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Tailor in the Tea Chest – George Sansome & Matt Quinn

Those two cheeky chappies, Sansome & Quinn, return with a crack at the lesser-spotted Roud 570 and news of an upcoming tour.

Would you look at this? It’s another shiny new video, hot off the Sheffield production line helmed by Will Killen, a videographer and sound recordist who seems to have defined the city’s folk aesthetic in recent years. You’ll have seen his sumptuous work in other Sansome & Quinn productions, along with that of Granny’s Attic and a number of other Steel City artists. His attention to detail is wonderful; look closely and you’ll see just how cold the shoot must have been, with the musicians’ warm breath condensing in the winter air. Now, there’s dedication for you.

Their latest collaboration is on the song, ‘Tailor in the Tea Chest’ [Roud 570], one of those traditional folk songs that you wait 43 years to hear recorded again before two versions come along at once. In 2023, both Sansome & Quinn and Jon Wilks lit upon this peculiar little song (albeit with alternative titles, melodies and lyric sets) and recorded them on their respective albums (Sheffield Park and Before I Knew What Had Begun…). Also known as ‘The Old Boatsman of Dover’, ‘The Boatswain’ and ‘The Bosun and the Tailor’, it was previously recorded by Frank Purslow and John Pearse, The Woods, Nick Dow, and Bandoggs. It was from the latter that George Sansome first heard it, and he describes it as, “a perfectly ridiculous moral tale of how to behave (or not) when you’re courting.”

With 136 entries in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Society, ‘Tailor in the Tea Chest’ seems to have found popularity as a broadside ballad, although there were a handful of oral collections in Dorset, Hampshire and the South East, largely noted down by the Hammond brothers, George Gardiner and Francis Collinson. The song narrates the tale of a boatswain from Dover who unexpectedly returns home to retrieve a forgotten chest, interrupting his wife’s affair with a local tailor. To hide the affair, the wife conceals her lover inside the chest, which the boatswain and his crew cart off to their waiting ship. Struggling under the weight of it, they open the chest and discover the tailor hidden inside, revealing the wife’s infidelity.

Sansome and Quinn are releasing the video (and debuting it here on Tradfolk) by way of announcing a new tour, taking place in March. You’ll be able to catch them and their tea chest singalong at the following dates.

George Sansome & Matt Quinn tour