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, Sussex in 1907. Anna Turnbull of http://www.annaandthewillow.co.uk crafted the remarkable willow sculpture The Huntress of Ripon. The terrifying heavy seas were photographed by Philip Stephen. https://www.naturepl.com/gallery/1416/8081/7363?p=2