Collection date: Apr 1906
James Thomas of Cannington (1817-1912): age 89, 8 songs on 3 occasions commencing 20 Apr 1906: James' song ‘Early, Early’ (FT927, Roud 152) was selected for Folk Songs from Somerset vol3 and in its notes Sharp wrote: ‘Mr Thomas is an old man of 89. He sings with a robust and resonant voice, which is very remarkable for a man of his years. Mr Marson found it necessary to edit the words . . ‘ The song is about a sailor who thinks he has found his fiancée but after months away at sea he returns to find she has married someone else. The lyrics in FW990 don’t seem particularly naughty but there is no entry for the song in the Field Notebooks, so who knows exactly what James Thomas sang on the day!
James Thomas was baptised at Halse, 7 miles NW of Taunton on 9/11/1817, eldest son of John Thomas, labourer and wife Sarah. When he married Mary Shattock on 11/8/1846 at Norton Fitzwarren church, both bride and groom were described as ‘from this parish’; but in 1851 the couple were living with James’ parents at Charlinch, a village 6 miles west of Bridgwater. In 1861 they were still at Charlinch with 4 children and in 1871 they were in Bridgwater. They then moved to Grange Farm in Cannington, where in 1881 James was listed as ‘farm bailiff, aged 64’. His wife Mary was buried at Cannington 13/10/1884 but James was joined on the farm by his son Joseph and his young family (1891 census). James himself was recorded as a ‘shepherd’. In 1901 James, 83, was supported by his spinster daughter Jane, aged 49, still at the Grange cottage. (RG13/2280 f50 p25). His son Joseph was living next door as well. In 1911 James was 93 and in frail health, still supported by daughter Jane. Bob Patten notes that James’ death was reported in the Bridgwater Mercury of 20/11/1912 (he actually died 15th November).