Tuesday, November 27, 2018

M.R. James goes to the Glee Club

Embed from Getty Images

It's a while since I have been to Liberal Democrat Conference. In the days when I did, one of the pleasures of the Glee Club was the song Woad.

You know it:
Romans keep your armours;
Saxons your pyjamas:
Hairy coats were meant for goats,
Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
Tramp up Snowdon with our woad on:
Never mind if we get rained or blowed on.
Never want a button sewed on.
Go it, Ancient Bs.  
Woad was written some time before 1914 by William Hope-Jones, a housemaster at Eton, for the school's Scout troop. It became popular in the Scouting movement in the 1920s.

The Provost of Eton in that era was M.R. James, the famous writer of ghost stories.

James also wrote for the school Scout troop. Knowing his audience, he made his story Wailing Well gruesome and included caricatures of some of the masters at the school.

One of those caricatures was of William Hope-Jones.

You can hear Wailing Well discussed in an episode of the excellent A Podcast to the Curious, which is devoted to James's works.

No comments: