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'You will be interested to hear of a project to form a Folk Song Society': W. H. Gill and the founding of the Folk-Song Society.

William Henry Gill (1839-1923) is best known for his Manx National Songs (1896) and, to a lesser extent, Manx National Music (1898). With his brother, John Frederick Gill (1842-99), they collected traditional song in the Isle of Man. W. H. Gill's reputation was sufficient for him to be present at the founding of the Folk-Song Society and to be involved later as a committee member. A letter to his brother provides a hitherto unknown eyewitness account of the 27 January 1898 gathering called by Kate Fee, as well as an account of the provisional committee meeting of 8 February 1898. A unique copy of the Folk-Song Society prospectus has survived. This article discusses the background of W H. Gill; his involvement, through A. P Graves, with the Irish Literary Society, where he became known to Kate Lee; his activities with the Folk-Song Society; and his subsequent involvement in collecting songs in Sussex, the county to which he had retired. There he encountered Henry Burstow, and in 1917 published his Songs of the British Folk.

The founding of the Folk-Song Society in 1898 has been previously discussed in Folk Music Journal by C. J. Bearman, taking the figure of Kate Lee, the first honorary secretary, as a focus for discussion as to how the society came to be constituted and the manner in which it operated during her term of office. (1) His most notable source was the diaries of Lucy Broadwood, who was present at the initial gathering called together by Lee to discuss the proposal to found the society. There is now a second eyewitness account to this preliminary meeting of 27 January 1898, as well the meeting of the provisional committee on 8 February 1898. This comes in a letter from W. H. Gill (1839-1923) to his brother J. F. Gill (1842-99), both of whom were active in collecting traditional songs in the Isle of Man in 1895 and again in 1898.

'You will be interested to hear of a project to form a Folk Song Society (see circular letter enclosed, which please return)', W. H. Gill wrote to his brother on 10 February 1898. (2) In fact, the prospectus was not returned and so avoided being lost along with the rest of W. H. Gill's personal papers; it is currently the only surviving copy known of the prospectus itself. (3) The purpose of this piece is to add to the historiography of the Folk-Song Society by a description of this new source material and by filing in the background of W. H. Gill. His path was to cross with the society on more than one occasion.

William Henry Gill

The Gill brothers had an unusual background for collectors of Manx traditional song in view of the fact that they were not born in the Isle of Man but on another island, namely Sicily, in the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Although their parents were Manx-born, their father, Joseph, had moved to Sicily to work as a land agent for Joseph Woodhouse, a Liverpool merchant whose father had developed the Marsala wine trade. Woodhouse had operated red-herring curing-houses in the Isle of Man, which he later sold, and it is likely that Joseph Gill was an employee of his, handling correspondence with Italian merchants.

William Henry Gill (Figure 1), born 24 October 1839 in Palermo, was one of six children. (4) He followed two sisters, Emma Jane (b. 1836) and Charlotte (b. 1838), and was followed in turn by his brothers John Frederick (b. 1842), Robert (birth date unknown), and George (b. 1849). William Henry and John Frederick were educated in the Isle of Man, lodging with their uncle, the Rev. William Gill, vicar of Malew. They attended King William's College, the Isle of Man's public school, just outside of the old capital of Castletown.


William Henry entered King William's College in January 1850 and left as a Leaving Exhibitioner in March 1858. He then joined the civil service in London, spending his working life at the General Post Office and ending his days in the chief secretary's office. In 1863 he married Harriet Amelia Buttery in London and they had in all seven children, Augusta Victoria (1864), Florence Elizabeth (1865), Margaret (1867), Dora (1869), Leonard (1871), Stephen (1872), and Beatrice Kate (1874). The Gill family lived for a long time in Sidcup, Kent, before moving to Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, and then finally to The White House in Angmering, West Sussex, in 1907. W. H. Gill was to die in a nursing home in nearby Worthing on 27 June 1923.

John Frederick went to King William's College in August 1853 and left the same year as his brother, though later in the year, at Christmas. He remained on the Isle of Man, pursuing first a legal career at the Manx bar, which led to him being eventually appointed to the judiciary as Northern or Second Deemster - equivalent to a High Court judge - in 1884, a post he held until his death in 1899. With this came a seat in the Legislative Council, the upper house of Tynwald, the Isle of Man's parliament.

Another brother, George, was sent to the Isle of Man to be educated but died there in 1870 aged just twenty-one. The remainder of their siblings stayed in Sicily, where their mother died in 1862 and their father in 1876, both being buried in Palermo. Sicily was also a centre for the mining of sulphur, the refined mineral being shipped as ballast in vessels carrying Marsala wine. Joseph Gill, the song collectors' father, invented a furnace, which their brother Robert further developed, for the more efficient refining of sulphur, and the Gill furnace became the predominant method for refining sulphur in Sicily.

It was the publication of his Manx National Songs (1896) that had brought W. H. Gill to the attention of both Lee and A. P. Graves, and provided the reason for his being invited to the founding meeting of the Folk-Song Society. (5) Gill, however, had an established musical reputation well before he embarked on song collecting in the Isle of Man. He had published, for example, Easy Anthems for Village Choirs (1888) and five titles in a running series titled A Set of Twenty Easy Voluntaries [...] Arranged for Small Organ, Harmonium or Pianoforte by W. H. Gill (1889-91). (6)

The Folk-Song Society

(i) The prospectus: 'Proposed Folk Song Society'

The prospectus itself is double-sided, with the title 'Proposed Folk Song Society' printed in red, attractively set in italic with swash characters where appropriate, and set off with an ornamented half-rule. It was issued under the auspices of the Irish Literary Society, the address of which appears below the title, and bears the date 'January, 1898.'. It is essentially a form circular with blank spaces left to be filled in by hand with the name of the person to whom it was addressed, the day and precise date of the meeting, and the signature of the designated honorary secretary of the new society, Kate Lee, who also added in her own hand her home address, '41, Rosary Gardens/S.W.'. (7) At the time of the printing of the circular no firm date had been set for the meeting. It was subsequently fixed for Thursday, 27 January 1898, at 5 p.m., at the Irish Literary Society at 8 Adelphi Terrace on the Strand in London. The date on which, the circular was posted out is unknown. W. H. Gill's copy simply bears the printed date of January 1898, but Frank Kidson mentions the circular in a letter to Lucy Broadwood dated 9 January 1898, so it was presumably circulated during the first week of January. (8)

The first paragraph, given here in full, set out the aims of the society:
  It is proposed to form a folk song society for the purpose of
  discovering, collecting, and publishing Folk and Traditional Songs of
  the United Kingdom and other Countries. It is certain that great
  numbers of these exist which have not been noted down, and are
  therefore in danger of being lost; while many others, which have
  already been collected, are practically, though undeservedly,

The following paragraph mentioned that the society when constituted would hold regular meetings, 'at which these songs would be introduced and form the subject of performance, lecture, and discussion'. Collections of such songs would be published 'as may be decided on by a committee of musical experts'. The next paragraph introduced Alfred Nutt, then president of the Folk-Lore Society, who 'has expressed his sympathy with the present proposals' and raised the notion that if the Folk-Song Society were successful, 'it might be carried on in co-operation' with the Folk-Lore Society. This proposal was to he the subject of a meeting later in February which Gill attended and reported on in his letter to his brother.

The fourth paragraph contained a partial listing of those who had 'expressed their approbation', namely twelve individuals: Sir A. C. Mackenzie, J. A. Fuller Maitland, Lucy Broadwood, A. P. Graves, Harold Boulton, a 'Mr Joyce', W. H. Gill, Plunket Greene, Dr Charles Wood, Samuel Reay, C. L. Graves, and J. D. Rogers. The next paragraph invited all those interested to attend the meeting, the time of which was then given. The final paragraph read simply, 'If you cannot attend, perhaps you will kindly communicate your views in writing.' The circular closed with the printed salutation, 'I am,/Faithfully yours,/[blank]/Hon. Sec.'. Kate Lee added her signature to the prospectus sent to Gill.

(ii) Preliminary meeting of the Folk-Song Society, 27 January 1898

Gill duly attended the 27 January 1898 meeting. 'I went to the preliminary meeting and there were present about 20 including (of those mentioned in the letter) only Maitland, Miss Broadwood, A. P. Graves & the Hon Sec [Kate Lee] whose name you may recognise as a strong friend & supporter of Manx Music - but letters were produced from many who were unable to attend but expressed hearty sympathy with the movement.' (9) Bearman was able to identify twelve people present that evening, with the names cited by Gill among them.

The meeting was chaired by Alfred Nutt and there were five speakers, according to Gill: A. P. Graves, Lucy Broadwood, Fuller Maitland, 'some one whose name I did not catch', and Gill himself - although according to Broadwood's diary only four people spoke, namely Fuller Maitland, Kate Lee, Broadwood herself, and A. P. Graves. (10) However, Broadwood does note that Gill made a contribution, as she wrote in her diary, 'Graves talked of "restoring" traditional songs, which I objected was the last thing that such a Society should do. Mr J.A.F.M. and Mr Gill supported me.' (11) Gill evidently thought of himself as a speaker, while Broadwood did not. He also knew Lee, so it seems that someone else spoke at the meeting whose name was not recorded by Broadwood in her diary.

(iii) First meeting of the provisional committee, 8 February 1898

The upshot of the meeting was the appointment of a provisional committee, charged, in Gill's words, 'to draw up a definite scheme to submit to a subsequent meeting'. (12) This committee consisted of Alfred Nutt, A. P. Graves, Kate Lee, Lucy Broadwood, Frank Kidson, E. F. Jacques, and Gill. They met at Nutt's office on 8 February 1898, (13) but seemingly accomplished little. 'We got no further than deciding upon the amount of the subscription', Gill wrote. (14) Kidson argued strongly for the subscription to be set at five shillings, 'but Nutt easily convinced the meeting that it could not pay with a less subscription than a guinea'. (15) Gill then mentions 'a proposition' from the Folk-Lore Society, 'that we should combine on the following basis. That we undertake to raise 100 guinea subscribers. These would be members of both Societies & would be entitled to the publications of both, which publications however would be separate.' (16)

As to the debate over 'restoring' traditional songs, the provisional committee now declared that 'as to the nature of the Folk Song publications we were unanimous in deciding that only the naked melodies should be published and that "no payment whatever should be made for harmonies"'. (17)

W. H. Gill, A. P. Graves, and the Irish Literary Society

In November 1898, Gill wrote to his daughter, Dora Radcliffe Brown:
  On the strength of my Manx reputation before leaving London I was put
  on the Committee of a new Society called the Folk Song Society.
  Mackenzie, Stainer, Stanford, Parry and all the musical swells of the
  day have promised us their hearty support. My friend Graves is also
  on the Committee and several other people, men and women, who have
  distinguished themselves as collectors. Kate Lee, who has taken a
  violent fancy to the Manx Songs, is Secretary. We are now planning a
  Conversazione in connection with the Society. (18)

Gill and A. P. Graves had already met, in the autumn of 1895. On 30 September 1895 Gill wrote to his brother, 'I have made the acquaintance of a Mr Graves, Secretary of the Irish Literary Society.' (19) It was Gill who had initiated the contact, 'I told you I had written to him before I came to the Island but receiving no reply I wrote again on my return home.' (20) Gill was at this time in the Isle of Man collecting folk songs with the assistance of his brother, the second of two touts they made that year - the first being at Easter, from 12 to 19 April 1895, and the second from 27 July to 5 August 1895. Graves eventually replied, with 'an ample apology', and invited Gill to dine at his home in Wimbledon. Later, in 1913, Graves recounted the reason for this meeting: 'Mr William H. Gill, co-collector with Dr Clague of Manx Airs, came to consult me as to the supposed Irish origin of some of them.' (21)

At that meeting, Gill was to find some surprising links between Graves and his family and the Isle of Man. 'He then told me how years ago he was closely connected with the Island and some of our people notably Hugh's and Amelia's family. He is a Government Inspector of Schools, and has been doing a lot of work as librettist of Irish Songs in collaboration with Villiers Stanford & other musicians.' (22) Graves's mother had been educated in the Isle of Man - as, indeed, had the rest of his family, as Gill was to discover. Graves's parents had even been married in Malew in 1840 by the Rev. William Gill, the Gill brothers' uncle with whom they were to lodge while they were being educated at King "William's College. Then, in 1875, Graves was appointed as assistant schools inspector in Manchester and found, curiously, that for the purposes of inspection the Isle of Man was attached to the Manchester district (rather than to Liverpool, as might have been expected). As inspector he visited the island twice, the first time in June 1875 and then later in 1878. (23) During his 1875 inspection tour, 'at Cronk y Voddy I first heard Manx songs sung in Manx by the school children, and that set me upon an inquiry into Manx Folk Music'. (24)

As part of his enquiry, 'I was informed that Dr Clague of Castletown had made a collection of it and to him I went, hut without much satisfaction.' (25) Apparently, Clague had earlier lent part of his collection to Thomas ap Thomas (1829-1913), a Welsh harper, who had subsequently lost it, 'much to Dr Clague's disgust, and the Doctor politely declined to venture another consignment of his country's airs into the hands of a foreigner'. (26) This demonstrates how early on Clague had started collecting traditional Manx song, although the size of his collection at that date is unknown. (27) He was to gain something of a second wind following Deemster J. F. Gill's proposal, in October 1894, chat Clague work together with himself and his brother on what was to become Manx National Songs (1896).

One of the upshots of this meeting with Graves in 1895 was the invitation to give a lecture, as Gill explains in a letter to his brother of 19 November 1895: 'I have been invited (twice) to lecture on Manx Music before the Irish Literary Society. I said I would if they would put me down very late in their program.' (28) The Irish Literary Society had been founded in 1891, having started its existence prior to that as the Southwark Irish Literary Club. (29) Gill later attended a lecture at the society on 30 November 1895:
  At the Irish Literary Society on Nov. 30. heard a capital lecture on
  Irish Music by Dr Annie Patterson (Mus Doc) - the first of them!
  It was held in the rooms of the Society of Arts - a large & very
  handsome Hall which was filled to overflowing by a most enthusiastic
  audience - mostly Irish of course. (30)

Gill was indeed placed 'very late' in the Irish Literary Society's programme, his 'Lecture-Recital', as it was described, being given at the close of the following year, on 19 December 1896. The Musical Times reported in 1897: 'What the Rev. Baring-Gould has done for old English song, Mr W H. Gill has succeeded in doing for the music of the Manxmen.' (31)

By this date, Gill had published Manx National Songs (1896) and had started on producing a further volume which was to become Manx National Music (1898). (32) Both were based on material from the collection formed by the Gill brothers in 1895, along with that of their collaborator Dr John Clague. Material from Manx National Songs was performed before the Irish Literary Society ('A goodly number from this volume formed the illustrations') 'and the songs and vocal solo parts were sung by Madam Kate Lee'. Gill gave at least one further 'Lecture-recital of Manx National Music', in April 1897, at which Lee once again sang. (33) Kate Lee's singing was a feature of the Irish Literary Society's 'Original Nights'. (34) Material drawn from Manx National Songs featured, too, in others of her concerts. (35)

Another upshot of Gill's meeting with Graves was that he was persuaded to publish not with the music publisher Joseph Williams but with Boosey & Co., a move that Gill came to regret over the years with increasing bitterness. (36) And there was to be a further entanglement between the pair: 'He [Graves] confessed to me that he had entertained an ambition to write words for Manx tunes, that when in the Island he had projected collecting Manx Music, and that he had hoped to get the Doctor's Collection from him!! He is immensely enamoured of what he has heard of our collection, & has undertaken to supply the words for some half dozen of the Songs.' (37)

The original intention in relation to Manx National Songs had been for T. E. Brown, a Manx poet known for his use of Anglo-Manx dialect, to produce texts to sit alongside a selection of airs from the Gill and Clague collections, which Gill himself was going to harmonize. However, Brown refused outright, and during the search for alternative writers Gill had found Graves, among others, to add to what he called 'my staff of poets'. (38) Curiously, when informed of Graves's involvement, Clague seemed not to recall their previous encounter, some twenty-five years previously. He did, however, write, 'the more I know of Graves, the more "piscatorial" I think him to be'. (39)

Clague's reservation was well founded, in light of the situation Gill describes in an earlier letter to his brother:
  Graves has been negotiated with separately. He comes oft infinitely
  better than I do considering the kind & quantity of our respective
  tasks. (My pen is dhroy ['dry' in Anglo-Manx dialect]) - 5 guineas
  for each Song - the number not to exceed 12 - and a 2d royalty on
  Songs of his published separately. Not bad! Boosey thought it
   excessive, but was forced into the bargain. Graves he said
  claimed having brought the whole business to him (Boosey)! (40)

W. H. Gill and the Folk-Song Society

Returning to Gill's letter to his brother of 10 February 1898, the last of the relevant material there reads as follows: 'I think on this basis there ought to be no difficulty in getting the 100 subscribers and we have each of us pledged ourselves to exert ourselves to the utmost. Do you see your way to join us? and, if so, could you get others to do likewise e.g. John Clague and Moore, also Hadow & Jessop? It would strengthen my hands personally if you could get these or any others to promise their support thro' me individually.' (41)

J. F. Gill did indeed join the society, being elected a member at the 6 July 1898 committee meeting, and the printed acknowledgment slip, duly signed by Kate Lee as honorary secretary, survives among his papers. (42) Clague joined too. A. W. Moore (1853-1909), the editor of Manx Ballads and Music (1896), (43) a work that Gill saw as a rival to his own Manx National Songs, did not. W. H. Hadow was a fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, and was somehow known to Deemster Gill. He was sent a presentation copy of Manx National Songs and in his letter of thanks to Deemster Gill he remarked, 'I shall always treasure the volume as a mark of your kindness, & as a memorial of the auspicious occasion when I had the pleasure of meeting you.' (44) What this occasion was is not known. Likewise, the identity of 'Jessop' remains unknown.

W. H. Gill evidently had the intention of remaining on the committee of the Folk-Song Society once it became formally constituted and its officers subject to election. He was present at the inaugural meeting on 16 May 1898, (45) when he was unanimously elected to the committee. (46) The society's minute book then shows him attending committee meetings on 2 June 1898, (47) and again on 19 January 1 899 when it was noted that the committee 'should retire at the General Meeting & offer themselves for re-election'. (48) The minutes of the first annual general meeting, held on 2 February 1899, record that Gill was 'unanimously elected to serve on the Committee'. (49)

The committee meeting of 27 April 1900 had as item four on its agenda 'Notice of the death of the Deemster Gill'. (50) J. F. Gill had died the previous year and his death appears to have served as a catalyst for his brother to leave the committee. Agenda item six for the same meeting reports: 'It was proposed that if Mr W. H. Gill adhered to his wish to resign his place on the Committee that the Reverend Francis Cohen should be asked to take his place.' (51) Gill did in fact resign his place, and left the Folk-Song Society itself in 1900 or the following year.' (52)

Clague continued his membership of the society until 1905, (53) but by May of that year his name is absent from the list of members. (54) He was to the not long afterwards, in 1908. (55) The previous year W. H. Gill himself had nearly died, as his wife, Amy, recounted to Sophia Morrison:
  He was staying with his married daughter during our removal from
  Abingdon to Angmering near Worthing when he was taken ill & had to
  have an operation for removal of an enlarged gland on the bladder.
  The operation lasted 1 hour & 40 minutes! it is quite a miracle he
  came through it. There was great loss of blood. & this has made him
  so weak that twice we thought he had passed away [...] he is now
  lying in a very critical state in the Nursing Home. (56)

Gill, though, recovered and lived on until 1923, outliving his brother Deemster John Frederick Gill (d.1899), their collaborator Dr John Clague (d.1908), and his assumed rival A. W. Moore (d.1909). Not only did he survive his contemporaries, he also outlived Sophia Morrison (1859-1917) who was to lead and enthuse the second wave of song collectors in the Isle of Man.

W. H. Gill in Sussex: Songs of the British Folk (1917)

By the time that the Gill family had moved to Angmering in 1907, W. H. Gill was living out his retirement years. His activities as regards Manx traditional song were twofold: tinkering with the material collected by himself and Clague, and continuing with its 'restoration'; and helping to prepare the Manx test pieces for the annual Manx Music Festival (known as 'The Guild'). This latter role involved him in correspondence with Sophia Morrison, with Gill somewhat tediously restating his argument for 'restoration' on an annual basis. (57)

With the death of his brother in 1899, we loose sight of W. H. Gill as a collector in the Isle of Man, save for one letter written to him by Morrison in 1907: 'I think more scraps of music might still be gained. I heard some bits the other day in Sulby Glen at the house of Mrs Craine, but when Mrs Craine & her daughter told me that they had often sung to you, I felt assured that you had collected all they have to give.' (58) The names of the Craines do not appear in the transcript of materials from their collecting tours of 1895 and 1898 that W. H. Gill made for his brother. (59)

That Sophia Morrison's observation might indicate that Gill was continuing to collect songs in the Isle of Man around the date of the letter, rather than referring to material collected earlier that he had simply omitted or neglected to send his brother, is perhaps supported by the fact that in the following year, 1908, he began to collect songs in Sussex. He wrote to his daughter in October of that year:
  Yesterday for instance I spent the greater part of the day at Horsham
  pumping traditional songs out of an old man of 85 who sings by heart
  upwards of 400 odd Songs of course that number includes a good many
  that are neither very old nor worth preserving but all have to be
  carefully heard and weighed in the balance and means many pilgrimages
  on my part. (60)

The singer referred to here is Henry Burstow, and material from Burstow and others was to end up in Gill's Songs of the British Folk, published in 1917. (61) This book is rare: just six copies are known in public or institutional collections.

The first mention of any intended publication arising out of Gill's collecting in Sussex comes in 1913:
  You may be interested to know that I am full of work on a commission
  from Curwens for an extensive two year's collection of British
  Folk-Songs into which I hope to smuggle a goodly infusion of Manx! It
  will run into several volumes and be I hope fairly representative of
  the 'Five Nations'. I little thought when I took up the more modest
  Sussex collection that the enterprise would be so extensively
  enlarged. (62)

The initial idea had been that only the Sussex material would be published: 'As to Mr W.H. Gill - I have not had a letter from him since December last - I don't think that he wrote to me this year [1914] - He said in his letter that he was greatly rushed with work re his Sussex Folk Song Collection for Curwen's.' (63) This was to change, as Gill wrote to Sophia Morrison in 1914:
  One other point you ought to know and this has only just now arisen.
  My 'Sussex Songs' Scheme has been abandoned in favour of a larger
  project, viz. a Collection of Folk-Songs including all parts of the
  United Kingdom so that I am in hopes of finding places for some of
  ours. The Collection is to come out in one-shilling Books each
  containing 20 Songs and the first 3 or 4 books ate now almost ready
  for the printer. (64)

There was, however, to be a delay: 'In my own case the publishing by Messrs Curwen of my 3 vols of British Folk-Songs has been standing over for 3 years and not till yesterday could I get a definite promise to start the engraving of the plates. (65) This letter is undated, but it probably dates from c.1917. In the end, just the one volume appeared -there is nothing on the title page to indicate that further volumes were to be forthcoming.

Songs of the British Folk was poorly received by the Musical Times: 'This is a book of twenty-seven lyrics, with an introduction by Mr John Graham indicating that Mr Gill has gathered hundreds of traditional songs and that the present volume is part of the result. Judged by this the little book is rather disappointing, as so much of its contents, in more or less similar versions, have already been published.' (66) The Introduction, written by John Graham, author of Dialect Songs of the North (1910), sketches a little of the background to Songs of the British Folk. As regards collecting, 'Mr Gill began at home, for a little experimental reconnoitring within a small radius of his house at the foot of High Down Hill on the Sussex coast lent no small encouragement to his ambition. He offered to visit any district within a moderate distance with a view to record the music and words of any traditional songs reasonably supposed to be worth preserving.' Presumably, this refers to Gill's early collecting in 1908 when he first encountered Henry Burstow. Gill was also in receipt of the entries for the song competition held by the West Sussex Gazette in 1904, which was judged by Lucy Broadwood, which are said to have numbered nigh on three hundred songs. Graham seems to point to significant fieldwork, although the effect of his remarks may be more rhetorical than factual: 'Hundreds of songs were soon gathered. There was always some gem to wait for, some old singer to visit again, some word or note of the music to investigate further.'

Without W. H. Gill's personal papers we cannot judge the true extent of his collecting. However, the names of singers and some dates do appear in his 'Notes on the Songs'. Sessions with a road labourer from Angmering, known only by his surname of Green ('The Golden Vanitee', 'Ward the Pirate'), and with Michael Blann from Patching ('Hunting Song' ['Some Love to Roam']), ate undated. 'The Bold Princess Royal' was noted down from a group of retired sailors at (it seems) a rest home in Littlehampton. An unnamed Village engineer' at Glynde, near Lewes, provided 'The Old Broom-Dasher'. From 1911 come two dated sessions. Gill visited the Sivyers family of Glapham, Sussex, in February (only the month is given). Mrs Sivyers sang 'Colin and Phoebe' and the 'Green Mossy Banks of the Lea'. Her husband, a farm labourer, but prior to that a coastal sailor, provided 'Collier Lads'. Finally, on 24 October 1911, Henry Burstow sang 'William and Mary'. On other, undated, occasions Burstow gave Gill 'Cherry-Cheeked Patty', 'I Must Live All Alone', 'Miss Myrtle', 'My Rattl'ing Mare and I', and 'Richard of Taunton Dean'. Out of a total of twenty-seven titles, fourteen are credited to Sussex singers.

The copy of Songs of the British Folk in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library was the gift of R. J. Sharp (1882-1953), a solicitor who was the inspiration behind the Boxgrove Tipteers revival. Sharp knew Gill and it seems that he had access to at least one of the songs Gill had collected. In Sharp's personal copy of Songs of the British Folk there is a note by him entered on the blank page facing Gill's printed 'Notes on the Songs'. There he has inserted an asterisk, in ink, against 'Collier Lads', and opposite it has written in the following comment:

* Notes by R. J. Sharp
  No 4 Mr Gill shewed me the original of this as he had taken it down.
  He has seen He to alter it hut my alterations have restored it to the
  original 'handed down' version. This could never have been a 'chanty'
  but it is a song. The first 8 bars 'Fal-la' are foreign to it. Verse
  2 should be the chorus sung after every verse.
  Mr Gill is Manx & I Sussex with knowledge of Sussex people &

Sharp has also written 'Sx' on the Contents page against those items he evidently regarded as being 'Sussex songs' - his count was sixteen. (67)

However, the experience of collecting in Sussex bad proved perturbing for Gill:
  A comparison of my experiences here with those in Our Island is to me
  one of peculiar interest and the occasional finding in Sussex of a
  tune which I had fondly appropriated as exclusively Manx is, to say
  the least of it, a bit disturbing. But the face that so many of our
  most admired tunes have been sung in Mann to Manx words that are
  either imitation or translations of English words only shows that
  such tunes though vagrants and coming from nobody knows where still
  are ours by adoption. (68)

This was a blind spot of Gill's, the hope that songs collected in the Isle of Man would prove unique and thereby unequivocally 'Manx'. Morrison reported on Gill's activities in Sussex to A. G. Gilchrist, and this produced a wry comment in return: 'It is interesting to hear of Mr Gill's recognising Manx airs in Sussex.' (69) This was from 1915 - little did Gilchrist know just how involved she was to become with W. H. Gill and his 'Manx airs'.

W. H. Gill and Cecil Sharp (1913)

In 1900 Gill had resigned from the committee of the Folk-Song Society, and from the society itself, and so ended his involvement with its activities despite the role he had played in its founding. However, in 1913, he was to seek out Cecil Sharp, as he recounted to Sophia Morrison: 'Then I paid a visit to the Secretary of the Folk Song Society. As Cecil Sharp had already told me they were all quite familiar with the Song Book [Manx National Songs] but to them the Piano book [Manx National Music] was an unknown quantity.' (70) His letter continues:
  Then I explained the whole matter and he promised to bring it before
  the Committee at their next meeting. Now what they want is simply the
  melody without any accompaniment but as a sine qua non they must have
  the original words ie Manx and a literal English translation. The
  first verse would suffice. If we can meet these requirements he is
  hopeful that they will make a selection for their Journal. Now is it
  asking you and Archdeacon Kewley too much to supply what both of the
  printed books lack i.e. the Manx words (1st verse) with literal
  translation? If not I will set to work at once and prepare the
  melodies in anticipation of the words. Tire Societies annotations are
  generally very valuable and it would be interesting to see what they
  think of our music. I am sure it will be a revelation to them.

Archdeacon John Kewley (1860-1941), rector of Andreas, was Clague's executor. With the death of his widow, Margaret Clague, in 1911, Clague's books, papers, and manuscripts had passed to Kewley - some '6 or 7 tons of books Sc papers', he would claim. (71) The 'whole matter' to which Gill refers was the proposal on the part of the Manx Language Society to issue a volume of material from Clague's collection by way of a memorial following his death in 1908. What eventually appeared was something quite different, Cooinaghtyn. Manninagh: Manx Reminiscences by the Late Dr John Clague, published in 1911.

One reason why the proposed issue of materials from Clague's collection had not gone ahead was simply the disorder that Kewley had found at Clague's residence, Crofton, in Castletown, Isle of Man, in 1911: 'I am sorry to say that at present I am not able to lay hands on the Doctor's music - I mean his MSS of unpublished tunes. Everything as yet is in confusion here.' (72) He elaborated further: 'Even after the music is got together it will take a long time to go through it. It was not kept in any order at Crofton, but scattered all over the house, & in moving the things the workmen mixed all up together.'

Sophia Morrison, however, acquired a copy of the Clague collection, by what Kewley regarded as a subterfuge. He made his feelings clear in a letter to the Manx bibliophile G. W. Wood in 1915, where he recalled how a copy had been made of the Clague tune books: 'The tunes were my absolute property and I found that she had taken and retained copies of them and went on publishing them without consulting me at all about them.' (73)

Gill's meeting with Sharp in 1913 led to nothing. With the Clague collection now in Sophia Morrison's hands she assumed editorial control and had no further need of Gill. Her intention was to publish the collection in part in Mannin, a small-press magazine she had established, and then later with Curwen's. (74) 'Curwen has sent us an estimate for printing it. I wish we could tackle it, but I fear that it is more than we shall be able to manage - at least for this year', she wrote in 1914. (75) Nothing came of this project and Morrison died in 1917. However, the project lived on, and the Clague collection appeared in the pages of the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, edited by A. G. Gilchrist. So Gilchrist became involved with the Clague collection and, unbeknown to herself and the society, with W. H. Gill once more.

A. G. Gilchrist and 'Songs from the Isle of Man' (1924-26)

Between 1924 and 1926 three numbers of the Journal of the Folk-Song Society were dedicated to material from the Isle of Man, drawn in the main from the Clague collection, and edited by A. G. Gilchrist. (76) As Gill had outlined to Morrison in 1913, in the journal the tunes had to appear with at lease the first stanza. He was, of course, aware that neither he nor Clague had collected texts, hence his appeal to Morrison and Kewley. This editorial requirement, however, was dropped for 'Songs from the Isle of Man'. In 1925, though, Kewley turned up texts among the Clague manuscripts that were still in his hands, as Gilchrist recounted in a letter of that year: 'I forgot whether I told you that some fragmentary texts have very fortunately turned up, in Dr Clague's hand writing.' (77)

What Gilchrist did not know was that many of the tunes that appeared in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society had been collected by W. H. Gill in the company of his brother, Deemster Gill. The reason is a simple one: the Clague tune books contain copies of tunes collected by the Gill brothers but not noted as such. With the release of the personal papers of Deemster Gill in 2000 came the discovery of the transcript of the Gill brothers' own collecting, which, incidentally, also contains tunes that they in turn had received from Clague. There also surfaced a letter from W. H. Gill to his brother of May 1895 in which he sets out an explicit referencing scheme which is then employed in the transcript. (78) This makes it now possible to see just which tunes the Gill brothers collected and which were sent to them by Clague.

W. H. Gill died in 1923 and the first part of 'Songs from the Isle of Man' appeared in 1924, which might now be seen as an ironic juxtaposition, given Gill's unrecognized - but at the time unknown - contribution to the material. Later, in 1925, Gilchrist wrote: 'The Manx collection completes the trio of Scottish-Gaelic, Irish-Gaelic, and Manx-Gaelic song collections in the journal, and should be of value to students in the days to come.' (79) It is only now that we can begin to see the contribution that, albeit silently, W. H. Gill and his brother Deemster J. F. Gill made to this trio of published Gaelic collections.


(1) C. J. Bearman, 'Kate Lee and the Foundation of the Folk Song Society', FMJ, 7.5 (1999), 627-43.

(2) Douglas, Isle of Man, Manx National Heritage Library [MNHL], MS 09702, Deemster J. F. Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898. All quotations from the Gill and other correspondence have been silently edited.

(3) Bearman, p. 633. Deemster Gill's personal papers were only released in 2000. For an overview of their contents, see Stephen Miller, 'The Deemster Gill Papers (MS 09702)', Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 11.4 (2007 [for 2003-05]), 571-72. The first piece of reassessment is Robert Corteen Carswell, 'Music Collected in the Isle of Man in the Late Nineteenth Century: "Rescue Archaeology" and the Published Results' (unpublished MA dissertation, University of Liverpool, 2001). On Deemster Gill, see Stephen Miller, '"The Kind Cooperation of Many Local Friends": Deemster J. F. Gill's Search for Manx Folk Singers (1895-1898)', Folklore, 120 (2009), 176-93.

(4) For an obituary, see William Cubbon, 'Passing of a Great Manx Figure', Isle of Man Weekly Times, 7 July 1923, p. 3d-e; repr. as William Cubbon, 'W. H. Gill: Composer, Writer, Artist', The Barrovian, no. 133 (1923), pp. 103-08.

(5) W. H. Gill, Manx National Songs, with English words, selected from the MS. collection of the Deemster Gill, J. Clague and W. H. Gill, and arranged for pianoforte by W. H. Gill (London: Boosey, 1896).

(6) See 'W. H. Gill', in The Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library to 1980, ed. by Robert Balchin, vol. 23 (London: K. G. Saur, 1983), pp. 296b-98a; William Cubbon, 'W. H. Gill's Manuscripts', in A Bibliographical Account of the Isle of Man, vol. 2 (Oxford University Press [for the Manx Museum and Ancient Monument Trustees], 1939), pp. 1071-72.

(7) For discussion of the question of who founded the Folk-Song Society, Kate Lee or A. P. Graves, see Bearman, pp. 633-34.

(8) Bearman, p. 633.

(9) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(10) Bearman, p. 634.

(11) Quoted in Bearman, p. 634.

(12) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(13) Bearman, pp. 636, 637, places this meeting at Nutt's home.

(14) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(15) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898. The subscription was eventually set at half a guinea (Bearman, p. 637).

(16) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(17) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(18) MNHL, MS 1059/1 c (a), W. H. Gill to Dora Radcliffe Brown (nee Gill), 15 November 1898.

(19) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 30 September 1895.

(20) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 30 September 1895.

(21) A. P. Graves, 'Manx Folk Song', Mannin, 2 (1913), 91-96 (p. 92).

(22) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 30 September 1895. 'Hugh' refers to Hugh Stowell Gill (1830-1912), a cousin of W. H. Gill's.

(23) A. P. Graves, To Return to All That: An Autobiography (London: Cape, 1930), pp. 180, 183.

(24) Graves, To Return to All That, p. 183. See MNHL, General Manuscript Collection, Cronk-y-Voddy Board School logbook, 1873-92, p. 25, entry for 28 July 1875.

(25) Alfred Perceval Graves, Irish Literary arid Musical Studies (London: Elkin Mathews, 1913), p. 92.

(26) Graves, Irish Literary and Musical Studies, p. 92.

(27) For an overview of Clague's life, see Stephen Miller, 'Introduction', in Dr John Clague: Cooinaghtyn Manninagh/Manx Reminiscences (Onchan: Chiollagh Books, 2005), pp. i-xiii.

(28) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 19 November 1895.

(29) Peter van de Kamp, 'Whose Revival? Yeats and the Southwark Irish Literary Club', in Tumult of Images: Essays on W.B. Yeats and Polities, ed. by Peter Liebregts and Peter van de Kamp (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995), pp. 175-81 (p. 166).

(30) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 3 December 1895.

(31) 'Manx National Music', Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 38, no. 647 (1897), 26a.

(32) W. H. Gill, Manx National Music, selected from the MS. collection of the Deemster Gill, J. Clague, and W. H. Gill, and arranged for pianoforte by W. H. Gill (London: Boosey, 1898).

(33) Bearman, p. 630.

(34) See The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, vol. II: 1896-1900, ed. by Warwick Gould, John Kelly, and Deirdre Toomey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 473 n. 5.

(35) Bearman, p. 633.

(36) Gill's major ground of complaint was that Boosey did little, if anything, to push the sales of Manx National Music. For example, 'His Manager facetiously told me he had sent "sappers & miners" for an odd copy somebody wanted! In plain English they are buried.' MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, 11 May 1910.

(37) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 30 September 1895.

(38) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 19 November 1895.

(39) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, Dr John Clague to Deemster J. F. Gill, 22 November 1895.

(40) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 19 November 1895. Gill, however, was to remain in touch with Graves. For example, MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, 19 July 1912: 'And now, as I write these words, a letter just come in from Percival Graves begins "Are you looking after your Gramaphone [sic] rights in the Manx National Songs?"'

(41) W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 10 February 1898.

(42) 'List of Members of the Folk-Song Society, JFSS, 1.1 (1899), ii-iii (p. ii).

(43) Manx Ballads and Music, ed. by A. W. Moore (Douglas: G. & R. Johnson, 1896).

(44) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Hadow to Deemster J. F. Gill, 26 October 1896.

(45) London, VWML, Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 2 (Minutes of the Inaugural Meeting of the Folk Song Society, 16 May 1898).

(46) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 8 (Minutes of the Inaugural Meeting of the Folk Song Society, 16 May 1898).

(47) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 13 (Minutes of the Committee Meeting, 2 June 1898).

(48) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 52 (Minutes of the Committee Meeting, 19 January 1899). Rule VI of the society called for the retirement of half of the committee, albeit they would be eligible for re-election.

(49) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 55a (Minutes of the 1st Annual General Meeting, 2 February 1899, Item 5); 'Report of the First General Meeting', JFSS, 1.1 (1899), vii.

(50) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, p. 112 (Minutes of the Committee Meeting, 27 April 1900, Item 4).

(51) Minute Book of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1901, pp. 113-14 (Minutes of the Committee Meeting, 27 April 1900, Item 6).

(52) His name does not appear in 'List of Members of the Folk-Song Society', JFSS, 1.3 (1901), v-vi.

(53) 'Members, March, 1905', JFSS, 2.1 (no. 6) (1905), iv-vii (p. iv).

(54) 'Members, May, 1905', JFSS, 2.1 (no. 6) (1905), [separately paginated insert at end of issue].

(55) '[Memorial Notices] Dr John Clague. Died Aug 23rd, 1908', Manx Quarterly, 5 (1908), 480-82.

(56) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 1, Amy Gill to Sophia Morrison, 23 November 1907.

(57) A typical example is this passage from 1913: 'As regards the vexed question of Restoration the most recently published records whether phonographic or oral convince me that hardly one tune in a hundred is worth publishing without mote or less correction and Grammar is as real a thing in music as in language.' MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morison, 22 September 1913.

(58) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 4, Disbound Letter Copy Book (1904-07), Sophia Morrison to W. H. Gill, 13 August [1907].

(59) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, 'The Original Collection of Manx Folk Music Made by His Honour the Deemster Gill[,] Mr W. H. Gill & Dr. Clague[,] Completed in 1895 & 1896 [1898]'.

(60) MNHL, MS 01059/7 c (a), W. H. Gill to Dora Radcliffe Brown (nee Gill), 28 October 1908.

(61) Songs of the British Folk, collected and ed. by W. H. Gill (London: Curwen, 1917).

(62) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, 25 June 1913.

(63) MNHL, MS 1513/1 b, Sophia Morrison to J. J. Kneen, 22 March 1914.

(64) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, 6 April 1914.

(65) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morison, [after 1914].

(66) 'Songs of the British Folk. Collected and edited by W. H. Gill (Curwen)', Musical Times, 58, no. 893 (1917), 313b.

(67) These are: 'The Blacksmith's Song (Twankydillo)'; 'The Bold Princess Royal'; 'Cherry-Cheeked Patty'; 'Colin and Phoebe'; 'Collier Lads', annotated 'Littlehampton'; 'The Farmer's Boy'; 'The Golden Vanitee'; 'Green Mossy Banks of the Lea'; 'I Must Live All Alone', annotated '(see Lucy Broadwoods)'; 'Miss Myrtle'; 'My Rattl'ing Mare and I'; 'The Old Broom-Dasher'; 'Rosebuds in June'; 'Some Love to Roam', annotated 'Hunting Song'; 'Ward the Pirate'; and 'William and Mary'.

(68) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, 4 January 1912.

(69) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 1, A. G. Gilchrist to Sophia Morrison, 3 October 1915.

(70) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Sophia Morrison, undated [1913].

(71) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 3, Rev. John Kewley to Sophia Morrison, 1 May 1911.

(72) Rev. John Kewley to Sophia Morrison, 1 May 1911.

(73) MNHL, MS 1185/10 a, Rev. John Kewley to G. W. Wood, 23 April 1917.

(74) MNHL, MS 09495, Box 4, Large Letter Copy Book (1913-16), Sophia Morrison to [John Curwen], 30 December 1913.

(75) Sophia Morrison to J. J. Kneen, 22 March 1914.

(76) JFSS, 7.3 (no. 28) (1924), v-xvi, 99-198; 7.4 (no. 29) (1925), v-xi, 203-76; 7.5 (no. 30) (1926), v-viii, 281-342.

(77) MNHL, MS 5424/[2] a, A. G. Gilchrist to William Cubbon, 25 March 1925.

(78) Deemster Gill Papers, Box 2, W. H. Gill to Deemster J. F. Gill, 22 May 1895: 'In the transcripts I sent you the referencing at the left hand bottom corner refer to the Sources. C.I = Dr Clague's 1st lot[.] C.II = Do. 2nd[.] C.III = Do. 3rd[.] O. - Oral (Ap[ril] 1895). MM - "Mona Melodies".'

(79) A. G. Gilchrist to William Cubbon, 25 March 1925.
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Author:Miller, Stephen
Publication:Folk Music Journal
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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