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A Proper Sort of Gardener

[Maggie Holland, Jon Moore]

Maggie Holland sang her own song A Proper Sort of Gardener. on her 1992 album Down to the Bone. She commented in the album's sleeve notes:

I was exclusively a singer of other people's songs who didn't believe she could write, until 1987 when Jon Moore persuaded me to do so through a combination of nagging and encouragement. Initially, he also wrote tunes for my words; included are Sandy Hill, Never Too Late, and A Proper Sort of Gardener. The latter is, like all the best once-upon-a-time stories, completely true; the Bass beer factory still stands on the site of Mr Harding's garden in Alton, Hants. Mr Harding was recently laid to rest in the same graveyard as my parents.

N.B. Maggie Holland also referred to Mr Harding in her song A Place Called England.

June Tabor sang A Proper Sort of Gardener in 1997 on her album Aleyn. This recording was later included in her 4CD anthology Always.

This YouTube video shows Vicki Guillory singing A Proper Sort of Gardener. at the Sage Gateshead on May 7, 2009:

Lyrics

Maggie Holland's original version of A Proper Sort of Gardener

Once upon a time I found a garden,
Picked the brightest things that I could see;
An apron full of Mr Harding's flowers,
I didn't know that he was watching me.
Straight away my mother ran to tell him
Wondering what he would say or do.
Mr Harding smiled and said, “She's just a little child;
I knew that she'd be picking them for you.”

By the fire my dad will read me stories.
One of them concerned a garden too,
Where the lion and the lamb lay down together
Every lovely fruit and flower grew.
The gardener let his children in to play there,
Delighted in the brightness of the day,
But when they went exploring and took a fruit to taste
He cursed them both and sent them on their way.

Even then I realised in my childish mind
That he wasn't a proper gardener of the Mr Harding kind.

Mr Harding's garden was all taken
By lesser men with concrete in their minds.
Factory chimneys grew instead of daisies,
No butterflies from that assembly line.
My mum she faded faster than a flower,
Dad sat in the darkness and cried.
Mr Harding walks a little slower than before,
But still he tends the grave where they lie.

Wherever it is they've gone to I hope that they will find
A proper sort of garden of the Mr Harding kind.

The foolish woman sometimes feels despairing
Because it seems so difficult to find.
The child tries to plant a little everywhere she goes
That special love of the Mr Harding kind.

Someday when I'm older maybe I shall find
That I've grown into a gardener of the Mr Harding kind.

June Tabor sings A Proper Sort of Gardener

Once upon a time I found a garden,
Picked the brightest things that I could see;
An apron full of Mr Harding's flowers,
I didn't know that he was watching me.
Straight away my mother ran to tell him
Wondering what he would say or do.
Mr Harding smiled and said, “She's just a little child;
I knew that she'd be picking them for you.”

By the fire dad would tell me stories.
One of them concerned a garden too,
Where the lion and the lamb lay down together
And every lovely fruit and flower grew.
The gardener sent his children in to play there,
Rejoicing in the brightness of the day,
But when they went exploring and took a fruit to taste
He cursed them both and sent them on their way.

Even then I realised in my childish mind
That he wasn't a proper gardener of the Mr Harding kind.

Mr Harding's garden was all taken
By lesser men with concrete in their minds.
Factory chimneys grew instead of daisies,
No butterflies from that assembly line.
My mother faded faster than a flower,
Dad sat in the darkness and cried.
Mr Harding moves a little slower than before,
But still he tends the grave where they both lie.

Wherever it is they've gone to I hope that they will find
A proper sort of garden of the Mr Harding kind.

The foolish woman sometimes feels despairing
And thinks it seems so very hard to find.
The child tries to plant a little everywhere she goes
That special love of the Mr Harding kind.

Someday when I'm older maybe I will find
That I've grown into a gardener of the Mr Harding kind.