Holmfirth Anthem

The Holmfirth Anthem or Pratty Flowers (pratty: a dialect pronunciation of pretty) originates from around 1812 as a broadside ballad. Pratty Flowers was connected with Holmfirth, and was often sung in the local taverns. Joe Perkin (1809-1868), a well-known choral conductor, arranged the ballad for four-part harmony for Holmfirth Choral Society, c.1857, although it had been used as a glee tune before Perkin’s arrangement.

Location:

Holmfirth Anthem

Holmfirth, UK

Holmfirth

Description:

Abroad for pleasure as I was a-walking
It was one summer, summer’s evening clear
O, there I beheld a most beautiful damsel
Lamenting for her shepherd dear
Lamenting for her shepherd dear

Dearest evening that e’er I beheld thee
Was ever more with the lass I adore
Wilt thou go fight yon French and Spaniards?
Wilt thou leave me thus, my dear?
Wilt thou leave me thus my dear?

No more to yon green banks will I take thee
With pleasure for to rest thyself and view the lands
But I will take thee to yon green garden
Where the pratty flowers grow
Where the pratty, pratty flowers grow

 

According to an apocryphal tale from Holmfirth Choral Society, another local musician, Henry Pogson, was also credited with assisting with the arrangement, but refused to be acknowledged on the published music.

By 1858 Perkin’s arrangement was being sold in local music shops, and it became a regular piece in programmes at concerts and assorted fundraising events in the towns surrounding Huddersfield. It was not unusual for the song to be sung at societies, clubs and associations key events, such as an annual tea or supper, where the group would come together to celebrate the year’s achievements.

On the 15 February, 1890, for example, the Almondbury Conservative Association held their annual tea. The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that ‘A very enjoyable entertainment [was] given by members of the club. Messers Littlewood, Eyre, Eastwood and Mellor sang a number of quartets in a very efficient manner.’ Mr Eyre sang the Holmfirth Anthem as a solo.

Dave Pattern has shed further light on Pratty Flowers’ origins as a song of local identity:, ‘According to a possibly apocryphal story, at a concert at Huddersfield Town Hall, ‘a Holmfirth choir’ were called upon to sing the National Anthem. Instead of singing God Save the Queen the choir gave a rendition of Pratty Flowers. Hence, the moniker of the Holmfirth Anthem was established. Moreover, Dave Pattern argues: ‘The singing of Pratty Flowers ‘was not a display of rural ignorance but rather a reflection of a period in Victoria’s reign when she and the monarchy became very unpopular.’31 Thus, local and municipal performances established a local anthem.

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