Songs of the Road

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There are many traditional songs about travellers, gypsies, journeymen, pedlars, commercial travellers and the like. Most of our travellers' songs come from two areas, the north east of Scotland, and the rural south of England. In Scotland, two traveller families have given us many songs, the Stewarts of Blairgowrie, and the Robertson/Higgins families, in particular the incomparable Jeannie Robertson. Two of the best known English singers are Phoebe Smith and "Queen" Caroline Hughes. There is a recent article on travellers in English Dance and Song Winter 2006 [1].

Books with travellers' songs include:

  • Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1977, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Probably the most representative collection of songs.
  • Till Doomsday in the afternoon, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1986, Manchester University Press. A major biography of the Stewarts of Blairgowrie with 70 songs, as well as a study of the way the songs are passed on, tales, jokes, riddles and childrens' songs.

For a delightful account of the life of a scottish traveller, read

  • The Yellow on the Broom, Betsy Whyte, 2001, Birlinn.

Two anthologies with sections on the theme are: The Singing Island and Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland.

The collection of sound recordings The Voice of the People has an album of traveller' songs.