Beer, Mrs Eliza

Collection date: Jan 1908

Area: Devon


Mrs Eliza Beer at (Budlake, nr) Killerton (c1830-1918): age 78, 3 songs on 2 Jan 1908: Sharp was accompanied by Miss Priscilla Wyatt-Edgell when he visited William & Eliza Beer at Budlake (7 miles north of Exeter, near Killerton House National Trust property). Martin Graebe in his book ‘As I Walked Out’ (Signal Books 2017 p154) quotes from Miss Wyatt-Edgell’s letter to a friend:

Mrs Beer had pink cheeks and blue eyes, and sang in a little voice, but quite in tune, and the words very distinct. Mr Sharp sat in the settle with Mrs Beer on one side of the hearth with his little manuscript book to take down her songs – Mr Beer sat in his elbow chair on the other side. Of course in five minutes Mr Sharp was friends with them both, and perfectly at home - Mr Beer was not by way of singing, and would not have done it at all, if Mr Sharp had not made us feel so pleasant and homely.' (VWML ref CJS/12/21/9/3)

It would thus appear that William Beer did contribute a little to the songs (perhaps some lyrics) and Sharp's handwriting is a little unclear in its attributions. But the greater credit must go to Eliza. She sang jolly songs - ‘My man John’, ‘The Journey Boy’ and ‘Wing Wang Waddle O’, a chorus song, which tells how a young man wastes his inheritance (FW1367 Roud 469: click vwml link). Sharp collected only one other version of this song ('The Swapping Song' FT4789 Mary Anne Doherty March 1919):

Eliza Beer’s maiden name is yet to be determined but by 1861 she was in Broadclyst with 3 infants and husband William working away as an agricultural labourer. They were settled in this parish for the next 40 years, raising 6 children to adulthood. In 1901 they were both aged 71 and enjoying cottage life (RG13/2035 f72 p11). William died soon after the encounter with Sharp, as Eliza was alone in 1911. She died Jly qr 1918 (ref 5b 46).

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