Hertfordshire folk singer
By Nicholas Blatchley
Frederick Page, like another great Hertfordshire source-singer, Emily Joiner, lived in the Chiswell Green area, near St Albans, and his songs were collected mainly by Lucy Broadwood. What makes Frederick unusual, though, is that all his songs were collected when he was only fifteen years old.
Frederick Page was born in 1882; his parents were George and Hannah Page, of St Stephen’s Parish (which includes Chiswell Green) and he’s listed on the 1891 census as the fourth of six children: two older sisters, an older brother and two younger sisters. By the 1901 census, Frederick at 18 was the only one still at home. His older siblings would have been in their twenties by then, but the younger sisters would only have been 16 and 14. This may suggest that they’d died, but it’s quite possible they’d both gone into service by this time.
Frederick married in 1905, his wife’s name being Annie, and by the 1911 census, where he’s described as a ploughman, they had three children: Margaret, born in 1907, and twin boys called Charles and William, born in 1909. Subsequent records for Frederick and Annie are frustratingly elusive, but the three children appear to have remained reasonably local, dying between 1971 and 1993.
Frederick’s father was a shepherd, and Frederick is described as having learnt his songs from his parents; he sang many of them to Lucy Broadwood in unison with a younger boy called John Field, though Frederick seems to have been regarded as the main source. Her visit was in 1898, and he sang her ten songs:
The Bonny Labouring Boy
The Farmer’s Boy
Little Soldier Boy
Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold
The Miser and His Daughter
The Sailor Boy
In addition, the same year the collector Frank Kidson collected The Highwayman Outwitted from someone called “F. Page”, somewhere in Hertfordshire. The chances are that this too was Frederick.
As is usual in these cases, many of the songs (notably Dark-Eyed Sailor) are merely versions of widely known songs, although some of Frederick’s repertoire is less well known. Regardless, each collected version is unique, adding an important extra layer to the song’s tradition. Frederick Page left an important legacy of folk songs to the twenty-first century and beyond.