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Mason, John

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Gender: Male

A19-c. John MasonVWML

Cecil J Sharp met 72-year old John Mason in Stow-on-the-Wold Workhouse and visited him on a number of occasions: 27-28 March and 2-3 August 1907, 29 July, 2 August and 18 August 1909 and 21-22 June 1912. Mason had played fiddle for the Sherborne Morris set (and possibly others) and, as well as providing Sharp with a number of tunes, he volunteered the address of William Hathaway in Cheltenham, the location of Sherborne Morris’s George Simpson near Didcot and gave other leads towards participants in the Longborough, Bledington and Oddington morris sets. Many of the tunes which Mason described as “Morris Dance” are not generally known as such. He also sang the songs Greensleeves and The Shepherdess to Cecil Sharp on his visit on 28 March 1907 and gave Cecil Sharp the text of a Mummer’s Play including the words for the song The Golden Glove which was used at the end of the Mummers’ Play.

Mason came from Icomb and as well as fiddle played clarinet, flute and concertina. He was also visited by Mary Neal and Clive Carey shortly before he died and they noted several of the tunes he had previously played for Sharp. We have included 22 of John Mason’s tunes on the website.

John Mason was born in Icomb and was baptised there on 3 August 1834, the son of Thomas and Charlotte Mason. The portion of the parish known as Church Icomb was in Worcestershire until 1844 but when John Mason was 10 years old there was a boundary change and Church Icomb became part of Gloucestershire to join the portion of the parish known as Westward Icomb which had always been in Gloucestershire. John Mason’s father, Thomas Mason, was also born in Icomb and baptised there on 22 February 1789, the son of William Mason. In 1841 John Mason was living in Icomb, then in Worcestershire, with his father, Thomas, an agricultural labourer and his older brother, Joseph, also an agricultural labourer and two older sisters, Eliza and Ann. His father, Thomas, died and was buried in Icomb on 1 June 1849 whereupon he and his mother, Charlotte, went to live with his sister, Ann, and her husband, John Wilkes, an agricultural labourer from Idbury, in Icomb.John Mason was working there in 1851 as an agricultural labourer and Charlotte and Ann as laundresses. John Mason married Hannah Stayte from Bledington in Icomb on 19 April 1863. By 1871 they were living in Church Icomb with five children: Thomas Edward Stayt Mason born 1864, Frederick William born 1865, John Edwin Mason born 1867, Louisa Mason born 1869 and Mary M. Mason born 1871. John Mason was working as a labourer as he was also in 1881 when the family were still living in Church Icomb. John Mason’s son, Thomas, was then working as an undercarter, his son, Frederick was an errand boy and John’s son, John, was a stable boy. John and Hannah also subsequently had five more children: Ada born 1873, Emma born 1875, Eva born 1877 and twins, William and Sarah J., born 1880. John Mason’s wife, Hannah, died in 1882 aged 40 and by 1891 John Mason was living on his own in Church Icomb, still working as an agricultural labourer as he was also in 1901. By 1907 John Mason had entered Stow on the Wold Workhouse where he was visited by the folk collectors and he died there in 1912.

John Mason’s children

Most of John Mason’s children left to work in London.

John Mason’s son Thomas Edward Stayt Mason in 1891 was living at 13 Hobury St Chelsea, working as a valet. He married Elizabeth Sophia Finch in Westminster in 1889. By 1901 he was working as a waiter and living at 10 Kimberley Terrace, Victor Road, New Windsor with his wife Elizabeth and three children, Frederick Mason born in Chelsea about 1890, Margaret Mason born in Windsor about 1892 and Elsie Mason born in Windsor about 1896. By 1911 he was living at 14 Canada Road, Slough, Berkshire with his wife and two youngest children working as a hotel waiter. He died in Newbury in 1941.

John Mason’s son, Frederick William Mason in 1901 was living at Foxholm Stables, Hammersmith working as a coachman and groom, with his wife, Mercy E. Mason, born in Sussex, and two children, Basil F. Mason born about 1899 and John H. Mason born about 1900, both born in Hammersmith. In 1911 Basil and John were staying with their aunt and uncle Edwin and (John’s daughter) Ada Hathaway at 70 Fairbridge Road, Islington. Basil died in 1972 in Sutton, Greater London.

John Mason’s son, John Edwin Mason in 1901 was living at 80 Eaton Place, St George Hanover Square, London working as a butler.

John Mason’s daughter, Louisa Mason. See Ada below.

John Mason’s daughter, Mary Matilda Mason died age 11 in 1883.

John Mason’s daughter, Ada Mason married Edwin Hathaway a sorter tracer at the GPO who was born in Marylebone and in 1901 was living at 70 Fairbridge Road, Islington with two children, Ethel May born about 1898 and John Patrick born about 1907, both born in Islington. The family were still living at the same address in 1911 but staying with them were Ada’s sister, Louisa, who was single and working as a domestic parlour maid and Ada’s brother, Frederick William Mason’s children, Basil and John Mason. Ada Mason died in 1936.
John Mason’s daughter, Emma Mason married John Henry West in Aston, Warwickshire in 1916.

John Mason’s daughter, Eva Mason in 1911 was living at The Lodge, Cemetery, Fulham Palace Road, London as a friend and domestic servant of Jane Furner, a widow.

John Mason’s twins, Sarah Jane Mason and William Mason both died aged 2 in 1882.

Notes by Carol Davies, Paul Burgess and Charles Menteith with thanks to Keith Chandler. (Photo: Vaughan Williams Memorial Library)



John Mason’s Tunes and Songs

(John Mason stated that certain tunes were morris dances, for example Market Chorus and Bourton Six, but there is at present no evidence that these were used for morris dancing.)

Collected By Cecil Sharp

‘Country Dances’

2 March 1907

Gallop Hey (Country Dance)

28 March 1907

Haste To The Wedding (Country Dance)

29 March 1907

The Rose Tree (Country Dance)Heel And Toe

28 Aug 1907

Old Heddon Of Forlay (near Barford?)( ?near Burford)
Oyster Girl

29 July 1909

Liverpool Hornpipe
Worcestershire Hornpipe
The Triumph
Trip To The Forest
The Nutting Girl
Haste To The Wedding C. D
Persian Dance C. D [Country Dance](Galopede)
The New Rigged Ship C.D [Country Dance]

2 Aug 1909

Thimble Hornpipe
Susiannah Country Dance
The Sloe Country Dance
Highland Quick Step (Country Dance)
Bonnets So Blue Country Dance
The Sweet Briar Countery Dance [Country Dance]
Maid of the Mill Country Dance or Morris
Roast Beef Of Old England Countery Dance [Country Dance]
Hunt The Squirrel (Countery Dance) [Country Dance]
Countery Dance [Country Dance]
Countery Dance [Country Dance]
With my Basket on my Arm

‘Morris Dances’

27 Mar 1907

Shepherd’s Hey (Morris Dance)
Old Trunko (Morris Dance)
Black Joker (Morris Dance)
Jockey To The Fair (Morris Dance)
28 March 1907
Princess Royal
Swaggering Boney (Morris Dance)
Country Gardens? / Handkerchief Dance or Stick Dance (No Name)
Greensleeves (Tobacco Pipe Dance)
Heel and Toe

2 Aug 1907

Susannah Morris Dance
Bourton Six Morris Dance
Maid O’ The Mill Morris Dance
Molly Oxford Morris Dance
Sherbourne Jig Morris Dance

18 Aug 1909

Morris Dance
Morris Dance
Morris Dance
Bobbing Around Morris Dance
Market Chorus (Morris Dance)
Quick Step Morris Dance


2 Mar 1907

Twas of a pretty young shepherdess was keeping of her sheep

Aug 1909

Cupid’s Garden

Collected By Clive Carey and Mary Neal

Morris Dances

21 June 1912

Greensleeves / Pipe Dance

22 Jun 1912

Swaggering Boney
Lumps O’ [Of] Plum Pudding

Songs Performed: