For some reason barley is traditionally associated with ‘sport and play’ in folk song. The mother in this tale won’t hear of her daughter taking a walk over the fields with a local lad, but something changes her mind. That’s traditional too.
The song (which was incomplete) was from my teaching days in a village school.
The Green Wedding is a fine and ancient ballad. The beautiful and much courted bride, when she is named at all in the various versions, was Katherine Jaffrey. Her love is sometimes named Lochinvar. Whatever the identities and details of this story, from the early 13th century onwards, there were many known abductions of the bride on her wedding day – not always with her consent – and our tale is likely to be true.
I was a teacher at a village school and the children in my class brought me songs, rhymes and games from their parents and grandparents as part of a project – and because they knew I’d appreciate them. Billy Is A Jolly Sailor is one of several real gems which I’ve not found anywhere else.
This week two members of the present day King family posted comments about my recording of It’s A Rosebud In June which Farmer William King sang to Cecil Sharp at Castle of Comfort on 15th April 1904. William must have impressed the song collector because he came back on 25 August 1904 to note The Crystal Spring at East Harptree, Somerset.
There are many traditional songs on the theme of a woman dressing as a man and enlisting as a sailor, and it certainly did happen. Jackie not only follows her sweetheart, but saves his life too. Now that’s what I call love.
I have a large collection of songs and an even larger one of music, both are expanding almost daily. I can’t hope to record everything that takes my fancy, but here’s a favourite Irish tune on concertina, bodhran and guitar. May it set your toes tapping and banish the blues.
Fifty years ago two Irish friends, about to marry, were slimming down possessions ready for their new life. They gave me what they thought were blank reel-to-reel tapes. I checked them over at home and discovered their beautiful voices. Later I thanked them and said how much I loved their singing. They hadn’t realised they were recorded and were acutely embarrassed so I gave the tapes back. The Shores Of Amerikay is the only song I had memorised.
The illustration is Cathedral Harbour, St John’s, Newfoundland.
The Dashing Young Fellow From Buckinghamshire is a ridiculous adventure usually published incomplete. I don’t remember where I found this version.
You may like to know: A wager is a bet. Watchmen were officials keeping a night lookout for villains or anything out of order. Newgate was a London prison. Beak is a slang word meaning judge or magistrate. A fortnight is two weeks. (Fourteen nights.)
There were once hundreds of steps or stairs on the Thames now there are few and are mostly in a poor state of repair. As taxi drivers on the roads learn the Knowledge of every road in London so the watermen knew all the stairs and their adjoining streets. They gave access to the river for the watermen to load and unload goods and passengers.
I wrote the tune for tin whistle in about 2011 when I was at the height of my skill on the instrument. Unfortunately I never mastered the art of singing and playing tin whistle at the same time. This is the only recording.
In the old days the wife or mother of a man sent to sea would never know when their son or husband might return. In the meantime the family would have no income to live on. When he did return he’d bring a measure of security once more, perhaps in ‘prize money’, and the whole community would celebrate.
What a long way we’ve come in looking after our Naval personnel and their families since our song first appeared in John Stokoe’s 1893 collection, Songs Of Northern England.
Dol-li-a is from John Stokoe’s 1893 collection, Songs Of Northern England. In case you miss the song’s story line the Black Cuffs and Green Cuffs (a description, not their official name) were Foreign Troops in British Service 1793–1802. The lasses are sorry the Back Cuffs are leaving so Dolly pawns her shirt to pay her expenses when she goes after them.
The image of Sandgate Street, Newcastle upon Tyne c.1900, is from Les Masterson.
Collected many times in the southern counties of England, Stephen Sedley wrote: ‘This innocuous song has suffered severely at the hands of expurgators in the past.’ The painting is by Alexander Averin.
W B Whall, Master Mariner, published this song in Sea Songs & Shanties, 1910, noting that it was very popular 1860-1870. It’s uncertain whether the ‘original’ song refers to Boston Massachusetts or Boston Lincolnshire. The painting is the Clippership Alert Leaving Boston c. 1835 by Christopher Blossom.
Robert Kinchin (63) at Wilmington, Warwickshire, sang this to Cecil Sharp on 23 August 1909. It was considered too ‘near the mark’ to be printed as it stood so was edited for schools. I’m singing that original unexpurgated version here and I’m blowed if I can see anything naughty in it.