Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Editor of the Morning Post

Letter No.: 
4 October, 1904

[10, Barton-street,

My attention has been called to the paragraph in your issue of 1st October referring to my letter to The Morning Post in which I described how I noted down a large number of folk songs in Essex.  It may interest your readers to know that the village where I made my collection was Ingrave, near Brentwood.  My thanks are due to the Misses Heatley of Ingrave Rectory for discovering singers in the parish who still sing 'the old ballads' and introducing me to them, so that I could note down the songs as they sang them.  It is interesting to know that though these ladies have lived at Ingrave for several years and are intimate with the village people, they had no idea that the folk song still survived there until I suggested the possibility to them some time ago.
Now I believe that Ingrave is not an exceptional village from this point of view.  I imagine if every village, not only in Essex, but all over England, were investigated, an equally rich store of traditional song will be found; but it will not be found without some trouble.  The younger singers, it must be confessed, very seldom sing the old country ballads, it is the elder people to whom we must go and they are often shy, or have forgotten the old songs, and they will require a little persuasion and to be assured that they are not being laughed at.
But if anyone cares to undertake the search he will find the results amply repay him.  I am sure that your readers would be astonished at the beauty and evident antiquity of many of the tunes which I noted down, many of them being founded on the old 'Church modes'.  The collections of 'Songs of England' and the like give no idea of the real nature of English folk music; indeed I believe that we are only now beginning to realize what a store of beautiful melody has existed in our country; and this is not a mere individual opinion, but is supported by a perusal of the collections of folk music made in Sussex and Somerset by such well-known authorities as Miss Lucy Broadwood and Mr. Cecil Sharp.
But whatever is done in the way of preserving traditional music must be done quickly; it must be remembered that the tunes, at all events, of true folk songs exist only by oral tradition, so that if they are not soon noted down and preserved they will be lost forever.
This is the work which the 'Folk Song Society' is attempting to do.  The Society has already published six numbers of is 'Journal', each containing about forty traditional ballads collected from all parts of England, besides which the Society has an immense quantity of material still in manuscript which it is only prevented from publishing from lack of funds.  May I add that the Hon. Secretary of the Society is Miss Lucy Broadwood, 84 Carlisle Mansions, Victoria Street, S.W., and if any of your readers know any traditional ballads, or any information concerning them, they would be doing a good work by sending them to the Hon. Sec. when they will be considered by the Editing Committee: or if anyone knows of traditional songs but does not feel able to note them down correctly, I myself should be happy, wherever possible, to come and note down the songs from the mouths of the singers.
Yours, etc.
R. Vaughan Williams


General notes: 

Not found in search of the newspaper of this date; transcribed from R.V.W.: a biography, pp.69-70.

R.V.W.: a biography, pp.69-70.