The Faithful Sailor


It was a dark and stormy night, the snow lay on the ground.
A sailor boy stood on the quay and his ship was outward bound,
His sweetheart standing by his side shed many a silent tear,
And as he pressed her to his breast he whispered in her ear:

Chorus: Farewell, farewell, my own true love, this parting gives me pain.
I'll be your own true guiding star when I return again.
My thoughts shall be of you, of you, when storms are raging high.
Farewell my love, remember me, your faithful sailor boy.

Then with the gale the ship set sail, he kissed his love goodbye.
She watched the craft 'til out of sight, 'til tears bedimmed her eye.
She prayed to him in heaven above, to guide him on his way.
Those loving, parting words that night re-echoed o'er the bay.

It's sad to say the ship returned, without her sailor boy.
He died while on the voyage back home, the flags flew half-mast high.
His comrades when they came on shore told her that he was dead,
And a letter he had sent to her, those last lines sadly read:

Final chorus: Farewell, farewell, my own true love, on earth we'll meet no more.
I soon shall be from storm and sea, on that eternal shore.
I hope to meet you in that land, that land beyond the sky,
Where you will never be parted from your faithful sailor boy.

        A Victorian 'tear-jerker' written by G. W. Persley, which has certainly slotted well into the repertoires of English traditional singers, and numerous recordings exist. Gavin Greig also describes it as being "very popular in Aberdeenshire during the early years of this century", and Jimmy McBride has collected it in Donegal (See 'The Flower of Dunaff Hill').

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson












































































The Oak & the Ash


Johnny was a sailor, a sailor on the main,

He earned a good living and captured a good name.
He was lying in the harbour, three months there to stay,
It was there he fell in love with a Polly so gay.

Chorus: Singing home dearest home, over there let me be,
Far, far away from the old country.
Where the oak and the ash, the bonny elm tree,
They're all a-growing greener in the North Amerikee.

She jumped into bed not at least alarmed,
Not thinking that the sailor boy would do her any harm.
He huddled her, he cuddled her the whole night through,
And she only wished the night had been seven times as long.

Now if it be a daughter we'll send her out to nurse,
Silver in her pocket and gold in her purse.
And if it be a boy he shall wear the jacket blue,
And sail the blooming ocean like his daddy used to do.

Now all young maidens, this warning take by me,
Never trust a sailor boy an inch above your knee.
For I trusted one, he's been the ruin of me,
For he left me with a pair of twins to bounce upon my knee.


Now all young fellows, this warning take by me,
Never build your nest upon an old (bye?) tree.
For all the leaves they will glitter and the fruit it will decay,
And the beauty of a fair maid will soon pass away.

        The refrain 'The oak, and the ash, and the ivy tree, flourish bravely at home in my own country' goes back at least to the 1660's, when it appeared in a broadside entitled 'The Lancashire Lovers'. Ted's version, which is similar to many other collected versions is, as Stephan Sedley points out in 'Seeds of Love' (1967), a hybrid of two other songs 'Rosemary Lane' and 'The Oak and the Ash'. George Harvey of Redlingfield was the source of this song; as Ted put it, 'He was a bloody good singer!'

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson



































































Ball of Yarn


In the merry month of June,
And all the flowers were in bloom.
I met a pretty miss,
And I asked her for a kiss,
And to wind up her little ball of yarn.

'Oh no kind sir,' said she,
You're a stranger unto me,
Perhaps you have some other little charm.
'Oh no, my turtle dove,
You're the only one I love,
Let me roll up your little ball of yarn.'

Sure, I took this fair young maid,
Just to dwell beneath the shade:
No intention of doing her no harm.
And I gave her a big surprise,
As I rolled between her thighs,
And I wound up her little ball of yarn.

For 'tis twelve months since that day,
That I last passed this way,
And I saw her with a baby on her arm.
And I said, 'My pretty miss,
Who would ever've thought of this,
When I wound up your little ball of yarn?'

I have always seen this as the classic English folk-song, and most collectors have come across it, yet it does not seem to appear in print very often. Even so, it has been recorded in many southern English counties and has survived particularly well in East Anglia. Other versions worth hearing are by Geoff Ling (Topic 12TS292), Bob Roberts (Topic 12TS361) and Mary Anne Haynes (TSCD670). In the notes to the latter record A. L. Lloyd mentions that the American folklorist Vance Randolph, who found versions in the Ozark Mountains, suggested that the 'ball of yarn' might refer to the vinegar-soaked wadding used as a primitive contraceptive device. As Lloyd comments "Maybe; if so, ineffectual in this case."

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson































































Bungay Roger

When I first went up to London town,
They called me Bungay Roger.
They asked me o'er and o'er again,
If I would be a soldier.
They asked me o'er again,
'til I said that I was willing,
`Cor blast!' said I,' I'll have a try.'
I signed my name and got a shilling.

Chorus: With a-fol-a-rol-a-day, fol-a-rol-a-day,
Fol-a-rol-a-daddy when I get home.

They took me out on the barrack square,
A-doing my duty manual.
They buggered I here, they buggered I there,
While a-doing my duty manual.
They said `Eyes right, Eyes left,
Just keep your bloody great head up.'
And if you're dead, or answer them back,
They'd bugger you into the lock-up.

They brought me home from parade that day,
I was hungry as a hunter.
But we couldn't get a god-damn mite,
'Til that orderly bloke came round, sir.
And when they dished it up my boys,
They dished it up on a platter.
To my surprise in front of my eyes,
A lump of bully and a bloody great tater.

So I wish I was back home again,
A-following up the plough, sir.
I wish I were back home again,
Milking that old cow, sir.
I wish I were back home again,
Among a hundred leg of mutton,
With a rusty old knife and a rusty old fork,
But by Christ you could keep on cutting.


        This widespread anti-recruiting song originated during the Napoleonic wars as 'The Awkward Recruit'. It goes under many regional titles: Jumbo Bright-well of Little Glemham, Suffolk sang the 'Muddley Barracks' (see Topic TSCD670, and published in Roy Palmer's 1977 'The Rambling Soldier'), while Mike Yates recorded Oxfordshire's Cantwell family singing their version, 'The Yorkshire Blinder'. Charlie heard his version around the village pubs, and as with so many singers, told me he only had to hear it a couple of times and he could sing it right through.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson












































































The Sailor Cut Down in his Prime


One morning I wandered down by the Royal Albion,
Dark was the morning and cold was the day.
When who should I spy but one of my shipmates,
Wrapped in a blanket far colder than clay.
He'd called for a candle to light him to bed,
Likewise a cold flannel to wrap round his head.
For his poor head was breaking, his poor heart was breaking,
for he was a young sailor cut down in his prime.

Chorus: So we'll beat the drum over him and play the pipe merrily,
Play the dead march as we carry him along.
Take him to some churchyard and fire three volleys over him,
For he was a young sailor cut down in his prime.

How often his father and his dear good old mother
Had warned him of follies of his fast life.
But along with those flash girls his money he'd squander,
The flash girls in the city they were his delight.
And now he is dead and lays in his coffin,
Six jolly sailor boys march there on each side.
And each of them carries a bunch of white roses,
In memory of a ship-mate cut down in his prime.

At the corner of the street you might see two girls standing.
One to the other they whisper and say,
'Here comes the young sailor whose money we squandered,
Here comes the young sailor cut down in his prime.'
And there on his tomb-stone you'll see these words written:
'Come all you young sailors, take a warning from me,
And never go courting those flash girls in the city,
The flash girls in the city were the ruin of me.'

        This popular song usually went under the name of 'The Royal Albion', which is a corruption of the Royal Albert, a London dock first opened in 1880. How-ever, the song dates back to at least the eighteenth century, to a broadside entitled 'The Buck's Elegy'. The song spans the oral tradition with different protagonists, like sailors, soldiers or cowboys, in varying locations from 'The Streets of Laredo' to 'St James' Hospital'.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson
















































































The Larks they Sang Melodious

A sailor and his true love was a-walking one day
Through the green fields and the meadows that was scattered with hay,
And the blackbirds and the thrushes sang in every green tree,
And the larks they sang melodious at the dawning of the day.

Now the sailor and his true love went out walking next day.
Said the sailor to his true love, 'I am bound far, away.
I'm bound for the Indians, where the loud cannons roar,
For to go and leave my Nancy, for she's the girl that I adore.
For to go and leave my Nancy, for to go and leave my Nancy,
For to go and leave my Nancy, she's the girl that I adore.'

Now the ring from off her finger she instantly drew,
Saying, 'Take this, my dearest William, and my heart will go too.'
And as he embraced her, the tears from her eyes did flow,
Saying 'May I go along with you?' 'Oh no, my love, farewell.'
Saying 'May I go along with you?', saying 'May I go along with you?'
Saying 'May I go along with you?', 'Oh no, my love, farewell.'

'Fare you well, my dearest Nancy, for I can no longer stay,
For our topsail she is hoisted and our anchor's away.
For the big ship is waiting for the next flowing tide,
And if ever I return again I will make you my bride.
And if ever I return again, and if ever I return again,
And if ever I return again. I will make you my bride.'

        This is another of Blaxhall Ship's anthems, and Bob Scarce was first to be recorded singing it there. This song is often known as 'Pleasant and Delightful' and has become a 'folk-song revival' standard. It is probably of nineteenth century origins and although there seem to be no broadside examples, it has been collected all over the country. One of the most well-known recordings is by Sam Larner, on the Folkways album 'Now's the time for Fishing'. Now on Topic TSCD511 and I have recorded it in Cornwall from Tommy Morrisey and Charlie Pitman (VTC9CD).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson




































































When Jones' Ale was New


When me and a few more fellows came over the hills together,
Came over the hills together, boys, to join that jovial crew.
They brought with them some wine and sherry,
To help them over the hills so merry,
To help them over the hills so merry,
When Jones' ale was new, my boy,
When Jones' ale was new.

And the first that came in was a soldier with a firelock over his shoulder,
With a firelock over his shoulder for to join that jovial crew.

The next came in was a tinker and he was a very good tinker.
`Have you any old tins or cans to fettle?
My rivets are made of the very best metal,
My rivets are made of the very best metal.'
When Jones' ale was new, my boy,
When Jones' ale was new.

And the last that came in was a mason and he was a jolly good mason,
He swung his old hammers against the wall,
Prayed that all the churches and chapels might fall,
And there'd be work for masons all.
When Jones' ale was new, my boy.
When Jones' ale was new.

Then the landlord's daughter she came in.
They kissed between her nose and chin,
And the quarts and gallons they all rolled in.
When Jones' ale was new, my boy.

        This popular country song was first published as Jones Ale is Newe' way back in 15941 The song has been recorded extensively all over the country (sometimes as Joan's Ale), with a variety of characters added to produce more verses. Charlie learnt his version locally and it is not really complete. An interesting version was sung by Derbyshire's George Fradley with quite a different tune. The song became popular within the folk-song revival, mainly through recordings of the Copper family of Rottingdean in Sussex.  and Shropshire's Fred Jordan sang it regularly. (see TSCD663).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson















































































John Barleycorn

There were three men come from the west,
And they were all a-dry.
They made a vow, and a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die. (Twice)

They ploughed in the ground so deep,
Threw clods all over his head.
They made a vow, a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn was dead. (Twice)

Now he laid sleeping below the ground,
When the rain from heaven did fall.
Then sprung up so high,
He did amaze them all. (Twice)

About Michaelmas time or a little before,
He grew yellow and thin.
John Barleycorn he grew a long beard,
And soon became a man. (Twice)

They hired men with scythes so sharp,
They cut him right off to the knee.
And after they'd served him so, my boys,
They called it barbary. (Twice)

They hired men with pitchforks stout,
They pierced him through the heart.
And after they'd served him so, my boys,
They tied him to a cart. (Twice)

They wheeled him up and down the land,
They took him to a barn.
They made a vow, and a solemn vow,
They'd do poor John no harm. (Twice)

They hired men with stiff-staff-cram,
They thrashed him skin and bone.
And after they'd served him so, my boys,
They ground him between two stones. (Twice)

They put him in the tub so round,
They scald him almost blind.
And after they'd served him so, my boys,
They gave him to the swine.


Put Brandy in a glass my boys

Put cider in a can.

Put barley broth in an old brown pot.

He'll become the brightest man. (Twice)


        'John Barleycorn' tells the story of the life-cycle of the barley grain used in brewing beer. It appears in a variety of forms and has been sung to a number of tunes. The song dates back to the early 17th century, and later on several sequels appeared like 'Hey John Barleycorn' and 'Little John Barleycorn'. Robert Burns even rewrote it in the 18th century. Another fine version from Mid-Suffolk can be heard on VT130CD 'Who owns the Game?' sung by Roy Last.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson
































































The Wild Colonial Boy


His parent's came from Ireland, Jack Duggan was his name.

He was born and raised in Ireland in a place called Castlemaine.

He was his father's only son: his mother's pride and joy,

And dearly did his parent's love the wild colonial boy.


At hammer-throwing Jack was great and tossing the caman.

He led the boys in all their pranks from dusk to early morn.

At poaching trout, without a doubt, he was the real macoy.

He was the pride of the countryside; the wild colonial boy.


At the early age of sixteen years, he left his native home.
And to Australia's sunny land as a bush ranger did roam.
He robbed the rich, he helped the poor, he shot judge MacEvoy.
And a terror to Australia was the wild colonial boy.

He loved the prairie and the bush where rangers rode along.
With his gun stuck in his holster he would sing a merry song.
But if a foe should cross his path and seek him to destroy.
They got sharp-shooting for sure from Jack, the wild colonial boy.

For two more years this daring youth ran a wild career.'
With a head that knew no danger and a heart that knew no fear.
He robbed the wealthy squatters and their arms he did destroy.
And woe to all who dared to fight the wild colonial boy.

One morning on the mountain-side Jack Duggan rode along,
And listening to the mockingbird, while whistling a charming song,
Three mounted troopers hove in sight, Kelly, Davis, and Fitzroy.
And they all set out to capture him, the wild colonial boy.

`Surrender now, Jack Duggan, come, you see it's eye-to-eye.
Surrender in the Queen's name, sir, you are a highwayman.'
Jack drew two pistols from his side and glared upon Fitzroy.
`I'll fight but I won't surrender!' cried the wild colonial boy.

He fired a shot at Kelly then, that brought him to the ground.
And he fired point-blank at Davis too, who fell dead at the sound.
But a bullet, it pierced his brave young heart from the pistol of Fitzroy.
And that is the way they captured him, the wild colonial boy.


        Roy Palmer writes of this song, that it "seems second only to 'Waltzing Matilda' as the quintessential Australian song", but it is also widely known in Britain. It probably derives from the career of John Donahue, a Dublin man transported for life in 1825 and killed by troopers in 1830. Fred told me that a local singer, Jack Abbott from Ashfield, was the first man he heard sing the 'Wild colonial boy': "He'd done 21 years in the Navy, and I learned some of it from him, but I didn't have it all so I sent away to Dublin for that." Fred would probably have written to Walton's Music Shop and the song still appears in their 'New Treasury of Irish Songs and Ballads', Part 2 (1966), with the same story but a slightly different word set.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson











































































The Nutting Girl

Now come my jovial fellows, come listen to my song,
It is a little ditty and it won't take long.
'Tis of a fair young maid and she in Kent did dwell,
Arose one summer morning and she a nutting went.

Chorus: With my-fal-lal-to-the-al-pal-lal, went-fal-a-dil all day,
And what few nuts that poor girl had, she strew them all away.

There was a young farmer a-ploughing of his land,
He called unto his horses to bid them gently stand.
He sat upon his plough, all for a song to sing,
His voice was so melodious, did make the valleys ring.

She came unto young Johnny as he sat on his plough.
Said she, 'Young man, I really feel I cannot tell you how.'
He led her to some shady broom, so gently laid her down.
Said she, 'Young man, I think I feel the world go round and round.'

Now listen here you pretty young girls, this warning by me take:
If you should a nutting go, please don't stay too late.
For if you stay too late to hear that ploughboy sing,
You may have a young farmer to nurse up in the Spring.

A very popular song around the country, indeed, in Suffolk 'The Nutting Girl' become a Blaxhall Ship's anthem, its best known exponent being Cyril Poacher, and there have in fact been many commercial recordings issued of him singing it  (see TSCD600, RCD1778  & MTCD303). E.J. Moeran noted down the song in Suffolk in the 1930's, under the title 'Nutting Time' . The common tune is close to that used for an Oxfordshire morris dance, although Fred Hamer collected an interestingly different tune from Essex singer Harry Green.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson









































































Jimmy Johnson

There was a little man and he had a little horse,
He saddled it and bridled it and cocked his leg across.

Chorus: Singing, hi Jimmy, ho Jimmy, come along with me,
Hi Jimmy, ho Jimmy Johnson.

Now across these fields he went for a ride,
'Til he came to some rocks by the water side.

Now on the rocks he a spied a large crab,
He said `You're mine!' with one big grab.

Now he took the crab home and he couldn't find a dish,
So he put it in the pot where the old woman wished.

Now when the old woman was singing on the pot,
The crab got hold of her you-know-what.

Now one with the hammer and the other with the broom,
They chased that poor old crab round the room.

'I'll teach you to bite!' the old woman cried,
Chased that poor bloody crab 'til he died.

Well that was the end of the poor old crab,
Don't you think it very, very sad.

        A.L.LIoyd in his book 'Folk Song in England' (1959) says that "The venerable and indecorous 'Crabfish' song seems to have been amusing European audiences at least since about 1400 when its story first appeared in a collection of Italian joking-tales. " That tradition has of course carried on into this century and most classic East Anglian singers who have been recorded in recent years have had a version of this song with its fishy surprise in the chamber pot. Usually a crabfish, often a lobster and in Charlie Stringer's version 'Tommy Doddler' a codfish (see VT130CD). It seems also to have often turned up too, as a barrack-room song in other parts of the country. Cyril's version was learned from his brother Sonny.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson










































































The Jolly Ploughboy


Once I was a jolly ploughboy, ploughing in the fields all day,
Until the thought came to my mind that I must go away.
No more to work in the harvest fields, no more to cart the corn,
For I've been and took my shilling and I'm off tomorrow morn.

Chorus: Hurrah for the Scarlet and the Blue, see the helmets glitter in the sun,
And the banners flash like lightening, to the beating of the militia drum.
See the flag of dear old England, proudly waving in the sky,
And the last words of a soldier is, we'll conquer or we die.

I stood beside my old grey mare, I stood beside my plough,
I stood beside my Nellie dear, no more to reap or mow.
No more to work in the harvest fields, no more to cart the corn,
For I've been and took my shilling and I'm off tomorrow morn.

There's one thing I'm going to miss and that's my Nellie dear.
I know that she'll be proud of me when I am far from here.
And when I do return again, if she does wait for me,
I'll take my Nellie to the church and a sergeant's wife she'll be.

        This song is often thought of as an Irish song, usually under the title of 'The Scarlet and the Blue'. It was written in the late 1870's by John J. Blockley and was popularised on both sides of the Atlantic by the Irish comedians, Ed Harrington and Tony Hart. It was a popular song in Suffolk and, in a form very like Fred's, was collected from many singers. It was even included in the film 'Akenfield', sung by the late Charlie Whiting of Southolt.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson











































































Sam the Carter's Lad


Now my name is Sam the carter's lad, a happy cock am I.
I always am contented, be the weather wet or dry.
I snap my fingers at the snow, and whistle in the rain.
I've braved the storms for many a year and can do so again.

Chorus: So snap, crack, goes my whip, l whistle and I sing.
I sit upon my wagon, I'm as happy as a king.
My horses, they are willing, for them I'm never sad,
For there's none that leads a life so gay as Sam the carter's lad.

Now my father was a carter many years 'ere I was born,
He used to rise at daybreak and do his rounds each morn.
He used to take me with him, especially in the spring.
I loved to sit upon that cart and hear my father sing:

Now all the girls they smile at me as I go riding past.
My horse he is a beauty and he jogs along so fast.
We've travelled many a weary mile and happy times we've had.
For there's none that treats a horse so kind as Sam the carter's lad.

Now I must bid you all good night, I must be on my way.
My horse he will a-weary if I much longer stay.
But just to see your smiling faces, it makes me feel quite glad.
I hope you'll grant your kind applause, to Sam the carter's lad.

        The song about the carter's lad, turns up all around the country. Here we have 'Sam', while in Sussex 'Jim' is the carter, and in Yorkshire it is often 'Joe'. Tony first heard this song many years ago from 'Stalks' Abbott in Brundish Crown.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson






























































Flash Company


Once I loved a young girl as I loved my life, ,,
And through keeping flash company has ruined my life,
Has ruined my life, like a great many more.
If it hadn't have been for flash company, I'd never have been so poor.

Chorus: So it's take the yellow handkerchief in remembrance of me.
And tie it around my neck, my love in flash company.
Flash company, my boys, like a great many more,
If it had'nt 've been flash company, I should never've been so poor.


For it's once I had a colour as red as the rose,
But now I'm as pale as the lily that grows.
Like a flower in the garden, when all my colour's gone,
Can't you see what I'm coming to, through loving that one.

For it's fiddling and dancing has been my delight,
And along with those flash girls I spent every night.
Now my money's all gone and my love lingers on.
Can't you see what I'm coming to through loving that one.


        This song, which is probably of Irish origin, has been one of the most popular pub songs in East Suffolk, often called 'The Yellow Handkerchief and nearly always sung to the tune of the 'Brave Princess Royal'. Two fine versions can be heard by Mary Ann Haynes on 'A Century of Song' (EFDSSCD02), and by Phoebe Smith on 'The Yellow Hankerchief' (VT136CD). I first heard it sung by old 'Stalks' Abbot in Brundish Crown and Geoff's performance, like his, is a lesson on how to pace a song properly. It dates back to the nineteenth century when it was printed on broadsides. This doesn't seem a very widespread song (I have never heard it sung even in West Suffolk), although it does appear in the Gardiner manuscript, collected at the beginning of this century in Southampton; and Vaughan Williams came across it in Herefordshire in 1909 as 'The Myrtle Tree'. Geoff learned it at the age of fourteen from his Uncle Abey, (Abraham Ling) who used to sing in Blaxhall Ship in the 1930's.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson






















































































The Barley Mow


So here's good luck to the pint pot, here's luck to the barley mow,

Here's good luck to the pint pot, here's luck to the barley mow,

To the pint pot, gill pot, half a gill, lilliget, ben, benmow, and here's luck, here's luck to the barley mow.


Now here's good luck to the quart pot, good luck to the barley mow,

Here's good luck to the quart pot, here's luck to the barley mow,

To the quart pot, pint pot, gill pot, half a gill, lilliget, ben, benmow, and here's luck, here's luck to the barley mow.


(Same accumulative sequence with:)

Gallon pot,





The company.


        It was usual to finish a bar-room singing session with a drinking toast and this must have been the most popular, all over rural England. The text appears in James Henry Dixon's 'Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry in England' (1846), where it is described as "sung at country meetings in Devon and Cornwall", while the tune appears in William Chappell's 'Popular Music of the Olden Time' (1859). In Suffolk it was always the finisher at Blaxhall Ship and Jack French was recorded there in 1953 by Peter Kennedy who published it in his 'Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland' (1975). In his film entitled 'The Barley Mow' (1955) it is sung by Arthur Smith. Harry's version is very similar to most of the versions which have been collected in other counties. See Sussex's George Spicer's version on TSCD663.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson























































































Sheepshearing and Thatching


I've been shearing sheep and thatching now for five-and-forty years.
I've had my share of ups and down, I've had my share of beers.
I followed in my father's footsteps for I was his oldest son,
And shearing sheep and thatching now is all I've ever done.

I remember my first day at work: two pints and I was full.
The next thing that my father knew I lay asleep among the wool.
That farmer's beer was really beer, for it hung around the glass;
Four pints and that would sit the best man on the grass.

I get greasy as a butcher's apron now, when I go shearing sheep.
I see sheep and wool in front of my eyes when I sit in bed asleep.
But when I start to shear a flock, I know just what I got to come.
For shearing sheep and thatching now is all I've ever done.


I asked a farmer's wife for home-brewed beer, and what do you think she said to me?
She said, 'You should stick to drinking water, it's the strongest stuff there be.
Why water is plenty strong enough to carry ships at sea.'
I said, 'A pint of good old home-brewed beer is strong enough for me.'

One chap brought me out a pint of beer and he said, 'You can plainly tell.
It's brewed from the finest hops and malt, you can tell it from the smell.'
'There's hops in here, alright,' I said, 'That I can plainly tell,
For a few more hops in here, it would have hopped back down the well.'

'I don't know who it was who brewed this beer, or how long it was boiled,
The best that I can say about it is, that it is good water spoiled.
Why it tastes just like the twelve disciple's beer.' He said, 'What do you mean, what is the fault?'
I said, 'Eleven must have fetched the water and the twelfth must have stole the malt.'

I'll thatch a house with reed or straw and stand by what I've done,
And the stacks I thatched and then got wet, I don't remember one.
When I get too old for work, I'll do just what my father done:
I'll drop my shears and thatching gear and I'll pass them to my son.


        Fred learned this one from Soldier Jay who was a locally renowned rat poisoner. An odd song, as although there are a couple of verses that relate to the title, most are about home-brewed beer! This was probably locally penned.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson






































































The Old Song (Jack on the Green)


If you listen to me, I'll sing of a spree,
That happened a week or two back.
Concerning a girl they call Calico Sal,
And a fellow named Bendy Leg Jack.

Chorus: Ta-ra, to-ra, ta-rol-a-lol-ra,
ta-rol-a-lol, lol-a-lol-la.

Then came the day, they were decked out so gay,
Jack wore his velveteens.
Sal wore a dress that was worn by Black Bess,
When she capered with Jack on the green.

How they went, on punishment bent,
"They swore they would pitch into the grub.
They had plenty of scran in an old brown pan,
And bait of pea soup in a tub.

        No other examples of this song have turned up, either recorded or in print, but from the content it is not likely to be older than 1860. It has been suggested that it may have been a monologue, possibly without a chorus, or it may have originated from a play, maybe locally: Tom got it from his father, Bert.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson
















































































The Farmer from Cheshire


There was a rich farmer in Cheshire,
And his daughter to market would go.
Thinking of no harm or danger,
For she'd been on the highway before.

She met with an uncivil roadster,
Two pistols he drew from his side.
Saying, 'Deliver up your money and clothing,
Or you will die in distress.'

He stripped that poor lady stark naked,
But she mounted that mare like a man;
She galloped over hedgerows and ditches,
'Til she came to her father's door.

'Oh daughter, oh daughter, what's happened?
Why stayest you late from the fair?'
'Oh father, I have been in great danger,
But the villain has done me no harm.'

She put the grey mare in the stable,
And spread the white cloth on the floor.
She counted her money twice over,
And she counted a thousand and more.

But now she's a carriage to ride in,
And a coachman to ride by her side,
Servants to wait at the table,
And plenty of money besides.


        A popular song amongst travellers, which often goes under the name 'The highwayman outwitted' or 'The crafty farmer'. When Cecil Sharp collected it he called it 'The Devonshire farmer's daughter', while under the name 'The farmer from Leicester', Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs recorded it from Nelson Penfold in Devon, and the version Pete Coe recorded from Cornish traveller Betsy Renals can be heard on VT119CD. Its earliest appearances in print seem to have been in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson












































































The Ups and Downs


As I was walking by Happisburgh, side-by-side,
Was there I spied a fair young maid, her garter coming untied.
I then made it my business, and unto her I did say,
'Oh your garter is coming untied, young maid',
Singing wax-fol-a-diddle-i-ay.

'Oh thankyou, sir, oh thankyou, sir, oh thankyou, sir', cried she.
"Tis if you have no objection, will you tie it up for me?'
'Oh yes, my fair young maiden, if you'll come to yonder tree.'
And we both rolled over together, my boys,
Singing wax-fol-a-diddle-i-ay.

And when we got to yonder tree, the grass grew very high;
Was there I laid this fair maid down, her garter for to tie.
And whilst I was tying, such a lovely sight I did see,
And we both rolled over together my boys,
Singing wax-fol-a-diddle-i-ay.

'And now you've had your will of me, pray tell to me your name,
Likewise your occupation and when'st from wither you came.'
'My name is Jack the rover, from Dublin I did'st come.
But I live alongside of the ups and downs; you'll never see me again.'

        A longer version of this song was collected by Gardiner in 1908 from Mr E. Frankham in Petersfield, Hampshire. It was published in the book 'Marrow-bones' (EFDSS 1965) where Frank Purslow's notes quote James Reeves as suggesting that the 'Ups and Downs' represents the 69th Foot Regiment, as 69 can be read when it is written upside down! Other collections include the song under different titles, including 'The Aylesbury Girl', and a 1955 recording made by the BBC in Norfolk of Bill Lowne, goes under the title of 'Happisburgh Market'.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson













































































The Blacksmith's Mantrap


I will tell you a tale for a mug of ale,
Of a sporting lord with a large estate and keepers one, two, three.
And I'll tell also of a blacksmith too, and a fine craftman was he,
And what proved to be his downfall was a pheasant pie for tea.

On a moon-light night, or a star-light night, came a poacher with his gun.
And should the keepers come into sight, well, how this man could run.
When they saw the man and he up and ran, they chased him here and there,
Never could they lay their hands on him, he ran just like a hare.

There came the day they had to say, `My lord, we've met our match.
This poacher he run clean away, he's a man we cannot catch.'
The lord said, `It seems it's left to me, to try and catch this man.
Well leave this poacher now to me, and I'll catch him if I can.'

So he went straight-way that very day to the blacksmith, said `My man,
Make for me a good strong man-trap, and just as early as you can.
When the trap is made you will be paid, when you bring that trap to me,
And I'll show you where I want it laid, beneath an old oak tree.'

Well the trap was made and the blacksmith paid, said the lord, `Now come with me,
And I'll show you where to lay that trap beneath an old oak tree.'
The poacher came that night in bright moon-light, then shot a pheasant from a tree.
And he came again next night all right, but this time he shot three.

The lord said he to his keepers three, `I've thought me up a plan:
I mean to catch this poacher, and I think I know the man.
So come with me, and we will see the trap is useless where it sits;
Move the trap beneath a different tree, we might catch this poacher yet.'

All through the night the lord slept light, and when daylight came to see,
He found the blacksmith in his trap beneath an old oak tree.
The smith no longer sings or his anvil rings, they've transported him away.

And if ever he comes back again, there's no one here can say.


        This song seems unique to Fred and was probably penned locally. He told me that he learned it in Burstall Half Moon. A similar story is told in a song written by the revival folk-singer Peter Bellamy which is called 'The Parson's Poacher', based on a tale from the village of Warham in Norfolk.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson







































































When I was a young man and about seventeen,
I was all ready to fight for Victoria, our Queen,
But to keep her like a lady I went on that highway,
And for that I was sent to Australia.

Australia, Australia, how we worked in that land,
They drove us like horses to plough up their land.
You should have seen us poor fellows, oh, how cruel were they,
How hard is our fate in Australia.

Australia, Australia, I shall ne'er see no more,
I met up with fever, brought down to death's

But if ever I should live to see seven years more,

I will bid adieu to Australia.


        Australia was used as a place of transportation from 1787 until the eventual abolition of the practice in 1868. It was a recurrent theme of songs written during this time, and many of them, such as 'Van Diemen s Land', have survived in oral circulation. Versions of 'Australia' have been passed from singer to singer in the Blaxhall area. There are recordings of Cyril Poacher (TSCD654) and Bob Hart (TSCD600) singing it. The song derives from an earlier one about transportation to Virginia, U.S.A. Geoff learned his version from his grandfather, Aaron Ling.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson













































































Caroline and the Young Sailor Bold

'Tis of a rich nobleman's daughter, so handsome and comely we hear.
Her father possessed a great fortune, full seventy-five thousand a year.
He had but this only one daughter, Caroline is her name we are told.
One day from her drawing-room window, she admired a young sailor bold.

His cheeks were like two roses, his hair was black as the jet.
Young Caroline watched his departure, went round and young William she met.
She said, `I'm a nobleman's daughter, possessing ten thousand in gold,
I'll forsake both my father and mother, to wed with a young sailor bold.'

Said William, `Young lady remember, your parents you're bound for to mind.
On sailors there is no depending, when your true love is left far behind.
Go home to your father and mother, and do by them as you are told.
And never let anyone tempt you, to wed with a young sailor bold.'

She said 'There'll be no-one persuade me, one moment for to alter my mind,
I shall ship and be wrecked with my true love, for he never shall leave me behind.'
She dressed like a gallant young sailor, forsaking both parents and gold.
Four years and a half on the salt sea, she ploughed with her young sailor bold.

Three times with her love she was, shipwrecked, but she always proved constant and true.
Her duty she done like a sailor, went aloft in her jacket so blue.
Her father long weeped and lamented, down his cheeks tears in long torrents flowed.
'Til at last they arrived in old England, Caroline and her young sailor bold.

Caroline she went straight to her father, in a jacket and trousers so blue.
He received her and momentarily fainted, when first she appeared to his view.
She said 'My dear father, forgive me, deprive me forever of gold.
Grant me one request, I'm contented: to wed with my young sailor bold.'


Her father then admitted young William, and said that in sweet unity,

If life should them spare 'til the morning, then together they married should be.

They were married and Caroline's fortune, was twenty five thousand in gold.

Now they live happy and cheerful, Caroline and her young sailor bold.


        This was a popular song amongst early 19th century broadside printers, and according to a sheet by W. Taylor of London, it was written by J. Morgan. He was a ballad-writer employed by Camach, although it was never published by them. Many of the classic English and Irish traditional singers have this song in their repertoire: versions by Sarah Makem (CDSDL405) and Gordon Hall of Horsham, Sussex (forthcoming Veteran album VTVTC10) are both worth a listen. Tony tells me that he learned 'Caroline and the young sailor bold' from Mrs. Wright who lived at Tannington, when she was in her seventies, and she had told him that she had learned it as a child from an eighty-year-old local shop-keeper, Mrs 'Besom' Bloomfield, who had known it most of her life. So as he says, it came to him from about 150 years ago in two leaps!

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson




































































The Queen of May


As I walked through the meadows to take the fresh air,

The flowers were blooming and gay.

I heard a young damsel a-sweetly a-singing;

Her cheeks like the blossom in May.


I said, 'Pretty maiden may I come with you,

In the meadows to gather some May?'

The maid she replied, 'My path it is here,

I pray you pursue your own way.'


So she trooped along with her dear little feet,

I followed and soon I drew near.

I called her so pretty, my true love so sweet,

That she took me at last for her dear.


I took the fair maid by the lily-white hand,

On the green mossy banks we sat down.

I gave her a kiss on her sweet rosy lips,

A tree spread its branches around.


And when we did rise from that green bushy grove,

Over the meadows we wandered away.

I placed my true love on a primrose bank,

As I picked her a handful of May.


The very next morning I made her my bride,

Just after the break of the day..

The bells they did ring and the birds they did sing,

As I crowned her the Queen of sweet.


        This attractive little song was a popular 19th century broadside and was published amongst others by Catnach in London, and Russell in Birmingham. It turns up in many song collections including the Hammond Manuscripts (D509) where it was collected from Sam Dawe in Beaminster, Dorset in June 1906. Although the lines are in a slightly different order the words are basically the same. In the notes of the book 'The Wanton Seed', where that version is published, Frank Purslow describes it as. 'an 18th century minor art-song which has kept its place in the tradition fairly well.' Fred Hamer also came across a version in Bedfordshire sung to him by Harry Scott. That tells the same story but with a quite different word set.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson













































































One Fine Morning Early in Spring


It was one fine morn all early in spring,
I went on board to serve my King.
Leaving my dearest girl behind,
She always told me that her heart was mine.

I built my love a little boat,
On the ocean waves that she might float.
And every ship that passed her by,
She made enquire of her sailor boy.

So she set sail across the deep,
For a big King's ship she chanced to meet.
'Come tell me, bold sailor, come tell me true,
Is my boy Bill on board with you?'

'Ah no, fair maid, he is not here,
He's dead and drowned, I do declare.
On yonder waves that roll so high,
There I lost sight of your sailor boy.'

She wrung her wrists and tore her hair,
Like some poor girl in deep despair.
Her little boat on the rocks did run,
Oh, what shall I do now my sailor be gone?'

'I will go home and write a song,
I'll write it clear, I'll write it long.
And every line I'll shed a tear,
And every verse, farewell my dear.'

Three days later this maiden died,
Leaving this song by her bedside.
To tell the world of why she died,
She could not be a sailor's bride.

So dig her grave both wide and deep,
And on it plant the lilies sweet.
And upon her breast put turtle doves,

To tell the world she died for love.


        This song has been known in Britain, U.S.A and Australia under many different titles including 'The Sailor Boy', 'The Sailing Trade', 'The Sailor Boy and his Faithful Mary', 'The Faithful Lovers' and 'Sweet William'. It probably dates from the time of George 111, during the wars with France. The song appears in just about every folk-song collection in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, and there are numerous recordings of it. Fred told me this: "I learned that one from Ernie Mayes. We were sitting in a meadow one Sunday there, when he came along and he said, 'I'll sing you a song you've never heard before!' and that's the one he sung us. I had a fantastic memory that time of day and I knew it word-for-word as soon as he'd sung it.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson

































































Hail the Dewy Morning

I went out one May morning to see what I could shoot,
I there a-spied a fair pretty maid a-rowing in a boat.

Chorus: Singing hail the dewy morning,
Blow the winds high-ho,

Clear away the morning dew,
How sweet the winds do blow.

We both strolled on together 'til we came to some cocks of hay,
I said 'Young lady it's a very nice place for you and I to play.'

I put my arms around her and tried to lay her down,
She said 'Young man this dewy grass will spoil my new silk gown.'

'If you come down to my father's house there you may lay me down,
And take away my maidenhead, likewise ten thousand pounds.'

We strolled down to her father's house, where she quickly locked me out,
She said 'Young man I'm a maid within, and you're a fool without!'

        One of the earliest English versions of this song is 'Blow the Winds i-o' (1609). It has been found all over the British Isles; Cecil Sharp collected many versions, and it has been collected under a variety of titles including: 'The Shepherd Laddie' (and 'The Shepherd's Son'), 'Yonder Comes a Courteous Knight', 'Blow Away the Morning Sun' and 'The New Mown Hay', but is normally classified under the title 'The Baffled Knight' (Child ballad no. 112). It was printed in the 19th century by, amongst others: Pitts of London, Bebbington of Manchester and Forth of Pocklington. It was a popular song in East Anglia and Sam Larner's (of Winterton Norfolk,) version is worth hearing (TSCD511). Cyril learned this from his father and it is unusual in that the 'fair maid' is found rowing in a boat.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson










































































The Serving Maid


Once there was a servant girl lived down in Drury Lane,
The mistress was so kind to her, the master just the same.
One fine evening a sailor came to tea,
This was the beginning of her misery.

He asked for a candle to light him up to bed,
He asked for a bandage to wrap around his head.
'Course she was a poor and silly girl, and thought there was no harm:
She jumped into bed to keep that sailor warm.

Early next morning the sailor he arose,
Hands in his pocket, he pulled out some gold.
He said 'Here you are my darling, the damage I have done.
I've left you in charge of a daughter or a son.'

'If it be a daughter, all smiles upon your knee.
If he be a son, a sailor he shall be,
With his bell-bottom trousers and a suit of navy blue,
He shall climb the riggings just like all sailor's do.'


        This is better known as 'Rosemary Lane' (which is now Royal Mint Street in London). It is probably an offshoot of the 'Oak and the Ash' (see track 2 in this collection). A more complete version can be heard on sung by Lucy WoodhaII of Worcestershire. (see forthcoming Veteran album VTC6CD).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson


























































































The Bonny Labouring Boy


As I strolled out one morning all in the blooming spring,
I heard a lovely maiden cry and greavious did she sing.
How cruel were her parents, they did her so annoy.
They would not let her marry the bonny labouring boy.

Young Johnny was her true love's name as you can plainly see.
Her parents they employed him the labouring boy to be,
To harrow the plough and sow the seed upon her father's land.
And soon she fell in love with him as you may understand.

She courted him for twelve long months but little did she know,
That her cruel parents would prove their overthrow.
They watched him close one evening down in a shady grove,
Apply their joys together in the constant bond of love.

Her father stepped up to her and took her by the hand,
He swore he'd send young Johnny unto some foreign land.
He locked her up in her bedroom her comfort to annoy,
And he kept there to weep and mourn for her bonny labouring boy.

Her mother came next morning and unto her did say,
`Your father did intend not to see you thrown away.'
So boldly she made answer and to her did reply,
'It's single I shall still remain to my bonny labouring boy.'

'His cheeks are like the roses red and his eyes as black as sloes,
He's mild in his behaviour wherever he might go,
He's manly, neat and handsome, his skin as white as snow,
For the sake of my parents' malice, I with my labouring boy shall go.

So fill your glass to the brim and let them go merrily round,
Here's a health to every labouring boy that plough and till the ground.
For when his work is over, to his home he goes with joy,
Then happy is the girl that gets the bonny labouring boy.

        Many of the folk-songs from this era, the early 19th century, had the theme of the ploughboy who falls in love with the rich man's daughter and is pressed to sea by the girl's outraged father. In its day 'The Bonny Labouring Boy' was printed on many ballad sheets, enjoying great popularity. In this century it has occurred in the oral tradition in many areas of the country and has been recorded frequently. The best known East Anglian version is that of Harry Cox which can be heard on the double CD of the same name. (TSCD514D).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson






































































Barley Mow


Well we ploughed the land and we planted it, and we watched the barley grow.

We rolled it and we harrowed it and we cleaned it with a hoe.

Then we waited 'til the farmer said, `It's time for harvest now.

Get out your axes and sharpen, boys, it's time for Barley Mow.'


Chorus: Well, here's luck to Barley Mow and the land that makes it grow.

We'll drink to old John Barleycorn, here's luck to Barley Mow.

So fill up all the glasses, lads, and stand them in a row:

A gill, a half a pint, a pint. a pint, and a quart and here's luck to Barley Mow.


Well we went and mowed the barley and we left it on the ground.

We left it in the sun and rain 'til it was nicely brown.

Then one day off to the maltsters, then John Barleycorn did go.

The day he went away, we all did say, `Here's luck to Barley Mow.'


Have no fear of old John Barleycorn when he's as green as grass.

But old John Barleycorn is strong enough to sit you on your arse.

But there's nothing better ever brewed than we are drinking now,

Fill them up: we'll have another round, here's good luck to Barley Mow.


        Not the common 'Barley Mow' this, yet it was popular locally for many years. Fred said of it, "Now if you were in Debenham Cherry Tree sixty years ago, about nine o'clock, on a Saturday night, you'd get 'Barley Mow'. Now if you were down there now and sung it I don't suppose anyone would know it!

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: John Howson


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