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The Music Of Cornish Hobos

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This is a bit weird, but really charming.


There is a Youtube channel that purportedly tells the story of a musicologist in Cornwall, UK in the '30s:


"A musicologist shares field recordings from the campfires and hobo jungles of depression era Cornwall.

The purpose of this page is to share and discuss recordings I made in the late 1930s and early 1940s at a large hobo camp between Liskeard and Lostwithiel known as Two Waters Foot . Depression era Cornwall boasted a thriving musical scene particularly amongst those who took to the travelling life either through circumstances or through desire for adventure, and as a young student I took it upon myself to record as much as I could of this music before it was lost. While the musicianship is often not of the highest quality, I believe that these recordings are a fitting reminder of an overlooked and under represented cultural movement.




Anyway, there are several videos in the collection, charming period photographs and concertina music in the background. It is a sort of Sid Kipper goes to Cornwall to collect hobo concertina playing:


I like them all, but this one is a good starter:



The complete channel is here:



There is even a 200 page book about the Cornish Hobos:



Ok, so own up now, which one of you is Jack Chantegril? I have my suspicions...


I salute you! Well done.



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Nice music. But if the purpose of language is to communicate, what is the point of white subtitles against a white background?

The text now appears separately and not as subtitles.


Maybe our ethnomusicologist is a member here and heard your complaint?


Edited later:


I am wrong, the subtitles are still there when viewed on a desktop Windows box, but not when viewed in the Youtube app on an Android tablet. The subtitles can be controlled by turning 'Annotations' on/off in Windows Youtube, but Youtube Android and iOS do not support annotations at all.


In either case, the full text of the annotations (well worth reading) is below the fold.

Edited by Don Taylor
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  • 2 years later...
On 3/24/2017 at 12:06 PM, nicx66 said:


I thought the same thing as I recognized another tune by The Specials, "Rudy" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdSgXTT09EY&t=64s.


I just stumbled across these recordings while searching for something else, then checked  concertina.net to see if there was more info as to the identity of the poster.  The set of recordings and videography is beautiful, no matter when they were recorded.  The thing that made me wonder about the supposed time the recordings were made vs when posted were the dates.  Recordings made by a musicologist in 1935  with current day memories from "past" field notes...?  Assuming the poster was in his 20's in 1935, this would make him  100+ years old now?  Regardless, they are beautiful 1st person stories, lovely music, and I'm guessing if I bought the book that is referenced in his Youtube postings, there would be some overlap...So thanks to whoever posted these.

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It is a fantasy, an imagination.  There were no concertina playing Cornish hobos but that does not matter, what matters is the musical and visual imagery.


And no, the book does not really explain anything in any literal sense.


Actually, maybe I should retract my comment about there being no Cornish hobos.  I don't think that the term hobo fits but there were certainly lots of tramps around the UK after WWI,  demobbed soldiers with what we now call PTSD.  I suppose that some of them played the concertina and maybe some of them hopped the freight trains, so maybe it is all true...

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks for this Don.  After 37 years working the tracks every pic brings back a memory, even though from across the pond.  From the high stone arch bridges and water towers to the wistful scenery these shots could just as well be along the Susquehanna river through NY and PA.  The music and theme makes me think of the "Hobo Jungle " that persisted into the 70's  along Erie Blvd, in Schenectady,  Where old Hubba Bubba was the King.

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On 9/15/2019 at 11:00 PM, gcoover said:

So the Lakes of Polbathic is where Rocket Man lives? I didn't know these Cornish hobos were so prescient!

Yes, I think that Elton John is going to have a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against him.  Those hobos are going to be rich!

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