Article MT162

Songs from the Golden Fleece

A song tradition today


Musical Traditions Records' third CD release of 2005: Songs from the Golden Fleece: A song tradition today (MTCD335-6), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the record, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Singers] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

Track List:

Cover picture
CD One:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -

CD Two:
1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
 
The Flanders Shore
The Death of Parker
Posy Joe
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
Boney's Lamentation
The Bonny Bunch of Roses
The Isle of St Helena
The Eighteenth of June
The Dragon of Wantley
The Tyger
The Forsaken Maiden
The Flowers of Bermuda
Garners Gay
The Trees are all Bare
The Outlandish Knight
The Willow Tree
The Week Before Easter
Young Tommy and the Privy
The Old Garden Gate


The Indian Lass
Bury Me on Sunday
Christmas Lamentation
Young Taylor
Johnny Heybourn
Polly on the Shore
Some Rival
Tea in the Arbour
Queen Jane
The Gown of Green
Locks and Bolts
Salisbury Plain
The Weaver's Prayer
The Labouring Man's Daughter
The Green Wedding
The Housewife's Lament
The Cuckoo
Tonight I'll get My Pay
The Parting Glass
 

Bob Bray
Audrey Smith
Harry Langston
Chris Molan
Roger Grimes
Danny Stradling
Martin Graebe
Rod Stradling
Ken Langsbury
Jeff Gillett
Shan Cowan
Bob Bray
Audrey Smith
Chris Molan & Harry Langston
Roger Grimes
Danny Stradling
Rod Stradling
Ken Langsbury
Jeff Gillett
Total:

Bob Bray
Audrey Smith
Shan Cowan & Martin Graebe
Rod Stradling
Danny Stradling
Roger Grimes
Audrey Smith
Ken Langsbury
Martin Graebe
Shan Cowan
Bob Bray
Chris Molan
Harry Langston
Danny Stradling
Rod Stradling
Audrey Smith
Roger Grimes
Ken Langsbury
Jeff Gillett
Total:
 

3:25
3:18
3:54
3:38
1:58
3:26
4:15
3:20
6:17
2:15
2:00
2:43
4:15
2:38
4:34
3:10
5:16
4:25
3:36
67:04

2:47
1:28
3:59
3:15
3:38
3:09
1:31
5:27
4:12
1:47
1:55
2:49
4:20
4:17
5:33
5:13
2:52
2:36
4:29
69:00

Introduction:

Readers of the CD reviews in MT will know that I, among others, have had cause to criticise the recordings of some of the younger generation of singers - people who are, like myself, to some extent products of the 'second British folk song revival', and of the folk club and festival scene.  But I am also aware that there are a good number of singers who share this heritage, yet are well able to be judged by the same criteria as traditional singers without being the losers by it.  For several years, it has been my intention to produce some CDs of such people, as well as of 'traditional' singers - live people as well as dead ones!

In 2001, Musical Traditions Records published what I described as 'our first CD from people who I don't wish to call revivalists - not only has it become a pejorative term, it's also inaccurate - successors might be better'.  That was the double CD from Kevin and Ellen Mitchell.  Another double from Oak followed it in 2003, and now we have a third - from a modern-day song tradition, rather than a performing entity.

I hope that this present double CD publication will prove to be as acceptable to the public and critics as the previous two have been and, most particularly, that it may encourage others to attempt to create the sort of 'Fellowship of Song' which we've all so enjoyed in Stroud's Golden Fleece.

*****

Some four years ago, a singing session which had run monthly on Tuesdays in The Woolpack, Slad (a small village just up one of Stroud’s five valleys), moved to the back room of The Golden Fleece (yes, Stroud is, or was, a wool town), the small pub almost opposite our house.

That first session was extremely enjoyable - much to everyone’s surprise, since a move to a new venue is often an uncomfortable experience.  The following one was even better, and we’d not been at the Fleece for long before we decided that a month was too long to have to wait between sessions, and the meetings were changed to the 1st, 3rd and (when there is one) 5th Tuesdays of the month.

It didn’t take too long before the session developed into the most exciting and rewarding singing situation it has ever been my privilege to encounter.  Initially we were somewhat at a loss as to why this should be; the Fleece’s back room was (though it has now been redecorated) amongst the least congenial singing venues one could imagine - a dingy, square brick box with one small window, and a door out to the pub’s kitchen.  Since they don’t serve food in the evenings, this latter rarely causes a problem.  Nor does the music on the pub’s sound system when you’re really focussed on the song and the company.  But we’ve come to believe that it’s not the room which makes the difference - but what’s in it ...  a single, large table, surrounded by ten chairs.

Unlike a folk club, where the performers and audience are separated by several implied socio-cultural constructs, and where neither are necessarily stable from week-to-week, the Fleece session is a relatively stable grouping - and there is no audience.  All are equal, sitting round our table; the singer only a few feet away from you, where you can see every nuance of emotion on his or her face as the song’s story unfolds.  This is not a situation where a ‘performance’ is appropriate ... we share the songs amongst the gathering, rather than project them at a separate audience.  Oddly perhaps, this results in the songs becoming thought of as ‘ours’ as much as ‘Bob’s’ or ‘Audrey’s’.

We suppose that this is why, on the few occasions the Fleece room has been unavailable and we’ve sung in our kitchen instead, there has been an indefinable, but very obvious, ‘something’ missing from the proceedings.  Our kitchen also has a big table - but it’s ‘Rod and Danny’s table’, and not ‘our table’.  Subtleties are tenuous - but often very powerful.

We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have stumbled, quite unintentionally, into a situation which is (when today’s social practices are taken into account) essentially the same as those which pertained at those famous ‘singing pubs’ like Blaxhall Ship, Eastbridge Eel’s Foot, Sutton Windmill, and doubtless scores of others across the country.  We, like the singers who frequented those pubs, travel for anything up to 45 minutes to a place where we know that like-minded singers will gather to sing ‘our songs’ - and where they will receive an intelligent, informed, enthusiastic and critical reception, amongst good order and friends.

(We would all have preferred that these recording had been made around 'our table' in the Fleece, where we could have joined in with choruses, refrains, and our favourite lines - but the intrusions of staff, other customers and noise from the bars would have been unacceptable on CDs like these, recorded for listening to.  So I recorded them in our kitchen - as I did with Kevin and Ellen Mitchell's CDs.)

Rod Stradling - September 2005

The singers:

Audrey Smith - our ‘star’ ought to be mentioned first.  Clearly the senior member, at over 80, Audrey is also amongst the most dedicated - and certainly the most punctual of all of us!  She has a large repertoire of unusual songs and is still learning new ones, and singing better than ever before.

Of herself, Audrey writes: I worked professionally for ten years with John Timpany.  We were multi-instrumentalists but greatly enjoyed singing unaccompanied.  When we split, I gave John my guitar and soon found myself using only my brass-reeded English concertina as accompaniment to some songs.  Generally I like to work from the page and do my own thing with the song.

I started a club in Northamptonshire which celebrated its 25th birthday in 2004, and a very eclectic one at the multicultural centre in Wellingborough.

Moving to Stroud in 1991, I supported the Railway Club until it folded, and have been associated with the Fleece session since it started.  It has always been attended by mostly unaccompanied singers, and I found that this style gave me greater freedom in the presentation of songs.

Bob Bray - our boss, or thinks he is!  Bob has organised the session from the start, chairs the meetings and sings the first song of the evening.  Bob also has a huge repertoire of unusual songs and a very individual style of melodic decoration.

Of himself, Bob writes 'I began singing in my native East Anglia, listening to the classic singers of the East Coast: Sam Larner and Harry Cox, then Joseph Taylor and latterly Walter Pardon from Norfolk.  Settling in Leicester after my itinerant twenties I sang with Jon Scaife who accompanied me on guitar and cittern for over ten years, adding songs from America, Ulster and even some new pieces to my repertoire before moving to Stroud where, after a spell singing harmony with Sue Burgess, I began to look again at my unaccompanied singing style and roots in the southern English tradition.

I have developed a singing style that is direct, but with more ornament than many English singers, and am increasingly focused on the direction the singing is taking in these interesting times.  I have always enjoyed small singing sessions and during the 1970s began the Leicester Traditional Music Workshop, which ran for 10 years or so at the Bricklayers Arms.  A few years after arriving in Stroud I started the Stroud Singing Session at the Woolpack, that has now settled at the Golden Fleece

The atmosphere of a small session where singers can talk and sing in a way that may more closely mirror the natural home of the songs is always my favourite setting for singing.  I can sing all the songs I wish and feel comfortable to experiment with new ideas for the songs.  Perhaps it is the love of drink and good company that confirms this singing ambience as ideal.

Roger Grimes - although mainly known as the leader of the Grand Union dance band, Roger is a fine singer with a big repertoire featuring many fine ballads.  Of himself, Roger says 'Originally from Hertfordshire, I moved to Gloucester via Leicester and Nottingham, where I ran Nottingham Traditional Music Club in the mid '70s, and playing in various dance bands.  As well as being a solo singer I also sang with Notts Alliance.

Having moved to Gloucester in 1977, I continued singing and playing in a dance band.  Then, after a long break, Bob Bray persuaded me to start again at the Slad session and since then I have been a regular at the Fleece.

Ken Langsbury - will probably best be remembered as a member of Cheltenham's Songwainers, and as an occasional member of the Old Swan Band.  Indeed, the band only started public performing due to being asked to accompany Ken on one of his gigs at a Birmingham folk club.

Of himself, Ken says 'I started singing in front of people when I was 18 years old; I am now 66.  In the 1990s I lost my enthusiasm for singing to folk audiences until one Tuesday when I went along to one of the superb sing-arounds they hold at the Fleece.  Good company, good singers and a good example of a living tradition.'

Rod Stradling - although Rod started out as a singer in the mid-’60s, he rather got side-tracked by a consuming interest in English country dance music in the ‘70s and really only got back into singing seriously when the Stroud session moved to the Fleece in 2001.  At that point, his earlier repertoire of some 200 hundred songs had dwindled to about ten - but they were the most important ones! He has had to apply himself to learning a few more since then, many of which are compilations of several versions, reflecting his own feelings of what the songs mean to him.

Danny Stradling - 'I first sang publicly at the age of thirteen, and meandered my way from jazz to traditional music in the following 10 years - ie.  from Bessie Smith to Phoebe Smith (and taking in Lal Smith on the way!).  The most interesting and illuminating times, musically and socially, were the late '60s and early '70s when I spent a lot of time in the company of older singers and musicians, but in the '80s as I sang less my enthusiasm and confidence seemed to dry up.  Singing at the Fleece, with a small group of friends who share my love and understanding of the music, has rekindled my interest and passion.'

Martin Graebe - is best known as a singer and writer of songs in traditional style, many of which have traveled the world and been recorded by a number of performers.  He is also known as the leading researcher, writer and expert on the work of the Victorian song collector Sabine Baring-Gould.  Working with recently discovered manuscripts, he has been responsible for a major re-assessment of Baring-Gould’s contribution to the folk revival and for bringing a number of new songs back to life after a century.

Shan Cowan - started singing folk songs as a school-girl, before going on to sing other kinds of song.  She returned to folk a few years ago and met Martin at the Baring-Gould Study Break.  Since then she has been responsible for transcribing a significant number of songs from the Baring-Gould manuscripts, particularly an exploration of the songs collected from women, identifying over 100 songs in the process.

Together they sing songs in harmony, selecting songs from the tradition, from Martin’s own songs and from other sources.  Martin says 'Stroud’s song session the Fleece is a favourite haunt because of the commitment on the part of all present to enjoying the traditional songs.  That enjoyment shows itself in the performance, in the reception of the song by the other singers and by the surrounding conversation.  Rather like it would have been in the old days, in fact.'

Harry Langston - was born and brought up in Burnley, Lancashire, and began singing folk songs in 1963.  'After a brief, but enjoyable, interlude with American folk music I wanted to find out more about our own national folk music tradition.  This very quickly translated into a desire to sing songs from northern England and, in particular, songs from Lancashire.

Throughout my childhood the local dialect of my grandfather’s generation was giving way to national influences.  The way of life based upon the cotton mills and the mines was changing and moving on.  I became increasingly fascinated with dialect poetry as a window on the life and history of the area I lived in.  Combining this with my interest in music became a natural step which has continued to this day.'

Chris Molan - 'I began singing in 1963 in Bristol, encouraged by Paul Carter, who was then recording traditional music for Topic Records.  ... the warm glow at the end of many an eveningHis wife Angela (later the novelist Angela Carter) was writing her BA dissertation on the etymology of The Streams of Lovely Nancy, and Paul was pushing the latest pressings from Topic in my direction, so I was influenced by a heady mix of gut-British singing and scholarship!  A visitor to one of our small music events at the Fleece described it as “Like going to church”.'

Jeff Gillett - 'Melody and words were always very important to me but, as a musician, I’m also drawn to rhythm and harmony, both of which can all too easily clutter or swamp a traditional song.  However, neither aspect is actually alien to traditional song, and provided they are used to enhance rather than constrain, I am sure that there is a place for them. 

The Golden Fleece song sessions have a unique atmosphere.  It must be puzzling, not to say disconcerting, to a newcomer to find that nobody applauds.  Warm comments are not unusual, but as often as not they will be for the song rather than the performance.  And yet you will hear many fine performances at the Fleece: partly because of the quality of the singers, but more because of their love for, and obvious enjoyment of, the songs.  Sharing songs is what we are about, and the warm glow at the end of many an evening doubtless owes something to the quality of the beer, but much more to the company and the songs.'

*****

Since Martin is a jetsetting executive and Shan lives in Reading, they don't get to the Fleece as frequently as they would like.  The same goes for Chris and Harry, who live an hour away over in Bristol, and Jeff, who, while local, has only recently become a frequent participant.  Since these CDs are intended to reflect what normally happens in the Fleece, these five singers have slightly fewer songs than the rest of us.  Other than that, the order in which the songs are presented broadly reflects a couple of fairly typical evenings in the Golden Fleece.

The Songs:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud.  Currently containing more than 261,000 records between them, they are described by him as “extensive, but not yet exhaustive”.  Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceol Duchais Eireann, Dublin; and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK. E-mail: sroud@btinternet.com

Child numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, Boston, 1882-98.  Laws numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, Philadelphia, 1957.

CD One:

1 - The Flanders Shore (Roud 2636)
Sung by Bob Bray

When I was young and fell a-courting
I loved a fair maid as my life,
But from four in the morning until nine at night,
Bob Bray Until nine at night,
I never could gain my own heart's delight,
I never could gain my own heart's delight.

When her father did discover
That I did court his daughter dear,
He locked her up in a room so high,
In a room so high,
And so began my own sad misery,
And so began my own sad misery.

I went unto my love's chamber window
To let her know and understand
That I was bound for fair Flanders' shore,
For fair Flanders' shore,
Never to return to England no more,
Never to return to England no more.

And I went unto my love's chamber door,
Where I never had been before.
I saw a light springing from her clothes,
Springing from her clothes,
Just as the morning sun when first arose,
Just as the morning sun when first arose.

As I was walking on fair Flanders' shore
I met her father all alone.
"My daughter she is dead" he cried,
"She is dead" he cried.
"She has broke her heart all for the love of thee,
She has broke her heart all for the love of thee."
So I hove a bullet unto fair England,
Unto fair England,
Just where I thought that my own true lover lay.

Like many others, I was impressed by this enigmatic song of thwarted love in the time of Marlborough when I heard Nic Jones sing Flandyke Shore.  However the song was a fragment and only really worked with guitar phrases to enliven the truncated story.  The wonderful Vaughan Williams Library furnished me with a complimentary set of words from an adjacent village to the one that Nic used, and it just about makes a credible story.  The tune is glorious.

2 - The Death of Parker (Roud 1032)
Sung by Audrey Smith

Ye Gods above protect the widow
And with pity look down on me;
Help me, help me out of trouble
And through this sad calamity.
Audrey Smith Parker was a wild young sailor,
Fortune to him did prove unkind,
Although he was hanged up for mutiny,
Worse than him was left behind.

Farewell Parker, thou bright angel,
Once thou wast old England's pride.
Although he was hanged up for mutiny,
Worse than him was left behind.

Young Parker was my lawful husband,
My bosom friend whom I loved so dear;
Though doomed by law he was to suffer,
I was not allowed to come near.
At length I saw the yellow flag flying,
The signal that my true love was to die,
The gun was fired that was required,
To hang him all on the yard-arm so high.

The boatman did his best endeavour
To reach the shore without delay,
There I stood waiting, just like a mermaid,
To carry the corpse of my husband away.
At dead of night when all was silent
And thousands of people lay fast asleep,
Me and my poor maidens beside me
Into the burying ground did creep.

With trembling hands instead of shovels
The mould from his coffin we scratched away,
Until we came to the corpse of Parker
And carried it off without delay.
A mourning cart there stood a-waiting
And off to London we drove with speed,
And there we had him most decently buried
And a sermon preached over him indeed.

I first sang this as a solo with John Timpany's whistle accompaniment and probably got it from The Wanton Seed, pp.36 and 127.  I liked it because The Nore is not that far from where I then lived.

Gardiner collected the song from Mr W Rundle, landlord of the Farmer's Inn, St Merryn, Cornwall, in 1905, but the text in the book has been augmented from two Hampshire versions.

3 - Posy Joe (My Garden)
By Joseph Cronshaw (1851-1921) (abridged)
Sung by Harry Langston

Ah've a bonny little garden
Reet full o’ pretty flowers
An’ when it’s leet 'til late at neet
Harry Langston Ah spend some happy hours;
Wi’ reet good will ah tek mi spade
An’ delve an hour or so,
An’ then I sit an’ smoke a bit
An’ watch my posies grow.
Ay an’ then I sit an’ smoke a bit
An’ watch my posies grow.

Oh there’s lots o’folks would give a lot
To live a life like mine.
Oh ah’m reet content wi' blessings sent
Bit’ weather wet or fine.
Old Sol may hide his face awhile,
But then, yo’ see, I know
Oh it tek's some rain as weel as sun
To mek mi posies grow.

Oh, there’s lots o’ birds an’ butterflies
Come sippin’ fro’ each bell;
There’s music sweet, morn, noon an’ neet,
In yon little dell.
Th'oul' throstle pipes out loud an’ clear,
While finches, sweet an’ low,
Join in a chorus when I sit
An’ watch my posies grow.

Oh ah’ve polyants an’ greenhouse plants,
Grand roses, too, as well,
Tall hollyhocks, an’ phlox, an’ stocks,
Far more nor I can tell.
So if you ever come this road,
Just ax for Posy Joe;
An ah’ll tak’ yo’ reawnd my bit o’ greawnd,
To watch mi posies grow.

Ah've a bonny little garden
Reet full o’ pretty flowers
An’ when it’s leet 'til late at neet
Ah spend some happy hours;
Wi’ reet good will ah tek mi spade
An’ delve an hour or so,
An’ then I sit an’ smoke a bit
An’ watch my posies grow.

Joseph Cronshaw was born in Newton Heath in 1851.  He was the son of poor parents who worked his way through life to become a business man in Ancoats near Manchester.  Joseph Cronshaw loved nature and this shines through in many of his poems.  He was often known as the Ancoats Bard and died in 1921.

The above version of Cronshaw’s dialect poem was taken from A Lancashire Anthology by May Yates published in 1923.  I was always attracted by the poem when I first read it.  My preferred name for the song is Posy Joe.  I wrote the tune used in the recording, and I hope it conveys Cronshaw’s love of nature.  My interpretation of the poem and song is, perhaps, a little closer to my own Burnley way of speaking rather than Cronshaw’s Manchester dialect.

4 - Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie (Roud 631, Laws B2)
Sung by Chris Molan

"Oh bury me not on the lone prairie."
These words came slow and mournfully
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay
On his cold damp bed at the break of day.

Chris Molan He had dwelled in pain 'til o’er his brow
Death’s shadows fast were gathering now.
He thought of his friends and his loved ones nigh,
As the cowboys gathered to see him die

"Oh bury me not on the lone prairie
Where the owl all night hoots mournfully,
In a narrow grave just six by three,
Oh bury me not on the lone prairie."

"I’ve often been told that when you die
It matters not where the body lies,
But grant, oh grant this prayer to me
And bury me not on the lone prairie."

"In fancy I hear the well known words
Of the wild free wind and the song of the birds,
I think of the home and the cottage bower
And the friends I knew in my childhood hour."

"Oh bury me there, and after I die,
In a little churchyard on the green hillside,
By my father’s grave, oh let mine be,
And bury me not on the lone prairie."

"Oh bury me not", and his voice fell there.
But we paid no heed to his dying prayer,
In a narrow grave just six by three
We buried him there on the lone prairie.

Yes, we buried him there on the lone prairie
Where the owl all night hoots mournfully,
Where the buzzard beats and the wind blows free
O’er the lonely grave on the lone prairie

Lone Prairie comes from the singing of the late Sandy Darlington.  He and his wife Jeanie were an American duo who took the British folk scene by storm when they toured here in the mid 1960s.  Sandy's powerful singing of this version contrasted with other maudlin renditions, and gave it a sound both authentic and compelling.  Jeanie (now McLerie) continues to be a great singer and wonderful musician playing music of the American South West with the same vibrance and vitality.

It is one of the features of the Fleece sessions that a series of songs on a common theme will emerge during an evening.  Usually these are quite unplanned but, on occasion, a particular date will prompt some of us to have an appropriate song ready - as in the annual case of the nearest Tuesday to June 18th, when a load of Napoleon songs get sung ... as below.

5 - Boney’s Lamentation (Roud 2547)
Sung by Roger Grimes

Attend you sons of high renown
Roger Grimes To these few words that I write down,
I was born to wear a stately crown,
And to rule a wealthy nation.
I am the man that beat the blues
At Warmers Hill did them pursue,
That great Archduke I did overthrew,
My men were slain on every plain,
Grand travesty I did obtain,
And I got capitulation.

We pursued them along the Egyptian shore
Where the Algerians lay in their gore,
The rights of France for to restore,
Which had long been confiscated.
We pursued them all through mud and mire,
'Til in despair my men retired,
And Moscow town was set on fire,
My men were lost through sleet and frost,
I never before received such a blast,
Since the day I was created.

At Leipzig town my soldiers fled,
Mount Mark was strewn with Russian dead,
We marched them forth in inveterate streams,
For to stop a bold invasion.
So fare thee well my royal whore,
And offspring great that I adore,
May you reinstate that throne,
That's torn away this very day,
Kings with me have had their play,
And caused this Lamentation.

A potted history of Napoleon's campaigns before Waterloo.  I like songs about the deeds of Napoleon, as well as the songs concerning Waterloo.  A hero of the British lower classes and therefore a bête noir of the establishment.

This is a neat little song which can be sung with the bravado that Boney might have shown following his betrayal, defeat and subsequent disgraceful exile.  It also contains reference, as do many other songs and contemporary accounts, of his belief that his son will avenge him.

6 - The Bonny Bunch of Roses (Roud 664, Laws J5)
Sung by Danny Stradling

By the margin of the ocean
One morning in the month of June,
When the feathered warbling songsters
Do change their note, and they change their tune,
Danny Stradling I overheard a female
Complain with bitter tears of woe,
Conversing with Napoleon Bonaparte
Concerning the Bonny Bunch of Roses-o.

Then up spoke young Napoleon,
And he took his mother by the hand,
"Oh, mother dear have patience,
I'll face the world and make my stand,
And I'll raise a mighty army,
And through pain and peril I will go,
And a branch I'll break for your sweet sake,
A branch of the Bonny Bunch of Roses-o."

Then sadly sighed his mother,
As true as toughest hearts of oak,
"The stem that bears the rose is
Not easy bent, nor easy broke.
Your famous father tried it,
And now in France his head lies low,
For the sharpest thorn that was ever borne,
Is borne by the Bonny Bunch of Roses-o."

For he took three hundred thousand men,
And kings alike to join his throng,
And with pipes and banners flying,
Enough to sweep the world along.
But when he come to Moscow
They was overcome with sleet and snow,
And with Moscow burning to the ground
No gain he found,
But lost the Bonny Bunch of Roses-o."

"Oh mother, dearest mother,
As I lie upon my dying bed,
And, like my noble father,
I now must hang my humble head.
There is none alive can take the rose,
That rose so red and full of woe."
And with bleeding heart and bleeding hand,
He left the land,
The land where the Bonny Bunch of Roses grows.

Norma Waterson gave me the bones of this song.  It was collected by Bob Davenport in Suffolk in the 1960s, thouigh he does not remember from whom - perhaps somebody out there knows?  I put what I had together with words from other versons of this most widespread of Napoleon ballads.  I note that the other tunes are normally majestic and dignified, and perhaps that is why I find this one irresistable - being, like me, neither.

Most of the songs I sing I have learned from the 'source', at least in essence.  This is a rare instance where this is not the case.

7 - Isle of St Helena (Roud 349)
Sung by Martin Graebe

Now Napoleon he is done
With his wars and his fighting.
He has gone to a place
He can take no delight in.
Martin Graebe He may sit him down and think
On the battles he has seen-a,
While alone he does mourn,
On the Isle of St Helena.

Now, Louisa does weep
For her husband departed.
She dreams while she sleeps
And she awakes broken-hearted.
Not a friend to console
Nor no-one to stand by her,
While alone she does mourn
For her love on St Helena.

Now, the rude rushing waves
Round the shores they are washing,
And the high billows roar
On the rough rocks is dashing.
He may look to the moon,
To the great mount of Diana,
While alone he does mourn
On the Isle of St Helena.

Now, you parliaments of war
And your holy alliance,
To your prisoner of war
You may now bid defiance.
For your base misdeeds
And your greater misdemeanours,
They have caused him to die
On the Isle of St Helena.

Now, you who have wealth
Beware of ambition,
Lest in some degree of health
You may change your position.
Be steadfast in time for
What's to come you know not,
And you may end your days
On the Isle of St Helena.

This song was issued as a broadside under a number of different titles and Roud lists several collected versions.  The majority of these are from the USA, though Henry Burstow of Horsham had it in his extensive repertoire.  I learned it in 1976 when I did a library talk on Napoleon in folk song.  I probably found it in John Anthony Scott’s The Ballad of America though, looking back at that version (Scott called it Napoleon Bonaparte), I have changed the tune and the words a fair bit.  What a scandal!

8 - The Eighteenth of June (Roud 2539)
Sung by Rod Stradling

All you people who live at home easy,
And far from the trials of war,
Never knowing the dangers of battle,
Rod Stradling But safe with your family secure.
Know you, the long scythe of destruction
Has been sweeping the Nations all round,
But it never yet cut with the keenness
That it did on the eighteenth of June.

It had started at five in the morning,
And lasted ‘til seven at night.
All the people stood round in amazement,
For they never had seen such a sight.
‘Til the thunder of five hundred cannons
Proclaimed that the battle was done,
And the moon in the sky over-shone all,
Recording the eighteenth of June.

And what a sad heart had poor Boney
To take up instead of a crown -
And the canter from Brussels to Paris,
Lamenting the eighteenth of June.

All you young girls with sweethearts out yonder,
Go you gaily and buy the black gown -
Here's ten thousand to one I would lay you
That he fell on the eighteenth of June.
Sixty thousand stout-hearted
Brave mortals who died,
Sang some terrible funeral tune,
But there’s many’s the more will remember,
With sorrow, the eighteenth of June.

So take up your sad heart, faithless Boney,
And you bear that, instead of your crown -
For there’s many's the more will remember,
With sorrow, the eighteenth of June.

This splendid song comes from Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex, from whom Vaughan Williams collected it in 1905.  It was published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 2 (1906) p.193.  In the midst of a conversation with Martin Carthy about English Napoleonic songs, he produced it out of that prodigious memory of his ... and I immediately and unashamedly stole it! It subsequently turns out that it is a song that Mike Waterson sings, and that he’d made a few alterations to it along the way.  And so have I - and have yet to see a copy of the original.

Being an Englishman, I frequently feel ashamed at what my warlike country has done (is still doing!) to others around the world.  So I’m delighted to find, and proud to sing, a song about our 'greatest military victory' which is so concerned with the plight of the ordinary people involved on both sides.  It doesn’t even mention who won!

9 - The Dragon of Wantley
Sung by Ken Langsbury

Old stories tell how Hercules a dragon slew at Lerna.
With seven heads and fourteen eyes
To see and well discern-a.
But he had a club this dragon to drub
Or he’d ne’er done it, I warrant ye.
But Moor of Moor Hall had nothing at all
When he slew the Dragon of Wantley.

Ken Langsbury Have you not heard how the Trojan horse
Carried seventy men in his belly?
This dragon was not quite so big
But very near, I’ll tell ye.
Devoured he poor children three
That with him could not grapple
And at one sup, he did eat them up
As one would eat an apple.

In Yorkshire near fair Rotherham,
A place I know it well,
Some two or three miles, or thereabouts,
I’m sure I cannot tell.
But there is a hedge just on the hill edge
With Matthew’s house close by it;
Oh there and then is our dragon’s den,
You cannot choose but spy it.

Some say this dragon was a witch,
Some say he was a devil
For from his nose a smoke arose,
And with it burning snivel
Which he cast off e'en he did cough
In the well that he did stand by
Which made it look just like a brook
Running with burning brandy.

Hard by a valiant knight there dwelt;
Men, women, girls and boys,
Sighing, sobbing, came to his lodging
And made a hideous noise.
"Oh, save us all, Moor of Moor Hall,
Thou peerless knight of these woods,
Do but slay this dragon that won’t leave us a rag on
And we’ll give thee all our goods."

"Tut tut’ quoth he, "no goods I want,
But what I want I want for sooth.
A fair maid of sixteen, that’s brisk and keen
With smiles about the mouth.
Hair black as sloes, skin white as snow
And blushes her cheeks adorning,
To anoint me all night ere I go to fight
And to dress me in the morning."

This being done, he did engage
To hew the dragon down
Bur first he went, new armour
To bespeak at Sheffield town.
With spikes all about, not within, but without
Of steel so sharp and strong
Behind and before, arms, legs and all o’er
Some five or six inches long.

Chorus:
To my rit fy lol and bol and tit
To my rit fy lol and ti
To my rit fy lol and bol and tit
To my rit fy lol and ti.

To see this fight, all people then
Got up on trees and houses.
On churches some, and chimneys too,
But these put on their trouses;
Not to spoil their hose.  As soon as he rose
To make him strong and mighty,
He drank by the tail, six pots of ale,
And a quart of aqua vitae.

It is not strength that always wins,
For wit does strength excel;
Which made our gallant champion
Creep down into a well,
Where he did think this dragon would drink
And so he did in truth
And as he stooped low he rose up and cried "Boo!"
And hit him in the mouth.

"Oh" quoth the dragon "Pox take thee; come out,
Thou disturbs me at my drink."
And then he turned and shit on him;
Good lack how he did stink!
"Beshrowl thy soul, thy body’s foul,
Thy dung smells not like balsam.
Thou son of a whore, thou stinks so sore;
Thy diet is unwholesome."

Our politic knight on the other side
Crept out upon the brink
And gave this dragon such a douse
He knew not what to think.
Two days and a night this dragon did fight
With our champion on the ground;
Though their strength it was great, their skill it was neat,
And they suffered not one wound.

But then the hard earth began to quake
As the dragon gave a knock,
Which caused him to reel and straight away thought
To lift him as high as a rock.
Then let him fall, but Moor of Moor Hall
Like a valiant son of Mars
As he came like a lout, he turned him about
And gave him a kick up the arse.

"Oh murder, murder" the dragon cried
"Alack, alack, for grief.
For had you but missed that spot
You’d have done me no mischief."
And then he quaked, shivered and shaked,
And then he laid and cried.
First on one knee, then on his back tumbled he,
He groaned, kicked, shit and died.

I found this old broadside in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry.  It is also in Pills to Purge Melancholy.  Percy says that it is a song of a crafty lawyer who took a villainous landlord to court and won a difficult case.

Dave Stevenson found the tune to the broadside, but I didn’t like the correct tune and Steve suggested that I used this tune, which belongs to The Whacking Great Meat Pie or The Wondrous Crocodile.  The chorus is from the former.  I think I sing it as written, apart from leaving a verse or two out.

10 - The Tyger
by William Blake
Sung by Jeff Gillett

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hands and what dread feet?

What the hammer, what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil, what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile His work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake first published his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in a single volume in 1794.  Most of the poems in the collection really do have a song-like character, which encouraged me to start setting them to music - a project which I completed in 2004, but which is yet to come to full fruition either as a recording or performance.  The Tyger is, of course, one of the best known poems in the collection.  Its apparent simplicity belies its depth.

11 - The Forsaken Maiden (Roud 170)Shan Cowan
Sung by Shan Cowan

A maiden sat a-weeping
Down by the sea shore
What ails my pretty Sally?
What ails my pretty Sally
And makes her heart sore?

Oh, I am a-weary
A-weary in my mind
No comfort and no pleasure
No comfort and no pleasure
Henceforth can I find

I'll set my sail of silver
I'll loose my rope of silk
My mast is of the cypress-tree
My mast is of the cypress-tree
My track white as milk

I'll set my sail of silver,
I'll steer toward the sun.
And thou, false love, wilt weep for me
And thou, false love, wilt weep for me
For me, when I am gone

Collected by Sabine Baring-Gould in October 1888 from James Parsons of Lewdown.  The song can be found in the Personal Copy MS (K1 p.94 no.39).  Baring-Gould published it in Songs of the West and attributed the tune to the 16th century.  A version of As Sally Sat A-Weeping was collected by HED Hammond in 1906 and published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 3 (1907) pp.91-9.  It is closely related to As Sylvie was Walking which appears in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.  This song was sent to W P Merrick from Australia by a woman who had learned it from her uncle in the Forest of Dean.  There are also strong links with Once I had a Sweetheart.

12 - The Flowers of Bermuda
(Composed by Stan Rogers)
Sung by Bob Bray

It was five short hours from Bermuda's Isle
In a fine October gale
When the cry it came now
"There are breakers dead ahead."
From the collier nightingale.

No sooner had the Captain turned her round
When came the rending crash below
Hard on her beam end,
Groaning, went the Nightingale
And overboard her mainmast goes.

"Oh Captain, are we all to drown now?"
Came the cry from all the crew
"For the boats are smashed;
How are we all now to be saved,
They are stove-in through and through."

"Oh are you brave and hardy collier men?
Or are you blind now and cannot see?
For the Captain's gig still lies
Before you whole and sound
And it shall carry us away."

But when the crew were all assembled there
And the gig was prepared for sea
It was seen there were but
Eighteen places to be manned
And nineteen mortal souls were we.

Then cries the Captain "Now do not delay
Nor do you spare one thought for me.
My duty is to save you all
Now if I can;
See you return swift as can be."

Now there are flowers on Bermuda's Isle
Beauty shines on every hand;
There is laughter, ease and drink
There for every man
But there is no joy for me.

For when we reached the wretched Nightingale
Such an awful sight was plain
For the Captain, drowned,
Was tangled in the mizzen chain;
Smiling bravely beneath the sea.

He was the Captain of that Nightingale,
Twenty one days from Clyde in coal.
He could smell the flowers
Of Bermuda in the gale,
As he died on the North Rock shoal.

A song from the pen of Stan Rogers of Canada who clearly had a fascination with the sea and sailing.  I heard this song on an LP in the 1970s and ‘straightened it out’ for singing unaccompanied after many years singing with Jon Scaife.  A fragment of a story woven round the self sacrifice sometimes found at sea, and reflected ironically in the heroic death of Stan Rogers, who died rescuing others in an air crash.

13 - Garner's Gay (Roud 3)
Sung by Audrey Smith

Come all you garners gay,
That are just now in your prime,
I wish I were in that young man's arms,
Where I've been many's the time.

Chorus:
Where I've been many's the time,
Where I've been many's the time,
I wish I were in that young man's arms,
Where I've been many's the time.

Oh it's all right drinking beer,
But it's much better drinking wine,
And it's better still sleeping in that young man's arms,
Where I've been many's the time.

Green willows they will twist,
Green willows they will twine,
I wish I were in that young man's arms,
That stole away this heart of mine.

Once I had time enough,
To flourish night and day,
Until that man, that bonny young man,
Came and stole all my time away.

And now my time is all gone,
And I can plant no new,
For everywhere where the thyme once grew,
Is overrun with running, running rue.

Oh rue, you running, running rue,
You're not the flower for me,
I'll pluck up all that running, running rue,
And I'll plant me the sturdy oak tree.

Stand fast, stand fast sturdy oak,
Stand fast and don't ever die,
For I'll prove as true to my own true love,
As the stars prove true to the sky.

I got this from Fred Hamer's book of the same name, collected from William Bartle of Bedfordshire, not far from where I lived in Northamptonshire.  It's an extremely popular song (with 228 Roud instances), and just a part of that even bigger family of songs centred around flower/plant symbolism.

14 - The Trees are all Bare (Roud 1170)
Sung by Chris Molan and Harry Langston

The trees all are bare,
Not a leaf to be seen,
And the meadows their beauty have lost.
Now winter is come
And ‘tis cold for man and beast
And the streams they are all
Fast bound down with frost.

‘Tis down in the farmyard,
Where the oxen feed on straw,
They send forth their breath like the steam.
Sweet Betsy the milkmaid
Now quickly she must go,
For the flakes of ice she finds
A-floating on her cream.

‘Tis now all the small birds
To the barn door fly for food
And gently they rest on the spray,
A-down the plantation
The hares do search for food
And lift their footsteps sure,
For fear they do betray.

Now Christmas is come,
And our song is almost done,
For we soon shall have the turn of the year.
So fill up your glasses
And let your health go round,
For I wish you all a joyful New Year.

Harry and I got this from the singing of the Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex, who call it Christmas Song.  We think the words are a knockout.

15 - The Outlandish Knight (Roud 21,Child 4)
Sung by Roger Grimes

An outlandish Knight from the northlands came
And he came a-wooing of me,
And he told he’d take me to the Northernlands
And there he would marry me.

Oh, go and fetch your father's gold
And some of your mother's fee,
And fetch three horses from out the stable
Where they stand thirty and three.

So she has got her father's gold
And some of her mother's fee,
And she’s brought three horses from out the stable
Where they stand thirty and three.

He mounted on the milk white horse
And she upon the grey,
And away they did ride ‘til they came to a stream,
Three hours before it was day.

"Unlight, unlight, my pretty fair maid,
Unlight unlight" cried he,
"For it's six pretty maids have I drownded here before,
And the seventh it shall be thee.

"Take off, take off your silken gown
And deliver it unto me,
For I fear it is too fine and too fair
To perish all in the salt sea."

She said "Go get a sickle to crop the thistle
That grows beside the brim,
That it will not tangle with my curly locks
Nor harm my milk white skin."

So he got a sickle to crop the thistle
That grew beside the brim,
And she's grabbed him around the middle so small
And he's gone tumbling in.

"Lie there, lie there, you false hearted knight,
Lie there, lie there" cried she.
"For it's six pretty maidens
You have drownded here before
But seventh one she have drownded thee."

Then she’s mounted on the milk white horse
And she has led the grey,
And she's rode 'til she's come to her father's own door
Three hours before it was day.

But the parrot being in the window so high,
A-hearing his young mistress did say,
"I'm afraid some ruffian have led you astray
That you tarry so long before it's day"

"Oh, don’t you prittle, don’t prattle, my pretty Polly,
And tell no tales on me,
And your cage shall be made of that finest beaten gold,
And your perch of the best ivory."

But her father being in the bedroom so high,
A-hearing of that parrot did say
"What’s the matter with you, my pretty Polly,
That you prattle so long before it's day?"

"Why, there came an old cat on the top of me cage
To take my sweet life away.
I was just a-calling on my young mistress
To frighten that old pussy away.
I was just a-calling on my young mistress
To frighten that old pussy away."

Probably my all-time favourite song.  It’s got everything; great story, the magical time period, the parrot, sickle and a wonderful tune.

Originally from the Penguin Book of Folk Songs (sung by Mr Hilton of South Walsham, Norfolk) and unconsciously altered over the course of thirty five odd years.

16 - The Willow Tree (Roud 60, Laws P25)
Sung by Danny Stradling

As I walked past the willow tree
A willow leaf fell down on me.
I picked it up, it would not break.
I passed my love, he would not speak.

Speak, young man, and you don't be shy,
For I'm the one can pass you by,
And friends we've met, and friends we'll part,
You take my hand but not my heart.

I wish your bosom were of glass, of glass,
That I could view it through and through,
And see the secrets of your heart,
If you love one you can't love two.

So fetch me back the one I love, dearly love,
And fetch, oh you fetch him back to me,
And if I only had the one I love, dearly love,
How happy, happy would I be.

My true love's a sailor boy,
He sails the ocean through and through,
And when he gets so far away
He hardly ever thinks of me.

So fetch me back the one I love, dearly love,
And fetch, oh you fetch him back to me,
And if I only had the one I love, dearly love,
How happy, happy would I be.

This comes from Fred Hamer’s recordings of May Bradley, a Gypsy from the Welsh borders.  From the same source come The Leaves of Life and On Christmas Day, songs relating how God treats man, and the wonderful Sweet Swansea which relates how man treats man.  The 'chorus' was taken from Queen Caroline Hughes.

17 - The Week Before Easter (Roud 154)
Sung by Rod Stradling

The week before Easter, the morn bright and clear,
And the sun it shone gaily and so keen blew the air.
All the small birds were singing
And changing their notes
Among the wild beasts in the forest.

And the roses were red
And the leaves they were green,
And the bushes and briars so pleasant to be seen.
I went to the forest to gather fine flowers,
But the forest would yield to me no roses.

Now I once loved a fair maid as I loved my life,
But I never did ask her if she'd be my wife,
And now for my foolishness I'm well rewarded,
She’s going to be wed to another.

I was bade to the wedding; how could I say “No”?
With her bridesmen and bridesmaids,
She has made a fine show.
And I followed after, with my heart full of woe,
For to see my love wed to another.

The old parson who married ‘em,
How loud he did cry
"All you who'd forbid it,
I would have you draw nigh."
And I thought to myself - "I've the best reason why!"
Though I hadn’t the heart to forbid it.

The next time I saw my love, in the church stand,
Here's the glove coming off her,
There's the ring in his hand.
And I thought to myself
How I should have been that man,
Though I’d never once mentioned to have her.

The next time I saw my love, sat down to dine,
I sat down beside her and I poured out the wine.
I drank to the lassie as should have been mine,
But now she is wed to another.

And the last time I saw my love, all dressed in white,
Made my eyes run and water, quite dazzled my sight.
And I’ve flung down my hat
And I’ve bid ‘em goodnight.
Bid adieu to all falsehearted trueloves.

So dig me a grave, dig it long, wide and deep,
And strew it all over with the flowers so sweet.
And I will lie down there and take a long sleep,
That’s the best way to forget her.
Yes, and I will lay in there and take the long sleep
Bid adieu to all falsehearted trueloves.

This is a song I've been singing, on and off, since the '60s - but I was never really sure what it was actually about; beyond a generalised feeling of betrayal and unrequited love.  Then I heard a song (I don't remember which, or from where) in which the man laments never having plucked up the courage to ask his beloved to marry him.  This, it later occurred to me, was exactly what was needed.  Another remembered line 'But I'd never once mentioned to have her' slotted in seamlessly, later in the song ... and it all began to make sense.  Lots of editing took place, but I'd particularly mention Bernie Cherry's 'I threw down my hat and I bid them goodnight / bid adieu to all false-hearted true-loves', which brings a lump to my throat every time, and Lynn Breeze's fantastic 'Here's the glove coming off her, there's the ring in his hand' tells me - tells you - "This is true; I was there - I saw it!"

18 - Young Tommy and the Privy
Told by Ken Langsbury

‘Twas Christmas time, and all the little ‘uns were out sledging the other side of the lane on the umptie-tump.

Father had finished building the new new privy at the end of the garden - posh job that were - he’d built it out of these old warped elm boards as he had acquired from the undertakers.  And with the wood he had left over he’d built the little ‘uns a new sledge.  ‘Twas a bit heavy; it took three of ‘em to drag it up the slope, but when it were going down it didn’t half go - had a brake an’ all.  That didn’t work, though! ‘Twas a stick, an’ when you pulled up the end the other end dug into the snow but it didn’t stop ya, you just changed direction pretty quick.

When it came to young Tommy’s turn to go down the slope, he turned the sledge around to go down the other side.  “Our mum says we weren’t to go down that way ‘cos of the lane, and the house, and the ditch ‘n all”.  “Don’t you worry” says young Tommy, “there won’t be nothing using the lane this time of year, an’ I’ll stop before I gets to the ditch..”

Well, down he goes.  Never in all his life did he go as fast - down the slope, over the lane, through the chur * - as he came up for the ditch, he pulls on the brake! Bang! Straight into the side of the privy he went.  Straight over the top of the sledge he went.  But he didn’t hit the privy.  That had moved.  It were on its way down the bank into the ditch.  Young Tommy thought it was best not to be there, so he made himself scarce.  But after about half an hour he was cold, wet and hungry, so he went back home.

"I got a story to tell you" said his father.  “A long time ago in a country far away, there was a little boy.  And do you know what that little boy had for Christmas? He had a bright new shiny little axe.  And that little boy were so pleased with that axe, he went straight out into the front garden and chopped down his father’s favourite cherry tree.  'Did you chop down my favourite cherry tree?' said his father.  ‘I can’t tell a lie, father - I did’.  ‘Well you’re such a truthful, honest little boy, I forgive you’.  And do you know young Tommy, that little boy’s name was George Washington, and he grew up to be the first president of the United States of America.  Now, I’m going to ask you young Tommy, did you push the privy into the ditch?"

"I can’t tell a lie, our dad - I did."

And his father gave him a thumping good hiding.

"That ain’t fair" says young Tommy, "George Washington’s dad didn’t hit him".
"Nope" said his father, "but George Washington’s father weren’t sitting in the cherry tree at the time."

* Chur – the name given to an alleyway between two houses in Guiting Power, and elsewhere in the Cotswolds.

My brother Lionel told me this story, sixty years ago and it’s always stuck in my mind, and it is very well known in many different countries.  Bob Davenport tells me that Jack Elliot used to tell it, too.  The bit about young Tommy sledging and knocking the privy into the ditch I made up when I decided to tell the story myself.

19 - The Old Garden Gate (Roud 419)
Sung by Jeff Gillett

As I walked out on a morning in May
So early in the Spring,
I leaned my back against the old garden gate
For to hear my true lover sing.

To hear my true lover sing, me boys:
To hear what she’d got for to say.
For now it is near to three-quarters of a year
Since you and I together did stray.

O come, my love, and sit you down by me
Where the grass is spreading green;
For now it is near three-quarters of a year
Since you and I together have been.

I’ll not come now and sit down by you:
Not now, nor at any other time;
For I hear you have been courting another pretty girl
And your heart it is no longer mine.

A simply gorgeous melody.  I found this in Roy Palmer's book, Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  It was collected from a Mr Broomfield of West Horndon, Essex, in 1903.  He called it As I Walked Out, though it's most frequently known as The False Young Man.  The arrangement is mine.

CD Two:


1 - The Indian Lass (Roud 2326)
Sung by Bob Bray

When I was a young man
I rambled from home,
I called in to an alehouse
To spend half a crown.
As I sat smoking, taking a glass,
By chance there come in
A young Indian lass.

This lovely young Indian
On the floor where she stood,
I viewed her fair features
And, oh they were good;
She was slender and handsome,
Her age but sixteen.
She was born and raised
In the town New Orleans.

She sat down beside me
And squeezed my hand.
She says, "You're a stranger,
Not one of this land.
I have fine lodgings
If you with me would stay,
And dearly I would love you,
By night and by day."

And with a glass of good liquor
She's invited me in.
She says "You are welcome
To share anything."
And as I embraced her,
Oh this was her tune:
"You are a young sailor
And far from your home."

Oh, we tossed and we tumbled
In each other's arms,
And all that long night
I enjoyed her sweet charms;
And with the sweetest enjoyment
All the night passed away
And I did not leave her
'Til late the next day.

But the time it was appointed
That we were to sail;
This lovely young girl
On the beach did bewail.
She says "When you're home
In your own native land,
Think on the young Indian
That squeezed your hand."

And now I'm safe landed
On my own native shore,
My friends and relations
All round me once more;
There's none that goes by me,
None that goes past
Is fit to compare
To that young Indian lass.

Words to this song of male fantasy, or very good luck, came from a Midlands collection that Jon Scaife set to his own haunting tune.  A few changes here and there to give the song the romantic character it deserves and a lovely song with a contemporary ring emerges from the page.  I often find that an old song needs no more than the slightest tweak to live a thoroughly modern life, and this is one such ... there are many more!

2 - Bury Me on a Sunday (Farmer Durman's Funeral)
Sung by Audrey Smith

"Bury me on a Sunday"
He said, "so as to see
Poor folk there; 'tis their one day
To spare for burying me."

With forethought of that Sunday
He wrote while he was well,
"On ten rum bottles one day
Drink for my funeral."

They buried him on a Sunday
So folk might not be balked
His wish, as 'twas their one day,
And forty couples walked.

They said to have it Sunday
Was always his concern,
His meaning being that one day
He'd do us a good turn.

We must, had it been Monday,
Have got it over soon.
But now we gain, being Sunday,
A jolly afternoon.

Darum diddle dee doo da,
Darum badum badoo,
Darum diddle dee doo da
A jolly afternoon.

This is a Hardy poem put to my own tune.  Essential Hardy, I think.

3 - Christmas Lamentation
Sung by Shan Cowan and Martin Graebe

Christmas is my name, far have I gone
Have I gone, have I gone,
Have I gone without regard
Whereas great men by flocks there be flown
There be flown, there be flown
There be flown to Londonward
There they in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which old Christmas wonted to feast
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?
Houses where music was wont for to ring
Nothing but bats and owlets do sing
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?

Christmas beef and bread is turned into stones
Into stones, into stones,
Into stones and silken rags
And Lady Money sleeps and makes moans
And makes moans, and makes moans,
And makes moans in misers’ bags
Houses where pleasures once did abound
Nought but a dog and a shepherd is found
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?
Places where Christmas revels did keep
Are now become habitations for sheep
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?

Pan, the shepherds' god doth deface,
Doth deface, doth deface,
Doth deface Lady Ceres' crown
And tillage that doth go to decay
To decay, to decay, to decay in every town
Landlords their rents so highly enhance
That Pierce the Plowman barefoot may dance
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?
And farmers that Christmas would entertain
Have scarce wherewith themselves to maintain
Welladay! Welladay!
Welladay, where should I stay?

We found this song in a book - The Story of the Carol by Edmounstoune Duncan.  He gives two verses and refers us to the Roxburghe Ballads for the full carol.  The history of this ballad is interesting and complex and is explored very fully by William Chappell in his Popular Music of Olden Time.  It can be dated to the end of Elizabeth’s reign or the beginning of that of James I by a reference (not in the verses we sing) to yellow starch - a fashion that literally died out in November 1615 when its chief proponent, the celebrated beauty Mrs Turner, was executed for murder.  The hangman was decked out in yellow starched cuffs for the occasion!

There was a lot of concern at the time about the nobility flocking to London for Christmas and James I was later to make a proclamation requiring the nobles to remain on their estates for the festival.  This was the first song that we sang in harmony together, so we are very fond of it.

It does not appear in the Roud Index, so one may assume that it does not fulfil his inclusion criterion of having been encountered, at least once, in the oral tradition.

4 - Young Taylor (You Subjects of England)
(Roud 851)
Sung by Rod Stradling

You subjects of England, come listen a while,
I'll sing you a ditty, but it won’t cause no smiles,
Concerning some poachers and keepers also
As fought through these covers, some winters ago.

Now, it’s when we goes in, boys,
Here’s good old luck to us all.
Our guns they will rattle
And the pheasants will fall.
But in less than ten minutes,
Twelve keepers we spied.
"Get gone you bold poachers;
How dare you come nigh!"

Says one to the other,
"What shall we do now?"
Says one to the other,
"We all will stand true."
Says one to the other,
"We shall all be as one,
And fight those bold keepers
‘Til the battle is won.”

But there's one, William Taylor,
And he won't run away,
Though five of those keepers all on him did play.
'Til one come behind him, and did him so oppress;
Young Taylor he was taken,
Though he fought the best.

And there’s judges and there’s jurymen,
Unto him they did say,
"If you will confess now,
Your sweet life we'll save."
"Oh, no," says young Taylor,
"That won't do at all.
And since you have got me,
I will die for them all."

There is none like young Taylor,
You people all know.
There is none like young Taylor,
You keepers also.
There is none like young Taylor;
No, nor never was yet.
He’d sooner be hung, boys, than he ever would split.
There is none like young Taylor,
You people all know,
That fought through these covers
Some winters ago.

I first heard this song not from Pop Maynard, as might be supposed, but from a Gypsy - Jack Smith, of Milford, near Godalming, Surrey - who was, or had been, a scissor and knife grinder in that area for many years.  Jack had also been a mate of Pop's and had shared a few poaching adventures with him ... as well as a substantial part of his repertoire.

Jack's was a rather fragmented version, but this was more than made up for by the passion with which he sang it ... indeed, I was slightly disappointed by Pop's version when I heard it a few years later.  Recently I was listening to the few recordings I'd made of Jack, 35 years ago - and this one just jumped out and shouted "Sing me!"

So it was a matter of looking around for any other versions which might make a contribution to my song, and I discovered a great version from Bedfordshire, sung by Charles Shelton, from which I gleaned several wonderful lines.

5 - Johnny Heybourn (Roud 600)
Sung by Danny Stradling

My name were Johnny Heybourn,
In Glasgow I were born.
My home and habitation
That I have left and gone,
To leave those hills and bonny dales
To Canadee I go.

'Twas on a Friday morning
As we laid in our cells,
Up stepped up our boldly turnkey
And these very words did say,
"Arise you noble convicts,
I'll warn you one and all,
This is the day that you sail away
To Canadee you go."

I early rose, put on my clothes,
My heart were full of woe.
Heavy irons and chains they laid on me
To march me from the town,
No more I'll wander on Clyde's dear banks
To Canadee I go.

Good luck unto my mother dear
Who have reared me many of years
And through my sad misfortune
She has shed many's the bitter tear
And likewise to my father dear,
He is the best of all.
Now the sea shall roar between us all
In Canadee-i-o.

This version of Jamie Raeburn was sung by the magnificent singer Phoebe Smith.  Phoebe was a great inspiration to me when my singing was 'growing'.  She was a lovely woman with a huge store of songs, always sung with great dignity and passion, as well as with humour; a fact which is not always acknowledged.

In the penultimate verse of this song Phoebe sang a sort of phonetic version of the lowland Scots she had heard in it.  I changed it to make it singable for me.

6 - Polly on the Shore (Roud 811)
Sung by Roger Grimes

Come all you wild young men
And a warning take by me,
And never to lead your single life astray
Into no bad company.

As I myself have done,
It was in the merry month of May
When I was pressed by a sea captain,
And on board a man-of-war I was sent.

We sailed the ocean so wild,
And our bonny, bonny flag we let fly;
Let every man stand true to his gun,
For the Lord knows who must die.

Our captain was wounded full soon,
And so were the rest of his men;
Our main mast rigging lay scattered on board
So that we were obliged to give in.

Our decks were all spatter-ed with blood
And so loudly the cannons did roar,
And thousands of times I have wished meself at home
All along with me Polly on the shore.

She’s a tall and a slender young girl,
She’s a dark and a rolling eye.
And now here am I lie bleeding on the deck,
And for her sweet sake I must die.

So farewell to my father and my friends,
Likewise my dear old mother too.
I never should have sailed the salt sea so wide
If I had o' been ruled by you,
I never would have sailed the salt sea so wide
If I had o' been ruled by you.

Learned from a recording of Pop Maynard after having heard Lawrence Platt singing it at NTMC sometime in the early '70s.  This is probably in my favourite top 5 songs.  I just love the way it is put together.

7 - Some Rival (Roud 587)
Sung by Audrey Smith

Some rival has stolen my true love away,
So I in Old England no longer can stay;
I'll swim the wide ocean all round by fair Brest,
To find out my true love whom I love best.

When I have found out my true love and delight,
I'll welcome him kindly by day or by night;
And the bells will be a-ringing, and the drums make a noise,
To welcome my true love with ten thousand joys.

Here's a health to all lovers who are loyal and just!
Here's confusion to the rival who lives in distrust!
For it's I'll be as constant as a true turtle dove,
And I never will, at no time, prove false to my love.

I got this is from Lucy Broadwood's English Traditional Songs and Carols - but I've re-gendered it.  Roud has 25 examples from right across southern and southeastern England.  Ms Broadwood traces it to a 1656 Roxburghe broadside in which 'Some tyrant has stolen my true love away', whereas the King family in Wiltshire sang 'The rifles have stolen ...' to Alfred Williams.  All the 'Rival' versions are from the Hampshire/Surrey borders.  Clearly, four centuries allows plenty of time for things to get very confused since, in five of the Sussex versions, it is 'The Americans' who have been doing the stealing!

8 - Tea in the Arbour
Sung by Ken Langsbury

What pleasure folks feel, when they live out of town,
In the culture of turnips and flowers;
And now and then getting some friends to come down
To look at their walks and their bowers.
And such is the state of some good friends of mine,
Mister, Mrs and Miss Mary Barber.
They'd oft have me up to their village to dine
And then to take tea in the arbour.

Chorus:
Where there are sweet billies,
And daffy-down-dillies,
Perfumes like the shop of a barber.
And roses and posies to scent up your noses,
Then come and take tea in the arbour.

As oft as I can, I accept their invite,
Tho' of rural delights I'm no lover.
Of insects and reptiles I can't bear the sight,
They fair make me shiver and shudder.
However, last Monday, I went there to dine;
"I am glad you have come," said Miss Barber.
"I knows you will like it; the weather is fine,
And we can take tea in the arbour."

I had on thin shoes and the gravel was damp,
And the thought of it made me quite nervous
Of a cold, or a fit of the cramp, or the gout.
I says to meself, "Lord, preserve us!"
And when I got there, a great frog made me jump,
Which was excellent fun for Miss Barber.
And a fat hairy caterpillar fell plump
In me first cup of tea in the arbour.

Of little green flies on my white suit came a host,
And a bee put me all of a flutter;
And a big daddy-long-legs got stuck on the toast,
And left one of its limbs in the butter.
On the sugar, six bluebottles sat bob-a-nob,
And as I discoursed with Miss Barber,
A very fat spider swang bobbity-nob
In me mouth, as I sat in the arbour.

At a field at our back, boys were shooting across,
And a bullet come through - I was wounded.
To expostulate with them, I quickly arose,
And over the fence there I bounded.
I happened to land where a man-trap lay set,
And was there held fast for an hour.
An squashed in me pocket I found the fat frog
Which had frightened me first in the arbour.

Words and Music by J Beuler, published in The Record Music Book, F Pitman Hart & Co Ltd.  I made the last two verses of the original into one for my version of this song, thus omitting the bit were our hero got soaked in a shower of rain; I preferred it to stay hot and sunny!

9 - Queen Jane (Roud 77, Child 170)
Sung by Martin Graebe

Queen Jane O! Queen Jane O!
What a lady was she!
And she was in labour six weeks and a day.

Queen Jane she was in labour
For six weeks and more,
'Til the women grew so weary
That they fain would give o’er.

“O women! O women! Good women if ye be,
Pray send for King Henry and bring him to me.”

King Henry was sent for, he came in all speed
In a gown of red velvet from the heel to his head

King Henry was sent for, and to her he came;
“Dear Lady! Fair Lady! your eyes they look so dim.”

“King Henry! King Henry! If kind you would be,
Pray send for a good doctor and bring him to me.”

The doctor he was sent for and he came in all speed,
In a gown of black velvet from his heel to his head.
The doctor he was sent for and to her he came,
“Dear Lady! Fair Lady! Your labour it is vain.”

Oh Doctor! Dear Doctor! If kind you would be,
Pray open my right side and free my baby.”

"Oh no!" cried King Henry “that never can be.
I’d rather lose the branches than the top of the tree.”

The doctor gave her a caudle,
And the death sleep slept she,
And he opened her right side and he freed her baby.

The babe it was christened and put out and nursed,
But the royal Queen Jane she lay dead in the dust.

Taken down by Sabine Baring-Gould from Sam Fone of Mary Tavy, 28th March 1893.  I found this text in the Personal Copy Manuscript (K3 p7 No395).  Fone said that there were more verses but he could not remember them.  SBG makes reference to Bell p.113.  This song was published in Folk Song Journal (JFSS 3, 1907).  On a slip of paper inserted into the page in the manuscript is a note (probably a draft for a publication):

A story circulated through England and was credited by Sir John Hayward, that the physicians asked King Henry when the time approached for the birth of a child by Queen Jane the one or the other of the two lives must be sacrificed; whereupon the King said “Save the child, as for a wife I can get nay other that I like.  The story, however is not true.  Although Queen Jane did die a few days after the birth of Edward on October 12th, that is to say October 24th, this was not due to any operation.  However the fancy that there was and that the Queen’s life was sacrificed was very prevalent and forms the subject of a ballad sung to this day among the peasantry.

10 - The Gown of Green (Roud 1085)
Sung by Shan Cowan

My love and I were walking
To view the meadows round,
And gather golden buttercups
That glittered on the ground.

She turned her head and smiling said
"Some stranger here hath been,
Or else some charming shepherdess
Has donned the gown of green."

My love is tall and comely,
And faultless is her face,
And like a pretty roebuck
Her every step is grace.

A blossom she at budding,
Her age is scarce nineteen,
She did consent to my intent
To wear the gown of green.

Oh some to please their lovers
Will buy them toys and rings,
And some will pluck them posies,
And other fading things.
Let every lad that loves his lass
Do this and 'twill be seen,
She'll follow you so fast and true
That wears the gown of green.
She'll follow you so fast and true
That wears the gown of green.

Collected by Baring-Gould from James Parsons, John Woodrich and others (no date).  I have changed the tune slightly from that given since it was hard to fit the words.  Baring-Gould notes that broadside versions (see, for example, Harding B25(766) in the Bodleian collection) include extra verses which he believed to come from another ballad which he identifies as North America (Roud 596) - I am not sure about this but the song works well with these three verses.

11 - Locks and Bolts (Roud 406, Laws M13)
Sung by Bob Bray

I dreamed last night of my true love,
All in my arms I held her,
But when I woke she was not there,
I was alone without her.

Her yellow hair like the locks of gold
Came jangling down my pillow.
She is the girl I do love best,
Just like the weeping willow.

And I went up to her father's house,
Enquiring for my darling.
Her father says, "Oh, she is not here,
There's none such in my keeping."

But when she's heard my lonely voice
She answered at the window
"It's love, oh love, I am yours,
But locks and bolts do hinder."

And I stood a moment all amazed,
I viewed her long and tender.
My passion flew and a sword I drew;
I swore that room I would enter.

Well, the blood it was shed on every side
'Til I got her from amongst them,
And every man with a love like mine
Should fight 'til you do win them.

One of the first songs I learnt, I think, as a student in Bristol, from an EP of Shirley Collins’ singing.  It is a lovely American version of the English song that I heard years later on a tape but never got the name of the singer.  The tune soars and allows for gentle improvisation at every singing.  A slightly dangerous courting technique - but then you’re only young once.

12 - Salisbury Plain (Roud 1487, Laws M24)
Sung by Chris Molan

As I rode over Salisbury Plain
It’s there I met a scamping young blade.
He kissed me and enticed me so,
'Til along with him I was forced for to go.

We came unto a public house at last,
And there for man and wife we did pass.
He called for ale and wine and strong beer,
'Til at length to bed we both did repair.

"Undress yourself, my darling, then" says he.
Undress yourself, and come to bed with me."
"Oh that I will, then" says she,
"If you’ll keep all those flash girls away."

"Those flash girls you need not fear,
I'll keep you safe-guarded, my dear.
I’ll maintain you as some lady so gay,
For I’ll go a robbing all on the highway."

Early next morning my love he arose,
And so nimbly he put on his clothes.
Straight for the highway he set sail,
And it's there he's robbed the coaches of the mail.

Oh, it’s now my love in Newgate Jail do lie,
Expecting every moment to die.
The Lord have mercy on his poor soul,
For I think I hear the death-bell to toll.

The tune of Salisbury Plain comes from Mr and Mrs Verrall of Horsham, Sussex, and the words from their neighbour Henry Burstow.  Like Lone Prairie it’s a great combination of economical words and spare melody evoking landscape and human drama in a very direct way.

I learned this song from the wonderful Penguin Book of English Folk Songs around 1963 when I first had a go at singing.  I didn’t begin to sing it until quite recently in small gatherings of singers.  It’s only since singing in the small back parlour at the Fleece that I feel this song has it’s true place.  Perhaps it is the sort of atmosphere in which these songs were originally performed, in a small, appreciative community.  This is quite a revelation.  The bigger the audience, the louder one has to sing, and some of the intimacy of the storytelling is lost.

13 - The Weaver's Prayer (My Piece is o' bu' Woven Eawt)
By Richard Rome Bealey (1828-1889)
Sung by Harry Langston

Me piece is almost woven out,
Me wark is welly done;
Aw’ve treddled at it day by day,
Sin’ toime ‘ut aw begun.
But aw’ve sat I’th loom-heawse long enough,
An’ made th’ owd shuttles fly;
An’ neaw aw’m fain to stop it off,
An’ leave my weyvin’ by.

Aw dunnot know heaw th’ piece is done;
Aw'm fear’d it’s marr’d enough;
Bu’ th’ warp weren’t made o’ th’ best o’ yarn.
An’ th’ weft were nobbut rough.
Aw’ve been some bother’d neaw an’ then
Wi’ knots an’ bearskin too;
Well, they’ve hamper’d me so much at toimes
Aw’ve scarce known what to do.

Bu’ Master’s just, an’ weel He knows
That yarn were none so good;
He winna bate me when when He sees
Aw’se did as best aw could.
Aw'll get me wage, awm sure o that,
He’ll give me o’ ut’s due,
An’ mebbe, in His t’other place,
Some better work to do.

Bu’ then, aw reckon, ‘tisn’t th’ stuff
Tha's get t’ put in t' loom,
But what we make on’t good or bad,
‘Us credit on’t ‘ll come.
Some wark i’ silk, an’ some
Have cotton in their gear;
But silk or cotton matters nowt,
If nobbut skill be theere.

An' now it's getten to th’ end o’ th’ week,
An’ close to th’ reckonin’ day;
Aw’ll tak me piece upon me back,
T' yer what Mester’ll say;
An’ if aw nobbut yer His voice
Pronounce me wark weel done,
Oh Aw’ll straight forget o’th trouble past
I’ th’ pleasure that’s begun.

Me piece is almost woven out,
Me wark is welly done;
Aw’ve treddled at it day by day,
Sin’ toime ‘ut aw begun.
But aw’ve sat I’th loom-heawse long enough,
An’ made th’ owd shuttles fly;
An’ neaw aw’m fain to stop it off,
An’ leave my weyvin’ by.

Richard Rome Bealey was born in Rochdale in 1828.  I found this version of the poem in A Lancashire Garland of Dialect Prose and Verse, edited by G Halstead Whittaker 1936.  When I first read it I was impressed by the way Bealey had used the idea of weaving cloth as a metaphor for a life.  I also liked its simple spiritual feel which I believe would have touched a chord with many of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations from Lancashire.

My own preferred name for this poem is The Weaver’s Prayer and the tune I have used is one of my own.  My interpretation of the Bealy poem and song is, perhaps, a little closer to my own Burnley way of speaking rather than his own local dialect.  To some extent I have always been somewhat shy of performing the song in public and have tended to have had long gaps in between singing it.  However, the encouraging atmosphere created by friends from the Fleece has helped me to revive the song in recent times.

14 - The Labouring Man's Daughter (Roud 595)
Sung by Danny Stradling

In a far away land I beheld in a dream
And I dreamed of the fairest young creature.
Oh but now and since I've dreamed
Of those dark rolling eyes
Sure, I won't know content 'til I find her.

I saddled up me horse, many towns did I cross,
Many miles did I go in one hour.
'Til I came to the door where she stood on the floor
And she being but a labouring man's daughter.

"I have seen you before, love, only once in my life
And it was in a dream that I saw you.
Oh, but now and since I've seen
Those two dark rolling eyes,
Sure, I hope that you'll never deny me."

"Deny you", said she, "how could that come to be,
And you being so highly above me.
Oh, but just 'cos I'm poor, you don't think me a fool,
And you don't put me under a trial."

"Oh, love it is a thing that just hangs like a string,
And a string that is easily broken.
Oh, but you can be sure that to you I'll be true,
And you take this gold ring as a token."

"I don't want your guinea gold ring,
No nor any such a thing,
It's more fitting a lady should wear it.
Nor I won't take your store
Though I'm lowly and poor,
I won't bring no such scorn to my station."

So he turned on his heel; he bade her farewell,
"Faretheewell to you, labouring man's daughter."

This song came from Lal Smith of Cassavene, Co Kerry.  I turned some of the song around and made the final verse to finish the story off, and to suit my own predilection for what is fair on both sides.

I learned and adapted several songs from recordings of Lal Smith & Win Ryan made in the early 1950s by Sean O'Boyle for the BBC.  These recordings took place over two days and the story is that the two 16 year old tinker girls were asked to sing, and turned the evenings into a contest, and a very fruitful one, as to who could sing the most songs.

15 - The Green Wedding (Katharine Jaffray)
(Roud 93, Child 221)
Sung by Rod Stradling

There was a squire lived in the West,
A squire of high degree.
He has won the heart of a lady gay,
Though fortune small had he.
But when her father he come to know,
Oh, an angry man was he;
He's ordered of his daughter dear
To shun such company.

And there was a rich lord he lived nearby,
He had one handsome young son
Come a-courting of this lady gay,
Though wooing he gave her none.
But he's wooed her father, he's wooed her kin,
And I have heard men say
That he never did woo the lass herself
Before their wedding day.
He's gained consent of her father and mother,
And old and young likewise,
Until she cries "Oh, I am undone"
And the tears fell from her eyes.

She's wrote a letter to the squire
To let him understand
"This very day I am forced to wed
Unto this rich lord's son."
Well, the first few lines that he read o’er,
He smiled and thus did say,
"I might deprive him of his bride
All on his wedding day."
He's wrote her back another letter
"Be sure to dress all in green.
And a suit of the same, love, I will put on;
At your wedding I'll be seen.
A suit of the same I will put on;
To your wedding I'll repair.
My dearest dear, I'll have you yet,
In spite of all that is there"

He's lookèd East, he's lookèd West,
He's lookèd over all his lands.
He's gathered then a score of men
All for to join his plan.
He's mounted two on every steed,
Though a single man rode he,
Then up and away to the wedding house
Went the company dressed all in green

And when they've come to the wedding house,
They unto him did say,
"You're welcome, Sir, you're welcome here,
But are you alone this day?"
He's laughed at them, he's scorned at them,
He smiled and thus did say,
"For you might have seen my green-clad troops
Come riding out this way."

Then the squire he took up a glass of wine,
He's filled it to the brim.
"Here is a health unto that man;
The man they call the groom.
Here is a health unto the man
That would enjoy his bride;
Though another might love her twice as well
And steal her from his side."

Then up and spoke that rich young lord,
Oh, an angry man was he,
"If it's to fight that you come here,
Then I'm the man for thee."
"Well, it's not to fight that I come here,
But only friendship for to show.
Give me one word of your bonny young bride
And away from you I will go."

Well the very first word he spoke to her,
Her answer it was “Nay.”
And the very next words he spoke to her,
Was, “Mount and come away!”
He's took her by the middle so small
And by the grass-green sleeve,
He's led her out of the wedding house,
Nor asked of any, leave.
And the trumpets blew and the flags they flew,
So glorious to be seen;
Then over the hills and far away
Went the company dressed all in green.
The wedding guests, they scorned at him;
They smiled and thus did say
"Well, it must have been some fairy troop
That stole your bride away."

I first heard this ballad some years ago in Scotland, and remembered it when next in Scotland, where we happened to pass a signpost to Jaffray.  Then I heard Nora Cleary's great version on Voice of the People.  But It wasn't until I was making the MT CD of Joe Rae that I realised.  It was Joe's 12th verse that got me - the whole of the denouement in two brilliantly concise lines! I knew there and then that I wanted to sing it.

But I didn't want to sing a Scots or Irish version if there was an English one available, and Sharp collected one in 1906 from Robert Parish, aged 84, of Exford, Somerset, upon which I decided to base my song.  The tune is my own.

16 - The Housewife's Lament (Roud 5472)
Sung by Audrey Smith

As was walking I heard a complaining,
And saw an old woman the picture of gloom.
She stared at the mud on her doorstep ('twas raining)
And this was her song as she wielded her broom,

"Oh, life is a toil and love is a trouble,
Beauty will fade and riches will flee.
Pleasures will dwindle and prices will double,
And nothing is as I would wish it to be."

"There's too much of worriment goes to a bonnet,
There's too much of ironing goes to a shirt.
There's nothing repays the time you waste on it,
There's nothing stays with us but trouble and dirt.
Oh, life is a toil...

"In March there is mud, there's sludge in December,
The hot winds of summer are laden with dust.
In fall the leaves litter, in muddy September
The wallpaper rots and the candlesticks rust.
Oh, life is a toil...

"There's worm in the cherries and fly on the roses,
There's ants in the sugar and mice in the pies.
The rubbish of spiders no human supposes,
There's ravaging beetles and damaging flies.
Oh, life is a toil...

"There's sweeping at six and there's dusting at seven,
There's victuals at eight and there's dishes at nine.
There's potting and panning from ten to eleven,
We've scarce finished breakfast, we're ready to dine.
Oh, life is a toil...

"With grease and with grime from corner to centre,
Forever at war, forever alert.
No rest for a day lest the enemy enter,
I spend my whole life in a struggle with dirt.
Oh, life is a toil...

"Last night in my dreams I was banished forever
To a far distant rock in the midst of the sea.
My sole task in life, a constant endeavour
To brush off the waves as they swept over me.
Oh, life is a toil...

"Alas, 'twas no dream! At last I behold it!
I see I am helpless my fate to avert."
She laid down her broom, her apron she folded,
She lay down and died and was buried in dirt.
Oh, life is a toil...

My only American song.  It was found among the papers of Sarah Price, who lived during the American Civil War.  Roud has 8 instances of the song; it has been collected in Florida, but most examples are from the Appalachians - Kentucky and N Carolina.  Just how it got to Mrs Price in Oregon, in the extreme northwest of that huge country, is anyone's guess.

It has been published in 5 books and a Journal in the US, but its 1956 printing in Sing Out! probably resulted in Sandra Kerr's selection of it for her book Sing for your Life, which is where I found it - but I see I have subjected it to the folk process!

17 - The Cuckoo (Roud 413)
Sung by Roger Grimes

O the cuckoo is a pretty bird, he sings as he flies
He brings us glad tidings and he tells us no lies
He suck the sweet flowers
For to make his voice clear
And the more he sing 'cuckoo'
The summer draw near.

It's a-walking and a-talking and a-walking went I
For to meet my own true love,
He'll be there by and by
For to meet him it's a pleasure and to part is a grief
For a false hearted young man
He is worse than a thief.

For a thief he will rob you of all that you have
But a false hearted young man
He'll lead you to the grave
The grave it will rot you and turn you to dust
A false hearted young man I'll never more trust.

For once I had the colour of the bud of a rose
But now I'm as pale as a lily that grows
A flower in the morning cut down in full bloom
What do you think I'm coming to
By the loving of one.

So come all you pretty fair maids,
Who've listened to me
Beware of young soldiers in every degree
They'll kiss you and court you,
Young maids to deceive
There is not one in twenty that a maid can believe.

For they'll laugh under their hats love
As they see you pass by
They'll bow with their body
And they'll wink with one eye
They'll kiss you and court you and swear to be true
And the very next moment they'll bid you adieu.

I just like it.  I think it's a good song and I like the way the cuckoo is referred to as ‘he’ while the subject of the song is female.  It appeared in one of the numerous publications of the EFDSS - The Wanton Seed.  Price 9/6, so it was pre decimalisation.

18 - Tonight I'll Get My Pay (Roud 290)
Sung by Ken Langsbury

Oh, tonight I’ll get my pay
And tomorrow we will spend it,
We’ll go home by the light of the moon.

I met with some girl I knew
I met with some girl I knew
And I asked that young girl
If she had got any skills
For to catch me a small bird or two.

Oh yes, I’ve some very nice skills
Oh yes, I’ve some very nice skills
If you’ll come along with me
Down to yonders lilies bush
We will catch you a small bird or two.

Straightway that young girl and me went
Straightway to yon lilies green bush
And we rapped at that bush
And the bird he did fly out
He flew a little above her white knee.

For tonight I’ll get my pay
And tomorrow we will spend it,
We’ll go home by the light of the moon.

Probably my favourite song; a version of The Bird in the Bush, it comes from Caroline Hughes, a wonderful Gypsy singer who lived in the Dorset area.

19 - The Parting Glass (Roud 3004)
Sung by Jeff Gillett
The Golden Fleece - looking down the hill towards town.
A man may drink and not be drunk;
A man may fight and not be slain;
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcome back again.
But since it has so ordered been
What is once past cannot be recalled,
Then fill to me the parting glass:
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.

Had I the money for to spend
I’d spend it in good company;
And for all the harm that ever I’ve done
I hope it’s pardoned I shall be.
But since it has so ordered been …

My dearest dear, the time draws near
When I with you no more can stay.
There’s not a comrade in this town
But is grieving at my going away.
But since it has so ordered been …

I've always liked the song, but when I first heard this sung by Len Graham with Skylark, I swiftly dropped the more familiar version from my repertoire.  He credited it to Joe Holmes, who, like Len, was from County Antrim; however, when the two of them recorded it together (After Dawning, Topic 12TS401, 1979 and Ossian, 1993) the liner notes traced it back to one Tommy McQueston, who had left Antrim for Canada some forty years earlier.  By the time that Skylark recorded it, the words had changed slightly.  It is this later version that I learned.

Credits:

Introduction written by, and some photos taken by Rod Stradling.  My sincere thanks to all the eleven singers who have recorded their songs and collaborated by providing information, transcriptions, etc. and also to Fred Chance - for some of the photos, and Danny Stradling - for checking transcriptions and proofreading.


Booklet: editing, DTP, printing
CD: recording, editing, formatting, production, by Rod Stradling

A Musical Traditions Records production
© 2005

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Singers] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

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