This song is from the time of when quill pens were used for writing. The quill (the hollow part of a feather) would be dipped in ink. Sand was used to soak up the extra ink after something was written on paper. White sand and grey sand was sold for this purpose. The white sand was clean and therefore more expensive. The sand turned grey as it was used to blot the ink. This is the song of a street peddler selling the sand.

Notes

This song was already considered traditional in the 1850's.
[See "The Christian Remembrancer", Volume 24, page 475, by William Scott, Francis Garden and James Bowling Mozley (London, 1852).]

Comments

"White Sand and Grey Sand" is sung throughout the English speaking world.

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Many thanks to Nyango M. Nambangi of the Minnesota African Women's Association for contributing this song on our Cameroon pages and for singing it for us!

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - White Sand and Grey Sand

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Katie Quann for sharing a score with us!

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