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Poor Murdered Woman
In Merstham Tunnel
The Murder of Maria Marten
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They Called Her Babylon
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Winter
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Hark The Village Wait
Hark! The Village Wait: Lyrics and Notes
Endurance
Stories I Have Tried To Write
Swan Arcade
Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy
Two Unsolved
John 'Babbacombe' Lee
The Summer Before The War
Meet On The Ledge
Lordenshaws
Mr Fox
A Picture of Britain
Elegy Written In A Country Church Yard
The Duck Race
Morris Off

lyrics and notes

Hark! The Village Wait 1970 [click for larger]
RCA SF 8113 (LP, UK, June 1970)

A Calling-On Song

Songs similar to this one are used by the leaders of rapper and long sword dance teams to produce the dancing and to drum up a crowd. The duration of these songs depended on how long it took for a satisfactory audience to assemble. It was customary to introduce each member of the team as the son of a famous person such as Bonaparte, Nelson, Wellington, etc. This, however, is our own "calling-on", the tune and the basis for the words coming from the captain's song of the Earsdon Sword Dance Team.

Good people pray heed a petition
Your attention we beg and crave
And if you are inclined for to listen
An abundance of pastime we'll have

We have come to relate many stories
Concerning our forefathers time
And we trust they will drive out your worries
Of this we are all in one mind

Many tales of the poor and the gentry
Of labor and love will arise
There are no finer songs in this country
In Scotland or Ireland likewise

There's one thing more need be mentioned
The dances are danced all in fun
 So now you've heard our intention
We'll play on to the beat of the drum

The Blacksmith

Maddy collated this version from a number of texts in the Folk Song Journals. This Southern English song, like the better known Twanky-Dillo, uses the "Blacksmith" as an epitome of virility with the hammer filling the bill as a phallic symbol. A close variant of this tune is used to the John Bunyan Hymn To Be a Pilgrim.

A blacksmith courted me, nine months and better.
He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand, he looked so clever,
And if I was with my love, I'd live forever.

And where is my love gone, with his cheek like roses,
And his good black billycock on, decked with primroses?
I'm afraid the scorching sun will shine and burn his beauty,
And if I was with my love, I'd do my duty.

Strange news is come to town, strange news is carried,
Strange news flies up and down that my love is married.
I wish them both much joy, though they don't hear me
And may God reward him well for the slighting of me.

'What did you promise when you sat beside me?
You said you would marry me, and not deny me.'
'If I said I'd marry you, it was only for to try you,
So bring your witness, love, and I'll ne'er deny you.'

'Oh, witness have I none save God Almighty.
And He'll reward you well for slighting of me.'
 Her lips grew pale and white, it made her poor heart tremble
To think she loved one, and he proved deceitful

Fisherman's Wife

The words by Ewan MacColl , set to a traditional Scots tune, manage effectively to convey the quiet despair of the fisherman's wife resigned to the frequent absence of her husband without lapsing into self-pity nut rather extending an underlying feeling of pride at her lot in life. The song was first heard in the 1959 Radio Ballad Singing the Fishing.

A' the week your man's awa'
And a' the week you bide your lane
A' the time you're waiting for
The minute that he's comin' hame
Ye ken whit why he has tae work
Ye ken the hours he has tae keep
And yet it's making you angry when
Ye see him just come hame tae sleep

Through the months and through the years
While you're bringing up the bairns
Your man's awa' tae here and there
Followin' the shoals of herring
And when he's back there's nets tae mend
You've maybe got a score or twa
And when they're done he'll rise and say
Wife it's time I was awa'

Work and wait and dree your weird
Pin yer faith in herrin' sales
And oftimes lie awake at nicht
In fear and dread of winter gales
But men maun work tae earn their breid
And men maun sweat to gain their fee
And fishermen will aye gang oot
As long as fish swim in the sea

A' the week your man's awa'
And a' the week you bide your lane
A' the time you're waiting for
The minute that he's comin' hame
Ye ken whit why he has tae work
Ye ken the hours he has tae keep
 And yet it's making you angry when
Ye see him just come hame tae sleep

The Blackleg Miner

It is strange that a song as powerful and as singable as this should be so rare, yet it has only once been collected, from a man in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in 1949. Seghill and Seaton Delaval (presumably the Delaval mentioned in the song) are adjacent mining villages about six miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but it is difficult to date the song due to the innumerable mining strikes which have occurred. It is, however, interesting in as much as it illustrates the violent hatred felt by the "union" men toward the blacklegs.

Oh, it's in the evenin', after dark,
When the blackleg miner creeps t' work,
Wi' his moleskin pants an' dorty shirt,
There goes the backleg miner !
 
Oh he takes their pick an' doon he goes
T' hew the coal that lies belaw,
An' there's not a woman in this toon-aw*
Will look at the blackleg miner.
 
Oh, Delaval is a terrible place.
They rub wet clay in a blackleg's face,
An' roond the heaps they run a foot race
To catch the blackleg miner.
 
Now, don't go near the Seghill mine.
Across the way they stretch a line,
T' catch the throat an' break the spine
O' the dirty backleg miner.
 
They'll take your tools an' duds as well,
An' throw them doon the pit of hell.
It's doon ye go, an' fare ye well,
Y' dirty blackleg miner !
 
So join the union while ye may.
Don't wait till your dyin' day,
For that may not be far away,
Y' dirty blackleg miner...
 
*toon-raw = town-row

The Dark-Eyed Sailor

A song after the fashion of John Riley commonly found on broadsides. Gay and Terry heard this version from Al O'Donnell, a friend and singer in Dublin. It must be remembered that sea voyages a few centuries ago could take years to complete and it is not surprising that the two lovers should each take one half of a ring as a token of their enduring love.

This song is a typical broken token ballad (like "Claudy Banks" and many many more). It is remarkable in that it has been collected from oral tradition hundreds of times in all parts of Britain and Ireland, but all versions are virtually the same and can be traced back to one broadside printed in early 19th century. Therefore this song is sometimes cited as a proof for the damaging influence of the broadside on the variety of oral tradition.

As I roved out one evening fair
It bein' the summertime to take the air
I spied a sailor and a lady gay
And I stood to listen
And I stood to listen to hear what they would say.

 He said "Fair lady, why do you roam
For the day is spent and the night is on"
She heaved a sigh while the tears did roll
"For my dark-eyed sailor
For my dark-eyed sailor, so young and stout and bold."
 
"'Tis seven long years since he left this land
A ring he took from off his lily-white hand
One half of the ring is still here with me
But the other's rollin'
But the other's rollin' at the bottom of the sea."

He said "You may drive him out of your mind
Some other young man you will surely find
Love turns aside and soon cold has grown
Like the winter's morning
Like the winter's morning, the hills are white with snow."

She said "I'll never forsake my dear
Although we're parted this many a year
Genteel he was and a rake like you
To induce a maiden
To induce a maiden to slight the jacket blue."

One half of the ring did young William show
She ran distracted in grief and woe
Sayin' "William, William, I have gold in store
For my dark-eyed sailor
For my dark-eyed sailor has proved his honour long"

And there is a cottage by yonder lea
This couple's married and does agree
So maids be loyal when your love's at sea
For a cloudy morning
For a cloudy morning brings in a sunny day.

Copshawholme Fair

Geoff Woods, a song collector from Leeds, found this hidden away in the Cumberland County Library in Carlisle a few years ago. It had been recorded directly onto a 78 rpm record sometime during the 1930s and then filed away for posterity. The song tells of the annual hiring or "mop" fair that was held at the small village Copshawholme in Cumberland until quite recently.

On a fine eve'n fair in the month of Avril
O'er the hill came the man with the blythe sunny smile
And the folks they were throngin' the roads everywhere
Makin' haste to be in at Copshawholme Fair

I've seen 'em a-comin' in from the mountains and glens
Those rosy-faced lasses and strappin' young men
With a joy in their heart and unburdened o' care
A'meetin' old friends at Copshawholme Fair.

There are lads for the lasses, there's toys for the bairns
There jugglers and tumblers and folks with no arms
There's a balancing act here and a fiddler there
There are nut-men and spice-men at Copshawholme Fair

There are peddlers and potters and gingerbread stands
There are peepshows and poppin-darts and the green caravans
There's fruit from all nations exhibited there
With kale plants from Orange at Copshawholme Fair.

And now above all the hiring if you want to hear tell
You should ken it as afar I've seen it myself
What wages they adle it's ill to declare
The muckle they vary at Copshawholme Fair

Just the gal I have seen she's a strapping young queen
He asked what her age was and where she had been
What work she'd been doin', how long she'd been there
What wages she wanted at Copshawholme Fair.

Just then the bit lass stood a wee while in gloom
And she blushed and she scraped with her feet on the ground
Then she plucked up her heart and did stoutly declare
Well, a five pound and turn at Copshawholme Fair

Says he, but me lass, that's a very big wage
Then he'd turning about like he been in a rage
Says, I'll give ye five pounds but I'll give ye nay mare
Well I think him and tuck it at Copshawholme Fair.

He took out a shilling but to haul the bit wench
In case it might enter her head for to flinch
But she grabbed it muttering I should have had mare
But I think I will tuck it at Copshawholme Fair

Now the hirin's o'er and off they all sprang
Into the ballroom for to join in the throng
And "I Never Will Lie With My Mammy Nae Mair"
The fiddles play briskly at Copshawholme Fair.

Now this is the fashion they thus passed the day
Till the night comin' on they all hurry away
And some are so sick that they'll never join more
With the fighting and dancing at Copshawholme Fair.

All Things Are Quite Silent

A woman's lament for her husband who has been abducted from his bed and press-ganged into the navy. But take heed: although the system of impressment had almost faded out by 1835, it has never been abolished by Act of Parliament. Ralph Vaughan Williams collected this haunting song from a Ted Baines of Lower Beeding, Sussex, in 1904.

All things are quite silent, each mortal at rest,
When me and my true love got snug in one nest,
When a bold set of ruffians broke into our cave,
And they forced my dear jewel to plough the salt wave.

I begged hard for my darling as I would for my life.
They'd not listen to me although a fond wife,
Saying: "The king must have sailors, to the seas he must go,"
And they've left me lamenting in sorrow and woe.

Through green fields and meadows we ofttimes have walked,
And the fond recollections together have talked,
Where the lark and the blackbird so sweetly did sing,
And the lovely thrushes' voices made the valleys to ring.

Now although I'm forsaken I won't be be cast down.
Who knows but my true love some day may return?
And will make me amends For all trouble and strife,
And me and my true love might live happy for life

The Hills of Greenmore

A mighty song! But a little known one. This saga of a hare hunt and its variant The Granemore Hare hail from around Keady in County Armagh. In the song the only one to get through the rough end of the stick is the "pussy". Do we detect a Monigan in the hunt?

One fine winter's morn my horn I did blow
To the green fields of Keady for hours we did go
We covered our dogs and we searched all the way
For none loves this sport better than the boys in the Dale.
And when we are rising we're all standing there
We sit up by the fields, boys, in search of the hare

We didn't get far till someone gave the cheer
Over high hills and valleys this sweet puss did steer
As we flew o'er the hills, 'twas a beautiful sight
There was dogs black and yellow, there was dogs black and bright
Now she took to the black bank for to try them once more
Oh it was her last ride o'er the hills of Greenmore

In the field fleet stubble this pussy die lie
And in growing chary they did pass her by
And there well we stood at the top of the brae
We heard the last words that this sweet puss did say:
"No more o'er the green fields of Keady I'll roam
In touch of the fields, boys, in sporting and fun

Or hear the long horn that your toner does play
I'll go home to my den by the clear light of day"
You may blame our right man for killing the hare
For he said his o.k. first this many a year
On Saturday and Sunday he never gives o'er
With a pack of strange dogs round the hills of Greenmore.

My Johnny Was a Shoemaker

This version, taken from Colm O'Lochlainn's excellent Irish Street Ballads (Vol. II), is only one of several, the song having attained wide currency in both Britain and Ireland; even turning up in a Welsh version in 4/2 time. The word "reive" in the second verse, not to be confused with "reef", means to draw cord through eyelet holes; implying perhaps that Johnny will be doing a new kind of sewing.

My Johnny was a shoemaker and dearly he loved me
My Johnny was a shoemaker but now he's gone to sea
With pitch and tar to soil his hands
And to sail across the sea, stormy sea
And sail across the stormy sea

His jacket was a deep sky blue and curly was his hair
His jacket was a deep sky blue, it was, I do declare
For to reive the topsails up against the mast
And to sail across the sea, stormy sea
And sail across the stormy sea

Some day he'll be a captain bold with a brave and a gallant crew
Some day he'll be a captain bold with a sword and spyglass too
And when he has a gallant captain's sword
He'll come home and marry me, marry me
He'll come home and marry me.

Lowlands of Holland .

Although it happens quite often in the field of folk music that many versions of a particular song are reported it is rare that, as in the case of Lowlands of Holland, completely differing story lines are recorded. James Reeves (The Everlasting Circle) suggests that "there may have been an original in which a young bridegroom is pressed for service in the Netherlands, but in some of the later versions Holland appears to have become New Holland, the former name of Australia, which has been confused with the Dutch East Indies." The words of the version we perform refer to Galloway (Scotland) but the song crops up in all parts of the British Isles. Our tune was learned from Andy Irvine, a former member of Sweeney's Men.

Child #92 -- This version shares verses 1, 5 and 6 essentially with the more familiar ones, but has a completely different story line. This is the only version I know with no reference at all to press gangs and, well, Holland. The lost love here seems to have been a merchant captain rather than a pressed sailor

The love that I have chosen I therewith be content
The salt sea shall be frozen before that I repent
Repent it shall I never until the day I dee
But the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love lies in the salt sea and I am on the side
It's enough to break a young thing's heart that lately was a bride.
But lately was a bonny bride with pleasure in her e'e.
But the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love he built a bonny ship and set her on the sea
With seven score good mariners to bear her company.
But there's three score of them is sunk and three score dead at sea
And the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love has built another (or: a nether) ship and set her on the sea
And nane but twenty mariners all for to bring her hame.
But the weary wind began to rise, the sea began to roll
And my love then and his bonny ship turned with the shins about.

There shall nae a quiff come on my head nor comb come in my hair
There shall neither coal nor candlelight shine in my bower mair.
And neither will I marry until the day I dee
For I never had a love but one and he's drowned in the sea.

Oh hold your tongue my daughter dear, be still and be content.
There's men enough in Galloway, you need not sore lament.
Oh there's men enough in Galloway, alas there's none for me
For I never had a love but one and he's drowned in the sea.

Twa Corbies

...otherwise known as the Two Ravens, and sometimes called the Three Ravens. First printed in Motherwell's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border in 1803 it is one of the most popular of the Scottish ballads. For those unused to the dialect the two birds are discussing the pros and cons of eating a newly-slain knight.

This is a version of "The Three Ravens", a song which goes back to the 13th century at least, and was collected (and probably reworked) by Sir Walter Scott in "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", III, 239, ed. 1803. It is set to the tune "A la larc" from Brittany.

As I was walking all alane
I heard twa corbies makin' mane
And one ontae the other did say
Where will we gang and dine the day
Where will we gang and dine the day

In ahind yon oul fail dyke
I wot there lies a new slain knight
Naebody kens that he lies there
But his hawk and hound and his lady fair
His hawk and hound and his lady fair

His hawk is tae the hunting gane
His hound to bring a wild fowl hane
His wife has taken another mate
So we can make our dinner sweet
We can make our dinner sweet

And you can sit on his white breast bone
And I'll pick out his bonny blue e'en
And with a lock of his yellow hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare *
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare

And many's a one for him makes mane
Naebody kens where he has gane
Through his white bones when they grow bare
The wind shall blow forever there
The wind shall blow forever there

* theek=feather our nest

One Night As I Lay On My Bed

Collected by H.E.D. Hammond from a Mr. House of Beaminster, Dorset, in 1906, this ballad can perhaps claim to have the most discreet ending of any folk song. Similar songs are quoted frequently in sixteenth and early seventeenth century literature, musical and otherwise; even Robert Burns re-wrote a version calling it As I Lay On My Bed On a Night.

One night as I lay on my bed
I dreamed about a pretty maid.
I was so distressed, I could take no rest,
Love did torment me so.
So away to my true love I did go.

But when I came to my love's window,
I boldly called her by her name,
Saying: "It was for your sake I'm come here so late
Through this bitter frost and snow.
So it's open the window, my love, do."

"My mum and dad they are both awake,
And they will sure for to hear us speak.
There'll be no excuse then but sore abuse,
Many a bitter word and blow.
So begone from my window, my love, do."

"Your mum and dad they are both asleep,
And they are sure not to hear us speak,
For they're sleeping sound on their bed of down
And they draw their breath so low.
So open the window, my love, do!"

My love arose and she opened the door,
And just like an angel she stood on the floor.
Her eyes shone bright like the stars at night,
And no diamonds could shine so.
So in with my true love I did go.

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