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One Morning in May

As I was a-walking one morning in May,
I met a young couple come strolling my way;
One was a young girl, she was dressed all in blue,
And the other was a soldier, a gallant dragoon.

He threw down his knapsack to play her a tune;
He played her such music by the touch of the string -
She would rather hear the fiddle play than the nightingale sing.

"Now", said the soldier, "It's time I was gone."
"Oh no!" said the fair maid, "Play me up another tune."
He played her up another tune by the touch of the string -
She would rather hear the fiddle play than the nightingale sing.

"Now," said the fair maid, "Will you marry me?"
"Oh no", said the soldier, "That never can be.
I've got a little wife at home in my country,
She's the prettiest little lady you ever did see."

"But if I should return again in the spring,
When the pretty little birds are whistling,
And the nightingale sings."

An extremely well-known song that was once as popular in America as it was in England. Victorian broadside printers called it either The Nightingale (Russell of Birmingham & Willey of Cheltenham) or else The Bold Grenadier (Forth of Hull). There were at least two commercial recordings of the song made in America (by Bill Cox & Cliff Hobbs in 1936, and by the Coon Creek Girls in 1938) but the song had clearly spread long before these recordings were made. Versions from two other Gypsy singers (Caroline Hughes and Nelson Ridley) may be found in Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger's ‘Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland’. 1977, pp. 170-73.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates


























































The Prisoner Lad

A lad stood in a police court, not very far from here,
The boy stood in the prison dock, his mother standing near,
The lad was quite a youngster, who'd been lately led astray,
And from his mother's cash box he had stolen some coins away.

"Don't send my boy to prison sir,
For this will drive me mad.
Remember I'm a widow,
And that prisoner is my lad."

The prosecuting lawyer acting for the crown,
Turning to his lordship, "Ask that woman to sit down."
But the widow's eyes flashed fire and her cheeks turned deathly pale,
She said, "I'm here to try to save my orphan from the jail."

"Don't send my boy to prison sir,
For this will drive me mad.
Remember I'm a widow,
And that prisoner is my lad.
And gentlemen please remember,
It's the first crime that he's had."

The judge turned to the prisoner and said, "Mercy will be shown.
I understand your mother, I have children of my own.
So go home to your mother and no more make her sad,
And remember there is no one like a mother for her lad."

This Victorian sentimental ballad seems to be another that has remained in Viv’s family repertoire yet has all but disappeared elsewhere. What has survived, though, is a parody performed by the great Music Hall artiste Billy Bennett (1887-1942), under the title Don't Send My Boy to Prison. This monologue continues with ‘It’s the first crime what he done’. One of Bennett’s performances of this piece can be heard on TSCD780 ‘Almost a Gentleman’.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates

































































Erin's Lovelie Home

When I was young and in my prime and my age was twenty one,
I became a servant to a gentleman.
He treated me true and honestly, the truth to you I'll own,
The reason that he banished me from Erin's Lovelie Home:

He had one handsome daughter who loved me so well.
And oft times in her garden her tales of love we'd tell.
She said to me, "Young Willie dear, away with me to roam,
We'll bid adieu to all our friends and Erin's Lovelie Home."

It was in her garden in the merry month of June,
Gathering those flowers gay, all in their youthful bloom.
She said to me, "Young Willie dear, it's time for us to roam.
We'll bid farewell to all our friends and Erin's Lovelie Home."

It was a sunny morning and the sun shone bright and clear,
We hadn't gone but very far before her father he was there.
He brought me back and into jail, in the county of Tyrone,
And from there I was transported from Erin's Lovelie Home.

There are seven links in my chain and every link's one year.
There are seven links in my chain and every link's one year.
Before I can return again to Erin's Lovelie Home.

Better known as Erin's Lovely Home, although some English and Scottish singers managed to mispronounce the title as either Aran's, or else Aaron's, Lovely Home. The song was printed on 19th century broadsides in Dublin, Glasgow and London, and was especially popular with provincial printers, including Pratt of Birmingham, Stewart of Carlisle, Ross of Newcastle, Harkness of Preston and Dalton of York. This probably explains why most of the Edwardian collectors in England and Scotland found full versions of the song all over the place (there are 10 versions in Cecil Sharp's collection and 14 versions in the Greig /Duncan collection, for example) and Irish collectors have, understandably, also found versions of the song throughout Ireland. Sets collected recently in England have usually come from Gypsy singers, such as Nelson Ridley and Mary Ann Haynes.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates
























































On Yonder Hill

On yonder hill there is an alehouse,
Where my my false love he sets himself down.
He takes another fresh girl on his knee,
Don't you think that's a grief to me.

A grief to me, I tell you why,
Because she has more gold than I.
Her gold might lessen, her beauty will fade,
Then she'll 'come a poor girl like me.

I wish, I wish my baby was born,
And sat upon his daddy's knee.
And that my body was wrapped in cold clay,
With green grass growing all over me.

There is a flower, I've heard people say -
It grows by night and it fades by day,
And if that flower I could find,
I would cure my heart and ease my mind.

So across the field, that poor girl she ran,
Gathering flowers just as they sprang.
Some she picked and some she pulled,
Until she gathered her apron full.

She took them home and made her bed,
She put a snow white pillow in under her head.
She laid down and she closed her eyes,
She closed her eyes no more to rise.

When Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger collected a version of this song from the West Country Gypsy Caroline Hughes they were able to say that, 'There is a large group of love lamentations which have enough verses in common to be called a "family". They are all based upon a man's infidelity to his avowed lover and have been collected widely in England, Scotland and (to a lesser extent) the United States.' (’Travellers Songs from England and Scotland’. 1977, pp. 194-98.) On first glance On Yonder Hill appears to be a collection of so called 'floating verses', but, as several West Country Gypsies have been recorded singing the song in almost identical versions, we can only conclude that we must now consider it to be a specific song. See, for example, the versions sung by Amy Birch (Topic TSCD661) and Jean Orchard (Veteran VT151CD).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates





























































The Poppies in the Corn

When I went up to town I met young Billy Brown,
Who really thought that I believed a fool,
Who had never seen a plough, a harrow or a cow.
But if you pay me my expenses;
I will take you for a day.

All around my father's farm,
Amongst the poppies in the corn,
That's where that young man popped the question -
Amongst the poppies in the corn

I had him up in court to send him down,
But the judge with an awful frown,
Said, "Where was this deed done?"
And my lawyer he gave him this reply:

"Amongst the poppies in the corn,
That's where that little deed was done,
That's where that young man popped the question -
Amongst the poppies in the corn."

There are a number of songs and poems titled Poppies in the Corn, including one sung by the Music Hall performer Frederick E. Weatherly (1848 -1929) but his starts ‘We wandered ...” There has been a team of people trying to trace the song that Viv sings including Mike Yates, Roy Palmer, John Garrett, Keith Chandler and Jim Ward but to no avail. Viv learned the song from her mother.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates




























































Quaint Little Cottage

In a quaint little cottage lived me and my wife,
We weren't very weathy but free from all strife.
We had one little baby, it was our pride and joy,
And my wife was delighted with her baby boy.

She promised to be faithful for better or worse,
'Til one day her old lover he came with his purse -
He tempted my wife with his bright shiny gold,
And he took her from me and my fortune he stole.

She's along with a man for his gold,
She's deserted the young for the old,
She played a false part, but nigh broke my heart,
That's the wife that I took for a pal.
She deserted her baby and me,
And I hope she will soon happy be.
But the wrong that she has done to me and her son,
I'll forgive but I'll never forget.

As time went along and our baby could walk,
My wife was delighted to hear her child talk.
He spoke of his mammy and daddy so well,
But where she has gone to there's no tongue can tell.


They lived in a mansion for a very short time,
'Til one day her old lover was committed for crime.
My wife came to me and begged to forgive,
But never no more with my wife could I live.

The quest for a song with the line ‘I’ll forgive but I cannot forget’ has led us down many blind alleys. Music Hall artiste Sam Torr performed Forgive and Forget. The American Carter Family sang a song called Dark Haired True Lover where the final line of each verse is ‘I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget’. Country singer Don Williams sang a totally different song which was actually called I’ll Forgive but I’ll Never Forget and yet another song of that title was recorded by American Irishman Frank Quinn in the 1930s and was covered by Bridie Gallagher in Ireland in the 1950. None of these are the song Viv sings, which remains a mystery.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates




















































Rich Merchant's Daughter

There were four and twenty of us got out into the boat,
And on that wide ocean where we sat afloat,
Provisions run short, love and death did draw nigh,
And we had to cast lots for to see who should die.

The lots was turned as near as could be,
But that innocent young damsel, a short lot she drew,
And she was to be killed for to save the ship's crew.
I'm a rich merchant's daughter and from London I'll be,
And see what I've come to through loving of thee.

Then those red colours they flew in his face,
And tears in his eyes and heart fit to break,
Saying, "For your sweet sake love, I will die first."

Again the lots turned over as near as could be,
To see who that young man's butcher would be.
"Be quick with your motion. Let the business be done."
But before the blow was struck now, they all heard the gun.

"Hold your hand, butcher," the captain he did cry.
"Some town or some harbour - I'm sure we're drawing nigh."
And as the ship went sailing on that sweet and pleasant tide,
It sailed into a village down by the seaside.

The couple got married, as I have heard it said.
The band and the music it sweetly did play.
The birds in the village made the woods there ring,
And the girls they all danced while the sailor boys did sing.

Some Edwardian song collectors, including Cecil Sharp, confused this song with The Old Miser (Roud 3913). In fact, it was published as a separate song by numerous broadside printers, including Pitts, Catnach and Batchelor - all of London, under the title New York Streets. The broadside text, concerning a girl disguised as a sailor, begins:

    As I was a going up New York streets,
    I made it my business my true love to meet,

    What ship, brother sailor, come tell unto me,
    I belong to the Nancy, from England I be.

The girl joins the ship and Viv's version begins when the ship sinks during a storm.

    So as we were sailing to our hearts content,
    Our ship sprang a leak, to the bottom she went.

Viv's tune is a slowed-down version of one that is usually associated with the song The Banks of Sweet Dundee.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates




























































The Prisoner  

Two convicts one day were seated, in a lonely prison cell -
The story of their past lives to each other did tell.
"I was once young and happy," said the elder of the two,
"I had a loving wife and a little baby too."

"One night as I went home, after working hard all day,
I found the fire had gone out and my wife had run away.
It was then I started drinking - for what else could I do?
I mixed with bad companions and became a burglar too."

"One night as I went out, to rob a mansion grand,
The tools were in my pocket, a revolver in my hand.
As I climbed through that window a gentle voice I heard.
I fired a shot, then cried a lot. By God I've shot my child."

Without a friend in all this wide world,
Not a friend to speak my name.
Praying to God that I might die,
Praying all in vain.
For after all that I have suffered,
No man could ever tell.
With no place to shelter,
But this lonely prison cell.

We have been unable to trace this sentimental song to any printed source. Collectors first noted it in America, firstly from a singer in Mississippi (see ‘The Journal of American Folklore’ # 39 (1926) pp. 144-45), and, secondly, from a singer in California in 1941 (Library of Congress disc 5117 B2). It may be that the song originated in America, although it has turned up occasionally on this side of the Atlantic. A number of Gypsies and Travellers are known to have sung the song (these include Wally Fuller, a Sussex Gypsy who sang the song to the BBC in 1952, two Scottish Travellers, John McPhee and Marty Powers both recorded in Blairgowrie, Perthshire - and an Irish Traveller called Andy Cash, living to the west of London in 1973). Another trio of singers, this time from Suffolk, have also been recorded singing versions of the song and one of these versions, from the singer Tony Harvey, can be found in John Howson's book ‘Songs Sung in Suffolk’ (1992) p.60.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates

































































The Banks of the Clyde

On the banks of the Clyde stood a lad and a lassie -
The lad's name was Georgie, the lassie’s was Jean.
She threw her arms round him and cried, "Dear don't leave me!"
For Georgie was going to fight for his Queen.

She gave him a lock of her bright golden tresses,
And he kissed her and pressed her once more to his heart.
Their eyes spoke of love their lips would not utter.
The last words were spoken, they'd kiss and they'd part.

Over the burning plains of Eygpt,
Under the scorching sun,
He thought of the stories he'd have to tell,
His love when the fight was won.
He cherished with care that dear lock of hair,
And his own darling Jeannie she prayed.
But the prayers were in vain,
She'd never see again,
Her lad from the Scots brigade.

The ocean divided the lad from the lassie,
As Georgie was forced over the foam.
His roof was the sky, his bed was the desert,
But his heart with his Jeannie was always at home.

That morning at dawn on that famed day of battle,
Found Georgie partaking a true hero’s part -
When an enemy bullet flew straight to its billet,
And buried the dear lock of hair in his heart.

On the banks of the Clyde stands a heartbroken mother,
When they told her how brave that great victory was won.
That victory to her brings her no comfort,
That victory to her means the loss of her son.


The Banks of the Clyde, with its mention of "the burning plains of Egypt", probably dates to the period 1879-82, when a revolt against the ruling Khedive was put down by British intervention. At least one English broadside printer, Forth of Hull, printed the song and it also appeared in ‘Delaney's Song Book’ # 1, which was printed in New York in 1892. Only a handful of English collectors have noted the song. Cambridgeshire singer Billy Rash can heard singing it on VT150CD ‘Heel & Toe’. There are also solitary sets from Illinois, Ontario, Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates







































































Sweet William


"Father, father, bring a boat, out on the sea that I might float.
And watch those ships as they sail by and find my lovely sailor boy."
"What like is he, your sweet William fair, and what's the clothes that he do wear?"
“He wears a coat of navy blue. You'll find him from his heart so true."

"But every sailor wears the blue and every sailor’s heart is true.
So tell me maiden, sweet and kind, what like is he, this man you find?"
"He's tall and handsome, brave and free, and on his chin for all to see,
A dimple shows whene’er he smiles, for my poor heart to beguile."

"Maiden, maiden, sad to say, your William died on yesterday,
On yon green isle as we passed by, we gently laid your sailor boy."
Dig her grave both wide and deep, lay tombstones at her head and feet,
And on her grave Sweet William grow, to show she loved her William so.

A highly popular song that goes under numerous titles, including Father, Father Build Me a Boat, Captain, Captain Tell me True, My Boy Willie, My Sailor Lad, The Sailor Boy, A Sailor's Life and The Sailor's Trade is a Weary Life. It would seem to have started life at the end of the 18th century (although at least one version mentions the bombardment of Cartagena, Colombia, during Admiral Vernon's 1740 expedition, so it may be earlier) and was printed in London at the beginning of the 19th century by both Pitts and Evans. Other available recordings include those by Norman Perks (Avon) on Veteran VTC5CD and Maggy Murphy (Fermanagh) on Veteran VT134CD.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates































































The Wanderer's Warning

I'm riding along on a freight train,
Bound for nobody knows where.
I ran off from home just this morning,
My heart was heavy with care.

I quarreled with my old father,
Because of the thing I had done.
He called me a drunkard and a gambler,
Not fit to be called his son.

I cursed and swore at my father,
And told him his words were a lie.
I packed all my things in a bundle,
And went to tell mother goodbye.

My poor mother broke down a-crying,
"Son, oh my son, don't leave -
Your poor mothers heart will be broken,
And all my life long, I will grieve."

She kissed me and called me her darling,
And around me her arms she did throw.
I'll never forget that sad parting,
As I said, "Mother dear, I must go."

As I ride along on this freight train,
My mother's voice I can hear,
Crying, "Oh son, don't leave me,
It's more than my poor heart can bear."

I know she'll be there by the window,
Day after day as I roam,
Watching and waiting and praying,
For her boy, who will never come home.

So boys, take this wanderer's warning,
And don't break your poor mother's heart.
Stay by her side - she will need you,
And let nothing take you apart.

An American song recorded in 1929 by Carson Robison & Frank Luther (under the alias of Bud Billing) and in 1933 by Kenneth Houchins. Viv's version probably stems, indirectly, from the 'Bud Billing' version that was issued in England on both the Zonophone and Regal Zonophone labels (Zo 5422 and RZ 5422 respectively) and in Ireland on the Irish Regal Zonophone label (Iz322).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates































































The Broomfield Wager


“A wager, a wager, a wager it shall be,
I will bet twenty guineas to your pound,
That I will go to that bonny greenwood tree,
And a maiden return safe back at home.”

But when she got there to that bonny greenwood tree,
She found her lover sleeping on the ground.
Nine times she walked around the soles of his feet,
And three times she kissed his red and rosy cheeks,
Three times she kissed his red and rosy cheeks,
As he lay a-sleeping on the ground.

She took off the ring from her tiny finger small,
And she laid it on his lily white hand.
It was just to let him know she'd been there and gone again,
A maiden returned back safe at home.

But when he awoke he thought he'd been in a dream,
Or else it was a token I am sure.
“But where had you been to my little greyhound dog,
And why hadn't you awoke me before?
For that girl I would have killed, and her blood I would have spilled,
And her body would go floating down the tide.”

What a hard-hearted young man, hard-hearted you must be,
You must have had a heart of any stone -
For to say that you would murder that fair and pretty maid,
When she doted the ground that you walked on.

Now where has he gone to the Lord above can tell,
His body may be buried in the deep,
But nine months after that young man returned,
He was riding in his carriage and pair.
“Now if you don't consent that he's for to marry me,
Into jail I will have you close confined.

For I am a girl who can tell you where and when,
And the very first hour of the time.
It was in your garden ‘neath that red and rosy bush.
Just as the village clock was striking nine.”

The Broomfield Wager is a ballad with ancient antecedents. In the story a knight bets a young girl that she cannot spend a night with him in the broomfield without losing her virginity. Clearly, if the knight is asleep, then nothing can happen to the girl. But how to make him sleep? In the following verses, taken from Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders (1803), we find an element of magic that also occurs in other European versions of the ballad.

Up then spake a witch-woman,
Ay from the room aboon:
'O ye may gang to the Broomfield Hill,
And yet come maiden hame.'

'Take ye the blossom of the broom,
The blossom it smells sweet,
And strew it at your true-love's head,
And likewise at his feet.'

Professor Child cites versions from Scandinavia and Iceland in which the knight is sent to sleep by the use of runes. And he gives further examples from as far away as Italy and Greece. The ballad remained popular in Britain, thanks to broadsides printed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Cecil Sharp collected no fewer than thirteen versions at the beginning of the 20th century. The ballad has always remained popular with Gypsies and Alice E. Gillington included one set in her book ‘Songs of the Open Road’ (1911). Several  other recent singers, including George Dunn, Walter Pardon, Caroline Hughes, Jean Orchard, George 'Pop' Maynard, Cyril Poacher and Gordon Hall, also knew the piece.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates



























































The Irishman's Shamrock

I was leaving dear old Ireland in the merry month of June,
How sweet the birds were singing and all nature was in time -
When an Irish girl accosted me with a sad tear in her eye,
And as these words she said to me, so bitterly she cried:

"Kind sir, oh kind sir, will you do me a favour?
It isn't much I ask you, but it would ease my heart of pain.
Take this to my brother, because I have no other,
And tell him it's the shamrock from his dear old mother's grave."

"It's only a shamrock,
The Irishman's shamrock,
From his own darling Nora, far across the sea,
And if you meet him, kindly please tell him,
It's the shamrock from his dear old mother's grave."

Tell him since he's been gone, how bitter has been our lot:
The agent came and turned us from our little humble cot.
We had no place to shelter and friends but few,
So you see, dear brother, all I have is you.


Although The Irishman's Shamrock sounds like an Irish song, it was actually written in 1889 (as The Three Leaves of Shamrock) by an American, albeit of Irish ancestry, called James McGuire. The song was popularised in America by singers Lester McFarland & Robert A. Gardner, who recorded it in 1928 and 1931 (this latter recording being issued on no fewer than eight separate labels), and by Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers, who recorded it in 1929 under the title Leaving Dear Old Ireland. The Poole recording is currently available as part of a 5 CD set issued on the JSP label (JSP7734).

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates





























































Mary Ann Matilda


Mary Ann Matilda went to London town to see,
A chap named Charlie Green, who for years she hadn't seen.
When she found he'd grown a small moustache,
She softly murmured "Oh!"
He asked her if she liked it?
And Matilda shouted "No!"

"Oh Charlie, take it away!
Oh Charlie, take it away!
It makes me feel so funny every time we start to kiss!
It makes me quiver, it makes me shiver,
It fills me full of bliss.
Oh Charlie take it away!
Oh Charlie, do as I say!
It's that little bit of hair you have upon your upper lip -
It tickles me, Charlie, take it away!"

She asked him why he grew it, he replied, "Matilda dear,
I couldn't help it quite,
It sprung up in the night -
It might help you remember me."
She answered with a blush, "I'll always think of you, each time I see a scrubbing brush!"


As Oh, Charley, Take it Away, this song was popularised by the well-known Music Hall singer Florrie Ford (1876-1940), although, unlike many of her other songs such as Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?, It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag, it has not remained all that popular with singers. Another Music Hall group, The Hedges Brothers & Jacobson, also included Oh, Charley, Take it Away in their act and, as Freddie Hedges died in February 1920, the song must have been written sometime prior to that date.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates
































































Downhearted Soldier


A group of young soldiers one evening in France,
Were speaking of sweethearts they knew.
They all looked happy, except for one lad,
And he was down-hearted and sad.

Up spoke his comrade – “What makes you look sad?
For surely there's someone loves you?”
He lifted his head and proudly he said,
"My dear comrades, I'm in love with two:

“One has hair of silvery grey, the other has hair of gold,
One is young and beautiful, the other's bent and old.
How dearly I know I love them both so,
And from neither of them would I part,
For one is my mother - God bless her I love her,
And the other is my sweetheart.”

She's nothing but a poor plain working girl,
That's the girl I intend to wed.
But father says, "No, it cannot be so,
You must marry a lady instead."

I told mother over and over again,
But she says the same as before,
"My lad don't you fret, she shall be your wife yet,
And you dad will consider it more."

Although the song Two Sweethearts was being sung on the English Music Hall stage by Lester Barrett in 1892 (with Barrett, an employee of the music publishers Francis, Day &  Hunter, being shown as the composer) it was, confusingly, registered in America in 1897, where the composers were shown as E. P. Moran (words) and J. Fred Helf (music). A number of American old-timey singers, including Roy Harvey & the North Carolina Ramblers, Ernest V. Stoneman, The Sweet Brothers, and the Carter Family, recorded versions of the song during the period 1927-32. In Suffolk it was known as A Group of Young Squaddies and a rendition recorded by Keith Summers from Blaxhall Ship singer Geoff Ling can be heard on VT154CD. Viv's version, with its mention of soldiers and France, suggests that the song was popular during World War 1.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates





























































Young Sailor Cut Down

Down by the dark arches I went for a walk, love,
Dark was the night and so chill was the day.
And who should I meet there, but one of my shipmates,
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay.

I called for a candle to light him to bed, love,
Likewise a flannel to bind round his head,
His poor head was aching, his kind heart was breaking,
He was a young sailor cut down in his prime.

His old aged father and his old aged mother,
Oftimes had told him it would bring him to ruin.
Along with the flash girls he took his delight in,
Now they have brought him to his solemn grave.

On the crossroads, there were two girls a-standing,
One to the other she whispered and said,
"Here comes a young man whose money's been squandered,
Money has brought him to his solemn grave."

"All of you follow, carry a bunch of primroses,
A bunch of primroses each one in your hand -
Beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
Play the death march as you follow me on,
Take me to the graveyard, fire three volleys over me,
Just to show I'm a young man who knows he's done wrong."

"Then on my tomb stone there'll be three verses written,
All you young men, take a warning by me -
Don't never go courting the girls in the city,
Pray stay at home and keep good company."

The earliest known versions of this song were reported as being sung in the streets of Ireland during the 1790s. A few years later the song appeared on English broadsides, under the title The Buck's Elegy, where it is made clear that the young man is dying from a disease picked up from one of the 'flash girls of the city'. By the 1850s it had become The Unfortunate Lad (with broadsides by Such of London, Forth of Hull, both Ross and Walker of Newcastle, and Stewart of Carlisle) and the song quickly spread to America, where it evolved into such pieces as the cowboy song The Streets of Laredo, and the old jazz standard St James' Hospital.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates

















































Way of the World


Now kind friends, if you'll now pay attention, and list to the life I have led,
A story to you I will mention, if unto your ears it will hang.
I've travelled this wide world to speak of and it's not only known by a few,
That troubles that are in old England, and the trials that we'll have to go through.
So you see what is done by the slumber - there are people who are in great number,
Who are starving and dying of hunger, but you'll find that's the way of the world.

There are thousands that are out of employment and daily they wander about,
Stealing some bread for their children, they'll get sent to jail for a month.
If the rich man, well, he is caught stealing, they'll just say, " That's another great crime."
They'll say, "It's an unnatural feeling," and they'll let him get off with a fine.
But you'll see that this world's very funny, for the rich man his life is all honey,
But a poor man's nowhere without money, but you'll find that's the way of the world.

Last night as I walked passed a workhouse, a young girl with a babe at her breast,
She gazed on my face with pity, She was in a sad distress.
She said her man had deserted her and left her this wide world to roam,
Caused her mother to die broken hearted, but you'll find that's the way of the world.

Last night as I walked through the city, a young girl with cigarlets I met,
She gazed on my face with pity, she was in a sad distress.
I asked her the cause of her troubles - she said, "I've been sent out to beg,
To beg for my father who beats me and leaves me in tatters and rags.”
So you see what is done by the drinking, while mother is at home thinking,
While father is out and is drinking, but you'll find that's the way of the world.

The phrase 'The way of the world' seems to have first been coined by the playwright William Congreve (1670 -1729), when he produced a play by that name in 1700. There are at least two Victorian broadsides that carry the title, one beginning 'The ways of the world I'm going to review', the other beginning 'As you travel through life, if your (sic) wealthy you'l (sic) find', but our present song has eluded us. John Howson and Mike Yates have heard it sung by several country singers over the years, including versions from Gypsies Levi and Derby Smith, both from Surrey (Mike Yates unpublished collection). Viv explains in her introduction that the words were written down by her father who could have learned them from a Gypsy family (the Bucklands) and her mother gave her the tune which she remembered from her family singing it.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates


























































Saucy Sailor

Come, my dear one, come, my fair one,
Come, my sweetheart unto me,
For soon we shall be married,
And my wife you shall be.

Be gone, my saucy sailor lad,
Be gone, my jack tar,
Be gone, you dirty sailor lad.
Your clothes they smell so strong of tar.

If I'm ragged, love,
Or if I'm dirty, love,
Or if my clothes they smell of tar,
There is silver in my pocket, love,
And gold in great store.

When she did hear him say so,
On her bended knees she fell,
Saying, "I'll wed you, jolly Henry,
Love a sailor lad still."

"Do you think that I am foolish, love?
Do you think that I've gone mad?
To be wed to a poor country girl,
Where there's no fortune to be had."

"I'll travel across the briny ocean, love,
Where the meadows are growing green,
And since you've refused the offer, love.
Then another girl shall wear the ring."

The earliest known versions of this song can be dated to the end of the 18th century. A number of mid-Victorian broadside printers kept the song in print (Disley, Fortey and Such in London, and Pratt in Birmingham, for example) and several Edwardian song collectors, including Cecil Sharp, George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Gardiner and Percy Grainger (all in England), and Gavin Greig in Scotland, noted many sets. The song has also turned up in several locations along the eastern seaboard of North America (from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the north, to as far south as Florida) and, on occasion, in Kentucky and West Virginia. Other recent English singers, including Walter Pardon of Norfolk and Johnny Doughty of Sussex, had the song in their respective repertoires.

Song transcribed by John Howson

Song notes: Mike Yates








































































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