Category: Traditional folk song

We Be Three Poor Mariners

Thomas Ravenscroft’s collections of songs and music were very popular during his lifetime and continue to be a valuable source of early traditional song. We Be Three Poor Mariners was printed in Deuteromelia in 1609. The word ‘bully’ meant ‘admirable, gallant, jolly’ and survived…

Forty Long Miles

From Mrs Jane Gulliver, Combe Florey, Somerset, May 1905. Collected by Henry Hammond. Snowstorm is an outstanding woodcut by Eileen Frances Balfour Browne (1905-1980) who exhibited at the Royal Academy three times between 1931 and 1933. A brief biography is here.

The Bold Richard

The Bold Richard was collected by Jack Moeran in Norfolk. The refrain ‘What cheer?’ is an archaic form of ‘How are you?’ In the southeast of England, where I come from, it survives among the older generation as the greeting ‘Wotcher’. The painting of…

Pretty Nancy

Words from Roberts Barrett, Piddletown, Dorset, September 1905; Joseph Elliot, Todber, & Daniel Wigg, Preston Candover, July 1907. Tune from Sam Gregory & Mrs Tuck, Beaminster, June 1906. Collected by Henry Hammond & George Gardiner.

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair is one of many songs in British folklore in which there are impossible tasks and questions which cannot be answered. In its oldest form it’s associated with outwitting the evil one by having the last word. In this song there’s no hint…

The Foggy Dew

Sung to Cecil Sharp by John Voke at Castle of Comfort, Mendip, Somerset, 15 April 1904.

Our Captain Cried All Hands

The tune and first verse were collected by George Gardiner from George Smith, Fareham, Hampshire c.1908. The remainder came from Frank Purslow. Perhaps it was the last line of the song, which has a definite air of Christian hope, that gave Ralph Vaughan Williams…