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A Lingering Echo of the Old High Woods

January 1, 2014

A list a cousin made of her favourite music of 2013 put me onto this group – The Memory Band – who made an album, On The Chalk (Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs), ‘a musical journey along the mythical Harrow Way’. Coincidentally, hours before I’d seen the link, I’d been researching an alignment which crosses the Harrow Way south of St.Mary Bourne, at a place called Chapmansford – a placename which evokes the passage of peddlars trudging to distant fairs. This particular song/video montage really strikes a chord with me, as I spent several years driving about the highways and byways around Andover, so it prompts some happy memories as well as some utopian hopes for some kind of festive revival beyond the current repression of public sociability, realised on one level with the mass cull of pubs.

The traditional song performed by The Memory Band was originally the accompaniment to a ceremony called ‘The Horning of the Colt’, enacted at the now long-defunct Weyhill Fair, whereby young men new to the fair were inducted into ‘the mysteries’ of livestock herding and droving. A band member describes some of the research he undertook:

On Old Michaelmas Day I walked from the site of Quarley Hill to the site of the old Weyhill Fair, which traditionally had started on that day.  It was near here that the name The Harrow Way had survived. The fair was seen as a continuance of an ancient practice of driving cattle to market along the ancient tracks, complete with the ceremony of the Wearing Of The Horns by the apprentice drovers upon arrival at the public houses of Weyhill during the Fair.

(Retrieved from here)

Two versions of the song’s words are printed on this page from Volume 22 of Folk-lore from 1911 (from here).

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Postscript 1/1/14:

I would have written more but for the sad news I heard while composing all the above last night… The lingering echo of a voice I’ll no longer hear, of someone who would have felt at home, I’m sure, among those assembled at Weyhill. The road goes ever on…

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