GEORGE MAYNARD, known late in life as Pop, was born in Smallfield, Surrey, in 1872 and in childhood moved with his family to the next village, Copthorne in Sussex. He attended school on and off for four or five years, leaving at the age of twelve. For many years during the winter-time he worked, together with his father and his brothers, as a woodman for Isaac Budgeon. cutting wood for the hoop trade. As he told Ken Stubbs, “Any man who was a good woodcutter in that time of day was never out of work, except if it was too bad with frost and snow. For there used to be a lot of people out of work one time of day, at that time of day when I was a lad.” In the spring-time, he stripped bark from trees with a gang of flawers, and later in the season with a gang of barkatchers he cleaned the bark of lichen and moss for use in tanning. “I used to go from barn to barn, and my wife’s family used to go along of me and my poor old girl, she said she never enjoyed herself as much as when out different places with all the little family… She’d do as much as a man.” Later in the year he went harvesting, hedging and ditching, hop-picking and hop-pole pulling, and at one hop-field owned by John Day at Moorden in put in fifty-two years. “They took me when I were a baby and I never missed a year for years and years.” Like so many other working men in the Sussex Weald, this pattern of seasonal employment gave him a degree of independence not felt by men employed by the same employer throughout the year. Similarly, like those same men he supplemented his income when times were bad by poaching.
Singing was part of Pop’s early family life, having cousins who were known locally as good singers, and he learned songs from his father, brothers and sisters at home. He always had an ear for a good song and picked up many from ballad-sheets that were hawked around the villages and from others who would write out the words for him. In common with most singers of his background and generation, he learned the latest popular stuff as it came out, but he was known primarily for his singing of old country songs, of which he had a considerable number. His favourite was The Claudy Banks which he sang only on very special occasions, associating it with his own wedding, and his best song, Polly On The Shore, had personal resonances for him as he lost his wife Polly in early middle age. Back in his young days he was a stepdancer and he played the tambourine, and he reminisced to me, “The best music there ever was — fiddle and tambourine!” In retirement he was known and respected in the locality as a kind and courteous old man, the world champion marbles player, or at least that’s what they said, who played at the annual Good Friday marbles tournament at Tinsley Green and received some fame in the local press. He frequented The Cherry Tree, and sang among his old friends on some Saturday nights, when his dignified presence and delivery characterised his performance. In 1955 a reporter on the local paper brought him to the attention of Mervyn Plunkett, who then arranged for Peter Kennedy to record him for the BBC, and he was featured in the radio programme As I Roved Out in 1956.
This profile is taken from that found on this singer in the “Voice of the People” series of CD albums of Topic which in its turn acknowledges the article by Ken Stubbs in EFDSS journal, vol.9, No.4 (1963)