Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland

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Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, is an anthology compiled by Peter Kennedy, published in 1975 by Cassell, and later in paperback. This notable and very useful publication arranges its 360 songs by theme, largely using versions collected by Kennedy himself. It has the music, and copious notes on each song, with useful references to other versions. Unusually, its first six sections, about a third of the songs, are devoted songs not in English, namely Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx Gaelic, Cornish, and Channel Islands songs. The songs in English are divided as follows:

  • Courtship
  • False Love and True
  • Seduction
  • Uneasy Wedlock
  • Occupations (mostly the old, rural jobs)
  • Country Life (farming, poaching, hunting)
  • Good Company (drinking)
  • Diversion (funny songs, mainly about various animals)
  • Newsworthy Sensation (Jack Hall, Turpin Hero, Heenan and Sayers, that sort of thing)
  • Travelling People (travellers, gypsies, hawkers)

The large number involving relationships between the sexes (95) probably reflects the proportion in the tradition as a whole. Kennedy chooses to present four sub-sections, but other compilers do it differently. Other publications putting songs into themed sections include The Singing Island, and the two collections of sound recordings, The Folk Songs of Britain, and The Voice of the People.