The Collectors

This page includes a number of articles submitted by members about song collectors and their work from Victorian times until the present day.


William Barrett

William Alexander Barrett (PDF)

An appreciation of this little-known Victorian collector by Ruairidh Greig. Includes photographs and new biographical information.


Lucy Broadwood

Lucy Broadwood’s Diaries: The Early Years (PDF)

by Lewis Jones (first published in English Dance & Song, Sep 2000)

The following tune accompanies the article:

Twankydillo (PDF) | Tune (MP3):


Lucy Etheldred Broadwood: Poet and Song Writer (PDF)

by Lewis Jones (originally published in English Dance and Song, Dec 1995)

The following tune accompanies the article:

Annie’s Tryst (PDF) | Tune (MP3):


Frank Kidson

These articles on various topics by Frank Kidson were originally published in The Choir magazine between 1912 and 1925.  The collection has been assembled by John Francmanis and Vic Gammon who have kindly allowed them to be published on the TSF website.  Their Introduction and Foreword explain the background to the articles.  There are also other related articles from the magazine by Anne Gilchrist and others in the collection.


Introduction by Vic Gammon

Frank Kidson (1855-1926) had such a remarkable knowledge of tunes and of the development of English music, that he became known to his musical friends and associates as the ‘musical Sherlock Holmes’. He was an independent scholar of great modesty who late in his life was honoured by the University of Leeds with an MA. He was a pioneer folk song collector although he lived to be overshadowed, in that field, by Cecil Sharp. His study of British music publishers is the basis of all subsequent scholarship in this field. He was an accomplished artist, photographer and pottery expert. He was a Yorkshire man, and proud of it, who lived all his life in Leeds. What follows is a collection of Kidson’s articles contributed to The Choir. These are interesting articles in which Kidson reveals more of his own views and ideas than he does in much of his other published writing. The somewhat laboured popular journalistic conventions of a bygone age should not get in the way of our appreciating the clarity and vitality of Kidson’s thought. Kidson is interesting as a lively musical mind of the Victorian and Edwardian period that still has power to engage with us approaching a century after he wrote these articles. We also include a few articles from The Choir related to Kidson and his work, including a moving obituary by J. T. Lightwood, the periodical’s editor.


Our thanks go to Dr John Francmanis whose extensive research into Kidson’s life and work formed the basis for a PhD thesis and a number of articles on Kidson. John Francmanis uncovered these articles and has written a short introduction to them. Thanks also to Sheila Gammon who did editorial work on the articles and to David Cooper, Tim Banks and Nicki Sapiro of the University of Leeds, School of Music, for their help with this project. These articles are placed on this website in good faith. We believe they are in the public domain and free from copyright as it is more than 70 years since the death of the author.


Foreword by John Francmanis

Frank Kidson’s ‘Collector’ articles in The Choir Between February 1913 and August 1922 an occasional series of articles by the musical antiquarian, Frank Kidson appeared in the monthly journal The Choir. In devoting his life to the study of old English music Kidson had amassed a private library which was probably unrivalled in its particular specialisations. This library provided the basis for both further research and Kidson’s own authoritative writings. Kidson adopted the guise of the ‘Collector’ for this lighthearted series of twenty-two articles. Fellow folk-song enthusiast Annie Gilchrist, a subscriber to The Choir who had been Kidson’s close friend for many years, evidently considered Kidson and his literary creation to be one and the same person. ‘Pray don’t think ‘The Collector’ is me! He is purely fiction, mixed with fact’ Kidson tried to persuade her when all but the final article of the series had been published.

It cannot be denied that the Collector possessed characteristics that Kidson did not. The Collector, for instance, habitually drank whisky and smoked a pipe. The abstemious Kidson had never indulged in either activity. Yet the Collector was allowed to share other attributes and experiences. Amongst other things the articles reveal that, in common with Kidson, the Collector kept a cat and a fiddle; that both Kidson and the collector knew the singer Mary Wakefield and had met the composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor; and that both men had once bought the entire stock of a ballad seller encountered by chance outside Hull Parish Church. Moreover, in old age both Kidson and the Collector would fret over the likely fate of their collection when its owner was no longer alive to care for it.

The Collector’s primary function, however, was to give voice to Kidson’s own views on music in particular and ‘art’ in general. To this end no fewer than fifteen of the articles feature discussions between the Collector and the Collector’s great friend the Musician. Through his unquestioning advocacy of modern music and modern values, on each occasion the Musician provides the opportunity for the Collector to champion the timeless virtues of amateur endeavour instead.

In keeping with his populist outlook, and only hinting at the level of knowledge which underpinned them, Kidson’s ‘Collector’ articles still retain extraordinary vitality and relevance almost a century after their publication.

Dr John Francmanis, Harrogate, Jan 2006


The Articles:

Folk Song Vol. 3, no. 26, February 1912, pp. 30-31
Correspondence from J. Heywood Vol. 3, no. 27, March 1912, p. 60
Folk Song and the Popular Song Vol. 3, no. 32, August 1912, pp.149-151
Melody and Harmony: An Irresponsible Apologue Vol. 3, no. 34, October 1912, p. 196
The Melographicon Vol. 4, no. 38, February 1913, pp. 33-34
Podsnappery in Song Vol. 4, no. 40, April 1913, pp. 69-70
The Collector’s Task Vol. 4, no. 42, June 1913, pp. 106-108
London Musical Shrines Vol. 4, no. 45, September 1913, pp. 167-169
The Collector on Descriptive Music Vol. 4, no. 47, November 1913, pp. 203-205
The Collector Philosophises Vol. 5, no. 51, March 1914, pp. 45-47
The Collector on War Songs Vol. 5, no. 60, December 1914, pp. 223-224
Folk-Song Hunting as a Sport Vol. 6, no. 62, February 1915, pp. 28-30
The Collector’s Folios Vol. 6, no. 64, April 1915, pp. 79-81
The Collector on Violin Playing Vol. 6, no. 68, August 1915, pp. 176-178
The Collector on Hymn Tunes Vol. 7, no. 73, Jan. 1916, pp. 5-7
The Collector on Patriotic Songs Vol. 7, no. 76, April 1916, pp. 79-81
The Collector on Folk Hymns and Tunes Vol. 7, no. 80, August 1916, pp. 171-4
The Collector on Aunt Charlotte’s Music Books Vol. 7, no. 83, Nov. 1916, pp. 245-7
The Collector in St Paul’s Churchyard Vol. 8, no. 87, March 1917, pp. 54-6
The Collector on Catches Vol. 8, no. 91, July 1917, pp. 147-9
The Collector on Noisy Music Vol. 10, no. 112, April 1919, pp. 68-70
The Collector and the Dentist Vol. 11, no. 121, Jan. 1920, pp. 5-6
The Collector on the Beggar’s Opera Vol. 11, no. 127, July 1920, pp. 128-9
The Collector on English Ballad Operas Vol. 11, no. 131, Nov. 1920, pp. 205-207
Secular Tunes in Hymnody I Vol. 12, no 133, Jan. 1921, pp. 6-7
Secular Tunes in Hymnody II Vol. 12, no. 135, March 1921, pp. 45-7
Napoleonic Songs Vol. 12, no. 139, July 1921, pp. 123-4
The Collector’s Ballad Sheets Vol. 13, no. 149, May 1922, pp. 88-89
The Collector on Country Dances Vol. 13, no. 152, August 1922, pp. 145-6
Home Sweet Home Vol. 14, no. 167, Nov. 1923, pp. 207-8
‘Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Sicilian Mariners’ (A. G. Gilchrist) Vol. 15, no. 171, March 1924, p. 53
The Vitality of Melody Vol. 15, no. 172, April 1924, pp. 66-7
John Playford I Vol. 16, no 184, April 1925, pp. 75-6
John Playford II Vol. 16, no. 185, May 1925, pp. 93-4
Review of ‘A Garland of English Folk-Songs’ (A. G. Gilchrist) Vol. 17, no. 198, June 1926, pp. 114-5
Frank Kidson (obituary) [J. T. Lightwood, editor] Vol. 18, no. 205, Jan. 1927, pp. 7-8


Welsh Collectors

Maria Jane Williams: Pioneer collector of Welsh Folk Songs (PDF)

by Lewis Jones (originally published in English Dance and Song, Sept 1999)

The following tune accompanies the article:

Holl Brydyddion Glân Sheet music (PDF) | Tune (MP3):


Scottish Collectors

Patrick McDonald’s Highland Vocal Airs

‘More than a Century in Advance of his Time’
Article by Lewis Jones (originally published in English Dance and Song, Sept 1999)

The following tune accompanies the article:
Harris Dance Sheet Music (PDF) |  Willie’s Lyke-Wake Sheet Music (PDF)| Tune (MP3)