In that beautiful dale
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VVill Noble is builder, drystone wailer and stone mason and has lived all his 48 years in South West Yorkshire. He became known throughout the country some ten years ago as a member of the Holme Valley Tradition along with John Cocking, Barry Bridgewater and Ernest Yates.
Will’s family sang, particularly his two uncles and it was probably from them that he learned his first song, ‘The Farmer’s Boy’, while on their farm as a boy. His father Arthur also sang although his repertoire was mainly made up of fragments, and it’s from him that ‘At the Cross’ comes.
Although it was the family that gave him a taste for singing, Will’s first regular singing was at the local hunt meetings, particularly those of the Holme Valley Beagles. Although not a huntsman himself, he would go to the ‘do’ after the hunt for the singing and it was here that he started learning songs. Then at Christmas he would visit the Fountain at lngbirchworth and join in the local carol-singing sessions. This strong tradition is still active in several South Yorkshire and Derbyshire pubs and is being well documented on the ‘Village Carols’ series of cassettes. Of ‘Swaledale’, Will recalls first hearing it many years ago on the radio and then hearing it again when he was introduced to the Dungworth Royal Hotel’s carol sessions by lan Russell. It was there that the melodramatic Victorian ballad, ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ was recorded.
Will now follows in the footsteps, and is the carrier of the songs, of many fine local singers: the most influential being Arthur Howard who came from a sheep-farming family near Holme and who died in l982 at the age of 79. He was a fine singer with a vast store of songs, and half of the songs sung here are from his repertoire, while Will first heard the ‘The Christmas Goose’ sung by Arthur’s elder brother James Howard. Two other local singers Will has learned songs from had, surprisingly, the same name: Frank Hinchliffe. One from Holme gave him ‘Johnny Sands’, while the other from
Lodgemoor sang ‘The Squire of Tamworth’, ‘The Nobleman and the Thresherman’ and ‘The Poor Old Weaver’s Daughter’.
Will Noble is still absorbing songs and in his ample hands the singing traditions ‘in that beautiful dale’ will thrive and survive!
(notes written in 1992)
Thanks to Ian Russell for his Dungworth recordings of ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ and also the ‘Christmas Goose’ which he recorded at a gathering at his house in Unstone with many of Will’s friends including Frank Hinchcliffe (Lodgemoor) providing the chorus. Also thanks to members of the Barnsley Folk Club for providing the Yorkshire vowels on the choruses of ‘Swaledale’, ‘Bill Brown’, ‘Johnny Sands’ and ‘Merry Mountain Child’.
2. The Poor Old Weaver's Daughter
3. The Suckling Pig
4. The Death of Poor Bill Brown
6. Johnny Sands
7. The Squire of Tamworth
8. The Mistletoe Bough
9. The Nobleman and the Thresherman
10. Come on, Come on
11. The Nutting Girl
12. Nellie O'Bobs
13. At the Cross
14. The Christmas Goose
15.It Was Night and the Moon Illuminated the Sky
16. Merry Mountain Child
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