Victorian Fayre

William Barnes Society Fund-Raising Event to celebrate the life of William Barnes the Dorset dialect poet.

Saturday 24th February 2018

William Barnes and Music

By Bonnie Sartin

William Barnes was brought up surrounded by the folklore, traditions, music, song and dance of Dorset. What is quite surprising is that with his rise from peasant lad to respected intellectual he didn’t automatically discard them as rural activities beneath his notice. There are dozens of references in his poems to fairs, festivals and feasts where the musical talents of the village folk play an important part. 'Bob the Fiddler' is a classic example. Who could possibly refrain from stirring their stumps in merry jigs when he begins to play? Every time I read the poem it takes my right back to my days with The Yetminster & Ryme Intrinseca Junior Folk Dance Display Team and I just have to smile. At Woodcom’ Feast they dance the four hand reel, which was one of our favourites. Bob the Fiddler will also sing a song or tell a story as do many of Barnes characters. The labouring folk of Dorset were having a very tough time of it so any jollity was to be encouraged even if the upper classes frowned upon some of the quaint and sometimes crude customs.

There must have been times when even Barnes cringed a trifle, particularly when it came down to the content of some of the folk songs. There are a fine selection on the subject of seduction. Soldiers in their flashy uniforms marching around the countryside chasing young ladies who succumbed to their advances. Lots of hatched without the matched so to speak. Funnily enough we actually sang some of these in primary school courtesy of the BBC and programmes like Singing Together. One of these was ‘Oh! No John’ a version of which was collected in Dorset from Mrs. Bowering of Cerne Abbas. Another came from the singing of Mr. J. Greening who lived at a place called Cuckold’s Corner. Very appropriate I always think. There were plenty of songs on things that did not fit in with the chirpy image that Barnes mostly tried to portray in the countryside. Around him was a great deal of grinding poverty but he did his best by going into local villages and towns and performing his poems to Dorset folk in the language they could understand on subjects they were very familiar with. There is no doubt in my mind that he was an absolute star.

'Christmas Invitation' started many a Yetties Christmas Concert and 'Zummer Evenin’ Dance went very well with the tune of the 'Dorset Four Hand Reel' which we recorded in 1983.

Naturally we had to do 'Linden Lea' because that is such a well-loved poem. My wife comes from Leeds and she learnt it while at primary school. I’m sure the linguist in Barnes would have been intrigued and delighted to hear his poem being sung by 35 youngsters in a broad Leeds accent. Alan Chedzoy, bless his cotton socks, let us peruse a chest which contained around 27 Barnes poems that had been set to music. It, apparently, belonged to the original William Barnes Society. From it we chose a setting of 'The Stagecoach' which was absolutely wonderful. I can practically feel the wind in my hair when I sing it. We also used 'Praise O’ Dorset' and I can remember writing to The Society of Dorset Men for permission to sing their theme song. Well, it seemed like the polite thing to do.

Our versions of Linden Lea, Praise O’ Dorset and The Stagecoach can now be heard interspersed with a new recording of Barnes and Hardy’s poems by Alan Chedzoy entitled The Bride-Night Fire. Alan has done the recording to raise money for The William Barnes Society and the Thomas Hardy Society.                       


John Blackmore

John Blackmore

John Blackmore is a singer, songwriter, poet and teacher from Somerset. John discovered William Barnes while studying English Literature at University

The Hammond Brothers

The Hammond Brothers

For four years, two brothers, Henry and Robert Hammond travelled the country especially Dorset, collecting traditional folk songs and tunes

A ram to copulate with a ewe

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Forthcoming events

Victorian Fayre William Barnes Society Fund-Raising Event to celebrate the life of William Barnes the Dorset dialect poet. Saturday 24th February 2018
What’s the point of William Barnes in 21st Century? For the many years of the dominance of Received Pronunciation (RP) it was easy to see William Barnes as an irrelevant eccentric. With more recent developments in linguistics, and a growing interest in national and regional diversity, it may be time for Barnes to reclaim his place as a significant figure in the world!! Dr Richard Bradbury will also discuss his more socially engaged prose works. Tuesday 27th March 2018
Annual Service of Remembrance of William Barnes Morning service, with dialect reading and wreath laying at William Barnes and and his daughter Laura grave Sunday 22nd April 2018
The Serpent and it’s Local Connections Come an listen to musician, Philip Humphries talk on the history and development of the strange bass wind instrument known as the 'Serpent' due to its curious shape. This talk will be interspersed with music and poetry. Tuesday 15th May 2018

Latest news

Come, so’s, an’ buy at Fancy Feäir Traditional Victorian Fayre, a William Barnes Society Fund-Raising event to celebrate the life of William Barnes, Dorset dialect poet Monday 19th February 2018
William Barnes and My Father Sam Jeffrey has very kindly donated The Poems of William Barnes Edited by Bernard Jones Vol 1 in Dorset Dialect and The Poems of William Barnes Edited by Bernard Jones Vol 2 in National English to the Society. Sunday 28th January 2018
John Blackmore captivates Society members Following the recent William Barnes Society Annual General Meeting, John Blackmore presented 'Music and Song' to the audience. Sunday 15th October 2017
Service of Remembrance to William Barnes On Sunday 8h October 2017 10:30am, at St Peter’s Church, Dorchester, the Morning Service to commemorate the anniversary of the death of William Barnes took place. It was followed by a wreath laying at the statute. Monday 9th October 2017


AROUND THE WORLD WITH WILLIAM BARNES: Part 2 - GreeceAROUND THE WORLD WITH WILLIAM BARNES: Part 2 - Greece Jim Potts returns to Greece to explore Athens and the Influence of Greek Culture in works of Byron, Barnes and Hardy


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