Harry Cox was born in 1885 at Barton Turf, north-east Norfolk and is remembered as a renowned traditional singer who sang and performed on the fiddle, mainly in pubs, and had an enormous repertoire. Both his father and his grandfather were reputed singers in the area. He left school aged 13½ years to work on the land and he describes his childhood and hard outdoor working life from the mid 1880s onwards (MS 4000/5/1/1/2-8). These tapes also include Harry Cox singing traditional songs, many of which he learnt from his father who, originally a fisherman, worked as a farm labourer when he was older. Harry Cox demonstrates his fiddle playing during the interviews (MS 4000/5/1/1/5-7,10-11) along with a tap dancing mannequin he made 1911-1912 (MS 4000/5/1/1/9-10). The recordings also include a discussion on attitudes to poaching
(MS 4000/5/1/1/1) and an unnamed traveller is interviewed on social attitudes towards travellers (MS 4000/5/1/1/9).
The final interview in the sequence is of both Harry Cox and Sam Larner singing Sankey hymns. Sam Larner was born in 1878 at Winterton, Norfolk and worked as a herring fisherman through an era when Great Yarmouth was a major fishing centre. The stories and songs of Sam Larner were used, amongst others, in the making of the third radio ballad 'Singing The Fishing', which was originally transmitted on the BBC Home Service in August 1960, and was awarded the 'Prix d'Italia' for radio documentary in October 1960. See CD recording of the third radio ballad 'Singing The Fishing'. Accompanying written production documentation on the radio ballad is at MS 4000/2/78.
The first interview is conducted by Alan Lomax (see MS 4000/5/3/1) and Ewan MacColl. The remainder of the interviews are conducted by Charles Parker (sometimes accompanied by an unnamed other). Charles Parker is particularly interested in encouraging Harry Cox to sing the traditional songs and to talk about his working life. Song collectors were very interested in meeting and recording Harry Cox due to the quality of his performance and enormous repertoire.
See also LC/BPL 15 listening cassette of Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk and MS 4000/3/9 for folk music lyrics, magazines and booklets.
arrangement: The tapes are arranged as follows:
MS 4000/5/1/1/1 Interview by Alan Lomax 1955
and Ewan MacColl re HC
childhood, singing and attitudes to
MS 4000/5/1/1/2-8 Interviews by Charles Parker [and?] Oct 1958 - Jul 1963
re HC childhood, working life,
singing and playing fiddle
MS 4000/5/1/1/9-10 Interviews by Charles Parker with an Aug 1963
unnamed gypsy re attitudes to travellers;
interviews with HC re singing and
MS 4000/5/1/1/11 Interview by Charles Parker with HC and Jul 1963
Sam Larner re Sankey Hymn singing