Harry Upton

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Harry Upton: was another well-known Sussex singer who lived a few miles from George Spicer’s home.  By trade he was a cowman - retired - and had known George from working on neighbouring farms.  Although I never saw them singing together, they had clearly heard each other in the past and I suspect that there was some rivalry between them - over who was the best singer, that sort of thing - and they would both ask me what songs I had recorded from the other, at the same time claiming to have no real interest in the matter! Harry, who was born in 1900, learnt songs as a boy from his father, a Downsland shepherd, and from his mother.  He told me that his father was in the habit of going to bed early in the evening, and that he would sing himself to sleep.

Harry learnt The Wreck of the Northfleet and Canadee-i-o from his father, and The Feckless Young Girl from the singing of his mother.  Other songs were learnt from his father’s workmates, including members of the Copper Family, and, like them, Harry would sometimes sing in harmony with his father.  Also like the Copper Family, Harry had many of his songs in manuscript form, often in his father’s handwriting, and had owned a collection of broadsides, mainly printed in the 1880s by the daughter of Henry Parker Such, of the Borough in south London.  Bought originally in Brighton, these had also been inherited from his parents.  Along with songs such as Genevieve and In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, Harry also had sheets containing texts for several folksong standards, including Barbara Allen, The Dark-Eyed Sailor and Hey, John Barleycorn.

Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Up in the North and Down in the South (MTCD311-2)