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George Collins

George Collins rode out one morning in May
When May was all in bloom.
And there he espied a fair pretty maid
She was washing her white marble stone.

She whooped and she hollered, she highered her voice
She waved her lily white hand.
“Come hither to me, George Collins” she cried,
“For your life it won’t last you long”.

He threw his benbow down on the bank side
And over the river sprang he.
He clipped his hands round her middle so small
And kissed her red rosy lips.

George Collins rode home to his father’s gate.
He rattled at the ring.
“Come down, oh father, oh father” he cried,
“Come down and let me in”.

“Come down, oh mother, oh mother” he cried,
“Come down and make up my bed.
Come down, oh sister, oh sister” he cried,
“Get a napkin to tie round my head”.

“If I should chance to die this night
As I suppose I shall.
You can bury me under that white marble stone
That lies in fair Ellender’s hall”.

Fair Ellender sat in her hall one day
A-weaving her silk so fine.
When she espied the finest corpse coming
That ever her eyes shone on.

Fair Ellender said unto her head maid
“Whose corpse is this so fine?”.
She made a reply, “George Collins’s corpse,
An old true lover of thine”.

“Then set him down my pretty brave boys,
And open his coffin so wide,
That I might kiss George Collins’s lips
For ten thousand times he has kissed mine”.

This news has carried to London town
And writ on Flanders Gate,
That six pretty maids died all of one night
All for George Collins’s sake.


       George Collins is based on two ballads. The first half of the story is told in Clerk Colvill (Child 42) and the second half in Lady Alice (Child 85). A.L. Lloyd suggests in 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' that either these two separate songs which combine to form George Collins, or (which is more likely) they are two fragments of a single ballad. Other scholars have suggested that there are traces of fairy or mermaid lore in the song.               

       Mike Yates recorded a version in Gloucestershire but apart from that it has rarely been collected in England though it does seem to have been widespread in parts of Hampshire. Dr G.B.Gardiner collected six versions in the Southampton /Lyndhurst area in the first decade of this century (two of them on the same day) and the version given in le Wanton Seed' (EFDS 1968) is a compilation of five of them. Its editor Frank Purslow suggests that the versions are so similier that they are likely to have come from the same broadside source.

       Bob's version is not unlike those Gardiner collected, which is not surprising as he learned it from Enos White of Axford, Hampshire who was one of the singers recorded during Bob's involvement in the national collecting scheme instigated by the BBC in 1954. He wrote of Enos, "his voice trailed away leaving a thoughtful silence ......and I wondered how this sensitive little man, who was so physically tough, had managed to retain such a tenderness of thought and feeling, both of which were made apparent in his singing". .

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson


















Lily White Hand

As Johnny walked out one midsummer morn
Down by the riverside,
Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid
Who was pleasing to his mind.

“Good morning to you, my pretty fair maid,
Come sing me your lovers’ song.
For I should like to marry you”.
“Kind sir, I am too young”.

“The younger you are, the better for me,
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 cheek and chin,
He took her to a very large house
To spend the night within.

The night being passed, the morning came,
The sun shone bright and clear.
The young man arose, put on his clothes,
Saying “fare thee well my dear”.

“And that’s not the promise you gave to me
Down by the riverside.
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 back to your mother’s house,
Then 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 make any grief or distress.
But I will go and drown myself
All in some lonesome place”.

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

      Ron learned this from his father George Spicer who can be heard singing it on Topic 12T254 'When Sheepshearing's Done'. (the now deleted)  Mike Yates tells us in his notes on the album that the line, "He took her by the lily white hand and laid her upon a bed" occurs in Chapman's May Day of 1602, and part of the song's theme appears in the early blackletter broadside The Western Knight.

      It is a song which seems particularly popular with travellers: Mike Yates recorded it in Brighton from Mary Ann Haynes (VTC1CD 'Stepping it Out') and Pete Coe recorded it from Cornwall's Sophie Legg under the title of Down by the Old Riverside (VT119CD 'Catch me if you can'). In Ireland It is also well-known as Blackwater

       Fred Hamer recorded it from Chris Marsom in Bedfordshire and his version was published in 'Garners Gay' (EFDS) and it also turns up in the Gardiner collection under the title As I Was Walking. This version, noted down in Hampshire in 1907, has the girl (aged fourteen) being responsible for the man's seduction. Mike Yates suggests that the present song was rewritten in the 19th century to conform to what was then current taste.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson



















Spotty Dick

Tonight I feel so happy, tonight I feel so gay,
My mother’s got a roly-poly pudding on the way.
I saw her put the currants in, the suet in as well.
Tonight I’m having spotty dick, this story I must tell.

I’m having a bit tonight, I’m having a bit tonight,
My mother says I must be quick to get my bit of spotty dick.
I like my roly-poly, it fills me with delight.
I haven’t had any since Easter, so I’m having a bit tonight.

Tra-la-la-la, fa-la-la-la

Now there is my girlfriend, she’s such a lovely girl,
Her eyes are like the setting sun, her teeth as white as pearl.
There’s only one thing wrong with her, she isn’t very fat.
Tonight she’s having spotty dick, so what’ll she think of that

‘Cos she’s having a bit tonight, she’s having a bit tonight,
Her mother says she must be quick to get her bit of spotty dick.
She likes her roly-poly, it fills her with delight.
She hasn’t had any since Easter but she’s having a bit tonight.

Tra-la-la-la, Fa la-la-la

Then there’s dear old grandpa, he seldom gets enough.
Although he’s nearly ninety, he’s a bugger for his duff

So he’s having a bit tonight, he’s having a bit tonight,
Although he’s nearly ninety, so he’s having a bit tonight.

Spoken: There, you got it, ain’t you?

       According to 'The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang' the first mention of the pudding Spotted Dick was in 1849 in Soyer's 'The Modern Housewife', but this song would seem to be much later. It probably dates back to late music hall /early variety theatre and the only place it seems to have turned up is in a collection of Rugby songs. Despite consulting some of the best known experts on this type of song and several publishing databases I drew a complete blank! Louie learned the song in London from her father.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson

















The Spotted Cow

One morning in the month of May, it’s from my cot I strayed.
All at the dawning of the day I met a charming maid.
All at the dawning of the day I met a charming maid.

“Good morning to you, it’s whither” says I, “so early, tell me now”.
That maid replied “Kind sir” she cried. “I’ve lost my spotted cow”.
That maid replied “Kind sir” she cried. “I’ve lost my spotted cow”.

“No longer weep, no longer mourn, your cow’s not lost, my dear.
I saw her down in yonder lawn. Come, love, and I’ll show you where.
I saw her down in yonder lawn. Come, love, and I’ll show you where”.

Now in that grove we spent the day, although it passed too soon.
At night we homeward made our way and brightly shone the moon.
At night we homeward made our way and brightly shone the moon.

Next day we went to visit the plough across that flowery dell
We hugged and kissed each other there and love was all our tale.
We hugged and kissed each other there and love was all our tale.

If I should cross that flowery dell all for to view the plough
She comes, she call me “Gentle Swain, I’ve lost my spotted cow”.
She comes, she calls me “Gentle swain, I’ve lost my spotted cow”.

       The Spotted Cow first appeared in print in a garland (an eight-page booklet) of the second half of the eighteenth century. It is mentioned in Thomas Hardy's 1891 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles': Tess heard her mother "singing, in a vigorous gallopade, the favourite ditty The Spotted Cow while simultaneously wringing out the washing and rocking a child in its cradle." Bob learned the song from his mother.

        It is often thought of as the archetypal idyllic rural folk song although it was town-made. It was certainly popular in rural areas and has been collected all over the country by all the major collectors over the past hundred years, including Baring Gould (1889 in Devon) Kidson (1891 in Yorkshire) Sharp (1904 in Somerset) Hammond (1907 in Hampshire) Grainger (1908 in Lincolnshire) and Williams (1923 in Wiltshire).

        The most well known version is that of of Norfolk's Harry Cox which can be heard on 'What Will Become of England' (RCD 1839)  while Mike recorded it from South Yorkshire's Frank Hinchliffe and Sussex the song was also well documented: a classic recording was made of Jim Copper singing it; and Bob Copper recorded it from George Attrill at Fittleworth, 1954.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson




















The Grand Conversation on Napoleon

Twas over the wild beaten track, a friend of the bold Boney-parte
Did pace the sands and lofty rocks of St Helena’s shore.
The wind blew in a hurricane, the lightning flash around it did dart,
The seagulls were a-shrieking and the waves around did roar.
“Oh, hush rude wind” the stranger cried “while I range the dreary spot
Where once a gallant hero his heavy eyes did close.
And whilst his valiant limbs do rot, his fame will never be forgot”.
This grand conversation on Napoleon arose.
This grand conversation on brave Boney-parte arose.

“Oh, England” he cried “did persecute that hero bold,
Much better had you slain him on the plains of Waterloo”.
Napoleon ever he was a friend to heroes all both young and old,
He called the many for to fly wherever he did go.
When plans were raging night and day, that bold commander to betray,
He said “I’ll go to Moscow and that will ease my woes.
If fortune shines without delay, then all the world will me obey”.
This grand conversation on Napoleon arose.
This grand conversation on brave Boney-parte arose.

Thousands of men he then did rise to conquer Moscow by surprise.
Like Hannibal he crossed the Alps, oppressed with frost and snow.
But being near the Russian land, he then began to ope his eyes
Though Moscow was a-burning and his men rode to and fro.
Napoleon dauntless viewed the plains and wept in anguish for the same
He cried “Retreat, my gallant men, the time so swiftly goes”.
What thousands died in that retreat, some forced their horses for to eat.
This grand conversation on Napoleon arose.
This grand conversation on brave Boney-parte arose.

At Waterloo, his men they fought, commanded by brave Bonaparte
Attended by field Marshall Ney and he was bribed with gold.
When Blutcher led the Prussians in, it nearly broke Napoleon’s heart’
He cried “my thirty thousand men are killed and I am sold”.
He viewed the plain and cried “’tis lost”, he then did favour a charge across,
The plain was in confusion with blood and dying woe.
The bunch of roses did advance and boldly entered into France.
This brave conversation on Napoleon arose.
This grand conversation on brave Boney-parte arose.

Brave Boney-parte was planned to be a prisoner across the sea,
The rocks of St Helena, it was the dreadful spot.
Doomed as a prisoner there to be till death did end his misery,
His son soon followed to the tomb, it was an awful plot.
Tis long enough, had they been dead, the blast of war around it spread
And may our shipping float again to find our daring foe.
And now my boys when honour calls, we’ll boldly mount the wooden walls.
This grand conversation on Napoleon arose.
This grand conversation on brave Boney-parte arose.

        As the broadside versions mention Napoleon Bonaparte's death, this ballad must date from sometime after 1821. Both Harkness of Preston and Such of London published the song in about 1840 but it was probably based on an earlier broadside ballad called The Grand Conversation under the Rose. Perhaps due to the popularity of the Napoleon ballad, they both, some time later published The Grand Conversation on Nelson.

        Surprisingly, many working people in England thought that if Napoleon beat Nelson they would have a better life, and songs about Napoleon were certainly popular in Sussex. Many of the songs in the repertoire of Horsham singer Henry Burstow concerned Napoleon and Vaughan Williams noted down The Grand Conversation from him. Gordon's grandfather sang several, as did his mother Mabs, which is where Gordon learned this version and he says she particularly liked the tune.

        This ballad turns up in Ireland where Napoleon was also a popular character: Wolfe Tone wanted him to invade Ireland to defeat the English. It was recorded by Peter Kennedy in the 1950s from Elizabeth Cronin of Cork and a version from Tom Costello of Connemara has been popularised by Frank Harte in recent years.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson
















Shift up a Little Bit Father

My uncle Jimmy has got a beautiful ruby tinted nose
Scotch, of, course, is out of the question, uncle says he’s got indigestion.
Once he stood at a railway crossing to watch the trains go by.
A railway porter standing near came up and shouted “Hi

Shift up a little bit farther, shift a little bit farther up.
At this spot there soon will arrive a
Fast express, you’ll worry the driver
With that terrible nose, it’s like a danger light.
So, shift a little bit farther, father, farther out of sight”.

Well I went out with some friends of mine in a brand new motor car.
We was going from London to Dover, but before the journey was over,
Something seemed to go wrong with our machines inside.
Agricultural labourers came to us and shouted “Hi

Shift up a little bit farther, shift a little bit farther up.
We never thought a traveling tinker
Could be such a tiddley-winker.
We’ve no kettles and pots for you to mend today,
So shift a little bit farther, father, farther on your way”.

It was down at Winkleton-Super-Mare on a lovely summer’s day,
People was gazing out in the ocean, they was causing quite a commotion.
What’s that strange old object there, a new sea monster p’raps?
Well I dashed up to them and said “Look here, you girls and chaps

Shift up a little bit farther, shift a little bit farther up.
What you seem to think is a sort a
Curiosity in the water,
That’s my missus and she’ll be out in half a jiff,
So, shift a little bit farther, father, farther round the cliff”.

My aunt Maria is fairly heavy, she weighs a tidy lump.
Aunty, last bank holiday, tried a
Donkey ride and all of us guide her.
She jumped up on the donkey’s back, but the brute refused to stir.
He nods his head and winks his eye and then remarks to her:

“Shift up a little bit farther, shift a little bit farther up.
Please excuse me being so grumpy,
But you are a little bit lumpy.
I can’t waggle my tail, the flies give me the hump,
So, shift a little bit farther, father, farther off my stump”.

        John learned this from his grandfather, Jim Copper's song book. It was composed by Arthur Aiston and when published in 1903 it was arranged by him and Fred W. Leigh and performed by music hall singer Frank Coyne.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson



















Colin and Phoebe

“Well met, dearest Phoebe, its why in such haste?
The fields and the meadows all day have I chased
In search of my fair one who does me disdain,
But I hope that you’ll reward me for all my long pain.”

“Go, go, boldest Colin, how dare you be seen
With a virgin like me that is scarcely sixteen?
To be seen all alone with a man, I am afraid
The world will soon call me no longer a maid.”

“Never mind what the world says, it will all prove a lie.
We are not here alone, there’s a cottage close by.
Let him judge of our actions and say what they will.
For no harm is attending to my Phoebe, I swear”.

“Go, go, boldest Colin, you may say what you will.
You may lie, swear or flatter or try your best skill.
But before I’ll be conquered, I will have you to know,
I’ll first die a virgin, so pray let me go”.

“Oh, Phoebe, my charmer, such thoughts I never had.
I came for to see if tomorrow you’d wed.
But since you’ve so slighted me, I will bid you adieu
And go seek some other girl more kinder than you”.

“Stay, stay dearest Colin, just a few moments stay.
I will venture to wed if you mean what you say.
Let tomorrow first come, my love, in church you’ll find
The girl you once thought cruel will always prove kind”.

       This is a popular composed song which has been absorbed into the oral tradition. Bob had a snatch of it from his mother and he remembered 'Pop' Maynard singing it. Ken Stubbs filled in the missing text for him.

         This song has not been greatly collected: Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk sang it (TSCD512D 'The Bonny Labouring Boy') and in earlier years Cecil Sharp noted down two versions in Somerset (1909) and George Gardiner found it in Hampshire (1906) and Sussex (1909). Frank Kidson also collected it in Yorkshire and published it in 1891 and he mentions that he came across the 'original' in a twenty-four page folio 'The New Ballads sung by Mr Lowe and Miss Stevenson at the Vauxhall London 1755' where it is titled Corydon and Phoebe.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson




















Maas Simkins

Maas Simkins lived at Hadlow Town, he had a wife beside
And ‘cos she wore the britches, she thought she’d like to ride.
She asked him for a buying ‘oss to gratify her folly.
Says he “I’m always mortified by you, my dearest Polly”.

Chorus: Fol-the –riddle-i-do, fol-the-riddle-day
Fol-the riddley-i-di-o and fol-the-rol-the-day
Fol-the-riddle-i-do, fol-the-rol-the-day
Fol-the-riddley-i-di-o and fol-the-rol-the-day.

This ‘oss it had six legs, sir, to you I’ll prove it true.
It reared up its forelegs, but still it stood on two.
Mrs. Simkins lost her seat, her head it hit the kerb,
She lay as dead as mutton and she never said a word.

Simkins popped her in the coffin and bid ‘em nail it fast.
The funeral arrangements at the Parish Church was passed.
Said Simkins to the mourners “I’ll follow at my leisure
For why, dear friends should I a trouble make a pleasure?”

That night the resurrection man resolved the corpse should rise,
With his pick-axe in his hand, when to his great surprise,
The noise awoke the lady, “what in heaven’s name?” says she
“Are you about with that pick-axe?” “We axe about” said he.

Away she ran, he arter her, she to the stable hied,
Wherein stood Maas Simkins and the ‘oss by which she died.
Then up spoke neighbour Horner saying “I will buy that beast
If you think it will serve my wife the same at it served thy deceased”

“Oh, no,” said Maas Simkins, “I cannot take your pelf,
To part with such a beast so much service to myself.
Although it killed my first wife, by that I’m not much vexed,
And since I planned to wed again, I’ll save it for the next”

Up jumped Mistress Simkins and grabbed him by the hair
“Disown your legal wife, you will’n if you dare.
You thought me dead and buried, you cannot a-marry two,
And since you planned to bury me, I’ll live to bury you”.

He took her by the hand and hugged her to his breast,
Then said “My dearest angel, I thought you safe at rest”.
Then Simkins kissed his wife, “You’re mine till death” he cried.
“And now, my dearest Polly, won’t you take another ride?”

        Gordon learned this from his Uncle Fred and the mention of Hadlow Down could suggest a local origin and Maas is the Sussex way of saying Master. Uncle Fred was renowned for never having to buy a pint, as whenever he popped his head around a pub door he was greeted with "Give us a song, Fred."

          Gordon also found a version of the song in a 1905 edition of the West Sussex Gazette which had been sent in as an entry in their song contest by E. Snow who maintained that the song had been known in their family for 200 years. This was of course the contest that had Lucy Broadwood as one of its judges. That particular text has Leeds as the location.

          There are several songs from this period that include a Mr Simkins and he is often, 'the man who is taken for a ride’ or 'the man who become unstuck'. It is likely to be from the early music hall period (1830-50) in line with songs performed by Frederick Robson (Villikins and Dinah) and Sam Cowell (Sam Hall).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson
















Constant Lovers

As I was a-walking down by the sea shore
Where the wind and the waves and the billows do roar,
There I heard a strange voice make a terrible sound.
‘Twas the wind and the waves and the echoes all around

Chorus: Crying Oh,oh, oh, oh, my love is gone
He’s the youth I adore.
He’s gone and I never shall see him no more.

She’s a voice like a nightingale, skin like a dove
And the song that she sang it was all about love.
I asked her to marry me, marry me please
But the answer she gave, “My love’s drowned in the sea”.

I told her I’d gold and I’d silver beside,
In a coach and six horses with me she could ride.
“No, I never shall marry, nor yet make a wife.
Constant and true hearted all the time I have life”.

So she threw out her arms and she gave a great leap
From the cliffs that were high to the billows so deep,
Crying “Rocks of the ocean shall make me a bed
And the shrimps of the sea shall swim over my head”.

And now every night at six bells they appear
When the moon it is shining and the sky it is clear,
These two constant lovers with all their young charms
Rolling over and over in each other’s arms.

          There could be confusion over this title as the better known Constant Lovers is a quite different song. This song is usually known as The Drowned Lover but again this can be confused with the song set in Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire.

          One of the few collected versions is from James Lake of Basingstoke who sang it to George Gardiner in 1906. He suggests that the song was a great favourite with country singers but it suffered at the hands of early music hall. Lake sang it with some ‘comic amendments' and Gardiner, as he puts it "restored it to its original shape". The song also travelled across the Atlantic and has been collected in the Appalachian Mountains.

          In Sussex, Jim Copper had the first verse and the tune and Bob completed it from the Gardiner manuscripts. Ron first heard Bob singing it and he says that it is thought of as being of local origin as the cliffs at Fairlight near Hastings are known as a 'lover's leap'.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson






















Searching for Lambs

As I walked out one May morning,
One May morning betime,
I met a maid from home had strayed
Just as the sun did shine.

“What makes you rise so soon, my dear,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so sweet,
Strikes off the morning dew”

“I’m going to feed my father’s flock,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie a-waiting for their dams”.

“Oh stay, oh stay, you handsome maid
And rest a moment here.
For there is none but you alone
That I do love so dear.

How gloriously the sun do shine,
How pleasant is the air.
I’d rather rest on a true love’s breast
Than any other where.

For I am thine and thou art mine.
No man shall uncomfort thee.
We’ll join our hands in wedlock bands
And married we shall be”.

          A.L. Lloyd suggests in 'Folk Song in England' that this beautiful tune is the kind that owes its form to the mingling of the art of the peasantry and the art of the townsfolk. It was a great favourite of Cecil Sharp and in Somerset he collected five versions between 1904 and 1909. He included it in a number of publications, some with piano accompaniment, and as such it was one of his chosen 'English folk songs' which became popular as a drawing-room song: It also appears in Novello's Schools Series which was compiled by Sharp and Baring-Gould in 1906 and in fact Bob learned it at school when he was 12 or 13 from a master who was interested in folk songs.

          References to the song are infrequent and most published versions seem to be one of Sharp's, although Hammond did note down three versions in Dorset under the title Under the Moon Shines Bright and there is a text (1934) in Sam Henry's 'Songs of the People' called One Morning Clear but the source is said to be 'not given' and although it has several similar lines it is a much fuller song. Searching for Lambs should not be confused with Searching for Young Lambs which has been frequently collected, notably from George Spicer in Sussex.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson


















Twenty Years on Dartmoor

The judge said “Stand up, boy and dry up your tears,
You’re sentenced to Dartmoor for twenty one years.”
So, kiss me goodnight, babe, and say you’ll be mine
For twenty one years, babe, is a mighty long time.

Just look down that railroad oh, babe, you can see
My comrades are waving their farewell to me.
The steam from the whistle, the smoke from the stack,
I know you’ll be true, babe, until I get back.

Go back to the governor, babe, on your sweet soul,
You sent me to Dartmoor, so get up that road.
If I’ve got the governor, then the governor’s got me,
But before Tuesday morning I guess I’ll be free.

It is hailing, it’s raining, this moon gives no light.
Baby please tell me why you never write.
I’m here in this jailhouse, my heart broken down,
I had a letter from mother in old Kempton town.

Six months has gone by, babe, oh I wish I were dead
In this dirty old jailhouse with a post for my bed.
So hold up your head, babe, and dry up your eyes,
Best friends must part, babe, so must you and I.

I’ve counted the minutes, I’ve counted the nights,
I’ve counted the hours, I’ve counted the lights,
I’ve counted the footsteps and counted the stars,
I’ve counted one million of these prison bars.

I’ve counted on you, babe, to get me a break,
But I guess you forgot me, I’m here for your sake.
You know who is guilty and you know it too well
But I’ll rot in this jailhouse before I will tell.

Come all you young fellows with heart brave and true
Don’t trust any woman you’re beat if you do.
Don’t trust any woman, no matter what kind,
For twenty one years, folks, is a mighty long time.

          Twenty-one Years originates in America and is usually set in Nashville, Tennessee although it seems not to be connected with a specific incident. It was recorded on a Decca 78 record by 'Mac and Bob' in the early 1930s and became popular with duet singers.

          These days this must be one of the most popular songs amongst English travellers and Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger recorded it from Caroline Hughes in Dorset (1963) and from Nelson Ridley in Kent (1974). Mike Yates recorded Mary Anne Haynes in Sussex (1973) while in Suffolk Desmond Herring recorded it in Tostock in 1960 and I recorded 'Lubidy' Rice singing it in 1983 (both: VTVS01/02 'Many a Good Horseman'). Louie learned it when she was a girl in London.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson


















The Trees They do Grow High

Oh, the trees they do grow high and the leaves they do grow green,
The time has long since passed, my love, that you and I have seen.
‘Tis a cold and wintry night, my love, you and I must lie alone
For my bonny boy is young but he’s growing.

“Oh, father, dearest father, you’ve done to me great harm.
You’ve married me to a bonny boy and you know he’s far too young.”
“Oh daughter, dearest daughter, just you bide along with me
And a lady you shall be while he’s growing.

We will send him to the college just for a year or two
And by that time perhaps, my dear, he’ll become a man for you.
We’ll buy for him white ribbons all to tie round his bonny waist,
So the ladies will all know that he’s married.”

Oh, she went down to the college and she gazed over the wall,
Saw four and twenty young gentlemen, they were playing bat and ball.
She asked if she might speak with him, but they would not let him come,
Saying “The bonny boy is young, but he’s growing.”

Oh, so early in the morning, before the break of day,
They went down to the playing fields all for to sport and play.
What game it was they played out there, oh she never did declare,
But she never more complained of his growing.

Oh, at the age of fourteen years, he was a married man
And at the age of fifteen years, he’s the father of a son
And at the age of sixteen years, the grass on his grave did grow,
For death had put an end to his growing.

Oh, I’ll make my love a shroud of the Holland oh so brown
And every stitch I put in it, the tears come trickling down.
I’ll sit and mourn your fate, my love, oh until the day I die
But I’ll watch o’er your son while he’s growing.

And now my love is dead and in his grave does lie.
The green grass that grows over him, Oh it grows so very high.
Oh, once I had my own true love, but now I’ve ne’er a one,
But his bonny boy is young and he’s growing.

           This ballad which is often called Young but Growing or The Bonny Boy is found throughout England, Scotland and Ireland yet Child missed it from his collection. Burns actually used the theme of the ballad in his Lady Mary Ann. In England Cecil Sharp collected twelve versions and it was a popular broadside printed by Such (amongst others) and it turns up in just about every folk song collection. Bob learned this version from Seamus Ennis while they were working together for the BBC in the 1950s.

           A.L. Lloyd suggests in 'Folk Song in England' that, "early folk song enthusiasts loved the sport of tracing ballad stories to some literal historical source and Young but Growing was thought to reflect the marriage between the juvenile Lord of Craigton and a girl some years his senior in 1631". In 'The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs' he says that this is "one of the most curious, most beautiful, and most widespread of British ballads, which may be much older" and that "child marriages for the consolidation of family fortunes were not unusual in the Middle Ages and in some parts the custom persisted far into the seventeenth century."

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson

















The Clothes Horse

I wanted to join the yeomanry, so they told me that I’d have to ride a horse
Of course
I had to ride a horse.
So I went to the livery stables just along a Charing Cross to hire a horse
Of course
They said it was a horse
And so, of course, I thought it was a horse.
It was a funny animal, the legs it had were four.
There was one in every corner, it could have done with several more.
The men bumped me up and I was on my own,
But I don’t think I’ll ever get to ride like Sloan

Chorus: Oh, you don’t catch me on a gee gee’s back again.
It’s not the sort of place to sleep and doze on.
The only horse that I think that I can manage is
The one the missus dries the clothes on.

I’ll never forget that moment when that horrible quadruped got on the go,
You know,
I kept on shouting “Whoa!”.
And what with the wibbly-wobbling and the rocking to and fro
And so and so
You know, I made a rotten show.
And that is why I went to Rotten Row.
At last the bounder stopped a bit and looking over there
He saw a beautiful girl with any amount of carroty hair.
He dashed up behind, before I knew what he’d done,
He took a great big mouthful of that lady’s bun.

I had to get off the gee gee’s back for the lady with ginger hair was feeling sore,
Oh lor,
She soon began to roar.
I tried to get back to my place and perspired at every pore
When something tore
I swore, when I got up once more.
For there I was sat on behind before
I grabbed the bounder by the tail and away he dashed of course.
And soon the saddle began to slip and it took me under the horse.
The crowd gave a cheer they thought I was having a spree
And I said as I came up for the infirmary:

          Another song which came from Jim Copper's song book and another from the repertoire of Frank Coyne. Bob Copper remembered that his father had visited London at the turn of the century and was very keen on the music hall; it may be that he saw Frank Coyne. The Horse the Missus Dries the Clothes on was composed and arranged by Fred W. Leigh published in 1901.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson



















Broomfield Wager

“One wager, one wager, I will lay unto thee
One hundred bright nobles to your ten,
That you will ne’er me follow to the bonny Broomfield Hill
A maiden you never shall return.”

“One wager, one wager, I will lay unto thee,
Your hundred bright nobles to my ten,
That I will go a maiden to the Bonny Broomfield Hill
And will come back a maiden once again.”

There was a knight and a lady so bright
Had a true tryst at the broom.
The one to go ride early on the May morning
And the other in the afternoon.

The maiden sat at her mother’s bower door
And there she made a moan
Saying “Whether shall I go to the bonny Broomfield Hill
Or shall I bide me at home?

“For if I should go to the bonny Broomfield Hill
Then my maidenhead is gone,
But if I bide me at my mother’s bower door,
Then my true love will call me foresworn.”

Then up then spake an old witch woman
All from her lofty room
Saying “Well may you go to the bonny Broomfield Hill
And you come a maiden home.

“For when you reach the bonny Broomfield Hill,
You will find your love asleep
With a coarsely silver belt about his neck
And its brother about his feet.

Then take you the blossom from off the green broom
The blossom that smells so sweet
And lay it at his white collar bone
There and place the twigs at his feet.

“Then take you the ring from off your soft white hand
And place it on your true love’s right thumb,
That this will be a token to your true love when he wakes
He will know that you have been at his command”.

“One wager, one wager, I will lay unto thee,
Your hundred bright nobles to my ten,
That I will go a maiden to the bonny Broomfield Hill
And will come back a maiden once again”.

The knight jogged on to the bonny Broomfield Hill,
The weather being very mild and warm.
As he became quite weary why he sate him down to rest
And he fell fast asleep on the green lawn.

Now when the maiden reached the bonny Broomfield Hill,
She found her love asleep
With a coarsely silver belt about his neck
And its brother about his feet.

Then took she the blossom from off the green broom,
The blossom that smells so sweet,
And laid it at his white collar bone
Then placed the twigs at his feet.

Then three times she danced round the soles of his shoes
And stroked down the hair of his head,
And three times she kissed his ruby ruby lips
As he lay fast asleep on his green bed.

Then the ring from her finger she instant withdrew
And placed it on her true love’s right thumb,
Saying “This will be a token to my true love when he wakes,
He will know that I have been at his command”.

Now when the knight woke from out of his long sleep
And espied the maiden’s ring on his right thumb,
He knew that the fair maid had been at his command
And the tryst wager she had won.

“Oh, where were ye, my milk white steed,
That I have cost so dear,
That would not watch and waken me
When there was a maiden here?”

“I stamped with my feet, master,
Which made my bright bridle ring.
But no kind of thing would waken ye
Till the maiden was past and gone.”

“And where were ye, my gay goshawk,
That I have loved so dear,
That would not watch and waken me
When there was a maiden here?”

“I flapped with my wings, master,
Which made my bright bell to ring.
But nothing of this earth would waken ye
Till the maiden was past and gone”.

“And where were ye, my addle-pated page,
As draws my meat and fee,
That would not watch and waken me
Till the maiden skipped over the lea?”

“I prodded and I shook, master,
Now I have this to say,
That if you lay still when laid a-bed at night,
Then you would not sleep through the day”.

“One wager, one wager, I did lay unto thee,
Your hundred bright nobles to my ten,
And I did go a maiden to the bonny Broomfield Hill
And did come back a maiden once again.”

“If I had been awake when I was fast asleep,
Of you I would have had my will
Or it’s you I would have killed and your red blood would have spilled
And the small birds would all have had their fill.”

“You hard-hearted young man, how can you say so?
Your heart must be hard as any stone.
For to think to murder the one that has loved thee so long
And has danced on the green and mossy lawn.

One wager, one wager, I did lay unto thee,
Your hundred bright nobles to my ten,
And I did go a maiden to the bonny Broomfield Hill
And did come back a maiden once again.

Yes I did go a maiden to the bonny Broomfield Hill
And did come back a maiden once again.”



          The story of Broomfield Hill or, as it is often known, The Broomfield Wager, or A Wager, a Wager, is at least seven hundred years old and is found right across Europe. Francis James Child gives examples from as far apart as Norway and Italy, Iceland and Germany and he gives six word-sets in 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads Vol.1. (Child 43) while B.H. Bronson gives no less than thirty versions of the tune in 'The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads Vol.1'.

          It has been appearing in ballad form in England since the eighteenth century published by amongst others. Jackson of Birmingham and Such of London, but much of the earlier witchcraft was edited out in their broadside versions. This ballad was a great favourite with singers in England and Cecil Sharp collected at least twelve distinct versions. Amongst the many recorded versions are Walter Pardon of Norfolk, Cyril Poacher of Suffolk and 'Pop' Maynard of Sussex.

           Gordon learned this classic version mainly from his mother Mabs and she is likely to have learned it from her mother, with her father filling in some of the words.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes John Howson



















































































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