Recording of the Month, August 2014: John Barleycorn

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

SA 6/305/1

I am led to believe that August is the time for harvesting spring barley, so I thought this folk song would be a suitable choice for this month as it describes and celebrates the processes traditionally involved in turning barley into beer.

In the song the character of John Barleycorn is a personification of the cereal who undergoes a series of attacks – such as being ‘cut down at his knees’, being bound to a cart and being placed in a kiln ‘for to roast his bones’ – which correspond to the cultivation of the crop as well as the malting and brewing processes.

The example we provide is sung by Ernie Austin and was included in a compilation of Essex dialect stories and songs called All Manner of What which was created by Essex County Council’s Education Resources Centre in the 1970s for use in schools.

 

Comments are closed.