Parsley, Sage, Kippers and Pervert's Trousers

A personal view by Louise Dennis

Should you have been passing by West Kennet Long Barrow on an autumn evening in 1989 you would have heard the rather alarming sound of two dozen Arthurians chorusing

I'm a rover, seldom sober,
I'm a rover of high degree,
It's when I'm drinking, I'm always thinking
How to gain my love's company.

If you had actually been inside the barrow you would have been privileged to experience the introductory ramble of former Society President Chris Gidlow, involving a shambling zombiefied creature dragging itself up out of the swamp and staggering towards the light of a nearby cottage before breaking into the words...

My first year in the Oxford Arthurian Society involved a quite ridiculous amount of singing, on pilgrimages, at storytellings, at the AGM, at banquets, parties, and dance evenings. We even had an `evening of song'. We would rapidly work our way through the favourites and then sing endless songs by the Kipper family, a spoof folk band occasionally broken by renditions of `American Pie', for which no-one could ever quite remember the words.

Singing still continues in the Society, though at a more restrained level, and a songbook of dubious accuracy has been produced. With the possible exception of our current President, King Pellinor (alias Andrew Jackson), I doubt if any current member of the Society knows all the songs contained therein. Even when we think we know songs we usually find ourselves singing slightly conflicting versions. Some of the songs are favourites, like `The Wild Rover', `I'm a Rover', `The Civil War Song', `Pervert's Trousers' and `Matty Groves', which is a real effort to learn. Others have simply caught the eye (or ear) of one or more Arthurians at some point or other. We have even retained several kipper songs. Most of them have choruses that are easily picked up.

So please, if you are in a minibus with a bunch of Arthurians who suddenly and inexplicably burst into song, don't be intimidated and curl up in embarrassment in a corner. Sing bits where you can or try and get a look at the words in a song book. Above all, don't think you need to be an opera singer to join in!

This article originally appeared in Ceridwen's Cauldron, Michaelmas Term 1993.