From the album Locks & Bolts. Photo by Scott-Wood.
Max Hunter collected ‘Jenny, Fair Jen’ from Reba Dearmore of Mountain Home, Arkansas, in 1969. The mulberry tree appears in the refrains of other versions and unrelated songs, but its significance is unclear.
Today is Saint Cecilia’s Day and my birthday. Hurrah! To celebrate everyone’s birthdays and the many hundreds of children I taught there are four songs today.
As a teacher in several large primary schools the child or children stood in front of the hall at assembly and we all sang ‘Happy Birthday To You’ on their big day. One day for a change I wrote what became known as The Nah-nah’s Song which became popular in every other school I visited. It went like this:
In another school I wrote ‘Because It’s My Birthday Again’ for some rebellious children. It usually finished with some suitably raucous cheering;
Then this one, which was followed by their own choice of song ( usually the Nah-nah’s Song):
And lastly, a song in which the audience repeated the phrase I’d just sung. (Not easy) It was for children who didn’t like standing up in front of the school while everyone sang to them: The Anti-Birthday Song Birthday Song, followed by a song of their choice:
This is one of the better-known versions of the ancient ballad, with a lovely tune to match. The young man with ‘eyes that glanced like fire’ was with his bride at the Landshuter Hochzeit (Landshut Wedding).
The song follows the tradition that it isn’t what you’ve got that counts, but how much of it you have. ‘Sailor’ is by Finnish artist Hugo Backmansson 1897. (1860-1953)