xvii.
7 Bulletin of the Fol--Song Society of the Northeast, No. 7, pp. 18-19.
8See Florence McKinnon Gwinn, "Pioneer History of Huron County, Michi­gan," Huron County Pioneer and Historical Society (Tribune Print, Bad Axe, 1922), pp. 76-77.







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III