The Banks of the Sweet Primroses

 

Oh as I walked out one mid-summer’s morning,
For to view the fields and the flowers so gay,
‘Twas there on the banks of the sweet primroses,
That I beheld a most pleasant maid. (last two lines sung twice each time)

 

I said, ‘Fair maid what make you wonder?
What is the cause of all your grief?
I will make you as happy as any lady,
If you will grant me one small relief.’

 

‘Stand off young man and don’t be so deceitful,
For it is you that is the cause of all my pain.
It is you that have caused my poor heart to wander,
And to find me comfort it’s all in vain.

 

I will go down to some lonely valley,
Where no man on earth there shall me find,
Where the pretty little small birds do change their voices
And every moment blows blustrous wind.’

 

So come all fair maidens from me take warning,
and pay attention to what I say:
There’s many a dark and a cloudy morning
turns out a bright and sunshiny day.

 

        This bitter-sweet song of lost love was held in great affection by country singers. As a consequence it was widely noted from oral tradition, the first time perhaps by W. A. Barrett in 1891. Two other early collectors, Henry and Robert Hammond, believed the primroses (that is, versions of the song) to be ‘so numerous we did not stop to gather any’. The first published text seems to have been issued by the ballad printer James Catnach of London’s Seven Dials, though it is not listed in his 1832 catalogue. Other printers, in Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere, kept the song on the streets until the 1880s. Phil Tanner’s fine version is sung with characteristic melodic variations. Almost all of the collected versions come with the same fine (and obviously popular) melody. This may also help explain why the song became so widespread. Other classic recorded versions include Bob, John, Jim & Ron Copper on TSCD534 ‘Come Write me Down’, Fred Jordan on VTD148CD A Shropshire Lad’ and Harry Cox on ‘The Bonny Labouring Boy’ TSCD512D.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Gower Wassail

 

A Wassail, a wassail, throughout all this town,
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our wassail is made of good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could get,

 

(Refrain) Fal de dal, lal de dal de dal, lal de dal de dal, lal de dal de dee,
Fal de dairal, lal de dah de, sing touralydoh.

 

Our wassail is made of an eldberry bough,
Although my good neighbour we’ll drink unto thou,
Beside all others we have apples in store,
Pray let us come in for it’s cold by the door.
Fal de dal .......

 

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
And we know by the sky that we are not too high.
We know by the stars that we are not too far,
And we know by the ground that we are within sound.
Fal de dal .......

 

Will your company resign for to taste of your ale,
Out of that little kilderkin that’s next to the well,
We want none of your pale beer nor none of your smell,
But a drop from the kilderkin that’s next to the well.
Fal de dal .......

 

Now master and mistress, if you are within,
Pray send out your maid with her lilywhite skin,
For to open the door without more delay,
Our time it is precious and we cannot stay,
Fal de dal .......

 

(sung by the family inside the house:)

You’ve brought here your jolly wassail which is very well known,
 

But I can assure you we’ve as good of our own;
As for your jolly wassail we care not one pin,
But it’s for your good company I’ll let you come in.
Fal de dal .......

 

(The door opens; the chorus is sung by those within and without;
the wassailers come in and put their wassail by the fire to warm).
After drinking the wassailers sing on leaving .....).

 

Here’s a health to Old Colly and her crooked horn,
May God send her master a good crop of corn,
Of barley and wheat and all sorts of grain,
May God send her mistress a long life to reign.
Fal de dal .......
 

Now master and mistress, thanks to you we’ll give,
And for our jolly wassail as long as we live,
And if we should live till another New Year,
Perhaps we may call and see who do live here.
Fal de dal .......

 

        When Phil Tanner first recorded his wassail song, in 1936, he was still making up a brew of drink to his own recipe, taking it round the village on Twelfth Day and singing outside, to be answered with verses from those within. The 1937 recording only includes four of the verses leaving out the answering verse although the 1949 recording includes the full text of eight verses. There are other wassailing songs sung in the west of England but Tanner’s evocative third verse is not found in other versions. Interestingly, Charlie Bate of Padstow in Cornwall sang the Gower Wassail with the same tune. He only sings the four verses that Phil Tanner sang on the 1936 recording and the fact that he located the song in Gower makes it probable that he learned it from that recording. Charlie Bate was recorded singing the song in 1956 by Peter Kennedy and it can be heard on Rounder CD1719 ‘Songs of Christmas’. Other available recordings of wassailing songs include the Bodmin Wassailers (Cornwall) on TSCD666 ‘You lazy lot of bone-shakers’ and the Wassailers from Drayton (Somerset) on TSCD663 ‘They ordered their pints of
beer and bottles of sherry’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Young Henry Martin

 

There live’d in Scotland three brothers three,
In Scotland there lived brothers three,
And they did cast lots for to see which of them,
Which of them, which of them,
Should go sailing all on the salt sea.

 

The lot it fell out on young Henry Martin,
The youngest of these brothers three,
That he should go sailing all on the salt sea,
Salt sea, salt sea,
To maintain his two brothers and he

 

We had not long been sailing on a cold winter’s morning,
Three hours before it was day,
Before we espied a lofty tall ship,
A tall ship, a tall ship,
Coming sailing all on the salt sea.

‘Hallo, hallo,’ cried bold Henry Martin,
‘How dare you come sailing so high?’
‘We’re a rich merchant ship bound for old England,
England, England,
Will you please for to let us pass by?

 

‘Oh, no, no, no,’ cried bold Henry Martin,
‘That never, no never can be,
For I am turned pirate to rob the salt sea,
Salt sea, salt sea,
To maintain my two brothers and me.’

 

‘Take down your top royal, cut away your main mast,
Come hither in under my lee,
For I will take from you all of your flowing gold,
Flowing gold, flowing gold,
And I’ll turn your fair bodies to the sea.’
 

Then broadside for broadside we valiantly fought,
We fought for four hours and more,
Till at last Henry Martin gave her a dead shot,
A dead shot, a dead shot,
And down to the bottom she goes.

 

Bad news, bad news, to you English heroes,
Bad news I have for to tell,
There is one of your rich ships sunk off the land,
Off the land, off the land.
And all of your merry men drowned.

 

        When a Scot called John Barton had his ship seized by the Portuguese his three sons were authorised to take reprisals. After a time they started attacking English as well as Portuguese vessels. In 1511 Henry VIII sent out a flotilla under the sons of the Earl of Surrey, Lord Thomas Howard and Sir Edward Howard, which defeated and killed Andrew Barton, and captured his ships, ‘Lion’ and ‘Union’, an event duly celebrated in ballads. Henry Martin may be a distorted echo of Andrew Barton. The American scholar F.J. Child categorically stated: ‘The (former) ballad must have sprung from the ashes of Andrew Barton, of which name Henry Martyn would be no extraordinary corruption’ – though he gave the two items separate numbers in his collection. Unlike his possible forerunner, Henry Martin triumphs when he is challenged at sea, and the song collector Cecil Sharp considered the ballad to be separate. Andrew Barton and Henry Martin circulated orally on both side of the Atlantic until almost within living memory. The fine version of the latter which Sam Larner (1878-1965) of Norfolk sang under the title of ‘Lofty Tall Ship’, can be heard on TSCD511 ‘Now is the time for fishing’. Phil Tanner’s performance of his own version, with its sensitive variations, also has a strong appeal.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oyster Girl

 

‘Oh oysters, Oh oysters, Oh oysters’, said she,
‘I’ve got some of the finest oysters that ever you did see.
Oh ’tis three a penny I do sell, but four I’ll give to thee.
For to bargain for the basket of oysters.’
(last two lines repeated after each verse)

 

‘Oh landlord, Oh landlord, Oh landlord,’ said he,
‘Have you got a little private room for the oyster girl and me?
Where we both may sit down and so merry, merry be.
While we bargain for the basket of oysters.’
 

‘Oh yes sir, Oh yes sir, Oh yes sir,’ said he,
‘I’ve a got a little private room for the oyster girl and thee,
Where you both can sit down and so merry, merry be.
‘Til you bargain for the basket of oysters.’

 

‘Oh landlord, Oh landlord, Oh landlord,’ said he
‘Hath you seen that little oyster girl that came along with me?
She hath pick-ed my pocket of all of my money,
And left me with my basket of oysters.’
She hath picked my pocket of eighty pound or more
And left me with my basket of oysters.’

 

‘O yes, sir, O yes, sir, O yes, sir,’ said he,
‘I’ve seen that little oyster girl that came along with thee.
She hath paid all the reckoning so now you can’t go free,
For to travel with thy basket of oysters.’
 

I’ve travelled through England, through Ireland, through Scotland and France.
But never was I, in all my life, served out by such a dance.,
By a bold English girl who her voice it was so clear,
She hath teached me the way to sell oysters.

 

        The very mention of oysters – long reputed to be an aphrodisiac – would have been enough to prepare the listener for some kind of amorous intrigue. The song’s earliest appearance in print seems to have been as The Eating of Oysters in a garland (booklet) with seven other texts issued by M. Randall of Stirling in Scotland, c.1794-1812, under the overall title of A New Patriotic Song. With the help of further broadside printings, The Oyster Girl spread through Britain, Ireland and the USA, and remained in oral tradition until late in the twentieth century. Other recorded versions include George Dunn on MTCD317-8 ‘Chainmakers’ and Mary Anne Haynes on MTCD320 ‘Here’s luck to a man.’’

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Roger Esquire

 

Young Roger Esquire came a courting of late,
To a rich farmer’s daughter called beautiful Kate.
And she for her fortune had five thousand pounds,
With rich rings and jewels,
With rich rings and jewels,
And a piece of fine ground.
 

The day being appointed and the money laid down,
Was that not a fine fortune of five thousand pounds.
Young Roger he swore by his curly long hair,
‘I’ll not wed your daughter,
I’ll not wed your daughter,
Without the grey mare.’

 

Then spoke up her father and thus say-ed he,
‘I thought that you lov-ed my daughter indeed.
But as I have got her thus far in my care,
You shall not have my daughter, you shall not have my daughter,
Nor yet my grey mare.’

 

Twelve months being over and a little above,
Young Roger Esquire met Katie, his love.
Saying, ‘Katie, loving Katie, O don’t you know me?’
‘Such a man of your likeness I chance for to see,
Such a man of your likeness with curling long hair,
That once came a courting, That once came a courting,
My father’s grey mare.’

 

Says Roger to Katie, ‘Them words I’ll deny,
And the truth of the story I will on you try.
I thought that your father would have made no dispute,
But to give me his daughter, but to give me his daughter,
And the grey mare to boot.’

 

        With the alternative titles of 'Young Roger and the Grey Mare', or simply the last three words alone, this sunny, lighthearted song was popular with broadside printers and singers alike. Judging by the apparent absence of a prior record, it  seems to have been written early in the nineteenth century.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swansea Barracks

 

‘Twas down by Swansea barracks I alone one morning strayed,
A-viewing of the soldiers and I saw a pretty maid,
Her hair it was as black as jet, in ringlets hanging down,
She was a blooming rose of South Wales and a lass of Swansea Town.

 

(Chorus) Her hair it was as black as jet, in ringlets hanging down,
Search the universe all over and her equal can’t be found.
She was a blooming rose of South Wales and a lass of Swansea Town.

 

I said, ‘ My pretty fair maid what made you wander here?’
She said, ‘Kind sir I am watching for my bonny soldier dear.
Eight years ago he left me, when to Bermuda he was bound,
And he vowed he would prove faithful to the lass of Swansea Town.’

 

I said, ‘My pretty fair maid sad news I have to tell,
Your lover was my comrade and in the battle fell.
A cannon ball made him to fall and gave him his death wound,
And begged me to protect the blooming lass of Swansea Town.’
 

Then on the ground in agony this pretty maid did fall,
Saying, ‘I shall never rest until in my breast there strikes a cannon ball,
Eight years ago he left me when to Bermuda he was bound,
And he vowed he would be faithful to the lass of Swansea Town.’
 

        It has been suggested that a number of nursery rhymes mention Banbury because the printer, J.G. Rusher, lived there and inserted the name of his home town. Elsewhere a simple change converted The Sheffield Apprentice into The London Apprentice or moved The London Convict Maid to Bristol. Printers might leave a blank, as in The Lass of –shire, so that singers might insert their preferred locality. The Lass of – Town was issued by John Harkness of Preston and Birt (which could have been Thomas, Mary or George) of London, and no doubt by others. Birt’s version (see illustration) indicates the tune 'Irish Molly O'. Phil Tanner had a truncated text, which lacked the returning lover who identifies himself not by a broken token but by a convenient scar. Suggestions that there is an Irish version of this song, as 'The Blooming Rose of Antrim', have proved unfounded, and Phil Tanner’s recording is apparently unique.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Barbara Allen

 

In Scarlet Town where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwelling,
Made every youth say, ‘Well-a-day’,
Her name was Barbara Allen.
 

All in the blooming month of May,
When green buds they were swelling,
Young Jimmy Grove on his death bed lay,
For love of Barbara Allen.

 

He sent his man down through the town,
To the place where she was dwelling.
‘You must come to my master dear,
If you be Barbara Allen.’

 

So slowly, slowly she came up,
So slowly she came nigh him,
And all she said when there she came,
‘Young man I think you’re dying.’

 

‘A dying man, no, no,’ said he,
‘One kiss from thee would cure me.’
‘One kiss from me thou never shalt have,
If your poor heart was breaking.’

 

He turned his face against the wall,
As pangs of death he fell in,
‘Adieu, adieu, adieu to all,
Adieu to Barbara Allen.’

 

When he was dead and laid in his grave,
Her heart was struck with sorrow,
‘Oh mother, mother make my bed,
I shall die tomorrow.’

 

She on her death bed as she lay,
Begged to be buried by him,
And so repented of that day,
That she did e’er deny him.

 

‘Farewell’, she cried, You virgins all,
And shun the fault I fell in.
Hence forth take warning by the fate,
Of cruel Barbara Allen.’

 

        The diarist Samuel Pepys, heard this ‘little Scotch (by which he meant northern) song’ with great pleasure in 1666, and a century later the poet Oliver Goldsmith claimed that ‘the music of the finest singer is dissonance compared to when an old dairymaid sung me into tears with Johnny Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, or The Cruelty of Barbara Allen.’ Two centuries on again, the American scholar, B. H. Bronson wrote: ‘This little song of a spineless lover who gives up the ghost without a struggle, and his spirited beloved who repents too late, has paradoxically shown a stronger will to live than perhaps any other ballad in the canon. It is still universally known.’ Tanner’s version is among scores of others but it is none the less welcome. Other recorded versions include Phoebe Smith on VT136CD ‘The Yellow Handkerchief’, Sarah Makem on TSCD667 ‘It fell on a day, a bonny summers day’, Vic Legg on VT129CD ‘I’ve come to sing a song’ and Jane Turiff on SPRCD1038 ‘Singin’ is Ma Life’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Phoebe and the Dark-eyed Sailor

 

It’s of a comely young lady fair,
Who was walking out for to take the air,
She met a sailor upon her way,
So I paid attention, so I paid attention, to hear what they did say

 

Said William, ‘Lady, why roam alone?
The night is coming, and the day near gone.’
She said, while tears from her eyes did roll,
‘It’s a dark-eyed sailor, it’s a dark-eyed sailor, hath prov-ed my downfall.’

 

‘It is two long years since he left this land,
I took a gold ring from off my hand,
I broke that token, this part with me,
And the other is rolling, and the other’s rolling, in the bottom of the sea.’

 

Said William, ‘Drive him all from your mind,
Some other sailor as good you’ll find.’
‘Genteel he was, not a rake like you.
To advise a maiden, to advise a maiden to slight the jacket blue.’

 

These words did Phoebe’s fond heart inflame,
She said, ‘On me you shall play no game.’
She drew a dagger and then did cry,
‘For my dark-eyed sailor, for my dark-eyed sailor a maid I live and die.’
 

But still,’ said Phoebe, ‘I ne’er disdain
A tarry sailor but treat the same,
Love turns aside and soon does grow.
Like a winter’s morning, like a winter’s morning, when the land is covered with snow.’
 

Then half the ring did young William show.
She seemed distracted with joy and woe,
‘Oh welcome William, I’ve land and gold.
It’s my dark-eyed sailor, it’s my dark-eyed sailor so manly, true and bold.’
 

His coal black eyes and his curly hair,
And pleading tongue did her heart ensnare,
‘Oh, drink his health, here’s a piece of coin.
For my dark-eyed sailor, for my dark-eyed sailor still claims this heart of mine.’
 

Then in a village down by the sea,
They joined in wedlock, and will agree:
All maids be true when your lover is away,
For a cloudy morning, for a cloudy morning, brings forth a sun shine day!

 

        Lovers, faced with years of separation and fearing they would fail to recognise each other when they were reunited, would break a coin or a ring and take half each, to be kept as a form of identification. The '‘broken token'’ theme inspired a whole series of songs, including Fair Phoebe and the Dark-eyed Sailor (which is sometimes known merely by the second half of the title). This may owe something to the vogue for Black-ey’d Susan, written by Douglas Jerrold in 1829, and in turn based on John Gay’s poem, Sweet William’s farewell to Black-eyed Susan of the previous century. Fair Phoebe seems to have been first printed by the ballad-publishing rivals, John Pitts and James Catnach, both of Seven Dials in London, and it appears in both their catalogues. Other printers took to it up in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and elsewhere – and it became widespread in oral tradition in Britain, Ireland and North America. Other recorded versions include Walter Pardon on TSCD514 ‘A world without horses’, Charlotte Renals on VT119CD ‘Catch me if you can’, Jack Clark on VT140CD ‘Good Order’ and Fred Jordan on VTD148CD ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bonny Bunch of Roses

 

By the dangers of the ocean, one morning in the month of June,
The feathered warbling songster their charming notes so sweet did tune,
There I espied a female, seemingly in grief and woe,
Conversing with young Bonaparte, concerning the bonny bunch of roses O.
Concerning the bonny bunch of roses O.

 

When first you saw great Bonaparte, you fell upon your bended knees,
And asked your father’s life of him, he granted it most manfully.
‘Twas then he took an army, and o’er the frozen realms did go.
He said, ‘I’ll conquer Moscow, then go to the bonny bunch of roses O.
Then go to the bonny bunch of roses O.’

 

‘Oh son thy speaks so vengesome, for England is the heart of oak.
England, Ireland and Scotland, their unity can never be broke.
And son, think of your father, in St Helena his body lies low.
And you may follow after, so beware of the bonny bunch of roses O.
So beware of the bonny bunch of roses O.’

 

He took five hundred thousand men, and likewise kings to join his throng,
He was so well provided, enough to sweep this world along,
But when he came near Moscow, near overpowered by driven snow.
All Moscow was a-blazing, then he left the bonny bunch of roses O.
He left the bonny bunch of roses O.

 

‘Oh mother adieu forever, now I am on my dying bed.
If I’d have lived I should have been clever, but now I droop my youthful head.
And while our bones doth moulder, and the weeping willow o’ver us grow,
The deeds of bold Napoleon will sting the bonny bunch of roses O.
Will sting the bonny bunch of roses O.’

 

        Napoleon died in 1821, still exiled on the distant South Atlantic island of St Helena. Among the many books which perpetuated his memory was Sir Walter Scott’s Life of 1827. In 1833 Napoleon’s statue was restored to the top of its column in Paris’s Place Vendome, and seven years later Francois, the son of King Louis-Philippe, was sent off in a warship to St Helena to bring Napoleon’s remains home. After a lavish funeral in December 1840 his body was consigned to an elaborate tomb in Les Invalides. His son, proclaimed Napoleon II in 1815 at the age of four, had died in 1832. His nephew, having seized power in 1851, had himself crowned as Napoleon III the following year, and reigned until 1870. All these events helped to keep ‘la legende napoleonienne’.

      While Napoleon I was a threat to Britain, patriotic song writers and balladeers poured out defiant and derogatory broadsides such as these:
 

        Though the world bow the neck to the Corsican Chief,
        We Britons will ever resist hand and heart,
        And die, e’er we’ll barter our English Roast Beef
        For Soup Maigre, and Frogs, or a d_mn’d Bony-part!
                                                            (John Bull to his countrymen)

 

        Bonaparte, the bully, resolv’d to come over,
        With flat-bottom’d wherries, from Calais to Dover;
        No perils to him in the billows are found –
        For if born to be hang’d he can never be drown’d.
                                                            (A New Song of Old Sayings)

 

Napoleon’s disastrous defeat in Russia in 1813 received a rapturous welcome

 

        O, Bonaparte, thou greatest scourge
        That Europe’s nation ever saw!
        Thy wicked reign seems nigh an end,
        A reign that spurn’d at ev’ry law!
        The waste of human life thou’st made,
        The widows and the orphans too,
        The mem’ry’s bloody stain shall stand,
        A stain time cannot blot from view!
        (Chorus)
        Now let us pray that soon we’ll see
        Of meek-ey’d Peace the cheering ray,
        And that the direful strife of war
        May cease, till earth disolves away.

                                                               (Bonaparte’s Retreat from Moscow)

 

        In complete contrast, when Napoleon had ceased to be a danger, and even more when he was dead, the pathos of his epic fall inspired a series of street ballads with titles such as The Ashes of Napoleon, Dream of Napoleon, Grand Conversation on Napoleon, The Isle of St Helena, Napoleon’s Farewell and Young Napoleon or The Bunch of Roses. It is possible that the last of these was produced in 1832 on the news of the death of Napoleon’s son, Francois-Charles-Joseph Bonaparte, at the age of only twenty-one. (His mother – familiarly styled as Lucy in one English ballad – was Marie-Louise of Hapsburg – Lorraine, daughter of the German emperor, Francis II, who married Napoleon I in 1810).

      One ballad printer, W. S. Fortey of London, gives the tune as The Bonny Bunch of Rushes. A rare version of this was noted in Dorset by Hammond in 1905. It should not be confused with the traditional song adapted by Robert Burns in the 1780s as:

 

        Green grow the rashes (rushes), O,
        Green grow the rashes, O;
        The sweetest hours that e’er I spend,
        Are spent among the lasses, O.

 

This, incidentally, was the tune prescribed for Bonaparte’s Retreat from Moscow.

        Two far-fetched (and mutually contradictory) theories about the Bonny Bunch of Roses must be dismissed as groundless: the views of early collectors that it is ‘almost certainly an anti-Jacobite production, adapted to Napoleon’ (Sabine Baring-Gould) and that ‘before the time of Napoleon the song had a Jacobite significance’ (Ann Gilchrist).

        Phil Tanner shares with many other singers the phrase, 'dangers of the ocean', in the first line of the song, which should surely be 'margins of the ocean'. This in turn follows the wording adopted by many printers. Other recorded versions include Harry Cox on TSCD512D 'The Bonny Labouring Boy', and Cyril Poacher on TSCD658 'A story I'm about to tell'.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parson and the Clerk

 

A parson preached to his flock one day, on the sins of the human race.
And the clerk, ‘Amen,’ aloud did say, with the solemnest tone and face.
And this pious clerk, on the quiet, though would venture a bit of remark.
‘Oh sin is sweet’, said the parson.’ Then sin for me’, said the clerk.
Amen
Then sin for me’, said the clerk.

 

‘Oh never covet thy neighbour’s goods,’ the parson he said, ‘nor his maid,’
‘To rob a man of that what’s his, why a fellow should be afraid.
Nor covet ye not no man of sin, I would venture this better to mark.’
‘Thy neighbour’s wife’, said the parson. ‘The slavey for me,’ said the clerk.
Amen
‘The slavey for me,’ said the clerk.
 

‘Oh never sigh for that dross called gold, for blessed in the man that is poor,
Nor cast ye the loaves, nor fishes from the poor.
For, I grieve to say, it is my fate to drive a carriage-and-pair in the park,
With a thousand a year’, said the parson. ‘Oh give it to me,’ said the clerk.
Amen
‘There’s no pride about me,’ said the clerk.

My Christian friends and brethren, you should ever be humble and meek,
And never strike a sinful man, when he strike you one on the cheek.
But turn, my friends, to the erring one, Yes, turn to the sinner so dark.
Thy other cheek,’ said the parson. ‘I’ll break his nose,’ said the clerk.
Amen
‘Yes, land him at once,’ said the clerk.

 

‘Oh the boys are awfully tribulous,’ the parson he said with a groan.
‘The boys too oft their Sunday school, won’t let the young hussies alone,
I’ve watched them grin behind their books, and I’ve seen the boys at their lark,
They were kissing the girls,’ said the parson. ‘I’ve done it myself,’ said the clerk.
Amen
‘And they’re fond of it too,’ said the clerk.
 

Well now, my sermon, friends, is done, I bid you go work and pray.
And don’t do all your parson does, but do as your passion say.
And be ready to part of all worldly care, I venture this modest remark.
‘Never drink’, said the parson. ‘I’m awfully dry,’ said the clerk.
Amen
‘And I’m off for a wet,’ said the clerk.

 

        For many years it was thought that Phil Tanner's version of this song, first recorded in 1949, was unique. In 1979, though, Mike Yates recorded Walter Pardon (1914-96) of Norfolk singing it. Then a Mrs. Brenda Bentall of Tonbridge, Kent, wrote to me (Roy Palmer) in 1982 to say that not only did she remember a verse of the song which she learned before 1934 but that she had a printed copy. This turned out to be an item of sheet music 'sung with immense success' by G. H. Macdermott (1845 1901), and written and composed by Geoffrey Thorn (pseudonym of Charles Townley, 1843-1905) which Hopwood & Crew of London published in 1882. Tanner would have been twenty when it came out. His memorable performance, almost lapsing into speech at times, is full of infectious gusto.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Roy Palmer  

        


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