Article MT018

Bob Hart - A Broadside

Double CD booklet notes

Musical Traditions' first Double CD release: Bob Hart - A Broadside - MT CD 301-2, is now avilable.  See our MT Records website for details.  Reviews by Vic Smith and John Moulden can be found in our Reviews pages.

As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, we decided to reproduce the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Tracklists] [Introduction] [A Life] [Singing Style] [The Recordings] [CD One] [CD Two] [Comments] [Repertoire] [Credits]


CD 1

CD 2

  1. Come All You Young Fellows (Australia)
  2. Comrades
  3. His Day's Work was Done
  4. All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough
  5. A Miner's Dream of Home
  6. On the Banks of Allen Water
  7. As I Strolled out to Aylesbury
  8. Tom Bowling
  9. Barbara Allen
  10. The Song of the Thrush
  11. A Broadside
  12. One Touch of Nature
  13. The Mermaid
  14. Banks of the Sweet Primroses
  15. Bonny Mary of Argyll
  16. John Barleycorn
  17. City of Laughter, City of Tears
  18. Michael Larney-O
  19. The Bold Princess Royal
  20. The Gypsy's Warning
  21. Jolly Jack the Sailor Lad
  22. Just Before the Battle, Mother
  23. The Farmer's Servant (Rap-a-Tap-Tap)
  1. What a Funny Little Place to Have One
  2. Bold General Wolfe
  3. I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen
  4. Cod Banging-O
  5. Seventeen Come Sunday
  6. Silver Threads Among the Gold
  7. Paradise Street (Blow the Man Down)
  8. White Wings
  9. A Young Sailor Cut Down in His Prime
  10. My Little Grey Home in the West
  11. The Female Cabinboy
  12. Why Shouldn't we Sing
  13. The Scarlet and the Blue
  14. You Taught me How to Love You
  15. The Drum Went Bang (Flanagan's Band)
  16. The Foggy Dew
  17. Won't you Buy my Pretty Flowers
  18. Break the News to Mother
  19. The Dark Eyed Sailor
  20. The Hymns My Mother Used to Sing
  21. While Shepherds Watched
  22. Underneath Her Apron
  23. Let the Rest of the World Go By


Cover picture We first met Bob Hart in the early summer of 1969.  We were staying with Chris Morley near Woodbridge and, as usual, had gone out for the evening to some pubs where music or singing was likely to be found.  Perhaps on this occasion it was less plentiful than was often the case back then, and we had moved on at least once during the evening, and ended up going into the Snape Crown at around 10 o'clock.

There was a good sized crowd in and we must have heard half a dozen songs before closing time.  The singer who stood out was a tall old man with a misshapen jaw who sang What a Funny Little Place to Have One.  He stood out for several reasons; we'd never met him before; we'd never heard that song before; it got the best response from the crowd; and, perhaps most of all, because his style of performance was rather different from most of the other singers we'd encountered in East Suffolk at that time.

He had a firm, clear singing voice - no struggle to catch his words - but, even at closing time, he never crossed the line between singing and shouting.  He seemed not to intrude his own personality into the songs - not making them a vehicle for a performance (as did a number of his contemporaries), nor yet hiding behind them.  Rather, he managed to create a performance which was an amalgam of the song and himself - one was aware of neither as a separate entity.  As with Harry Cox, only repeated listening revealed the extent of his considerable musicianship - the rhythmic, melodic and phrasing subtleties - which made his audience enjoy his untypical low-key style without ever quite realising why.  He was rarely included in anyone's list of the best singers in the area - yet most listeners agreed that his were the most satisfying performances of the evening.

On our next visit we made sure to get to see him again, heard more of his songs, and were even more impressed.  On talking to him and expressing our enthusiasm for his singing, we were surprised and delighted to be invited to come to his house when we were next in the area, and record a few of his songs.  So, on July 8th we turned up at his bungalow in Snape in the middle of the morning with our tape machine.  Stopping only for a midday break for a pint and a sandwich, he sang us 38 songs by teatime!  He was aged 77 at the time.

He had a little notebook with the titles of all his songs in and said "Which would you like to hear?"  I think that the 38 accounted for about two thirds of the book - some were our choices of titles we knew, or thought looked interesting; others were his favourites.  By the time Ginette Dunn met him in the mid '70s his repertoire (see below) was put at 100 songs.  (This may be slightly misleading, since she may have been including what she termed a singer's 'passive' repertoire.  In addition, memory can play tricks - Bob failed to tell her of several songs he had recorded for us five years earlier). Later in the year we took Bill Leader to meet Bob and record him 'properly'.  In the end, these tapes were not used, and it was a subsequent recording session by Tony Engle which provided the material for Bob's Topic LP Songs from Suffolk, plus his 6 tracks on the Flash Company album.


Shortly after recording Bob, our lives changed quite dramatically.  Danny was pregnant and many of our weekends were taken up with fruitless house-hunting.  Almost immediately after our son's birth we found ourselves in a band which was unexpectedly popular and reduced our free time to almost zero.  Then, in 1973, we moved down to Wiltshire which tripled the journey time to Ipswich.  We had also become more interested in music than in song, and our infrequent Suffolk trips tended to focus more on this interest.  The upshot was that we only met Bob a further three or four times, and neglected to do the background research which really ought to have supplemented the song recordings.  In truth, we were unaware of the importance of such work at that time - we were only enthusiasts who had stumbled into collecting by accident.

Thankfully, others were better educated in this respect.  These notes are compiled from information and quotations from Ginette Dunn's fascinating book The Fellowship of Song (Croom Helm 1980) and Karl Dallas' interview with Bob published in Folk Review magazine (1974), supplemented by our own recollections.

Ginette Dunn began her work in Snape some five years after our first meeting with Bob.  It's interesting to note that some considerable changes had taken place in the venues and audiences available to the local singers during that period.  In 1969, Bob complained to us that, in general, there was no longer an audience for the more serious songs in his repertoire: "They only want the funny ones or the choruses these days.  I don't usually get to sing more'n one of the others in a night."   The accuracy of this comment was reinforced by Percy Webb's offer to 'swap' a song with Danny for the full words of The Wild Colonial Boy, which he felt ought to go down well.

Yet by 1975, Dunn was able to document a higher proportion of the more serious songs being performed again, and the effect of interest from the Folk Club movement upon many of the singers in the area. In her review of four records by Suffolk singers (Traditional Music, 1975) she commented:

Another group of singers perform at the Everyman Folk Club, Leiston.  Bob Hart and Percy Webb are regular performers at Leiston, and Percy Ling and Cyril Poacher go very occasionally. There is a mingling in the pubs at Snape, Blaxhall and Butley, of the old and new singers.  The affection for the older singers by members of the folk clubs cannot be denied, and the folk clubs have certainly given the older singers a new and perhaps vital audience.  Bob Hart feels valued by the Everyman Folk Club and his singing there is very important to him; Percy Webb is in a similar position both at Leiston and at the Gardener's Arms Club in Ipswich.  In a sense the clubs have given some singers a raison d'être at a time when local audiences were growing thin.

Rod and Danny Stradling, Stroud, 1998

A Life:

Bob Hart was born in 1892 at Sotherton, a village near Halesworth, but soon moved a few miles coast-ward to Reydon near Southwold.  He came from a farming family - his grandfather was a farm manager to the Earl of Stradbrook, his father a farm worker.  Photo by Tony EngleHis mother died when he was ten and Bob lived much of the time then with his grandparents.

He did not come from a 'singing family' in the way that many of his contemporaries in the area did, but:

"Mother used to have a lovely voice and she used to play the accordion and us kids used to go along of a Sunday evening and sing.  Of a Sunday I should say they were mostly hymns.  We never went in the front room only on a Sunday because during the week there was the family Bible in the middle."

His son, Claude (who died in 1966, aged 45) was also a popular local singer, well known for his performances of Two Little Boys, Sorrento, The White Cliffs of Dover and several comic songs.

Most of the workers in this area were obliged to leave school at an early age to supplement the family's income.  Even while at school, they had to do numerous jobs such as berry and acorn gathering, medicine fetching, stone-picking and weeding, and attendance at school was irregular.  Bob Hart left at Michaelmas 1905, the time of year when jobs became open on farms, as his father did not consider it worthwhile waiting until he was fourteen the following January and thus wasting an opportunity for employment.

At work, they were bound to their employers to such an extent that many could not vote for whom they liked - if they had an opinion - and the conformists, and those who tried to conceal their vote, wore the blue rosette of the Conservatives.

"I was a Liberal, been a Liberal all my life.  My father was a Liberal ...  The steward on the farm where father worked, he say, 'You'll soon be old enough to vote boy.' I said, 'I've got a long way to go yet.' 'No,' he said, 'that won't seem long to you.  'And,' he said, 'what do you vote for?' I said, 'Liberal,' cause me father was a Liberal, but he always used to wear a blue rose, that's where he worked, see, the boss was Conservative."

"Oh, they used to be very strict, farmers in those days.  I met me father's boss, he was on horseback, and I didn't take a lot of notice of him, and he went to my father, and he said, 'I met your boy this morning, and he didn't make his obedience to me,' he said. 'See it don't occur again.' Supposed to touch your hat, you see, yes."

When Bob had a disagreement with his boss, he ran away to sea:

"I was in the right and knew it.  I wasn't very old, I suppose, but the boss was sort 'a interfering.  He came up to me that day and said I'd left the gates open.  I'd got a load of maize - I can picture it now, this here corn with the big heads, they give them to the cows.  Well, I went through and I shut all the gates behind me.  He come out and said that I hadn't - I'd let the cows out - so what happened I don't know.  Father said, 'Well,' he said, 'the boy shut the gates,' he said, 'I saw him come across on to the fields on to the meadows, and I just walked out of the field'.  Well, he kep' on and on and on and I walked away, and I was afraid to go home, so I carried on right through to Lowestoft (a distance of about 12 miles) and got a job ... Nothing at all with me, just as I stood."

So his career as a fisherman came about as a reaction against the injustice he received as a farm worker.  Such a career move was not uncommon in the area.  Life on board ship gave the worker a small world which, if he was lucky, could be comradely; the presence of a kindly skipper could create a family atmosphere in place of the usual hat-doffing servant-master relationship of the farm worker to his boss.

"I was walking along the quay at Lowestoft and there was various offices ... because, I mean, these firms had boats in those days ... and I saw this notice in the window, 'Boy Wanted', and I went in, and the old boy behind the desk said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'I come after this job in the window.' And he looked across to a little old man a'setting on a seat, he say, 'Will you take him?', and he stood up - he was the shortest little old man I think I ever see, and he looked up at me, he say, 'Yes, if he promise he won't knock me about.' Comical old chap he was, but he was a real nice man because when we come in from sea, he always used to take me home and give me a cup of tea or something to eat.  He was skipper, his brother-in-law was mate and then there was a third hand, deckhand, and I was the boy - there was five of us on this boat." 

"I've seen the trawlers when we've had the sails up and ... it's been snowing and freezing and you couldn't get your sails down, everything was all frozen ... but otherwise, when it was nice weather, it was nice to be on them ... My actual job was to haul with the men.  I was on this sailing trawler about a year and then I went on to steam drifters, I started as a stoker."

Bob started singing in a work situation - at sea it was common to sing while the nets were being hauled, and group singing as well as solo singing occurred.  Photo by Rod StradlingThe transition from group singer to solo singer is not as significant as the transition from non-singer to singer, and in the work situation, Bob began to sing alone, and continued to sing solo in the same group of fishermen at concerts on shore.  From here, he continued to sing alone at local pubs and social events once he had left the sea.

"I really started singing when I went to sea.  We used to sail from Lowestoft, there was only ten on the boats in those days, we used to go from Lowestoft up to the Shetland Islands.  You don't exactly get to hate one another, but everybody seemed to get in everybody's way.  So we got to know each other's songs."

"I used to go ... I can't remember the name of the pub in Grimsby, but they had a stage in there and there used to be all nations singing.  There used to be the French, Belgians, Dutch, they all used to come to Grimsby to fish.  The songs I've got are just as I picked them up as I've gone along."

"We used to sing when we were hauling, very often, but in the days before my time they used to have the old capstans, they used to put pieces of wood through that block there and had these four men on that side and four on this and you were going round all the time hauling the nets.  That's where some of the old songs come from, sea shanties.  That's before my time I'm talking about.  In my time we'd sing anything that come to mind, I suppose.  I forget exactly what.  I should say 'The Banks of Sweet Primroses' come into it - I learned that in Grimsby - that's just a nice walking-round song."

He told us that, when he was in port at Yarmouth, Grimsby or another big town with a music hall, he would often go to see the show.  If there was a song he particularly liked he would return, several nights running, until he had learned it.

"When we'd come off the ships if you'd got any money you'd go to a show.  If you hadn't got any money you'd get in your bunk.  Y'see these voyages used to take about 14 weeks, especially going down to Shetlands, and you used to start on that about May and we would carry on on that.  And then you'd get paid off and you'd sign on again for the winter voyage, like you used to finish just before Christmas.  One thing I liked about the Shetland islands was if you were on watch at night it never got dark.  And then from that you used to sign on after Christmas to go down to Land's End down that way, Cornwall.  The only thing you done on that trip you just earned your keep, there was no money at the end of it."

"My next job, I'll tell you what happened. I got pneumonia and they brought me home to Shields and that was a case of life and death really, 'cos I can remember lying there that night and hear the parson praying to 'take this poor soul'.  I can remember that.  I'd be around 18, 19."

In 1914 he joined army, went to France, and in 1916 had half his jaw blown away - he spent the rest of the war in hospital.

"Then the war broke out and I volunteered - Kitchener's army, and that was a horrible war ...  Course, they couldn't see you to take aim, but they very often used to shoot over your trench, yes.  And rats - rats as big as cats.  I never want to see anything like it any more.  You see, this last war, well they had their misery I know, but they never knew what it was to march from one spot to another, miles and miles you'd march, if they wanted you in another position ...  No wars are worth anything.  That's something I don't ... well, of course, I talk about it more now, but that's more when us old ones get together, and something'll bring the old memory up, but, ah, for years, I never used to mention the war, no ...  Cheap labour, that was."

"That's where I got this.  I never done a lot of singing in the army!  I used to go to a lot of the concerts but I never did sing in one of the concerts.  I don't think I learned a song all the time, from the time I got wounded, that was 1916 ... and that was 1922 before I got clear of hospital."

During his convalescence he stayed with his brother in Snape:

"I was home on leave from the hospital when I saw a girl looking out of the window and I looked up at her.  That was right opposite - the pub over the road.  Put my hand up and she laughed, or smiled rather.  Wonder who she is?  And before I went back from leave I knew who she was.  I found out.  I never said nothing to her but I saw her mother, I wrote to her mother, and asked her if she'd mind me writing to her daughter.  And she said she didn't see why not and that's how I started with my wife.  I was married December 1917 to that girl I saw looking out of the window, I got married from hospital."

After returning to Snape with his wife he took a series of odd jobs.  At one point he was Benjamin Britten's gardener for a few years, when he and Peter Pears lived in Mill House, Snape - though Britten was unaware that he had a traditional singer in his employ.

Eventually, he found a permanent job at the Snape Maltings, and stayed there for forty years until his retirement.  Apart from farm work, the Maltings provided the only other employment in the area and Bob found himself working with singers like Wickets Richardson, William and Percy Ling, James Smith, Reuben Kerridge, Dick Woolnough and James Knights.

After retirement, Bob lost his wife and two sons in three years:

"I never really took singing seriously until after I retired. I used to sing in the old pubs.  But after I lost the wife and the boys, rather than mope I knew I'd got to do something, so I kept with the crowd and started singing.  I don't know how I should 'a got through these last years if I hadn't 'a took up singing.  Photo by Tony Engle You seem so far away from everybody, but if you do something to amuse them, that's all right."

Bob centred his life on his daily visits to the pub.  Until his illness in the winter of 1975-6, he went, in the summer, to the Golden Key almost every lunchtime except Saturdays, when he went to the Crown.  Every second Friday night he went to the Leiston Folk Club, other week nights he sometimes went to the Key, and on Saturday nights to the Crown.  In winter, the lunchtime visits were maintained, but the early darkness and cold discouraged him from the evening walk down the hill to the pub and the hard walk back up after closing time.

His visits to the Blaxhall Ship were not unusual; only old age prevents the mobility that used to allow regular pub circuiting, and the ties with regular customers at the pub had obviously never been broken.  He was able to go there several times a year when rides were offered.

Bob lived with his daughter-in-law, Dorrie Hart, in Snape until his death in January 1978, aged 85.

Singing Style:

Photo by Tony Engle At this point we'd like to quote at length from Ginette Dunn and her descriptions of Bob's singing at an evening in the Blaxhall Ship, 19th July 1974.

Clive Woolnough takes the initiative and calls loudly for order, and Bob begins Comrades, sung with sustained notes and gentle tone.  His style is unobtrusive, lilting, the words and melody always clear, the speed slow and suitable to the content.  With each chorus, more people join in.  The values of comradeship, faithfulness, patriotism and the willingness to die for others are treated with respect by Bob's quiet singing.  The slow clear rhythm of the song touches Percy Ling so that he stops joking and pulling faces at people, and joins in the choruses.  He is the first to shout "Good old Bob" at the end, followed by Webby, before the clapping, quieter this time, begins.

Bob's eyes do not waver from the corner above the bar during the song and he is still and utterly undramatic in his delivery: the words are untouched by gesture, facial appeals to the audience, or vocal effects like the staccato, glissando grace notes, and sforzando that Cyril uses.  The words are allowed to carry themselves.  The contrast with the previous song is as marked as it could be.  Comrades is perhaps chosen for that reason, because it expands the range of emotions being shared, although it is also one of Bob's favourites.  He seems to revive a group of four or five songs every few weeks, to perform them whenever he sings publicly, and then to assemble another group.  There is a fantasy element in the song, which idealises friendship and romanticises it, waylaying tragedy by the noble act of sacrifice.  Bob's own gruelling experiences in World War I probably have much to do with his inclusion of this song in his repertoire.  It is an easier expression of the pain of war than a description of the sheer waste and butchery which he hesitatingly recalls in conversation.


He says "I'll sing you a little easy one, then," and begins What a Funny Little Place to Have One, one of his favourites which never seems to budge from currency in his immediate repertoire.  When Percy has called for order, Bob begins his clear rhythmic performance, standing with his weight on one leg, his hands on his hips.  Throughout the song, he does not look at anyone but keeps his eyes on the ceiling beams, nor does his face register much emotion.  This is the one song, however, where he uses gestures, probably because he learned them when he learned the song.

It is in the third verse that the audience responds to the sexual innuendo of the words, and they roar at the sudden explicitness of the chorus.  This verse is also the one in which Bob does his actions: his movements are slow and done in almost a dreamlike way; they are not demonstrative and do not directly seek the audience's attention.  They reflect the nature of Bob's performance, which scarcely utilises any dramatic gesturing or facially expressive devices, but relies on his singing the song in a highly melodic, rhythmic and straightforward manner.  It is also in this verse, especially during lines 5 and 6, that Bob's musicianship is demonstrated: he has perfect breath control, vivacious rhythm and a fluent handling of the narrative.  The audience is enthusiastic and it is clear that, because of his formal control over and identification with the song, he does not need extra-vocal devices.

Bob's seeming innocence in the delivery of such a song as this, comical and also in the first person, may well be a device which he finds as effective as the more extrovert styles that Percy Webb and Percy Ling use.  The clapping, and cries of "Good old Bob" at the end indicate that he has endeared himself to his audience, he has won affection by the unstriven-for humour of the song and his own unforced manner which borders on naïveté.  Perhaps as a younger man, he would not have been received so warmly as he is here, because youth would reduce his guilelessness.  He is very much supported in his singing by his friend Percy Ling, who calls for order at the beginning and again during the song, and is the first to say "Good old Bob" at the close.  Percy often becomes the protector of other performances, and an encouragement to other singers.  He is also at this stage becoming angry with the two American servicemen, and has jumped up to call for order, looking directly at them.  He knows that Bob becomes hurt and angry if people do not listen carefully to him and thus he sometimes tries to control the audience so that Bob gets good order and can enjoy his singing.  After the song is over, Percy Webb cries out "He sing some funny songs don't he," and somebody answers, "In funny places".  There is more laughter.


Bob is asked to sing The Banks of Sweet Primroses by Webby and Cyril, and he begins a performance of barefaced lies and humour that is a technique he has developed when he wants to feel more at ease with his audience.  Photo by Rod StradlingIn the interval between his previous song and this one, a large group of young couples has arrived, and it may be their presence that makes him decide to use On a Summer's Night (a song describing the singer's unwitting courtship of another man's wife.  The husband arrives on the scene and 'He hit me, he punched me, right on my bloomin' jaw').  He is very mild when, standing, he begins to explain why he will not sing the song asked of him: "I really ought to tell you a little about meself.  Just how I got this (indicating his own damaged jaw).  Ah, you'll all be interested, no doubt."  He is so undemonstrative that Clive Woolnough calls for order several times, but the audience around him is attentive.  Most of the noise is from the other end of the room.  At the close of his song he says, "Now what was that song you wanted?" and the audience recognises his ploy and laughs.  His manner is so withdrawn and understated that his wit is almost lost, but the surprise which comes as his audience responds to his canniness once more makes him the centre of attention.

There are people present who are strangers to him and, in conversation, he has often admitted that he likes best to sing amongst friends.  Part of the reason for this is his misshapen jaw.  He explains:

"When do I sing it?  When the strangers are out - when the strangers come down in the summertime ... holiday makers."
G.D. - Why do you do that?
"Well, uh, you know, I - you know, I still get embarrassed about this (fingering his jaw); but, uh, if I can get them in a good mood ... they're all right before I start singing, that's how I like it."
G.D. - Don't you ever tell them what caused it?
"I never tell them, no.  No, well, they could see, I should think ...  Well, I've got them in good humour then and I can laugh with them then, but I remember the first night I went to the folk club, that was very embarrassing, there was a lot of young girls there and one thing and another, and you know ...  They take no notice of me now as regards the looks.  Well, I can always say, well that weren't my fault."

He begins The Banks of Sweet Primroses which, like What a Funny Little Place to Have One, is one of his all-time favourites.  His singing is measured and rhythmical, and the words are clear.  Once more he stands looking into space, and does not seem to realise that Percy Ling is calling for order, or that he has won one of the quietest audiences so far.  The styles of Percy Webb and Percy Ling are more marked by personality than Bob's style, but it would be a mistake to think that, because he does not infuse his singing with direct appeals to his audience, Bob's performance is less interesting.  It is a beautiful rendition that deserves its applause and Percy's comment, "Very nice".


Some people ask Bob to sing Barbara Allen, which may again suggest that sentiment has caught on in some of the audience ... ("That 'Barbara Allen' ... there's one version of that's got about 14 verses.  My version have got about seven.  But that's been laying on my desk at home and when I've got nothing else to do I sit and sing myself this other one, but whether I shall ever get all those verses I don't know.  I got them out of a songbook.  Someone gave me a songbook and it was about the only one in the songbook that I knew.  I use the same tune".) ... but he is intimidated by its length and opts for the frivolity of Underneath her Apron.

It is perhaps significant that at least two songs he sings utilise a similar form of humour, which relies on wordplay of a particular kind - the juxtaposition of an ambiguous or colourless phrase with other lines that eventually or sometimes throw sexual and humorous light on the phrase.  Photo courtesy of Dorrie HartUnderneath her Apron is like What a Funny Little Place to Have One in this respect.  Bob appears to feel more comfortable with this type of comedy - which does not need to be made explicit by attention-drawing techniques, but which speaks for itself.

He has often said he likes a song with a story, and there is something in Bob's unaffected delivery of Underneath her Apron which suggests that the fusion of words and tune is self-sufficient, as the song interpreted, and his performance gives the song being before his audience.  Cecil Sharp has stressed that melody and words are inseparable, and this is of course obvious, but it is perhaps in a performance like Bob's where no gestures, facial expressions or asides are used, that the song stands most pure, and can most clearly be apprehended.  The tune is a medium for the words and the words are a medium for the tune, and this seems to be the nature of Bob's delivery and an indication too of his idea of his singing role.  Although he says he likes a song with a story, he regards himself primarily and with pride as a singer; he is not a storyteller, he does not use the song in order to tell a story.  Song and story are one and the same thing.

The Recordings:

The recordings on these two CDs were made by ourselves on July 8th 1969 (38 songs), and by Bill Leader on an un-remembered date later in the same year (30 songs).  A core repertoire of 22 songs was common to both sessions - thus the first included 16 songs not recorded in the second, and the second included 8 songs not found in the first.

Our selection of the 22 pairs of recordings has obviously been subjective.  We hope that the best performances have been included, and have tried to make technical quality a secondary consideration.  Surprisingly, only one of the originals featured an unacceptably loud accompaniment from a jet from the nearby Bentwaters air base.  It is only fair to acknowledge that our recordings were made on a very ordinary domestic machine, using similar grade microphone and tape stock.  Furthermore, they had been copied once before transfer to DAT.  Prior to this, we had been unable to listen to them for about 25 years.

The Songs:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud.  Currently containing almost 241,000 records between them, they are described by him as "extensive, but not yet exhaustive".  Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceol Duchais Eireann, Dublin; and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.  E-mail:

Child numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, 1882-98.  Laws numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, 1957.

CD One:

1 - Australia (Roud 1488)

Photo by Alan Martindale Come all you young fellows,
Whereso'er you may be
Come listen a while to my story.
When I was a young man,
Me age seventeen,
I ought to been serving Victoria, our Queen.
But those hard-hearted judges,
Oh, how cruel they be
To send us poor lads to Australia.

I fell in with a damsel,
She was handsome and gay,
I neglected me work,
More and more, every day.
And to keep her like a lady
I went on the highway,
And for that I was sent to Australia.

Now the judges, they stand
With their whips in their hands,
They drive us, like horses,
To plough up the land.
You should see us poor young fellows
Working in that jail yard;
How hard is our fate in Australia.

Australia, Australia,
I would ne'er see no more,
I'm worn out with fever,
Cast down to Death's door.
But should I live to see,
Say, seven years more,
I would then bid adieu to Australia.

That's where they used to send 'em, years ago.

Bob and his neighbour Cyril Poacher both had this song.  Cyril learned it from Bob Scarce, who probably learned it, as did Hart, from Walter 'Yinka' Friend - with whom both had worked for many years in Snape Maltings; he was said to have been the first person in the area to have sung it. 

It is one of a considerable number of transportation songs in the traditional repertoire, but is unusual in the nature and motive of the crime - highway robbery, 'to keep her like a lady'; more often it's poaching, brought about by necessity.  Also, and contrary to certain record sleeve-notes, the song owes little to Van Diemen's Land, but is clearly derived from a much earlier song called Virginny (a fragment of which was collected from Mrs Goodyear, of Ashford, Hants, by George Gardiner in 1907), with the transports' destination having been changed to Australia when this became current (i.e.  post 'First Fleet').  This explains why the song is unusual; in the 18th century highwaymen were transported to Virginia - in the 19th they were topped!

The process of keeping songs up-to-date goes on - there is a version on tape where Cyril Poacher sings the second stanza of the first verse:

For when I was a young man, my age seventeen,
I ought to been serving Elizabeth, our Queen ... 

Several recordings of Australia by Bob Hart and Cyril Poacher can be found on both the Musical Traditions and Topic labels, and Fred Ling can be heard on Veteran VT 103.

2 - Comrades (Roud 1494)

We, in childhood, played together,
My dear comrade, Jack, and I.
We would fight each other's battles;
To each other's aid we'd fly.
And in boyish pranks and troubles
You will find us everywhere.
Where one went the other followed,
Nought could part us, for we were -
Comrades, comrades, ever since we were boys;
Sharing each other's sorrows,
Sharing each other's joys.
Comrades when manhood was dawning
Faithful whate'er may betide;
When I was in danger, me darling old comrade
Was there, by my side.

When just budding into manhood,
I yearned for a soldier's life.
Day and night I'd dream of glory,
Longing for the battle's strife.
I said "Jack, I'll be a soldier,
'Neath the red, the white, the blue.
Goodbye Jack." Said he "No, never;
If you go, then I'll go too."
Comrades, comrades ...

I enlisted; Jack came with me,
And our ups and downs we shared.
For a time our life was peaceful,
But, at last, war was declared.
England's flag had been insulted,
We'd been ordered to the front.
And the regiment that we served in
Had to bear the battle brunt.
We were comrades, comrades ...

In the night the foe came over,
And we went for them like hell;
It was rifle-butt and bayonet,
And we drove them back pell-mell.
There was one chap had me cornered,
I was helpless, wounded sore;
But 'twas Jack that came between us,
And my pal was mine no more.
Comrades, comrades ...

Written by Felix McGlennon in 1887, it was sung on the halls by Tom Costello and Helene Mora, and found its way onto at least one broadside.  McGlennon also wrote that favourite And Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down her Back and another song Bob sings on this CD, One Touch of Nature (makes the whole world kin).

3 - And His Day's Work was Done (Roud 12908)

I often lie in bed and think
What an awful thing is work,
I know of some who started it
And gave up with a jerk.
There's Beery Bob, he got a job
To drive a motor car,
Said "Blow the p'lice, I'll let them see
I know what motors are."
So a hundred mile an hour he went
And he quite enjoyed the fun;
But a brewer's dray got in his way -
And his day's work was done.

I knew a man, he got a job
In a menagerie.
'Twas only to feed the animals,
As easy as could be.
He didn't know their appetites
It was the funny part,
So when the feeding time came round,
He had to make a start.
He went into the lion's den
And he offered it a bun;
The lion smiled and then got riled,
And his day's work was done.

A man was up a ladder,
Cleaning winders was his job;
But all the time was spooning
With young Missis Thingmabob.
Her husband came along just as
Their heads in kisses met;
He didn't rave or carry on
As though he was upset.
He simply pulled the ladder away
And said "This takes the bun."
The man at the top, he came down plop,
And his day's work was done.

Now Pat he went for a sailor
And he thought the job was soft,
No sooner had he started than
He was ordered up aloft.
He funked a bit, but up he went,
In fact, he had no choice,
Was hanging on the top-mast
When he heard the Captain's voice.
"Let go that rope" the Captain yells
To Pat, he means this one;
Let go came tumbling down below,
And his day's work was done.

This was written in 1903 by T W Connor (who also penned My Mother Doesn't Know I'm on the Stage) and sung on the halls by George Brooks.  Apparently it's also known locally as Beery Bob and is in John Howson's Songs Sung in Suffolk pp.9-10; the singer was Manny Aldus of Great Bricett.

4 - All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough (Roud 346)

Early one morning at the break of day,
The cocks were all crowing, the farmer did say,
"Come rise, me good fellows, come rise with a will
For your horses want something their bellies to fill"

When five o'clock comes we merrily rise,
And into the stable, boys, quickerly flies.
With rubbing and scrubbing our horses, I vow,
We're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

When six o'clock comes, to breakfast we meet,
Our bread, beef and corn, boys, we heartily eat.
With a piece in our pockets, I swear and I vow,
We're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

We harness our horses, and to plough then we go
To see which of us the best furrow can show.
With our hands in our pockets, like gentlemen we go
As nimbly we step o'er the plains down below.

Now the Master came to us and this he did say,
"You've not ploughed an acre this long summer's day.
You've not ploughed an acre, and I swear and I vow
You're all idle fellows that follow the plough."

I stepped up to him and made this reply,
"We have all ploughed an acre, so you tell a darn' lie
We have all ploughed an acre, and I swear and I vow
We're not idle fellows that follow the plough."

He turned himself round and he laughed at his joke
"It's past three o'clock, boys; it's time to unyoke
Unharness your horses and rub them down well,
And I'll give you a jug of my very best ale".

So all you young fellows, where'er you may be,
Take my advice and be rulèd by me,
Never fear your masters, and I swear and I vow,
We're all jolly fellows that follow the plough.

A very popular song in England (only one reference to it elsewhere - Frank Steele in Banffshire, Scotland), with 113 listings in Roud.  It may be of quite late composition, and it has certainly survived well into the era of sound recording - almost all country singers had it in their repertoire and there are 23 sound recordings, almost all from central and southern England.  Most versions stick pretty close to Catnatch's broadside text, first printed around 1820.

Available CD versions include Jeff Wesley (Veteran VTC4CD), George Townshend (Musical Traditions MTCD304) and Fred Jordan (Topic TSCD655).

5 - A Miner's Dream of Home (Roud 1749)

It's ten weary years since I left England's shore
In a far distant country to roam.
How I longed to return to me own native land,
Me friends and the old folks at home.
Last night as I slumbered, I had a strange dream
That seemed to bring distant friends near;
I dreamt of old England, the land of me birth,
To the heart of her sons ever dear.
I saw the old homestead and faces I loved,
I saw England's valleys and dells,
I listened with joy, as I did when a boy,
To the sound of the old village bells.
The log was burning brightly
'Twas a night that would banish all sin,
For the bells were ringin' the Old Year out
And the New Year in.

As the joyous bells rang out, I wended my way
To the cot where I lived when a boy.
I looked in the window; yes, there by the fire,
Sat me parents; me heart filled with joy.
The tears trickled down my sun-furrowed cheek,
As I gazed on me mother so dear,
I knew in my heart she was raising a prayer
For the boy who she dreamt not was near.
I saw the old homestead ...

At the door of the cottage we met face to face,
'Twas the first time for ten weary years.
Soon the past was forgotten; we stood hand in hand,
Father, Mother and wanderer in tears.
Once more in the fireplace the old log burns bright,
And I promised no more would I roam,
As I sat in the old vacant chair by the fire,
And sang the dear song Home Sweet Home.
I saw the old homestead ...

Written by Will Godwin and Leo Dryden in 1891, sung by Leo Dryden on the halls, and recorded by him on 27th Aug 1898, on a Berliner cylinder E-2013.  A drunken rendition always used to be mandatory on New Year's Eve - yet another great custom lost to English culture!

6 - On the Banks of Allen Water (Roud 4260)

On the banks of Allan Water
When springtime did fall,
I met the miller's daughter,
Fairest of them all.
For his wife a soldier sought her,
And a winning smile had he;
On the banks of Allan Water,
None so fair as she.

On the banks of Allan Water,
When autumn spread its store,
I met the miller's daughter,
But she smiled no more.
For that summer grief had brought her,
And the soldier false was he;
On the banks of Allan Water,
None so sad as she.

On the banks of Allan Water,
When cold winter blew its blast,
I met the miller's daughter,
Cold blew the blast.
For the miller's lovely daughter,
From cold and fear was she;
On the banks of Allan Water,
A corpse lies she.

Referred to as 'traditional' in Songs and Dances of Scotland (1982) where it is printed with similar text and tune.  In fact, this rather beautiful song was composed around 1805 by Matthew 'Monk' Lewis, a Member of Parliament and popular writer of the time, set to an old Scottish traditional melody.  (The composer is probably much more famous for having written The Monk, a prototype Gothic novel, in 1796; it was from this work that he gained the soubriquet 'Monk').

The song was included in a very popular and widely available late Victorian song collection - the Scots Minstrelsie of 1893 - a six volume collection subtitled 'A National Monument of Scottish Song.'  The editor made the claim that 'no song which, in the editor's judgement possesses permanent musical value, has been omitted.'  In fact, the collection does include many fine Scottish songs.  Some are traditional songs and ballads, but, in the main, the songs are from known authors such as Robert Burns, Tannahill, Walter Scott, Lady Nairn, James Hogg.  Greig does not mention the song, presumably considering it as belonging to the 'drawing room' category of Scottish song.

That said, the song seems to have found little favour with British singers, or perhaps their collectors, since almost all of Roud's 25 instances are from Canada.  The only British examples are the two other known sound recordings: John MacDonald (Topic 12TS263) and Daisy Chapman (MTCD308).  Walter Pardon also knew it, but is not known to have recorded it.

7 - As I Strolled out to Aylesbury (Roud 364)

As I Strolled out to Aylesbury,
'Twas on one market day,
I met a pretty little girl,
As I was on me way.
Her business was to market
With butter, cheese and whey,
And we both strolled on together me boys,
Singing fol-the-rol-iddle-ol-day.

And as we strolled on together, me boys,
So happy, side by side,
By chance, this fair maid's garter,
By chance, it came untied.
And in case she didn't know it,
I unto her did say,
"Oh, me lass your garter is coming untied."
Singing fol-the-rol-iddle-ol-day.

And as we strolled on together, me boys,
To the outskirts of the town,
This pretty little maiden,
She stopped and looked around.
Saying "Since you've been so venturesome,
You may tie it up for me."
"Oh, I will if you will go with me
To yonder shady tree."

And when we got to yonder tree,
The grass it grew so high,
We both sat down upon the ground,
This garter for to tie.
Such a tying of her garter;
The likes you never did see.
And we both rolled over together, me boys,
Singing fol-the-rol-iddle-ol-dee.

"Now since you've had you will with me,
Pray tell to me your name.
Likwise your occupation;
From where and whence you came."
"My name is Micky the Rover,
From Duberlin Town I came,
And I live at the sign of the Ups and Downs,
And you'll never see me again."

A fairly common song, at least in the south of England; Roud has 39 instances including 11 sound recordings.  The fact that none of them come from anywhere near Berkshire may account for the variety of ways singers have pronounced the town name; Hazelbury, Happisburgh, Hastings, Salisbury and even Derby feature in some versions.  Alternatively, since the earliest broadsides use this name, it may originally have been in Hazelbury in Dorset that the song was based.  It's also known, quite reasonably, as The Ups and Downs.

Also available on CD from Jack Goodban (MTCD311-2) and George 'Pop' Maynard (MTCD400-1 and Topic TSCD 665)

8 - Tom Bowling (Roud 1984)

Did you ever her Tom Bowling?  I sung that song in the public house when I was about 10.  I believe I told you, didn't I.  Keston Sailor's Home - I was there with me uncle, and there was an old sailor in there saying how he'd love to hear Tom Bowling again before he died.  And my uncle said "You know that, boy."  I said "Yes."  He said "Sing it to him."  They used to teach us that at school, you know.  Least that's one of the songs they used to do.  And, oh I come out with a hat full of pennies.  I know I was pleased.

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
The darling of our crew.
No more he'll hear the tempest howling
For death have broached him to.
His form was of the manliest duty,
His heart was kind and soft.
Faithful below, Tom did his duty
And now he's gone aloft,
And now he's gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed,
His virtues were so rare.
His friends were many and true-hearted,
His Poll was kind and fair.
And then he seemed so blithe and jolly,
Ah, many the time and oft.
But earth has turned to melancholy,
Poor Tom has gone aloft
Poor Tom has gone aloft.

Yet, shall poor Tom find pleasant weather,
When He whom all commands
Shall give to call life's crew together,
The word to pipe all hands.
Thus death whom kings and tars despatches,
In vain Tom's life is doffed.
Although his body's under hatches,
His soul has gone aloft,
His soul has gone aloft.

Not quite so easy as that was when I went to school!

Words and music by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), this 'National' song has appeared in many books and songsters, and dozens of broadsides - but has only this once been collected from the oral tradition, if Roud's 75 instances show the full picture.  Not the sort of thing many Sharpian collectors would be interested in, nor later ones, it would appear ...  I remember Fred Jordan singing it on occasion.

9 - Barbara Allen (Roud 54, Child 84)

In Scarlet Town, where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwelling,
Made many a lad say "Well a-day."
They called her Barbara Allen.

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

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

So slowly, slowly, she came up
And slowly she came nigh him.
And all she said, as there she stood,
Was "Young man, I think you're dying."

When these words from her lips did fall,
His heart was touched with sorrow.
"Oh, Mother, Mother, make my bed,
For I shall die tomorrow."

He turned his face unto the wall,
As deadly pangs befell him.
"Adieu, adieu, adieu to all.
Adieu to Barbara Allen.

This is most widely-known ballad I've yet encountered in Steve Roud's Song Index, with an astonishing 802 instances (including 172 sound recordings) listed there.  Needless to say, it's found everywhere English is spoken - though Australia boasts only one version in the Index - and, very unusually, there's even one from Wales ...  although it comes from Phil Tanner in that 'little England', the Gower Peninsula.

Bob's version here is but the skeleton of the much longer ballad, but he mentions (above) that he had a 14-verse one from a song book - although he felt it unlikely that he would ever get all the verses of that.  Seeing that he had learned over 100 songs, this task was clearly not beyond him - one may guess that, at this period, a 14-verse ballad would not have been particulaly welcome in the pubs in which he habitually sang.

Several great versions can be found on CD these days, including Jim Wilson (Musical Traditions MTCD309-10), Wiggy Smith (MTCD 307), Sarah Makem (Topic TSCD668), Jane Turriff (Springthyme SPRCD1038), Phoebe Smith (Veteran VT136CD) and a compilation of a verse or two each from Fred Jordan, Jessie Murray, Charlie Wills, May Bennell, Thomas Moran and Phil Tanner on Classic Ballads II (Rounder CD1775).  Joe Heaney also sings it brilliantly on the MT/Topic/CIC double CD The Road from Connemara (TSCD518D).

Many, though by no means all, versions end with the motif which usually ends the ballad Lord Lovel as well:

Now she was buried by the old church wall
And he a little higher
And from her grave grew a red, red rose
And from his grew sweet briar.
They grew and the grew to the church steeple top
'Til they could grow no higher
And there they formed a true-lovers' knot
And the rose embraced the briar.

10 - The Song of the Thrush (Roud 1763)

Years ago out in
The wilds of Australia,
Out in the gold fields
There once stood a camp;
The miners were made up
With all sorts of classes,
With many a scape-grace
And many a scamp.
Into their midst came
A young man from England,
And with him he brought
A young thrush in a cage;
To hear that bird sing they would
Crowd round in dozens,
That sweet little songster
Became quite the rage.

There fell a deep hush, as the song of the thrush
Was heard by that motley throng;
Many a rough fellow's eyes grew dim
As the notes rang out clear and strong. 
Eyes lighted up with a bright yearning look,
As the bird trilled its beautiful lay;
It brought to their minds dear old England at home
Thousands of miles away.

Rough were those miners,
All fierce-looking fellows,
Yet they were human,
And worshipped that bird. 
When quarrels arose
They would break off and listen
If only the voice of their
Favourite was heard. 
All round for miles
He at last got quite famous,
On Sunday the miners
Would come from afar,
And many declared
They preferred the bird's singing
To cards and the dice
And the rough liquor bar.

Chorus ...

Ofttimes they'd think of the
Cornfields and meadows,
Many a quiet little country lane;
And hearts ached and yearned as they
Thought of some village,
And some they had dearly loved,
But all in vain. 
When the bird sang
All those hard fellows listened
Perhaps they got tired of the bird? 
No such thing!
As one rough expressed it,
"He came like an angel
And it makes you feel good, like,
To hear that bird sing."

Chorus ...

Written in 1897 by Walter Hastings with music by George Le Brunn, it was sung by Jenny Hill and by her daughter Peggy Pryde.  All Roud's four named singers were from East Anglia, but he also has book examples from Canada and, appropriately, Australia.  As well as Bob, Ben Ling also sang it in Snape - as did Fred Jordan over in Shropshire.

11 - A Broadside (Roud 492, Laws N4)

A story, a story,
I'm just a-going to tell,
It's of a young maiden,
in London she did dwell.
And before I conclude,
Well, you shall quickly hear
How she ventured her life
For the one she loved so dear.

So come all ye young fellows,
Be galliant and true,
And let us our enemies
Quickerly pursue.
And when we overtake them,
All on the ocean wide,
We will nearly draw up with them,
We'll give them a broadside.

A broadside, a broadside,
And at it we went;
For killing one another
It was our full intent.
The very first broadside,
Our captain he was slain,
And the young damsel rose up
In his place to remain.

For long hours we fought
In a battles so rare.
'Til we scarce had a man
Who our ship could steer.
We scarce had a man
That could fire off a gun
And the blood from our quarter-deck
Like water did run.

For quarter, for quarter,
The Frenchman he did cry.
"You'll get the finest quarter."
The maiden did reply.
"You'll get the finest quarter
That ever I can afford.
It's to kill, or be killed, me lads,
Or else jump overboard."

And now we've gained the victory,
We'll take a glass of wine.
You drink luck to your truelove
And I'll drink luck to mine.
And here's to the maiden
That gal of greatest fame,
And our good ship The Royal Lad
In battle made its name.

The young girl who disguises herself as a man in order to follow her sweetheart to sea is a popular theme in folksong.  This example, collected in England, Scotland, USA and Canada, though not very common on broadsides, is generically known as The Female Warrior.  It's also sometimes called The Rainbow, for its usual last verse, just to confuse it with Captain Ward!  Harris of Birmingham printed a broadside on this theme but, inexplicably, omitted the usual introductory verses.  The result was our present song - copied by later printers - and the girl's sudden and unexplained appearance has confused numerous listeners.

Bob may have learned his version from Bob Scarce, as did Cyril Poacher.  Again the Poacher and Hart versions have diverged noticeably in a generation.  Cyril's (MTCD303) is the only other version available on CD.

In her book Warrior Women and Popular Balladry 1650 - 1850, Cambridge UP, 1989, Dianne Dugaw claims that the female warrior was a popular subject in balladry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  She has identified more than 100 ballads on the subject.

12 - One Touch of Nature (Roud 12909)

'Tis night.  The scene, a blood stained battlefield,
A truce there 'til the morning's deathly glow.
The rival armies fought, but none would yield,
Our weary soldier seeks a sweet repose.
Ah, many a gallant heart in death is stilled,
And many a comrade mourns a comrade dear.
Of glory every soldier thrilled,
No thought have they of death or ??  of fear.
Crouching there so stiffly in the ruddy glow
While a watchful sentry pace there to and fro.
Waiting for the morning, then to meet the foe,
Eager all a hero's name to win.
"We've been good old chums, Jack.
Nought could part us two.
If my time has come, Jack,
And if spared are you,
Tell the little girl I love, I was ever true.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."

Before the judge defiantly she stands,
Poor outcast drifting down the sea of life.
The drink fiend holds her as in iron bands
Too helpless, she, to struggle through the strife.
So drifting, sinking, slowly drifting down,
And yet she once was some poor mother's pride.
Too reckless, she, to heed the judge's frown,
Far better had poor Magdalena died.
"I was once so pure, Sir,
Innocent and young.
'Til a tempter came, Sir
With his lying tongue.
What cared he, though my poor heart with anguish wrung,
Sent me drifting down the sea of life.
In the village church I used to kneel in prayer.
Would you know the name of him who laid the snare?
You were my betrayer, Sir, judge me if you dare
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."

Written by Felix McGlennon in 1897, it was sung on the halls by Marie Loftus, Paul Pelham and Helene Mora.  The title is from W Shakespeare (Trolius & Cressida Act.iii Sc.3) One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.  McGlennon also wrote those favourites And Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down her Back and another song Bob sings on this CD, Comrades.  This is the only time it has been collected from the oral tradition.

13 - The Mermaid (Roud 124, Child 289)

It was February the 13th that we set sail
And our ship not so very far from land,
Well, whom should I spy but a fair pretty maid,
With a glass and a comb in her hand.
And the ragin' seas did roar,
And the stormy winds did blow,
And we jolly sailor lads
Were up, were up aloft
And the landlubbers lyin' down
Below, below, below.
And the landlubbers lyin' down below.

Then up spoke a man of our gallant ship,
And a well-spoken man was he.
"I have married a wife in fair London Town,
And tonight she a widow will be."

Then up spoke the boy of our gallant ship,
And a well-spoken boy was he.
"I've a father and mother in fair London Town
And tonight, they will weep for me."

"They will look, they will weep witha watery eye,
They will look, they will weep for me.
They will look, they will weep with a watery eye,
They will look to the bottom of the sea."

Then three time round went our gallant ship
And three time round went she,
Three time round went our gallant ship
And she sank to the bottom of the sea.

Professor Child called this The Mermaid because, in most versions, the sailors sight a mermaid, a sign of bad-luck, before their ship is wrecked.  It was published in a Newcastle Garland, dated 1765, as The Seamen's Distress, although later broadside printers often called it The Sailor's Caution.  In America the song was often treated comically in 19th century college glee books and it may be that sometimes the American folk versions are serious reinterpretations of these one-time comic versions!

Other currently available CD recordings include those by William Howell, from Pembrokeshire (Rounder CD 1776), and North Carolina singer Bascom Lamar Lunsford (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40082).  Emma Dusenberry's wonderful Ozark Library of Congress recording was once available on LP (Library of Congress LP57) and may be reissued again on CD by Rounder Records.

14 - Banks of the Sweet Primroses (Roud 586)

As I strolled out one summer's morning,
To view the fields and to take the air,
Down by the banks of sweet primroses;
There I beheld a most lovely maid.

Three long steps, oh, I took up to her,
Not knowing me, oh, she passed me by.
I stepped up to her, thinking to view her,
She appeared to be like some virtuous bride.

I said "Fair maiden, where are you going?
On what occasion all is thy grief?
I'll make you as happy as any lady,
If you will grant me some small relief."

"Stand back, stand back, oh, you are deceitful.
You are a false deceitful man, 'tis plain.
It's you that's caused my poor heart to wander;
To give me confort would be all in vain."

"I'll go away to some lonesome valley,
And there no man, oh, shall e'er me find.
Until the pretty birds change their voices,
And every moment shall blow boistrious winds."

Now all ye fair maids who go a-courting,
Just pay attention to what I say.
There's many a dark and a cloudy morning,
Turns out to be a bright and sunny day.

A very popular song, right up to the present, with 33 of Roud's 141 instances being sound recordings.  It's been found in most parts of England (though the only other singer from Bob's part of the world is Walter Gales, from nearby Leiston), together with isolated sightings in Wales (Phil Tanner again), Scotland and Canada.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by The Copper Family from the '50s (Topic TSCD534 and TSCD600), Fred Jordan (EFDSS CD 002), Phil Tanner (TSCD651 and Rounder CD1741) and George 'Pop' Maynard (MTCD 400-1).

15 - Bonny Mary of Argyll (Roud 12904)

I have heard the mavis singing
Its lovesong to the morn.
I have seen the dewdrops falling
From the rose that's newly born.
But a sweeter song has cheered me
At the evening's gentle close,
I have seen an eye still brighter
Than the dewdrops on the rose.
'Twas thy voice, my gentle Mary,
And thy winning artless smile
That has made this world an Eden
Bonny Mary of Argyll

Though thy voice may lose its sweetness,
Thine eye its brightness too,
Though thy feet may lose their swiftness
And thine hair its bonny hue.
Still, to me shalt thou be dearer
Than all the world shall own.
I have loved thee for thy beauty,
But not for that alone.
I have sought(?) thy heart, dear Mary,
And its goodness was the while
That has made thee mine for ever
Bonny Mary of Argyll

I would have thought this was a fairly well-known song, but Roud has only 22 instances, and the only other named singer is Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex, who had a vast repertoire of over 400 songs listed in the book he wrote, Reminiscences of Horsham, 1911.

Just about every Scots broadside printer issued it though; it's in many Scottish chapbooks c.1825, and was recorded by Harry Lauder on at least 3 occasions: 18th Feb 1916, Victor 45126; 5th March 1926 HMV D-1229; 7th Dec 1926, Victor 4002/Zonophone GO-74.

The song is said to have been written by two Englishmen, Charles Jeffries (words) and Sidney Nelson (music).  Kilgarriff gives 'c.1855' as the date of composition, but it must have been before 1825 when the song appears on dated broadsides.  Mary was Margaret 'Mary' Campbell b.1766 in Dunoon, d.1786.  She was one of Burns' girlfriends, the so-called 'Highland Mary' of his poems, (since when was Dunoon in the Highlands?) who may, repeat may, have died in childbirth.  When her tomb was opened c.1930 the remains of a new-born child were found.  But there were also several other people's remains in the tomb.

16 - John Barleycorn (Roud 164)

There came three men from the North
They came all for to try.
They vowed a vow, and a solemn vow
"John Barleycorn must die-ie-ie."
They vowed a vow, and a solemn vow
"John Barleycorn must die."

So they ploughed the land and harrowed it
And rolled clods over his head.
Then they vowed a vow, and a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead ...

But then the sun broke out again
Then rains from the heavens did fall.
John Barleycorn sprang up again
And it did surprise them all ...

So they hired men with scythes so sharp
To cut him to the ground,
Then they left him there to rest awhile
'Til he was nicely browned ...

Then they hired men with forks so sharp
To prick him to the heart.
And after they had served him thus,
They bound him to a cart ...

Then they hired men with flails, me boys,
To thrash his skin from his bones.
And the maltster served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones ...

Put whisky in a glass, me boys,
Put cider in an old tin can,
Put barley broth in an old brown jug
And we'll drink to the health of man ...

An old song; it was already in print in 1620.  It has been very widely-collected in England, but has not spread too far beyond, if Roud's 138 instances really show the whole picture; there are just a scattering of examples from Ireland, Scotland, the USA and Canada.  Other singers from Suffolk include Roy Last, Sam Friend and Tom Smith.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Austin Flanagan of Doolin, Co Clare (Topic TSCD664), Bob Blake (Veteran VTC4CD) and Fred Jordan (TSCD663).

This is not the same song as the other John Barleycorn (Roud 660), sung by George Townshend on Come Hand to me the Glass (MTCD304).

17 - City of Laughter, City of Tears (Roud 12905)

City of laughter with lights aglow;
You live for pleasure alone, I know.
You'll play with life like a child with its toys,
But 'neath all its pleasure and joys -
City of laughter, city of tears,
What are the secrets you hold?
What are the sorrows behind the joys,
The pain 'neath the glitter of gold?
Faces are beaming, happy and bright,
But midst all the pleasure that cheers,
There are hearts that seem light,
That are aching tonight
In the city of laughter and tears.

City of laughter, no one can see,
You hold for pleasure life's golden key.
Bright lights may gleam for a while, 'tis true,
But when all this pleasure is through -
City of laughter, city of tears,
What are the secrets you hold?
What are the sorrows beneath the joys,
The pain 'neath the glitter of gold?
Faces are beaming, happy and bright,
But midst all the pleasure that cheers,
There are hearts that seem light,
That are aching tonight
In the city of laughter and tears.

I like that old song ...

Unfortunately - and unusually - I've been able to find out absolutely nothing about this song.

18 - Michael Larney-O (Roud 12913)

Michael Larney O, full of blarney O,
Bridget McCue, an Irish rose,
Met one morning O, day was dawning O,
This is the way the story goes.
She said to him "Let me pass upon me way."
I said to her "You must stay-ay.
When I look at you, see those eyes of blue,
Ha ha ha, so fine's the day."

Top of the morning, Bridget McCue,
Fresh as a shamrock covered with dew.
Sure I'd walk a hundred miles,
Just to see one of your smiles
And to gaze into your eyes of Irish blue, that's true.
Bridget, me darling, what shall I do?
Me heart's a-thumping, thinking of you.
When I gaze upon your charms
I could roll you in me arms,
Top of the morn, sure as you're born, Bridget McCue.

Bridget smiled awhile, then said with a smile
"Sure, you've been after me for days,
With your blarney talk that you brought from Cork
Sure ??  and smiling ways."
Then Michael said, with a twinkle in his eye,
"Look at the cloud in the sky." My!
When when she turned to look,
Quick a kiss he took,
"Ha ha ha," said he, "Goodbye."


As Top of the Mornin', Bridget McCue! this was in the repertoire of Joe O'Gorman (1863-1937).  Kilgarrif has no further information, and nor does Roud - surprising, as it sounds familiar to us.

19 - The Bold Princess Royal (Roud 528, Laws K29)

'Twas the 19th of February we sailed from the land
In the good ship Prince Royal,
Bound to Newfoundland.
We'd forty brave seamen for a ship's company,
And so boldly from the eastward
To the westward bore we.

We scarce had been sailing but days two or three,
When the man on the topmast, a tall ship did see.
She came bearing down on us,
Just to see what we were,
Whilst under her mizzen sheets,
Dark colours she wore.

"Oh dear" cried our captain,
"What shall we do now?
Here come an old pirate to rob us, I know."
"Oh no" cried our chief mate,
"That will never be so;
We will shake out our rig lads
And from her we'll flow."

Meanwhile the old pirate had come alongside.
Through a loud-speaking trumpet
"Who are you?" he cried.
The Captain being aft, he did answer him so;
"We're bound from old England, out into Peru."

"Then lower your tops'l and heave your ship to,
For I have some letters to send home by you."
"I will lower my tops'l and I'll heave my ship to,
But will be in some harbour, not alongside of you."

They chased us all night and they chased us all day,
They chased us to windward, but ne'er could us stay.
They fired shots after us, oh but none could prevail,
And the bold Princess Royal soon shew them her tail.

"And now", said the Captain, "that the pirate has gone,
Go you down to your grog, boys, go down every one,
Go down to your grog, me boys, and be of good cheer,
For whilst we have sea-room, brave boys, never fear.

An extremely well-known song, at least in England - 66 of Roud's 115 instances are from here.  And with the single exception of a Sharp collection from Robert Hughes of Buckingham in 1922, all are from counties with a sea coast - the great majority being from Suffolk and Norfolk.  It has also remained popular until recent times; Roud show 30 sound recordings.

Since the words 'Bold Princess Royal' occur so frequently in the song it's unsurprising that this is almost always the title used - until it crosses the sea, that is.  In Ireland and North America a whole host of alternative titles have been adopted, many of which centre on the pirate, rather than the Princess and her crew.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Harry Cox (Topic TSCD706), Walter Pardon (TSCD514), Sam Larner (TSCD600), John Goffin (Neil Lanham NLCD 6) and Cis Ellis (NLCD 3).

20 - The Gypsy's Warning (Roud 1764)

Do not trust him, gentle lady,
Though his voice be low and sweet.
Heed not him who kneels before you,
Gently pleading at thy feet.
Now thy life is in its morning,
Blight not this, thy happy lot.
Listen to the gypsy's warning,
Gentle lady trust him not.
Listen to the gypsy's warning,
Gentle lady trust him not.

Do not turn so coldly from me,
I would only guard thy youth
From his stern and withering powers,
I would only tell the truth.
I would shield thee from all danger,
Shield thee from the tempter's care.
Lady, shun that dark eyed stranger,
I have warned thee, now beware.
Lady, shun ...

Lady, once there lived a maiden,
Pure and fresh and, like thee, fair.
And he wooed, and wooed and won her,
Filled her gentle heart with care.
Then he heeded not her weeping,
Nor cared he her life to save.
So she perished, now she's sleeping
In a cold and silent grave.
So she ...

Keep your gold, I do not wish it.
Lady, I have prayed for this;
For the hour when I might foil him,
Rob him of expected bliss.
Gentle lady, do not wonder
At my words so cold and wild.
In that graveyard over yonder
Lies the gypsy's only child.
In that ...

A surprisingly well-known song, with 57 Roud entries, though only 14 of these are from outside the US, so one may be fairly sure it's an American composition.  Since 36 of them are books and songsters, but only one gives the information 'written by Henry A Gourd', this may be debatable.  The earliest reference I can find is to a music sheet printed by Holmes of New York in 1864.  There was a Vernon Dalhart recording made in 1927.

Fourteen sound recordings exist, all but two being from N America.  Fred Jordan is the only other British singer to record the song, though Alice Messenger in Blaxhall knew it, as did, unsurprisingly, Henry Burstow in Sussex.

21 - Jolly Jack the Sailor Lad (Roud 1785)

I'm Jolly Jack the Sailor Lad,
On board a man-of-war.
I've been away for three long years,
But now I've come on shore.
I've come on shore for the girl I love
Far dearer than me life
Won't she jump for joy when she hear the news
I'm going to make her me wife.

She's as pretty as a picture
And as sweet as the new-mown hay.
Far brighter than the stars that shine,
Go singing all the day.
For she knows I loves her dearly
And dearly she love me
Won't she jump for joy when she hear the news
Her Jack's come home from sea.

She writes me lots of letters
When I'm away at sea,
In which she says "Dear Jack, me boy,
I think of you night and day.
I think of you night and day , me boy,
Wherever you may be,
Whether it's in your bunk or on the deck,
It's all the same to me."

I'll jump aboard a railway train
That's bound for Lincolnshire,
And when I think of me own true love
A-waiting for me there,
We'll set the bells a-ringing
Down by old Lincoln-side,
And this very day this young sailor lass
Shall become a young sailor's bride.

Seemingly a local song.  Sharp collected it from William Porter in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in 1911, and George Ling recorded it for Keith Summers - now available on the Voice of the People series (TSCD662).  Roud has no other instances - funny, it sounded familiar to us when Bob first sang it.

22 - Just Before the Battle, Mother (Roud 4263)

Just before the battle, mother,
I am thinking most of you,
Whilst upon the field we're watching,
With the enemy in view.
Comrades brave around me lying
Fill every thought of ?? gone
Well they know that on the morrow
Some may sleep beneath the sun.

Farewell mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again,
But you'll ne'er forget me, mother,
If I'm numbered with the slain.

How I long for you, dear mother,
And the dear ones at home,
But I'll never leave our banner
'Til with honour I can come.
Tell the traitors round about you
That their cruel words we know
In every battle kills our soldiers
By the help they give the foe.


You don't hear that very often.

You're right Bob!  Another song not much collected by musicologists; apart from Bob, only Henry Burstow is mentioned in Roud.  It was written by the American G F Root (a.k.a C Friedrich Wurzel) in 1863.  Root only wrote eight songs, but every one was a winner: The Hazel Dell; Ring the Bell Watchman; Rosalie the Prairy Flower; The Vacant Chair; Tramp, Tramp,Tramp the Boys are Marching ...

23 - The Farmer's Servant (Rap-a-Tap-Tap) (Roud 792)

When I's an old farmer's servant
Well, I used to like some fun,
To mind me Master's business
When he was not at home.
For if me Master should go out
To view the fields so gay,
I was up to the door with me rat-tat-tat
Oh either by night or day, oh
Either by night or day.

Now it happened to be on a Thursday
Me Master to market did go,
I told him I'd mind his business,
As servants ought to do.
As soon as me Master's back was turned,
I went blundering out of the barn,
And up to the door with me rat-tat-tat
And, sure, I thought no harm ...

Well who should come but me Mistress,
She bade me to walk in.
When I complained of the belly-ache
She ordered me some gin.
She ordered me some gin, me boys,
But never a word to say;
I had been there with me rat-tat-tat
And to bed we went straightway ...

And there us two lay sporting
For two long hours or more,
The Missis, she liked the sport so well,
I thought she'd never give o'er.
"You won me heart for ever", she cried
"No more your master for me,
For cannot come with his rat-tat-tat,
Not half so well as thee ...

Now the master, he came from market
And he asked me how I got on.
I told him I'd minded his business
The same as if he was at home.
He ordered me some ale, me boys,
But little did he know
That I'd been there with me rat-tat-tat
If he had, he'd a never done so ...

Nor would he!

A surprisingly little-collected song, yet one which seems to be pretty well-known.  Gardiner found it in Hampshire and Hammond in Dorset in 1905/6, but all the other 23 Roud entries are from East Anglia.  Percy Webb, Frank Woolnough and 'Rivetts' Branch (NLCD3) all sang it locally, as did Harry Cox (Rounder CD 1839) just up in Norfolk.

CD Two:

1 - What a Funny Little Place to Have One (Roud 1495)

Now I know a feller who has just got wed,
Only this morning unto him I said
"Where are you going to, to spend, old man
Your honeymoon along with Mary Ann?"
He whispered in my ear "We shall spend our honeymoon
In a railway tunnel, mate, and save a bit of rent."
But I couln't help but shouting soon,
"What a funny little place to have one,
What a funny little place I say.
You can't see each other, for it must be dark,
You can't have a cuddle or a nice old lark.
I've heard of people going to a hotel or a flat,
Somewhere on the quiet for to spend a honeymoon,
But never in a place like that.

Poor Ma lost her nose the other day,
Seeking a bad escape of gas, they say.
She went to the hospital, along with Pa,
They stuck an artificial nose on Ma.
But it would not stick on where a boko ought to be,
So the doctor made a hole just a little lower down
And he stuck it on her chin, you see.
What a funny little place to have one,
What a funny little place I say.
The baby clutches it and grabs it, oh,
Thinks it is a little feeeding bottle, it's true.
It's like some big tomato, it is so red and fat.
I've seen a lot of funny noses in me time,
But I've never seen a nose like that.

Now my brother Tommy joined the Volunteers,
When he went away we gave three cheers.
In his uniform he did look grand,
'Til he came home on his furlough, and
He had his Scotch kilt on, and a Scotch cap on his head,
But the way that he wore that little fillet-bag!
All the neighbours looked at him and said;
"What a funny little place to have one;
What a funny little place, I say."
Oh, there it was, hangin' round his neck, oh dear!
Like a bunch of whiskers, only not round here!
Our servant, she said "Tommy, I'll get you a pussy-cat;
No girl will want to stroke your little fillet-bag
If you wear it in a place like that!"

Now I shan't forget the day when I took Mother Brown
Into the country, and we both sat down
In a field where it was full of hay;
Don't I recollect that summer's day.
She said a mosquito had gone down her back, you see,
Ans she wanted me to try and get it out,
But I shouted "Goodness gracious me!
What a funny little place to have one;
What a funny little place, I say."
She said "It's now down the middle of me back,
Oh, do put you finger down and try to get it, Jack."
I shouted Holy Moses!  You are a saucy cat.
I'd do it in a minute, if 'twas anywhere else,
But I couldn't in a place like that!"

A music hall type song which appears to be unique to Bob - strange, as it's a perfect country singer's repertoire item.  Mind you, there are a lot of such songs in this area, seemingly unknown elsewhere, and I may have stumbled on an explanation.  I learned from Al Sealey that an informally organised 'pub circuit' of music hall gigs operated in East Anglia right up to the early 1930s, where second-string semi-pro performers would put on shows of their own songs together with the popular hits.  Also, Bob did say that he would go to the local music hall when in port, and keep returning 'til he'd learned a song which took his fancy.

The 'little fillet bag' referred to in verse 3 is obviously meant to be the sporran which brother Tommy would have worn with his kilt - though not around his neck!  What the song's composer did not know is that 'philabeg' or 'fillebeg' is not a sporran, but an Anglicised/Scotticised version of féileadh-beag or féile-beag, being the modern (i.e.  in the last 200 years) Gaelic for what we now call 'the kilt'.

Except to say that no Highlander ever charged into battle (or any other activity) wearing such an impractical garment instead of his belted plaid - féileadh (or breacan an fhéilidh - 12 yards of woollen cloth - often tartan - worn round the waist, obliquely across the breast and over the left shoulder, dangling down the back).  Warm, whether wet or dry, it served also as a sleeping bag.

The modern kilt (féileadh-beag = 'little plaid') is largely the imaginative child of the British Army.  How the Army persuaded the bemused Highlanders who enlisted for the Napoleonic Wars onwards to wear such daft and impractical garb I know not.  Clearly the song's composer had not the faintest.  I doubt if he knew, or cared, that a sporan was also a neck dewlap in Gaelic, which might have provided the basis for a similar sort of joke at one time.  (My thanks to Dr Ian Olson of Aberdeen for the above information.)

2 - Bold General Wolfe (Roud 624)

Bold General Wolfe to his men did say,
"Come, come, my lads, and you follow me
To yonder mountains, they look so high.
All for your honour, all for your honour
All for your King and your countery."

"Do you see the French on the hills so high,
While us poor lads in the valleys low,
Do you see them falling like the dew against the sun?
Through smoke and fire, with smoke and fire
They're falling from our English guns."

Now, the first volley that they gave to us
Wounded our General in his left breast.
Yonder he sits, for he cannot stand,
"Fight you on so boldly, fight you on so boldly
While I have the life, I will give command."

"Here are my treasures, they're all in gold.
Take them and part them, me blood run cold.
Take them and part them", General Wolfe did say,
"You lads of honour, you lads of honour;
That gave the French such a galliant play."

"When to Old England you do return
You can tell my friends that I'm dead and gone.
You can tell my tender poor Mother dear,
Not to weep for me, not to weep for me
For I died the death that I wished to share."

"It's fifteen years since I first began,
All for the honour of George, our King.
Let every Commander do as they've done before,
Be a soldier's friend, my boys,
Be a soldier's friend, my boys,
And the boys, they will fight,
Fight, for ever more."

Bob might have learned this song from a number of sources - in the neighbourhood, Bob Scarce, Aaron and George Ling, Alec and George Bloomfield, and Cyril Poacher all had it in their repertoires.

One of several songs on Wolfe, it was common on 19th century broadsides, from about the 1830s.  Roud has 42 instances of this song, almost all from the south of England and, with about three exceptions, all from Suffolk or Sussex.  The Copper family, Pop Maynard and Shepherd Haydon all sang it.  It has also been noted in Canada, occasionally in USA, but not in Scotland or Ireland.  Jim Copper has a splendid version on Topic TSCD534 and Cyril Poacher on MTCD303.

3 - I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen (Roud 12907)

I will take you home, oh Kathleen dear,
Across the ocean wild and wide.
To where your heart has ever been
Since first you were my blushing bride.
The roses they have left your cheek,
I've watched them fade away and die.
Your voice is sad whene'er you speak
And tears are in your loving eye .

Oh, I will take you home, Kathleen,
To where your heart shall feel no pain;
To where the fields are fresh and green;
I will take you to your home again.

I know you love me, Kathleen dear,
Your thoughts were ever fond and true.
I always feel, when you are near,
That life holds nothing dear but you.
The smiles that once you gave to me,
I scarcely ever see them now.
Yet many, many times I see
A darkening shadow on your brow

Oh, I will take you home, Kathleen,
To where your heart shall feel no pain;
To where the fields are fresh and green;
I will take you to your home again.

To that dear land across the sea
My Kathleen shall again return.
And when thine own folk welcome thee
That loving heart will cease to yearn.
Where laughs that little silver stream
That runs beside your mother's cot,
And brightest rays of sunshine gleam,
Then all your griefs will be forgot.

Oh, I will take you home, Kathleen,
To where your heart shall feel no pain;
To where the fields are fresh and green;
I will take you to your home again.

Written by Thomas Paine Westendorf in 1875.  It was Joseph Locke's signature tune, and was always being played on the radio when I was young.  Alice Messenger in Blaxhall also sang it.

4 - Cod Banging-O (Roud 1747)

That's rather a nice little song.  That's a little bit comic, you'll see, well that sound a little bit comic ...

Come, come, my lads and listen here,
A fisherman's song you soon shall hear,
What I did and undergo
When first I went on the cod banging-O.
To me la-fol-der-day, riddle-ol-day
This is a smacksman's life at sea.

How well I remember on the 14th of May
A big barque ship she came our way,
She came our way and did let fly
And the tops'l halyards they flew sky high.
To me la-fol-der-day, etc...

And now we draw near Harwich pier,
The young and the old they both draw near,
To see us get our fish on deck
And crack their skulls with a little short stick.
To me la-fol-der-day, etc...

And now my song is nearly done,
I hope I've not offended one.
I don't think I've got it complete,
We've only been in the trade about a week
To me la-fol-der-day, etc...

A song which appears to be unique to Bob - seven of the nine instances in Roud refer to his singing; the other two cite a song of the same name by Harold Smy, a bargeman from Ipswich.  Although his shares Bob's third verse, it's actually a version of the well-known Stormy Weather Boys.  In his notes to Bob's 1973 LP, Bert Lloyd confirms its rarity, adding that Sam Larner knew a bit of it as The Smacksman's Life, and pointing out that, compared to the huge number of songs about naval and merchant seamen, the English fishermen's repertory is rather small and mostly limited to the East Anglian coast.

Bob's second verse has wandered in from The Dolphin, a sea-battle song much favoured in the area in earlier years.

5 - Seventeen Come Sunday (Roud 277, Laws O17)

As I strolled out one May morning,
One May morning so early,
I met a dark and a handsome maid
And, me goodness, she was early ...
With her rue-dum-dah, whack-fol-lah

Her shoes were black, her stockings white,
And her buckles shone like silver.
She had a dark and a handsome eye,
And her hair hung down to her shoulders ...

How old are you, my fair pretty maid,
How old are you, my honey?
She answered me, so cheerfully,
"Oh, I'm seventeen come Sunday ..."

"Could you love me, my pretty fair maid?
Could you love me, me honey?"
She answered me, quite tearfully,
"Oh, I can't because of Mummy ..."

"But if you come to me mother's house
When the moon is shining brightly,
I will come down and let you in,
And Mother shall not hear me ..."

So I went to her mother's house
When the moon was shining brightly.
She did come down and let me in,
And I stayed with her 'til the morning ...

She said "Young man, will you marry me?"
I said "Oh no, me honey.
For the fife and drum is my delight
And I'm happy as a soldier ..."

A very popular song with 145 instances in Roud from all over the British Isles, USA, Canada and Australia (the wonderful Sally Sloane).  It appears with numerous titles, among the most appealing of which is Flash Gals and Airy, Too - used by both Win Ryan and Caroline Hughes.  Obviously it has remained a favourite with country singers, and particularly Travellers, into the present era, since there are over 30 sound recordings.

6 - Silver Threads Among the Gold (Roud 6403)

Darling I am growing, growing old,
Silver threads among the gold
Shines upon your brow today,
Life is fading fast away.
But my darling you will be, oh will be
Always young and pure to me.
Yes, my darling you will be
Always young and pure to me.

Darling I am growing, growing old
Silver threads among the gold
Shines upon your brow today,
Life is fading fast away.

When your hair is silver white,
And your cheeks no longer bright,
In the morning of the May
I will kiss your lips and say,
"Oh my darling, mine alone, alone,
You have never older grown;
Yes, my darling, mine alone,
You have never older grown."


Love can never more grow old,
Locks may lose their brown and gold.
Cheeks may fade and hollow grow,
Yet the ones that love will know.
Never, never winter's frost and chill,
Summertime is in them still.
Never, never winter's frost and chill,
Summertime is in them still.


Written by Eben E Rexford, with music by Hart Pease Danks in 1873, this was a favourite of numerous Minstrel troupes, and the likes of Will Oakland and Emily Soldene.  There were numerous US recordings, including Fiddlin' John Carson, Riley Pucket and McMichen's Melody Men, all in the 1920s.  Walter Pardon and Henry Burstow also sang it.

7 - Paradise Street (Blow the Man Down) (Roud 2624)

As I was a strolling down Paradise Street
Hey, ho, blow the man down.
A neat little packet I chanced for to meet
Oh give me some time to blow the man down.

Of the port that she came from I cannot say much,
But by her appearance, I'd say she was Dutch.

Her flag was three colours, her masthead was low,
She was round at the counter and rough at the bow.

She was rolling along with the wind blowing free,
She clewed up her courses and waited for me.

I hailed her in English, she answered me clear,
"I'm from the Blue Anchor, bound for the Shakespeare."

I tipped her me flipper and took her in tow,
Then yard-arm to yard-arm, away we did go.

She then took me up to her lily-white room,
And the whole of that evening we danced and we spooned.

Now me shot-locker's empty, me powder's all spent,
But there's plenty of time, boys, left to repent.

A sea shanty equally popular in N America as in England, and whilst it's appeared in dozens of books, Roud list almost 30 named singers among his 66 entries.

8 - White Wings (Roud 1753)

Sail home as straight as an arrow,
Me yacht shoots along on the crest of the sea.
Sail home to meet Maggie Darrow,
In a dear little home she is waiting for me.
High up where the cliffs they are craggy,
That's where the girl of me heart waits for me.
Yo-ho, I long for you Maggie,
I'll spread out me white wings
And sail home to thee.

Ya ho, ya he, how we go,
How the winds do blow
White wings they never grow weary
They carry me cheerily over the sea
Night comes I long for you deary
I'll spread out me white wings
And sail home to thee.

Sail home to love and caresses
When Maggie, my darling, is there at me side.
Sail home, blue eyes and gold tresses,
But the fairest of all is my own little bride.
Sail home to part from thee never,
Always together life's knowledge will be.
Sail home to love thee forever,
I'll spread out me white wings
And sail home to thee.


Apparently this is (or was) the official song of the Young Women's Christian Association.  It was performed by several Minstrel troupes and some half a dozen individuals on the Halls.  Roud shows a score of entries, mostly from England but, between them, they give very conflicting details of its provenance: By Ciro Pinsuti (1829-1888); Written by Banks Winter (1882); Written in 1884.  Kilgarriff gives Banks Winter, but 1870 as the year, and adds: 'Some say that Banks Winter did not in fact write this song but purchased it from singer Joseph Gulick for $20'.

9 - A Young Sailor Cut Down in His Prime (Roud 2, Laws Q26/B1)

Oh as I was a-strolling down by the Royal Albion,
Dark was the morning and cold was the day,
When who should I spy but one of my shipmates,
Draped in a blanket, far colder than clay.

He called for a candle to light him to bed,
Likewise an old flannel to wrap round his head.
His poor head was aching, his poor heart was breaking,
For he was a young sailor cut down in his prime.

So we'll ring the bells o'er him
And play the fifes merrily,
Play the Dead March as we carry him along,
Take him to some churchyard,
Fire three volleys o'er him,
For he was a young sailor cut down in his prime.

His poor agèd father, his dear good old mother,
Ofttimes had told him about his past life;
Along with those flash girls,
His money he squandered,
Along with those flash girls; it was his delight.
But now he is dead and he lay in his coffin,
Six jolly sailor-boys march on each side.
And each of them carry a bunch of white roses,
In memory of a shipmate cut down in his prime.

So we'll beat the drums o'er him ...

At the corner of the street
You will see two girls standing,
Said one to the other as we carry him along,
"Here comes a young feller
Whose money we've squandered,
Here comes a young sailor,
Cut down in his prime".

On top of his tombstone,
These words, they are written,
All you young fellows, take warning from me,
And never go courting those girls of the city,
For the girls of the city were the ruin of me.

So we'll beat the drums o'er him ...

An extremely popular and widespread song throughout these islands and North America - in fact, almost two thirds of Roud's 257 entries are from the USA and Canada.  Of the 58 English ones, only three others are from East Anglia: Harry Cox, Walter Pardon and Fred Whiting (Veteran VT 102).

It's an old song, but doesn't appear in many broadsides (only 6), though it has been included in a few books - 153 to be exact!  Few of the modern collections retain much or anything of the older references to venereal disease, or the supposed cures for same offered by the doctors, but a few can still be pretty chilling.  Texas Gladden of Virginia's One Morning in May (Rounder CD 1500) begins:

When I was a young girl I used to seek pleasure;
When I was a young girl I used to drink ale.
Out of the ale-house and into the jail-house
Out of the jail-house, right into my grave.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Harry Holman (MTCD309-10), Johnny Doughty (Topic TSCD662), Harry Upton (TSCD652), James 'Iron-Head' Baker and Moses 'Clear-Rock' Platt (Rounder CD 1821).

10 - My Little Grey Home in the West (Roud 12911)

When the golden sun sinks in the hills
And the toil of a long day is o'er,
Though the road may be long, in the lilt of my song
I forget I was weary before.
Far ahead where the blue shadows fall
I shall come to contentment and rest,
And the toil of the day will be all charmed away
To my little grey home in the west.

There are hands that will welcome me in,
There are lips I am burning to kiss,
There are two eyes that shine,
Just because they are mine,
And a thousand things other men miss.
It's a corner of Heaven itself,
Though it's only a tumbledown nest,
But with love brooding (?) there,
Why no place can compare
To my little grey home in the west.

Written 1911 with words by D Eardley Wilmot and music by Herman Loehr.  It was recorded in US by Eddie Dean (1941) on Decca 6026.

11 - The Female Cabinboy (Roud 239, Laws N13)

It's of a fair young maiden,
As you will understand,
Who had a mind for roving
Into a foreign land.
So, dressed in man's apparel
She boldly did appear.
She engagèd with a captain
To serve him for a year.

She engagèd with the captain
His cabin-boy to be.
The wind was in his favour,
And he put out to sea.
The captain's lady being on board,
Oh, it was to her joy,
That her husband had engagèd
With that handsome cabin-boy.

Quick, nimble was the pretty maid,
She did her duty well.
But mark what followed afterwards,
This song alone will tell.
The captain with the pretty maid
Would often sit and toy,
And he soon found out the secret
Of that female cabin-boy.

Her cheeks were red like roses,
And with her sidelock curls
The sailors they all laughed and said,
"She look just like some girl."
But eating captain's biscuits
Her colour did destroy,
And the waist did swell on Pretty Nell
The female cabin-boy.

'Twas in the Bay of Biscay
Our gallant ship did plough.
One night, among the sailors
There was an awful row.
They tumbled from their hammocks
'Cause their rest it did destroy,
And 'twas all about the moanings
Of that female cabin-boy.

"Oh, Doctor, oh, Doctor,"
The cabin-boy did cry.
The sailors swore by all the Gods
The cabin-boy would die.
The doctor came a-running
And a-laughing at the fun,
That a cabin-boy should either have
A daughter or a son.

Now when the sailors heard of this,
They all began to swear.
It did belong to none of them,
They'd solemnly declare.
The captain's lady standing near,
To her husband said, so coy,
"It's either you, or I, betrayed
That female cabin-boy."

A well-known song in England, but not one to travel, it seems; two sightings in N America and four in Scotland complete Roud's 85 instances.  Cecilia Costello, the White sisters, Charlie Wills and Robert Parish all knew it here, and it was printed in a good number of books and a great many broadsides.

It's one of a number of songs about girls impersonating sailors (for numerous reasons) and heading off for a life on the briny - The Female Warrior, Jackie Munro, William Taylor, etc.  Few of them seemed to end up in the kind of trouble our present heroine does, but her misfortune is treated as a good joke by everyone else, including the Captain's equivocal wife!

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Jeannie Robertson (Rounder CD1720) and Walter Pardon (Topic TSCD514).

12 - Why Shouldn't We Sing (Roud 12910)

Down in Aberswick, oh,
'Midst the hills and dales,
Many Welshmen gathered there
To sing the praise of Wales.
Hearts and voices blending in a feast of song;
Though some declared., in wartime it was wrong.
There amongst the songsters
On the mountain side,
The greatest Welshman in the land
Stood up and said with pride;
"Sing, sing, why shouldn't we sing?
Though days are dreary, let us be cheery.
Sing, sing, let melody flow;
Are the home fires out yet?  No, no, no!
Sing, sing, why shouldn't we sing?
For there's one thing we never should forget;
Old John Bull is still alive and kicking,
And we haven't pulled the blinds down yet!

Sing a little chorus, never mind your voice.
Sing; if you were dumpy
It would make your heart rejoice.
Sing although your hack (?), boys,
Weighs just half a ton
Sing, and half the victoy is won.
There's a little rainbow shining in the sky;
Now we know that brighter days
Are coming, by and by.
Sing, sing, why shouldn't we sing?
Though days are dreary, let us be cheery.
Sing, sing, let melody flow;
Are the home fires out yet?  No, no, no!

Sing, sing, why shouldn't we sing?
For there's one thing we never should forget;
Old John Bull is still alive and kicking,
And we haven't pulled the blinds down yet!"

A song written in commemoration of a speech by David Lloyd George in 1916, when some people argued that the Eisteddfod should not take place in wartime.

13 - The Scarlet and the Blue (Roud 163)

I stood beside my old grey mare,
I stood beside my plough,
I stood beside my Nellie dear,
No more to reep or mow.
No more to travail in the fields all day,
Or gather in the harvest corn,
For I've been and took the shilling and
I'm off tomorrow morn.

Then hurrah for the scarlet and the blue;
See the helmets glitter in the sun,
And the bayonets flash like lightning to
The beating of the old militia drum.
There's a flag in dear old Ireland
Proudly waving in the sky.
And the watchword of our soldiers is:
"We'll conquer or we'll die."

There's one thing that I've left behind,
And that's my Nellie dear.
I know that she'll be proud of me,
When I am far from here.
And when I do return again,
I hope you'll all agree,
I'll take my Nellie to the church,
A sergeant's wife she'll be.

Then hurrah for the scarlet and the blue ...

Written by John J Blockley in the late 1870s, this song does not seem particularly well-known, if the total of only 17 Roud entries is to be believed.  However, we encountered many singers who knew it, either under this title or as The Warwickshire R H A, and it was apparently popularised on both sides of the Atlantic by Irish Comedians Ed Harrigan and Tony Hart, who specialised in 'Conquer or Die' songs.

There are only five known published sound recordings from the oral tradition, the other four being - Freda Palmer (Oxon), George Spicer (Sussex) on MTCD309-10, Fred Whiting (Suffolk) on Veteran VT102, and Gordon Syrett (Suffolk) on Vintage 001.

14 - You Taught me How to Love You (Roud 12918)

You're going away, you're going to leave me.
You're going away, how it will grieve me.
Dearie don't sigh those words goodbye,
Think how I love you, think how I'll cry.
Don't let us part, maybe you'll miss me;
Don't break my heart, come dear and kiss me.
If you say no, it must be so,
But teach me ere I go.

You taught me how to love you,
Now teach me to forget.
Don't leave me brokenhearted
And fill me with regret.
Your sweet face haunts me always,
I'm sorry that we met.
You taught me how to love you,
Now teach me to forget.

Something of late, dear has estranged you;
Love turned to hate, how it has changed you.
Love's dream is o'er, sweethearts no more,
Goodbye forever, not au revoir.
Maybe some day you'll miss me too, dear.
When I'm away I'll think of you dear.
Maybe you'll sigh, maybe you'll cry,
Sorry you said goodbye.


Another American song; written in 1909, with words by Jack Drislane and music by George W Meyer.  Buell Kazee recorded this in 1928 on Brunswick 216.

15 - The Drum Went Bang (O'Flanagan's Band) (Roud 12915)

Now, of all the songs that ever I heard,
And I think I've heard a few,
But with your kind permission
I'll describe one unto you.
But before I go I'll have you to know
And I'll gie you to understand
It's a credit to old Ireland
And the boys of O'Flanagan's Band.

And the drums went bang
And the cymbals clanged
And the cornet led the way.
Upon the floor, Oh dear, Oh Lor'
Whenever the fight began;
There was Hally, McCush, McCushy, McCanny
And Mickey could hardly stand;
It's a credit to old Ireland
And the boys of O'Flanagan's Band.

Now the Prince of Wales to Dublin came
To have a jolly spree.
The Prince of Wales walked up in the ring
To have a waltz with me.
And as we were waltzing round and round
The music, it was grand.
He swore he'd never leave us
'Til he was one of O'Flanagan's Band.

Chorus ...

Oh and now me song is ended
And I have no more to say.
But with your kind permission
I will call some other day.
But before you go I'll hae you to know
And I'll gie you to understand
It's a credit to old Ireland
And the boys of O'Flanagan's Band.

Chorus ...

Percy Ling also used to sing this.  It's probably a parody of MacNamara's Band which was written by John James Stanford (words) and Shamus O'Connor (music) in 1889, and was sung on the halls by W J 'Barney' Ashcroft - the man who brought us The Crockery Ware, Muldoon the Solid Man, The Wreck of the Ragamuffin and many others.  It was also a huge hit on 78 for Bing Crosby in the '40s.  But I can find no trace of this parody in any of the reference works.

16 - The Foggy Dew (Roud 558, Laws O3)

When I was young and in me prime,
I followed the weaving trade.
And the only harm that ever I done
I courted a fair young maid.
I courted her in summer-time
And in the winter, too.
And many the times I rolled that girl
All over the foggy dew.

One night she came to my bedside
As I lay fast asleep.
She laid her head upon me bed
And bitterly she did weep.
She raved, she swore, she tore her hair,
She cried "What shall I do?
For the night I'm resolved to sleep with you
For fear of the foggy dew."

Now all the first part of that night,
How we did sport and play.
And all the second part of that night,
She in me arms did lay.
And when broad daylight did appear
She cried "I am undone!"
I said, "Hold your row, you foolish young girl,
The foggy dew is gone."

"Now suppose that you should have a child,
'Twould make you laugh and smile.
Suppose that you should have another,
'Twould make you think a while.
Suppose that you should have another,
Another, another one, too.
'Twould make you give over
Your foolish young ways
And think of the foggy dew."

One night she woke with moans and groans,
I said "What's up with you?"
She said "I should never have been this way
If it hadn't a-been for you."
I pulled my boots and trousers on,
I got my neighbour, too,
But do what we would,
We could do her no good,
And she died in the foggy dew.

Now I am a batchelor, I live with me son,
And we work at the weaving trade.
And when I look into her (his) eyes
I think of that fair young maid.
I think of her in summertime
And in the winter, too,
And of the times I held her in me arms
For fear of the foggy dew.

A very well-known song all over the Anglophone world, with 134 instances in Roud.  In its original form, an apprentice seduces his master's daughter with the help of a friend disguised as a ghost (or bugaboo).  Somehow or other the term bugaboo became changed - at least in English versions of the song - into the phrase 'the foggy dew', sparking off all kinds of fanciful explanations for the meaning of this term.  A full, and far more accurate, history of the song will be found in Bob Thomson's article The Frightful Foggy Dew (Folk Music Journal IV:1.  1980 pp.35-61).

Dan Tate sings Bugaboo on Musical Traditions MTCD321-2, Doug Wallin sings The Foggy Dew on Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40013, while an English version of the song can be heard on the album Songs of Seduction (Rounder 1778), where it is sung by Phil Hammond of Norfork.  The accompanying booklet notes for the latter were clearly written without knowledge of the Thomson article mentioned above.  Burl Ives' well-known recorded version of the song was probably learnt from Carl Sandburg's American Songbag (1927), and has informed much of the US and UK oral tradition ever since.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Douglas Morling (Veteran VT140CD) and Harry Cox (Rounder CD1839).

17 - Won't you Buy my Pretty Flowers (Roud 12906)

Underneath the lamplight glitter
Stands a little fragile girl,
Heedless of cold wind bitter,
As it round about her twirls.
While the hundreds pass unheeding
In the evening's waning hours,
Still she cries with tearful pleading
"Won't you buy my pretty flowers?"
There are many sad and dreary
In this pleasant world of ours
Crying every night so bitter,
"Won't you buy my pretty flowers?"

Ever coming, ever going,
Men and women hurry by,
Heedless of the teardrops gleaming
In her sad and tearful eye.
How her little heart is aching
In the evening's waning hours
Still she cries with tearful pleading
"Won't you buy my pretty flowers?"
There are many sad and dreary
In this pleasant world of ours
Crying every night so bitter,
"Won't you buy my pretty flowers?"

Music by George W Persley, words by Arthur W French, 1876.

18 - Break the News to Mother (Roud 4322)

The shot and shell was screaming
Upon the battlefield
The boys in blue were fighting,
Their noble flag to shield,
When a cry from their brave captain,
"Look boys our flag is down.
Who'll volunteer to save it from disgrace?"
"I will," a young voice shouted.
"I'll bring it back or die."
And dashed into the thickest of the fray.
He saved the flag, but gave his life
For his country's sake.
They brought him back,
And softly heard him say,

"Just break the news to mother,
She knows how dear I love her.
Tell her not to wait for me,
For I'm not coming home.
Just say there is no other
Can take the place of mother,
And kiss her dear sweet lips for me,
And break the news to her."

From afar a noted general
Had witnessed this brave deed.
"Who saved the flag?  Speak up my lads.
'Twas noble brave indeed"
"There he lies," replied the captain.
"He's sinking very fast."
And turned aside his face to hide a tear.
The general in a moment
Knelt down beside the boy,
And cried a cry that touched all hearts that day.
"'Tis my son, my brave young hero!
I thought you safe at home."
"Forgive me, father, for I ran away."


Written by Charles Russell Harris (1897), and popular on the Halls in the mouths of half a dozen or more 'artistes'.  Quite a lot of US recordings were made, including Andrew Jenkins (1925), Vernon Dalhart (1925), Riley Pucket (1925), Carson Robison Trio (1930), Callaghan Brothers (1935).  The Dalhart and Robison recordings may have been issued in UK.

19 - The Dark-Eyed Sailor (Roud 265, Laws N35)

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

Said William "Lady, why roam alone?
The night is dark and the day far gone."
She said, while tears from her eyes did fall,
"It's a dark-eyed sailor,
It's a dark-eyed sailor
That provèd my downfall."

"It is two long years since he left the land,
He took a gold ring from off my hand.
We broke the token; here's part with me,
And the other lays rolling,
And the other lies rolling
At the bottom of the sea."

Said William "Drive him from your mind,
Some other sailor, as good, you'll find.
Love turned aside, oh, and soon will grow,
Like a winter's morning,
Like a winter's morning,
When the lands are covered with snow."

These words did fair Phoebe's heart inflame.
She said "On me you shall play no game."
She drew a dagger and then did cry,
"For me dark-eyed sailor,
For me dark-eyed sailor,
A maid I'll live and die."

"His coal-black eyes and his curly hair,
His pleasing tongue did my heart ensnare.
Genteel he was, not a rake like you,
To advise a maiden,
To advise a maiden
To forsake a jacket blue."

Then half the ring did young William show.
She seemed distracted, 'midst joy and woe.
"Oh, welcome, William, I've land and gold
For me dark-eyed sailor,
For me dark-eyed sailor,
So manly, true and bold."

Then in a village down by the sea,
Let's join in wedlock and well agree.
Be true to your lovers when they're away,
For a cloudy morning,
For a cloudy morning
Bringeth forth a sunny day.

A long song.

Yet another very well-known song which has remained popular with country singers 'til the present day; Roud's 194 instances are about equally divided between books, broadsides and sound recordings.  Although the great majority are from England, it was widely found in N America, and Gavin Greig found several examples in Scotland.

Other currently available CD recordings include those by Charlotte Renals (Veteran VT119CD), Velvet Brightwell and Jack Clark (VT140CD), Fred Jordan (Topic TSCD652) and Walter Pardon (TSCD514).

20 - The Hymns My Mother Used to Sing (Roud 12914)

Far, far away from the home I love so dear,
Memories return, my lonely heart to cheer.
In dreams I hear my mother's voice
Singing the hymns that made me rejoice.
Abide With Me I heard in childhood days
Hark, Hark, My Soul, angelic voices raised.
Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,
Fondest memories bring.
Oh Hear Us When We Cry to Thee,
Were the hymns my mother used to sing.

Ofttimes I sit beside my cabin door,
Dreaming glad dreams of happy days of yore.
In fancy I hear from afar
The voice of that dear one who's crossed the bar.
Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid?
I hear once again.
A Few More Years Shall Roll,
Brings back that old refrain. 
Crown Him, Crown Him, Crown Him;
How her voice would ring.
Jesu, Lover of my Soul
Were the hymns my mother used to sing.

Yet a third song with no notes!  It's worth pointing out that MT Records' practice of including, where possible, the entire recorded repertoire of a singer means that some of the songs have never been noted down by the old-style collectors, and so do not appear in any of the standard reference works.  Thus there's no information for me to find.  That said; I've heard this song mentioned by other singers, but can't recall which.

21 - While Shepherds Watched (Roud 936)

While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
The Angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around.

"Fear not" said He, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
"Glad tidings of great joy, I bring
To you and all mankind.

"To you in David's town, this day
Is born of David's line
A Saviour who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign.

The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed
All meanly wrapped in swaddling bands
And in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God all thus
And rest their joyful throng

All glory be to God on high
And to the Earth be peace
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.

We used to pick ... when we were doing the street, and you see the collectors were going round and we could stroll along the street and singing along carols.

Almost certainly the most well-loved and most-sung hymn among ordinary English people, particularly in country areas.  It also seems to boast a bewilderingly large number of tunes to which it may be sung.

One may imagine that few collectors asked for it to be sung, assuming it to be the 'normal' church version rather than a 'folk carol', and Roud names only nine people from whom is has been collected.  Of these, Walter Pardon can be heard singing it on MTCD305-6, George Dunn on MTCD317-8 and Billy Harrison plays three different versions on Yorkshire Fiddle Tunes, Songs and Carols (MTCD201).  Dozens of versions can be found on the various Village Carols cassettes and CDs.

22 - Underneath Her Apron (Roud 899)

Pretty little Sarah, sweeping up the room.,
Had to loose her apron strings to make a bit o' room.
Her master, he came to her and unto her did say,
"What is that you have got underneath your apron?"

"Oh nothing, Sir, oh nothing,
Nothing Sir", cried she.
"Nothing but a muslin gown me mother gave to me.
I'd nowhere to put it, to keep it nice and clean,
So I tucked it snugly underneath me apron."

A few months after, a baby boy was born.
Born without a father, without a home at all.
Her master, he came to her and unto her did say
"I see now what you had underneath your apron."

"Was it by a tinker, was it by a clown,
Was it by a soldier-lad who fights for England's crown?"
"No, it was by a sailor, who ride the angry sea,
And he tucked it snugly underneath me apron."

"Was it in the kitchen, was it in the hall,
Was it in the parlour, or in the house at all?"
"No it was in the garden, up against the wall,
Where he tucked it snugly underneath me apron."

Now all you single ladies, wherever you may be,
Never trust a sailor-lad an inch above your knee,
If you do, you'll rue the day, he'll leave you in the lurch,
After he have tucked it underneath your apron.

Now don't start humming that in class!

Bob's final comment refers to the fact that I was a teacher at the time!  Robert Burns collected a set of a fine ballad in Dumfriesshire under the title The Rowin't in her Apron, which he sent to Johnson for his Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803), where it is song number 424, in volume 5 of the collection.  The Rowin't in her Apron may be the forerunner of the English song Underneath Her Apron (which also, of course, turns up in Scotland; see the version called The Tamosher in Sheila Douglas's Come Gie's a Sang).  Certainly the earliest known English broadside of Underneath Her Apron (issued by Ryle & Co c.1830) postdates The Rowin 't in her Apron, and the English song does seem to omit much of the story that we find in Scots versions.

By far the best English version of the song, in my view, can be found in a track on Topic's 1966 LP The Bird in the Bush (12T135), recently re-released on TSCD504 Anne Briggs - A Collection, where Anne sings Gathering Rushes in the Month of May, which came to her from A L Lloyd ... and starts off something of a mystery.  In the notes to the LP, Lloyd wrote: 'The song has been common enough (the present set was got in Suffolk in 1937) but no collector thought it fit to publish.  Queer lot.  It's one of the masterpieces of English love songs.'

One might applaud this sentiment - except that the following year, 1967, he printed the text and tune, untitled, in his Folk Song in England on p.185, and stated that he himself had collected it in Woodbridge in 1937, (the footnote reads: 'A.L.L. [Suffolk 1937] MS').  So in claiming to be its collector some 30 years earlier, he is placing himself amongst the 'queer lot' who though it unfit for publication!  If he believed it to be 'one of the masterpieces of English love songs', then why didn't he publish it in The Singing Englishman in 1944, or in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs in 1959?  Queer is right!

For CD versions of Underneath Her Apron, see Good Order (Veteran VT140CD), where it is sung by Edgar Button, and The Broom Blooms Bonny (MTCD313), where Joe Rae sings Oor Young Lady, a more historically-based Scots version.

23 - Let the Rest of the World Go By (Roud 12912)

Are the struggles and strife we find in this life
Really worthwhile, after all?
I've been wishing today I could just run away,
Out where the west winds call.
With someone like you, a pal good and true,
I'd like to leave it all behind, and go and find
Some spot that's known to God alone,
Just a spot to call my own.
We'd find perfect peace
Where joys they never cease
Out there beneath a kindly sky.
We'll build a sweet little nest
Somewhere in the West
And let the rest of the world go by.

Is the future to hold just struggles for gold,
While the real world waits outside?
Way out on the breast of the wonderful West,
Across the great divide.
With someone like you, a pal good and true
I'd like to leave it all behind, and go and find
Some place that's known to God alone,
Just a spot to call my own.
We'll find perfect peace
Where joys they never cease
Out there beneath a kindly sky.
We'll build a sweet little nest
Somewhere in the West
And let the rest of the world go by.

We finish with what Bob said was his favourite song.  The words are by J Keirn Brennan, with music by Ernest R Ball, 1919.  Again, a lot of US recordings, including Clayton McMichen and Riley Pucket (1927), Mac & Bob (1927) - may have been reissued in UK - Fiddlin' John Carson (1929) and Texas Rangers (1936).


Perhaps a good way to finish would be with the comments of another fine singer from the Snape and Blaxhall area, Cyril Poacher:

"The trouble is, now, there's a lot of people can make a hell of a lot of noise when they've had some beer, if you understand my meaning.  Now Bob Hart ain't like that and I'm not like it, 'cos if you was in the Ship at seven o'clock and you asked me at five past to sing you a song, I'd sing it, and sing it as it should be sung.  So would Bob Hart."

"To sing ...  to sing and sing decent, you know what I mean when I say that - I mean, to sing just like that ... you don't want me to tell you because you know.  He don't force his voice, do he, that just come from him like that.  I heard him at dinnertime; he sung me 'Primroses' which I wanted him to sing.  He got right out on it, and he's the best singer for ... you know, just singing without forcing his voice or shouting ... he's the best singer I've ever heard, myself - and I reckon I can sing - but I'd give him preference to me, yes I would.  I reckon he can sing because it ... it come and he don't raise a hair, it come like that.  He's the best singer I ever heard yet ... I mean it, and he know I mean it if you tell him.  And he - he don't shout or - like I do sometimes, and I don't shout a right lot - I usually sing pretty fair.  But Bob is a good singer and I like to hear him sing in company, 'cos he sit there, as I say - well, he did Friday night - he sit there beside you and he didn't make a murmur, and that just come like that - I heard him today and it just come like that."

And maybe a final comment from Bob about one of the other things which have made the area famous:

"The only thing I learned to play was the mouth organ - I used to play more or less dance tunes.  But it's got to the stage now when one note of the mouth organ is gone, and my wind is not so good, and you can't play it with false teeth in, and the dog hate it ... so what can you do?"


(Source: Dunn, plus Leader and Stradling recordings)

Songs in bold type appear on these CDs

After the Ball Maria, my Girl
All Getting Older Together Memories
All Jolly Fellows that Follow the PloughMermaid
All Through the NightMichael Larney-O
As I Strolled Out to AylesburyMiner's Dream of Home
Australia (Come All You Young Fellows)My Grandfather's Clock
Banks of Sweet PrimrosesMy Old Kentucky Home
Banks of Allen WaterMy Souvenirs
Barbara Allen 1No Man's Land
Barbara Allen 2No Rose in all the World
Black-Eyed Susan Old Rustic Bridge
Bold General WolfeOld Shep
Bold Princess RoyalOn a Summer's Night
Bold William Taylor One of the Best
Bonnie Mary of ArgyllOne Touch of Nature
Break the News to MotherPack up Your Troubles
BroadsideParadise Street (Blow the Man Down)
City of Laughter, City of TearsPut me Among the Girls
Cod Banging-ORed Sails in the Sunset
ComradesRing for the Girl I Love
Dark Eyed SailorRoast Beef of Old England
Death of Nelson Rose of Tralee
Drums Went Bang (Flanagan's Band)Rule Britannia
Eat More Fruit Scarlet and the Blue
End of a Perfect Day Seventeen Come Sunday
Farmer's Boy Ship that Never Returned
Farmer's Servant (Rap-a-tap-tap)Silver Threads Among the Gold
Female Cabin BoySmile Awhile
FiremanSong of the Thrush
Foggy DewSpaniard that Blighted My Life
Funny Little Place to Have OneTake Me Back to Dear Old Blighty
God Send You Back to Me Tanks in Picardy
Granny's Song at Twilight Tom Bowling
Great Red Dawn Two Little Boys
Gypsy's WarningUnderneath her Apron
Hearts of Oak Varmer Giles
His Day's Work was DoneVillage Pump
Hymns my Mother Used to SingWatch Over You when You were a Baby
If I were a Blackbird What a Time
If Those Lips Could Only Speak When the Fields are White with Daisies
If Those Lips Could Only Speak (parody) When Sunset Turns the Ocean Blue to Gold
I'm Sorry I Made You Cry When You and I were Seventeen
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day
I will Take You Home Again, KathleenWhile Shepherds Watched
John BarleycornWhite Wings
Jolly Jack the Sailor LadWith Someone Like You
Just an Old Fashioned Lady Won't You Buy my Pretty Flowers?
Just Before the Battle, MotherWhy Have I No Daddy, Mummy?
Keep the Home Fires BurningWhy Shouldn't We Sing?
Lincolnshire PoacherYou Taught Me How to Love You
Little Grey Home in the WestYoung Sailor Cut Down in his Prime
Long, Long, Trail a-Winding 


My grateful thanks for help with this project go to:
Booklet: text, editing, DTP, printing; CD: production, by Rod Stradling

A Musical Traditions Records production ©1998 & ©2003

Article MT018

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