Oxford Ramble

Speed the Plough



A Taste of Ale

Six for Gold

Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell

The Robber Bird

Three Quarter Time

The 25th





John Clare

John Clare, by William Hilton, from the National Portrait GalleryNorthamptonshire village labourer, poet and fiddle-player, 1793-1864. Born and raised in Helpston, he spent much of his life in the village, but from 1837 was resident in mental institutions, first in Epping Forest, then in Northampton. See Wikipedia or, if your local public library subscibes, Clare's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

It is perhaps worth noting that although Helpston was officially in Northamptonshire in Clare's lifetime, this was only because it fell inside the ecclesiastical and administrative district known as the "Soke of Peterborough". The village is actually near Peterborough, now in Cambridgeshire - it's about 45 miles from Northampton, and much nearer to the Fens. So when Clare writes about morris dancing, I suspect that this would most likely have been molly dancing, rather than "Cotswold"-style morris.

Besides his poems and other writings, John Clare left a number of musical manuscripts. All of the tunes from his MSS, along with songs written down by Clare, and an analysis of his relationship with the folk tradition, can be found in George Deacon's fascinating book, John Clare and the folk tradition. The tunes are also available in ABC format from the Village Music Project website: description of the MSS, ABC file.