Monday 29 August 2011

21: Seth Davy

A song written in the 1960s by Glyn Hughes about a real life street performer who sang, with his dancing dolls, at Bevington Bush just off Scotland Road toward the end of the nineteenth century. It's sometimes known as 'Whiskey on a Sunday'. As Gerry Jones writes on his Liverpool Lyrics website, "Seth Davy was a real person, he really existed, and he died a couple of years into the 20th century... I know the truth for a fact because, when I was a brand-new teacher in the Dingle in 1963, our old lollypop man told me that he had actually seen Seth Davy doing his stuff. So I have spoken to a first-hand witness."

Above is a picture of him at work - another great find by Matthew Edwards, this comes from a latern slide belonging to Ingrid Spiegl, widow of Fritz Spiegl (who arranged Johnny Todd for orchestra to create the "Theme from Z-Cars"). The picture (produced from the latern slide by Liverpool Museum) was used to illustrate an article about Seth Davy (sometimes spelled Seth Davey) in The Puppet Master, Vol. 16 No. 8, in which Peter Charlton writes the following:

"Seth Davey was a West Indian jig doller who really did sit astride an old packing case, outside the Begington Inn (known locally as The Bevvy), near 'Paddy's Market' off Scotland Road, hitting a plank with his fist whilst crooning unaccompanied as his dolls danced... Popular belief is that Seth Davey was West Indian, possibly Jamaican, though Ray Costello in his Black History, a history of Liverpool's black population, says that he was West African... We only know of two songs that he sang regularly and both of these were Minstrel songs... One of these was 'Who likes gravy on their taters?'... His other pick of the pops was 'Massa is a stingy man', from the repertoire of Dan Emmett, one of the stars of American minstrelsy. It is this song that Glyn Hughes based his song on:
'Oh Massa is a stingy man,
And all his neighbours knows it,
He keeps good whiskey in the house
An' neber says 'here goes it',
Sing come day, go day
God send Sunday
We'll drink whiskey all de week
And buttermilk on Sunday'"

This year's "Liverpool Discovers" art exhibition included a painting of Seth Davy by Gill Smith.

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