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Thread: Seth Davy

  1. #1
    Senior Member fortinian's Avatar
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    Default Seth Davy

    This character has always interested me, in fact he's the latest post on my blog:


    ADVERTISING




    http://beneaththebeat.blogspot.com/

    He was a black street entertainer, active in Liverpool in the late 1800s. He died in 1902.

    He used to have dolls dancing on a plank to entertain the children. Apparently he sang many minstrel songs from the US.

    There is little or no information about him, save one quite rare photograph, which I've reposted on my blog.

    No-one knows where he was born - Jamacia, West Indies, Africa and America have all been suggested. No-one really knows when he died, although some genealogists at the L&SW Lancashire forum have found a

    1901:
    DAVIES, Thomas Henry - Pauper - u/m - 41 - Occupation None - bn West Indies.
    Toxteth Park Workhouse, Smithdown Road, Toxteth Park.
    RG13 - Piece:3442 - Folio: 46 - Page:24


    Thomas was often shortened to 'Seth' for some reason. Could Thomas Henry Davies of the Toxteth Workhouse be our wandering minstrel?

    Mos famously he is remembered in the Glyn Hughes song:

    The Ballad of Seth Davy (Whiskey on a Sunday)

    Come day, go day
    Wish in my heart it were Sunday
    Drinking buttermilk thru the week
    Whiskey on a Sunday

    He sits in the corner of Bevington Bush
    On top of an old packing crate
    he has three wooden dolls that can dance and can sing
    And he croons with a smile on his face

    Come day, go day
    Wish in my heart it were Sunday
    Drinking buttermilk thru the week
    Whiskey on a Sunday

    His tired old hands tug away at the strings
    And the puppets dance up and down
    A far better show than you ever would see
    In the fanciest theatre in town

    Come day, go day
    Wish in my heart it were Sunday
    Drinking buttermilk thru the week
    Whiskey on a Sunday

    And sad to relate that old Seth Davy died
    In 1904
    The three wooden doll in the dustbin were laid
    His song will be heard nevermore

    Come day, go day
    Wish in my heart it were Sunday
    Drinking buttermilk thru the week
    Whiskey on a Sunday

    But some stormy night when you're passing that way
    And the wind's blowing up from the sea
    You'll still hear the song of old Seth Davy
    As he croons to his dancing dolls three

    Come day, go day
    Wish in my heart it were Sunday
    Drinking buttermilk thru the week
    Whiskey on a Sunday

  2. #2
    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Default

    Great post and a great blog.

    The Bush is my old area and having frequented the Vernon all through the 80s, another Bush local, songsmith Gerry Divine always sang this song to his acoustic guitar accompaniment on a Sunday evening.

    That photo is a great find too, thanks for posting it on your blog.
    www.inacityliving.piczo.com/

    Updated weekly with old and new pics.

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    Senior Member Brian-P's Avatar
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    Superb blog.

    I remember watching an old b/w documentary, filmed in the sixties, when Dylan was playing the Empire and staying in the Adelphi.

    I think Donovan, Joan Baez and the Animals were in it. Someone in their after-show party threw a bottle out of the bedroom window and Dylan nearly tore them a new one. He was not very happy. Legend.

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    Senior Member lindylou's Avatar
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    Interesting post Fortinian, thanks.

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    Keeping It Real !!!!!!!!! ItsaZappathing's Avatar
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    Very good Fortinian. I must admit I had never heard of Seth before. Thanks for that.

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    Senior Member Doris Mousdale's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=ItsaZappathing;392410]Very good Fortinian. I must admit I had never heard of Seth before. Thanks for that. [/QUOTE
    Whiskey on a Sunday was always part of the Spinners repertoire from the Phil to Gregsons Well, they do an excellent version of it only to be matched by Ellen Vannon or Leaving of Liverpool.

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    Newbie davship's Avatar
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    Nice one Fortinian. That song always brings a lump to my throat. I always remember Rolf Harris singing it. I notice your location is Liverpool. Have you tried the records office that is by the Walker art gallery in town? the people there are extreamly helpful and will be able to point you in the right direction for any record /newspaper reports about him (yes they do have papers back that far).

    Hope this helps
    Davship

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    Senior Member dazza's Avatar
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    Great Blog fortinian, and really interesting post. Well done.

    Some notes on early Black entertainers in Liverpool: Charles Dickens, when he was a Special Constable in Liverpool, visited, what he describes as a 'singing-house', in 'Poor Mercantile Jack', featured in the 1860 publication of, The Uncommercial Traveller.

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Y...page&q&f=false

    In the book, we are introduced to a 'fiddle and tamborine band ... [noting that] the male dancers were all black ... The sound of their flat feet on the floor was unlike the sound of white feet as their faces were unlike white faces'.

    Travelling on to another drinking den, he also records that, in this house, there are two 'professionals'; who he introduces as: 'Mr Banjo Bones, looking very hideous with his blackened face and limp sugar-loaf hat; besides him, sipping rum-and-water [grog], Mrs. Banjo Bones, in her natural colours - a little heightened.'

    It appears that this is an early example of minstrel comic variety. Although the woman in the duo, may have been black? Her male companion was white, with make-up applied. 'Mr Banjo Bones', I assume, is a character Dickens invented from a Banjo and Bone duo. Here's an example of playing from an American civil war revival (but without the make-up).

    I wonder did Seth Davy play the Bones, when he tapped away on his puppet, dancing board? Perhaps, he was a young boy/man when Dickens came to town, if he was born in Liverpool?

    "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."... ... ... Mark Twain.

  9. #9
    www.liverbuild.co.uk chrismarsden's Avatar
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    And sad to relate that old Seth Davy died
    In 1904
    The three wooden doll in the dustbin were laid
    His song will be heard nevermore

    We sung this song in Tiber Street school, loved it but we used to sing "and his plank went to mend a back door" instead of "His song will be heard nevermore". I don't know whether one of the teachers had changed the line or what.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Doris Mousdale's Avatar
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    The Spinners version sings about the plank being used for the back door so you are spot on.

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