Snow, Miss Alice

Collection date: Apr 1906

Area: Somerset - Langport surrounds


Alice Snow (1881-?): age 25, 5 children’s songs 11 April 1906: Alice was born in 1881, the eldest child of (singers) William & Ellen Snow. Ellen Snow was the daughter of (singer) Betsy Pike. The whole family was musical and Alice's two young brothers William James and Frank (Francis) Snow were in demand as variety entertainers in the town. Alice was appointed as a Primary School teacher in 1902.

Although Alice herself was a more than competent pianist, she was not really a folk singer per se but more an intermediary, combining with her mother Ellen to perform 5 singing games & songs to Sharp on 11th April 1906. These were: London Bridge, Lady of the Land, Wallflower, Sally Water and Mother may I go out to play. No doubt Alice remembered these games not only from her own experience as a child but also by observation in her work as a teacher.

This was a significant turning point for Sharp. He already knew about singing games through the work of Alice Bertha Gomme (Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland in 2 vols 1894 and 1898). Gomme was a founding member of the Folklore Society and also a committee member of the Folk Song Society, where Sharp had seen her at close quarters. Perhaps Sharp did not initially think of children’s songs as folk art, but, of course, they are transmitted orally in the same way as traditional folksongs. Sharp had hitherto not collected any children’s songs at all and now made careful notes of all the actions and movements in his Field Notebook Words (FNW 1906/1 pp22f). Alice’s contributions immediately set Sharp off in a new direction. Within days he found singing games in Bridgwater (FT874,889). He would later co-operate with Lady Alice Gomme in a number of school songbooks (published by Novello), which showcased these singing games.

Alice Snow not only collected songs from her grandmother Betsy Pike but also from Mary Ann Lawrence, Miss Ella Gooding and Eliza Sweet. Alice knew all 3 women well and in fact her brother William married Eliza Sweet’s daughter Rose in April 1906, soon after Sharp’s appearance in Somerton. Sharp was lucky to step into such a ready network of singers.

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