The Diggers’ song

Hessayon, Ariel. 2023. The Diggers’ song. Notes & Queries, 70(3), pp. 189-193. ISSN 0029-3970 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The Diggers had a handful of songs, although the most famous remained unprinted during their day. Only one version of this well-known song is extant, however, and it is anonymous, untitled and undated. It is preserved in the papers of the military administrator Sir William Clarke (1623/24–1666), who had served as an assistant secretary and then secretary to the council of officers of the New Model Army. When the song was written down – most likely in March, April or May 1650 – Clarke was living in London and acting as a senior secretary to Sir Thomas Fairfax (1612–1671), commander-in-chief of Parliament’s forces in England and Ireland. The version that we have is in Clarke’s handwriting.

Clarke had previously transcribed several documents relating to the Diggers, including letters and papers addressed to Fairfax. Moreover, the Digger leaders William Everard (1602–fl.1651) and Gerrard Winstanley (1609–1676) had been brought before Fairfax at Whitehall on 20 April 1649, while on 30 May 1649 Fairfax and his entourage had met a dozen Diggers – including Winstanley – on St George’s Hill in the parish of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Indeed, on 9 June 1649 Winstanley delivered a letter to Fairfax and his Council of War on behalf of the Diggers. Since Fairfax (who resigned his commission in summer 1650) and evidently Clarke as well had an interest in the Digger movement, it is therefore unsurprising that Clarke also copied the Diggers’ song.

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9 June 2023Accepted
7 July 2023Published Online
September 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

29 Jan 2024 14:32

Last Modified:

23 Feb 2024 16:46

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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