The life and songs of Michael Blann (1843 - 1934), Sussex shepherd and singer   by Colin Andrews. 

The extensively revised third edition, which includes a new CD, is now available.  

 Book + CD  12.00  +2.00  p&p for single copy. Multiple copies please enquire      

CD only (cardboard sleeve) 3   +  1.00 p&p,  multiple copies please enquire)

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First & Second editions published, 1979, 1987 by Worthing Museum.  

The words of the songs in the book are taken from Michael Blann's own handwritten notebook, which is kept in the Barclay Wills collection at Worthing Museum, and reproduced in their original spelling. For all but one of the songs Michael Blann gave  no indication as to  the tune, but in many cases appropriate  'traditional' tunes from other sources have now been  found. The source is clearly indicated, including any newly composed tunes.

The biographical notes trace Michael Blann's life, from his birth in Upper Beeding, to his death at the age of ninety in Patching. Unfortunately, research has still failed to establish whether any children resulted from any of his three marriages. While much additional information  has come to light since the  second edition was published,  the author would be interested to receive any further details about Michael Blann's life and songs.  

The only song which I have not been able so far to track down in any other source is A Hundred Years Ago. It describes the succession of Masters of the Brookside Harrriers who hunted  hares in the Rottingdean/Newhaven area of East Sussex until their amalgamation with the Brighton Harriers in the early 20th Century. Reference to the named masters can be found - Old Grover (probably Thomas Grover c. 1763), Billy Brown, Bob Bartlett, Squire Carr (Harrison Carr c. 1820 -1834), Will Pierpoint (kennel huntsman with Carr). The last master, ("who kept them to the present day") was probably Steyning Beard, of the Lewes Brewing family. It suggests the song was written around the 1860- 1870 but apart from Michael Blann there appears to be no trace of it. Bob Copper who was familiar with the Brookside Harriers did not know of the song. Any further information would be most welcome!

 THE SONGS                                        THE TUNES

Spencer The Rover Adapted from Copper Family version
Live And Let Live Variation of Monk's March morris tune
100 Years Ago Original composition
The Duke of Grafton's Hounds Adapted from 'The Silly Doe' (Baring-Gould collection)
I Likes A Drop Of Good Beer Original composition
The Old Farmer Two tunes: 1. W.A.Barrett collection 2. Based on Welsh Folk Dance Tune
The Trees Are All Bare Adapted from Copper Family version
The Burial Of Sir John Moore Two tunes: 1.J.Barnett (19th C)  2. Based on Idbury Hill morris tune
The Innocent Hare Adapted from Copper Family version
Our Jack's Come Home Traditional, from own family
Tom Bowling C. Dibden (1745 - 1814)
Humphrey Hough 3 tunes: 1. E. Upton/D. Robertson 2. Gordon Hall 3. Baring -Gould collection
Two Orphan Boys Two tunes: 1. From 'Heart Songs Dear To American People'. 2. Original composition
We Britons To Arms Original composition
Blann's Beer Two tunes: 1. Yankee Doodle 2. Adapted from Gilbert & Sullivan
The Farmer's Boy Traditional, from own family
Riley Song From Folk Song Journal, Vol. 8
The Plough Boy's Song From Kidson's 'Traditional Tunes'
Dame Derden Oral tradition/similar to  Copper Family version
Christians Awake Adapted from Broadwood Collection
The Spring Comes In Oral tradition/similar to  Copper Family version
The Moon Is Up Original composition
Notes on the missing songs
Words of 'missing songs' from other sources
Sheep Shearing Song Adapted from Copper Family version
The Cottage By The Sea From Gordon Hall
Punch Ladle Song Text only
Cupid The Pretty Ploughboy Text only
Think Of Your Head in The Morn Text only
Green Garters Text only
Those Evening Bells Text only
Free And Easy Adapted from English Dance & Song magazine

 Notes on other songs referred to in Blann's notebook by title only:

The Green Lands/ Hark the Goddess Diana  /The Reverie Song / The True Hearted Sailor / Maggy May / Once A Cook I Courted /The Strawberry Mark / Old Uncle Ned / Scheer Up Sam / My Bonny Light Horseman / The Rich Merchant's Daughter / John's Ale Was New/ John Barleycorn / The Old Folks At Home /The Rose Of Allandale / Dick Turpin Bold / The Dragoons / Bright Phoebus  

Michael Blann is also known to have sung:  Death of Nelson /Hard Times Come Again No More  / My Old Friend John /New Mown Hay/Some Love To Roam.

Note added November 2008.  I am indebted to Mike Tristram for drawing my attention to 'Some Love To Roam' published in W.H. Gill's 'Songs of the British Folk'  (Curwen, 1917), in which Gill states the song was collected from Michael Blann, Patching, Sussex. This song may therefore be the only one noted down, with tune,  by a folk song collector.  Michael Blann moved to Patching some time between 1901 and 1909.  W.A. Barrett is known to have collected from Michael Blann, but his 'English Folk Songs'  (Novello, 1891) is not helpful in identifying the source of the published songs. .


17 tracks featuring  the author's arrangement of songs and tunes from 'Shepherd of the Downs':

Songs: I Likes A Drop Of Good Beer / A Hundred Years Ago / Live And Let Live / Duke Of Grafton's Hounds / Burial Of Sir John Moore / The Old Farmer / We Britons To Arms / Spencer The Rover / Riley Song / Our Jack's Come Home / Innocent Hare / Two Orphan Boys / Blann's Beer / Tom Bowling / Humphrey Hough / The Farmer's Boy

Tunes: The Spring Comes In / Free And Easy / The Trees Are All Bare / Sheep Shearing / The Moon Is Up / Christians Awake

Singers: Colin Andrews,  The Trugs (Colin Andrews, David & Maggie Robertson, Eddie Upton). Chorus: Duncan Andrew, Sonja Andrews, Ken Hinchliffe.

Musicians: Colin Andrews (melodeons, anglo concertinas, whistles), Duncan Andrew (fiddle), Ken Hinchliffe (English concertinas), Sonja Andrews (percussion), Jon Palmer (guitar)

The Trugs recordings were made by Brian Horsfall, for Traditional Sound Recordings 1971, and reproduced under licence from Fellside Recordings Ltd.  All other recordings by Jon Palmer, Big Bear Mobile Recordings, 2006

Any queries or information on Michael Blann or his songs to books

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