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Archer, Fred

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Gwilym Davies recorded from Fred Archer The Invincible Invalid and They’ve All Got A Mate But Me on 8 July 1999. Some of his songs and anecdotes were recorded for the Saydisc records While I Work I whistle and Cotswold Character, including The Village Pump. He took a keen interest in songs that were sung in the locality and often performed them himself. He remembered the Ashton-under-Hill carols, All Hail and Praise, Arise Ye Sleepy Souls Arise, Hark, Hark What News and While Shepherds Watched to the tune of Lyngham, three of which were arranged in the 1920s by Amy Robeson, and which were still being sung there in the 1960s, and passed copies of these to Gwilym Davies.

Fred Archer was born in Ashton-under-Hill in rural Gloucestershire on 30 April 1915 in an area that is now part of Worcestershire. He was raised in a farming community and absorbed the local culture of farming traditions, speech and music-making. All this knowledge was put into his biographical novels, starting in 1967 with The Distant Scene and continuing through to a writing career that covered almost thirty books depicting rural life, mainly in the pre-war area. These books are nominally novels but include a great deal of autobiographical background, including references to about fifteen songs.

Fred Archer died in Evesham in 1999.

Notes by Gwilym Davies November 2011