Many thanks to Karen Lloyd for sending me a copy of this new book published by Saraband. I got through most of it on the journey home from holiday, and read the rest today. Andrew Millham’s first book explores the relationship between birds and folk songs. It’s an area briefly covered in Patrick Galbraith’s In Search Of One Last Long (2022) but this is the first dedicated treatment I am aware of.
If that sounds very niche don’t let you put you off, it’s an extremely readable account. Millham generally writes in a conversational way that draws you into the subject, and his evident enthusiasm for folk songs ancient and modern helps with this. Of course one of the problems with a book on songs is they are oral / aural forms, so it’s a nice touch that there is a QR code at the end of the book that gives links to where you can find videos of most of the tunes featured.
Andrew is candid about the fact that he is still on a learning journey and many folk songs about birds probably remain to be discovered by him. As far as I could judge coming from the birding strand he has offset this by painstaking research into folk songs and key British exponents. I did feel in a handful of places however it may have helped to have had the work proofread from the ornithological standpoint.
There were a couple of minor areas where I thought minor alterations would have enhanced the work. Firstly the dozen subjects of the chapters are eleven wild bird species / families, the outlier of domestic chicken I think could have been omitted without losing anything. Secondly whilst I get why culminating with the Mute Swan facilitated a final chapter called ‘Swan Song’ the optimism for the future at the end of the owl account would have been a better finale.
In summary though this is an entertaining debut which is well worth a read whether birds or folk songs are your thing. It is available from http://www.saraband.net.
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