As we now have it, this ancient ballad is enigmatic, though a little clearer if we recall the story of Jonah in the Bible, or the incident on the ship taking the apostle Paul to Rome in which a bad storm was blamed on the some guilty person on board. It was a long-standing belief that the only way to save a ship in danger was to throw the guilty one overboard. In our song the lady makes her view known: It’s better to lose two lives, than lose so many (sailors). However, we are none the wiser about what she was said to have done wrong.
George Butterworth collected the song from Mr & Mrs Cranstone of Billingshurst, West Sussex in 1907. Anna Turnbull of http://www.annaandthewillow.co.uk crafted the remarkable willow sculpture The Huntress of Ripon. The ship in terrifying heavy seas was photographed by Philip Stephen.
The Worcestershire Wedding two verses from Mrs Marina Russell, Upwey, Dorset, January / February 1907. Collected by Henry Hammond. Variant tune and additional words from a broadside.
The painting is The Village Wedding, by Samuel Luke Fildes. Thomas Hardy describes wedding parties in the 1800s processing around the the village so that everyone could see the couple and wish them well in their marriage.
Sally My Dear was collected by Cecil Sharp from Jack Barnard at Bridgwater, Somerset, 10 April 1906. The top picture is a handsome garganey photographed at Slimbridge by Nigel Key.
The song came from John Northover, Uploaders, Dorset. May 1906. Two verses were collected by Henry Hammond, the remainder taken by Frank Purslow from a broadside. Several Morris sides dance to versions of the tune.
There are no nuts to be gathered in May. The children’s rhyme should be “Here we go gathering knots of may” which refers to the old custom of gathering knots of flowers on May Day. The ordinary phrase would be “to go a-maying”. (From a Times.co.uk online article)
Several versions of this delightful West Country song have been collected since the late 19th century, all full of imagery and allusions, and equally hard to fathom.
Hey For Somersetshire is in The Oxford Song Book, 1931, to the tune mentioned in the song: Sellinger’s Round (St Leger’s) which, as the song says, is also known as The Beginning Of The World. It was first published in Playford’s Dancing Master of 1657. The drawings are by Randolph Caldecott who captures the humour and unrelenting abandon of a country dance… and the garland by the fiddler, the only one who didn’t dance.
There are two types of hawthorn in the British Isles. They’re identical except in the month of May when they’re easily told apart by the prolific white or pink blossom of varying intensities and it’s a certain indication that spring’s underway in earnest. Hawthorn is often called May by the older generation. There’s a traditional rhyme: ‘Cast ne’er a clout ’til May be out.’ meaning don’t take off your your winter clothes until either the hawthorn is in full blossom or the month of May is over. It’s a time of hope, new life and love.