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Freddie Archer

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Performer: Brazil, Danny
Place Collected: Elmstone Hardwicke
Date collected: 1993 (16 Oct)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 21926

Frederick James Archer (1857-1886) was England’s most famous jockey in the late nineteenth century.   He was born and brought up on Prestbury, Cheltenham and learnt to ride there. He tragically took his own life at the age of 20 following the death of his wife in childbirth.   The song must have been written shortly afterwards but only one complete version and four fragments have ever been found in oral tradition, the complete version being from Arthur Richardson, a Suffolk singer, recorded in the 60s by Neal Lanham, viz:

A man has passed away, the sad truth we must say
The boldest man that ever sat on a racehorse
Freddie Archer he is dead and on his dying bed
He gave to me the history of his record.

‘Twas on the Epsom course he rode the winning horse
For on Doncaster down to Manchester he was a star turn
For his horses seemed to fly as he passed those others by
And the crowds they would cheer him as he came on

No better on the course, ..? sat upon the horse
The beaming jockey they used to name him
For his horses seemed to fly as he passed those others by
And the crowds they would cheer him as he came on.

Now Freddie Archer he is done, tens of thousands he has won
No jockey on the racecourse was no better
His eye ‘twas firm and true, he knew just what to do.
Did that bold and fearless rider Freddie Archer.

Also:

Freddie Archer’s dead and gone
All the races that he won
There was no one could say they were his master
His empty saddle now is all that we can show
Of the bold and fearless rider, Freddie Archer.

And it was on the Epsom Downs
That he rode those great reknowns
The bold and fearless rider, Freddie Archer.
(Sung by an unidentified man in Yorkshire, recorded by Steve Gardham)

Goodbye Freddy Archer, your racing days are o’er
And you have reached the post, my lad, where men return no more
And by your own hand, Freddy, you caused the world to say
That you died broken-hearted, the champion of the day.

(Sent by F Price, Quorn, Leicestershire to the ‘Evergreen’ magazine. He enlisted at Stroud in 1914 and learnt this from an older soldier.)

Notes by Gwilym Davies