Hares on the Mountain


If maidens could sing like blackbirds and thrushes,
If maidens could sing like blackbirds and thrushes,
How many young men’d go and hide in the bushes

Ch: Sing fal-de-ral, fal-de-ral, fal-de-ral day.

If maidens were to run like hares on the common,
If maidens were to run like hares on the common,
How many young men’d take horse and ride hunting

If maidens were to swim like fish in the water,
If maidens were to swim like fish in the water,
How many young men’d undress and dive after

If maidens were to lie like sheep on the mountain,
If maidens were to lie like sheep on the mountain,
How many young men’d go and lay down beside them

But maidens they’re like the dew on the corn,
But maidens they’re like the dew on the corn,
When a young man awakes they’re gone in the morn

If maidens were to dance like rushes a-growing,
If maidens were to dance like rushes a-growing,
How many young men’d take scythes and go mowing

(recorded at Whittlebury, Northamptonshire by John Howson, 1988)  At one time a highly popular song (Cecil Sharp alone collected nine separate versions) which is sometimes attributed to Samuel Lover (1797-1865), who included it in his novel Rory o’ More. However, it probably predates Lover's book and, according to Professor Bertrand Bronson, it could be related to the ballad The Two Magicians (Roud 1350. Child 44).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates
































Barbara Allen


In Scarlet Town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling.
Made every youth cry “Well-a-day”.
Her name was Barbara Allen.

‘Twas in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swelling,
Young Jimmy Grove on his death bed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen.

He sent one of his servant men
To the place where she was dwelling,
Saying “My master’s ill and sends for you
If your name is Barbara Allen.”


(recorded at Sheffield, Yorkshire by Mike Yates, 1976) It seems quite remarkable that this ballad, with its rather weak story line, should have become the most popular and widely spread ballad that Professor Child included in his collection. One American traditional singer, Lena Bourne Fish from New Hampshire, said that, 'I am not in accord with the sentiments of this song, as I do not believe that a false and fickle love is worth dying for.' And yet others, including a singer from Virginia called Dan Tate, have told me that the ballad, 'Just can't be beat'. The earliest known reference comes from an entry in Samuel Pepys' diary, dated January 2, 1666, when Pepys said that he was pleased to hear Mrs Knipp (an actress) singing her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen. Perhaps it did start life as a stage song, but it soon entered the tradition and the song became somewhat standardised, due to its frequent reprinting on broadsides up to the late 1800s.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates











































I feel like a fighting man not fat but fit and fine,
Since I’ve lived in a little garden subbub up the line.
To call it a suburb is the fashionable way,
But I call it “subbub” ‘cause it’s easier to say.
If town life is too fast for you and country life’s too slow,
Just make a bungle of your life and buy a bungalow.

Ch: In our little garden subbub,
Far away from the noise and hubbub.
If you’re tired of the pubbub, tired of the clubbub,
Take a little house in the garden subbub.
There you can grow stewed rubbub,
You can bath in an old rain tubbub.
So leave all the hubbub and the pubbub and the clubbub
And grow your own grubbub in the subbub.

We draw all our water from a well, well I say well,
Well, we call it a well although it doesn’t work so well.
And to judge by the smell, our tabby cat that wasn’t well
Said “All’s well that ends well” then got drowned down in the well.
Well, who wants a well, who the dickens wants a well.
As long as I’ve a barrel of Bass, the well can go to…

Our hens they lay eggs and they’re extraordinary eggs.
Oh, they’re exquisite eggs, oh they’re exceptional our eggs.
For example of eggs that are eggs, our eggs will excel
The excellent eggs that all the best egg sellers sell.
Now I’ll lay a bob that Mrs Thatcher couldn’t lay
The kind of eggs our cocks and hens are laying every day.


(recorded at Sudbury, Derbyshire by Mike Yates, 1984) George picked this one up from an old 78rpm recording, probably the version recorded in 1922 by the Music Hall singer Ernie Mayne, as In Our Little Garden Sub-bub, (Edison Bell Winner 3764). The song was written by Bob Weston and Bert Lee, and, I suspect, George himself in the final stanza.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates






































Rosemary Lane


I once was in service down Rosemary Lane.
I had a kind mistress and master the same.
One day, a young sailor came to our house to tea
And this was the commencement of my misery.

When supper was over he hung down his head
Then he asked for a candle to light him to bed.
I gave him a candle as a maiden should do
But he vowed and declared that I should go too.

Early next morning when the young sailor rose,
He threw in my apron two handful of gold.
“Oh take it, oh take it, for the wrong I have done,
I have left you a daughter or else a fine son.

If it be a daughter, she shall wait upon me,
But if it’s a sonny, he shall cross the deep sea.
He shall wear a blue jacket and his cap lined with gold,
He shall cross the blue ocean like his young father bold.”

Now all you young lasses take a warning from me.
Never trust a young sailor whoe’er he may be.
They kiss you, they court you, they swear they’ll be true,
But the very next moment, they’ll bid you adieu.

Like the flower in the garden when its beauty’s all gone,
So you see what I’ve come to through loving that one.
No father, no mother, no friend in the world.
So me and my baby to the workhouse must go.

(recorded at Warley, Worcestershire by Mike Yates, c.1976) This well-known song goes under a number of titles, such as Once I was a Servant, Bell-Bottom Trousers and The Oak and the Ash, although it only seems to have been printed by a handful of broadside printers. These include Pitts and Jennings (both of London), Baird (of Cork) and Jackson (of Birmingham). According to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, the 'Oak and the Ash' verses come from a 17th century broadside, The Northern Lasse's Lamentation, that can be dated to sometime between 1672 and 1695. MacColl & Seeger add that 'In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the London thoroughfare known as Rosemany Lane (now called Royal Mint Street) consisted mostly of cheap lodging-houses and shady second-hand shops.' (Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland. London, 1977. p.166). Mrs Woodall (1894 -1979) heard the song being sung in Staffordshire chainmaking ‘shops' when she was a young girl.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates






































Horn Fair


As I was a-walking one fine summer’s morn,
So soft was the wind and the waves on the corn.
I met a pretty damsel upon a grey mare,
And she was a-riding unto Horn Fair.

“Now take me up behind you, fair maid, for to ride.”
“Oh no and then oh no, for my mummy she would chide.
Besides my dear old daddy would beat me full sore
And never let me ride on his grey mare no more.

If you would see Horn Fair, you must walk on your way.
I’ll not let you ride on my grey mare today.
You’d rumple all my muslin and uncurl my hair
And leave me all distressed to be seen at Horn Fair.”

“Oh, fairest of damsels, how can you say so?
For to Horn Fair I mean with you for to go.
We’ll join the best of company when we do get there,
With horns on their heads, boys, the finest at the fair.

They are the finest horns that ever you did behold.
They are the finest horns and are gilded all with gold.”
So merrily, right merrily, to Horn Fair we did go.
A jolly brisk couple and all in a row.

(recorded at Patcham, Sussex by Mike Yates, 1989) Horn Fair is a song that used to be sung annually at Ebernoe Fair in Sussex, and Bob learnt his versions from a Mrs Morrish, a friend of Bob's mother, who came from Ebernoe. As versions of the song have surfaced elsewhere it seems unlikely that the song actually originated at Ebernoe. Ralph Vaughan Williams noted a set in 1904 from a singer at Kingsfold, Surrey, Janet Blunt found it being sung in Adderbury, Oxon. around the same time, and Mervyn Plunkett noted another Sussex version, from a singer in Cuckfield, sometime in the late 1950s.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates





















































I’m a poor wandering fellow, my name it is Jack,
No shoes to my feet, scarcely a rag to my back.
My belly’s nearly empty, my feet they are sore,
Won’t you buy a case of needles from Jack that’s so poor?

Ch: Needlecases, will you buy one, you will buy one I’m sure.
Won’t you buy a case of needles from Jack that’s so poor?

I once had a table all lined with good food
Both for eating and drinking and everything that’s good.
But now I’ve no table, no friend nor not that.
I’m forced to get a crust from the crown on my hat.

I once was a farmer and followed my plough.
Don’t you think I’m a charmer, just look at me now,
All tattered in rags from the bottom to top.
Don’t you think that I’ve become a poor wandering rag shop?

Now since you won’t buy one I think I must leave,
But to leave such good company it does my heart grieve.
To leave you, to leave you, if I should come back,
Won’t you buy a case of needles from poor wandering Jack?

(recorded at Bampton, Oxfordshire by John Howson, 1987) Although there is a version of Needlecases, or Case of Needles to use its other title, in Kidson & Moffat's English Peasant Songs (1929. pp. 112-13) the song is usually associated with singers from the Cotswolds. According to Alfred Williams, 'Needle-cases was popular as well by reason of its pleasant air as by the words of the song. I have heard it in many villages around Lechlade.' In 1946 Francis Collinson collected a set from Bob Arnold of Burford (the actor who used to play the gamekeeper, Tom Forest, in the radio series The Archers). Arnold had probably learnt the song from Arthur Smith of Swinbrook in Oxfordshire, because, in 1952, he led the BBC to Swinbrook, where they recorded the song from Mr Smith. In the 1970s a version was also noted from the singer Freda Palmer, then living in Witney, but originally from the village of Leafield.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates










































Black-eyed Susan


All in the Downs the fleet lay moored,
The streamers waving in the wind,
When black-eyed Susan came on board;
"Oh, where shall I my true love find?
Tell me you jovial sailors, tell me true
If my sweet William,
If my sweet William sails among your crew."

William, who high upon the yard,
Rocked with the billows to and fro,
'Twas then her well-known voice he heard,
Then he sighed and cast his eyes below.
The cord slides swiftly through his glowing hands,
And swift as lightning,
And swift as lightning on the deck he stands.

How swift the lark, high poised in air,
Shuts close his pinions to his breast.
By chance his mate's shrill call he hear,
Then he drops at once into her nest.
The noblest captain in the British fleet
Might envy William's,
Might envy William’s lips those kisses sweet.

"Oh Susan, Susan, lovely dear,
My vows forever true remain.
Let me kiss off this falling tear,
We only part to meet again.
Love turns aside the cannon balls that fly,
Lest precious tears,
Lest precious tears should fall from Susan's eye."

"Heed not the landsmen when they try
To tempt away thy constant mind.
They tell thee, sailors, when away,
In every port a mistress find.
Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present
For thou art present whereso'er I go."

"If to fair India's coast we sail,
Thy eyes are like the diamonds bright.
Thy breath is Afric's spicy gale,
Thy skin is ivory so white.
Thus every beauteous objects that I view,
Wakes in my soul
Wakes in my soul some charm of lovely Sue."

"Though battle calls me from thy arms,
Let not my pretty Susan mourn.
Though cannons roar, yet safe from harm,
I to my love will safe return.
Love turns aside the cannon balls that fly,
Lest precious tears
Lest precious tears should fall from Susan's eye."

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,
The sails their swelling bosom spread.
No longer must she stay on board,
They kissed, she sighed, he hung his head.
Her less'ning boat unwilling rows to land:
"Adieu", she cries
“Adieu” she cries and waves her lily hand.

(recorded at Knapton, Norfolk by Mike Yates, 1980) The words to Black-Eyed Susan, or All in the Downs to use another title, were composed by the poet John Gay (1685-1732), who is perhaps best known for The Beggar's Opera (1728), the social satire that later inspired Brecht & Weill to write The Threepenny Opera (1928). The words to the song were printed on numerous 18th and 19th century English broadsides and also in several early 20th century Canadian newspapers, which may explain why a few versions of the song have been collected along Canada's eastern seaboard.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates







































The May Song


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, good morning I do say,
For I have come to let you know that it is the month of May

A branch of May I have brought you and at your door it stands
It is a strong sprout and its well spread about like the work of our Lord’s hand.

Bring me a jug of your cool cream, a glass of your strong beer,
And if I live to tarry in the town I’ll return again next year.

My purse is made of velvet soft, it’s tied with a silken string.
And all it needs is a little bit of gold to line it well within.

So take the Bible in your hand and read a chapter through
And when the day of judgement comes, God will remember you.

So now I’ve sung my little short song, I can no longer stay.
God bless you all both great and small, for it is the month of May.


(recorded at Whittlebury, Northamptonshire by John Howson, 1988) It is hard to see Jeff's May Song as little more than a gentle begging song, albeit one with some slight Christian
undertones. But there is, of course, more to it than that. The English May Day festival actually stems from the Roman Floralia, the ancient Roman festival of Ludi Florae, held annually on 27th April. It was a celebration of the goddess Flora, goddess of flowers and vegetation, and can be dated back to the third century BCE. The Christian Church later adopted the festival, although the Puritans were horrified by what they saw: All the young men and maides, older men and wives, run gadding overnight to the woods, groves, hills & mountains, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withal…I have heard it creditably reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravite and reputation, that of fortie, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over night, there have scarcely the third part of them returned again undefiled. (F.J.Furnivall, ed., Phillip Stubbes' Anatomy of Abuses in England in Shakespere's Youth (New Shakespeare Society, 1877-79), p. 147.) Just occasionally we find echoes of this revelry in lines such as 'The heavenly gates are open wide', although it has to be said that most 20th century May Songs have lost this element. Jeff learnt the song from the mother of another singer, Perce Foster of Pury End. Mrs Foster's tune, by the way, is related to that usually reserved for the ballad The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington. Fred Hamer's article May Songs of Bedfordshire, published in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (vol. ix no. 2. 1961), gives further examples.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates





































Poor Weaver's Daughter


As I walked out one May morning across yon fields so early,
I espied a maid, a most beautiful maid, as sweet as any fairy.
I said “My pretty maid, where art thou going?” and by the hand I took her.
She blushed and said “I’m a-going home. I’m a poor old weaver’s daughter.”

“Oh, may I come with you, my pretty maid, for I’ve gold and silver in plenty.”
She turned her head and blushed and said “Oh, no, kind sir, I thank thee.
My mother she is dead and lay in her grave and the early lesson she taught me
Was to marry for love and not for gold” cried the poor old weaver’s daughter.

“My father he is old and nearly blind and he’s almost passed his labour.
It would break his heart for me to part, for he’s been such a good kind fellow.
Oh, parted from him I ne’er shall be for he’s been such a good kind father,
And until he is laid in his peaceful grave, I’m a poor old weaver’s daughter.”

“Fare thee well, fare thee well, sweet maid” I cried, “May prospects ever be brighter.
And the lad that thou loves be constant and true and happily be united.
For friendship’s sake, this gold ring take.” Such a lovely maid I thought her.
And as long as I live, I never shall forget that poor old weaver’s daughter.


(recorded at Oxspring, Yorkshire by John Howson, 1992) There can be few English folksongs where a young girl refuses to marry a suitor for the sake of her old father. Alfred Williams, who heard it being sung in the Thames Valley in the early 1900s, called it a 'pleasant old song'. The song predates 1832 (when it was listed in James Catnach's catalogue of song sheets) and was also printed on sheets by Pitts of London, Williams of Portsea, Harkness of Preston, Wigens of Bath and Taylor of Bristol. The song has been collected only occasionally in England and, to my knowledge, has never turned up elsewhere. Will learnt it from Frank Hinchliffe of Lodgemoor, near Sheffield.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates






































The Rose of No Man's Land


I’ve seen some beautiful flowers
Grown in life’s garden rare.
I’ve spent some wonderful hours,
Wondrous beyond compare.

Ch: For it’s the rose that grows in no-man’s-land
And it’s beautiful to see.
Though it’s pale with tears, it will live for years
In my garden of memory.
It’s the one red rose the soldier knows,
It’s the work of his master’s hand.
In the war’s great curse stood a Red Cross nurse,
She’s the rose of no-man’s-land.

Out in that heavenly splendour,
After the trial of war,
God in his mercy had sent her
Sharing the world below.
They call her the rose of heaven,
They’ve learnt to love her too.


(recorded at Haughley, Suffolk by John Howson, 1985) Written at the end of the Great War, and first published in 1918, this song was written by J.Caddigan with music by James A.Brennan. It was sung in the Music Halls by a duet known as 'Dolly and Billy'.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates





































The Derby Ram


This ram he had a horn
Which reached up to the moon.
A man went up in January
And didn’t come back till June

Ch: Sing ay-rinkle derby, ay rinkle day
Ay rinkle derby with a rinkle-tinkle-tay.

This ram he had a tooth
As hollow as a churn
And in it you could almost get
Fourteen bags of corn.

(recorded at Sudbury, Derbyshire by Mike Yates, 1984) Folklorists, such as the late A.L.Lloyd, have seen The Derby Ram as something quite ancient:. 'Survivals of agricultural magic-making abound in our folk song even today though - and perhaps this is the fate of the sacred - as the old meaning becomes unclear what was once ritualistic is likely to change into broad comedy, as with the randy animal guiser song of the ‘Derby Ram’, concerning a beast of gigantic, not to say cosmic, attributes, a song that is the lyrical equivalent of those phallophoric dances that survive in farming ceremonies in Europe, intended to celebrate and stimulate the powers of reproduction in plants, animals and men.' (Folk Song in England. London, 1967) The song is certainly well-known and versions have been collected from all over the English-speaking world. Surprisingly, only three 19th century broadsides are known (by Such and Disley in London, and Angus in Newcastle) and it seems that many versions have spread purely by oral tradition. According to Iona and Peter Opie, the first known mention of the song was in a letter that can be dated to the year 1739.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates





































List Our Merry Carol


List our merry carol on this blessed morn.
For our loving saviour on Christmas Day was born.
There so peaceful sleeping, like a flower he lay.
Christ our loving saviour born on Christmas Day. (Repeat).

Ch: Carol carol gaily, carol on our way.
Christ our loving saviour born on Christmas Day. (Repeat)

See the star is beaming in the radiant east
And our song of glory never more shall cease.
Banish all unkindness, be of gentle will.
Angels ever near us, carol to us still. (Repeat)

Joyful joyful tidings break upon the earth
And our song of glory never more shall cease.
Every hill and valley clad in pure white snow
Breathes a merry carol echoes sweet and low.


(recorded at Bromsberrow Heath, Gloucestershire by Mike Yates, 1979) West-country folklorists Bob and Jacqueline Patten have found that List Our Merry Carol was once sung in at least
three Somerset villages, Exford, Porlock and Babcary. The carol was printed in London, c.1904-05 by F. Pitman Hart & Co. and, as it is unattributed, we might suggest that it was composed by an anonymous Pitman Hart staff writer sometime during the period 1880-1900.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates







































Vessel in Distress /Yes I am contented


Now if you see a vessel in distress,
Stand by, stand by.
Give him all the aid you can,
If he’s a merchant or a fisherman.
Stand by him, throw him out a line
Take him in tow.
‘Cause you might want somebody to stand by you
Someday, you never know.

Spoken: My father said to me once: “Always be satisfied with what you’ve got. Don’t be greedy. Don’t have what other people have got”. He said “Always remember this song”. And this is what it was.

Yes I am contented with my lowly lot.
Not for wealth and station will I change my lot,
But in earthly beauties shall my life be spent,
Kindly deeds for others mingling with content.

Spoken: And if you always remember that, you’ll never be unhappy.


(recorded at Brighton, Sussex by Mike Yates, 1977) We don't know where Johnny learnt these two short pieces. If You See a Vessel in Distress sounds a little like some of the pieces that Sam Larner and other fishermen learnt as part of their seafaring-education (there are some examples of these rhymes on the CD Now is the Time for Fishing - Topic TSCD511) although, like Yes, I am Contented, it may have a more literate origin.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates














































Last Valentine’s Day


Last Valentine’s Day, bright Phoebe shone clear )
We had not been a-hunting for the space of one year. ) Repeat
I mounted Black Clover that horse of great fame,
For to hear the horns blow and the cry “Tally-ho-ho-ho. Ho-ho-ho-ho.”
Hark forward is our tally-ho.

“Hark, hark, into cover, Colonel Wyndham he cried.)
He had no sooner spoken a fox he espied. ) Repeat
There’s a cry of the hounds and a crack of the whip
And that being the signal, our hounds they let slip.
Tally ho-ho-ho-ho
Hark forward is out tally-ho.

Then up stepped Jim Norris who cared not a pin, )
He pushed at the stream and his horse tumbled in.) Repeat
And, as he crossed over, he spied that bold Ren
With his tongue hanging out turning back to his den.
Tally ho-ho-ho
Hark forward is our tally-ho.

Our horses and hounds they all were so good )
As ever broke cover or dashed through a wood,) Repeat
So raise up your glasses and round let us drink,
For while we are hunters we never shall shrink.
Tally ho-ho-ho
Hark forward is our tally-ho.

(recorded at Patcham, Sussex by Mike Yates, 1989) This local Sussex song, concerning one Colonel Wyndham and the Petworth Hunt, has only been noted in Sussex. Lucy Broadwood was the sole collector to find a version, which has been printed in at least two books, H.F.Birch Reynardson's Sussex Songs (1898. pp. 36-37) and Lewis Jones' Sweet Sussex (1995. p. 32). Bob had the song from his mother, though we cannot now say whether or not she might have learned it, directly or indirectly, from the Reynardson book.


Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates













































The Ploughboy's Joy


Spoken: This is a spring song.

When the Spring comes in the birds do sing, the lambs do play and the bells do ring,(Repeat)
The primrose blooms and the cowslip too,
The violets in their sweet attire, the bluebells shining through the briar,
The daffy-dilly we all admire, while daisies fades away.

From mountains high and meadows green, young men and maidens will be seen.(Repeat)
Through woods and groves, they will wend their way,
They talks of tales and courts and sales, all little lambs around them play,
And at night they onward bend their way when th' evening stars appears.

The dairymaid to milking goes, her blooming cheeks as red as a rose.(Repeat)
She milks, she sings, makes the valleys ring,
The small birds on the branches there are listening to this lovely fair.
For she is her master's trust and care, she is the ploughboy's joy.


(recorded at Lewes, Sussex by Mike Yates, c.1975)
Also known as The Spring Glee or When Spring Comes On, this song has been especially popular in the southern
counties of England, although, surprisingly, there are no known broadside texts. The Copper Family from Sussex
have a fine set (available on Topic TSCD534) and versions have also been noted from singers in Somerset, Dorset,
Wiltshire and Hampshire. Sam Bennett, an old Morris dancer from Warwickshire, also knew the song.








































Life of a Man


As I was a-walking one morning at ease,
Viewing the leaves as they grew on the trees,
All in full motion appearing to be,
And those that had withered they fell from the tree.

Ch: What’s the life of a man any more than a leaf?
A man has his seasons so why should he grieve?
Although in this world we appear fine and gay,
Like a leaf we must wither and soon fade away.

When I saw the trees just a few days ago,
How beautiful and green they did all seem to grow.
A frost came upon them and withered them all.
A wind came upon them and down they did fall.

If you walk in the churchyard, there you will see
Those that have fallen like leaves from a tree.
When age and affliction upon them did call,
Like a leaf they did wither and down they did fall.

(recorded at Whittlebury, Northamptonshire by John Howson, 1988) Although the song The Life of a Man can only be dated to the early part of the 19th century (the broadside printers titled the song The Fall of the Leaf) the idea behind the song, that life on this earth is short and transitory, has been around for a considerable time. Both Homer and the Buddha compared our lives to that of the falling leaf, as did Christ:

        'Learn a lesson from the fig-tree. When its tender shoots appear and are breaking into leaf, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you may know that the end is near, at the very door.' (Matthew 24, 32).


In the 16th century there were quite a number of blackletter ballads composed around the same idea.
        Young Men, remember! Delights are but vain,
        And after sweet pleasure comes sorrow and pain.

According to Tessa Watts (Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640. Cambridge, 1991. p. 138) 'The memento mori ballads were based on the assumption… that ordinary people could turn the objects of daily life into visual allegories for death and the world beyond. 'Plants, especially flowers, were extremely popular in this respect. Take, for example, this verse from the carol The Moon Shines Bright that Cecil Sharp collected from a Mrs Phillips of Birmingham in 1910:

        The life of a man it is but a span
        It's like a morning flower
        We're here today, tomorrow we're gone
        We're dead all in one hour.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates







































Villikins & Dinah


There was a rich merchant in London did dwell,
He had but one daughter a very fine girl.
Her name it was Dinah, just sixteen years old
She’d a very large fortune of silver and gold.

As Dinah was walking in the garden one day,
Her papa stepped up to her and quickly did say
“Go dress yourself, Dinah, in costly array
And you shall have a husband both gallant and gay”.

“Oh papa, oh papa, I have made up my mind,
To marry just now I don’t feel inclined.
To you my large fortune I’ll freely give o’er
If you’ll let me live single a year or two more.”

“Go, go, boldest daughter,” her parent replied,
“If you don’t give consent to be this young man’s bride,
We’ll give all your fortune to the nearest of kin,
And you shan’t reap the benefit of one single pin.”

As Villikins was walking in the garden one day,
He found his dear Dinah lying dead by the way,
With a cup of cold poison that stood by her side.
‘Twas the benedict that stated by poison she died..

He kissed the cold corpse as she lay on the ground,
He called her his lover although she’s no more.
Then he drank up the poison like a true lover brave.
Now Villikins and Dinah lie both in one grave.

Twelve o’clock the next night in a tall poplar tree,
The ghost of young Dinah her parents did see,
Arm in arm with young Villikins and both looking blue,
Saying “We shouldn’t have been poisoned if it hadn’t been for you”.

(recorded at Leafield, Oxfordshire by Mike Yates, 1975) In 1832 the broadside printer James Catnach issued a trade list of the songs that he printed. One song was titled William and Dinah, versions of which still occasionally turn up in Britain and America. However, in 1853-54, an actor named Robson produced a parody on the song, which he called Villikins and Dinah. According to the antiquarian writer John Ashton: 'This ballad (i.e. Villikins and Dinah) was, during its run, as popular as any street song I remember. It had been forgotten, when Robson, that prince of genuine comic actors, introduced it into the farce "The Wandering Minstrel", and it fairly took the town by storm.' (John Ashton Modern Street Ballads. 1888. p. 98). Several broadside printers issued Villikins and Dinah on their sheets and a facsimile can be seen in Leslie Shepard's The History of Street Literature (Newton Abbot. 1973. p. 172).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates







































Zulu Wars


How I loved to tell the story, which I’ve often told before,
How we fought for death or glory at the blessed Zulu war.
Side by side we fought like demons to keep the enemy at bay.
Until Jack received a bullet wound, which made the fellow say

Ch: “Give my love to Nancy, the girl that I adore.
Tell her that she’ll never see her sailor any more.
Say I fell in battle while fighting with those blacks,
Every inch a sailor beneath the Union Jack”.

At first I thought that he was jesting, knowing he liked a bit of fun,
Until I saw that he was resting on the barrel of his gun.
Then I knew that he was badly wounded or he never would give way,
When, shaking hands, he said “Old comrade, the best of friends must part some day.

“Take this ring from off my finger and this locket from my neck,
For I have but little time to linger so I hope you’ll not forget.
And should you ever reach old England, which you may perhaps some day,
Give these relics to my mother and my orders please obey.

I said “I’ll not forget to tell her. Of these words you may be sure.”
For it did grieve me much severely to see the fellow rothering in his gore.
The look he gave me when we parted, I’ll remember to this day,
And when for camp that day we started, I fancied I could hear him say:

(recorded at Stoney-in-Oxney, Kent by Mike Yates, 1984)  Although the Zulu Wars lasted for the period 1838-1888, this song is actually only concerned with the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. In 1879 the wife of Sihayo, a Zulu chief, fled with her lover into British territory. Sihayo's sons crossed the frontier into Natal and killed her. The British, perceiving the growth of Zulu power as a threat to their imperial ambitions, used this as an excuse to invade Zululand on 11th January, 1879. The British force, under Lieutenant-General Frederic Thesiger, Lord Chelmsford, set out to defeat the Zulu chief Cetshwayo and his 29,000 strong army, but things didn't exactly go according to plan when, on 22nd January, the main Zulu army led by Ntshingwayo kaMahole and Mavumengwana kaNdlela finished off the British central column at Isandhlwana, killing some 1,500 British soldiers. It was, almost certainly, the greatest victory ever won by Africans against Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa. An attempt that night to capture the central column's depot at Rork's Drift was beaten off by a handful of British soldiers and, after the right column fought through an elaborate ambush as Nyezane, Chelmsford wisely decided to retire to Natal. There was some fighting in March, 1879, but it was not until May that Chelmsford launched his second invasion. On 4th July the Zulu army was routed at Ulundi and resistance ended when Cetshwayo was captured on 1 September. The song The Zulu Wars was issued shortly after these events by the Edinburgh broadside printer Sanderson. (Though precisely why a sailor should have been involved in the campaign
remains unclear.) Mary & Nigel Huddleston collected a similar set from a singer in West Witton, Yorkshire. (see Songs of the Ridings. Scarborough, 2001. pp. 216-17).


Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates



















































Nellie O' Bobs


Who is it that lives in that cot by the lea,
Joy of my heart and light in me?
And who is the lass that’s so dear unto me?
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it goes tripping through dew spangled grass,
Singing so sweetly, she smiles as I pass.
My bonniest, rosy cheeked, gay hearted lass,
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it I see in my dreams every night,
Whispering love words both tender and sweet?
And yet when I waken, she’s nowhere in sight
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it that every lad’s hankering to get
Yet tosses her head and flies off in a pet,
As much as to say “Tha’s not getting me yet”?
Why, Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it what makes life a long summer’s day,
Whose smile would drive trouble and sorrows away?
And makes hardest work if for her seem like play
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it I’d have if I’d ever a wife,
To love, honour only till t’end of my life,
To keep her in sickness and guard her from strife
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

And who is it that’s promised tonight if it’s fine
To meet me at corner of the mistle at nine?
Why, it’s her that I’ve longed for so long to make mine
Nellie O’Bobs at Crow Trees.

(recorded at Oxspring, Yorkshire by John Howson, 1992) Written as a poem by John Hartley, Nellie O'Bobs first appeared in The Original Clock Almanac of 1896 and was subsequently reprinted in a number of Yorkshire anthologies. Dave Hillery later gave the poem a tune and recorded the song on a long out-of-print Topic LP Trans-Pennine (12TS215).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates















































The Volunteer Organist


Now the preacher in the village church one Sunday morning said
“Our organist is ill today. Will someone play instead?”
An anxious look crept o’er the face of every person there,
As eagerly they watched to see who’d fill the vacant chair.
Then an old man staggered down the aisle, his clothes worn out and torn.
Oh how strange the drunkard seemed to be in church on Sunday morn.
But when he touched the organ keys without a single word,
The melody that followed was the sweetest ever heard.

Ch: For the scene was one I’ll ne’er forget as long as I may live,
And just to see it all again, all my earthly wealth I’d give.
For the congregation they stood amazed and the preacher old and grey,
The organ and the organist they both volunteered to play.

Now each eye shed a tear within that church and the strongest man grew pale,
The organist in melody, he told his whole life’s tale.
The sermon of the preacher was no lesson to compare
With that of life’s example who sat in the organ chair.
And when the sermon ended not a soul had left the seat,
Except the poor old organist as he started toward the street.
Along the aisle and through the door he slowly walked away,
Then the preacher rose and softly said “Now, brethren, let us pray”.

(recorded at Bungay, Suffolk by John Howson, 1986) The words to The Volunteer Organist were written in 1863 by W.B.Gray and set to music by Henry Lamb. Gray, a Music Hall entertainer who used the stage name William Glenroy, popularised the song which became known to many country singers. The Victorians loved such moralising pieces and at least one firm of Edwardian postcard makers issued the words of the song on a set of cards, each card including an illustration from part of the song.


Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates













































Old John Bradlum


Number one, Number one,
Now my story’s just begun,

Ch: With a rum tum taddle um, old John Braddleum
Jolly country folks we be.

Number two, number two
Do you want a kick with my hob nailed shoe?

Number three, number three,
Some likes coffee, but give I tea

Number four, number four
Wipe your feet when you come through the door

Number five, number five,
Some are dead, but I’m alive.

Number six, number six,
Chopped my finger chopping sticks

Number seven, number seven,
Some likes one place, but give I heaven.

Number eight, number eight,
When you be drunk you can’t walk straight.

Number nine, number nine
How are you? I’m doing fine.

Number ten, number ten,
There we are all at it again

Number eleven, number eleven,
Much about the same as number seven.

Number twelve, number twelve,
If you wants any more you can sing it yourselves.

(recorded at Bampton, Oxfordshire by John Howson, 1987) Francis learnt Old John Bradlum from his mother. Less well-known than other enumerative songs, such as This Old Man (Nick Nack Paddy Wack) or Ten Green Bottles, versions have only occasionally been collected . There are single sets from Essex (as Old Jack Saddler) and Sussex, as well as a report that a team of Yorkshire Mummers, from Nether Poppleton near York, once incorporated the song into their play.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates









































Good Morrow Mistress Bright


“Good Morrow Mistress Bright through lone woods fleeting.
What lucky lucky white may call you sweeting.
Would he not fondly fear to leave you lonely here
Lest dangerous men and deer you might be meeting.”

“My lonely woodland way, oh gallant stranger,
I traverse night and day and fear no danger.
I have no jealous spouse; I’ve changed no lovers’ vows
I'll toll among the boughs I’m still a ranger”.

“Those eyes of haunting blue, that voice’s cadence,
The long ago we knew my memory aidence
Before I sailed the sea, where none so dear to me
In childhood’s joyous glee, oh flower of maidens.”

“Your words are waking now fond recollections
Of many a childish vow of frank affection.
And since you fondly fear to leave me lonely here,
From dangerous men and deer, be my protection.”


(recorded at Patcham, Sussex by Mike Yates, 1989) The words to this song were written, in a mock-medieval style, by the Irish poet Alfred Percival Graves (1846-1931) and published as a song in Charles Villiers Stanford's National Song Book (1905). Bob's tune, which is different from that found in the National Song Book, will be recognised as that used for the hymn To Be a Pilgrim but which, in fact, comes from a version of the folksong A Blacksmith Courted Me that Ralph Vaughan Williams collected in Sussex. Bob had the words from his mother, who had them written on a scrap of paper.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates









































Wonderful Musician


A wonderful musician once in Germany did dwell,
His name quite unpronounceable, impossible to spell.
He had no chairs, no tables, no carpet or no bed.
He said he didn’t need them for, of course, he had instead

Ch: Oh a big drum, the kettle drum, the fiddle, flute, the piccolo,
Piano, half harmonium and many more besides.
French horn, saxhorn trombone, double bass,
Banjo and tambourine, bassoon and ophicleide.

One day the neighbours in the street they heard an awful riot,
A terrific explosion when everything was quiet.
They found this great musician had blown himself away
In trying all at once these instruments to play.

(recorded at Bisley, Gloucestershire by Mike Yates, c.1975) During the 19th century, there was a fashion for German musicians. The Norfolk singer Harry Cox had a song about an amorous German Musicianer (Roud 241), which is related to another well-known song called The German Clockmaker. The Wonderful Musician is a separate piece. It was also known to the Irish singer Thomas Moran, who, in the 1950s, recorded a version for Seamus Ennis, then working as a field-collector for the BBC.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates









































Ninety-nine and Ninety


You must answer me questions nine
Ch: Sing ninety nine and ninety
Are you God’s own or one of mine?
Are you the weaver’s bonny?

What is whiter than the milk?
And what is softer than the silk?
Are you the weaver’s bonny?

Snow is whiter than the milk
And skin is softer than the silk
And I am the weaver’s bonny.

What is higher than a tree?
And what is deeper than the sea?
Are you the weaver’s bonny?

Heaven is higher than a tree
And hell is deeper than the sea.
And I am the weaver’s bonny.

What is louder than a horn?
And what is sharper than a thorn?
Are you the weaver’s bonny?

Thunder is louder than a horn
And death is sharper than a thorn.
And I am the weaver’s bonny.

What is more innocent than a lamb?
And what is meaner than womankind?
Are you the weaver’s bonny?

A babe’s more innocent than a lamb
And she-devil is meaner than womankind.
And I am the weaver’s bonny.

You’ve answered my questions nine.
You are God’s own not one of mine.
And you are the weaver’s bonny.

(recorded at Whittlebury, Northamptonshire by John Howson, 1988) Professor Child called this Riddles Wisely Expounded and it is one of a number of ballads that involve riddling (or wit-combat to use the modern folklorist's term). The earliest known version comes from a mid 15th century manuscript, and tells of the Devil trying to outsmart a woman into becoming his lover, or leman. The woman answers the Devil's riddles and so avoids his power. By the 17th and 18th centuries the ballad had appeared on several blackletter broadsides printed in London. In these versions the Devil is absent and the woman faces a more secular suitor (although the ballad's refrain, Lay the bent to the bonny broom, does suggest that herbs are being mentioned as a protection against evil). Jeff's version of the ballad was picked up from an American singer, probably Burl Ives, who may have sung a version collected from a Mrs Pill Martin of Virginia in 1922, although the version is also very similar to that collected from another Virginian singer Texas Gladden (see her CD Texas Gladden Ballad Legacy on Rounder 1800).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates












































The Yorkshire Blinder


In yonder town, where I was born, they called I an artful dodger.
They axed I o’er and o’er again would I be a soldier.
They axed I o’er and o’er again would I take the shiner
And they told I that the name of the corps would be the Yorkshire Blinder.

Ch: With a fol-the-rol-the-day
Fol-the-rol-the-day when I get home.

They marched I on the square next day doing my duty manual.
They buggered I here and they buggered I there doing my duty manual.
Eyes right, eyes front God bugger the old piano
And I wasn't to answer a goddam word, they buggered me off to the lockup.

They marched I into dinner next day, hungry as a hunter.
But I daresn’t touch a goddam bit till the officer had been round, sir.
They dished it up then splashed it up upon a bloody great platter,
And all I got when it comes to my turn was a bone and a bloody great tater.

Don’t I wish I were home again, following our old plough, sir?
Don’t I wish I were home again, milking our old cow, sir?
Don’t I wish I were home again, long side of a leg of mutton,
With a bloody great knife and rusty old fork. God, bugger I, wouldn’t I cut ‘em


(recorded at Standlake, Oxfordshire by Mike Yates, c.1975) Roy Palmer has suggested that this song originated at the time of the Napoleonic Wars as a street ballad entitled The Awkward Recruit, in which 'the eponymous soldier complains of the difficulty of the drill, the itchiness of his flour-anointed queue (pigtail), and the tightness of his stock' (What a Lovely War London. 1990. p. 29). The song seems to have survived best in Suffolk, where a number of collectors have found it hiding under such titles as Muddley Barracks (sung by Jumbo Brightwell on Topic TSCD670) or else Bungay Roger, (sung by Charlie Hancy on VTC2CD) and there are also unpublished sets in the collections of Gwilym Davies (The Gloucester Blinder) and Steve Roud (To Portsmouth Town).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates








































The Squire of Tamworth


A wealthy young squire in Tamworth did dwell,
He courted a lady and loved her right well.
The day was appointed for their wedding day
And the farmer was appointed to give the bride away.

When the lady saw the farmer she thought him she’d like to wed,
So instead of getting married she took to her bed.
Instead of getting married she took to her bed
And thoughts of the farmer came into her head.

Coat, waistcoat and breeches the lady put on
And then she went a-hunting with her dog and her gun
To see this young farmer it was her intent,
So straight to his field she so longingly went.

Oft times she fired, but nothing did she kill
Till at last the young farmer came into the field.
To see this young farmer it was her intent
So straight up to him she so longingly went.

“I thought you’d have been at the wedding” she cried,
“To wait upon the squire and to give him his bride.”
“Oh, no,” said the farmer “if the truth I must tell,
I’ll not give her away ‘cause I want her myself.”

The lady was pleased when she heard him so bold,
So she gave him her glove all embroidered with gold.
She said that she had picked it up as she came along,
As she came a-hunting with her dog and her gun.

The lady went home with her heart full of love,
And she gave it out that she had lost her glove,
“And whosoe’er shall find it and shall bring it back to me,
I’ll vow and declare that his bride I will be.”


The farmer was pleased when he heard of the news,
So straightway to the lady with the glove he goes.
“Oh, lady, dear lady, now that I’ve brought your glove,
Oh would you be so kind as to grant me your love?”

“My love’s already granted” the lady replied,
“I love the sweet breath of the farmer” she cried.
“The tending of my poultry and the milking of my cow,
While the jolly young farmer goes whistling to plough.”

And when they were married, they told of the fun,
How she hunted the farmer with her dog and her gun.
“And now that I hold him so fast in my snare,
I’ll love him forever, I’ll vow and declare.”

(recorded at Sudbury, Derbyshire by Mike Yates, 1984) Also known as The Golden Glover or Dog and Gun. It's a song that's been on the go for over two hundred years. Timothy Connor, a prisoner of war in England during the American Revolutionary War, included it in a song book that he compiled during his imprisonment from 1777 until 1779; and numerous broadside printers kept it alive throughout the 19th century. Not surprisingly, there are over 200 entries for this much-loved song in the Roud Index.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates








































Ball of Yarn


Now it was on a summer’s day in the merry month of May
I was strolling round my grandfather’s farm.
When a country maid I spied and unto her I cried
“May I wind up your little ball of yarn?”

“Oh, no, kind sir” said she, “you’re a stranger unto me,
And you may love another, so be true”.
I said “My little miss, you’re the only one I want to kiss,
And to wind up your little ball of yarn.”

So I took the country maid and I laid her in the shade
Not intending to do her any harm.
And ‘twas much to her surprise when I lay between her thighs
And wound up her little ball of yarn.

Now when the maid arose after pulling up her clothes
She went to tell the people at the farm.
So I slipped across the green not intending to be seen
After winding up her little ball of yarn.

Now it was twelve months to the day, I was strolling down that way
I met a maid with a babe under her arm.
I said “My little miss, sure I never thought of this,
When I wound up your little ball of yarn.”

So all you country maids take warning from these days,
And never go a-strolling round the farm.
‘Cause the blackbird and the thrush they still whistle in the bush,
When he’s winding up your little ball of yarn.


(recorded at Eldersfield, Gloucestershire by Mike Yates, 1980) This is quite an interesting song. According to Steve Roud there are no known English broadside printings of the song, a fact which suggests a late date of composition. The song is also popular with singers in America and it was copyrighted there in 1884 to one Polly Holmes. Now it may be that, in the eyes of Ms Holmes, this was quite an innocent song, one without any hidden meanings. But folksingers always seem to have treated it in an altogether different way, so much so that when the American collector Vance Randolph wanted to print the song he felt obliged to include it in his book Roll Me in Your Arms - 'Unprintable' Ozark Folksongs (University of Arkansas Press. 1992. pp. 97-104), rather than in his 'printable' four-volume collection Ozark Folksongs (Missouri. 1946-50).

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates










































Stormy Winds do Blow

We shepherds are the bravest boys that treads old England’s ground.
If we goes into an alehouse, we values not one crown.
We’ll call for liquors merrily and pay before we go,
While our sheep lies asleep where the stormy winds do blow.

Come all you valiant shepherds that have got valiant hearts,
That goes out in the morning and never feels the smart.
We’ll never be downhearted, we’ll fear no frost or snow
And we’ll work in the fields where the stormy winds do blow.

As I looked out all on the hill, it makes my heart to bleed
To see my sheep hang out their tongues and they begin to bleat.
So I plucked up my courage bold and up the hill did go
To drive them to the fold where the stormy winds do blow.

And now I have a-folded them and turned back again,
I’ll go into some alehouse and there be entertained.
A-drinking of strong liquor, boys, it is our heart’s delight,
While our sheep lies asleep all full safely all this night.

(recorded at Patcham, Sussex by Mike Yates, 1989) Alfred Williams found this shepherd's song being sung in Gloucestershire and called it 'a well-known and oft-quoted piece'. All the known collected sets come from the south of England, with one exception: the version sung by Fred Jordan of Shropshire, which actually came originally from a Gloucestershire set printed by Lucy Broadwood in her English Country Songs published in 1893. Cecil Sharp found the song being sung in Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire; the Hammond Brothers found it in Dorset and George Gardiner heard the song in Hampshire and Sussex. More recently, Gwilym Davies has recorded versions from singers in Devon, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates

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