Article MT071

Up in the North, Down in the South

songs and tunes from the Mike Yates collection 1964-2000



[Track List] [Introduction] [ The Songs] [CD 1] [CD 2] [Additional Recordings] [Acknowledgements] [Credits]

Musical Traditions' second CD release of 2001: Up in the North, Down in the South (MT CD 311-2), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, we have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.  As usual, photo credits can be seen by hovering the cursor over the picture.

Tracklist:  * Tracks with an asterisk are previously unreleased.Cover picture - collage of Johnny Doughty, Bill Whiting, Willie Beattie and Jimmy McBeath.

CD One
1 - A Single LifeHarry Upton
2 - The Wreck of the Northfleet   ..       ..
3 - The Feckless Young Girl   ..       ..
4 - Canadee-I-O   ..       ..
5 - Giles Collins * Jacquey Gabriel
6 - The Basket of Eggs Bob Blake
7 - The Grey Hawk   ..       ..
8 - Our Sheepshearing's Done   ..       ..
9 - Dorsetshire George *   ..       ..
10 - Buttered Peas * Harry Cockerill
11 - Two Unnamed Jigs *   ..       ..
12 - Lady of the Lake *   ..       ..
13 - Sing Ovy, Sing Ivy Tom Newman
14 - The Tree in the Wood   ..       ..
15 - There Was a Lady Dressed in Green *     Vickie Whelan
16 - The Sailor's Alphabet Johnny Doughty
17 - Dick Turpin / Let Her Go Back   ..       ..
18 - My Boy Billy   ..       ..
19 - Johnny Armstrong * Willie Beattie
20 - The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow *   ..       ..
21 - Kinmont Willie *   ..       ..
22 - The Brundenlaws *   ..       ..
23 - Jolly JorgeBill Dore
  
CD Two
1 - Cut Away Mike George Spicer
2 - Blackberry Fold   ..       ..
3 - Henry, My Son   ..       ..
4 - Searching for Young Lambs   ..       ..
5 - The Lily-White Hand   ..       ..
6 - My Old Man *   ..       ..
7 - The Fox and the Grey Goose Freda Palmer
8 - Oxford City   ..       ..
9 - Up in the North   ..       ..
10 - William & Mary   ..       ..
11 - As I Was a-Walking   ..       ..
12 - Broken Down Gentleman Bill Whiting
13 - I'm Going to the Woods   ..       ..
14 - Knife in the Window *   ..       ..
15 - Huntsman's Chorus * Harry Cockerill
16 - Varsovienne *   ..       ..
17 - Barndance Medley *   ..       ..
18 - The Spotted Cow Frank Hinchliffe
19 - Sheffield Park   ..       ..
20 - It Hails, It Rains   ..       ..
21 - The Golden Glove   ..       ..
22 - Green Mossy Banks of the Lea   ..       ..
23 - Nobleman & Thresherman   ..       ..
24 - Nothing Else to Do   ..       ..
25 - Poor Roger is Dead *Walter Pardon
26 - The Aylesbury Girl Jack Goodban
27 - The Shannon Frigate   ..       ..
28 - The Farmer in Cheshire * Jimmy McBeath
29 - Down on the Magdalen Green *   ..       ..
30 - A Comic Song *   ..       ..

Introduction:

"Twenty men and boys scythed the corn and sang as they went."
"What was the song, Davie?"
"Never mind the song - it was the singing that counted."
Ronald Blythe - Akenfield

And let us not lose sight of the truth about the rainbow which makes us interested in it in the first place - its beauty.
John Stewart Collis - The Vision of Glory

I don't know what attracted me to folksongs in the first place.  It may have been the beauty of the songs themselves, or perhaps a realisation that these songs carried with them a history that was outside my own experience of life.  One afternoon, when I was about eight years old, I came home from my village school singing a Wassail Song that we had learnt that morning.  I can still remember my surprise when my grandfather, who lived with us, told me that I had the tune wrong.  Then he sang me his version of the song and I remember feeling a shiver down my spine as he sang the words to what I now know to have been a tune set in the Dorian Mode.  Whenever he sang after that I would stop whatever I was doing and listen as intently as I could, trying hard to remember the words and to catch the swirls and inflections of his tunes.  A few years later I came across a copy of The Everlasting Circle, a collection of folksong texts annotated by the poet James Reeves.  My grandfather was, by this time, bedridden and I would read the texts out to him, seeing which ones he knew, seeking out those for which he could provide a tune.  At the time I was unaware that what I was doing was, in fact, collecting songs.  Rather, I remember being amazed that my grandfather knew songs about smugglers and highwaymen, subjects that, until then, had only been mentioned in library books, or in films.  One short piece - sung to the tune Yankee Doodle Dandy - was, according to my grandfather, as old as Cromwell:
Jack-a-Bodies had a cat,
He called it Muffin Mundy,
He hung it up at back o't door,
For catching mice on Sunday.
Some years later, in 1964, when I was living in Manchester, I got to know Terry Whelan and Harry Boardman, two stalwarts of the northern folkscene.  Terry mentioned that his wife, Vicki, who now works for the NHS as a clinical hypnotherapist, had learnt a number of songs as a young girl in Salford, including a children's version of The Cruel Mother which she called There Was A Lady Dressed in Green.  I think that this was probably the first Child ballad that I collected.  Shortly afterwards Packie Manus Byrne came to live in Manchester and he asked me to record a number of his whistle tunes, so that he could send a tape to a relative who lived abroad.  At the time I had been reading Evelyn Wells book The Ballad Tree and I remembered that she said that one of the ways to collect ballads was to ask the singer if they knew the one about the milk-white steed.  During a break in recording I plucked up my courage and asked the question to Packie.  Packie blinked his eyes with surprise, before saying, "God, yes.  But I haven't sung that one in thirty years!"  George Spicer - photo by Mike YatesThen he sang me a version of Johnny o' Hazelgreen (Child 293), which turned out to be the first version ever collected from an Irish singer.  (A later recording appeared on Packie's album Songs of a Donegal Man - Topic 12TS257).

In 1967 I moved down to London and spent some time with Bill Leader (who had recorded Fred Jordan's 1966 album Songs of a Shropshire Farm Worker in my bedroom in Cheshire) and I am grateful to Bill for teaching me the rudiments of sound recording.  Then I started going down to Sussex, looking for singers.  To my surprise I found that George Spicer was still alive (I had heard some of his BBC recordings on the Caedmon series of albums) and I was knocked out with his wonderful repertoire and his skill as a singer.  The song collector Ken Stubbs once told me that George was never discovered by collectors; George, he maintained, was so well-known as a singer in Sussex that whoever ventured into the district looking for songs could not help but find him!

Although George was known as a Sussex singer, he was, in fact, born in the village of Little Chart in Kent, in 1906.  For most of his early life he was employed as a herdsman in the area between Dover and Deal, and all of his songs heard on these CDs came originally from this part of Kent.  George had Searching for Young Lambs, The Lily-White Hand and Blackberry Fold from his mother, who sang them at home .  Cut Away Mike came from his father-in-law who lived in the village of Lydden.  (His father-in-law was also responsible for teaching George The Folkestone Murder which George can be heard singing on the Musical Traditions double CD set Just Another Saturday Night: Sussex 1960, MTCD 309-10).  There were quite a number of other singers in the area, including Tommy Goodburn, a regular at The Wheatsheaf Inn, Martin, who used to sing Henry, My Son.  Other songs, including My Old Man, came from The Rose at West Langdon - where the landlord, Ike Harvey, sang The Cunning Cobbler, which George also sings on MTCD309-10.  In 1940 George and his family moved to Selsfield in Sussex, where he continued to work as a herdsman.  Although nominally retired when these recordings were made, George still kept himself occupied as a part-time gamekeeper, sometime cricket umpire and prize-winning gardener.

There was obviously once quite a tradition of pub-singing in the villages just inland from Dover and Deal and George was only too happy to give me a list of singers who used to sing there.  Sadly, only Jack Goodban was still alive, and his repertoire, though extremely interesting, was small.  When we first met, Jack was helping a neighbour put up fence poles in a field that bordered the top of the famous White Cliffs.  When I mentioned old songs, Jack asked me if I was from the BBC, adding that they had written to him in the '50s to say that they would like to record him.  Sadly though, they never turned up!  To begin with, Jack denied knowing any songs at all and it was only as I turned to leave that he said, "You mean those old historical songs...  like The Shannon Frigate?" If anything was guaranteed to stop me dead in my tracks, then it was a comment such as that.

Jack, like George and so many other singers that I have known, was a keen gardener and these recordings were made in the kitchen as his wife sat quietly salting runner beans into large earthenware pots.  Jack, it turned out, had also sung in The Wheatsheaf at Martin, where his father sang and taught him The Shannon Frigate and The Aylesbury Girl, a song that was also sung by a couple of brothers called Wood.

Harry Upton was another well-known Sussex singer who lived a few miles from George Spicer's home.  By trade he was a cowman - retired - and had known George from working on neighbouring farms.  Harry Upton - photo by Mike YatesAlthough I never saw them singing together, they had clearly heard each other in the past and I suspect that there was some rivalry between them - over who was the best singer, that sort of thing - and they would both ask me what songs I had recorded from the other, at the same time claiming to have no real interest in the matter! Harry, who was born in 1900, learnt songs as a boy from his father, a Downsland shepherd, and from his mother.  He told me that his father was in the habit of going to bed early in the evening, and that he would sing himself to sleep.  Harry learnt The Wreck of the Northfleet and Canadee-I-O from his father, and The Feckless Young Girl from the singing of his mother.  Other songs were learnt from his father's workmates, including members of the Copper Family, and, like them, Harry would sometimes sing in harmony with his father.  Also like the Copper Family, Harry had many of his songs in manuscript form, often in his father's handwriting, and had owned a collection of broadsides, mainly printed in the 1880s by the daughter of Henry Parker Such, of the Borough in south London.  Bought originally in Brighton, these had also been inherited from his parents.  Along with songs such as Genevieve and In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, Harry also had sheets containing texts for several folksong standards, including Barbara Allen, The Dark-Eyed Sailor and Hey, John Barleycorn.Bob Blake - photo courtesy Clive Bennett

Although thought of as a Sussex singer, Bob Blake was, in fact, born in Tooting, south London, in 1908 and did not move to Sussex until he was nineteen.  His father, a former sailor and farm labourer, had already taught him some sea shanties, and Bob had also picked up a number of songs from an uncle in Gloucestershire, another ex-sailor, who was visited during the school holidays.

Bob trained as a trimmer and, having moved to Sussex, worked in a garage near Horsham, lodging for a time with an elderly couple at a nearby farm.  He soon developed a love of the countryside and took bicycle holidays throughout southern England, picking up more songs wherever he could.  He worked variously as a farm-worker, a gardener, and, finally, as a bee-keeper, with hives scattered all over Sussex and the New Forest.

An immensely likeable man, he was, nevertheless, extremely shy and I never felt that he was totally relaxed in my presence.  He loved to sing, but found it very difficult to do so in front of a microphone.  I think that his nervousness made him a little unsteady with his tunes, which would often only settle down after he had sung the first couple of verses.  Although Bob liked to sing occasionally in local folksong clubs, sometimes in company with Bob Copper and his family, he told me that he was not as extrovert as his father, who had loved to sing in the Gloucestershire pubs of his youth.

The final Sussex singer on this CD set is, of course, Johnny Doughty.  Johnny had been born in 1903 in Brighton, in a cottage now demolished, in Wellington Place, then the centre of the town's fishing industry and most of his youth was spent among the older fishermen who, when not at sea, would congregate in the net-arches.  "It was a rough area...  but good people, you understand.  My grandmother brought me up mostly...  I can see her now.  Johnny Doughty - photo by Mike YatesShe used to take in washing and she'd be at her tub washing and singing all day.  Come my own one, come my fond one, come my dearest unto me, that was one that she loved.  Come all ye little Irish girls I would bid you all adieu, that was another, and Baltimore, 'cept she wouldn't sing me all the verses because they were too rude!  Course, when I wasn't at home, or school I was on the beach...  always on the beach.  I almost lived there...  first at the cockle and whelk stalls, then helping empty the boats of their catches.  I used to go up to the net arch - St.  Margaret's Net Arch they called it, by the Palace Pier - and listen to the old sailors...  real sailors they were...  I learnt The Golden Vanity, Herring's Heads and The Wreck of the Northfleet when I was just a nipper in the Arch...  and any number of scraps of songs...  Dick Turpin...  Let Her Go Back, things like that, they'd hum them as they were net-mending...  and some of 'em wouldn't tell you the words for all the gold in China.  What songs? they'd say when you asked 'em what they were singing.  They were buggers all right.  But I liked em!"

Johnny left school when he was 13 years old and spent the next two years herring catching until he joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor in 19l9.  Leaving the Navy at the height of the Depression, he was unable to make a living fishing.  So he spent six years working in the gashouse at Portslade before returning to sea.  Johnny finally ended up in Rye with his two boats, the Ocean Reaper and the Helen Mary.  He was living in Camber Sands when we met.  I had seen him singing on a television documentary about the town of Rye and I shot down to the coast as quickly as I could to find him.  It was a delight to be in his company and I was extremely happy to see him invited to numerous folk clubs and festivals all over the country.

During the '70s and early '80s I often used to visit relatives in Oxford and would spend time driving around the Thames Valley in the footsteps of Alfred Williams, looking for singers.  Bill Whiting, Tom Newman, Bill Dore, Freda Palmer, Jacquey Gabriel and others were all recorded during this time.

I first heard of Bill Whiting from the collector John Baldwin, who, in 1969, had printed Bill's photograph in that year's Folk Music JournalBill Whiting - photo by John BaldwinBill lived in a bungalow at the end of a quiet close, an ideal place to record.  Bill had been born in 1891 and, much to my amazement, not only knew some of the singers who had sung to Alfred Williams prior to the Great War, but actually remembered Williams visiting William Jefferies in Longcot to collect Jefferies's songs.  Over a couple of years I tried to pump Bill's memory for some of the songs that William Jefferies had sung - Captain Barnwell or The Bold Dragoon, say - but the only song to register was a version of Old Moll which Bill insisted he had learnt not from old Mr Jefferies but from members of the Jordan family, who had also sung to Alfred Williams.

Bill told me that singing was something that should be carried out in the pubs.  That was where he had learnt most of his songs.  The only one that had not come from pub sessions was his version of The Prickle Holly Bush which had always been sung at Harvest Suppers.  He had a good version of The Bailiff s Daughter of Islington, one similar to that sung by Freda Palmer, and an excellent version of Our Goodman, this again from the Jordans.  Bill sang a number of music hall songs, such as The Way of the World and George Le Brunn's The Song of the Thrush which, I suspect, had come to Longcot via Chris Hall's immensely popular early 78 recording (Edison Bell Winner 5181).

George 'Tom' Newman was in his 90th year when I met him and, sadly, I only knew him for the last six months of his life.  Originally from Faringdon, he was living in a small bungalow in the village of Clanfield, near Bampton.  I was told that Tom used to occasionally turn up at the Bampton Whit Monday ceremonies with his one-man band and would proceed to accompany the traditional morris team around the village.  John Baldwin, whose Folk Music Journal article again introduced me to Tom, had described Tom thus: He is an old man now and tends to become very excited when singing; sitting in a chair and pumping the floor with his feet alternately, and similarly his knees with clenched fists.  One Saturday afternoon, after recording a number of his songs, Tom insisted that we take the recordings to his son, who lived nearby, so that the son might listen to them.  Freda Palmer - photo by Derek SchofieldIt turned out that there was racing on the television and it was only with Tom's insistence that I plugged in the recorder and set the tapes to play.  I remember Tom sitting there with a look of absolute pleasure on his face, completely unaware of his son's indifference.  Here was one tradition that was not going to survive in its own locality.

Bill Dore and Freda Palmer both came from the village of Leafield, although Freda was living in Witney when I met her.  Leafield is, of course, the home of the traditional Field Town Morris and must, once, have had an active singing tradition.  At one time Bill had been in great demand as a pub and village hall pianist.  By the time I met him, though, ill-health had forced him to curtail much of his activities.  Indeed, his health was such that I only felt able to ask him to play me one song, Jolly Jarge, although I would have liked to have heard him play more.  Freda Palmer, on the other hand, had quite a large repertoire of songs and was very happy to sing, although many of her songs had to be teased out of her memory over quite a period of time.  As a girl, Freda had worked with an aunt making gloves and the pair, to pass the time, would swap songs, singing to each other across a communal workbench.  All of the songs heard here came originally from Freda's aunt.

Jacquey Gabriel, who was then living in Winchcombe, sang frequently in local folkclubs and was an extremely accomplished performer.  Like Bill Dore, I only met her the once - thanks to Gwilym Davies - but remember how much I enjoyed hearing her sing.  Originally from Suffolk, she had learnt a number of songs from her father who used to sing in the pubs around Bury St Edmunds.  One such item was this splendidly complete - and extremely rare - version of the ballad Giles Collins.  I also recorded Jacquey singing versions of Barbara Allen, The Bonny Light Horseman and a single verse of The Lowlands of Holland, all of which she had learnt from her father.

Occasionally, while visiting my parents in Lancashire, I would drive over to Yorkshire, where I recorded, among others, the singer Frank Hinchliffe and the piano-accordion player Harry Cockerill.  Harry was a farmer who played for the local dances and his accordions were kept in a barn on special shelves that he had built for them.  His style may sound rough to some listeners, especially those used to saccharine-sweet accordion players from Scotland, but, to me, his music was that of the fairgrounds of my childhood.  It may have been rough and ready, but it was, at least, honest and, above all, exciting.  Listening to his playing now, I am reminded of a Zen aphorism, no snowflake ever falls on an inappropriate place - and the same, I think, can be said of his notes.  I am sorry that it has taken so long to have these recordings issued.  Frank Hinchliffe - photo by Derek SchofieldFrank Hinchliffe's recordings were, however, originally issued in 1977 on the Topic album In Sheffield Park (Topic 12TS308).  Like many people, I was sorry that none of his songs was chosen for inclusion on Topic's Voice of the People series.  However, I am glad to say that three of his other recordings (The Pear Tree, Edward and Wild and Wicked Youths) can now be heard on the Root and Branch CD A New World which is available from the EFDSS.

Frank was born in 1923 at Fulwood, to the west of Sheffield, and was a farmer for much of his life.  Ian Russell estimated that Frank had a substantial repertoire approaching a hundred songs, plus at least forty local carols.  The songs came originally from his family and his community.  His parents, Mary and Bill Hinchliffe, his father-in-law, Arthur Marsden, Uncle Tom White and other older singers, such as Sam Lovell and Andrew Gregory, all provided songs and inspiration.  Nor was he alone as a singer in later life.  His brother-in-law, Stanley Marsden, his son's father-in-law, Billy Mills, his cousins, George White and Grace Walton, all sang, as did his friends Albert and Bernard White.  A quiet, introspective singer, his gentle voice almost hid his mastery of vocal story-telling.  According to Ian Russell, his singing had an appealing, almost plaintive quality that reached out to his audience, and anyone interested in finding out more about Frank should, if possible, consult Ian's Traditional Singing in West Sheffield, 1970-2 (3 vols.  Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Leeds, 1977), or else his exemplary article Stability and Change in a Sheffield Singing Tradition published in the 1987 Folk Music Journal (vol.5 no.3 pp.  317 - 58).

These recordings were made late at night, after Frank had spent the day gathering hay, when he must have been quite tired.  Nevertheless, they do show a true craftsman at work.  He was, I think, one of the finest singers that I have met, and, again, I am grateful that so many of his recordings are once again available.

The late Walter Pardon of Knapton in Norfork is, perhaps, the best-known singer to be heard here.  Much of his large repertoire is available on three other CDs, A World Without Horses (Topic TSCD514) and Musical Traditions double CD Put a Bit of Powder on it, Father (MTCD 305-6).  These also contain extensive essays on Walter's life, musical influences and songs.  The short piece heard here, Poor Roger is Dead, which Walter learnt as a child at Knapton primary school, was not included on his previous CDs for lack of space.

Over the years, I have also recorded a number of Scottish singers, including Jimmy McBeath who I first met and recorded at an early Keele Folk Festival.  Jimmy had been born in Portsoy, Banffshire, in 1894.  Having left school at 13, he was fee'd at St Brandon's Fair to a farm in the parish of Deskford.  Jimmy McBeath - photo by Brian ShuelAccording to Jimmy it was "All hard slavery work - up at five in the morning to sort your horse, and you didn't fasten your boots until after you got your breakfast.  You went in at half past five and got a cog o' meal and milk and bread, oat-cakes and a cup o' tea wi' it.  You had to carry on fae that, from six till twelve o clock and started again tae one.  You stopped at six and came in and sorted your horse and then you went away to your tea at twenty minutes to seven at night.  Some farms were very tight wi' the food, oh yes, very, very, very tight wi' the food.  Some farms were very good wi' the food again.  But it was slavery days all the same.  You workit the whole six months before you got money at all."

Jimmy joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1914, probably to escape the drudgery of farmwork, and served at the front in Flanders and in Ireland.  Later he became a street singer at the suggestion of Geordie Stewart, a scrap-dealer who happened to be the brother of Lucy Stewart, the fine ballad singer from Fetterangus.  He was discovered in 1951 by Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson and a selection of their recording of Jimmy should be available soon on the American Rounder label.

Willie Beattie - photo by Mike YatesIn 1998 I left London and moved north to live in Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northerly town in England.  I soon discovered that there was still a thriving musical tradition along the Borders and was told of Willie Beattie by Henry Douglas, another singer who farms outside Bonchester Bridge.  Willie's house stands on the side of the B6357, which runs through Liddesdale and is only two fields away from Cumbria.  It turned out that Willie had previously been recorded by Hamish Henderson and others on behalf of the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh.  On one occasion he had been invited to the School to sing his unique version of Johnnie Armstrong during a ballad conference.  Three of the four ballads chosen for these CDs are what used to be called Border ballads, a term first coined by Sir Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1833).  They certainly hold deep meanings for Willie.  He had, for example, worked all his life as a forester on the Buccleuch Estates, which are owned by the same family who organised the rescue of Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle; while Gilnockie Tower, one-time home of Johnnie Armstrong, lies less than four miles away.  But, later writers, such as David Buchan, have pointed out that many of Scott's so-called Border ballads were not from the Border region itself and that they are, in fact, often better known elsewhere in Scotland.  (See Buchan's The Ballad and the Folk.  1972, for more on this).

The recordings heard on these CDs were made over a period of almost forty years.  They do not include any of the songs that I recorded from Gypsy singers, nor are there any pieces that I recorded in the Appalachian Mountains of North America.  It is to be hoped that future CDs will cover these areas.

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 almost 232,000 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 Ceoil Dúchais Éireann, 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.

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

Some of the Southern singers heard on these CDs, in common with many (though by no means all) older singers, sometimes aspirate the start of a word beginning with a vowel, or pronounce some words unusually.  Whilst attempting to transcribe the texts accurately, I have decided to omit all the former and most of the latter of these traits, for fear of rendering the printed texts risible.

Words shown in [square brackets] are either translations of dialect/cant words, or guesses / suggestions from another recording or standard text where the singer's word is unclear or obviously wrong.  Words shown in (brackets) - mainly in choruses or refrains - are alternatives at this point.

CD 1

1 - A Single Life (Roud 952)
(Sung by Harry Upton at his home in Balcombe, Sussex.  1975)

A lady born at Bethlehem fate*,
To a Greenwich town for a pleasure came.
On a brisk young sailor she did behold,
He was neatly trimmed with carriage bold.
Repeat last two lines.

She stood and viewed his lovely eyes,
And unto him she made reply.
"Young man," she said, "You have no wife,
Why do you lead a single life?"

He said, "Fair lady, I'll tell you why.
The reason why I lead a single life.
If I had a wife and family,
P'raps all their wants I could not supply."

"Besides all this, there is one thing more,
I love to roam where loud cannons roar;
And if any mischance should be,
I'll leave none behind to mourn for me."

She took her coach and she rode away,
And married was on that very day.
He took her down to the weald of Kent,
And there they lived in full content.

Now you have servants all at your call,
Likewise a mayor in a Town Hall,
Marryin' a rich lady for your wife,
Far better than a single life.

* The broadside text begins 'A lady born of birth and fame'.

A Single Life is something of a rarity today.  Clive Carey previously found it in Sussex and the Hammond Brothers had a solitary text from Henry Marsh in Dorchester.  John Ashton, a Victorian antiquary, reprinted a broadside text in his book Real Sailor Songs (1891) whilst an earlier set can be found in an Edinburgh chapbook of 1824, which is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

2 - The Wreck of the Northfleet (Roud 1174)
(Sung by Harry Upton at his home in Balcombe, Sussex.  1974)

Come listen all you feeling people
With dreadful news I do relate,
An emigrant ship, which was the Northfleet,
At last has met a wreck-ed fate.

An emigrant ship, bound for Australia,
Laid anchored off at Dundipness (Dungeness?)
Bound for Australia was this vessel,
To bid farewell, with fond caress.

Chorus:
God help the orphans and the widows
And comfort them, where they may be.
May God above us all preserve us,
From the dangers of the sea.

A foreign steamer so it happen
Fast-sailing with the Channel tide.
Came down upon this anchored vessel
And crashed within her timber sides.

Away it went, this cruel steamer,
Did not stop to see what wreck it made,
'Mid human cries of shame and pity
Nor stopped to lend them helping aid.

Who can describe the fight and terro'
Aboard a sinking ship at sea?
The women screamed and strong men trembled.
It was a sight of misery.

"Launch out the boats", the Captain shouted,
"The women first.  Stand back the men."
They heeded not, but manly rush-ed,
Threatening the boats to overwhelm.

The Captain he could see the danger
Although he tried to 'void the rush.
"I'll shoot the first that disobeys me."
Some reckless ones at last did rush.

The Captain fired, his shot was fatal,
And one poor wretch laid lifeless there.
The men stood back upon the vessel
And looked around in sad despair.

Now when this vessel was fast sinking
An' each one longed to save his life.
This gall-i-ant Captain stood a'bracing
His new and lately married wife.

"Oh let me die, with you my husband."
"Oh no, dear wife, that cannot be."
"Take care of her," he told his boatsmen,
"While your poor Captain's drowned at sea."

An emigrant ship bound for Australia
Led upward of five hundred lives.
Scarce ninety souls were saved from drownding
God help their children and their wives.

Now many an eye there will be weeping,
An aching heart both far and near.
A silent prayer for those departed,
And shed for them a feeling tear.

During the night of January 22nd 1873 the sailing ship Northfleet was anchored in the English Channel, ready to sail to Australia.  On board were some 379 persons, mostly railway workers, en route to build the Tasmanian railway.  The vessel was also carrying a cargo of railway iron.  At 10.30pm the Spanish steamship Murillo struck the Northfleet amidships at water level and within fifteen minutes 320 of the Northfleet's passengers were dead, including Captain Knowles who, revolver in hand, had tried to prevent his crew from panicking.  Although it was a calm clear night the Murillo did not stop, and it was not until September 22nd that the ship was arrested by the Admiralty who subsequently confiscated the vessel.

Harry Upton learnt the song forty years after the event, in 1914, when he acted as a tarboy for his father, a shepherd who worked on the South Downs overlooking the Channel.  Johnny Doughty also had a version of this song, although sung to a different tune, which he had learnt as a boy from Brighton fishermen.  Johnny's version appeared on the album Round Rye Bay for More (Topic 12TS324, issued 1977).

3 - The Feckless Young Girl (Roud 1734)
(Sung by Harry Upton at his home in Balcombe, Sussex.  1975)

As I was a-taking my evening's walk,
I met a young maiden, to her I talked.
The question I asked her, was she going home?
"For I think it's a pity you should go alone."
Repeat last two lines.

I asked her if she'd come to the alehouse close by.
The answer she gave me was, "No, not I."
"And if you'll come with me, we will not long stay,
We'll both drink together and then walk away."

Her truelove being coming the very next day,
In the halest of humours that ever you'd see.
And as soon as he saw her, saying, "How do you do?
'For I'm none of the better for seeing of you."

"Do you think I'm a fool or a natural outright,
And who were you with at the alehouse last night?"
"Well, if you're offended at nothing at all,
Go back where you come, for your love is but small."

"As you found your way in, you can find your way out,
And as for your coming I didn't care about.
So give me my freedom and I will be gone.
So I wish you goodnight, love, and a pleasant walk home."

Versions of Taking an Evening Walk, as most collectors have named this song, have previously been found in Sussex by Clive Carey, in the Thames Valley by Alfred Williams and in Surrey by Frederick Keel.  The latter version was printed in volume VI of the Journal of the Folk Song Society (1918) with the note that 'both song and air appear to be Irish in origin'.  Harry's tune is very similar to a fiddle tune that I heard in Virginia, titled The Widow on the Train.  I would guess, with such a title, that this was a song from the late 19th/early 20th century.  Harry always used to call this The Freckless Young Girl, and that was the title that we used when Topic issued the song on the album Sussex Harvest (Topic 12T258), in 1975.  However, after much thought, I have decided to drop the 'r'.  I don't know whether Harry would have approved!

4 - Canadee-I-O (Roud 309)
(Sung by Harry Upton at his home in Balcombe, Sussex, 1974)

It was of a fair and pretty maid
She was in her tender care.
She dearly loved a sailor
'Twas true, she loved him well.
And how to get to sea with him
She did not likewise know.
But she longed to see that seaport town
Called Canadee-i-o.
Repeat last 4 lines.

She bargained with a young sailor
All for a piece of gold.
And straight-way he led her
All down into the hold.
Saying, "I will dress you up in sailors' clothes,
Your collar shall be blue.
And you will see that seaport town
Called Canadee-i-o."

Now when the sailors heard of this
They fell into a rage.
And all the whole ship's company
Were willing to engage.
"We'll tie her hands and feet, my boys,
And overboard we'll throw.
She never will see that seaport town
Called Canadee-i-o."

Now when the Captain heard of this
play Sound Clip He, too, fell in a rage.
Saying, "If you drown this fair maid
All hang-ed you will be.
I will dress her up in sailor's clothes
Her collar shall be blue.
And she will see that seaport town
Called Canadee-i-o."

She had not been in Can-er-der
Scarcely but half a year.
She married this brave Captain
Who called her his dear.
She's dressed in silks and satins now
She cuts a gall-i-ant show.
She's the finest Captain's lady
In Canadee-i-o.

Now come all you fair and pretty maids
Wherever you may be.
I would have you to follow your true love
When he goes out to sea.
If the sailor's they prove false to you
The Captain he'll prove true.
You can see the honour that I have gained
By wearing of the blue.

Spoken: That's the blue.

Canadee-i-o is something of a hybrid folksong, combining, as it does, two separate motifs; namely the girl who follows her truelove abroad, and the myth of the shipboard Jonah.  As in many broadsides, however, there is a happy ending.

According to Frank Kidson, Canadee-I-O is a song which first appeared during the 18th century.  In form, it is related to the Scots song Caledonia - versions of which were collected by Gavin Greig - although exactly which song came first is one of those 'chicken and egg' questions that so frequently beset folkmusic studies.

Harry Upton recalled singing this song in a Balcombe pub in 1940, and remained puzzled as to how a visiting Canadian soldier could join in a song which he believed to be known only to himself and his father.  It could be argued that the Canadian might have more reasonably asked the question, since Harry is the sole English singer named among Roud's 28 instances of the song.

5 - Giles Collins (Child 42 / 85, Roud 147)
(Sung by Jacquey Gabriel at her home in Winchcomb, Gloucestershire.  1978)

Giles Collins rode out one May morning,
Photo courtesy Jacquey Gabriel When bloom was all in a drift;
And there he spied a fair pretty maid
Washing her fine silken shift.

She whooped, she hailed, she highered her voice,
She waved her lily-white hand.
"Come hither to me, Giles Collins", she said,
"Or your days won't be long in the land."

And he's set his foot on the broad river brim,
And over the water sprang he.
He's clasped her about her middle so slim
And he's taken her fair body.

Giles Collins he rode to his own father's hall.
"Rise Mother and make my bed,
And fetch me a 'kerchief of linen so fine,
For to comfort the pain in my head."

"And if I should chance to die this night,
I greatly fear I shall.
Then bury me under a white marble stone,
Set close to fair Alice's hall."

Fair Alice she sat in her bower so fine,
A-sewing a fine silken sheet.
She saw the fairest corpse coming by
That ever her eyes did meet.

And she's called to her serving-maid:
"Whose corpse goes there so fine?"
"Oh, that is the corpse of Giles Collins", she said,
"A one-time lover of thine."

"If that be the corpse of Giles Collins", she said,
"Go now and make my bed.
And fetch me a priest to shrive my sins,
For tomorrow I shall be dead."

"Then go you upstairs and fetch me a sheet,
One woven of silk so fine;
And hang it all over Giles Collins's corpse,
Tomorrow, hang it o'er mine."

"Then set him down you six pretty maids,
And open his coffin so fine.
That I may kiss those clay-cold lips,
That oftimes have kissed mine."

The news it was brought to famed London Town,
And through London's streets was spread;
That seven fair maids died all of one night,
Because Giles Collins was dead.

According to Professor Child, 'This little ballad, which is said to be still of the regular stock of the stalls, is a sort of counterpart to Lord Lovel'.  Other scholars have suggested that it is quite an ancient piece, and that the 'fair pretty maid/washing her fine silken shrift' is no other than a supernatural mistress who threatens Giles (or George, as he is often called) with death, should he leave her.  If this is the case, and it does seem possible, then the ballad is probably linked with another piece, Clerk Colville (Child 42).

Jacquey leant her version of the ballad from her father, sometime before her 14th birthday, having heard him sing it in pubs around Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.  A version collected by Bob Copper from Enos White, of Axford in Hampshire, can be heard on Classic Ballads of Britain & Ireland - Volume 1 (Rounder 1775), while an American version, collected by Anne & Frank Warner, can be heard sung by Nathan & Rena Hicks, of Beech Mountain, NC, on Nothing Seems Better to Me (Appleseed CD 1036) and another, by Roy Harvey & The North Carolina Ramblers (1928 recording) has been reissued on Document (DOCD-8051).

The great majority of Roud's 172 entries are from the USA, and most of the English ones are from central southern areas - none at all from Suffolk, though there was a c.1935 sighting in Norfolk.

6 - The Basket of Eggs (Roud 377)
(Sung by Bob Blake at his home near Horsham, Sussex.  1974)

Down in Sandbank Fields two sailors they were walking,
Their pockets were both lined with gold.
And as together they stood talking,
A fair maid there they did behold.

With a little basket standing by her,
As she sat down to take her ease.
To carry it for her one of them offered,
The answer was, "Sir, if you please."

One of those sailors took the basket,
"There's eggs in that basket, please have care.
And if, by chance, you should out-walk me,
At the Half-Way House, please leave them there."

Behold, those sailors did out-walk her,
And the Half-Way House, they did pass by.
That pretty damsel laughed at their fancy,
But on those sailors she kept her eye.

And when those sailors came to an alehouse,
There they did call for a pint of wine.
Saying, "Landlord, landlord, what fools in this nation;
From a fair, pretty maid, these eggs we did twine."

"Oh landlord, landlord, bring us some bacon,
We have these eggs and we'll have some (breast) *
But those two sailors were very much mistaken,
As you shall say when you hear the rest.

And then the landlord came to the basket,
Expecting of some eggs to find.
Says he, "Young man, you're much mistaken,
Instead of eggs, a child I find."

One of those sailors sat down to weeping,
The other said, "It's not worthwhile.
Here's fifty guineas I'll give unto the baby,
If any woman will take the child."

Behold, that fair maid sat by the fire,
And she had her shawl on over her face.
Says she, "I'll take it, and kindly use it,
When first I see the money paid."

One of those sailors put down the money,
Great favour to the babe was shown.
"Since it is so, then let's be friendly,
For you know this child is mine and your own."

"Don't you remember a-dancing with Nancy,
As long ago as last Easter day?"
"Oh yes I do, and she took my fancy,
And now the fiddler I must pay."

The other sailor went to the basket,
And he kicked it over and o'er.
"Since it is settled, then lets be contented,
But I'm hanged if I'll like eggs anymore."

* The broadside text gives 'grace'.

Gavin Greig, the assiduous Scottish song collector, called this song The Foundling Baby, although singers throughout England and Scotland have preferred to use the broadside title The Basket of Eggs.  A shorter version of the song which I recorded from the Kentish gypsy singer Minty Smith is included on volume 11 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD661) - and this and Bob's are the only known sound recordings.  In fact - together with the Edenbridge Smiths (Frank and Bill) and Henry Burstow - they are the only sightings of the song in this part of England.

7 - The Grey Hawk (Roud 293)
(Sung by Bob Blake at his home near Horsham, Sussex.  1974)

Once I had a hawk, and a pratty grey hawk,
A sweet pratty bird of my own.
But she took a flight, she flew away quite,
And there's nobody knows where she's gone, my brave boys,
And there's nobody knows where she's gone.

So it's o'er the wide forest I rambled away,
And down the green paths I did stray.
I hallowed, I whooped, I played on my flute,
Not my sweet pratty bird could I find ...

So it's over the green hills I rambled away,
And through the green fields I did stray.
Yo, there did I spy my sweet pratty bird,
She was close by the side of a man ...

Now he that has got her is welcome to keep her,
And do the best with her he can.
Yet whilst that he have her and I have her not,
I will hawk with her once, now and then ...

Oh, happy's the man that hath a good wife,
Much better is he that's got none.
But curs-ed is he that courteth another's,
When he hath a good wife of his own ...

The Grey Hawk stems from a long 17th century blackletter broadside, Cupid's Trepan, and is quite rare in tradition today.  Bob Blake learnt the song in the 1930s whilst on a cycling holiday in the West Country, and his version is very similar to one which the Hammond brothers collected in 1905 from Robert Barrett of Puddletown in Dorset - although this and the Baring-Gould collection from Mary Langworth in Stoke Flemming, Devon, are the only West Country instances in Roud.  Indeed, Bob might have found it at home, since Percy Merrick heard it from Henry Hills of Lodsworth in 1901.

Since we're told - by Reg Hall, among others - that traditional English tunes do not normally modulate (change key), this one must be quite unusual in that it clearly changes down a fifth at the begining of the third line, and back up again at the following first line.

Although predominantly an English song, My Bonny Boy - to use its more common title - is found in 70 instances spread throughout the English-speaking world, and Rod Stradling recorded a quite different version, I Once Had a Boy, from the Buchan singer Daisy Chapman in 1969, as can be heard on Ythanside (MTCD308).  Whether this one truly is a version of the same song, though, is somewhat open to question.

8 - Our Sheepshearing's Done (Roud 1379)
(Sung by Bob Blake at his home near Horsham, Sussex.  1974)

Our sheepshearing's done, to our master we come,
Who enjoins us to sport as we please.
Then beside plough and flail, or a fleece and a pail,
We will boast of our fine wool and cheese.

Chorus: Our sweet shepherdess then, we will chorus amain,
And rejoice in our dairymaid's praise.
Our dairymaid's praise, dairymaid's praise,
Our sweet, purty dairymaid's praise.

Should your wishes incline to beer, cider or wine,
As you sit with your pipe at your ease.
Their true flavour to find, always keep this in mind,
Clear your taste with a bit of old cheese.

Like Gloucestershire folk, we'll sing and we'll joke,
And be merry whenever we please.
Drink "The Plough and the Flail", and "The Fleece and the Pail",
O'er a relish of best-making cheese.

Join hands then unite, with joy and delight,
As, as happy occasion we seize.
And with a-morous desire, we'll drink, "May our Squire,
Live long and enjoy his own cheese."

Our Sheepshearing's Done was included in the 1893 edition of Lucy Broadwood's English Country Songs with the title Feast Song.  According to Miss Broadwood it had been sung at Frocester, Gloucestershire, in the 1840s.  Bob Blake had the song from his father, who originally came from Gloucestershire, and who would appear to have learnt the song, directly or indirectly, from Miss Broadwood's published set.  These are the only two Roud entries.

9 - Dorsetshire George (Roud 3196)
(Sung by Bob Blake at his home near Horsham, Sussex.  1974)

My name it is George, I lives Dorsetshire way.
Bob Blake - photo courtesy Terry Potter I works on a farm and it's there I shall stay.
I hadn't a care 'til the master says 'ee:
"I'll never be happy 'til wedded ye be."

"The hens they be'ent doing as well as they might,
There's no-one to tend them from morning 'till night;
Go search for a maid that is tender and true,
Who understands poultry and understands you."

"Oh, I don't want no maid for a wife, sir," says I,
"Why, her'd be a widow if I was to die.
The hens they be doing quite well in my charge,
A man safe and single, that's Dorsetshire George."

Well one day to the farm came a maiden to stay,
A cousin of master's from Devonshire way;
A wonder with poultry for certain was she,
The way that she loved 'em was lovely to see.

They laid in the barns, in the fields, everywhere.
They laid twice a day very oft I declare.
The master, says 'ee, "We must keep her my man,"
And shy-like I answers, "I'll do what I can."

So I wedded the maid; as we walked down the aisle
She looked in my eyes with a beautiful smile.
Says she, "Why I bought all them eggs fine and large,
To woo ye, to win ye, my Dorsetshire George.
To woo ye, to win ye, my Dorsetshire George."

Bob called this 'a rustic ditty' and, like Bill Dore's song Jolly Jarge, no doubt comes from the urban music halls, although I am unable to trace its exact origin, and it is the only Roud entry for the song.

10 - Buttered Peas
11 - Two Untitled jigs
12 - Lady of the Lake
(Played on the piano-accordion by Harry Cockerill at his home in Askrigg, Yorkshire, 1972)

About 30 years ago, when John Browell invited me to Wensleydale to meet Harry Cockerill and some other local musicians, I doubt if I realised just how much of a tradition still existed in that part of the Yorkshire Dales.  I had heard of the Beresford Family from Buckden and probably thought that they were then unique in that they still played traditional music for local dances.  Harry soon persuaded me that this was not the case and I was delighted to hear him play tunes such as The Lady of the Lake and Buttered Peas.  I know little about the origin of these, and other, tunes that Harry played.

Buttered Peas: this is an odd rendering of the version usually associated with Grassington.  The tune seems to have started life as An Ye Had Been Whare I Hae Been, a Scots air normally used for Killiekrankie (words by Burns).  Moving south to Tyneside in the 19th century it has lost its celtic edge and spawned a tune called 'Til the Tide Comes In.  Harry's version is a good solid Yorkshire version, less flowery than found even further south.  Peter Beresford, from nearby Wharfedale, called it Butter'd Pease - although this may have just been Peter Kennedy's rendering of the name.

Two Untitled jigs: neither of which we have been able to find titles for, although the first sounds like a version of the Hullichan Jig with a different B music.  The second one seems to contain bits of everything!

Lady of the Lake: is certainly an older one - there's a version in the Burnett MS and it probably dates to the 1820s.  Is the title taken from Scott's book of the same name, we wonder?

13 - Sing Ovy, Sing Ivy (Child 2, Roud 12)
(Sung by Tom Newman at his home in Clanfield, Oxon.  1972)

Me old grampy died and left me with three acres of land,
Sing ovy and sing ivy.
Me old grampy died and left me with three acres of land,
With a bunch of green holly and ivy.

I ploughed it up with three rams eye

I drilled it with three peppercorns

I reaped it down with my little penknife

I shocked it up in three little shocks

I carried it home in three walnut shells

I threshed it out with three bean stalks

I winnowed it out with the tail of me shirt

I shocked/sacked it up in three little sacks

I sent it to market with three young rats

The team of rats came chackling back,
With a fifty-five shillings and the empty sack.
The bells did ring and the carter did sing,
Sing ovy and sing ivy.

Sing Ovy, Sing Ivy is an offshoot of the song Can You Make Me a Cambric Shirt? which, in turn, is related to the old ballad The Elfin Knight (Child 2).  It is hugely and widely popular and well over half of Roud's 275 entries are from N America.  In 1794 Joseph Ritson described it as 'a little English song sung by children and maids' and, interestingly, Tom Newman always referred to it as being a children's song.  The earliest known set of words was printed c.1670 as The Wind hath blown my Plaid away, or, A Discourse betwixt a young Woman and the Elphin Knight, although the song's basic theme had previously been included in the 14th century collection of folk tales called Gesta Romanorum.

There are 29 sound recordings noted, and other similar versions of this song can be heard on volume 14 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD 664), sung by Charlie Potter of Horsham, Sussex, and on The Leaves of Life (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library 003) sung by Luther Stanley of Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire; whilst a longer version is included on volume 15 of The Voice of the People (TSCD 665), sung by Liz Jefferies of Bristol.  Thomas Moran, from County Leitrim, had a good set that can be heard on Classic Ballads of Britain & Ireland - Volume 1 (Rounder 1775).

14 - The Tree in the Wood (Roud 129)
(Sung by Tom Newman at his home in Clanfield, Oxfordshire.  1972)

Upon yon hill there is a wood,
And in that wood there is a tree,
The finest little tree that ever was seen;
For the tree was in the wood,
And the wood was on the hill,
And the green moss growed all round, all round,
And the green moss growed all round.

Now in that tree there was a hole,
The finest little hole, etc.
For the hole was in the tree,
And the tree was in the wood, etc.

Now in that hole there was a nest

Now in that nest there was an egg

Now in that egg there was a yoke*

Now in that yoke there was a bird

Now on that bird there was a feather

Now on that feather there was a flea*

Now on that flea there was a saddle

Now on that saddle there was a fly

Now on that fly there was a hat

Spoken: (laughs) I got him.

* Tom initially omits these verses, but as the song progresses he implies their presence.

The Tree in the Wood has often been collected from folksingers, not only in Britain, but in France, Denmark and Switzerland as well, and there are 92 instances in the Roud Index - although Tom's is the only one found in this part of the country.  The song is also called The Everlasting Circle and, in this form, after Tom's verse 7 ('Now on that bird there was a feather') the feather becomes a bed, a maiden lies on the bed, a youth sleeps with the maiden, a child is born who grows to plant an acorn which becomes a tree, thus completing the circle.  The Suffolk singer Cyril Poacher used to sing an Irish form of the song, The Bog Down in the Valley, which can be heard on Musical Traditions MTCD303 - probably the only other CD version available.

15 - There Was a Lady Dressed in Green (Child 20, Roud 9)
(Sung by Vicki Whelan at her home in Manchester.  1964)

There was a lady dressed in green
Photo courtesy Vicki Whelan Airy-airy aye do
There was a lady dressed in green
Down by the river side-o

She had a baby in her arms etc.

She had a penknife in her hand etc.

She stuck it in her baby's heart etc.

There came two policemen knocking at the door etc.

"Where were you, Mrs Green, last night?" etc.

"Then off to prison you must go." etc.

This is a children's version of the ballad The Cruel Mother, which, at one time, must have been an extremely popular ballad - Roud has 253 examples, but only 39 are from England and there have been only two other recordings; Ben Baxter of Southrepps, Norfolk, and Mrs Cecilia Costello of Birmingham, were both collected in the fifties.  This latter and recordings by Duncan Burke and Thomas Moran can be heard on Rounder 1775, and the recent one by Jock Duncan on Springthyme SPRCD 1039. Professor Child cited many European variants and Anne Gilchrist gives examples of the conversion of the ballad into a children's singing game (Journal of the Folk Song Society iii, p.8.) including one from Lancashire, 1915 - which is where Vicki learned this as a child, from her mother in Salford.

16 - The Sailor's Alphabet (Roud 159)
(Sung by Johnny Doughty at his home in Camber Sands, 1976)

A's for the anchor that swings at our bow
B for the bowsprits through the wild seas do plough
C for the capstan we merrily around
D are the davits we lower our boats down.
Chorus:
Sing high, sing low, wherever you go
Give a sailor his tot and there's nothing goes wrong.

Now E for the ensign that flies at our peak
F is the fo'c'sle where the good sailors sleep
G for the galley where the cooks hop around
H are the halyards we haul up and down.

Now I is the iron the ship is made of
J for the jib which moves her along
K is the keel at the bottom of the ship
L is the lanyards that never do slip.

Now M is the mainmast so neat and so strong
N for the needles which never go wrong
O for the oars we row our boats out
P for the pumps that we keep her afloat.

Q for the quarter-deck where officers do stand
R is the rudder that steers us to land
S for the sailors which move her along
T for the topsails we pull up and down.

U for the union which flies from our peak
V for the vitals which the sailors do eat
W for wheel where we all take our turn
X,Y,Z is the name on our stern.

Alphabet songs similar to this one exist among many communities.  Soldiers, bargemen, lumberjacks, and sheepherders, among others, have their own versions of this mnemonic device which may originally have been influenced by such nursery rhymes as: A was an apple-pie / B bit it / C cut it / D dealt it / E eat it etc.  which was well-known during the reign of Charles II (1660/'85).  One interesting version, known as Tom Thumb's Alphabet dates from at least the beginning of the 18th century and could have well provided the basic idea behind Johnny's song:

A was an archer, who shot at a frog,
B was a butcher, and had a great dog,
C was a captain, all covered with lace,
D was a drunkard, and had a red face, (etc.)

Of Roud's 99 examples, the large majority are from Canada and the USA, and most English ones are from East Anglia and all relate to sailing or barging.  A version of The Sailor's Alphabet, sung by Sam Larner, is included on volume 12 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD662).

17 - Dick Turpin (Roud 8094) / Let Her Go Back (Roud 653)
(sung by Johnny Doughty at his home in Camber Sands, 1976)

Now Dick Turpin he sailed out one night
With his fortune to deliver
When he met a well-dressed gentleman
And he asked him to deliver.
'Tis your money I want.  Fork out your blunt*
Or I'll send this through your liver
With my little pop-gun, any other come
Oh, the oh-de-ido.

Now Dick Turpin and his pals
And a jolly lot o' gals
I've a very fine plan, you must know
For the sky looks pale, we'll rob the Royal Mail
Before the cock begins to crow-i-oh
Before the cock begins to crow.

Spoken: They only used to sing bits of it, they'd be net-mending and they'd chuck their needles down...  then they'd start something else see.  A lot of 'em would only hum their tunes, you know, then they'd break into a bit of it.  Then they'd hum another bit, see.  That's all a lot of it was.

Now when I was young and silly in me twenties
It was then I thought I'd go to sea
So I shipped aboard the mast in a whaler
We went from California all the way back to France.
Chorus:
So let her go back ...  take in the slack
Oh, heave away the capstan, heave a pawl, heave a pawl
Stand fast, boys, and then keep handy
And we're bound for Calaboriso around the Horn.

Spoken: I can't get the other bit.

* blunt = mid 19th century slang term for money.

Many of Johnny's songs were picked up from elderly fishermen who would sing to themselves as they were net-mending.  Unfortunately many of the sailors were loath to pass on their songs to a young schoolboy - as Johnny then was - with the result that Johnny had many tantalising scraps and fragments in his head.

His song Dick Turpin is not the well-known one about Turpin's encounter with a lawyer on Hounslow Heath, but part of a comic cante-fable that was issued by James Catnach as a quarto sheet in the 1820s, and subsequently issued by T Watts, a Birmingham printer.  Ralph Vaughan Williams found a fragment, similar to Johnny's in Essex at the turn of the 20th century, but it appears to have escaped the notice of other collectors, so that this is the only Roud entry.

Let Her Go Back, on the other hand, is widespread among sailors - usually under the title Paddy Lay Back - and versions appear in most of the collections of nautical songs.  It can also be heard on vol.2 of Topic's Voice of the People - as On Board the Leicester Castle, sung by Geoff Ling.

18 - My Boy Billy (Child 12 App., Roud 326) (sung by Johnny Doughty at his home in Camber Sands, 1976)

Where have you been all the day, my boy Billy?
Where have you been all the day, Billy won't you tell me?
Where have I been all the day? Talking to me Lady Jane
But she is too young to be taken from her mummy.

Can she bake, can she stew, my boy Billy?
Can she make an Irish stew, Billy won't you tell me?
She can bake, she can stew, she can make an Irish stew
But she is too young to be taken from her mummy.

Can she make a feather bed, my boy Billy?
Can she make a feather bed, Billy won't you tell me?
Can she can make a feather bed, fit for any lady's head?
But she is too young to be taken from her mummy.

How old is she then, my boy Billy?
How old is she then, Billy won't you tell me?
Twice one, twice two, twice eleven, but twenty-two.
But she is too young to be taken from her mummy.

Johnny had My Boy Billy from Alice Cox, a blind paper seller who pitched by Brighton's West Pier, some eighty-odd years ago and her version certainly predates the one recorded commercially by Frank Crummit in 1925.  The earliest known sets are from Scotland, one version being included in the Herd manuscript of 1776, whilst another appears as My Boy Tammy in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum of 1797, and many are claimed to have been written by Hector Macneill and first published in 1791. When the Reverend Baring-Gould collected a traditional version in 1885 from a West Country nurse he attributed the words to the first part of the old ballad Lord Randal (Child 12) and later scholars, including Professor Bronson, have tended to agree with him, although it seems that the evidence for this is rather thin.  Roud has a surprising 223 examples - mostly from North America.

19 - Johnnie Armstrong (Child 169, Roud 76)
(Sung by Willie Beattie at his home in Caulside, Dumfriesshire, 2000)

Some speak as oor lords, some speak as oor lairds,
And sic-like men o' high degree.
Of a gentleman I sing a song,
Sometimes called Laird o' Gilnockie.

The king he writes a loving letter,
Wi' his ain hand sae tenderly;
And he has sent it tae Johnny Armstrong,
Tae come and speak wi' him speedily.

The Eliots and Armstrongs did convene,
They were a gallant company;
"We'll gang and meet our royal king,
And bring him safe tae Gilnockie."

"Make kinnon (young rabbit) and capon ready then,
And venison in great plenty;
We'll welcome hame our royal king,
I hope he'll dine on Gilnockie."

When Johnny came before the king,
Wi' a' his men sae brave tae see;
The king he movit his bonnet tae him,
He weened he was a king as well as he.

"May I find grace, my sovereign liege,
Grace for my loyal men and me?
For my name is Johnny Armstrong,
And subject of yours, my liege", said he.

"Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor's life,
And now I'll not begin wi' thee."

"Grant me my life, my liege, my king,
And a bonny gift I'll gie tae thee;
Full four and twenty milk-white steeds,
Were a' foaled in a year tae me."

"Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor's life,
And now I'll not begin wi' thee."

"Grant me my life, my liege, my king,
And a brave gift I'll gie tae thee;
All between here and Newcastle town,
Shall pay their yearly rent tae thee."

"Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor's life.
And now I'll not begin with thee."

"Tae seek het water frae cold ice,
Surely it is a great folly;
For I have asked grace of a graceless face,
But there is nane for my men and me."

"Had I my horse and harness guid,
And riding as I want tae be;
It sall hae been told this hundred years,
The meeting of my king and me."

"Fareweel, thou bonny Gilnock Hall,
Where on Esk-side thou standest stout.
Gif I had lived but seven mair years,
I would hae gilt thee round about."

John murdered was at Carlin Rigg,
Wi' a' his gallant company;
But Scotland's hairt was ne'er sae wae,
Tae see sae mony brave men dee.

Because they loved their country dear,
Frae Englishmen, nane were sae bold;
When Johnny lived on the border-side,
Nane o' them daur come near his hauld.

This great ballad tells of the betrayal and death of John Armstrong of Gilnockie.  The Armstrongs had lived as reivers in Liddesdale since the 14th century and, by the 16th, had become extremely powerful; so much so that King James V of Scotland decided, in 1530, that it was time for him to take a stand against their leader.  Accounts differ as to how Johnny was captured, there are several reports of him being ambushed by the King's troops, but other accounts suggest that he was lured into the King's presence with the promise of a pardon.  Once there, he was overpowered and quickly condemned to die.

A contemporary account gives the following retort from Johnnie before he was led away to the gallows.  'He seeing no hope of the King's favour towards him, said very proudly, "I am but a fool to seek grace at a graceless face.  But had I known, sir, that you would have taken my life this day, I should have lived on the Borders in spite of King Harry and you both, for I know King Harry would down-weight my best horse with gold to know that I were condemned to die this day."'

According to Professor Child, Ihonne Ermistrangis dance* was composed shortly after the event (incorporating the line 'to seek grace from a graceless face') and is first mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland (1549).  A white-letter broadside, John Armstrong's Last Good-Night (now in the British Museum - B.M.  1346.m.7), was printed in Aberdeen sometime between May, 1775 and June, 1776.  [* Ihonne Ermistrangis dance is, of course, how Johnnie Armstong's dance was printed in the Complaynt of Scotland.  None of your Standard English in those days; they were still writing as they spoke.] In 1964 John Arden based his successful play Armstrong's Last Goodnight on the same story.

Willie learnt the ballad from Dick Wilson of Newcastleton, who was a former police-officer.  Although Roud list 36 instances, this is the only time it has ever been recorded.  A transcript of the ballad can also be found in Come Gie's a Sang by Sheila Douglas, Edinburgh, 1995.

20 - The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow (Child 214, Roud 13)
(Sung by Willie Beattie at his home in Caulside, Dumfriesshire, 2000)

There lived a lady in the north,
I could scarcely find her marrow;
She was courted by nine noblemen,
And a ploughboy lad frae Yarrow.

These nine sat drinking at the wine,
As oft they'd done afore-o;
They made a vow amang themselves,
Tae fight wi' him on Yarrow.

As he walked up yon high, high hill,
And doon yon paths sae narrow;
There he spied nine armed men,
Come tae fight wi' him on Yarrow.

"There's nine of you, there's one of me,
It's on an equal marrow;
But I'll fight ye a', one by one,
In the dowie dens o' Yarrow."

And three he slew, and three withdrew,
And three lay deadly wounded;
Till her brother John came in beyond,
And pierced his heart most foully.

As he walked up yon high, high hill,
And doon yon paths sae narrow;
There he met his sister dear,
She was coming fast for Yarrow.

"Oh, brother dear, I hae dreamt a dream,
A dream of dule and sorrow;
I dreamt that you were spitting blood,
In the dowie dens o' Yarrow."

"Oh, sister dear, I hae read your dream,
And doubt it will prove sorrow;
For your truelove John lies dead and gone,
And a bloody corpse on Yarrow."

Her hair it being three quarters lang,
The colour it was yellow;
She tied it roond his middle sae sma',
And she carried him hame frae Yarrow.

"O, daughter, dry your fallen tears,
And dwell no more in sorrow;
For I'll wed ye tae far higher degree,
Than your ploughboy lad frae Yarrow."

"Oh, father dear, you have seven sons,
You may wed them all tomorrow;
But a fairer flower there never bloomed,
Than my ploughboy lad frae Yarrow."

One of the best-known of the 'Border ballads', although very few sets have been collected outside of Scotland itself.  While the ballad is set in a known location, the Yarrow Valley - a few miles to the west of Selkirk, it is not known if it is based on an actual historic event.  Sir Walter Scott believed that it referred to a duel fought between John Scott of Tushielaw and his brother-in-law Walter Scott of Thirlestane, where the latter was slain; but others have doubted this, citing the ballad's similarity to the Scandinavian Herr Helmer.  In this ballad Helmer has married a lady whose family are at feud with him for the unatoned slaughter of her uncle; he meets her seven brothers, who will hear of no satisfaction; there is a fight; Helmer kills six, but spares the seventh, who treacherously kills him.

The ballad has been sung for a long time in Liddesdale and Eskdale, and Frank Kidson noted a set from a Mrs Calvert of Gilnockie -the same Gilnockie that is close to Willie Beattie's home and which is mentioned in the ballad of Johnny Armstrong.  Mrs Calvert was the granddaughter of Tibbie Shiel, who had previously given songs to Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg, the 'Etterick Shepherd'.  Willie learnt his version of the ballad from his one-time neighbour, the well-known shepherd and singer Willie Scott, who can be heard singing it on volume 17 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD667).  Davie Stewart's version is on Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland vol.2 (Rounder 1776) and an Irish set, sung by Brigid Murphy, of Forkhill, Co Armagh, is included on the European Ethnic cassette Early Ballads in Ireland (no issue number), edited by Hugh Shields and Tom Munnelly.

21 - Kinmount Willie (Child 186, Roud 4013)
(Sung by Willie Beattie at his home in Caulside, Dumfriesshire, 2000)

O hae ye no heard o' the fause Sakelde?
O hae ye no heard o' the keen Lord Scroope?
How they hae ta'en bauld Kinmount Willie,
On Haribee to hang him up?

Had Willie had but twenty men,
But twenty men as stout as he,
Fause Sakelde would never the Kinmount ta'en,
Wi' eight score in his company.

They band his legs beneath the steed,
They tied his hands behind his back.
They guarded him, fivesome on either side,
And they led him through the Liddel-rack.

They led him through the Liddel-rack,
And also through the Carlisle sands;
They took him tae Carlisle Castle,
To be at my Lord Scroope's commands.

"My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,
play Sound Clip And whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the Border law?
Or answer tae the bauld Buccleuch?"

"Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver.
There's never a Scot shall set thee free:
Before ye cross my castle gate,
I trow ye shall take farewell of me."

Now word has gane tae the bauld keeper,
In Branksome Ha', where that he lay,
That Lord Scroope has ta'en the Kinmount Willie,
Between the hours of night and day.

And here detained him, Kinmount Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide.
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Is keeper on the Scottish side?

"Had there been war between the lands,
As well I wot that there is nane,
I would slight Carlisle Castle high,
Though it were built of marble stane."

"I would set that castle in a lowe,
And sloken it wi' English blood.
There's never a man in Cumberland,
What kent where Carlisle castle stood."

"But since nae war's between the lands,
And here is peace, and peace should be;
I will neither harm English lad or lass,
And yet the Kinmount shall be free."

And as we crossed the Debatable land,
And tae the English side we held,
The first of men that we met wi',
Whae should it be but fause Sakelde?

"Where ye be gaun, ye broken men?"
Quo' fause Sakelde; "Come tell to me?"
Now Dickie o' Dryhope led that band,
And there never a word of lear has he.

And as we left the Staneshaw-bank,
The wind began full loud tae blaw;
But 'twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
When we came beneath the castle wa'.

They thought King James and a' his men
Had won the house wi' bow and spear;
It was but twenty Scots and ten,
That put a thousand in sic a steir!

And as we reached the lower prison,
Where Kinmount Willie he did lie,
"O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmount Willie,
Upon the morn that thou's to die?"

Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,
We bore him doon the ladder lang;
At every stride Red Rowan made,
I wot the Kinmount's airns play'd clang!

He turn'd him on the other side,
And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he.
"If ye na like my visit in merry England,
In fair Scotland come and visit me!"

All sair astonished stood Lord Scroope,
He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared tae trew his eyes,
When through the water they had gane.

"He is either himsel' a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be;
I wadna hae ridden that wan water,
For a' the gowd in Christendie."

On March 17th, 1596, a truce-day was held in the Borders, so that Scots and English could meet freely to discuss matters of mutual interest.  One person attending the meeting from the Scottish side was William Armstrong of Kinmont - 'Kinmont Willie' - perhaps the most notorious of the Border reivers, who had been active since 1583.  Following the meeting, as Willie was riding home to his tower at Morton Rigg, to the north of Carlisle, he was captured by a band of Englishmen who took him to Carlisle Castle, where he was imprisoned.  In doing so, the English had broken the terms of the truce-day and diplomatic letters were soon flying between Edinburgh and London, but to no avail.  Willie remained a prisoner of the English.  The English Deputy, Salkeld - 'fause Sakeld' in the ballad - should have ordered Willie's immediate release, but did not do so.

The Warden, Lord Scrope - 'Lord Scroope' in the ballad - was away at the time, but, on his return, he too felt unable to release such an important prisoner without permission of Queen Elizabeth.  Matters dragged on until the Keeper of Liddesdale, Scott of Buccleuch, made up his mind to rescue Willie.  Using his 'great friends', the Grahams of Eske, and English associates of the Grahams, (a fact conveniently omitted from the Scottish ballad!) Buccleuch's party of about eighty men entered the castle on Sunday, April 13th, and rescued Willie from the English, much to the delight of the Scots.  Lord Scrope's subsequent report suggested that Buccleuch had an army of over five hundred men - well, it would, wouldn't it! - and continues, 'The watch, as yt shoulde seeme, by reason of the stormye night, were either on sleepe or gotten under some covert to defende them-selves from the violence of the wether, by meanes whereof the Scottes atcheived theire enterprise with lesse difficultie.'

Following his release, Kinmont Willie continued his life as a reiver - he was last heard of in 1604 - and, surprisingly, probably died of old age in his own bed.  For those interested in the story of the Border reivers, I suggest that George MacDonald Frazer's excellent, and very readable, The Steel Bonnets (1986.  Reprinted) be consulted.

Willie Beattie, like many of his neighbours, has known the story of Kinmont Willie (or Kinmount Willie to use his pronunciation) for most of his life.  He did not, however, have a tune for the ballad, and so made up his own, which fits the ballad as tight as Kinmont Willie's glove.  As with Johnny Armstrong, this is the only know sound recording of this ballad.

22 - The Brundenlaws (Roud 9257)
(Sung by Willie Beattie at his home in Caulside, Dumfriesshire, 2000)
It was yin night in sweet July,
The night was dark and the wind was high;
When three young lads on mischief bent,
So off to the Brundenlaws they went.
Chorus:
Hiddy-diddy, hey-dum, hey-dum, hi-do.
Hiddy-diddy, hey-dum, hey-dum-day.

For a ladder they did go
And placed it against the window so.
Then Pate to the top o' the ladder did clim
Singing, "Hey bonnie lassie, will ye no let us in?"

We chaffed them up 'til after two,
'Til daylight it was peeping through.
Then we said "Fare-ye-well we're away full share"
When we heard auld Tom coming up the stairs!

Doon the ladder fast I ran,
Singing "Run, boys, run, for here comes Tam."
So awa like hares we had gone,
And we hid in fields where the hay was long.

We crept thegether tae form a plan,
For we would back for the ladder gang.
Says I "I'll tell ye what we'll dae,
We'll fling the blooming auld thing away."

Nae sooner the plan did I propose,
'Til yin tae each end o' the ladder goes.
We carried it away right oot o' sight,
And flung the blooming thing o'er the dyke!

Next morning when auld Tam arose
Straight to the broken ladder he goes,
An when he saw it, he did stare,
And cursed and swore and pulled his hair.

Then straight to the cook wi aa his might,
Saying "Jean, last night's been an affa night,
Sae sit ye doon, I'm telling ye plain,
An gie me every yin o' their names!"

"Tae gie their names, I'll dae what I can,
But I'll no gie mony, in case I'm wrong.
There was Gide for the horse, and Pate for the hill,
An Willie Scott frae the auld saw-mill."

Next day a policeman he did come,
Saying "Faith, ma lad, what's this ye've done?
Ye'll hae to go to Jed and plead your cause,
For breaking the ladder at the Brundenlaws."

"For breaking the ladder, what's this ye say?
De'il I never heard o' it 'til this day.
But if ye think that I'm your man,
Then you an Tam Charlton's gay faur wrang!"

So here's tae the lads and lassies dear,
Ye havenae got onything mair tae hear,
But if ever ye try tae speed up waas,
Keep awa frae Tom from the Brundenlaws!

To many people, the term Bothy ballad is synonymous with the north-east of Scotland, at least since Superintendent John Ord of the Glasgow Police published his book Bothy Ballads and Songs seventy years ago in 1930.  Ord had collected his material in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Moray, but added that, a goodly number of them are common to the counties of Kincardine, Forfar and Perth.  According to Ord, a bothy-song is just another name for a folk-song and deals with the everyday affairs of the country people, depicting their life with its lights and its shadows, its occupations, amusements and recreations, its joys and its sorrows.

If this is the case, then The Brundenlaws clearly falls within such a description, telling, as it does, the story of some unfortunate farmworkers who, following a night of intended passion, end up being charged with causing malicious damage to a ladder!  Here we have a bothy song, not from the north-east of Scotland, but rather from the southern most parts of the Borders.  Brundenlaws Farm (now called Brundeanlaws) lies about six miles to the south-east of Jedburgh (the Jed of the song) and about two miles to the east of the village of Edgeston (on the A68); just to the north of Goshen Hill and Philips Law.  Law or Laws, incidentally, is a Border term for a hill.

According to most singers who know the song, the events took place towards the end of the 19th century, and the miscreants would probably have appeared at Jedburgh Sheriff's Court.  Willie first heard The Brundenlaws sung many years ago by an old man called Davie Beattie, who lived up Liddle Water.  He remembered the tune, though not all the words, from Davie's singing and later had the full song from Margaret Henry, a relative of his wife.  Sheila Douglas prints a version of The Brundenlaws from Willie's singing in her book The Sang's the Thing (Edinburgh.  1992) although one verse that Willie sings here is absent from the book.  Sheila does, however, include another verse that Willie no longer seems to sing.  There is one other sound recording, of Johnny Dodd of Bellingham, Northumberland, made by Peter Kennedy for the BBC in 1954.

23 - Jolly Jorge (Roud 1738)
(Sung and played by Bill Dore at his home in Leafield, Oxfordshire.  1972)

While dancing on our village green, upon last first of May,
With Farmer Giles's daughter I had a jolly day.
When all at once I slipped and fell, and fat old Mrs Gee,
Who weighed nigh forty-seven stones, come wallop right on me.
Chorus:
With a too-ri-oo-ri-ay, with a too-ri-oo-ri-are.
Just pop round and see us now, for it be'ent so very far.
They calls I Jolly Jorge, well and here-i, here-i are.
So join I in the chor-i-us, with a too-ri-oo-ri-are.

I saw the parson's missis climb across a stile one day.
When she turns round and spotted I, says, "Jarge, will thee com'st our way?
I want thee Jarge to judge some calves." I answered with a smile,
"They be lovely, mum, I judged 'em when thee got'st across that style."

The parson called the other day, whilst I sat at me ease.
"Towards the children's home," says he, "Will't thou give summat please?"
"Towards the children's home," says I, without the least demur,
"Why, certainly, with pleasure, and I'll give six children small!"

The song Jolly Jorge was recorded on an Edison cylinder (number 13097), with piano accompaniment, c.  March, 1904, by George Bastow, one of the original red-nose comics, who is, perhaps, best remembered for his version of The Galloping Major:

Hi! They say, clear the way,
Here comes the galloping major.

Bastow's other songs were equally popular with rural audiences.  In August, 1903, he recorded a version of Farmer Giles (G&T 2-2355) which is still popular today with some singers, and in December, 1911, he recorded a version of the song Mary Ann, She's After Me (Columbia 1869), which was in the repertoire of the late George Fradley (see Veteran Tapes One of the Best, VT114).

Bill Dore, who was well-known as a piano player, said that this was the only song he knew that he had never seen in print - unsurprising then that two collections of it from him are the only Roud entries.

CD 2

George Spicer and Mike Yates - photo by Mike Yates 1 - Cut Away Mike (Roud 1711)
(Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex.  1973)

Little Mike he was born about six in the morn,
Sure he and his mother were there at the time.
Now, well I'm a-singing, pray don't you be scorning,
For all his adventures I'll tell in my rhyme.
Chorus:
With a rub-a-dub, rowdy-dow, fife-away, all-the-day,
Fill-a-loo, that'll-do, cut away Mike.

He once took a walk to his grandfather Tower,
Who lived about six hundred miles out of town.
Got there in an hour, then lifted a tower,
And returned home again with a church in his lap.

He once made a contract with baker and butcher,
For all they could bake and for all they could kill.
A whole batch of bread he consumed for his dinner
Then stuck a cow's tail in the hole of his tooth.

Spoken: (Laughs) Don't know no more.

Victorian broadside printers called this The Adventures of Little Mike.  Some printers put it alongside The Bonny Bunch of Roses, but unlike the latter, it has not survived well in tradition.  A few years after making this recording I collected a slightly longer version from another wonderful Sussex singer, Mabs Hall, which may be heard on volume 2 of The Horkey Load (Veteran Tapes VT109).  In fact, Mabs and George are the only named singers in Roud's 19 examples.

2 - Blackberry Fold (Laws O10.  Roud 559)
(Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex.  1972)

As the squire and his sister were sitting in the hall,
And as they were talking to each and to all;
As the squire was singing his sister a song,
Pretty Betsy the milkmaid came trip-ling along.

"Do you want any milk?" pretty Betsy did cry.
"Oh yes", said the squire, "step in pretty maid.
Step in pretty maid, 'tis you I adore
Was there ever a milkmaid so honoured before?"

"Oh, hold your tongue, Squire, and let me go free,
And do not make game of my poverty.
There's ladies of honour more fitting for thee,
Than I, a poor milkmaid, brought up by my cow."

Then the ring from his finger he instantly drew,
And right in the middle he snapped it in two.
One half he gave to her, as I have been told,
And away they went walking in blackberry fold.

With huggling and struggling, pretty Betsy got free,
And with his own weapon, she pierced his body.
She pierced his body 'til the blood did flow,
Then home to her uncle, like lightning she flew.

"Oh Uncle, oh Uncle", pretty Betsy did say,
"I've wounded the squire, I'm afraid he will die.
All on his [my] fair body he grew very bold,
And I left him a-bleeding in blackberry fold."

A coach was got ready, the squire brought home,
And likewise a doctor, to heal up his wounds.
To heal up his wounds, as he lay in bed,
"Pray, fetch me my Betsy, my charming milkmaid."

Pretty Betsy was sent for, pretty Betsy she came,
All trembling and shaking, for fear of much blame.
"The wounds that you gave me were all my own fault,
Please don't let my rudeness once enter your thought."

A parson was sent for, this couple to wed,
And happy we hope is their sweet marriage bed.
Their sweet marriage bed, my story is told,
I left them a-walking in blackberry fold.

Many folksongs deal with the relationship between a squire and a village maiden.  In The Banks of Sweet Dundee - a highly popular piece - the squire dies.  Here, however, he survives and is united with pretty Betsy.  Today the song is no longer widespread, and of the 39 versions which we know about, some from as far away as Illinois and Labrador, most seem to be based on the broadsides issued by John Pitts c.1825 and in the 1850s by Henry Parker Such.  In England the area of popularity seems centred on East Anglia, and George is the only named singer from elsewhere.  Other recordings include Harry Cox (Topic TSCD 512D) and Phoebe Smith (Veteran VT136CD).

3 - Henry, My Son (Child 12, Roud 10)
(Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex.  1973)

"What have you been eating-of, Hen-er-y, my son?
What have you been eating of, my pretty one?"
"Eels, dear Mother.  Eels, dear Mother.
Come shake up my bed for I want to lie down,
Oh, I want to lie down."
"Who gave you those eels, Hen-er-y, my son?
Sister, dear Mother.  Sister, dear Mother."

"What will you leave your father, Hen-er-y, my son?
Farms and cattle, farms and cattle."
"What will you leave your mother, Hen-er-y, my son?
Wealth and riches, wealth and riches."

"What will you leave your sister, Hen-er-y, my son?"
"A rope for to hang her, a rope for to hang her,
Come shake up my bed, for I want to lie down,
Oh, I want to lie down."

Spoken: Don't know no more.

Nowadays, English versions of Lord Randal are usually met with in the form that George sang, although one gloriously eccentric version, Ray Driscoll's The Wild, Wild Berry (EFDSS CD02), turned up recently in London.

It is an old and widespread ballad with 493 Roud instances, well over half of which are from N America, and the British ones are spread right across these islands.  The list includes some 40 sound recordings, but the only other versions on CD are those by John MacDonald (TSCD653) and Mary Delaney (TSCD667), plus a compilation of edited fragments, sung by Jeannie Robertson, Elizabeth Cronin, Thomas Moran, Colm McDonagh and Eirlys & Eddis Thomas, which can be heard on Classic Ballads of Britain & Ireland vol.1 (Rounder 1775). 

4 - Searching for Young Lambs (Laws O9, Roud 1437)
(Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex.  1972)

As Johnny walk-ed out, one midsummer's morn,
And where did he hide himself? all under a thorn.
'Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid as she as passing by,
She went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh.

She searched the meadow over, no lambs could she find.
Oftimes did she cross that young man in her mind.
Then turning round so careless-lie and smiling with a blush,
For young Johnny followed after and hid all in a bush.

"Have you seen ere a ewe with its two pretty lambs,
Strayed away from the dame, strayed away from the fold?"
"Oh yes, oh yes, my pretty fair maid I saw them passing by,
They went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh."

And now they are got married and living in 'rocked bands,
Never more to go roaming in search of young lambs.
In searching of young lambs, my friends, no friendships do renew,
And the lambs they skip all round them all in the morning dew.

Spoken: How's that?

Not to be confused with the song Searching for Lambs so beloved by Cecil Sharp and other early collectors on account of its splendid tune.  The formal structure of our present song belies its origin, namely the Pleasure Garden stage, and, indeed, it first appeared in print c.1750 in Six English Songs and Dialogues, as they are Performed in the Public Gardens.  The song was obviously a favourite at the time and was included in two other song collections, Apollo's Cabinet, printed in Liverpool in 1757, and Cleo and Euterpe, printed in London in 1758.

Today it is seldom encountered, although odd sets were reported during the last century - Roud has 21 examples; all the English ones are from the southern counties of Devon, Somerset, Hampshire and Sussex.  P W Joyce found the song still being sung in Ireland and Helen Creighton found it in Nova Scotia.

5 - The Lily-White Hand (Laws P18, Roud 564)
Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex.  1973)

As Johnny walk-ed out one mid-summer's morn
Down by the river side,
'Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid
Who was pleasing to his mind.

"Good morning to you, my pretty fair maid,
Come sing your lover's song.
For I should like to marry you."
"Kind sir, I am too young."

"The younger you are, the better for me,
play Sound Clip That in some future day,
I may think within myself,
That I married my wife a babe."

He took her by the lily-white hand,
He kissed both cheeks and chin,
He took her to a very large house
For to spend the night within.

The night being past, the morning came,
The sun shone bright and clear.
The young man arose, put on his clothes,
Saying, "Fare-ye-well my dear."

"But that's not the promise you gave to me,
Down by the river side.
You promised that you would marry me,
Make me your lawful bride."

"If that is the promise I gave to you,
It's more than I can do.
To think of marrying a poor girl like you,
So easily led astray."

"So you may go home to your mother's house,
And there you may cry your fill.
And think what you have brought on yourself
All by your own good will."

"I will not go home to my mother's house
To take any grief or distress;
But I will go and drownd myself,
All in some lonesome place."

He took her by the lily-white hand,
He kissed both cheeks and chin.
He took her to the riverside
And he gently pushed her in.

~~~
Beware, young ladies, they're fooling you,
Trust them not, they're fooling you,
Beware, young ladies, they're fooling you,
Beware, oh take care
...  Blind Alfred Reed - 1929
Some songs, which were printed extensively by broadside printers, have failed to turn up on the lips of folksingers.  Others, like The Lily-White Hand, are just the opposite; seldom printed, but often encountered.  As The Gentleman's Meeting it was included in a Glasgow chapbook printed c.1818 by R Hutchison, who then worked at No.10, Saltmarket.  Hutchison's title is strange, when one considers how the man has treated the young girl!  Or is there an intended irony in the title? Most collectors have come across the song at some time or other - often from Gypsy singers who seem to be especially fond of it.  They're also quite fond of combining it with The Oxford Girl, to carry on the story after the girl is murdered and, sometimes, to see the murderer brought to justice.

Most of Roud's 58 examples are from England, but it has been found in most lands where English is spoken.  Paddy Tunney, Win Ryan and Mary and Paddy Doran were all recorded singing it in Ireland; Ord, Greig and MacQueen heard it in Scotland; while Cecil Sharp also noted a couple of sets in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Kentucky, in 1916-17.

George's son, Ron Spicer, has been recorded singing it (Veteran VT131CD) and other recordings from Sussex include those by Mary Ann Haynes (Veteran Tapes VT107), Harry Upton and Traveller singer Sarah Porter with her version called Down by the Deep Riverside on the recently released Just Another Saturday Night (MTCD309-10).  Sophie Legg (Veteran Tapes VT 119) and May Bradley (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library 003) also recorded it, while Harry Cox (Topic TSCD512D) has probably the only other version on a CD.

6 - My Old Man (Roud 3550)
(Sung by George Spicer at his home in Selsfield, Sussex, 1973)

My old man, he played one,
He played nig-a-nog on his tongue
Chorus:
With a nig-a-nog, pud-a-log, give a dog a bone,
My old man came rolling home.
(Or: With a nig-nog, pud-a-log, kicking up a song,
My old man came rolling along.)

Two/on his shoe

Three/along with me

Four/on the door

Five/with his knife

Six/with some sticks

Seven/up in Heaven

Eight/on his plate

Nine/with the time

Ten/with a fat hen

Eleven/down in Devon

Twelve/down in Hell

Spoken: That's it...  ah yes, I've got all sorts of ways of be singing that song.

According to Frank Kidson, this was originally a children's singing game (although, as a child, I remember it more as a song used to raise flagging morale on long country walks).  Certainly, there must have been a popular recording of it for the song to have been so widely known in fifties England.

The early folksong scholar Anne Gilchrist learnt a fragment of it, called Jack Jingle, from her Welsh nursemaid Elizabeth Piercy, whilst Cecil Sharp collected a version in 1911 from 'children' in East Dereham, Norfolk.  In the 1950s Mervyn Plunkett noted it from George's one-time singing companion Pop Maynard - who called it Old Joe Nigalock.  Other titles include Old Joe Padlock, in Canada, and Old Tommy Kendall, in Newfoundland.  I suspect that George may have confused verses 7 and 11, which should probably be swapped around i.e.  Seven/down in Devon, and, Eleven/up in Heaven.

7 - The Fox and the Grey Goose (Roud 131) (Sung by Freda Palmer in her home at Witney, Oxfordshire, 1972) A fox jumped up on a moonlight night,
The stars were shining and all things bright.
"Ha-ha", said the fox, "it's a very fine night
For me to go through the town-di-o
For me to go through the town."

The fox when he came to yonders stile
He p(r)icked up his ears and listened awhile.
"Ha-ha", said the fox, "it's but a short mile,
From this to yonder town-di-o
From this to yonder town."

The fox when he came to the farmer's gate,
Who should he see but the farmer's drake.
"I love you well for your master's sake,
But I long to be picking your bones-i-o
But I long to be picking your bones."

The grey goose ran around the stack,
"Ha-ha", said the fox, "you're very fat,
You'll do very well to ride on my back,
From this to yonder town-di-o
From this to yonder town."

The farmer's wife she jumped out of bed
And out of the window she popped her head.
"Oh husband, oh husband, the geese are all dead,
The fox has been through the town-di-o
The fox has been through the town."

The farmer he loaded his pistol with lead,
And shot the old rogue of the fox through the head.
"Ha-ha", said the farmer, "I think you're quite dead,
No more you will trouble the town-di-o
No more you will trouble the town."

The Fox and the Grey Goose is a universally known song - at least in the version popularised by Burl Ives - although, surprisingly, Freda Palmer had never heard of the latter version until I mentioned it to her.  A verse of the song appeared in Gammer Gurton's Garland (1810) and it is one of the songs that Sir Walter Scott listed as being a favourite of his childhood.  Many Victorian broadside printers included it in their catalogues, and collectors have found it being sung in many English counties - thus the 117 instances in Roud.  Only Alfred Williams' collection from 'Wassail' Harvey of Cricklade, Wilts, is from Freda's part of the country, and the majority of English versions come from either Sussex or the south west.

Harry Burgess sings a Sussex version on volume 18 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD668), Cyril Biddick a Cornish one (Rounder 1741) and an American version, based on the Burl Ives rendition, can be heard sung by E C Ball of Virginia on High Atmosphere (Rounder CD 0028).

8 - Oxford City (Laws P30, Roud 218)
(sung by Freda Palmer at her home in Witney, Oxfordshire.  1973)

It was of a girl in Oxford City,
The truth I now will tell to you.
All by a young man this maid was courting,
And he loved her as his life he gave.

She loved him too, but t'was at a distance,
She did not seem to be so fond.
He said, "My dear one, why can't we marry?
And then at once it would end all strife."

"Oh no, I am too young to marry,
Too young to incline on a marriage bed.
For when we are married then we are bound for ever,
And then at once all our joys are fled."

As she was dancing with some other,
This jealousy came to his mind.
All for to destroy his own true loved one,
This wicked young man he was inclined.

Some poison strong, which he had conceal-ed,
He mixed it in a glass of wine.
Then he gave it unto his own true-loved one,
And she drank it up most cheerfully.

But in a very few minutes after,
"Oh, take me home, my dear", said she,
"For the glass of liquor you lately gave me,
It makes me feel very ill indeed."

"Oh, I've been drinking the same before you,
And I've been taken as ill as you.
So in each others arms we will die together,
Young men be aware of such jealousy."

Versions of this song turn up all over the place.  Harry Upton, for example, called his version Near Arundel Town, and, like Mrs Palmer, believed it to be a true story.  At the beginning of the 20th century, Vaughan Williams found another singer using Mrs Palmer's tune for the song A Bold Young Farmer and he later incorporated this tune into his ballet for orchestra Old King Cole.

There are 105 entries in Roud and, more to the point, it's a song which has remained in the country repertoire right up to the present time, particularly amongst Gypsies and Travellers.  It has numerous titles in addition to the ones mentioned above, including Down the Green Groves and Poison in a Glass of Wine, but whatever it may be called by the singer, the song would appear to stem from a broadside issued by John Pitts of London in the early 1800s.

Most versions are from England, but there are also four from Ireland, eight from Scotland, six from the USA, one from Canada, and one from Tristan da Cunha noted.  Twenty sound recordings are known, but Sheila Stewart's Oxford Tragedy, Joseph Taylor's Worcester City and Louie Saunders' Young Maria (MTCD309-10 and a different version on TSCD666) are the only other ones available on CD.

9 - Up in the North (Laws P3, Roud 582)
(Sung by Freda Palmer at her home in Witney, Oxfordshire, 1972)

Up in the north, there lived a brisk couple,
Where young men and maiden a-courting do go.
Always a-courting, but never talked of marrying,
Until this young girl she began forth to say:
"Young man, young man, what is it you mean?
Of courting I'm weary, I'm resolved to get married,
Or else from your company I must refrain."

"And then I must own, I do love you dearly,
But that's forth to marry I don't feel inclined.
When a man he get's wed, his joys are all fled,
He's free from all liberty, bound down towards slavery,
So whilst I am single I'll wish you good night."
"Oh, there's one thing, dear John, I should like to ask you.
That's if you're married first, ask me to your wedding
And if I am before you, then I'll do the same."

So the bargain was made, when up stepped a young jade.
He step-ed up to her, he intended to have her.
He was a ship-carpenter's son by his trade.
So she wrote John a letter, a kind, loving letter,
To come to her wedding on the ninth day of June.
To wait at her table, instead of a better,
To wait at her table all on the bridegroom.

When this letter he read, it made his heart bleed,
In sorrow he mourn-ed, his tail was soon turn-ed.
"I'm a fool, I'm undone, I have lost her indeed."
So he saddled his horse, rode off to the station,
Thinking to meet with his true-lover there.

But when he got there, he was sadly amaze-ed,
To see this young girl so highly surmounted,
Which caused from his eye to fall many a tear.
"If I had of a-known you'd been had so soon,
I would not have tarried, but you I'd have married.
So jump up beside me and leave him alone."

"Oh no, my dear John, for I've much better choos-ed,
And can't you remember what you said to me?
When a man he get's wed, his joys are all fled,
He's free from all liberty, bound down towards slavery.
So whilst you are single, you'd wish me goodnight."

Up in the North, or, No Sign of a Marriage as it is called in the Southern Uplands of the United States, appeared on several early 19th century broadsides and chapbooks, although it has seldom been encountered by collectors in England.  The Hammond brothers noted a fine Dorset version, Down in the West Country, in 1907, while Alfred Williams found it sometime before 1914 at Brize Norton, only a few miles from Mrs Palmer's home.  In Scotland and North America it has been more popular and most of Roud's 34 entries refer to these countries - however, Freda's is the only sound recording of the song ever made in these islands.

10 - William and Mary (Laws N28, Roud 348)
(Sung by Freda Palmer at her home in Witney, Oxfordshire.  1972)

As William and Mary stood on the seashore,
Their last farewell for to make.
"Should you never return" young Mary she said,
"I am sure my poor heart it would break."

Seven years gone and past, without news at last,
She stood weeping by her cottage door.
When an old beggar he came by, with a patch upon his eye,
Both lame and in charity implore.

"If he lives, Heaven knows the joy that I feel,
Although his misfortune I'll mourn.
He's welcome to me, in his poverty,
With his blue jacket ragged and torn."

Then the patch from his eye, this old beggar he threw down,
His coat and his crutches besides.
With his cheeks as red as a rose, and his eyes as black as sloes,
It was William stood by Mary's side.

"Forgive me, dear Mary", young William he said,
"It was only your love that I tried.
So to church we'll away, all by the break of day,
And I'll make little Mary my bride."

So to church they away'd,
All by the break of day;
And he made little Mary his bride.

The story of the sailor returning home in disguise to test the fidelity of his sweetheart is as old as Homer's Odyssey.  The ballad of Hind Horn (Child 17) tells fundamentally the same story, as do several stall ballads.  (For two superb traditional recording of Hind Horn see those sung by Joe Esty of New Brunswick, Canada, on Folk-Legacy CD-125, and Maggie Hammons Parker of West Virginia, on Rounder CD 1504/05.)  According to the Victorian song collector William Alexander Barrett, who included a good set of William and Mary in his book English Folk Song (1891), the song appeared on a broadside issued by J Evans of Long Lane, Smithfield in 1794, and Mrs Palmer's version no doubt originally comes from this source.  A 1928 commercial recording of the song, by Sam McGee of Tennessee, has been reissued on the Document CD Sam McGee (DOCD-9036).

Although Roud shows 104 entries, most are from Scotland and North America and only 8 English sources are noted.  Of these, Freda's is the only collection since 1908 and the only English sound recording.

11 - As I Was A-Walking (Roud 965)
(Sung by Freda Palmer in her home at Witney, Oxfordshire.  1972)

As I was a-walking one morning in May,
I met a fair damsel to sigh and to say,
"My love he's gone from me and showed me false play,
It was down in the meadows among the green hay."

The very next time that I did him see,
He vowed and declared he'd be constant to me.
I asked him his name and he made this reply,
"It is T-I-M-O-T-H-Y."

"My father's possessed with ten thousand or more,
And I am his daughter and his only heir.
Not one penny in portion, he vows and declares
If I marries to Y-O-U my dear."

"Oh, that's for your fortune, love, you never mind,
I'll make you a husband both loving and kind.
So off to the church, love, come let us prepare,
Never mind your F-A-T-H-E-R."

So off to the church the very next day,
Then home to her father without more delay.
"Dear hon-or-ed father I tell unto you,
We are M-A-R-R-I-E-D."

And then the old man he began for to swear,
"You've married my daughter, and my only heir.
But since it is so, I have a new son,
You are W-E-L-C-O-M-E."

To my knowledge this is only the second time that As I Was a-Walking has been collected in England.  The version noted by George Gardiner from Alfred Stride in Southampton in 1907 was printed in Frank Purslow's book Marrowbones, under the title An S-O-N-G, and Purslow adds, 'The humour of this song is not immediately apparent until one realises that each line of the first two verses is 'lifted' from other folk songs, and that there is a liberal sprinkling of quotes and allusions in the remaining verses.'

12 - The Broken-Down Gentleman (Roud 383)
(Sung by Bill Whiting at his home in Longcot, Berkshire, 1972)

When I was young in my youthful days,
About four and twenty year old.
I spent my time in vanity,
Along with the ladies so bold.

I wore the ruffle* all round my wrist,
The cane was in my hand.
No farmer's son would I accept,
Not one in all the land.

For I kept a pack of good hounds, my boys,
And a servant to wait upon me;
And I did intend my money to spend
And that you can plainly see.

I kept a coach and six bay horses,
And hangers all about.
A golden tassel on each horse's head,
Just ready for me to ride out.

I steered my coach to Ipswich town,
Horse racing for to see;
And there I spent a thousand pound,
In the light of a very fine day.

I steered my coach back home again,
My traps they did run small.
Now I am a broken-down gentleman,
And that's the worst of it all.

The landlord he came to my house,
And bailiffs he brought, three.
He stole away my coach and six,
And swore he would have me.

My wife she did most pitiful look,
My children round me cry;
To think that I in prison should lie,
Until the day I die.

* Bill had heard the song during his youth, and knew the tune.  However, he had forgotten the words until he later came across them in Folk Songs of the Upper Thames by Alfred Williams.  Williams prints the word 'ravels' in verse 2, line 1, and it may be that Bill here sings this word, rather than the more obvious 'ruffles'.  Only this example, collected from Charles Hambridge in Buscot, is from the same part of the country as Bill.

The Broken-Down Gentleman is not a common song today, although once it must have been fairly widespread - the 25 examples in Roud having been found in most areas where collecting was undertaken.

13 - I'm Going to the Woods (Roud 236)
(Sung by Bill Whiting at his home in Longcot, Berkshire,1972)

"For I'm going to the woods", said Richard-a-Robin,
"I'm going to the woods", said Robert t' Bobbin,
"I'm going to the woods", said John alone,
"I'm going to the woods", boys, everyone.

"What shall us do there?"

"We'll shoot a wren"

"How shall us gett'en home?"

"We'll get a cart"

"We'll have a feast"

"Now, we've had a feast"

"We must bury the remains"

Spoken: B.D.  I'm a-gonna stop at that, cause I (laughs) you can put, you can put what line in you like, you see.
M.Y.  When would they sing that? Christmas?
B.D.  Yes, we always, we always used to have it down here every Christmas.

The custom of 'hunting the wren' is one of the oldest extant traditions that we have in the British Isles.  Scholars, as is usual in such matters, are divided as to its origin.  With The Golden Bough in mind, some relate the song's events to the ritual killing of an animal representing a god.  Others see the wren as a symbolic representation of the Old Year being pursued, originally, by a robin, the spirit of the New Year, who sets out with a birch-rod to kill his predecessor.  Others see the custom in terms of the peasant's revolt.  Bill cared little for such debate, telling me that it was but a piece of nonsense, to be sung in the village pubs at Christmas.

In Ireland the St Stephen's Day 'Wran' ritual was (is) widely followed, but it doesn't seem to have been so popular in England - only 18 Roud examples of the song, though they are quite widespread, with two areas of greater popularity in Yorkshire and this Berks/Oxon/Wilts/Glos border region.  This will be the only English recording on a CD.

14 - Knife in the Window (Roud 329)
(Sung by Bill Whiting at his home in Longcot, Berkshire,1972)

Now if maidens were sheep, love, and they fed on the mountains,
Now if maidens were sheep, love, and they fed on the mountains,
Then all the young men they would go and feed with them.
Sing fol-the-ri-li-do, sing fol-the-rol-day.
Then all the young men they would go and feed with them.
Sing fol-the-ri-li-do, sing fol-the-rol-day.

"Oh Molly my true-love, may I come to bed to you?"
"Oh yes", she replied, "you can come to bed with me."

"Now the door it is bolted and I cannot undo it."
"Oh now", she replied, "you must put your knee to it."

So I put my knee to it and the door flew asunder
And upstairs I went, like lightning and thunder.

"Now your small things are tight, love, and I cannot undo it."
"Oh now", she replied, "there's a knife in the window."

Now her small things fell off her and I into bed tumbled,
And I'll leave you to guess how we young couple fumbled.

A song that has survived best in East Anglia and the south west.  Cecil Sharp, who collected at least eight versions of it, called it Sally My Dear and also found it associated with the song Hares on the Mountain (see Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs edited by Maud Karpeles, Vol.  1, pp.430 - 36) which Bertrand Bronson suggested was derived from the ballad The Two Magicians (Child 44).  In 1980 I collected a similar version - minus the Hares on the Mountain verse - from the Appalachian singer Dan Tate, and this version was included on the double cassette Crazy About a Song - Old-Time ballad singers and musicians from Virginia and North Carolina (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library 007).  Other recordings include those by Louie Hooper, Jeff Wesley and Alec Bloomfield, while those by Dickie Lashbrook and Harry Cox on Rounder 1778 are the only others on CD.

15 - The Huntsman's Chorus
16 - Varsovienne
17 - Barndance Medley
(Played on the piano-accordion by Harry Cockerill at his home in Askrigg, Yorkshire, 1972)

I know little about the origin of these tunes that Harry played - although I did wonder at the time how The Huntsman's Chorus - originally a part of Weber's opera Der Freischutz (The Freeshooter), which was first performed in Berlin in 1821 - came to end up in Yorkshire.  Those seeking further details should consult John Browell's article Dance Tradition in Buckden which was printed in the 1973 issue of the Folk Music Journal (vol.2, no.4).  I might just add that another Yorkshire musician, George Tremain from North Skelton, made a 1935 recording titled The Huntsman's Chorus (now reissued on volume 18 of The Voice of the People - Topic TSCD 668), but this is not the tune that Harry played - rather it is a mixture of the hunting song Owd Towler (which my grandfather used to sing) and the children's song A-Hunting We Will Go.

Huntsman's Chorus: the Buckden version of the Weber tune.  It used to be a sort of folk myth that the tune was introduced to the Dales via German leadminers who worked in the area.  Actually, it appears in manuscripts all over the place, being a popular 'show tune' of the first half of the 19th century.

Varsovienne: a fairly standard version of a tune for the Waltz Vienna, which - in dozens of forms and with scores of similar titles - is found all over the world.  The B music is the same as Scan Tester used in his Step Waltz.

Barndance Medley: 1.  A jig we've never heard before, but without changing the rhythm it's clear he's playing for a barndance in 6/8 (rather than in the more usual 4/4).  2.  And Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back.  (What Scan Tester called Poor Flo, She's bin and Kicked the Po) was written by Felix McGlennon for a hit show called The Shop Girl - 1892 and sung by Alice Leamar and Sir Seymour Hicks in 1906.  Doug Fowell (two row melodeon) plays this tune during extempore sets used to accompany the horn dance at Abbots Bromley.  3.  Don't Fence Me In was a big hit for Bing Crosby in the mid 1940s.  4.  Poor Little Angeline (or perhaps just Angeline) - was an early WW2 hit.  5.  Another 6/8 barndance which is vaguely familiar but as yet unidentified.

The discographies of various recorded players who got onto 78s include George Tremain, Jack Armstrong's Northumbrian Barnstormers, Jimmy Shand, Will Starr - and Harry Cockrill's dance repertory per se doesn't seem to derive from these sources at all, suggesting local aural transmission.  Recordings of Huntsman's Chorus, Buttered Peas/Pease and Lady of the Lake as played in 1954 to Peter Kennedy by Peter Beresford (fiddle) and his son George (accordion) are available on Folktracks cassette FSC-60-211.  Peter was from Oughtershaw, near Buckden, in Wharfedale.

18 - The Spotted Cow (Roud 956)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1976)

It was one merry morning in May,
As from my cot I strayed.
Just at the dawning of the day
I met with a charming maid.

"Good morning," to this maid said I,
"What makes you up so soon?"
"Good morning, gentle sir," she cried,
"I have lost my spotted cow."

"No longer weep, nor mourn for her,
Your cow is not lost, my dear.
I saw her down beneath yon grove,
Come love, and I'll show thee where."

Then hand in hand, together we went,
And crossed the flowery dell.
Just at the dawning of the day,
And love were all our tale.

All in the grove we spent the day,
That seemed to pass too soon.
We huddled and cuddled each other there,
While brightly shone the moon.

Whenever in that grove I stray,
I go to view me flower.
She comes and cries, "Kind, gentle sir,
I've lost my spotted cow."

The Spotted Cow was printed in The Vocal Library in 1822, although this may not have been its earliest printing.  Originally a stage song for the Pleasure Gardens of the late 18th century, it has remained popular with folksingers down the ages; 85 examples are shown in Roud, including 11 sound recordings.  Joseph Taylor, the Copper Family, Bob Lewis and Harry Cox all sang it (Harry's version can be heard on his solo album What Will Become of England? - Rounder 1839, Bob Lewis sings it on the anthology When the May is All in Bloom - Veteran VT131CD, and there's a version on the new Veteran CD Good Order! (VT140 CD) sung by Alec Bloomfield).  Frank believed that several generations of his family had sung it - and Frank Kidson heard it in Yorkshire from Charles Lolley at the turn of the last century.  This performance is an excellent example of the truly expressive quality of Frank's singing, in both tone and phrasing.

19 - Sheffield Park (Roud 860)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1976)

Down Sheffield Park a maid did dwell,
A brisk young man he loved her well.
He courted her from day to day,
At length he stole her heart away.

One morning upstairs to make her bed,
She lay her down her weary head.
Her mistress came, unto her did say:
"What is the matter with you today?"

"Oh Mistress, oh Mistress, you little do know,
What trials and troubles that I undergo.
Place your right hand upon my left breast,
My fainting heart, it knows no rest."

"Then write him a letter, and write it with speed,
And send it to him, if he can read.
And bring me an answer without delay,
For young Colin has stolen your heart away."

"Then gather leaves to make my bed,
A feathery pillow for my weary head.
And the leaves they'll flutter from tree to lea,
Will make a covering o'er me."

"There is a flower that bloom-eth in May,
That's seldom seen by night or day.
And the leaves they flutter from tree to lea,
Will make a covering o'er me."

The Park district of Sheffield lies just to the east of the city centre and it is to this area that Frank had always understood the song to refer, although there is also a place called Sheffield Park in Sussex, and it must be said that this is the only example from the north of England in Roud's 81 entries.  But Frank said that the song was well-known in his area, and Ford of Chesterfield printed it on a broadside together with The White Cockade which Frank also knew.  It was also printed as The Unfortunate Maid of Sheffield in Holroyd's Collection of Yorkshire Ballads ed.  C Forshaw (1892).  It certainly dates from before 1832, when it was listed in the catalogue of songs printed by the Catnach Press.

20 - It Hails, It Rains (Roud 608)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1976)

It hails, it rains, it snows and blows,
And I am wet through all me clothes.
So I pray thee love, let me in,
So I pray thee love let me in.

To let you in, that cannot be,
There's no-one in this house but me.
So I dare not let you in ...

Me dad and mam, they're fast asleep,
Me brother is up, but he's with the sheep.
So I dare not let thee in ...

He turned him round, and whether to go,
When sweet affections she did show.
Oh come, and I'll let you in ...

They spent that night in sweet content,
And the very next morning to church they went.
And he made her his charming bride ...

The local popularity of this song, which is also known as Forty Long Miles, among numerous other titles, has been comparatively well documented.  S O Addy, the local folklorist and antiquarian, printed it in his Household Tales and Traditional Remains (1895) and R A Gatty, who collected in the area both on his own and with R Vaughan Williams, noted it from the singing of Mrs Duckinfield of Treeton.  Frank Kidson also found several versions in Yorkshire, and there are 50 entries in Roud.

Frank's version includes the interesting rhythmic pattern in the last line of each verse which seems to be a consistent characteristic of the song in nearly all its variants.  There are five other known sound recordings, but this is the only one available on CD.

21 - The Golden Glove (Laws N20, Roud 141)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1976)

A jolly young squire near Timworth we hear,
He courted a nobleman's daughter so dear.
And for to get married it was their intent,
All friends and relations had given their consent.

The time was appointed for the wedding day,
A young farmer he were chosen to give her away.
But as soon as the farmer, the lady did spy,
"Oh, my heart, this fair lady", the lady did cry.

Instead of getting married, she took to her bed,
Where the thoughts of the farmer still ran in her head.
The thoughts of the farmer still ran in her mind,
And a way for to gain him she quickly did find.

Coat, waistcoat and trousers she then did put on,
And she went a-hunting with her dogs and her gun.
She hunted all around where the farmer did dwell,
For she knew in her heart that she loved him so well.

Now she oftime did fire, but nothing did kill,
At length the young farmer came into the field.
And for to have discourse with him, it was her intent,
With her dogs and her gun for to meet him she went.

"I thought you'd have been at the wedding", she cried,
"To wait upon the squire and to give to him his bride."
"Oh no," said the farmer, 'the truth to you I'll tell,
I couldn't give her away, for I loved her so well."

The lady was pleased to hear the farmer so bold,
She handed him a glove that was studded with gold.
She said that she had found it while coming along,
As she was a-hunting with her dogs and her gun.

The lady went home with her heart full of love,
And gave out a notice that she had lost her glove.
"And the man who shall find it and bring it unto me,
Oh, the man who shall find it, his jewel I'll be."

As soon as the farmer did hear of the news,
Straightway with the glove to the lady he goes.
And said, "My honoured lady, I've brought you your glove,
And I should be pleased if you'd grant me your love."

"Your love's already granted", the lady replied,
"For I love the sweet breath of a farmer", she cried.
"I'll attend to the dairy and the milking of the cows,
Whilst my jolly young farmer goes whistling as he ploughs."

"And now we are married, I'll tell of all fun,
How I hunted a farmer with a dog and a gun.
And now that I have got him well-tied in a snare,
I'll enjoy him for ever, I'll vow and declare."

The Squire of Tamworth or Dog and Gun, as it is sometimes called, has been popular with traditional singers for over 200 years, and there are 185 sightings in Roud.  Timothy Connor, a prisoner of war in England during the American Revolutionary War, included this song in a song-book he compiled during his imprisonment from 1777 to 1779.  His version and Frank's are quite similar.  Since Connor's day the song has been printed by many broadside printers, and has been widely collected in both England and America.  It is a deservedly popular song with a fine romantic story.  Robert Bell in Songs of the Peasantry (1857) writes that 'it is traditionally reported to be founded on an incident which occurred in the reign of Elizabeth'.  Frank said that, despite its length, it was one of the easiest songs to remember because it was like telling a story, you knew what should happen next.  A version that I recorded from George Fradley of Derbyshire can be heard on the Veteran Tapes cassette One of the Best (VT114), and that by Charlotte Renals on VT119.  There is a very similar version on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music vol.4 (Revenant RVN211) - it's a reissue of the 1933 recording by Bradley Kincaid, but Frank's appears to be the only English version on CD.

22 - The Green Mossy Banks of the Lea (Laws O15.  Roud 987)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire, 1976)

When first here in this country a stranger,
play Sound Clip Curiosity caused me to roam.
Over England I resembled to ramble,
When I left my dear Ireland, my home.
It was there that I beheld a fair damsel,
And I wished in my heart she was mine.
So I bucked up my spirits,
And bid her "Good morning"
And her fair cheeks they did blush like the rose.

Said I, "Your green meadows, they are charming,
And I'll be your guardian if you choose."
Said she, "Kind sir, I need not a guardian,
Young man you're a stranger to me.
But over yonder my father is a-coming,
O'er the green mossy banks o' the Lea."

I waited 'til up came her father,
And I bucked up my courage once more.
Saying, "Aye, if this be your daughter.
She's a beautiful girl I adore.
But by flattering, let no man deceive thee,
Whatsoever the price he might pay.

For there's many a poor girl that's as handsome,
As those with large properties."
"Ten thousand a year is my income,
And a lady, your daughter might be.
She may ride in a chariot with her horses,
O'er the green mossy banks o' the Lea."

They welcomed me home to their cottage,
And soon in wedlock were we.
It were there that I adored sweet Matilda,
On the green mossy banks o' the Lea.

Certain of Frank's songs, including this one, had an irregular verse pattern and it was interesting to hear how he would adapt the tune to accommodate these irregularities.  Commonly printed on broadsides, the song tells of a remarkably modern young girl, Matilda, who, with her parents, manages to arrange a marriage with a wealthy American (or, in this case, Irishman) who has recently arrived in the country.  There seems to be a difference of opinion among scholars as to whether the song is Irish or English in origin, whether the river is the Lea or Lee.  It has certainly been sung in both countries; Lucy Broadwood described it as 'astonishingly popular among country singers' and there are 77 instances in Roud, of which the large majority are from England, including only four other sound recordings - only Frank and Harry Cox, on Topic TSCD512D, can be heard on CD.

23 - The Nobleman and the Thresherman (Roud 19)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire.  1976)

A nobleman met with a thresherman one day,
He kindly did accost him, and unto him did say,
"Tha's a wife and seven children, I know it to be true,
Yet how does thou maintain them all so well as thou do?"
Repeat final line.

"Sometimes I do reap and sometimes I do mow,
And other times a-hedging or a-ditching I do go.
There's nothing comes amiss to me, to the harrows nor the plough,
But still I get my living by the sweat of my brow."

"When my day's work is over, I go home at night,
My wife and my chil-der-en, they are of my delight.
My children are a-pratt-el-ing and playing with their toys,
And that is all the pleasure that a poor man enjoys."

"My wife she is willing to join in the yoke.
We live just like two turtle doves and seldom do provoke,
Sometimes we are hard up, sometimes we're very poor,
But still we keep those raging wolves away from our door."

"So well has thou spoken of thy wife.
I'll make thee to live happy, all the rest of their life.
I've fifty acres of good land, I'll freely give to thee,
To maintain thy wife and thy loved family."

Robert Burns contributed a version of this song to The Scots Musical Museum, and it was an old song then in 1792, earlier blackletter broadside versions being in the Roxburgh and Euing collections.  It has been noted in many parts of the country and has been frequently published.  Frank's tune is a particularly good one; he told me that it was a local favourite, once known to most of the older people in the area.

However, despite its popularity, I do not feel that the song presents an accurate account of rural life during the 17th - 19th centuries.  (For this, see E P Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class).  Rather, the song seeks to present an idealised picture, one where the labourer knows his place, and where honest toil gains its reward.  In other words, the song seeks to preserve the status quo and, like the church, offers solace to those who are prepared to accept things just as they are.

Although there are 13 sound recordings, only three others are from England; Henry Hills, Harry Holman and the Copper family.  CD recordings from the latter (Coppersongs CD 2) and Harry Holman (MTCD309-10) are still available.

24 - Nothing Else to Do (Roud 1265)
(Sung by Frank Hinchliffe at his home near Sheffield, Yorkshire.  1976)

Now the summer is o'er and the harvest is past,
Frank Hinchliffe - photo by Derek Schofield We've gathered all the corn and we've gathered all the grass.
There's a neat little cottage that stands full in view,
And I go there a-courting when I've nothing else to do.
Nothing else to do, nothing else to do,
And I go there a-courting when I've nothing else to do.

I go there a-courting, then what harm in that?
We spend all our time in sweet harmony and chat.
She told me that she loved me and I knew she did so too,
And I told her I would marry her when we'd nothing else to do.
Nothing else to do etc.

And now we are married to both our hearts content,
We must not quarrel and we must not lament.
But live together so happy like others ought to do,
And enjoy all our pleasures when we've nothing else to do.
Nothing else to do etc.

A song which has rarely been recorded, with only ten Roud entries.  Alfred Williams collected a song with the same title from Alfred Spiers of Southrop, but this set has little in common with Frank's gentle text.  Ian Russell collected it in 1977 from Frank's cousin, Grace Walton, also in Sheffield.  Henry Parker Such issued a broadside version entitled A Courting I Went; I Had Naught Else to Do, and Pitts and Russell (of Birmingham) had similar songs.  Frank's tune, especially towards the end, seems similar to that used for the song The Female Drummer and for the American hymn Bringing in the Sheaves.

25 - Poor Roger is Dead (Roud 797)
(Sung by Walter Pardon at his home in Knapton, Norfolk.  1980)

Poor Roger is dead and he lays in his grave,
Lays in his grave, lays in his grave.
Poor Roger is dead and he lays in his grave,
Ee-aye, lays in his grave.

They planted an apple tree over his head etc.

The apples grew rotten and they all fell off etc.

There came an old woman a-picking them up etc.

Poor Roger got up and he gave her a thump etc.

Which made the old woman go hippity-hop etc.

Spoken: I think that is it, Mike.

A song that Walter learnt whilst attending Knapton village school.  It was once a widespread song which may, or may not, refer to an actual historical personage.  In most versions it is played as a ring-game, where Roger is lying in the middle of the ring and, as the Old Woman moves towards him picking up apples, he suddenly gets up and chases her.  Lucy Broadwood prints a version in her English County Songs (1893) under the title Oliver Cromwell Lay Buried and Dead, while Roy Palmer has collected it in Staffordshire as Sir Roger is Dead.

Cecil Sharp noted versions in Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Kent and Gloucestershire, as well as two Appalachian versions, Tommy Was Dead and Old Billy Appletree.  Other American titles include Columbus is Dead, in Texas, Growler, in Mississippi and North Carolina, and Old Pompey is Dead in both Utah and Alabama.

26 - The Aylesbury Girl (Roud 364)
(Sung by Jack Goodban at his home in St Margarets-at-Cliffe, Kent, 1973)

As I was going to Aylesbury town
'Twas on a market day,
I fell in love with an Aylesbury maid
And by luck she going my way;
Her business being to market
With butter, eggs and wine,
So we both jogged on together, my boy,
Whack-for-the-ar-riddle-i-ay.

Now as we were going along the road,
Wi' lassie by my side,
When looking down I noticed that
Her garter'd became untied,
And before she'd time to notice it
I unto her did say,
"Oh, your garter is untied, my dear",
Whack-for-the-ar-riddle-i-ay.

"Well"', she said, "You being so adventuresome,
So anxious and so free,
But won't you be so kind, young man,
As to tie it up for me."
"Oh yes, oh yes, that I will do if you'll
Come to yon shady grove with me."
So we both walked on together, my boy,
Beyond yon shady tree.

Now when we reached yon shady grove,
The grass being very high,
I gently sat the maiden down,
Oh, her garter for to tie.
And while tying up of her garter,
Such sights you never did see,
"Oh, for John", said she, "I thought I see
The world go round and round."

Now as we were coming from market,
The eggs and wine she'd sold,
And passing by that very same spot,
Well, it made my blood run cold,
For me name is Johnny the Rover
And from Dublin Town I came,
And I live all alone by the Ups and Downs,
Whack-for-the-are-riddle-i-ay.

Spoken: M.Y.  Where did you learn that from? Who sang that?
J.G.  My old father used to, I know...  why, then you forget 'em.  He did used to sing 'em.  Now there was one Lather and Shave 'Em, that was an old song...  ever heard that one?
M.Y.  No.

The Aylesbury Girl, under the title, The Tottingham Frolic, first appeared in Tom D'Urfey's six-volume anthology Pills to Purge Melancholy of 1719 - 20.  It remained popular with singers for quite some time and there are 33 Roud entries, including three others from the South East, and 9 sound recordings.  Of these, only those by Pop Maynard (MTCD 400-1) and Bob Hart (MTCD301-2) are currently available on CD.

In the early 1960s the poet James Reeves suggested that the term 'the Ups and Downs' could represent the 69th Foot Regiment (69 being the same when inverted), and thus the song's hero was, in fact, a soldier.  However, a more prosaic explanation may be suggested by the fact that the term 'to live at the sign of the ups and downs' once meant that one was experiencing life's highs and lows (or 'ups and downs'), and that, following his adventure with the young maiden - 'a high' - the song's narrator was then experiencing what we would today call 'a downer'; the young lady being no longer with him.

27 - The Shannon Frigate (Laws J22, Roud 963)
(Sung by Jack Goodban at his home in St Margarets-at-Cliffe, Kent, 1973)

Whilst on board the Shannon frigate
In the merry month of May,
Watching the bold Americans,
Off Boston Heights we lay;
Our ship she lay at anchor,
A frigate stout and fine,
Four hundred and twenty men she had
And her guns were forty-nine.

Now there was Captain Broke commanding us,
He challenged them with light,
Threw a challenge to the Chesapeake
o bring her out and fight,
"All hands on board," cried Lawrence,
"This is not en-i-mity,
Though I'm going to prove to all the world
That we still rule the sea."

Then the challenge was accepted,
The Americans came round.
There never was a better ship
Beneath the British Crown.
We brought her into action,
Just like a warlike plan,
Not fired one shot 'til within hail,
And then the fight began.

It was from broadside to broadside
With a tremendous roar,
Like thunder it re-echoed
As it sounded from the shore.
That deadly fire it lasted
But a quarter of one hour,
When the enemy ship we rammed into
And her yards were locked in ours.

Our Captain ran to the ship's side
To see how she did lie,
'Twas there he spied the enemy men
All from their guns did fly.
"All hands on deck," cried Lawrence,
"Of victory, boys, we're sure,
Have courage, my lads, for now's the time
And the prize we'll soon secure."

Then like lions we rushed on board
And fought them man to man,
Although they over-numbered us
They could not with us stand.
We killed their Captain, Chief Lieutenant,
And seventy of their crew,
Whilst in that sharp action, well,
We'd hundreds wounded too.
Then we towed their ship into Halifax,
Their Captain buried there,
And the remainder of that crew
Which his chief mourners were.

So now, come all you British seamen
Who've listened to my song,
Drink success to Captain Broke
And pass the can along.
For here's to Captain Broke
And to all his gallant crew,
When he fought the bold Americans
And brought their courage low.

G Malcolm Laws describes the facts surrounding this ballad thus: 'On June 1, 1813, the American frigate Chesapeake, Captain Lawrence, was challenged to single combat by the British frigate Shannon, Captain Broke.  A large crowd gathered in Boston harbour to watch the engagement.  Within a short time the Chesapeake was boarded and captured.  Nearly 140 years later, the United States Government posthumously restored the commission of Third Lieutenant William S Cox, second in command of the Chesapeake.  It was Cox, during the War of 1812, who was blamed for the loss of the American vessel Chesapeake...  Cox left his post to carry below his mortally wounded commander, James Lawrence, who uttered the famous words "Don't give up the ship", before he died...  Cox...  was court-martialled and cashiered out of the Navy for 'neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer'.  The 82nd Congress passed a bill restoring Cox's honor and nullifying the 1814 court-martial decision.' (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept.  9, 1952.)

Jack Goodban's song was published on a broadside by Henry Parker Such (and others) together with a companion song The Shannon and Chesapeak [sic], a piece of patriotic doggerel, which begins:

She comes, she comes, in glorious style,
"To quarters fly, ye hearts of oak,
Success shall soon reward our toil,"
Exclaimed the gallant Captain Brooke [sic].
"Three cheers, my brave boys let your ardour bespeak,
And give them a round of your cannon:
And soon they shall find that the proud Chesapeak,
Shall lower a flag to the Shannon."
Although there are 18 Roud entries, this is the only sound recording shown - the others being all broadside or book publications.

28 - The Farmer in Cheshire (Laws L2, Roud 2638)
(Sung by Jimmy McBeath, Keele University, 1964)

There was a young farmer in Cheshire,
To the market his daughter would go;
Thinking that nothing would hurt her,
Because she had been there before.

The first man she met was a robber,
Two pistols he held to her breast.
"Deliver your money all over,
Or else you will die in distress."

She put her left foot in the stirrup
And she mounted her horse like a man.
Over hedges and ditches she gathered,
'Til she come to her own father's land.

"Oh daughter, oh daughter, what's happened,
That you've been so long at the fair?"
"I've travelled the streets with a robber,
But a robber has done me no harm."

She put her white mare in the stable,
And placed a white sheet on the floor;
And counted her money all over,
Ten thousand, ten thousands and more.

I long to hear it jingle,
I love to see it roll.
I love it more than anything,
That's a precious thing, that is gold.

Jimmy's version of this highly popular song is lacking in one detail, namely the explanation that the girl has stolen the highwayman's horse and, in doing so, has stolen the robber's own takings.  In the notes to the Wiggy Smith CD Band of Gold (MTCD307) mention is made of a theory proposed by Sam Richards for the songs popularity with travellers.  Sam discovered that the song would often be sung to him during a first meeting with travellers and this suggested to him that the travellers identified with the girl in the song and that, in singing the song to an outsider, they were establishing the fact that, like the girl, they too could look after themselves when faced with any intrusion.  I have also heard the song sung by several travellers and, prior to coming across Sam's idea, I had always assumed that it was popular because it was an easy song to remember.  Pop Maynard's version can be heard on his Musical Traditions double CD Down the Cherry Tree (MTCD 400-1).

29 - The Magdalen Green (Roud 2893)
(Sung by Jimmy McBeath, Keele University, 1964)

"It's here am I, a sailor boy, just newly come from sea,
play Sound Clip My ship lies at the anchor, in the harbour o' Dundee;
Your face it is the fairest, that ever I have seen,
Fair maiden, will ye walk with me, down on the Madlen Green?"

With roguish smile upon her face, the lass answered me and said,
"Kind sir, I'd walk along with you, but you know I am afraid.
The paths they are so slippery, and the nichts sae cold and keen,
And it wouldn't do for me to fall, down on the Madlen Green."

With some kind words and promises, the lassie gave consent,
We wandered here, we wandered there, on lovely pleasant bent.
Day after day, we met and roam, about yon lovely scene,
I am afraid this maid had mony's a fall, down on the Madlen Green.

Soon my time for parting came, my ship she hoisted sail,
No longer could I meet my girl and tells her pleasant tale.
I sung farewell tae old Dundee, where happy I have been,
And I left this maid alone to walk, down on the Madlen Green.

As I lay in my berth one night, when weary watch was done,
I dreamt I was the father of a darling little son;
And e'er her mother (?), and mainly she was seen,
For she was weeping bitterly, down on the Madlen Green.

Many broadside texts carry titles such as In .....  Town, thus allowing the singer to place the song wherever he, or she, chooses.  For example, Freda Palmer's song Oxford City was also sung by Harry Upton, who called it Near Arundel Town.  It seems, however, that Jimmy's song - sung to a variant of the well-known Tramps and Hawkers tune - is, in fact, local to Dundee.  It was printed on a songsheet sold at the Poet's Box in Dundee's Overgate and, apart from one version, collected by Robin Morton in Co Armagh as Down by the Mellon Green, it has only been collected from Scottish singers.  The only other person to have been recorded singing it, as Marlin Green, is Duncan Williamson in 1985, by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie. Magdalen Green is named after a chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalen that used to stand in the vicinity of what is now The Green.  It is an area once popular with sailors (Dundee was, of course, an active seaport) and its local pronunciation, maidlin, reminds us that in the 16th century the area was known as Maidlane Geir.

30 - A Comical Song (Roud 16884)
(Sung by Jimmy McBeath.  Keele University, 1964)

Spoken: I'll give ye a comical song...  something tae make you laugh...  just a short one.

Down by a running, walking stream,
Where water-biscuits grow.
I sat down on some nettles
And I shouted, "Oh, dear, oh!"

Just then I spied a Belmouth maid,
he'd cheeks like orange peels;
And she could'na wink the tail of her eye
For the gumboils on her heels.

I asked her if she loved me?
And she answered, "Yes and no."
She said she was twenty-six years o' age,
Aye, a hundred years ago.

This damsel was the sweetest one
That ever crossed my path,
So I took her into a fried-fish shop
And I stood her a Turkish bath.

She'd a nose like a danger lamp,
She'd a head like a water-butt;
And she could'na look you straight in the face
Wi'oot her eyes being shut.

Her mother lost her appetite,
Wi' eating too much tripe;
So she took an allergy? in the hair
By smoking an empty pipe.

She swore she was twenty-six years of age,
Afore she was twenty-two,
And you'd thought her face (was a little bit?) washed
With the heel of a navvy's shoe.

Nonsensical songs have a long tradition in the collective folk consciousness.  And not just in Europe.  The Perfection of Wisdom Sutras of Indian Buddhism abound in apparent contradiction.  So much so that it is hard to differentiate between, say, the following verse from the song Nottamun Town (a version of the British song Paddy's Rambles that Cecil Sharp collected in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky in 1917) and a couple of lines from the Diamond Sutra.

Nottamun Town:
Sat down on a hot, cold frozen stone,
Ten thousand stood round me, yet I was alone.
I took my heart in my hand to keep my head warm.
Ten thousand got drowned that never was born.


The Diamond Sutra:
And when this innumerable, immeasurable, infinite number of beings has become liberated, we do not, in truth, think that a single being has been liberated.
This is not to suggest that Jimmy's actual song is ancient - far from it.  But, rather, to suggest that the tradition behind such songs is, in itself, ancient and widespread.  For a similar song, listen to Pop Maynard singing The Blue-Haired Boy (MTCD 400-1).

Additional Recordings:

Nine of the singers heard on these two CDs can also be heard on the following cassettes and CDs:

Bob Blake - John Barleycorn (Veteran Tapes VT1070).

Johnny Doughty - The Golden Vanity (Topic TSCD600).  The Saucy Sailor, Round Rye Bay for More (Topic TSCD652).  Herring's Heads (Topic TSCD657).  Baltimore, Up the Channel, Will You Marry Me?, The Streets of Port Arthur (Topic TSCD662).  I'm Going to be Mother Today (Topic TSCD664).  Vessel in Distress, Yes I am Contented, Still I Love Him, The Lazy Wife, Windy Old Weather (Veteran Tapes VT107).  Live Herrings, Heave on the Trawl (Veteran Tapes VT108).  The Watercress Girl (Veteran Tapes VT 109).

Frank Hinchliffe - The Pear Tree, Edward, Wild and Wicked Youths (Root & Branch 1).  Barbara Allen (Veteran Tapes VT109).

Jimmy McBeath - There is a solo cassette Wild Rover No More (Springthyme SPRC 1020) as well as the following anthology tracks - songs marked with an asterisk are also on the Springthyme cassette.  The Bonnie Lass O Fyvie, Bound to be a Row (Topic TSCD651).  Nicky Tams*, The Barnyards o' Delgaty* (Topic TSCD655).  You Canna Put it To Sandy (Topic TSCD657).  The Bold English Navvy*, The Wind Blew the Lassie's Plaidie Awa * (Topic TSCD660).  Hieland Rory, Johnny McIndoe* (Topic TSCD 664).  I'm a Stranger in this Country* (Topic TSCD665).  Come All You Tramps and Hawkers*, Arlin's Fine Braes (Topic TSCD670).  Toorn-a Ma Goon (Rounder 1775).  Eppie Morrie, The Trooper and the Maid (Rounder 1776).  Tramps and Hawkers, MacPherson's Lament, Rounder Scotland CD (Rounder1743).  The Keach in the Creel, The Broom o'the Cowdenknowes (Greentrax CDTRAX 9005).  The Mucking o' Geordie's Byre, Airlin's Fine Braes, The Hairst o' Rettie Greentrax 'Bothy Ballads' CD (CDTRAX 9001).

Tom Newman - My Old Hat that I Got On (All for the Grog) (Topic TSCD663).

Freda Palmer - Maria Marten (Topic TSCD653).  The Wandering Girl (Topic TSCD660).  Villikins and Dinah (Veteran Tapes VT108).

Walter Pardon - There are currently three CDs available of Walter's songs.  A World Without Horses (Topic TSCD514) and the double Put a Bit of Powder on it, Father (Musical Traditions MTCD305-6).  The latter's booklet also lists all of Walter's other recordings that are available on various anthologies.

George Spicer - The Cunning Cobbler, The Folkestone Murder, The Scarlet and the Blue, The Volunteer Organist (Musical Traditions MTCD309-10).  Coming Home Late (Our Goodman), The Barley Mow (Topic TSCD663).  I Wish there was No Prisons (Topic TSCD664).  Muckin About in the Garden, Jim the Carter Lad, Thrashing Machine, Cock-a-Doodle-do (Veteran Tapes VT107).

Harry Upton - The Royal Albion (Topic TSCD652).  The Rich Lady Gay (Topic TSCD655).  I am a Donkey Driver (Jerusalem Cuckoo) (Topic TSCD664).

Although there are no other recordings of Willie Beattie generally available elsewhere, listeners may wish to listen to his friend and former neighbour Willie Scott whose album The Shepherd's Song (Greentrax CDTRAX 9054) includes a version of The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow.  Willie Scott can also be heard singing a fragment of the rare border ballad Jamie Telfer o' the Fair Dodhead (Child 190) on a further CD, The Muckle Sangs (Greentrax CDTRAX 9005).

Acknowledgements:

Over the years many people have gone out of their way to help me make these recordings and it is a pleasure to publicly acknowledge this fact.  I am especially grateful to Dave Arthur, Dave Bland, John Browell, Gwilym Davies, Tony Engle, Rory & Alvina Greig, John Howson, Bill Leader, Roy Palmer, Doc Rowe, Ken Stubbs, Keith Summers, Malcolm Taylor and Frank & Sylvia Weston.  The staff of Collet’s Record Shop (sadly, no more) and of Ray’s Jazz Shop, Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2, who are, happily, still in business, have also proved stalwarts over the years.

It goes without saying that the singers and their families deserve the greatest thanks, as does Rod Stradling for having the vision and ability to produce these CDs so smoothly.

Mike Yates - January, 2000.

The Credits:

Almost all of the foregoing text was written by Mike Yates, who also made all the recordings and took many of the photos. My sincere thanks to Mike, and to everyone who has helped to make this project a reality …

Steve Roud - for providing MT with a copy of his Folk Song and Ballad Indexes, whence came some of the factual information on the songs.

Danny Stradling - for proof-reading and help with the song transcriptions.

Reg Hall, John Adams, Keith Chandler, Paul Davenport - for help with tune notes.

Clive Bennett - for information and a photo from his book, currently in preparation, on the Sussex folk scene of the period.

Jacquey Gabriel, Terry Potter, Derek Scofield, Vicki Whelan - for further photos.

Booklet: some song note text, all editing, DTP, printing
CD: formatting, digital editing, sound restoration, production
by Rod Stradling, early 2001

A Musical Traditions Records production ©2001

[Track List] [Introduction] [ The Songs] [CD 1] [CD 2] [Additional Recordings] [Acknowledgements] [Credits]

Article MT071

Top of page Articles Home Page Reviews News Editorial Map

Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services   Updated: 11.3.01