Tom Paxton: here’s to you, my rambling boy. Your ramblings bring us joy
Song of the Day Revisited: Tony Capstick... Capstick Comes Home

Song of the Day Revisited: Tim Hart and Maddy Prior - Dancing at Whitsun

Nov 13 2023: reposted because of  renewed interest after I linked to it at Facebook - Ed
March 2021 update. Colin Randall writes: in a recent post about the Steeleye Span album Sails of Silver, which has been known to divide opinion among fans of the band, I reminisced about my first meeting with the lead singer, Maddy Prior.
It was in a Darlington pub where she and Tim Hart were about to play as a duo in pre-Steeleye days, and Maddy was confined to the snug. Civilisation had yet to arrive in the North East and the bar, where Tim could be found playing darts, was out of bounds to women.
To avoid self-plagiarism, I have deleted a version of that anecdote - read it here instead - that originally formed part of this introduction.
That leaves the real reason for publishing it, first in 2015 and again now: my friend Pete Sixsmith's appreciation of a song from the Hart/Prior repertoire which he contributed to Salut! Live's Song of the Day Revisited series. Dancing at Whitsun appeared on their Summer Solstice album, released 50 years ago this year and features what Pete calls Tim's "lovely, lilting voice", Maddy providing backing vocals ..


Tim Hart and Maddy Prior: what a combination.

Founders of Steeleye Span in the 60s, Maddy with her whirly dances and strong vocals sloped off with splendid guitarist Tim Hart to record one of my all-time favourite albums, Summer Solstice, in 1971.

I bought this while still a student in Sunderland and it is one of the few vinyl albums I kept after the switch to CDs in the early 90s. Mind, I have it on CD as well; I’m no purist.

I love this song. It is redolent of English villages in Sussex with its references to the Downs and grazing sheep and you can picture Shirley Collins’s late sister Dolly at her pipe organ and the Copper Family singing in the village pub.

It was written by Austin John Marshall who was educated at Christ’s Hospital School near Horsham – out of range from the Coppers but close enough to the Downs for him to hear the munching of the sheep.

He wrote it when he was married to the aforementioned Shirley Collins and it first appeared on Anthems In Eden, a seminal album in the English folk canon.

Her version, good as it is, cannot compare with Tim Hart’s glorious lilting voice and the beautiful string arrangements. The song tells of the men who left the villages to enlist in Kitchener’s Army, off to France to “Biff the Bosch” and come back as heroes to their timeless life on the Downs.

We all know what happened to them – wasted in battle. The women they had left behind, wives, sweethearts, mothers, sisters, danced among themselves at Whitsuntide, that date in the old calendar that signified the end of spring and the beginning of summer.

And the old life changed forever – “a fine roll of honour, where the Maypole once stood” and ”a straight row of houses in these latter days, all covering the Downs where the sheep used to graze.” A truly moving song, appropriate as we go through the four years that remember the Great War and delivered perfectly by the late Tim Hart. Wonderful.

Tim hart maddy prior
* Go to the Salut! Live Amazon link - - to buy Summer Solstice by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior.




Stirred memories. Maybe better to picture Dolly Collins at her (hired) portative pipe organ?

And something I made earlier...


Ed Grummitt

I remember buying the album when it came out, loved that song, and the rest of the album. The whole thing is strange - Austin John picked up on the "New St. George" idea years before Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson and others did. Some years later I found myself haranguing the producer of Top Of The Pops while we were sitting outside some Wembley pub during a heatwave. That or Truman's Bitter must have infected my brain - I was trying to point out that the BBC had missed Richard, Maddy, Ashley, etc. etc. - what a wally. But I still think there was an awful lot of very good music which didn't really hit the general public via TV. Look at the Cottesloe "Mysteries" and "Lark Rise" - thousands loved them.

Michael McKinley

Via Facebook
Love this song! Especially their version!

Pete Sixsmith

Still one of my favourite songs. And album. And duo.

Jim Chevallier

Again via Facebook

Years ago when they played in Boston, a few of us from the press (radio for me) got to meet with them after.
I was standing next to a journalist from, I believe, the Globe talking to Tim and Maddy when he asked her who she was dating. "Nobody," I believe she said, "What about him?" he said, pointing to Tim. "You must be kidding!" she said. It appears Tim had just gotten married to someone else.
Poor Maddy. Quite mortifying to watch.

 Bob Upandown

Via Facebook

I remember seeing Tim and Maddy at Chelmsford Folk Club at the Three Cups in Springfield Rd. They were a cut above.

Chris Housman

Via Facebook

sad song, beautifully delivered.

Mike Taylor

Facebook again

One of the most evocative pieces of music in my life. What a wonderful album that was. Never bettered.

Mike Jenkinson

Facebook again (I posted a link to the article at various groups - Ed)

In the top 10 of anti-war songs

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)