Russell, William


Collection date: Apr 1909

Area: Oxfordshire

William ‘Hearty’ Russell at Eynsham (1834-1914): age 74, 1 song ‘Bonny Light Horseman’ (FT2185) on 26 April 1909: William Russell was born on 28/11/1834 in Eynsham, son of Charles Russell, labourer and his wife Sarah. He was baptised on 4/1/1835. William was an agricultural labourer all his life and married Emma Smith at Eynsham church on 27/9/1859. He could not sign his name. They had 12 children, only 5 of whom survived to adulthood.

At least two of his sons were morris dancers, namely William ‘Buff’ Russell (1862-1942) and Edward ‘Feathers’ Russell (1872-1942). The artist (Sir) William Nicholson (1872-1949), who lived in nearby Woodstock, happened to see the Eynsham morris men dancing at Blenheim Palace c1901 and painted a set of pictures including a portrait of Edward ‘Feathers’ Russell in fool’s costume being carried on the dancers’ shoulders. Entitled ‘Chairing the Feathers’, it is kept at the English Folk Dance and Song Society Headquarters in London.

Although William Snr sang his solitary song to Sharp that day, it’s possible that Sharp made contact with Sam Moulder, whose name was written in Sharp’s field notebook. Sharp returned in January 1910 to watch the Eynsham side dance and to collect tunes from Moulder. William Russell Snr was buried in Eynsham church 1/1/1914.


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