Recording of the Month July 2014: Father Went Down to Southend

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

Acc. SA710 part

The promise of summer sunshine leads our thoughts toward the seaside and this month’s recording should help us on our journey. It is taken from a 78rpm Edison Bell gramophone disc released in 1911 or 1912. The song Father Went Down to Southend was written by T.W. Connor who wrote a number of other Music Hall favourites such as She Was One of the Early Birds (And I Was One of the Worms), I’m the Airy Fairy and A Little Bit of Cucumber. This last can be heard performed by Mr Cutmore of Halstead on the Essex Record Office CD How to Speak Essex: 20th century voices from the Essex Sound and Video Archive.

Bell disc 348 - label

Father Went Down to Southend can be seen as providing further evidence of the popularity of the resort as a destination for day trippers travelling by rail from London in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, telling a story – which may be familiar to some of us even now – of a man who ‘didn’t see much of the water, but he put some beers away!’ The tune is lively and the words humorous. Note also the curious ending which mirrors the introduction but, to me, has the effect of sounding like an arrangement intended to segue into another song.

If the recording quality sounds a little less than ‘hi-fidelity’ to our modern ears, it is worth noting that the disc itself is over 100 years old and that it would have been recorded acoustically – that is, without microphones – requiring the singer and accompanying orchestra to be arranged in front of a conical horn (somewhat akin to those seen on gramophones) and to perform live.

I hope this recording gets you in the mood for your summer holiday. Perhaps you should consider a day trip to ‘Southend on the Sea’.