Posted by: David Harley | May 24, 2015

Thomas Anderson [demo]

Words & Music by David Harley and Ron Nurse, 1975. All rights reserved. 

Based on an article by Ron Nurse for the Shrewsbury Folk Club magazine written in the 1960s. I believe his source material was in the Shrewsbury Chronicle archives. Sadly, I hear that Ron recently passed on, but I was at least able to sing the song in his presence, tell the story, and shake his hand at a Shrewsbury Folk Club reunion last year. I transcribed Ron’s article for my Shropshire Blues blog – which has a lot to do with Shropshire, but not very much to do with blues or even cheese – in this article: Black Velvet (article from Shrewsbury folk club magazine, 1973)

An even later version.

This is the latest version, though not yet ready for the CD. :)

Another demo version, with bouzouki and dulcimer added: 

And improved demo version, with keyboards, bouzouki and dulcimer:

This is a home-recorded demo version that’s actually in better shape than the CentreSound  version. I definitely intend to come back and do it a full studio-quality version at some point. Thomas Anderson MP3 

The discarded 1980′s studio version didn’t have first verse, had an alarming pre-echo in places, harshly recorded fiddle, and a so-so flute part. (I have no idea where that came from: I don’t remember working with a flautist on those sessions.) So I’ve abandoned it. 

This is a detail from the Shoemakers Arbour, in Shrewsbury Dingle, showing the somewhat dilapidated Crispin and Crispian (the latter more commonly known as Crispinian):

arbour2

Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of cobblers, tanners and leatherworkers. One version of their story is that they were executed in the third century AD for preaching Christianity to the Gauls, while earning their crust as shoemakers. An alternative version associates them with Kent (and Faversham in particular).

We are but images of stone
Do us no harm
We can do none
St. Crispin and St. Crispian are we
On the arch of the Shoemaker’s arbour

High above the river on Kingsland we stood
On the gate to the hall of the shoemakers’ guild
Where the bakers, the tailors, the butchers, the smiths
And the saddlers too their guild arbours built.
Each year in procession the guilds gave a show
And marched through the town to the sound of the drum:
Then it’s back to Kingsland to feast and carouse
And enjoy the great day the guild members come.

We are but images of stone
Do us no harm
We can do none
St. Crispin and St. Crispian are we
On the arch of the Shoemaker’s arbour

On the 10th of June 1752
In a house called The Crown that stood on Pride Hill
John Richards’ workmen received a week’s pay
And there they stayed and drank their fill.
When a redcoat patrol chanced to pass by
The men  mocked and reviled them with Jacobite songs
And who struck the first blow no-one was sure
But a bloody riot soon raged through the town.

The authorities trembled with passion and fear
When news of this Jacobite outburst was known
For the House of Hanover had won few hearts
And the Stuarts still plotted to win back the throne.
And so that same year, one raw day in December,
The rebellious townsfolk of Salop looked on
While below the old arch of the Shoemaker’s Arbour
They made an example of Tom Anderson

Who was once spared by death on the field of Culloden
Then joined the dragoons but deserted, they say,
Only to die on the banks of the Severn
By firing squad on a cold Winter’s day.
When the black velvet suit was stripped from his body
The Chevalier’s colours were beneath it, it’s said,
Received from the hands of Bonny Prince Charlie
Whose cause like young Thomas is broken and dead.

For it’s 200 years since Bonny Prince Charlie
Died drunk and embittered, an old man in Rome
While a century ago in the flowers of the Dingle
The old arbour gateway found a new home.
Now who’s to remember the Shoemakers’ Guild
Or the Jacobite rebels who fought for a throne?
And who’s left to grieve for Tom Anderson
But these two hearts of stone?

We are but images of stone
Do us no harm
We can do none
St. Crispin and St. Crispian are we
On the arch of the Shoemaker’s arbour

 arbour4

As promised, a view of the arbour from across the Dingle pond.

And yes, I know that Thomas A. Anderson is the real name of Neo in The Matrix, but I’ve never been quite sure what I could do with that information. :)

David Harley 
Small Blue-Green World

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