Subscribe to our Newsletter

The Butterfly (Winchcombe)

Back to browse page

Alternative title: Ribbon Dance

Source: C. Sharp ms no. 2145 in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library
Performer: Davies, William
Place Collected: Winchcombe
Date collected: 8 April 1909
Collector: Sharp, Cecil

William Davies, originally from Wales, was parish clerk at Winchcombe. Although Davies was known to have been the fiddle player for the Winchcombe Morris Dancers, Sharp collected few tunes from him, even though his interest in morris was at its height. Did Davies play material which Sharp would have considered “not folk”, as John Mason did at Icomb? We shall never know. However, Davies did contribute The Butterfly as well as a version of Greensleeves, the Bacca pipes jig, with a jingle: “Some say the Devil’s dead, and buried in Cold Harbour.”

The Butterfly  is derived from the popular song I’d be a Butterfly, Live For A Day, words and Music by Thomas Haynes Bayley.  It was popular enough to be issued on many ballad sheets, including by Willey in Cheltenham.  Bayley, who also composed The Mistletoe Bough, was also a resident of Cheltenham, where he died in 1839.

Sharp also noted The Butterfly from Thomas Swallow, an agricultural labourer and fiddle player from Lower Guiting, while the tune was being played in Chedworth just before the Second World War, by Caleb Lawrence, a carpenter and hurdle maker.

Note by Paul Burgess