Welcome to the ‘Songs of the West’ website
This website describes the life and work of Sabine Baring-Gould and his song collection made in Devon and Cornwall at the end of the nineteenth century. The aim of the site is to publish information related to Baring-Gould’s collection of traditional songs, made in Devon and Cornwall at the end of the nineteenth century, as well as to provide useful background information to put it into context. Please explore the site, using the tabs at the top of the page. There is also a search box that may help.
Sabine Baring-Gould 1834 – 1924
My book about Sabine Baring-Gould and his folk song collection:
As I Walked Out, Sabine Baring-Gould and the Search for the Folk Songs of Devon and Cornwall
(for more details on the book click here)
The book was awarded the Folklore Society’s Katharine Briggs Folklore Award (2018) and the Devon History Society’s W.G. Hoskins Prize (2017).
One of the most important parts of the site is the section on Baring-Gould’s song manuscript collection. This contains a full description of the manuscripts, and where they can be found. The majority of Baring-Gould’s folk song manuscripts can now be viewed on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library’s Digital Database.
In many cases the transcriptions of the song texts (made by Shan Graebe) and tunes can now be seen in the VWML Database, as well as images of the original manuscripts.
We have also continued to add to the selection of the songs on this website and are also publishing collections of songs, such as that of children’s songs, that you can download. You will find them in the ‘Song Collections’ section (click on the tab on the left).
There are also a number of songs from the Baring-Gould collection on our own website. Here you can also discover information about our concerts, talks and other public performances that we are giving, and about our CDs and books etc. Much of this is related to Baring-Gould.:
I always welcome your feedback – please tell me what you think. Tell me what works for you but also tell me about the things that don’t work. I have removed the ‘guest book’ from the site, as it was completely (indeed, amazingly!) full of spam. Do not, though, hesitate to send me a message or ask me questions at martin[dot] graebe[at]btinternet[dot]com – replacing ‘dot’ and ‘at’ with the appropriate symbols.
A Short Note on A long Life
In 1889 the first part of a wholly remarkable book was published. That book was Songs and Ballads of the West and had as it’s subtitle ‘A collection made from the mouths of the people by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A., and the Rev. H. Fleetwood Sheppard, M.A.’. Baring-Gould, himself, referred to it simply as Songs of the West, and that is how it is generally known.
Sabine Baring-Gould was the Squire and Parson of the parish of Lew Trenchard in West Devon. He was also a scholar, antiquarian, collector and a prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction: a man who was, in many ways, out of step with the rest of his generation. He was born in Exeter in 1834 to a father whose career with the Cavalry Regiment of the East India Company had been cut short by a carriage accident. His childhood was unsettled since his father preferred to escape the boredom of England by traveling through Europe for the greater part of the year. This meant that Baring-Gould had little formal schooling but this did not prevent him from scraping through Cambridge, though he could never get to grips with the mathematics that would have been essential to achieving his father’s expectation that he become an engineer. His unconventional views and behaviour were obvious even then, and he was a persistent critic of the establishment (particularly that of the church) throughout his life. His romantic nature drew him towards the ritual of the Anglican ‘High Church’ and to the Norse sagas. Having been forbidden by his father to enter the church he took up teaching for several years until, when he was thirty, his father finally relented and he was ordained.