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[Note 059.0] The song gives a description of a working-class excursion that agrees well with those of participants and observers. The song was performed by Lily Langtree. The fact that she was widely known to be a former mistress of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII); who was known to the public as "Bertie" presumably added a frisson to the performance.
[Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillie_Langtry#Royal_mistress]

[Note 059.1] "cheap excursion train" - In her description of an August bank holiday trip to New Brighton from Bolton in 1890 (the year after this song was published), Alice Foley recollected that "Excursion rates were extremely modest 2/9d for adults, half price for children and free for infants. Before I grew too tall for evasion it was customary to wedge my small person between father and mother whilst the rest of the family shoved us quickly through the barriers. Once safely in the compartment I had to be prepared for a sudden duck under the seat should a ticket inspector appear but, apart from this small indignity, it was usually a day of complete happiness." [Ref: Quoted by Pamela Horn in Pleasure and Pastimes in Victorian Britain pp124-125]

[Note 059.2] "banjo's twanging to the latest song" - Singing was an important part of excursions of all sorts. Books like the Railway and Parlour Songbook (1855) were aimed at just that market.

[Note 059.3] "Any amount of chaps and gals all their Sunday fal-de-rals" - The Oxford English Dictionary gives "fal-de-rals" as "gewgaw (A gaudy trifle, plaything, or ornament, a pretty thing of little value, a toy or bauble), trifle; a flimsy thing" So here it is probably referring to accessories to dresses etc.

[Note 059.4] "life on the ocean main" is probably "Life on the Ocean Wave" (Roud V3089) by H Sargent written about 1842 [Ref: British Library H.1661.(7.)]. It has over 70 entries in the Roud Index so was presumably very well known.

[Note 059.5] "Then there's Bertie with his eye-glass" - "Bertie" is name associated with the upper classes (e.g "I'm Burlington Bertie, I rise at 10:30" BL H.3993.r.(4.)) so Bertie here is the archetypal toff. An eye-glass is a monocle, fashionable at the time. "Beastly-bally-awfully-vulgar" emphasises Bertie's status and lampoons upper class speech mannerisms of the period (See for example, the Jeeves & Wooster novels of P.G. Wodehouse). The Oxford English Dictionary gives "Bally" as a "vague intensive (usually as a euphemism for bloody): confounded, dashed, blasted. Used for emphasis: confoundedly, extremely, very". It was not unknown for upper class passengers to save money by travelling third class thus contributing to the social mixing that was such a feature of the railways.

[Note 059.6] "with its songs and sandwiches" - It was usual for working class folk to take their own food. In her description of her trip to New Brighton, Alice Foley wrote "Having risen at a very early hour on the great day, mother was to be found busily cutting piles of sandwiches and currant cake". [Ref: Horn]

 

 

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