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OLD UNCLE TOM COBLEIGH AND. "WIDECOMBE FAIR"

 

"Widecombe Fair" is possibly Devon's best-known song. It was collected by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould from peasant singing and published by him in the collection he called "Songs of the West" in 1890.  As with all true English folk songs, the words - and the tune - appear from time to time with slight variations. Below is the version I am familiar with.

 

It is said that the Devonshire regiment took the song with them to South Africa during the Boer War and it soon became very popular and was particularly associated with the Devonshire Regiment. Baring-Gould did not take down the tunes - in this he was ably assisted by the Rev. Henry Fleetwood Sheppard and Dr. Frederick Bussell - two of Baring-Gould's fellow clergyman who also happened to be talented musicians. To read an excellent  essay on both men, go to

 

http://www.greenjack.btinternet.co.uk/collecting.htm

 

The owner of the original manuscripts of the collection, Baring-Gould's great grand daughter, has lodged them for safe keeping at The National Trust's property, Killerton House, near Exeter, where the Rev. Baring-Gould's own library of  books.is also kept.

 

You may also like to read about one of the old Devon folk singers whose songs were collected. by him. Go to

 

http://www.sbgas.org/Luxton.pdf

 

Uncle Tom Cobley and all

"Old uncle Tom Cobley and all"

from our postcard collection

 

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare

All along, down along, out along lee.

For I want to go down to Widecombe Fair

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

And when shall I see again my old grey mare?

All along, down along, out along lee.

By Friday soon or Saturday noon

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

So they harnessed and bridled the old grey mare

All along, down along, out along, lee.

And off they drove to Widecombe fair,

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Then Friday came and Saturday soon

All along, down along, out along lee.

Tom Pearce’s old mare hath not trotted home

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

So Tom Pearce he got up to the top of the hill,

All along, down along, out along lee.

And he sees his old mare a-making her will,

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Tom Pearce’s old mare, her took sick and died

All along, down along, out along lee.

And Tom he sat down on a stone and he cried

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

But this isn’t the end of this shocking affair,

All along, down along, out along lee.

Nor though they be dead, of the horrid career

Of Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

When the wind whistles cold on the moor of a night,

All along, down along, out along lee.

Tom Pearce’s old mare doth appear ghastly white

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

And all the long night be heard skirling and groans,

All along, down along, out along lee.

From Tom Pearce’s old mare and her rattling bones

And from Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

 

 And here, with slight variations in words and music, is the tune:

 

And just in case, this sorry tale is all too much to swallow, legend has it that on the night before the Widecombe Fair takes place (on the 2nd Tuesday of September), the ghostly outline of the grey horse and Uncle Tom Cobley can be see making their way off the moor and down to Widecombe village. Though no-one has yet reported having actually seen this event.

See also "Uncle Tom Cobley and all"

 

 

 
 
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