Rough Diamonds

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  Stick to your Mother Tom
  composer - uncertain
  John Meredith collection - TRC4 - sung by Ina Popplewell
  Norm O'Connor collection - TRC2539/12 - sung by Dick Evans

There are at least two versions of this song in the Oral History Collection, one sung by Ina Popplewell in 1954 and the other by Dick Evans in 1960 (collected by John Meredith and Norm O'Connor respectively).
Upon hearing the Ina Popplewell version I immediately had the impression that there was at least one verse missing in the middle of the song. The Dick Evans version confirmed this by supplying a second and third verse (but no final verse from the Popplewell version). I subsequently managed to discover a more complete version in the National Library's Sheet Music Collection with all four verses. I at first thought I had located an author, then yet another version surgfaced with conflicting authorial acknowledgement. Therefore a number of questions immediately emerged, not just 'who wrote the song' but on which continent was it written?


Where contradictions exist in published examples of songs, dates can have significance in determining authorship.

The first sheet music example I encountered had authorial acknowledgement attributed to Harry Birch. Birch's example revealed Popplewell's version had indeed omitted the second and third verses. When I discovered the Dick Evans version I found I was hearing a slightly different tune and he was including the second and third verses without Popplewell's (and Birch's) final verse. Evans sings 'Plymouth' instead of 'Portsmouth' and less significantly 'till her hair turns grey' instead of 'when her hair turns grey' and he sings the last chorus in an alternate tense, as though in answer to the father.

The Cogill and Skelly sheet music version promotes an Edison Records recording of the song sung by Will Oakland, arranged by Hal Dyson and copyrighted by Dinsdale's PTY LTD Music Publishers 269 Swanston Street. Melbourne. A note at the top the front page describes the song as 'A Favourite American Ballad'.

Will Oakland (born Herman Hinrichs in Jersey City 1880 - died 1956) was a famous counter-tenor in the early twentieth century. Oakland was with the Cohan and Harris minstrels, and began recording for Edison in 1908. Other ballads he recorded were "Just Before the Battle Mother" and "White Wings". Oakland recorded "In the Gloaming" and "Stick to Your Mother Tom," with the American Quartet before the group became the Heidelberg Quintet. Oakland enjoyed a minor brief resurgence in popularity with a self produced LP in the early 1950s and by appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in the US (http://music.aol.com).

A search of the Library of Congress in the United States delivered more sheet music versions. One four verse version published by White, Smith & Company, Boston - Chigaco sung by Harry Le Clair, attributes its 'Arrangement' to Harry Birch. This version is date-stamped by the Library of Congress on 30th January 1885.
Another version purporting to be a transcription by Pierre Duvernet, also published by White, Smith & Company, is date stamped by the library of Congress on the 7th of October 1885 (delevered to the music department on 6th of June 1900)

The same song, by its alternative title 'Don't Leave your Mother When Her Hair Turns Grey' was performed by a well known American female theatre performer, Lulu Glaser, an actress, singer and musical comedy and vaudeville star who performed between the mid 1890s and 1917. She appeared on an Ogdens Guinea Gold Cigarette card at the turn of the twentieth century and at age 20 received a sizable review in The New York Clipper in September 1894 (Sat 29th).



The question of location is tied up with which ship the father was sailing away on. While most published versions originate in America, the origins of the song appear to eminate from England. I believe the song is a fictional projection of war-time England perhaps influenced by an old folk song referring to miners who were supposedly turned out of thier jobs in the coal mines when their hair turned grey.

Most versions of the song mention Portsmouth (journeyed down to Portsmouth . . . father was a sailor aboard a man-o-war) and just one version has it as Plymouth.
Both Portsmouth and Plymouth in England are Naval Ports and, not surprisingly, there are corresponding Naval Shipyards in separate locations in the US, both associated with Cities of Portsmouth. The US also has a port of Plymouth. The reason for the US parallels is simple.
Portsmouth in the United Kingdom is located in the county of Hampshire on the southern coast and was a significant naval port in previous centuries and is still a major dockyard and base for the British Royal Navy. At the conclusion of the 19th century sailors possibly sailed from that port. Although the HMS Victory (with an 's') was indeed moored at Portsmouth from 1812 until 1922, she remained at her moorings for that entire period. In 1922 she went into drydock in Portsmouth's Royal Naval Dockyard for restoration after which the ship has been a public museum until the present time. The HMS Victory is obviously not the ship referred to in the song if the song is to be considered factual.
Victor Harbor in South Australia was so named by Captain Crozier after his ship the HMS Victor in 1837.
HMS Victor Emanuel with 91 guns often sailed from Portsmouth including July 1858 and November 1873.
Perhaps slightly late in arrival when it was launched in 1898 is another HMS Victor, a tug boat, which ended service in 1945.

On the United States side of the ocean the states of Virginia and New Hampshire both have a city of Portsmouth, both of which have Naval Shipyards. The Naval Shipyard In Portsmouth, Virginia however, is known as Norfolk Naval Shipyard (although the shipyard is actually in Portsmouth and only opposite the City of Norfolk). In the US a motor boat named the USS Victor doesn't get launched unitl 1917 and serves for only one year until November 1918 being returned to the owner intact and therefore unlikely to have sunk with any hands on board.
Another USS Victor was launched even later, 6th of December 1941, ending service in the same year as the English tug boat to which I've referred above, in 1945

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