Episode 8 of the second series of The Old Songs Podcast, supported, so very kindly, by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, is an unusual one as it focuses on an old tune rather than an old song. Prepare yourself to delve into the background of one of the most well-known Morris dancing tunes, ‘Princess Royal’.
Joining Jon Wilks to discuss the tune is one of the country’s finest melodeon players, John Spiers, or “Squeezy” as he’s fondly known as on the English folk scene. Many of you will know Squeezy as a founding member of Bellowhead, not to mention a myriad of other bands he steps in and out of when the road calls.
Over the course of an hour or so, the pair look at the history of ‘Princess Royal’ tune. Did it start life as an accompaniment to English Morris dancing, or does it stretch further back and over greater distances than that?
Squeezy tells us a bit about growing up, somewhat hesitantly, in the Morris tradition, and talks about the difference between being a musician performing this tune on stage and a musician playing for a Morris side. He explains what a jig is, what a reel might be, how to recognise a slow, and who’s wearing the trunkles in this relationship?
Squeezy mentions video clips and different versions throughout, which we have listed and embedded below.
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The Old Songs Podcast is supported by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
‘Princess Royal’ podcast notes
Over the course of the episode, John Spiers and Jon Wilks mention the following things:
- The English Folk Dance and Song Society
- The story of Cecil Sharp and Headington Quarry Morris
- Mat Green (Magpie Lane) playing and dancing ‘Princess Royal’ on Youtube
- John Spiers playing the Abingdon version on the Spiers and Boden album, Bellow, 2003
- Spiers & Boden playing the Bampton version on their album, Vagabond, 2008
- Magpie Lane playing ‘Princess Royal’ on their 2006 album, The Oxford Ramble
- Clannad playing ‘Mrs McDermott’ on their 1973 album, Clannad
- Mat Green of Bampton Lane, performing the tune while dancing a jig (see above)
- The Unthanks singing ‘The Scarecrow Knows’ from the soundtrack to the TV series, Worzel Gummidge, released in December 2022
- Jim Moray singing ‘Gypsies’ from his 2003 album, Sweet England
- ‘Princess Royal’ from Morris On, released in 1972
- A snippet of Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr performing the B part on their 1995 album, The Shape of Scrape
- John Spiers performing an exclusive version of the North Leigh version, spoken about in an earlier part of the conversation
For more info on John Spiers, head to johnspiers.co.uk.
Excellent podcast. I have Mr Fox cd. Seeing John on Friday in gigspanner and again in April.