Baker, Mr


Collection date: Jan 1908

Area: Somerset - Bridgwater Surrounds

Mr (Noah) Baker at North Petherton (1825-1909): age 85, 1 song ‘Twelve days of Xmas’ (FT1409) on 8 Jan 1908: Today we are used to singing the standardised version of this carol, which was arranged and published in 1909 by Frederic Austin, a music teacher and composer in London. But there were many ‘folk’ versions of the carol circulating in the 19th century. Sharp had already published 2 versions (by Louie Hooper & William Brister) in Folk Songs from Somerset vol 2. In all he collected 9 versions in Somerset and Mr Baker’s was the 8th. Sharp published the latter in the Folk Song Journal 5 (1916). In addition Sharp noted Mr Baker’s comments about the ‘new London songs’: ‘Can’t make no idea to it, no more than that chair; it is a gabble of noise with no meaning to it’.

Noah Baker was baptised at Thorne St Margaret in Somerset (just west of Wellington) on 24/9/1825, youngest child of Ephraim Baker, farmer and his wife Sarah (née Sloman). In his field notebook (Words) ref CJS1/9/1/1908/1 p31 Sharp noted that Mr Baker had learned the song from his (maternal) grandfather, John Sloman, who was buried in Wiveliscombe. This turns out to be exactly true. John Sloman was buried there on 25/3/1839 aged 88 (b1751) – Noah would have been 14 at that date. The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ first appeared in print (words only) in 1780 – perhaps John Sloman learned it then!

Noah’s father Ephraim Baker was farming at Staplegrove (just outside Taunton) in both 1841 and 1851. When Ephraim died in 1854, Noah took over the farm at Burlands in Staplegrove (1861 census lists Noah as age 37, farmer of 46 acres employing 2 men). He never married. He then retired and was living at Bradford-on-Tone in 1891 with his widowed sister Isabella. When she died in 1892, Noah moved to be near Isabella’s daughter (i.e. his niece) Elizabeth Shattock and her husband William at Laurel Tree Farm, North Newton, 1 mile south of North Petherton (1901 census RG13/2281 f119 p24). He was described as a ‘visitor’ in the census.

It is by this convoluted route that Mr Baker met Mr Sharp in January 1908. When Noah was buried at North Petherton church on 27/5/1909, his abode was Branch Flower Farm, North Petherton.

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