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A set of thirty six songs written to words selected from the Alfred Williams archive of songs collected in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire in the early years of the twentieth century.




Bob Berry at Devizes Folk Club told me about the Alfred Williams archive, a collection of folk songs collected by Alfred Williams in the early part of the twentieth century. Alfred Williams was a fine poet, and he was meticulous in noting down the words to the songs that he heard in his travels by bicycle around the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire; but he was no musician and so was unable to write down any of the tunes. The tunes to some of the songs Williams collected are known from elsewhere, but for the bulk of the nearly 1,200 songs in the archive, no-one has any idea what tunes they were sung to.


I sat down to write tunes to some of the lyrics towards the end of 2014. I soon found that I needed to impose some kind of structure onto the attempt, both in order to help the process of sifting lyrics from the archive, but also in order to stop all the songs from sounding the same.


In order to help with sifting sets of words, I decided to look for lyrics under six themes - love, death, nature, work, soldiers and sailors, and drinking. I also adopted two musical constraints, which you can read more about here. None of this would mean very much if the results sounded forced - I have tried my best to ensure that does not happen. Strangely perhaps, I found that all these structural shenanigans actually made the writing process easier.


You can see a list of all the songs included in the project here.


Demo versions of some songs have been recorded and are available on the media page.


The number six first entered into the project when I found myself unable to write in the Locrian mode (if you play the white notes from B to B on a piano you have just played the Locrian mode and it sounds pretty strange). But having once entered in, it seemed to impose itself in all sorts of ways, including giving the project its name.


Six is of course the devil's number. But the devil is just the name given by the Christian church to the repressed, pagan past. I thus think of the number six as a symbol for the life that lies beneath any repressive system, whether that be religious, political, or psychological. That earthy life, that delights in sex and looks death straight in the eye, that sees suffering as a tragedy rather than a symbol or a salvation, that refuses to see injustice as part of a greater glory, is precisely what I find in the songs that Williams collected, at least the ones that I chose to write music for. 


My name Jim Driscoll and I am a songwriter, musican, and writer.

You can read more about my other work on my website,


I found them at the bottom of my garden when I lived in Tisbury, Wiltshire. I subsequently found out that they had been made by the man who lived in the house before I did and that they had been in the garden, in a more prominent position and easily visible from the road, as far back as the early seventies. I have met several Tisbury people of my vintage who remember seeing them in the garden when they were kids and being scared of them. They went by the name of Mr and Mrs Tisbury. I moved out of the house in December 2012, and the garden was dug up to form a junction to the new Wyndham Place development. I didn't think Mr and Mrs Tisbury would take kindly to leaving, even if it meant that they liklely ended up in a skip somewhere, so I didn't take them with me. They are no longer anywhere to be seen.

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