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Come Write me Down


Come write me down, thy powers above.
Which first created man to love.
For I have a diamond in my eye.
Where all my joys and pleasures lie.

I'll give you gold, I'll give you pearls.
If you can fancy me, my girl.
And costly robes too you shall wear.
If you can fancy me, my dear.

Oh it's not your gold shall me entice.
To leave my pleasures for to be a wife.
For I never do intend at all.
To be at any young man's call.

Then go your way you scornful dame.

If you be cruel then I'll be the same.
For I care not but I shall find.
Another fair maid unto my mind.

Now stay young man be not in haste.
You seem afraid that your time you'll waste
Let reasons unroll your roaming mind.
And unto you I will prove kind.


(Roud 381). Many Victorian broadside printers had this song in their catalogues. John Pitts of London called it Second Thoughts is Best, while Birt and Catnach, both of London, Pierce of Southborough, Pratt of Birmingham, and Sharman of Cambridge, all corrected the title to Second Thoughts are Best. At least three other printers, Fordyce of London, Robertson of Wigton and Whiting of Birmingham, printed the song under the heading A New Song Called The True Lovers. Versions have been collected from various parts of England and Scotland (it is in the repertoire of the Copper Family of Sussex and there are 5 versions in the Greig /Duncan collection Volume 5, song 980) and also in Illinois and Newfoundland. The Copper Family can be heard singing it on TSCD534 ‘Come Write me Down’ including their final verse:

          So to church they went that very next day
          And were married by asking, as I heard say.
          So now that girl she is his wife,
          She will prove his comfort day and night.
When Mabs and Gordon were recorded singing this song Gordon finished with this verse, albeit under his breath. Mabs maintained she had never known the verse.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates




































































Studying Economy


Oh the times are hard but I'm prepared to try to rattle through it.

And if you come and list to me, I'll tell you how I do it.

And upon my word. Studying economy I live like a lord.


At ten I sally out and go to hear the band play.

Which takes me 'til eleven when I promenade the strand way.

At two I reach a coffee shop and read a book 'til seven.

And half a pint of good four ale will last me 'til eleven.

And upon my word. Studying economy I live like a lord.


I can't abide block ornaments for fear of those small maggots.

So I wait until eight o'clock comes round and patronise the faggot.

And upon my word. Studying economy I live like a lord.


Now I've told you all the particulars of how I pass my day away.

Through studying economy I don't have much to pay away.

Though I've reduced it. I tell it to pease pudding on a Friday.

And all things considering why I get on pretty tidy.

And upon my word. Studying economy I live like a lord.


Then I sally home and make no row, for fear of mother Randell.

And into bed all in the dark, because it saves a candle.

And upon my word. Studying economy I live like a lord.


(Roud 5377). This song has hardly ever turned up in the oral tradition: in fact the only two recordings that seem to exist are this one from Mabs and another of Gordon singing it. Notes in the Roud index indicate that it appears as number 364 in the Such (of London) catalogue of broadsides. It actually appears under the title Study Economy and starts with the opening verse:

          I'm a gent reduced by Railway speculation.

          Tho' not possessed of simple means, I've splendid expectations;
          My uncle is director of a round-the corner junction,
          So I often borrow a pound or two without the least compunction.
          For upon my word. By studying economy, I live like a lord.
There are then nine more verses and the Hall family version is a combination of parts of each of them. Mabs uses a tune known as The Barking Barber or Bow Bow Bow which dates back to the eighteenth century.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates































































The Royal George


As we set sail from the Rock of Gibraltar.
As we set sail from sweet Dublin Bay.
Oh little did we think of our sad misfortune.

Sleeping on the briny sea.

There was one poor woman a-living in the city.

As soon as she heard her husband was dead.

It would fill your poor old poor heart with grief and pity.

To hear what this poor woman said.

She said: "I'll go and search for me own true lover.

I'll go and search the oceans a-round.

And if my own true lover I do not discover.

All in some salt seas I'll drown."

'Twas on the Royal George I met my misfortune.

Sleeping on the briny sea.

Oh little did we think of our sad misfortune.

Sleeping on the briny sea.


There were fourteen hundred men, women and children.

Only four got safe on shore.

Oh little did we think of our sad misfortune.

She went down and was seen no more.


(Roud 2529). The loss of the Royal George on 29th August 1782, was one of the great disasters of the British Navy. The vessel had returned from Gibraltar the previous year and was scheduled to go back again, but developed a minor fault and called into Portsmouth for repairs. Something went wrong and the ship suddenly capsized, causing the loss of some 1,400 men, including Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, then one of the Navy's leading seamen. Shortly after the disaster William Cowper wrote a set of verses, Toll for the Brave, that were set to a march written in 1725 by Handel. Gordon's song is something of a rarity, as it seems to have previously turned up only twice before. Steve Roud was sent fragmentary version called Bold Gibraltar from Douglas Dowdy at Curdridge, Hampshire that had been sung by his father and and in 1910 Ralph Vaughan Williams noted down The Royal George from fisherman Robert Hurr in Southwold Suffolk. This was recently re-published with biographical information about the Hurr family in ‘Blyth Voices’ (EATMT 2003, reprinted 2008).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

































































Old John Brown


Now old John Brown was a worn out clown, a clever clown he'd been.

He saved enough to raise a pub, somewhere in Kensal Green.

He never forgot the tricks he done, to earn his daily bread.

And now and then a fit came on, he'd stand upon his head.


The nearest neighbour to old Brown, was a widow Mrs Birch.

He proposed and she said, "Yes." and they toddled off to church.

A parson shouted out, "Oh my!" and the people they did stare.

For there was Brown upside down with his legs sticking up in the air.


(Roud 3354). Mike Yates recorded Oxfordshire's Freda Palmer singing 'Billy Brown' in 1974 (see MTCD 333 The Birds Upon the Tree) which should not be confused with Harry Fragson's Music Hall song which has the same title but a totally different word set and tune. Although the song here is of Music Hall origin it has not turned up often in the oral tradition. In 1981 Ian Russell recorded Arthur Howard of Hazelhead, South Yorkshire, singing Old Jepson Brown. Its opening line is 'Now Jepson Brown were a worn-out clown, but a careful clown 'e'd been' and is obviously derived from the same song. His version has continued to be sung in the area by Will Noble who picked it up from Arthur at a hunt singing session near Holmfirth. The only other recording that has turned up is in the Helen Creighton collection in Nova Scotia, where she recorded Johnson Brown's Baby from Will McQueen of Tatamagouche in 1953. Again the opening line is 'Old Johnson Brown was a worn out clown'.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates









































































A Fair Maid walking in the Garden


A fair maid walking in the garden.

A brisk young sailor was standing by.

He stepped up to her, thinking for to view her.

And he said, "My dear, can you fancy I?"


"Oh I have a sweetheart of my own sir.

And seven years he's been gone to sea.

And seven more I will wait for him.

If he's alive he'll return to me."


"Seven long years make great alterations.

Your true love he may be dead and gone.

Or he may be crossing the ocean.

To Botany Bay or where e're he's bound."


"If he's alive I love him dearly.

And if he's dead I hope he's at rest.

For no other man shall e're enjoy me.

Single I'll go to my silent grave."


He put his hand into his bosom.

His fingers being so long and small.

Showed her the ring that was broke between them.

And when she saw it she down did fall.


He picked her up all in his arms.

He gave her kisses, one, two or three.

Saying, " I am your single sailor.

Whose just returned for to marry thee."


(Roud 264 - Laws N42). A number of folk songs are based on the idea of the broken token usually a broken ring. We also find a similar idea in very early mythology, perhaps the best known being an episode in the Odyssey when Odysseus returns home in disguise to test Penelope's fidelity, but is recognized by returning a ring that had been previously given to him by Penelope. The same idea, this time using the motif of a broken ring, also occurs in two related stories that were included by the Brothers Grimm in their 2-volume collection of ‘Children's and Household Fairy Tales’ (published in 1812 & 1815). These are Devil Greencoat and Bearskin. Shortly afterwards printers, such as James Catnach, began issuing broadsides of songs that incorporated the idea. It is probable that the broken-token had occurred in songs that pre-date Catnach, but it is tempting to speculate that the idea may have become sufficiently well-known, via the Grimm's collection, that Catnach and his associates were only too willing to service a 'new' niche in the market. Folk song collectors at the turn of the twentieth century found the song widely spread across the south of England. Sabine Baring-Gould noted it down from Harry Smith at Two Bridges in Devon (’Songs of the West’ 1905), while in 1906 George Gardiner heard it sung by James Lake at Dummer, Hampshire and in 1912 a Mrs Moseley sang it to Clive Carey at Treyford, Sussex. The song also crossed the Atlantic and was collected by G. Tawney in the 1950s from Mrs Jessie Monroe in Looneyville, West Virginia. Scottish traveller Duncan Williamson called it 'A Pretty Fair Maid' and his recording will be included on VT128CD ‘Put Another Log on the Fire’. And from Ireland Sarah Anne O'Neill sings Standing in Yon Flowery Garden on TSCD660 ‘Who's that at my Bedroom Window?’ and Maggy Murphy sings 'As Mary Walked in her Garden' on VT134CD Linkin' O'er the Lea.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates


































































My Old Wife’s a Good Old Creature


Oh my old wife's a good old creature.

My old wife's a good old soul.

Every morning for me breakfast.

She gives me good toast and roll.



Oh my old wife's a good old creature.

My old wife's a good old soul.

Every morning for me breakfast.

She gives me good toast and roll.


And at night when work is over.

She brings me 'bacca and me beer.

So you see I lives in clover.

Ain't my wife a good old dear.



When now and then it will happen.

I gets beery, even then.

She never says a cross word to me.

But welcomes me with, "Well done Ben!"



Now when matter runs contrary.

She sidles up so droll and kind.

Give me a buss and gentle whispers.

"Did um vex him? Never mind."



Now some folks lives in finer houses.

Some folks lives off daintier cheer.

But none of 'em has got such spouses.

No such 'bacca, no such beer.



Now some folks lives off higher incomes.

Some folks got a lot more gear.

But none of them has got such loving.

As meself and my old dear.



(Roud 1263). Although Alfred Williams noted the words to this song from Mrs Brunsdeon at Clanfield, Oxfordshire some time prior to the Great War, we know that the song has been on the go since the early 1800s at least. For some reason it was especially popular in the north of England and the Lancashire dialect poet Edwin Waugh called it 'a quaint old country song', which he then rewrote as My Owd Wife, hoo's a good owd crayter. There is also a solitary American text in Gardiner & Chickering's ‘Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan’ (1939, reprinted 1967).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates
































































Ginny Jones


I came to see poor Ginny Jones.

Ginny Jones, Ginny Jones.

I came to see poor Ginny Jones.

On a cold and frosty morning.


Ginny Jones is washing.

Washing, washing.

Ginny Jones is washing.

You can't see her now.


I'll go away. I'll go away.

I'll come back some other day.

I come to see poor Ginny Jones.

On a cold and frosty morning.


Ginny Jones is goffering.

Goffering, goffering.

Ginny Jones is goffering.

You can't see her now.


I came to see poor Ginny Jones.

Ginny Jones, Ginny Jones.

I came to see poor Ginny Jones.

On a cold and frosty morning.


(Roud 1047). A letter to the monthly ‘Notes & Queries’ in 1891 from Alice Gomme asking for information about singing games drew a reply from William Paterson of Belfast with a description of Jinny Jo. He described a game where a small child is hidden behind her parents. All the other children are her suitors and repeatedly ask to see Jinny. Each time they are put off by excuses about her doing various chores. Finally the parents have to admit that she is dead. The suitors then ask 'What shall we dress her in?' and again excuses are made for various colours to be dismissed. Eventually Jinny is revealed and in a hushed atmosphere, the funeral must be arranged, when suddenly Jinny comes back to life and there is wild rejoicing. The rhyme was also popular with children in Scotland and appears in the 1826 edition of Robert Chamber's ‘Popular Rhymes of Scotland’ where Janet Jo is the central character. In England Jenny Jones lost the courting theme, with the assembly implying that they were asking for some one to come out to play. In its various forms this singing rhyme has been collected all over America and the British Isles. In England Cecil Sharp collected a number of different versions, particularly in Somerset and in 1909 he held singing games classes for young trainee teachers in Chelsea. They subsequently taught them to children in every corner of the country. 'Goffering', mentioned in the second verse of Mabs version refers to ironing pleats using a small, thin, goffering-iron.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates






































































Poor Joe the Marine


Joe, the marine, was in Portsmouth well known.
No lad in the corps dressed so smart.
The lasses never looked on the youth with a frown.
For his manliness won every heart.
Sweet Polly of Portsey he took for his bride.
And sure the like never was seen.
The couple so gay marched to church, side by side.
It was Polly and Joe the marine.

It was Polly and Joe.

It was Polly and Joe the marine.

The orders had come for a fight at the foe.

And the thundering guns they did rattle.

When Joe in an instant was forced to the front.

For to fight the most enemies battle.

When the fight it was over.

And homeward they steered.

How soon they found Portsmouth in sight.

The place was surrounded, each hero to greet.

And the form of sweet Polly was seen.

And the very first sailor she chanced for to meet.

Told the fate of poor Joe the marine.

Told the fate of poor Joe.

Told the fate of poor Joe the marine.


(Roud 1681). Composed by John Ashley in 1839, this song became popular in the Royal Navy and appeared in both ‘The Naval Songster’, published by Johnson (c.1880) and ‘The Naval Song Book’, published by Boosey and Co. (c.1906). Before them Charles Dibdin, who was a collector and prolific writer of songs of the sea, included it in ‘Sea Songs and Ballads by Dibdin and others’ published by Bell & Daldy (1863). Polly of Portsea and Joe the Marine, as it is sometimes called also became very popular with broadside printers. In London Birt, Fortey, Such, Catnach, Pitt and Disley all published it, while around the country Pearson and Swindell (both Manchester) Ford (Chesterfield) Pratt (Birmingham) Gibbs (Ledbury) Willey (Cheltenham) Clift (Cirencester) and Sanderson (Edinburgh) all included it in their catalogues. The song was also noted down by several twentieth century folk song collectors; George Gardiner collected it from Henry Day of Basingstoke, Hampshire and Alfred Williams from William Flux of Alvescot, Oxfordshire. Henry Burstow, the renowned singer from Horsham, had it amongst his 400-odd songs and it appears in ‘Reminiscences of Horsham being recollections of Henry Burstow’ which was published by the Free Christian Church Book Society in 1911.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates






































































Still I Love him


Oh when I was single I wore a plaid shawl.
But after I married I had none at all.

But still I love him.
I can’t deny him.
I’ll go /bide with him
Wherever he goes.

He’s got lots of money, he has a free heart.
Wherever he goes he can get a sweetheart.

He stands on the corner, for me looking out.
With his hands in his pocket, his shirt hanging out.

He hits me and kicks me and gives me black eyes.
He swears I go boozing with blokes on the sly.


(Roud 654). Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger published a version of this in their book ‘Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland’ (London, 1977) along with the following comment: “This is probably one of the most frequently reported songs in the British Isles and, undoubtedly, one of the least printed. Texts show considerable regional variation, though the refrains remain consistent and most versions retain the stanza which begins, ‘When I was single I wore a black shawl’. This would seem to indicate a relationship with The Joyful Maid and Sorrowful Wife, a song in which a wife's loss of youth and freedom are symbolically represented through juxtaposed items from her premarital and post marital wardrobe”. For a text of The Joyful Maid and the Sorrowful Wife, see Sam Cowell's ‘120 Comic Songs’ (London, 1850) or Dave Harker's ‘Songs from the Manuscript Collection of John Bell’ (Durham, 1985). Other recorded versions include Johnny Doughty from Sussex on VTC6CD It Was on a Market Day - One and Aberdeenshire traveller Stanley Robertson on EICD003 ‘Rum Scum Scoosh’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates





































































Oh me husband's in Salonika.

I wonder if he's dead.

I wonder if he knows he's got.

A kid with a foxy head.


So right away, so right away.
So right away, Salonika, right away.

Me soldier boy.

Now, when the war is over.
What will the soldiers do?
They'll be walking around with a leg in their hand.

The slackers they'll have two.


Now, when the war is over.
What will the slackers do?
They'll be hanging around the soldiers.

For the loan of a bob or two.


Now, they've taxed our pound of butter.

They've taxed our ha'penny bun.

But still with all their taxes.

They can't beat the bloody Hun.



Now, they've taxed the Coliseum.

They've taxed St Mary's Hall.

Why don't they tax the bobbies.

With their backs against the wall?


Well, now when the war is over.

What will the slackers do?

For every kid in America.

In Cork there will be two.



Now, they take us out to Blarney.

And they lays us on the grass.

They puts us in the family way.

And they leave us on our arse.


Now, never marry a soldier.
A sailor or a marine.
Just keep your eye on the Sinn Fein boy.

With his orange, white and green.



(Roud 10513). The Greek port of Salonika (or Thessaloníki to use its proper name) lies to the west of the Dardanelles, and was used in 1915 by the British Army as a base from which to transport troops to Gallipoli. The song probably originated in Co. Cork and was published in Tomas O' Canainn's ‘Songs of Cork’ (Gilbert Dalton 1978). It became popular with the British Army during the First World War as many recruits came from Ireland. The song seems to be more concerned with what will happen when the troops return home from the fighting rather than an actual battle. Roy Palmer in his book ‘What a Lovely War!’ (Michael Joseph 1990) suggests that the reference to Sinn Fein in the final verse was added later. In recent years this song has had a resurgence amongst Irish singers with probably the most stirring rendition coming from Cork's own Jimmy Crowley.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

































































Ripest Apples


Ripest apples soon gets rotten.

Hottest love it soon gets cold.

Young man's love is soon forgotten.

Since the girls have been so bold.


Twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen.

Twelve, ten, eight, six, four, two, none.

Nineteen, seventeen, fifteen, thirteen.

Eleven, nine, seven, five, three and one.


Though I never went to college, but I heard the poet say:

Twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, twelve, ten,  eight, six, four, two, none.


(Roud 146). In ‘The Copper Family Song Book - A Living Tradition’ (1995) Bob Copper, while relating to his family's version of this song, says that this was the shortest song Jim (Copper) knew and he had developed a terrific speed in the chorus '…Twenty, eighteen, etc.', and thereby frequently qualified for the free pint of beer offered by the landlord of the local inn to be first man to sing a song. It has been collected extensively in England, Ireland and America including by Cecil Sharp from William Davis at Porlock Weir, Somerset (1906) and William Shepherd at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire (1909). Sam Henry got it from an unknown Northern Irish singer in 1936 and the song was also recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders from Belle Luther Richards in Colebrook, New Hampshire in 1943. Mike Yates also recorded the song from Kentish Gypsy Joe Jones who can be heard on MTCD320 ‘Here's Luck to a Man’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates



































































The Dumb Wife


Now there was a country blade and he loved a country maid.
And he softly conducted her home, home, home.
She was neat in every part and she pleased him to his heart.
But still the poor old lassie she was dumb, dumb, dumb.

So, to the doctor then they went and he cut her chattering string.
And she rattled in his ears like a drum, drum, drum.
So he prayed both day and night, and he wished with all his might.
That he could make a scolding woman hold her tongue, tongue, tongue.


(Roud 434 - Laws Q5). Although versions of The Dumb Maid are known to have been printed on 17th century Blackletter broadsides, the song's subsequent popularity was no doubt due to its frequent appearance on 19th century ballad sheets. Robert Ford printed a version in his ‘Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland’ (Paisley, 1904) with the note that it was, “sung in Perthshire when I was a very small boy, and which has not escaped my memory since.” It turns up again in Scotland in the Grieg-Duncan manuscripts where there are two versions, one from George F. Duncan collected in 1906 and the other from Mrs Margaret Gillespie collected in 1905. In England it was printed in London by Pitts, Catnach, Fortey, Such and Pigott, and elsewhere by Sergeant (Preston), Bloomer (Birmingham) and Hurd (Shaftesbury) but doesn't turn up in many traditional singers' repertoires, the exception being Oxfordshire's Freda Palmer who had a much fuller song with seven verses. She was recorded by Mike Yates in 1975 and her version is included in Everyman's Book of English Country Songs by Roy Palmer (Dent in 1979).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates





















































We Won’t go Home until the Morning /Push the Business On


All the while we can get beer and grub.

We won't go home from Chailey club.


We won’t go home 'til the morning, 'til daylight doth appear.

'Til daylight does appear.

'Til daylight does appear.

We won’t go home 'til the morning.

We won’t go home 'til the morning.

We won’t go home 'til the morning, when daylight does appear.


We'lI hire a horse and steal a gig.

And all the world shall have a jig.

And I'll do all that ever I can to push the business on.
To push the business on.
To push the business on.

We'lI hire a horse and steal a gig.

And all the world shall have a jig.

And I'll do all that ever I can to push the business on.


(Roud 12448 & 12981). In England these two were often seen as singing games. 'We Won't Go Home Until Morning' has it's roots in America and the tune is also known as 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain' and of course 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'. It was composed by Arthur Clifton (1784-1832) who was also known as Philip Antoni Corri. The words and music were published by Oliver Ditson in Boston in 1842 and on the sheet music cover it says 'partly written and arranged' by Ditson. It was often described as a three part glee although its melody also became popular for country dancing. In America it is a square dance, in England a longways dance and there is a description of it being used for a three hand reel in Cornwall. In 1910 Clive Carey noted down the tune from Ilmington morris dance fiddle player Sam Bennett. Mabs localizes her rendition of the song with the mention of a club in Chailey, which is between Lewes and Hayward's Heath in East Sussex.

The second was a popular singing game amongst school children at the turn of twentieth century and there are reports of it still being played as late as 1969. In ‘The Singing Game’ by Iona and Peter Opie (Oxford University Press 1985) it describes the movements thus: “The dancers hold hands in a ring, boy girl alternately, and circle round. At 'Push the Business on' the boys turn to the girl on their left and clap hands three times. During the repetition the partners dance round together, and during the last two lines the girls are passed to the right of each boy, so that everyone has a new partner for the next turn.”

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

































































Sweet Lavender


Oh won't you buy my sweet tender lavender.

Sixteen blue branches, all for one penny.

All in full bloom.

Come, Come and buy.


You'll buy it once. You'll try it twice.

It makes your clothes smell sweet and nice.

All in full bloom.

Come, Come and buy.


Come ladies all. Make no delay.

For the moths are about. In your clothes they will stay.


Unless you buy my sweet scented lavender.

Sixteen blue branches, all for one penny.

All in full bloom.

Come, Come and buy.


Come matrons all. Be in no doubt.

When the lavenders in, then the moths they are out.


Come, come and buy my sweet scented lavender.

Sixteen blue branches, all for one penny.


"God bless you sir! Thank you!"


(Roud 854). It is likely that the Romans or Benedictine monks introduced lavender to England before the Norman Conquest and it was regarded as a safeguard against evil. Traditionally, a cross was made from lavender and hung over the door for protection. It was also thought to ward off the plague and glove makers in London who used lavender oil to scent their leather were remarkably free of the disease. The street cries of lavender hawkers have now become an iconic image of London although they don't often appear in folk song collections. Lucy Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland did include two short Lavender Cries in ‘English County Songs’ and one is credited as being sung in Kensington about 1880. A version recorded from Bill Ellson of Edenbridge, Kent is included in ‘Traveller's Joy’ (EFDSS 2006) and on TSCD661 ‘My Father is the King of the Gypsies’. Phoebe Smith's husband Joe sings a version on VT136CD The Yellow Handkerchief’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

































































The Outlandish Knight


An Outlandish Knight came from the North land.

And he came a courting of she.

And he pledged he would take her unto the North land.

And there they would married be.


Go get me some of your father's gold.

Some of your mother's dowry.

And two fine steeds from your father's stable.

Where there stand thirty and three.


She's purloined some of her father's gold.

Some of her mother's dowry.

And two fine steeds from her father's stable.

Where there stands thirty and three.


She's mounted on the milk white mare.

He on the (entire?) bay.

And they rode 'til they came to the salt water side.

Six hours before it was day.


A light, a light my pretty fair maid.

And deliver it all onto me.

For it's six foolish virgins I have drown-ed her.

And the seven one you shall be.


Take off, take off, your fine silken gown.

And deliver it over to me.

For it's six foolish virgins I have drown-ed here.

And the seven one you shall be.


Take off, take off, your fine Holland stays.

And deliver them over to me.

For I really do think they're too fine and too gay.

For to rot all in the salt sea.


Take off, take off your fine silken hose.

And deliver them over to me.

For I dearly do think they're too fine and too gay.

For to rot all in the salt sea.


If I'm to take off my gay clothing.

Pray turn your back upon me.

For I really do think that a roughen like you.

A bare suck-ed women should see.


He's turned his back upon the fair maid.

He's turn-ed his back upon she.

And she's caught him around the middle so neat.

And she's tumbled him into the sea.


He's dipp-ed high, he's dipp-ed low.

He's swam unto the side.

Take hold of my hand my pretty fair maid.

And thou shall be my bride.


Lay there, lay there, thou false hearted knight.

Lay there instead of me.

For it's six foolish virgins thou has drown-ed here.

And the seventh have drown-ed thee.


She's mount on the milk white mare.

And led the (entire?) bay.

And she's rode 'til she came to her own father's hall.

Two hours before it was day.


She's return-ed all of her father's gold.

And all of her mother's dowry.

And the two fine steeds to her father's stable.

Where now stood thirty and three.


The parrot being in the window so high.

And hearing the lady did say.

"I thought that some roughen had led you astray.

You being so long away."


"Don't prittle, nor prattle my pretty Polly.

Nor tell any tales upon me.

And your cage shall be of the bright glistering gold.

And your perch of the white ivory."


Her father being in his widow so high.

And hearing the parrot did say.

What ails thee, what ails thee,  my pretty parrot.

That you make so much noise before day.


"'Tis no laughing matter." says pretty Polly.

"'Tis no laughing matter." said she.

For the cats have got in through the window so high.

And I fear that they will have me.


"Well turned, Well turned my pretty parrot.

Well turn-ed up for me.

Now your cage shall be of the bright glistering gold.

And your perch of the white ivory."


(Roud  21 - Child 4). This is probably the best known ballad amongst English singers although it actually has it’s roots in Europe. Professor Child knew versions from Portugal to Poland and from Scandinavia to the Balkans. In fact it can be traced back to a German broadside of c1550 and earlier than that it was known in the form of a long folk tale. It became popular with 19th century broadside printers in England including in London: Pitts, Fortey, Dever, Hill, Taylor, Catnach and Such, and in Birmingham: Russell and Wadsworth. The ballad became widespread, particularly in America and Canada. Although ‘The Outlandish Knight’ is probably the most widely used title for this ballad it has been known by many other names. Child called it ‘Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight’ while Shropshire singer Fred Jordan, who can be heard singing his version on VTD148CD A Shropshire Lad, called it ‘Six Pretty Maids’. In Sussex, Mary Ann Haynes called hers ‘The Young Officer’ (TSCD661 My Father’s the King of the Gypsies) while in Cornwall Charlotte Renals sang ‘A Man from the North Country’ VT119CD Catch me if you Can and in Suffolk Jumbo Brightwell’s title was ‘The False Hearted Knight’ VT140CD Good Order.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates








































William Taylor


If you rise up early in the morning.

Just before the break of day.

You will see young William Taylor.

Walking with his lady gay.


Oh she's handsome and she's pretty.

She's a girl from London city.

She came courting one, two, three.

Pray will you tell, who it may be.


Billy Taylor says he loves her.

All the boys are fighting for her.

Let them say just what they will.

Old Billy Taylor loves her still.


William Taylor, bold young sailor.

Just come courting a lady gay.

William Taylor bold young sailor

William Taylor is his name.


(Roud 158 /2649). This fragment from Mabs is actually part of two songs. The first and last verse are from Bold William Taylor and the middle two are from I'll tell Mother. Bold William Taylor /Billy Taylor /Willy Taylor is a well known broadside ballad which usually tells the story of William who is engaged to be married and then press-ganged and sent to sea. His bride-to-be dresses up as a sailor and follows after him. When she finds him, he has a new girl friend (or often a wife) and she shoots him dead. Collector Lucy Broadwood traced the ballad to a late 18th century stage song. Joseph Taylor of Brigg, Lincolnshire sang an almost complete version to Percy Grainger in 1908 (TSCD656 ‘Tonight I'll Make You My Bride’) and Cornish traveller Sophie Legg sang a truncated version. VT119CD ‘Catch me if you Can. Iona & Peter Opie (’The Singing Game’, Oxford University Press, 1985) identified the second as a singing game which was 'the rage' in late Victorian times. In Ireland it became widespread under the title I'll tell me ma when I go home. It appears in Sam Henry's ‘Songs of the People’ as collected in Northern Ireland in 1924 but the source is not given. It was recorded in the 1960s by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and has been copied by many Irish folk groups since.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates


































































Polly Perkins


I am a broken-hearted milkman, in despair led arrayed.
By keeping the company of a young servant maid.
Who lived on board wages, for to keep the house clean.
In a gentleman's family near Paddington Green.


She was as beautiful as a butterfly and as proud as a Queen.
Was my pretty little Polly Perkins from Paddington Green.

Oh I rattle in the morning and I cry "Milk below".
At the sound of my milk pales a fair face would show.
With a smile upon her countenance and a laugh in her eye.
If I thought she hadn't love me, I'd laid down and died.

Now I ask her to marry me, she said "Oh what stuff".
And told me to drop it, for she'd had quite enough.
Of my nonsense... At the same time, I had been very kind.
But to marry a poor milkman she did not feel inclined.

But in six months she married, she was a hard-hearted girl.
It was not to a Viscount, it was not to an Earl.
It was not to Baronite, but a thousand times worse.
It was a bandy legged conductor of a tuppenny bus.


(Roud 430). Polly Perkins of Paddington Green was written & composed by London Music Hall performer Harry Clifton (1832-1872) and was first published in 1864. It was then published in the ‘Comic Songster’ (Oliver Ditson, Boston) in 1870. Broadside printers also favoured the song and five in London and one in Ireland published it. Although the song is set in London it became popular in the U.S.A. and Canada with several collectors finding it throughout the continent. It also turned up in Scotland, with three word sets included in the Greig-Duncan Collection, and there is also one included in the Sam Henry collection which came from a Mrs E. Glenn from Limavady, Co. Derry in Northern Ireland. The Newcastle song Cushie Butterfield is sung to the same tune as Polly although the Cushie tune was always claimed to be by Geordie Ridley (1834-1864) a Tyneside comedian and miner. It has been suggested that Clifton based his compositions on older folk melodies and as his and Ridley's dates are similar it is possible they used the same source.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

























































The Horsham Ram


As I went down to Horsham.

'Twas on a market day.

I spied the biggest ram sir.

That ever was fed on hay.



Oh it's a lie, a lie, a lie, sir.

So ringle, dingle ding.

Oh it's a lie. Oh it's a lie.

So ringle, dingle ding.


Now this ram was fat behind sir.

This ram was fat before.

This ram was ten miles high sir.

If not a little more.



Now the butcher that killed this ram sir.

Was in danger of his life.

He was up to his knees in blood sir.

And called for a larger knife.



Now all the boys of Horsham sir.

Came begging for his eyes.

To kick about the lanes sir.

For they was football size.



Now all the girls of Horsham.

Came begging for his ears.

To make them leather aprons of.

To last them forty years.



Now this ram he had some horns sir.

Would reach up to the moon.

A man went up in January.

He didn't get back 'til June.



Now the fleece upon that ram sir.

It weighed a million pound.

It took three hundred thousand men.

To carry it out of town.



Now the tail upon that ram sir.

Was longer than any pole.

And every time he wagged his tail.

He showed his ..........



Now the hide upon that ram sir.

It was so thick and stout.

Made a million pair of (har?) boots.

For to kit the militia out.



Now the stones upon that ram sir.

They was so big and round.

Took all the girls of Horsham.

For to roll them out of town.



Now the clutter on that ram sir.

Was ten yards and a (nell?)

They took it over to Canterbury.

To ring Tom Beckett's bell.



Now the men that owned this ram sir.

Was counted very rich.

But the man that sings this song sir.

Is a lying son of a .........



Oh it's the truth, the truth, indeed sir.

For I never was known to lie.

And if you comes Horsham sir.

You shall have a bit of the pie.



(Roud 126). The first mention of The Derby Ram (as it is better known) was possibly in a letter dated 1739 from the vicar of Alkmund's Church, Derby to his son which finishes “And thus I conclude this long story; almost as long a tale as that of the Derby Ram”. At the beginning of the 20th century the song was often the accompaniment to a mumming play performed around villages in rural Derbyshire, which has now died out. The song has been found all over the English speaking world and with regional variations (such as we have here) it has been collected in most corners of England. Under the title the The Exmoor Ram, Sam Richards recorded Nobby Clarke singing it in Swimbridge, Devon while Alf Wildman in Bedfordshire sang The Ramsey Ram to Fred Hamer and Gloucestershire Gypsy singer Danny Brazil called it the Salisbury Ram when Pete Shepheard recorded him (MTCD 345-7 ‘Down by the Riverside’). Other recordings include The Derby Ram from Sid Steer, Holbeton, Devon (TSCD657 ‘First I'm Going to Sing You a Ditty’) and George Fradley from Sudbury, Derbyshire who can be heard singing his distinctive version on VTC7CD It was on a market day-Two. Appalachian singer Cas Wallin also sang a very complete version of the song to collector Mike Yates, telling Mike that “this was George Washington’s favourite song” (MTCD 323-4 ‘Far in the mountains’).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates























































Cecilia on one certain day.

She dressed herself in man's array.

With a braise of pistols all by her side.

To meet her true love.

To meet her true love.

To meet her true love away did ride.


She met him boldly on the plain.

"Stand and deliver." she said young man.

"Stand and deliver, young man." she say.

Or else this moment.

Or else this moment.

Or this very moment your life I'll lay.


She robbed him of his watch and gold.

Gave him the empty purse to hold.

Saying, "There's one thing more on your finger now."

Deliver it to me.

Deliver it to me.

Deliver it to me, your life to spare.


That diamond ring a token was.

Before I'd loose it my life I'd loose.

She being tender hearted, more like a dove.

She rode away.

She rode away.

She rode away from her own true love.


Early next morning, plain to be seen.

That couple walked on the garden green.

When he saw his watch hanging by her clothes.

Which made him blush.

Which made him blush.

Which made him blush, like the damask rose.


How can you blush at such a thing.

More if I'd had your diamond ring.

For it's I that robbed you, upon the plain.

Now take your gold love.

Now take your gold love.

Now take your gold love and your watch again.


(Roud 7, Laws N21). Most Victorian broadside printers, including Pitts, Catnach, Disley and Such, all of London, Lund of York, Wright of Birmingham, and Stenton of Cheltenham, called this Silvia's Request and (Young) William's Denial. One unknown printer used the title Sylvia's Cruelty to Her Kind Lover, while Magee of Belfast simply called it Sylvia. It was once extremely popular in southern England often under the title The Female Highwayman (there are seven versions in Cecil Sharp's collection) and many versions have turned up along the eastern seaboard of Canada and America. Mabs learned her version from her father, and it was one of her favourite songs. Gordon also enjoyed the song and he can be heard singing it on CBCD095 ‘Good Things Enough’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates

































































Cruel Frederick


This is cruel Frederick see.

Oh horrid wicked boy was he.

He caught the flies, poor little things.

And then tore off their tiny wings.

He killed the birds, and broke the chairs.

And threw the kittens down the stairs.

And oh! far worse and all besides.

He whipped his Mary 'til she cried.

The trough was full, when faithful Tray.

He came out to drink one sultry day.

He wagged his tail, and wet his lip.

When cruel Fred snatched up a whip.

And whipped poor Tray till he was sore.

And then kicked and whipped him more and more.


'Til good dog Tray grow very red.

And growled and bit him 'till he bled.

Oh you should have been by.

To hear how Fred did scream and cry.

The Doctor came and shook his head,

And made a very great to-do.

And gave him nasty physic too.


But good dog Tray is better now;

He has no time to say, "bow-wow!."

He seats himself in Frederick's chair.

And laughs to see the nice things there.

He eats the gravy, soup by soup.

And all the pies and puddings up.


This strange and dark little poem was first published in 1845 in a collection called ‘Struwwelpeter’ (variously translated as ‘slovenly' or 'shock-headed' Peter) which has become widely recognised as one of the most popular and influential children's books ever written. The author Heinrich Hoffmann was a Frankfurt physician. Unhappy with the dry and pedagogic books available for children at the time, he wrote an illustrated ‘Struwwelpeter’ as a Christmas present for his three year old son. The book relates in words and pictures the often gruesome consequences that befall children who torment animals, play with matches, suck their thumbs, refuse to eat or fidget at meals. The book has gone through hundreds of editions and has been translated into almost every Europeon language.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates


































































Coming Home Late


I walked into the stable.

A strange thing standing there.

"What ever is that standing in the stable."

"Why don't you know that's a milking cow my mumma sent to me?"


"Oh many a miles I've travelled.

Some thousands miles or more.

And I've never seen a milking cow with a saddle on before."


I walked into the parlour.

A strange face laying there.

"Who ever is that laying on the sofa?"

"Why don't you know that's a baby that my mumma sent to me?"


"Oh many a miles I've travelled.

Some thousands of miles or more.

And I've never seen a babies face, with whiskers on before."


(Roud 114 - Child 274). First printed in the eighteenth century as Our Goodman and also known as Old Cuckold, it was published in both Scotland and England, it then crossed into Ireland, spread into Germany and then into other parts of Europe. This amusing song has always been popular with traditional singers in England and often as here in a fragmented form. In the twentieth century it entertained soldiers and there is a version from Gordon Hall under the title of Seven Drunken Nights in Roy Palmer's ‘What a Lovely War’ (Michael Joseph 1990). Also in it's bawdiest form it has entered into the realms of the Rugby Song. In the past forty years the song has gained huge popularity after it was recorded by the Irish folk group The Dubliners and reached number 7 in the UK pop charts in 1967. Mike Yates recorded the song from several singers in Sussex including Fred Welfare of North Chailey and George Spicer from Selsfield (TSCD663 ‘They Ordered Their Pints of Beer...’). In Ireland Elizabeth Cronin from Macroom, Co. Cork sang it (‘Songs of Elizabeth Cronin’ 2000) and Mary Connors from Belfast can be heard on Rounder CD1776 ‘Classic Ballads 2’. The latter CD also includes a version from Norfolk's Harry Cox and another version from East Anglia is that from Stan Steggles of Rattlesden, Suffolk on VTDC8CD Many a Good Horseman.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates






























































The Bitter Whaling Grounds


Was on the briny ocean on a whale ship I did go.

I often thought of distant friends, I often thought of home.

Through dreary storm and tempest and manys the heavy gale.

Around Cape Horn we sped away, to look out for sperm whale.


They'll rob you and they'll use you, it's worse than any slaves.

Before you go a whaling boys you'd best be in your graves.

"For it's do it now or damn your hides, I'll flog you 'til you're blue."

Oh boys I could not tell it all and every word is true.


The wind a blow and the great seas grow and you strain upon the oars.

And your heart would bleed at the sperm whales speed.

"And it's pull you sons of whores."


The weary chase is over and the stars begin to glow.

And it's light the flares you lubberly lot. There's try enough to do.


I swore I'd not go back again once we was homeward bound.

For the pleasures are but few me lads, on them bitter whaling grounds.


(Roud 2000). Usually known as The Whaler's Lament, A. L. Lloyd, eminent folklorist and one time whaler man, wrote “Every crew has its notorious moaner, and in whale ships when the whales are scarce, the number of moaners multiplies. Not that there wasn't plenty to moan about, especially for the men engaged in the Southern whaling round Cape Horn and up the wet and blusterous coast of Chile. Long voyages, stale food, vast stretches of boredom punctuated with brief frenzied and perilous bursts of action; as the lyrics say: ‘The pleasures are but few, my boys, on them bitter whaling grounds’.” This song comes from some time between the 1820s and 1840s and was published in ‘Songs the Whalemen Sang’ (Huntington 1964) where it was taken from the 1856 log of the whaling ship 'The Catalpa'. Gordon said that he first heard this song being sung by some whalers, who were getting ready to go to sea, when he was a lad in south London.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates





















































Little Mike


Little Mikey was born about six in the morning.

Sure him and his mother was there at the time.

Now while I am singing pray don't you be scorning.

For all his adventures I'll sing in my rhyme.

Oh his sister and brother first said to his mother.

"What a wonder he'll be when a man he is grown."

For without hesitation, he'll please the whole nation.

When first he was born he could toddle alone.



Singing, rubdey dub, rowdey dow.

Fife away all the day

Filly eloo, that'll do.

Cut away Mike.


Now he first took a walk to his grandfather's corner.

Who lived about six hundred miles out of town.

I'll tell you no lie, it's the truth on my honour.

I can't tell you where but a place of renown.

He walked there in an hour and lifted a tower.

Then quickly returned with a church in his lap.

And as grand as a squire, he sat down by the fire.

With a large wooden spoon, eat a pale full of pap.



He then made a contract with butcher and baker.

For all they could bake and for all they could kill.

He never invited one single partaker.

It scarce was enough his own belly to fill.

For he is a great eater as I am a sinner.

And all though thought a man he is only a youth.

But a whole batch of bread he will consume for his dinner.

And stuff a cows tale up the hole of his tooth.



(Roud 1711). Victorian broadside printers called this song The Adventures of Little Mike - one printer, Walker of Durham, adding that it was 'a new comic song' - and it was printed by at least four London printers, Catnach, Fortney, Sharp and Goode, as well as the following provincial printers, Williams (Portsea), Sleath (Stony Stratford), Thompson (Liverpool), Walker (Durham) and Harkness (Preston). Only two collected versions of the song are known, this one from Mabs and a second version from George Spicer, another Sussex singer. (MTCD311-2 ‘Up in the North and Down in the South’). Mabs asked Mike Yates if she could hear the recording of George Spicer and later, complained that she could no longer sing the song, because George Spicer’s tune, which was slghtly different from hers had ‘upset her memory’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates
































































Banks of Inverness


I am a brave young sailor bold, who’s lately arrived on shore,
To take my recreation and to spend my gold in store.
When, by chance, I spied a damsel all in a silken dress,
Lamenting for a sailor gay on the banks of Inverness.

Of her I took no notice, but steer-ed on my way.
But when I thought it was young Mary Ann, I unto her did say,
"Are you in love, my fair one?" She modestly said, "Yes.
With a sailor gay who’s far away from the banks of Inverness."

"Oh, if your true-love’s a sailor, pray tell me your love’s name."
"My true-love’s name's William. Young William is his name.
A mark on his little finger, may God my sailor bless.
For a ploughboy was young William on the banks of Inverness."

"If your true-love’s named William, you’ll ne’er see him anymore;
For He’s heavy bound in irons strong upon a Turkish shore."
Then said Mary, "I will wander and mourn my love’s distress."
So in despair she tore her hair on the banks of Inverness.

By gazing on her features I could no longer stand.
Showed the mark on my little finger, which was on my right hand.
Then said Mary to her sailor, "Pull off that tarry dress.
Put on your true blue trousers on the banks of Inverness."

To church they went that very day and marri-ed were with speed.
Young sailor boy, our company we happy were indeed.
Now we have gold and plenty, to live without distress,
Blessed with our lot, in a humble cot, on the banks of Inverness.


(Roud 3813). It's a bit of a clue, when a song mentions 'William' and 'Mary', that we are listening to a broadside ballad, both names being repeatedly used by the broadside balladeers. The Banks of Inverness was indeed printed by quite a few 19th century printers, including Catnach, Such, Birt, Martin and Hill (all of London) and Sanderson of Edinburgh. There is a set in volume 5 of the ‘Greig/ Duncan Collection’ (Aberdeen, 1995,. Song 1047) and the indefatigable Sam Henry found it being sung in Ulster, as The Banks of the River Ness, in 1927. The Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke collected a fine set from the singer LaRena Clark (see ‘A Family Heritage - The Story and Songs of LaRena Clark’ by Edith Fowke with Jay Rahn. Calgary, 1994.) and Mike Yates was pleased to be able to take Edith to meets Mabs, who obliged by singing the song to her.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates






























































Blandford in the Mud


There's an isolated, desolated spot I'd like to mention.
Where all you hear is, "Stand at ease! Slope arms! Quick march! Attention!"
With sludge up to your eyebrows, you get it in your ears.

But into it you have to go, without a sign of fear.


Week in, week out, from morn 'til night, with full pack and a rifle.

You gallop up and down the front, of cause that's just a trifle.

Now when you've had bath of sludge, you just set to and groom.

"And get cleaned up for next parade! or else it's orderly room!"

Now when this war is over and we've captured Kaiser Billy,
To shoot him would be merciful and absolutely silly.
Just send him down to Mud camp, there among the rats and clay,

And I bet it won't be long before he droops and fades away.


But we're all merry and bright.


(Roud 10512). Gordon had the words to this song from a letter that had been written to his mother by a friend, Joe Driscoll, who was fighting in France. Sadly, news of Joe's death had arrived before the letter. No tune was given with the text and Gordon added his own. Roy Palmer writes in ‘What a Lovely War’, “Relentless drill, exhausting PT, spartan living conditions and the constant threat of punishment all emerge in vivid detail from this anonymous printed sheet from the First World War”. After the war the sheet was re-issued under the title Blandford Camp with the revised last verse:

          Now the war is over and we've whacked old Kaiser Billy,

          To shoot him would be merciful and absolutely silly.
          We'll hook him out of Holland and bring him Blandford way,
          And I'll bet it won't be long before he droops and fades away.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates




























































A Sailor from Dover


A sailor from Dover from Dover he came.
He courted pretty Sally and Sally was her name.
Sweet Sally grew lofty, her portion grew high.
'Til she, on her sailor, would scarce cast an eye.

Oh, six weeks were over and six weeks were past.
That beautiful damsel she grew sick at last.
Her heart was entangled, she knew not for why.
She sent for the sailor that she had denied.

"Oh Sally, sweet Sally, sweet Sally." said he.
"Don’t you remember when you first slighted me?
When you first slighted me love and treated me with scorn.
And now I shall reward you for what you have done."

"But what is past and gone love forget and forgive.
And I will prove constant as long as I live."
"Oh no pretty Sally not while I have breath.
I’ll dance on your grave love, where you lie underneath."


(Roud 180 - Laws P9). Edwardian song collectors have linked this song with the ballad The Brown Girl (Child 295). According to Maud Karpeles, “The main difference lies in a reversal of the sexes. Here it is the woman and not the man who falls sick and is spurned by a former lover. Otherwise there are many common elements.” (’Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, Vol.1’, 1974). Word sets have been collected not only in England, but also in Scotland (by Gavin Greig), in Newfoundland (by Maud Karpeles) and in the Appalachian Mountains of North America (by Cecil Sharp). An American recording, by Archie Sturgill, can be heard on the CD ‘Close to Home’ (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40097). This song was a particular favourite in the Hall family and Mabs can be heard singing it solo on VTC5CD When the wind blows.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates


























































Sweet Mother Dear


Pray mother buy me a milking pail.

A milking pail. A milking pail.

Pray mother buy me a milking pail.

Sweet mother dear.


Where's the money to buy it?

Buy it. Buy it.

Where's the money to buy it?

Sweet children dear.


Sell father's feather bed.

Feather bed, feather bed.

Sell father's feather bed.

Sweet mother dear.


Where will your father sleep?

Father sleep, father sleep.

Where will your father sleep?

Sweet children dear?


Sleep in the wash tub.

The wash tub, the wash tub.                                                     

Sleep in the wash tub.

Sweet mother dear.


What shall I wash in?

Wash in, wash in.

What shall I wash in?

Sweet children dear?


Wash in the river.

The river, the river.

Wash in the river.

Sweet mother dear.


Supposing the clothes should float away?

Float away, float away.

Supposing the clothes should float away?
Sweet children dear?


Get the boat and catch it.

Catch it, catch it.

Get the boat and catch it.

Sweet mother dear.


Supposing the boat tips over?

Over, over.

Supposing the boat tips over?

Sweet children dear.


Serve you ruddy well right.

Serve you jolly well right.

Serve you jolly well right.

For getting drunk on Saturday night!


(Roud 3515). Another children's singing game from Mabs which dates back to at least Victorian times. In Iona & Peter Opie's ‘The Singing Game’ a text learned by Alice Gomme from a London nursemaid in 1876 is given with twenty one verses and this is noted as being typical. This song was wide spread in England and America where it was often called Buy me a China Doll. In England Cecil Sharp collected five versions in the early twentieth century, three in Somerset, one in Staffordshire and one in Cambridgeshire. Mabs' cheeky final lines about serving her mother right for getting drunk seem to be unique to her, although in another version from ‘Gammer Gurton's Garland’ the final repeated lines are “Then take a rope and hang yourself” so maybe Mabs version is not too outrageous after all.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates





























































The Molecatcher


Now the week after Easter the weather some-what thin.

I met an old ommicker ugly as sin.

He sat down on his barrow, told me and old yarn.

To which you young buggers should listen and learn.



Right tool er lye, ool er lye, ool er lye aye.

Right tool er lye, ool er lye, ool er lye aye.

Right tool er lye, ool er lye, ool er lye aye.

Right tool er lye, ool er lye, ool er lye aye.


This jovial ommicker's name was George Plum.

I sat down beside him, bye Christ he did hum.

He told me an old yarn which I now will relate.

About a young ploughboy so cruel was his fate.



It seems that in Sussex at the sign of the plough.

There lived a mole catcher, I knowed him quite well.

He'd been a mole catching be night and be day.

And the ploughboy would come with his wife for to play.



Old mole catcher was jealous of the very same thing.

So he hid in the midden to watch him come in.

And when the young fellow jumped over the stile
Well it caused the molecatcher so crafty to smile.

Old boy knocked at the door and thus he did say.
Where is your husband, good woman, I pray.
He be a-molecatching, you need have no fear.
But little she knew the molecatcher was near.

She went on upstairs gave the old boy the sign.
At that molecatcher came close up behind.
When the sharp fast young fella was at the height of his rollicks.
The molecatcher trapped him quite fast by the ...........


As the trap it squeezed tighter old mole catcher did smile.

He says it's best the mole I've caught in a while.

I shall make you pay dear-ly for tilling me ground.

Now your antics will cost you the best part of ten pounds.


Says the young fella, "The money I don't mind.
'Cos it only works out about tuppence a time.
So all you young fellas, just mind what you're at.
And never get caught in the molecatcher's trap.


Old mole catcher went down to the Plough for a drink.

And he said to his cronies, "Lads what do you think?

I paid that young bugger for ploughing me ground.

Now we'll all have a drink off his old ten pound."



Old mole catcher got drunk and stood up for to sing.

Some young bugger throwed a tomato at him.

When tomatoes ain't ripe, well you won't break the skin.

But this bugger did, it was still in the tin.



Old mole catcher dragged himself offen the floor.

And the young bugger he took a bolt for the door.

But as through that door well he made for a pass.

He got six lace holes of mole catchers boot up his ...........



Now all you young fellows that follows the plough.

Take heed of the warning I'm giving you know.

Never make free with the mole catcher's wife.

Or you'll have sore ..... tonsils for the rest of your life.



(Roud 1052). Versions of The Molecatcher have turned up all over the place, not that you would necessarily know this, because collectors have been extremely reluctant to include the words in their printed collections. In 1904 the Reverend Baring Gould felt obliged to rewrite the text before printing the song, and five years later, when Ralph Vaughan Williams published three tunes for the song in the ‘Journal of the Folk Song Society’, the words were omitted as being “unsuitable for this Journal”. Surprisingly, there appear to be no known broadside texts and it would seem to be a song that has circulated in the oral tradition for at least a couple of hundred years.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson & Mike Yates














































































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