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Sam Barlow [Hear Song]

Lyrics and Postscript by C. Edward Wall (2010)
Performed by Emily Wachsberger

Lyrics

[Introduction]
In nineteenth century England,
Sam Barlow owned the Stakehill Bleach Works
around which he planted tulips.
For some tulip bulbs, he offered their weight in gold,
and ended up paying much more.
His was the finest collection of tulips in England.
This is a true story about a man who loved tulips
and what happened to his tulips after he died.

Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Tomorrow you’ll trip and die

For tulips at my bleach works
Paid the greatest price
Tulips at my bleach works
Flamed and looked so nice.

Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Tomorrow you’ll trip and die.

This time tomorrow
Reckon where I’ll be
Under the tulips
I planted there for me

Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Tomorrow you’ll trip and die

After tomorrow
I fear that I will be
Under a dead garden bed
No tulips left to see

Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Your tulips are bound to die

Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Sam Barlow
Your tulips are bound to die

[as music fades, voices begin to rise in the background]
[faintly] No, that’s not so, Sam Barlow
[slightly louder] No, no, no. That’s not so
[louder] That’s just not so. Sam Barlow
[rising] Not so, not so, not so…..

Not so, Sam Barlow
Others love them too
Many special persons
Will nurture them like you

Raise up your head, Sam Barlow
Raise up your head and sigh
We will grow your tulips
Your tulips will never die

Also, Sam Barlow
We’ll name one for you
Every spring it blooms again
We’ll remember you

Hold up your head, Sam Barlow
Hold your head up high
We will grow your tulips
Your tulips will never die

Hold up your head, Sam Barlow
Hold your head up high
We also love your tulips
And will never let them die

Hold up your head, Sam Barlow
Hold your head up high
We also love your tulips
And will never let them die

Postscript

“Sam Barlow” is based on the Kingston Trio version of “Tom Dooley”, an old North Carolina folk ballad.

“Sam Barlow” was written as a tribute to the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2010. Since the early nineteenth century, hundreds of societies like Wakefield have nurtured the beautiful English florist’s tulips, passing them down from grandfather to grand-daughter – keeping them alive for future generations. Today, the only remaining society to care for those tulips is the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society. The magnificent and precious tulips, such as the “Sam Barlow” cultivar, depend on the society members for their survival.

The tulip, ‘Sam Barlow’ (1860), was bred and raised by Tom Storer, a “railway” man in Derbyshire, England. He grew his tulips along the railroad embankments. There among the cinders and soot and clatter of train traffic grew the most beautiful of tulips.

Sam Barlow lived between 1825 and 1893, and he amassed a fortune from his bleach works. In addition to his passion for English florist’s tulips, he acquired paintings by numerous impressionist artists, mostly British, but including four works by Camille Pissarro, five by Henry Fantin-Latour, two by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, and others. One of the works by Corot is “St. Sebastian,” now owned by the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Md. In 1893 while descending a flight of stairs at his bleach works, he tripped and fell to his death.

With the 1820s, a great interest developed among British nurserymen and hobby growers in special tulips, the petals of which “broke” causing color to separate and form feathered and flamed patterns of exquisite beauty. Many devotees grew, bred, and exhibited the tulips – known as the English florist’s tulips, and some assembled exceptional collections. These were tulips to be viewed close-up, because their beauty often was greatest within the flower itself. It was not known at the time that the “breaking” was caused by a benign virus, which also weakened the bulbs’ ability to reproduce.

By the 1850s, many of the devoted breeders and collectors began to die and their collections dispersed. Also with the 1850s, for the first time in England, more persons lived in cities than in the countryside. With industrialization, less and less land was available in the cities to grow flowers, and what remained often was poisoned by the sulfurous soot emitted from the factory chimneys. While the interest in and ability to grow English florist’s tulips declined, the Dutch introduced the Darwin tulips, selected and bred for their study stem and brilliant colors, which could be planted en masse in large beds to be viewed from a distance. Through adept marketing by the Dutch, this category of tulips became popular throughout Europe and North America. It was in this context that Sam Barlow assembled the greatest (and what could have been the last) collection of English florist’s tulips. He could not have known at the time of his death that these special tulips would be kept alive by devoted gardeners, who continue to raise, breed, and exhibit them to this day – the members of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society.

 

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