Alice E. Gillington: Dweller on the roughs
Contributors: Michael Yates, Steve Roud.
Journal Title: Folk Music Journal. Volume: 9. Issue: 1.
Publication Date: Annual, 2006.

ALICE E. GILLINGTON was a pioneer collector of songs from English Gypsies and yet today she remains largely unknown. Although invited to join the Folk-Song Society, she never did so. This paper considers her collection and collecting methods, asks why Gillington remained apart from other collectors, and tries to discover why she chose to follow her own path.


The rosy musk-mellow blooms where the south wind blows,
O my gypsy rose!
In the sweet dark lanes where thou and I must meet;
So sweet!

From 'The Rosy Musk Mellow; or, Romany Love Song', by Alice E. Gillington

ON 21 July 1907, Cecil Sharp, the leading English folk song collector of his day, wrote to his wife to tell her of an encounter with a Gypsy folk singer:

Talk of folk-singing! It was the finest and most characteristic bit of
singing I had ever heard. Fiendishly difficult to take down, both
words and music, but we eventually managed it! I cannot give you any
idea what it was all like, but it was one of the most wonderful
adventures I have ever had. (1)

The singer was called Betsy Holland and the 'fiendishly difficult' tune was one used for the song 'The Murder of James MacDonald'. The encounter is remarkable for two separate reasons. Firstly, according to A. H. Fox Strangways, the tune used for the song was in the Lydian mode and this was the only time that Sharp was to discover any melody in this rare mode in England. (2) Secondly, this was almost the only occasion on which Sharp collected songs from a Gypsy singer. There were a few other occasions, including one Christmas morning on which Sharp was using a phonograph to record songs from a female Gypsy singer, when

suddenly she stopped singing and, turning deathly white, announced
that she heard her husband approaching, and as he was of a jealous
disposition she was afraid he would kill Mr Sharp. Sharp did not want
to be killed, and there was nothing for it but to present a bold face.
Opening the caravan door, he shouted to the man: 'A happy Christmas to
you. Stop a moment and listen. I've got your wife's voice in a box.'
The man listened to the record of his wife's song and was so amazed
and delighted that he forgot to kill him, and instead they became
great friends. (3)

Cecil Sharp, however, was not the first person to visit Gypsies in search of songs. Charlotte Burne, the first female President of the Folk-Lore Society, included a few songs collected from Gypsies in her survey of Shropshire Folk-Lore. (4) In 1891 Dr John Sampson, Librarian of Liverpool University from 1892 to 1928, contributed an article, 'English Gypsy Songs and Rhymes', to an issue of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. (5) Sampson was an authority on the Gypsies of Wales, some of whom began calling him 'the Rai', or 'Gentleman'. His later publications include The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales and Welsh Gypsy Folk-Tales. (6) Certain members of the Folk-Song Society, including Lucy Broadwood and Ralph Vaughan Williams, were also visiting Gypsies at about the same time that Sharp was meeting Betsy Holland. And Ella Mary Leather interviewed Gypsies for her book The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire, which appeared in 1912. (7) However, the first book to be devoted solely to Gypsy songs was Laura Alexandrine Smith's Romany Song Land, published in 1889, which contains songs collected from Romanies throughout Europe, Russia, and India. (8) It was not, however, until 1910 and 1911 that two books devoted to songs collected from English Gypsies appeared. These were Alice E. Gillington's Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties (1910) and Songs of the Open Road: Didakei Ditties & Gypsy Dances (1911), two pioneering works by an author who is almost unknown today (Figure 1). (9) It is our intention to examine how these books came to be written and why it is that their author has been ignored for so long.

Alice Elizabeth Gillington was born in 1863, the second child of John Maurice Gillington (b. 1823) and Sarah Dumville Gillington, nee Thorpe (b. 1837). Her father, a clerk in holy orders, had been born in Dublin and her mother was from Huyton in Lancashire. Alice was born in Audlem, Cheshire, as were her elder sister, Mary Clarissa (b. 1861), and two younger brothers, George William (b. 1864) and John Louis (b. 1865). By 1871, John Maurice had moved his family to Riding Hill, Bisley, Surrey. He was then employed as chaplain to Brookwood asylum, a few miles to the south of Bisley. Also living at their home was Sarah's sister, Agnes May Thorpe (b. 1847, in Manchester), an 'annuitant', and Ruth Daborn, a nineteen-year-old servant who had been born in Chobham, Surrey. The four children, then aged ten, eight, seven, and six, were described in the 1871 census as 'scholars'. Presumably, being the daughters of a cleric, the girls would have been taught such 'feminine' subjects as poetry, painting, and music.

Twenty years later Alice and her sister, now Mrs Mary Clarissa Byron of Streatham in south London, had become published poets whose work appeared in a number of late Victorian collections, such as Edmund Clarence Stedman's A Victorian Anthology 1837-1895 (Cambridge, 1895). (10) Some of Alice's poems, with titles such as 'The Seven Whistlers', 'The Doom-Bar', 'When Days Are Cold and Rimy', 'Pixy-Led', and 'My Pretty Darkness', appear dated by today's standards. Mary, who sometimes shortened her name to May, continued to write throughout her life. Her subjects ranged from popular biographies, A Day with Lord Byron, A Day with Edvard Greig, A Day with Ralph Waldo Emerson, A Day with William Morris, and Percy Bysshe Shelly, to cookery books. Her May Byron's Jam Book was certainly comprehensive: it is described as 'a handy guide to the preserving of fruit with and without sugar: jams, jellies, marmalades, cheeses, pastes, butters, bottled, dried, spiced, syruped, brandied and candied fruit, containing over five hundred recipes'.

In 1901, Alice Gillington, her mother, and her brother, John Louis, were living in Bitterne, in the city of Southampton. In that year's census her occupation was shown as 'artist', while John Louis was listed as a 'poultry trimmer'. (11) It seems certain that Alice first encountered Gypsies in the New Forest around this time because she produced a collection of New Forest Gypsy folktales in 1903. (12) She does not, however, appear to have joined the Gypsy Lore Society until a few years later (c.1907), as this entry in a biography of John Sampson ('the Rai') shows:


In belonging to the Gypsy Lore Society (or the Gypsy Love Society as
one newspaper was later to call it) both the Rai and Augustus John
displayed an ulterior motive. The Society's Journal of October 1909
included an article by William MacLeod in which he described an
encounter with a passionate gypsy girl: 'She took my hand, placed it
against her body and held it firmly there with both hands ...' The
article continued in the same vein though concluding: 'it was
doubtless just another case of the sensuous appeal, as with the
Spanish dancers, and no indication that the Gypsy maidens are less
moral than they used to be'. The Rai was fascinated: 'How do you like
young MacLeod's article in (the) last number? He asked Augustus
(John): 'It ought to bring us in more lady members.' And in the same
letter he discussed new lady members of the Society as if they were
potential prey:
... I wonder sometimes who Miss Alice Gillington belongs to--you
perhaps? (13)


So far as we are aware there is no extant reply to this letter, which does indicate the sort of pressure that could be applied to the women members of the society. It is a testament to Alice Gillington's strength of character that, if aware of the interest shown in her by Augustus John and John Sampson, she remained a member.

The Gypsy Lore Society had been founded in 1888. However, four years later, in 1892, it had become somewhat moribund and it was not until 1907, when Robert Andrew Scott Macfie (1868-1935) became secretary to the society and editor of its journal, that there was a revival of interest in the Gypsies. (14) Coincidentally, Alice Gillington's first song book, Eight Hampshire Folk Songs, appeared in 1907, (15) when she was living with her brother at 'Wykeham', 29 Blenheim Park, Road, Croydon, Surrey. During the period 1907-09 she frequently moved between Croydon and the New Forest, spending the winter months in houses and the summer months in a caravan (Figure 2). An artist, Amelia Goddard, was already living with some New Forest Gypsies, and it may have been Goddard who first introduced Gillington to the Gypsies. The pair certainly became friends and over the years Gillington wrote several letters supporting Goddard's work. (16)


In 1911, Alice Gillington began to campaign for what today would be called 'Gypsy rights'. Parliament was considering the introduction of a Moveable Dwellings Bill and Gillington sought to give evidence on behalf of the Gypsies. She also became involved in the organization of a petition that was to be sent, again on the Gypsies' behalf, to the king. One potential supporter was the Revd H. H. Malleson, of Crossgates, Leeds, who had contact with Gypsies in his parish. 'Hearing from Mr. Macfie that you are interested in helping in the plan of helping all Open Air Dwellers by a Petition to the King, I enclose a copy of the form which has been already sent out to be signed hereabouts by Showmen and Gypsies.' (17) However, she was too late to appear before the parliamentary committee. 'I have just heard from Lord Clifford, with regards to the Moveable Dwelling's [sic] Bill, to the effect that, the Committee having already reported, there will probably be no opportunity for me to give evidence, which he has no doubt from my experience would be of great interest. Therefore the King's Petition must go forward with all speed, and I shall also write and acquaint Lord Clifford with facts concerning "permanent camps", etc.' (18) She remained in contact with Malleson for a number of years.

By 1911, Alice and her brother, John, were living in two caravans, the Brown Caravan and the Yellow Caravan, and they were to follow a nomadic lifestyle for the rest of their lives (Figure 3). They stayed together, but they did not always camp with the Gypsies. 'We could easily find camping ground where the gypsies do, but my brother doesn't care to be out in the open for various reasons, one of them being the cut-throat ruffians that infest the Forest roads. We have a gun, but no dog.' (19) At times she was clearly plagued by 'Gorgio' (non-Gypsy) visitors.

I find that no gorgios have the very faintest idea what caravan life
is like! It can't be mixed up with gorgio ways & habits, and this they
don't (or won't) understand! At least, not without a lot of extra
bother which isn't worth while. The afternoon caller is, with the
exception of chickens & wasps, far and away the worst thing the
caravan dweller has to put up with. It allows one no rest. Afternoon
callers don't go along with cleaning knives in a turf bank and washing
clothes! It would be funny if it wasn't so exasperating. I suppose I
worried my gypsies sometimes, when I was a house-dweller. (20)

On one occasion, when John Gillington was ill, his sister was able to supply the following meal: 'My brother caught a chill, but is a bit better, & able to appreciate my caravan cookery, which today consisted of rabbit pie, potatoes boiled the Irish way, sago pudding, stewed quince and apple, and orange jelly.' (21) John's health appears to have been causing concern and in 1912 the pair decided to sell their caravans and move onto a boat, believing that the sea air would be beneficial to him. Alice Gillington told Malleson that she was seeking [pounds sterling]25 for the Brown Caravan and [pounds sterling]35 for the Yellow Caravan. She added that the Yellow Caravan was: 'Fitted up with bunk, separated by sliding doors from the living part, which has good cooking range, lamps, mirror & over mantel, plate cupboard, over locker-table, 2 corner cupboards & 2 side lockers.' (22) The pair did live on a boat for a short period of time, but they left it in February 1913 because it proved too cold and uncomfortable. They had not found a buyer for their caravans, so they returned to them and moved back to the New Forest.

We do not know why Alice Gillington began to collect folk songs. The first decade of the twentieth century was, of course, an extremely active period for the Folk-Song Society. Meetings were well attended and reported in the press; there was widespread interest in the work of the early collectors and Cecil Sharp, for example, was often mentioned in newspaper articles. (23) Alice Gillington had published her first book of folk songs in 1907. Eight Hampshire Folk Songs contains versions of the following well-known songs: 'As Down in a Valley (The Lost Lady Found)', 'The Banks of the Sweet Primroses', 'Brannen on the Moor', 'The Broken Down Gentleman', 'The Dawning of the Day', 'In Sheffield Park', 'The Robber and the Lady (The Outlandish Knight)', and 'The Young Fisherman (The Bold Fisherman)'. (For details of songs and games collected by Alice Gillington, see Appendix 1.) The book contains only a short introduction and few notes to the songs. Nor are we told the names or locations of the source singers. We are, however, informed that the songs were 'taken from the mouths of the peasantry'--a term that was used by folk song collectors over a considerable period of time. (24) The title, with its specific geographical location, is reminiscent of the titles given to earlier published collections, such as Lucy Broadwood's Sussex Songs (1890) and English County Songs (1893), Sabine Baring-Gould's Songs and Ballads of the West (1889-92), Geoffrey Hill's Wiltshire Folk Songs and Carols (1904), or Cecil Sharp's Folk Songs from Somerset (1904-09). Although not a member of the Folk-Song Society, Gillington was clearly aware of the conventions employed by its members in their publications.

She must also have been aware of the society around 1905, as the following comment made in 1910 by Lucy Broadwood, then the editor of the society's journal, shows: '[Alice Gillington] wrote to me some 5 years ago asking ... questions about at least 20 songs. "Were they published? etc etc." I had to tell her that the titles she gave me were all those of well-known songs, collected by every folk-song hunter.' (25) Another letter, written shortly before this, suggests that Gillington had offered some of her songs for publication in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society: 'Years ago she consulted me about contributing[?] traditional songs she had collected.' (26) However, if she did send songs to the society, they were not published; nor are there any traces of them today in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. It may be, as Lucy Broadwood said, that the songs were well known and therefore unsuitable for publication.

In 1909, Gillington published three volumes of children's singing games: Old Hampshire Singing Games, Old Isle of Wight Singing Games, and Old Surrey Singing Games. (27) Again, there was little in the way of background information. Breton Singing Games appeared in the following year. (28) As the instructions for the games in this book are printed in both French and English, one suspects that it was also intended for sale in France, although there are a few grammatical mistakes in some of the French versions of the songs. Yet again, we are left in the dark about the sources of the Breton games, although, as with the other collections of singing games, we are told that they were 'collected and edited by Alice E. Gillington' (simply 'collected by Alice E. Gillington' in the case of the Hampshire singing games). She could easily have taken a ferry from Southampton to, say, St Malo and collected the games herself, although there appears to be nothing in her extant correspondence to suggest that she ever visited France. In a letter of 29 October 1908, however, Scott Macfie did mention that she had recently visited the Isle of Wight in search of children's singing games. (29) Gillington's books of children's games are interesting in so much as they appear to be aimed at teachers and parents who may have wished to teach the games to their pupils or families. Each book contains the words and music to the games, instructions as to how the games are played, and, in some cases, staged photographs of children 'performing' them (Figure 4).

Other people had, of course, previously collected singing games from children. The two volumes of Alice Gomme's influential work, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, appeared in 1894 and 1898, and contained some eight hundred games. (30) Other folklorists, including Katharine (Tynan) Hinkson and Mrs M. C. Balfour, were also actively collecting and publishing children's games at the end of the nineteenth century. (31) But, there is a crucial distinction to be made between the works of Gomme, Hinkson, and Balfour, and those of Alice Gillington. The earlier books had been written by, and for, folklorists; whereas Gillington was collecting and publishing the games for the children themselves. And this became a source of contention for other folklorists, such as Lucy Broadwood. In 1910, Broadwood, writing to Scott Macfie, had this to say about Gillington's books. 'Unfortunately she hasn't "researched" and doesn't trace her tunes & words as she ought before publishing them.' (32) Broadwood, who was well known for her own scrupulous research, continued in this vein when she again wrote to Macfie. 'Mr. Curwen, her publisher, wrote me that Miss G's methods are, he fears ... "very unscholarly" ... I fear that if she is paid to "turn out" song & game-books she will be tempted never to search or compare. It is then safer to remain unaware of what has been sifted and examined by more careful workers.' (33) Scott Macfie had also begun to refer to Alice Gillington as 'Miss G'. In some of her letters, Lucy Broadwood had also used this term to refer to the folk song authority Anne Geddes Gilchrist, another member of the Folk-Song Society, and so, in order to avoid the possibility of confusion, she advised Macfie: 'You write of "Miss G" as actually difficult to deal with. Let us carefully decide who "Miss G" is to stand for. Miss Anne Gil-christ & Miss Alice Gillington are the N & S Poles of collecting folk.' (34)


Scott Macfie had previously written to Gillington suggesting that she should collect songs from Gypsies. Presumably he was replying to one of her letters when he wrote:

Old Anglo-Romani songs are of the very highest importance--words and
music. If you have an opportunity of taking them down may I beg you
not to neglect it on any account. It is pleasant to know that you will
not tamper with them as some people have done, and that however
corrupt the Romani may be & however uncouth the rhythm we shall have
the exact words the Gypsies sing. The tune may (very probably) be
'modal' & very difficult to record--e.g. the seventh of the scale may
be flat (B flat for B natural in the scale of C) which sounds wrong,
but is quite correct. But you will know all this. If not, I had better
send you the 'Journal of the Folk Song Society' in which you would
revel. (35)

Clearly, Scott Macfie was unaware that Gillington had already sent songs for publication to the Folk-Song Society. It is evident, though, that he knew that English Gypsies sang English folk songs: 'The "Willow Tree" ballad I don't include because I think it is only an English Folk Song taken down from Gypsy lips.' (36) He was also aware that some songs were either composed by Gypsies or else adapted by them, because of the songs' relevance to their lifestyle:

I only classify as 'Gypsy' (1) Songs which have original Romani words
(not translations) & (2) Songs which show unmistakable signs of Gypsy
'editing'. For instance the 'King Pharim' ballad must have been
remodelled by Gypsies probably long ago, for nobody else would have
put Pharo in Herod's place. Similarly, I think that 'The Countess of
Cassillis' ballad must have been traditional among the Gypsies (on
account of its subject) for a long time, although its origin is
perhaps purely Gajo. Still, unless there are Romani words, we can
hardly claim a song as a native Gypsy composition. (37)

At the beginning of 1909 Miss Gillington was able to tell Scott Macfie that her collecting work was well under way:

I truly hope to finish collecting this summer; having work which will
call me down south again. I don't know if you are aware of the fact
that there are certainly three variations of 'Mandy welled to puv the
Grai.'--one of which has a chorus! It is by no means an easy matter
collecting these ditties--but none the less fascinating on that
account! (38)

Scott Macfie had written to her in 1908, when she was spending part of the year in her caravan at Thorney Hill in the New Forest, suggesting that Fred Shaw, a well-known photographer who specialized in photographing Gypsies, could help illustrate her proposed book of Gypsy songs: 'At any rate do write to him about (his photographs). He is sure to have some that would suit your book, or he might visit Thorney Hill & take them specially.' (39) However, there are no photographs in either of her two collections of Gypsy songs. Perhaps Shaw was unable to help. Or, could it be, as we shall see below, that there were other reasons for not including photographs of the singers?

In the December 1908 issue of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society mention was made of a New Forest Gypsy singer called Tom Pateman. Gillington referred to this in the following letter, dated 10 January 1909, to Scott Macfie:

A stranger has been down to Bransgore (this before the publication of
the December Journal) trying to pick up old songs from our gypsies &
offering a half a crown for each one! I seem to doubt this story, it
seems to me that no-one could have heard of Tom Pateman as a singer
before his name actually appeared: it looks more as if the astute
Romani was trying to raise the price of old-songs! Believe me. (40)

There is just a possibility that this 'stranger' who visited Tom Pateman could have been one Henry E. J. Gibbins, who published a book titled Gipsies of the New Forest in 1909, although this does not include any songs. (41) Surprisingly, Gillington does not appear to make mention of this book in her letters. The statement that the singer was 'trying to raise the price of old-songs' is interesting because it suggests that songs had a value and that the Gypsies expected to be paid for them. However, there is no evidence to suggest that Gillington was paying singers for their songs. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest just the opposite. (42)

Nor was there any mention of money when she wrote to Scott Macfie in April 1909, at which time she was living at 1 Holmwood Villa, Bath Road, Bitterne: 'Betsy Page was here last night singing one of their extraordinary compositions which pass for songs among them. A sort of barbaric tune. Very difficult to lay hold of, because she had only just learnt it from Noah Bowers, & sang it differently each time.' (43) In a note to the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, Gillington states that it was Betsy Page who had supplied the folktales that she printed in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1903, under the title 'Marble Stones'. (44) Betsy Page also supplied the following riddle, although she was unable to supply a solution: 'Riddle me, riddle me ree! What do you think I see? As I went out on a moonlight night I saw what gave me an awful fright. My heart did quake, my bones did shake, I saw the big hole the fox did make. Riddle me, riddle me ree! What do you think I see?' (45) This is, of course, a part of the folktale known variously as 'Mr Fox's Courtship', 'The Open Grave', or 'The Girl Who Got Up a Tree'. In a version collected from the Scottish Traveller, Jimmy MacBeath, a girl sees two men digging a hole at night. She knows that they intend to kill her and bury her. When they meet later, at a party, she asks a similar riddle so that they will know that she is aware of their intentions. (46) Betsy Page's version of the riddle suggests that only one man is involved in the would-be murder. No doubt Gillington heard other riddles and stories, as a line from her poem 'The Seven Lost Sisters' suggests--'Round gypsy fires in the bush o' briars, you may hear the story told'--although she also hints that some stories remained elusive--'Though what sad story hangs thereto I never have been told.' (47)

Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties contained sixteen carols and although the preface suggests that all were taken from Gypsies, only six are actually identified as Gypsy carols in the body of the book. These are 'God Rest You Merry Gentlemen', 'In Dessexshire as It Befel [sic]', 'Joseph Was an Old Man' (all described as New Forest Gypsy carols), and 'The Cherry Tree Carol', 'God Bless the Master', and 'The Moon Shone Bright' (described as Surrey Gypsy carols). 'Christmas Eve Is Drawing Nigh' and 'The Twelve Joys of Mary' are described as 'New Forest carols', but in the preface Gillington says that they were sung to her by Gypsies. Songs of the Open Road contains fifteen songs, four of which are in Anglo-Romani, together with details of ten dances known to southern English Gypsies. As with Eight Hampshire Folk Songs, there are no details of who sang the carols and songs. Perhaps some came from Betsy Page or Tom Pateman. Gillington told the Revd H. H. Malleson that the material for Songs of the Open Road 'was mostly collected amongst the Thorney Hill Gypsies'. (48) In the course of her various writings, as well as mentioning Betsy Page (who is sometimes called Betsy Bowers) and Tom Pateman, she speaks of Walter and Eliza White, who lived at Thorney Hill and may also have been singers. She also met other gypsy families in the New Forest, including members of the Wheelers, Sherreds, Jameses, and Willetts, but she was extremely secretive about her Gypsy contacts, at one time telling Malleson, 'I never want my Komalesti's to know I write about them.' (49)

Why should this be? Did Gillington feel that the Gypsies would not sing to her if they knew that their songs were to be published? Would they have refused to teach her Anglo-Romani--a secret language, used by Travellers to converse among themselves, immune to eavesdropping by the police and other figures of authority--had they believed that she would pass it on to the Gorgio population? (50) And could it be that this is also the reason why there are no photographs of the Gypsy singers in her books? Did she fear that she would lose contact with the Gypsies if they came to feel that she was exploiting their relationship? It is surely a strange situation. Gillington clearly loved living among Gypsies, even though, at times, she was a little scared of some of them. She was fascinated by their history, language, and culture; and, like many converts, she became almost more of a Gypsy than the Gypsies themselves. (51) But she had clearly erected an invisible barrier between herself and her Gypsy friends: had she been totally honest with them, then surely she would have told them of her literary intentions. Did she ever, we wonder, show her singers a copy of Songs of the Open Road when it appeared? Or was this, and her other books and articles, something to be kept secret from 'her' Gypsies?

Whatever the case, we do know that the book received a good review from Anne Gilchrist in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society: 'As a first attempt at a collection of English Gypsy music the volume deserves all the praise due to the pioneer.' (52) The review did, however, carry this caveat: 'But its value to the student would have been greatly increased by some reference to other existing versions of tunes and words.' (53) There was even some mild praise from Lucy Broadwood in a letter to Scott Macfie: 'But at all events she seems to have found a good many carols amongst gypsies.' (54) Scott Macfie's reply raises a number of important points:

I have tried to impress on Miss Gillington the necessity of
comparative work. But I came to the conclusion that there are people
who are diligent collectors, who have not the proper kind of mind for
research in printed records. They don't know how to go about it, and
would probably dislike the work. So I made up my mind ... just to be
thankful that such people recorded what they heard, even if they left
the analysis to others. She is also afraid of 'poaching': for instance
she met the Goby family, but took nothing from them because they
belonged to you. In fact her attitude is altogether wrong--it may be
due to the fact that collecting and publishing is a business for which
she is paid. I should like, if I can get her to read the F.S. Journal,
to see her become a collaborator, or at any rate, a fellow worker in a
common cause: the idea at present in her head is something like
suspicious rivalry ... she ought to be an active member of the F.S.S.
It may be that here lies the difficulty, and that she is afraid of
obtaining gratis things for which she would afterwards accept
payment ... I should like to see her guided by the F.S.S. (55)

A lack of 'comparative work'. A 'wrong' attitude to collecting. A loner who is not 'a fellow worker in a common cause'. These are all quite serious allegations. But, it seems, the most barbed attack is reserved for the fact that Gillington was part of a 'business for which she is paid' and that 'she is afraid of obtaining gratis things for which she would afterwards accept payment'. If her intentions were entirely pecuniary--and our overall feeling is that they were not--then why is it that she refused to collect further songs from the Gobys, singers who had previously sung to Lucy Broadwood? (56) Surely they would have known other songs, which Gillington could have obtained and published for profit. It seems unlikely that a person intent on making money would let the work of previous collectors stand in the way of her potential earnings. Unlike Lucy Broadwood and Anne Gilchrist, Alice Gillington had to earn her living. She did not have private means, and it is strange that she should be singled out for earning money from her collecting work when certain members of the Folk-Song Society were doing exactly the same. Although the comment about 'collecting and publishing is a business for which she is paid' was made by Scott Macfie, Broadwood may well have concurred with the sentiment. In later years, for example, she criticized Cecil Sharp for having taken up 'old song and old dance collecting as a profession'. (57)

We may be unsure of Lucy Broadwood's feelings regarding Gillington's earnings from her collecting work, but it is certainly clear that she disapproved strongly of the lack of comparative study in Gillington's publications. In her review of Songs of the Open Road, Anne Gilchrist suggested that Gillington should join the Folk-Song Society: 'We would urge her, if she wishes her books to be of more than a popular interest and value, not to plough a lonely furrow, but to put herself in touch with her fellow-collectors by joining the Folk-Song Society.' (58) Scott Macfie had said that Gillington should become an 'active member of the F.S.S.', and Lucy Broadwood agreed that membership of the society would be to Alice Gillington's advantage. (59)

So why did she fail to join the Folk-Song Society? In a letter dated 28 November 1910, Broadwood explained to Scott Macfie that she had experienced difficulty with Gillington following the publication of Eight Hampshire Folk Songs:

I ... pointed out to her that her '8 Hampshire Songs' Book gave
several fragments of tunes only, the whole airs having often been
published in various other collections already. Of course, I didn't
put this as 'boldly' to her, but I did advise[?] caution & slowness
(not rushing into print). She, I fear, took it as jealousy on a Folk
Song Society member's part, and wrote most shabbily, saying she liked
several of her tunes much better than mine (which was not the point!)
If you could persuade her that science & not vanity or self-interest,
prompts such advice from a 'life long student of folksong & lore (as
journalists would say) it would be well for posterity. Collect
everything, but don't hurry it undigested into print. (60)

After receiving such advice, is it any wonder that Gillington failed to warm to the society? Instead, she seems to have lent her support to Mary Neal's Esperance Guild, which, following a rift with Cecil Sharp, had split from the English Folk Dance Society. In the Introduction to Songs of the Open Road we find the following mention of the Guild: 'The words, the airs, the dances, must be sung and danced by the gypsies or by those who have learnt directly from the gypsies, as the Esperance Guild of Morris Dancers, to be understood and fully appreciated.' (61) Perhaps she was (like, for example, A. Claud Wright, the member of Cecil Sharp's demonstration morris team who left the side following difficulties with Sharp (62)) simply too independent a spirit to be 'tamed' by such an 'official' body as the Folk-Song Society. In her semi-autobiographical book, Gypsies of the Heath, published in 1916, she described the Gypsies thus: 'Wild as the speckled orchis that blossoms on the forest moors, and bears, so folk-lore says, a love charm at its root, are the people in the forest bushes, and the caravan dwellers on the roughs.' (63) This description could, we suppose, equally be applied to Alice Gillington herself, who was, after all, a 'dweller on the roughs'.

In September 1911, she told the Revd H. H. Malleson that she was attempting to persuade her publishers to bring out a second volume of Songs of the Open Road, under the title 'Traveller's Joy':

Can I ask you to order that book of mine ('Songs of the Open
Road') ... so as to give me a leg up with the publishers, who have
turned rather rusty over my second vol. 'Traveller's Joy' which I'm
very wishful to get off quickly. They're very undecided whether
they're going to take it or not. I am teaching the dances out of
'Songs of the Open Road' with great success in these Thorney Hill
schools, and am also putting the children through my unpublished
dances in 'Traveller's Joy', to see how they go. (64)

She hoped that 'Traveller's Joy' would 'include old Gypsy carols as well as ballads & dances', but, sadly, the book never appeared in print. Much of Gillington's correspondence is now housed at the University of Liverpool Library, but there are no unpublished songs, dances, or stories, and we have no idea of what she planned to include in the book. In 1913 her final collection of children's songs, Old Dorset Singing Games, with a Few from Wilts. and New Forest, appeared, and it may be that some of these items came from New Forest Gypsy children. (65)

Three years later, in 1916, she published what seems to have been her final book, Gypsies of the Heath, an account of Gypsy life and lore. She wrote Gypsies of the Heath under the pseudonym 'The Romany Rawny' and this has caused some confusion. Indeed, until recently the copy held in the Gypsy Lore Society Archive at the University of Liverpool was indexed separately under the name of Betty Gillington. But the book is clearly by Alice Gillington. Chapter 5, 'The River Running By', repeats the title of an article she published in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. (66) Aspects of the unnumbered chapter titled 'The Wolf's Claw and the Wishing Ring' had previously been mentioned by Scott Macfie in correspondence with Alice Gillington; (67) and the book contains words to the song 'Brannen on the Moor' which had appeared in Eight Hampshire Folk Songs. (68)

In 1919, Alice Gillington, then living at The Caravans, Bransgore, Christchurch, Hampshire, wrote a letter to The Times complaining that 'dead-wood left by timber cutters' was being gathered by land girls for [pounds sterling]2 a week. The letter continues:

This work must be stopped at once. It is burning away the lives of the
poor; it is depriving the foresters of their rights, their ancient
rights on Crown lands. I have gone myself in search of larchwood left
over by the timber-cutters, through a wood, and found a group of land
girls in picturesque Rosalind garb, piling up ever more and more fresh
fuel to the burning heaps over which they presided. The forewoman told
me 'she was sorry, but every bit of larch had been burnt!' ... Can
folly, waste, and extravagance go farther than this? (69)

Cleary, time had not blunted any of her sense of righteous indignation. Alice Gillington continued to support the Gypsy Lore Society and its journal until her death in 1934; her final article, 'Trades of the Travellers of the New Forest', appeared in 1925. (70) When she died of a stroke, on 22 May 1934, she was described on her death certificate as 'spinster, author & journalist'. Although she died at 27 Balmoral Road, Poole, Dorset, her death certificate records her address as 'The Caravans, Lilliput, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset'. Her brother, John, was present at her death, and he is shown as living on the same caravan site.

In an article on Lady Alice Gomme, Georgina Boyes has written: 'In common with the many women who shaped the early study of folklore in England ... Gomme's role and abilities have been diminished, misrepresented or else omitted from the record.' (71) Can the same be said of Alice Gillington? When we started looking into her life, we could find next to nothing about her in the standard reference works beyond the fact that she had written some poems and was the author of Songs of the Open Road. Had she, too, been deliberately 'omitted from the record', or had Alice Gillington 'omitted' herself, as the result of her own actions? Much can be said in her favour. In her letters to the Revd H. H. Malleson we often find a warmth of affection that can be lacking in her other correspondence. She clearly liked Malleson and was glad occasionally to meet up with him and his family when they visited the New Forest on holiday. Several Gypsies asked her to become godmother to their children and it is doubtful whether this would have happened if she had not become close to the Gypsy families in question. And she was loyal to her brother, who apparently needed help on account of his frequent ill health. On the other hand, her comments about unwanted visitors to her caravan, her statement that 'her' Gypsies should be kept unaware that she was writing about them, and her failure to join the Folk-Song Society (possibly preferring to support the Esperance Guild instead) do suggest a complex personality which favoured isolation--or at least friendship with those outside of polite society. Alice Gillington lived the life of a pioneer. At times she suffered physical hardships. Money was sometimes short. But she revelled in the friendship of her Gypsy companions, who provided so much of her inspiration. Not only did she live among the people from whom she collected songs, stories, dances, and lore, but she was also one of the first individuals publicly to champion their cause (Figure 5). Perhaps she was thinking of herself when she wrote these lines in her poem 'Yesterday':


Yesterday's sorrow and grief is o'er,
Yestereve's tears are dried;
And she will take this road no more
In the grey of gloaming tide!


Many people have helped us with the preparation of this article. Malcolm Taylor, Librarian at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, supplied copies of Alice Gillington's published works. The staff at Herefordshire Record Office provided copies of the Gillington-Malleson correspondence, and the staff at the University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections, kindly allowed us access to the Gypsy Lore Society Archive. We are also indebted to Georgina Boyes, Dave Eyre, Donald Kenrick, Ian Olson, Derek Schofield, Jennifer Davies (author of Tales of the Old Gypsies, 1993), Roy Palmer, and other members of the Editorial Board of the Folk Music Journal, for their support and advice.

Appendix 1

Songs, games, and dances collected and published by Alice E. Gillington

BSG Breton Singing Games (1910)
EHFS Eight Hampshire Folk Songs (1907)
OCC Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties (1910)
ODSG Old Dorset Singing Games (1913)
OHSG Old Hampshire Singing Games (1909)
OISG Old Isle of Wight Singing Games (1909)
OSSG Old Surrey Singing Games and Skipping-Rope Rhymes (1909)
SOR Songs of the Open Road (1911)


All Around My Hat (ferry dance), SOR, p. 34

Bonnets so Blue (four-handed swing dance), SOR, p. 37

Country Jig Step-Dance, SOR, pp. 42-43

Fernal Up and Down (swing song), SOR, pp. 39-41

Fish and 'Taters (step dance), SOR, pp. 46-47

Jacky Robinson (old ferry dance), SOR, p. 36

Polly Said She Loved Me, SOR, p. 35

Step Dance (for twelve couples), SOR, p. 38

Sweet Charming Faces (swing waltz), SOR, p. 33

Triumph, The (four hands round), SOR, pp. 44-45


A-Hunting We Will Go, OISG, p. 14

All Around the Valley, OHSG, p. 1

Aux bois, aux bois, mesdames!, BSG, p. 13

Bobby Bingo, OHSG p. 22; OISG, p. 6

C'est la fille de la meuniere, BSG, p. 27

Chanson ancienne de Bretagne, BSG, p. 28

Climbing Up the Hillside, OSSG, pp. 2-3

Compagnons de la marjolaine, BSG, p. 24

Down by the River Side, OHSG, p. 23

Down in the Meadows OISG, pp. 28-29

Draw Buckets of Water, OSSG, p. 9

Early in the Morning, OSSG, p. 23

Eight O'Clock Bells, OSSG, p. 24

Farmer's in his Den, The, OHSG, p. 19; OISG, pp. 4-5

Fool, Fool, Come Out of School, ODSG, p. iv

Frere Jacques, BSG, p. 22

Gallant Sailors, The, ODSG, p. 6

Grand Old Duke of York, The, OISG, p. 17

Grandmother Gray, ODSG, p. 10

Green Gravel, OHSG, pp. 10-11; OISG, pp. 20-21

Gypsies in the Wood, OHSG, p. 20; OISG, pp. 12-13

Here Come Three Dukes, OSSG, p. 4

Here Comes a Duke from Sunny Spain, OISG, p. 32

Here We Come Up the Green Grass, OSSG, pp. 18-19

Holly, Holly, O! The, OHSG, p. 24

How Many Miles to Barbary Land?, OISG, pp. 30-31

I Have a Bonnet Trimmed with Blue, ODSG, p. 11

Il pleut, bergere, BSG, p. 8

Isabella, OHSG, pp. 2-3

J'ai des poules a vendre, BSG, p. 16

J'ai un rosier, BSG, p. 17

Jenny Jones, OHSG, pp. 6-7

Jolly Miller, The, OISG, p. 7

Keys of Heaven, The, OSSG, pp. 16-17

King of the Barbarees, The, ODSG, p. iv.

La [sic] furet, BSG, p. 6

La marguerite (premier jeu), BSG, p. 10

La marguerite (deuxieme jeu), BSG, p. 12

La tour, prends garde, BSG, p. 14

Lazy Cake, Will You Get Up?, ODSG, p. 7

Le beau chateau, BSG, p. 20

Le petit bois charment [sic], BSG, p. 18

Les corbeaux sont au bois!, BSG, p. 26

London Bridge, OHSG, p. 17

London Is the Capital City, OISG, p. 22

Looby Loo, OSSG, pp. 22-23

Meunier, tu dors, BSG, p. 1

Milking Pail, The, OSSG, p. 13

Mon Beau Chateau, BSG, p. 21

Monday Night, OSSG, pp. 20-21

Moonlight, Starlight!, ODSG, p. 9

Mulberry Bush, The, ODSG, p. 5

My Fair Ladye [sic], OHSG, p. 18; OISG, p. 18

My Man John, OISG, p. 12

My Name Is Sweet William, OSSG, p. 5

My Young Man Has Gone to Sea, OSSG, p. 14

Nous n'irons plus au bois, BSG, p. 4

Nuts Away, OHSG, p. 14

Oats and Beans and Barley, OISG, pp. 10-11

Old Roger's Dead, OHSG, pp. 4-5

Old Woman from Sandy Lane, The ODSG, p. 1

Oranges and Lemons (three versions), ODSG, p. 12

Our Boots Are Made of Leather, OSSG, p. 12

Poor Jenny Sits A-Weeping, OSSG, pp. 7-8

Queen Anne, ODSG, p. 3

Roman Soldiers, OISG, p. 19 (Boers and English); OSSG, p. 15

Rosy Apple, OISG, pp. 8-9; OSSG, p. 1

Sally Go Round the Moon, OSSG, p. 6

Sally Waters, OISG, pp. 26-27

Savez-vous planter le chou?, BSG, p. 23 (Note: this game is normally titled 'Savez-vous planter les choux?' in France)

See this Pretty Little Girl of Mine, OISG, p. 3

Skipping Rope Flower Games, OSSG, p. iv

Skipping Rope Rhymes, OHSG, p. ii; OSSG, p. iv

Spanish Merchants, The, OSSG, p. 10

There Stands a Lady, OHSG, pp. 8-9; OISG, pp. 23-25

There Was an Old Woman in One, ODSG, p. 14

Threadle the Needle, OISG, p. 10

Three Jews, The, OHSG, pp. 12-13

Wallflowers, OHSG, pp. 15-16

When I Was a Lady, OISG, pp. 14-15

When I Was a Schoolgirl, OHSG, pp. 20-21

Wind Blows High, The, OISG, pp. 1-2

Wigamy, Wigamy, Waterhen, OSSG, p. 11

Winding Up the Clock, ODSG, p. 16

Wolf, The, ODSG, p. 15


Adieu to You Judges and Juries, SOR, pp. 14-15

As Down in a Valley, EHFS, pp. 12-13

Banks of the Sweet Primroses, The, EHFS, p. 6

Bold Fisherman, The, see Young Fisherman, The

Brake of Briars, The, SOR, pp. 10-11

Brannen on the Moor, EHFS, pp. 7-9

Brennan on the Moor, see Brannen on the Moor

Brisk Young Country Lady, The, see Brake of Briars, The

Broken Down Gentleman, The, EHFS, pp. 16-17

Broomfield Wager, The, see Bushy Broom. The

Bruton Fair, SOR, pp. 30-32

Bruton Town, see Brake of Briars, The

Bushy Broom, The, SOR, pp. 18-19

Can You Rokka Romanes, SOR, p.23

Cherry Tree Carol, The (two versions), OCC, pp. 14, 24

Christ Is Born of Maiden Fair, OCC, p. 15

Christmas Eve Is Now Drawing Nigh, OCC, p. 11

Dawning of the Day, The, EHFS, pp. 10-11

Geordie, see Warminster Song, The

God Bless the Master (of this House) OCC, pp. 18-19

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, OCC, pp. 6-7

Green Bushes, The, SOR, pp. 4-5

Green Grow the Laurels, SOR, pp. 8-9

Gypsy Laddie, The, see There Were Seven Gypsies; Three Gypsies Came to the Door

Here Comes Poor Jack, OCC, pp. 22-23

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, see Sunny Banks, The

In Dessexshire as It Befel [sic], OCC, pp. 16-17

In Sheffield Park, EHFS, pp. 14-15

Joseph Was an Old Man, see Cherry Tree Carol, The

Lost Lady Found, The, see As Down in a Valley

Mandi Jalled to Puv a Grai, SOR, pp. 24-25

Mary Sat Weeping, OCC, p. 9

Moon Shone Bright, The, OCC, p. 21

My Shoes Are Very Muddy, OCC, p. 8

Now my Dorn Is Ended, OCC p. 10

Outlandish Knight, The, see Robber and the Lady, The

Ovva Tshavi, SOR, pp. 28-29

Ripe Is the Apple, Love, SOR, p. 22

Robber and the Lady, The, EHFS, pp. 4-5

Shushai, The, SOR, pp. 26-27

Sleeping Gamekeeper, The, SOR, pp. 20-21

Sunny Banks, The, OCC, pp. 12-13

There Were Seven Gypsies, SOR, pp. 16-17

Three Gypsies Came to the Door, SOR, pp. 12-13

Twelve Joys of Mary, The, OCC, pp. 2-4

Warminster Song, The, SOR, pp. 6-7

We Are Not Daily Beggars, OCC, p. 5

While Shepherds Watched, OCC, p. 20

While the Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping, see Sleeping Gamekeeper, The

Young Fisherman, The, EHFS, p. 3

Appendix 2

Select bibliography of published notes and articles by Alice E. Gillington

'The River Running By', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 1 (1907-08), 60-65.

'A Gypsy's Grave', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 1 (1907-08), 397-98.

'The House of the Open Door', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 2 (1908-09), 150-56.

'The Stanleys' Forfeited Estates', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 2 (1908-09), 287-88.

'The Bushes Green: New Forest Tent-dwellers' Night Prayer', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 5 (1911-12), 53-54.

'Wild Daffodils in the Wood', Country Life, 22 June 1912, pp. 927-28.

'New Forest Words', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 6 (1912-13), 147.

'The Last Journey', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 8 (1914-15), 153-54.

'Our Gypsy Recruits', Country Life, 27 February 1915, pp. 268-69.

'Burroder Lavs from the Nevi Vesh', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 9 (1915-16), 224.

'Trades of the Travellers of the New Forest', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd series, 4 (1925), 95.


(1) A. H. Fox Strangways, in collaboration with Maud Karpeles, Cecil Sharp (London: Oxford University Press, 1933), p. 41.

(2) 'The Murder of James MacDonald' can be found in volume 1 of Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, ed. by Maud Karpeles, 2 vols (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 292-93, 725). Details of Betsy Holland may be found in Still Growing: English Traditional Songs and Singers from the Cecil Sharp Collection ed. by Steve Roud, Eddie Upton, and Malcolm Taylor (London: English Folk Dance & Song Society in association with Folk South West, 2003), pp. 51-52. See also Fox Strangways, p. 43 n., where the tune for 'The Murder of James MacDonald' is compared to the Indian melody 'Hamir-Kalian'.

(3) Fox Strangways, p. 43. On 9 January 1908, Sharp collected two songs from Thomas Stanley, a Gypsy then living at Spaxton, Somerset, as well as a further song from Mrs Stanley. The songs were 'Rock a Down Romanish', 'The Bowl of Brandy', and 'Barney'.

(4) Shropshire Folk-Lore: A Sheaf of Gleanings. From the Collections of Georgina F. Jackson, ed. by Charlotte Sophia Burne, 3 parts (London: Trubner; Shrewsbury: Adnitt & Naunton; Chester: Minshull & Hughes/Minshull & Meeson, 1883-86; repr. in 2 parts, East Ardsley, Yorkshire: EP Publishing, 1973-74).

(5) John Sampson, 'English Gypsy Songs and Rhymes', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 2 (1891).

(6) John Sampson, The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales: Being the Older Form of British Romani Preserved in the Speech of the Clan of Abram Wood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926; repr. London: Oxford University Press, 1968); John Sampson, XXI Welsh Gypsy Folk-Tales, with engravings on wood by Agnes Miller Parker ([Newtown, Montgomeryshire]: Gregynog Press, 1933; repr. as Gypsy Folk Tales, London: Robinson, 1984).

(7) Ella Mary Leather The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire, Collected from Oral and Printed Sources (Hereford: Jakeman & Carver; London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1912; repr. East Ardsley, Yorkshire: S.R. Publishers, 1970).

(8) Laura Alexandrine Smith, Through Romany Songland (London: D. Stott, 1889).

(9) Alice E. Gillington, Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties (London: Curwen, 1910); Alice E. Gillington, Songs of the Open Road: Didakei Ditties & Gypsy Dances, music arranged and adapted by Dowsett Sellars (London: Joseph Williams, 1911) (but see note 68 below).

(10) A Victorian Anthology, 1837-1895: Selections Illustrating the Editor's Critical Review of British Poetry in the Reign of Victoria, ed. by Edmund Clarence Stedman (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1895).

(11) Alice Gillington is not, however, listed in J. Johnson and A. Greutzner, The Dictionary of British Artists, 1880-1940 (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1976).

(12) 'Marble Stones', Pall Mall Gazette, 13 April 1903.

(13) Anthony Sampson, The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest for a Family Secret (London, 1997), p. 107.

(14) A special number of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd series, 14 (1935), was devoted to the life and work of R. A. Scott Macfie.

(15) Alice E. Gillington, Eight Hampshire Folk Songs, Taken from the Mouths of the Peasantry (London: Curwen, [1907]).

(16) See correspondence in University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections, Gypsy Lore Society Archive. Alice Gillington and her brother were not alone in wishing to live in caravans alongside Gypsies. For an article dealing with the middle-class fascination with Gypsies, see Roger Savage, 'Vaughan Williams, the Romany Ryes, and the Cambridge Ritualists', Music and Letters, 83 (2002), 383-418.

(17) Hereford, Herefordshire Record Office, Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Alice Gillington to the Revd H. H. Malleson, 16 February 1911.

(18) Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 18 February 1911. Scott Macfie told Lucy Broadwood that Alice Gillington was 'absorbed in a wild scheme to encourage all the British gypsies and posh-rats to petition the King of England to give them the free use of "The King's Highway, the Commons, Open Spaces and Crownlands as in the days of old"' (Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Lucy Broadwood, 10 February 1911).

(19) Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 6 October 1911.

(20) Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 26 August 1911.

(21) Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 6 October 1911.

(22) Gillington-Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 3 August 1912.

(23) For details of public meetings by Cecil Sharp, see his own collection of newspaper cuttings: London, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil J. Sharp MSS, Press Cuttings Books.

(24) See, for example, James Henry Dixon's Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1846), the Revd John Broadwood's Old English Songs, As Now Sung by the Peasantry of the Weald of Surrey and Sussex ([1843]), and Frank Kidson's English Peasant Songs (1929).

(25) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Lucy Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 28 November 1910.

(26) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Lucy Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 23 November 1910.

(27) Alice E. Gillington, Old Hampshire Singing Games and Trilling the Rope Rhymes (London: Curwen, 1909); Old Isle of Wight Singing Games, ed. by Alice E. Gillington (London: Curwen, 1909); Old Surrey Singing Games and Skipping-Rope Rhymes, ed. by Alice E. Gillington (London: Curwen, 1909).

(28) Breton Singing Games, ed. by Alice E. Gillington (London: Curwen, 1910).

(29) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Archibald Constable, 29 October 1908.

(30) Alice Bertha Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with Tunes, Singing-Rhymes, and Methods of Playing According to the Variants Extant and Recorded in Different Parts of the Kingdom, 2 vols (London: David Nutt, 1894-98; repr. New York: Dover, 1964).

(31) See, for example, Katharine (Tynan) Hinkson, Victorian Singing Games, Folklore Society Library Publications, no. 9 (London: Folklore Society, 1991); M. C. Balfour, County Folk-lore: Northumberland, ed. by Northcote W. Thomas (London: David Nutt for the Folklore Society, 1904; repr. Felinfach: Llanerch, 1994), especially pp. 103-20.

(32) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Lucy Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 23 November 1910.

(33) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 28 November 1910.

(34) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 30 November 1910. For further details of Lucy Broadwood and Anne Gilchrist, see Lewis Jones, 'Lucy Etheldred Broadwood: Her Scholarship and Ours', in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation, ed. by Ian Russell and David Atkinson, Elphinstone Institute Occasional Publications, 3 (Aberdeen: Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, 2004), pp. 241-52; Catherine A. Shoupe, 'Anne Geddes Gilchrist: An Assessment of her Contribution to Folk Song Scholarship', in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation, pp. 253-65.

(35) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Gillington, 27 May 1908. In another letter to Gillington, dated 15 September 1908, Macfie wrote: 'I was once a little nervous about poaching on the Folk Song Society's preserves--but I find that their difficulty is that they are over burdened with collections, which they cannot afford to print, so that they will probably regard the collection and publication of Gypsy songs in our Journal as a relief.'

(36) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Gillington, 27 January 1911. 'The Willow Tree' (Roud 60; Laws P 25) is a well-known English folk song. For a recording by the Gypsy singer, May Bradley (nee Smith), see The Leaves of Life: Songs, Stories, Tunes and a Play from Eight Counties of England; The Field Recordings of Fred Hamer, audio cassette (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, English Folk Dance and Song Society VWML 003, 1989). Scott Macfie also published an article on Gypsy songs in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 2nd series, 3 (1915).

(37) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Gillington, 27 January 1911. It is not really surprising to see the name 'Pharo' substituted for that of 'Herod'. In the early 1930s the American collector James Madison Carpenter noted songs from a sword-dancer at Hunton, Yorkshire, who sang that Lord Nelson had won the Battle of Waterloo and that the Highland Laddie had won the Battle of the Nisle (sic).

(38) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Gillington to Scott Macfie, 24 January 1909.

(39) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Gillington, 26 September 1908.

(40) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Gillington to Scott Macfie, 10 January 1909.

(41) Henry E. J. Gibbins, Gipsies of the New Forest and Other Tales (Bournemouth: W. Mate, [1909]).

(42) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Broadwood, 24 November 1910, mentions that Gillington was 'obtaining gratis' material from Gypsies. Part of this letter is reproduced below.

(43) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Gillington to Scott Macfie, 14 April 1909.

(44) Alice E. Gillington, 'Gypsy Riddles', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 1 (1907-08), 186; Pall Mall Gazette, 13 April 1903.

(45) Gillington, 'Gypsy Riddles'.

(46) For Jimmy MacBeath's version, titled 'The Ox and the Fox Dug a Hole for Me', see Jimmy McBeath, Two Gentlemen of the Road, double CD (Rounder 1793, 2002). See also 'The Oxford Student', in Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, Incorporating the F.J. Norton Collection, 2 parts, 4 vols (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970-71), Part B, II, 103-04.

(47) 'The Seven Lost Sisters' was first printed in Country Life, 13 July 1912, p. 39.

(48) Gillington--Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 18 February 1911. Surprisingly, Songs of the Open Road was published by Joseph Williams and not by Curwen, her usual publisher. She did, however, return to Curwen in 1913 for the publication of her Old Dorset Singing Games.

(49) Gillington--Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 17 January 1915. A komalesti is a 'beloved friend'. There are several references to various Gypsy families scattered throughout Gillington's correspondence. It is not, at this stage, possible to say whether the New Forest Willetts were related to members of the Willett family who were recorded in Middlesex and Kent by Topic Records; see The Willett Family--Tom, Chris, and Ben, The Roving Journeyman, 12-inch LP (Topic 12T84, 1963).

(50) According to Hamish Henderson, when Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger printed examples of Scottish Travellers' cant in their book Till Doomsday in the Afternoon: The Folklore of a Family of Scots Travellers, the Stewarts of Blairgowrie (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986) there was considerable disquiet among some Scottish Travellers (personal communication to Michael Yates).

(51) In a letter to Malleson (Gillington--Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 15 June 1916), she remarks tellingly, 'It's only the sort of thing we Romany folk say one to another ...' (italics added).

(52) Anne G. Gilchrist, review of Songs of the Open Road by Alice E. Gillington, Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 5 (1911-12), 70-75 (p. 70).

(53) Gilchrist, review of Songs of the Open Road, p. 74.

(54) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 23 November 1910.

(55) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Broadwood, 24 November 1910.

(56) Broadwood collected the carol 'King Pharim' (Roud 306; Child 55) from the Goby family of Surrey sometime prior to 1893. She printed it in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 1.4 (4) (1902), 183. Scott Macfie did not consider Goby to be a Gypsy family name.

(57) Ian Olson mentions this in his article, 'The Folk-Song Society Centenary: Fact, Fiction and Food for Thought', English Dance & Song, 60.2 (1998), 10-11. The full quotation, from a letter from Lucy Broadwood to her sister Bertha dated 22 July 1924, is as follows: 'Mr Cecil Sharp unfortunately took up old song and old dance collecting as a profession, and, not being a gentleman, he puffed and boomed and shoved and ousted[?], and used the Press to advertise himself; so that, although we pioneers were the people from whom he originally learnt all he knew of the subjects, he came to believe himself to be King of the whole movement, and was by the general ignorant public taken at his own valuation' (Surrey Record Office, 2297/3).

(58) Gilchrist, review of Songs of the Open Road, p. 75.

(59) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 23 November 1910.

(60) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Broadwood to Scott Macfie, 28 November 1910.

(61) Gillington, Songs of the Open Road, p. 2.

(62) See James C. Brickwedde, 'A. Claud Wright: Cecil Sharp's Forgotten Dancer', Folk Music Journal, 6.1 (1990), 4-36.

(63) 'The Romany Rawny' [Alice E. Gillington], Gypsies of the Heath (London: Elkin Mathews, 1916).

(64) Gillington--Malleson correspondence, Gillington to Malleson, 28 September 1911.

(65) Alice E. Gillington, Old Dorset Singing Games, with a Few from Wilts. and New Forest (London: Curwen 1913).

(66) Alice E. Gillington, 'The River Running By', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s. 1 (1907-08), 60-65.

(67) Gypsy Lore Society Archive, Scott Macfie to Gillington, 19 May 1914.

(68) In this book, Gypsies of the Heath, it is quite clear that the song is being sung by Gypsies (p. 14). But why, we wonder, did Gillington chose this song, one supposedly 'Taken from the Mouths of the Peasantry', in preference to one of those that she had collected from Gypsy singers and published in Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties or Songs of the Open Road? Could the answer be that she had indeed collected 'Brannen on the Moor' from Gypsy singers and that some, if not all, of the songs in Eight Hampshire Folk Songs actually came from Gypsy informants?

(69) The Times, Tuesday, 2 September 1919.

(70) Alice E. Gillington, 'Trades of the Travellers of the New Forest', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd series, 4 (1925), 95. Gillington's final letter to the Gypsy Lore Society, addressed to Dora Yates, the new editor of the society's journal, offering some articles for publication, is dated March 1932.

(71) Georgina Boyes, '"A Proper Limitation": Stereotypes of Alice Gomme', Musical Traditions, article MT074 <> [accessed 20 March 2005]

COPYRIGHT 2006 English Folk Dance and Song Society.

This article by Mike Yates and Steve Roud was published in Folk Music Journal, Annual, 2006.
The article - without the authors being credited - can be found here [accessed 29.11.10] :

It is reproduced in full, but without the illustrations, by permission of Mike and Steve, in the interest of further research and makes no claim to copyright.

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