Article MT338. 

The Andrew Barton-Henry Martin Controversies Revisited

by Steve Gardham

For more than a century ballad scholars have shown uncertainty over the relationship between the three ballads concerning events of 1511 when Sir Andrew Barton as a Scottish captain attacked English merchant ships and was himself attacked and killed by Henry VIII's navy ships.  Three fairly distinct ballads survive; the first we will refer to as Sir Andrew Barton, which survives in manuscript form and on English broadsides, probably dating from the late 16th century; the second, Henry Martin, an early 19th century English broadside ballad with one commonplace stanza in common with the former; and the third, an American ballad from the mid-19th century, Andrew Barton, from oral tradition, which has text in common with both of the previous ballads.  This article intends to examine the previous history of the controversies and give a detailed thesis on their relationship with each other. 

Professor Child in his English and Scottish Popular Ballads gave versions of all 3 ballads under 2 separate numbers, Sir Andrew Martin, 167, and Henry Martyn, 250.  Under the latter heading he included a version of the American ballad.  His keeping the two ballads apart has been the main cause of one of the controversies discussed here, as some scholars have been more inclined to treat them as all one ballad.  Child himself was of the view Henry Martin 'must have sprung from the ashes of Andrew Barton', presumably meaning the ballad Sir Andrew Barton, rather than the general story.

Bertrand Bronson followed Child's separation of the 2 in his The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads but included 8 versions of the American ballad in his Sir Andrew Barton section, and yet under Henry Martyn he included a mixture of 50 versions of British and American versions.  Presumably he found something in the tunes that warranted this as there is no textual distinction between the American versions in both sections.  In fact Bronson writing in 1972 claimed, on very flimsy evidence, that they were all the same ballad, and I deal with his thesis later.  On the other hand, Arthur Kyle Davis Junior in his More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, 1960, pp280-299, presents a strong case for the separation of the 2 ballads.  Both of these men present the theories of their predecessors clearly so I propose to quote relevant passages from both of the above mentioned works.  The two later ballads Henry Martin and Andrew Barton are unquestionably closely related, but both have distinct independent text.  Both are very likely earlier than their earliest extant text and we can not rule out the possibility that they both are survivals of an earlier single ballad that has not survived.  Baring Gould's fanciful idea that Henry Martin may be even earlier than the old ballad is highly unlikely and is not backed up with even a whisper of evidence.

This paper will be split into two parts, firstly the relationship of the early ballad to other contemporary ballads and then the two later ballads; and secondly the relationship between the two later ballads.

Before presenting the earlier theories I need to state I do not intend to include any full versions of Sir Andrew Barton, as what little text they have in common with other ballads and the later ballads is negligible.  I have included Child's synopsis in an appendix.  Child's version A from the Percy Folio Manuscript, has 82 stanzas.  What the thee ballads do have in common are all commonplaces found in other similar ballads.  The full text of a broadside version is available at Christopher Marsh and Angela McShane's website:, along with excellent information on the history and background.  Particularly detailed is the relationship to other ballads and the tune relations.  The historical accuracy of the ballad is largely irrelevant to this thesis except in making some assessment of when it was made.  The main protagonists certainly existed and the events are historical in the main, if not all accurate.  Poetic licence no doubt has been exercised particularly in relation to the dialogue and quite possibly to the methods used to defeat Barton.  It is perhaps worth stating those details relevant to the comparisons made here: All three ballads are undoubtedly about the Scottish captain Andrew Barton and his attack on an English merchant vessel.

In the old ballad the narrative concerns the English naval vessels capturing Barton's ships and killing him; Henry Martin is solely concerned with Barton attacking a single merchant ship, so chronologically prior to the events of the old ballad; and the American ballad appears to address both events, though in most versions in a confused way.  All three have Barton as the main character, though the later English ballad has corrupted his name to 'Henry Martin', not a massive leap.  This is typical of oral transmission, though this does not necessarily mean the transition was due to a ballad in passing through oral tradition, as it could have been transmitted in story form before becoming a broadside ballad.  What is indeed intriguing is the American ballad gives his name much more accurately (in one 'Andrew Bartin').  Although Henry Martin was widely printed on broadsides c1820 to 1860, no broadside is extant of the American version.

In the old ballad the English admiral is given as Charles Howard, whereas the American ballad has altered this to Charles Stewart, again not a massive leap.  Of course he does not feature in the later English ballad.  The actual admiral's name was Lord Thomas Howard, his brother, Charles, being a later admiral, which is one of the reasons I think the old ballad was probably written long after the 1511 event.  Indeed I am grateful to the above mentioned website in pointing out that in Claire Jowitt's book Pirates?  The Politics of Plunder 1550-1650 (Abingdon, 2016) she suggests that the name Charles Howard in the ballad could have been influenced by an Admiral Charles Howard being instrumental in repelling the Armada in 1588, which fits in with the suggested later date of the ballad.  A manuscript version said to have been written in a hand of the 16th century existed in York Minster Library but this apparently disappeared soon after it was transcribed into a volume of the Surtees Society in the late 19th century, so we can not use modern methods to verify this.  Looking at the language and orthography it would seem to be contemporary with or slightly earlier than the Percy Folio Manuscript version (Child 250A) and I would guess c1600.

Further connections between the three ballads I will deal with later so here is what Bronson had to say in Volume 4 of The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, page 24, in his headnotes to Henry Martyn, Child 250.

"The ballad," Child remarks, "must have sprung from the ashes of 'Andrew Barton' of which name Henry Martyn would be no extraordinary corruption" (1882-98, IV, p.393).  Must is more than may to so cautious a scholar and the observation would at first glance seem tantamount to saying that No. 250 is a secondary form of No. 167.  Nevertheless it is obvious that he regarded them as distinct ballads, or he would not have given them separate places in the canon . . .'  Child's remark here is not as cut and dried as it might appear.  If he was referring to the ballad 167 would he not have used his own proper title 'Sir Andrew Barton'? So was he referring to the event itself? Bronson continues:

'. . . What is the meaning of his metaphor, "sprung from the ashes"?  In what sense is the new phoenix another, and in what is it the same? The phrase was only too happily chosen: it cannot be reduced to precise statement.  It expresses perfectly Child's sense of a vital spontaneous genesis for the younger ballad.  But 'ashes' imply, surely - for we must try to compel a statement from the myth - that there was a real cessation: the earlier ballad died.  Had there been no actual break in the tradition there could be no justification for separating the two versions by number.  Yet in the same sentence, Child suggests that the later name is a 'corruption' of the earlier.  In balladry, 'corruption' is one of the clearest marks of genuine oral transmission.  It implies the opposite of deliberate, wilful alteration: an unconscious, uncontrolled substitution , produced by mishearing , misunderstanding, or forgetfulness.  But such a change cannot occur in connection with beginnings: baptism is a deliberate act.  What is implied, then, is continuity in oral tradition; between the last singer to use the name Barton and the first to use Martin there could be no gap either geographical or temporal.  In that case, no matter how great the changes which ensue, the ballad is a single entity, and 167 and 250 are the same ballad.  To uphold the alternative, of baptism, we should have to meet awkward questions, if we wished to cling to the old orthodoxy. ' To my mind this is placing a whole thesis on the changing of a name.  Who is to say that remnants of the old ballad did not continue in oral tradition in story form?  Also if someone was just remembering fragments of an old ballad they had heard many years ago what is to prevent them from from getting the name wrong if they were only remembering bits and pieces when composing the later English ballad.  The two English ballads have no text in common, only a vague recollection of events, so getting the name wrong is quite in keeping with this.

Bronson then continues with an appeal based on Gummere's theories and appears to try to twist Child's words to back his own tentative thrust, continuing with . . .

'The easiest way out of the difficulty would be to regard the two ballads as in reality one, which has survived into the present century in a considerably altered form, like Lady Isabel (No. 4) and a good many others.  Nor do I see reason, in the light of the dozens of variants which have been collected since Child's death, to deny a closer connection than he suspected.'  But Child did actually include one quite full version of the American ballad Bronson is referring to, so he was aware of its existence, and had he wished he could have linked 167 with 250 on the strength of this.

Bronson continued, invoking the aid of the editors of the following volume:

'In particular, the editors of British Ballads from Maine set down four heads under which they find a close correspondence between certain American texts and the older ballad.  (Cf.  Ibid., pp.248-58.) These points are: (1) the name of the hero, (2) the name of the king, (3) the name of the pursuer, (4) the defeat of the pirate.'

This I find an extremely weak hypothesis based only on the names of the characters and basic events.  Under this hypothesis many of the Robin Hood ballads would need to be classified as all one ballad, or to move away from Child Ballads, all of the different songs about the sinking of Titanic would have to be classified as a single song.

There are other issues which Bronson refers to such as the relationship of the tunes used, but these I will keep till later and now concentrate on what Arthur Kyle Davis writes, as the antithesis of Bronson's view, in More Traditional Ballads of Virginia (The University Press of Virginia, 1929), pp.290-297 under Child 250 Henry Martyn.  He commences like Bronson in introducing the controversy and quotes from Child's headnotes and then states, 'That the two deal with a somewhat similar story is quite true, but they deal with it quite differently.  That some versions may represent crossing or intermingling of the two further complicates the problem.'  He then goes on to quote Baring Gould's rather far-fetched theory that Henry Martin is older than Sir Andrew Barton, Baring Gould presenting no evidence whatsoever for this suggestion.  Davis found some appeal in this but concedes it was unfounded conjecture.  He continued:

After enumerating the various versions of the early ballad he then explains how American scholars, particularly Barry and Coffin, have tried to argue that the two ballads are one, quoting a fuller 13-stanza text of Andrew Barton collected by Belden in Missouri.  Quoting Barry, "It seems at least probable that the group of American texts represented by Andy Bardan should be reckoned as of an older tradition than that of Henry Martyn." and in conclusion he states as his thesis "that Sir Andrew Barton, a ballad extinct in English tradition has survived in America."  In response Davis stated 'Hardly; only a version of Henry Martyn somewhat closer to Sir Andrew Barton.'

Davis then states his case for the separateness of Sir Andrew Barton from Andrew Barton/Henry Martyn.

'Barry's contention ignores too much: the relative brevity of all the Henry Martyn texts, the standard opening of the brothers casting lots , the sinking of the merchantmen, the usually but not always triumphant pirate.  The best answer to Barry is given by Belden, the finder of the disputed text, who classifies it under Henry Martyn.  He reviews Barry's arguments and then Belden replies: "On the other hand , all the texts given by Child under Henry Martyn and all those recorded from tradition since Child's timr - whether hero is called Bardun or Battam or Bodee or Martin - have a formal likeness that alone is enough to warrant classing them together as a distinct ballad: they all begin with three brothers of old Scotland casting lots to see which of them shall go robbing all on the salt sea to maintain the family.  Most of them, too, represent the pirate as triumphing over his foes.  But form is a more trustworthy mark of identity than particulars of plot."

Davis then gives his own pronouncement:

'The conclusion as to classification is that in consideration of structure, details of plot, language, etc., the traditional ballads called Henry Martyn or some such approximate title, whether Martyn type, Ward type, or Bardan type, should be classed together under Child, No.  250, even though we recognise the fairly close relationship of some texts of this ballad to Sir Andrew Barton (Child, No. 167).  It is a pity that recent American texts have been confusedly classified.

All of Coffin's American references (p.113) should, in my opinion, be transferred from Sir Andrew Barton to Henry Martyn.  A few other editors have followed Barry and Coffin in their classification, and have furthered the confusion.'

Davis's final general comment on ballad classification is particularly interesting:

'One final word may be in order on the problem of the relationship of Henry Martyn to Andrew Barton which has received so much attention in this headnote .  What degree of difference distinguishes a separate ballad from a somewhat distant version of the same ballad is an extremely delicate and difficult question.  It is by no means a 'yes-or-no' question, but often a matter of agonized decision, the essential problem being just where the line may best be drawn.  The habit of ballad intermixture and contamination further complicates the issue.  But in the case of these apparently somewhat related ballads of piracy at sea, both the degree of difference point to the conclusions that the ballads are two and not one, and to the identification of all three types from recent tradition as belonging with Henry Martyn and not with Sir Andrew Barton.'

Before continuing here with my own theories and conclusions it is worth a second look at the original ballad.  Surviving versions can easily be consulted in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads (and a broadside text at, and at the UCSB EBBA site) and there is so little text that relates to the later ballad that we need only mention those stanzas and motifs that relate to other ballads of the time and which are also found in the American version.

The first of these is a commonplace in ballads, a stanza which tells of a ship setting sail and encountering another vessel.  In Sir Andrew Barton it describes Lord Howard's ship espying Henry Hunt's merchant vessel that had just been attacked and robbed by Barton.

Child A (Volume 3, p.339, from the Percy Folio Ms, c1630), stanza 18.

Child B (Volume 3, p343, (collation of various seventeenth century broadsides dating back at least to 1631), stanza 16. Child, Appendix to 167, (Volume 3, p.348, Glenriddell MSS, XI, 20), stanza 16. Child, Additions and Corrections, (Volume 4, p503, Ms in York Minster Library said to have been written in a hand of the sixteenth century, no longer extant), stanza 18.  (See appendix for further details) This stanza is also found in Child 177 The Earl of Westmoreland which describes events of 1570, and which is also taken from the Percy Folio Ms, Volume 3, p.419, stanza 15. And yet again in Child 288A The Young Earl of Essex's Victory over the Emperor of Germany, (Volume 5, p.146, from various seventeenth century broadsides), stanza 3. And no doubt other later examples may be found.

An equivalent stanza is found in both of the later ballads.  In versions of Henry Martin printed c1820 in England the stanza varies considerably from printer to printer so I give two typical versions here.  However in both of these it is used to describe not Howard meeting Hunt but Barton meeting an unnamed merchant.

Henry Martin (printed by John Pitts of London some time after 1818), stanza 3.

The Three Scotch Brothers (printed by James Kendrew at York, c1820) stanza 3. As will be seen in the composite American version given later this stanza is utilised twice, stanza 3 Stanza 9 is identical except for the first word which is 'They'.  It is worth noting that the later English broadside stanza is closer in text to the stanza in the early ballad.  Although the stanza is a commonplace it is very likely the two later ballads derive the stanza from Sir Andrew Barton.

The relationship between Sir Andrew Barton and Captain Ward and the Rainbow, another ballad on a sea battle between a pirate and a naval vessel, was pointed out by Child.  These two ballads do have some text in common.

A Famous Fight between Captain Ward and His Majesty's Ship the Rainbow, Child 287, refers to events of about 1600.  Both ballads have much in common regarding incidents and both are based on historical events.  In both the king sends ships in pursuit of the perceived pirate who has been attacking merchant ships.  The following phrases and motifs have text in common with Sir Andrew Barton and indeed the later American ballad. 

Captain Ward has twelve double stanzas and following the seventh stanza, in which the Rainbow attacks Ward's ship, we have the following:
Stanza 8.

Stanza 10. In Sir Andrew Barton the 'brass within and steel without' line is used by the merchant Henry Hunt to describe Barton's ship to Lord Howard.  See A, stanza 7, B, stanza 25 and Appendix, stanza 25.

Parts of Captain Ward stanza 8 are found at various places in Sir Andrew Barton.  Version A has 'Fight on, fight on' in stanzas 47, 65 and 66, version B, stanza 52, and stanza 52 in the Appendix version.

It is worthwhile here quoting stanza 65 from version A as this stanza also occurs in Child 169, Johnny Armstrong, version A, stanza 16, and version B, stanza 18, both printed versions from the mid-seventeenth century (the event being of 1530). 

One other link from stanza 8 of Captain Ward is 'prevailed not a pin' which occurs similarly in Sir Andrew Barton though here the phrase is 'cared not a pin' in versions B and C, stanza 35.

The first part of stanza 10 in Captain Ward is not to be found in any version of Sir Andrew Barton, but it does occur almost verbatim as the last stanza in most versions of the American ballad.

Captain Ward, stanza 10.

It should be noted here that both of these ballad continued to be more widely printed right into the nineteenth century, and indeed that Captain Ward was printed in American songsters as early as 1843, before the earliest references to the ballad Andrew Barton appeared, and in Scotland before 1800.  Sir Andrew Barton, of course, also was published in the much reprinted and very popular Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, so anyone wishing to write a new Barton piracy ballad had easy access to all of this.

Of course we have no foolproof way of knowing which of the ballads had each commonplace first as we don't know when any of these ballads was first written, despite Sir Andrew Barton describing the earliest event.

Before examining the relationship of the later ballads with Sir Andrew Barton any further, if my theory is correct it makes more sense to examine the relationship between the two later ballads, the English Henry Martin and the American Andrew Barton.  Although we cannot be certain of the dates of their earliest extant appearances we can demonstrate that the English broadsides were very likely printed c1820-1830.  There are several slightly differing printings of this period, enough to suggest they derive from an earlier printing.  The two extant copies printed by John Pitts of London in or after 1819 (he changed addresses then) well demonstrate this.  What appears to be the earlier of the two is somewhat garbled, but uses the old font with the long s.  It comes from a single slip in the Madden Collection, and is closer in typography and style to his earlier printings c1800 in the same collection.

Madden Collection (London Printers 2)[VWML mfilm No.75] item no.317.

One thing to be noted here that might suggest this is a mixture of remembrances of the old ballad, even though there is little text in common with it, is the battle with a merchant lasting 'two or three hours'.  Even though no merchant battle is described in the old ballad, a merchant battling with a fully armed pirate in the sixteenth century, or any time, is highly unlikely; running or capitulating would have been the only options; so this description must surely be a faulty remembrance of the battle between Barton and Howard which Howard won.

The other Pitts printing, later in style, is on a broadside in two columns containing three songs; and the text is almost verbatim that of other printers of the same period and later.

Madden Collection (London Printers 3)[VWML mfilm No.76] item no.448.

Another copy published by James Kendrew of York and printed on a slip by Edward Baines of Leeds, has the older type and long s and is likely contemporary with the earlier Pitts printing.  Although it is close to Pitts' later printing in text it has some interesting differences, not least the reversal of stanzas six and seven.

A Collection of Publications of J. Kendrew of York and others (BL 1870 c 2)[No.176].

Again this version is somewhat garbled, particularly in the last three stanzas.  As stated surely all of this points towards a more coherent version from, say, the late eighteenth century.

Taking the later English and American versions together, almost all scholars agree they are so closely related as to be classed as the same ballad.  In order to compare these two versions I have collated the American version into one fourteen-stanza version using mainly the following versions:
Bronson, Volume 4, Child 250, No.  42 (also Child's E version) heard sung by a cadet at West Point Military Academy in 1856-57.  (lacks stanza 8 here).
Bronson, Volume 4, Child 250, No.  8, from Hubbard and Robertson, sung by Milas E.  Wakefield of Utah in 1948 (learned in 1889 in Utah).  (lacks stanza 12 here)
Bronson, Volume 3, Child 167, No.  8, sung by Warde H.  Forde of California in 1938, derived from an Idaho singer in 1906, collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell.  (lacks stanza 8 here).

Without the repeats there are 11 stanzas here, 7 in common with Henry Martin.  The 4 stanzas not in Henry Martin are here, 7, 8, 12 & 14.  I have excluded a couple of stanzas in Hubbard's version that were only noted down once.  Apart from this there is very little textual difference between the different versions.

One of the most striking features of the American ballad is the repetition of three stanzas, 3, 4 and 5 being reiterated in 9, 10 and 11, a feature that we come to expect in Scottish ballads that suddenly appeared in the eighteenth century, and sometimes referred to by professor Child as 'nauseating'.  In particular this is a feature of Peter Buchan's ballads, one of the methods he employed to 'eke out' his versions.  Buchan's authorship here is not impossible.  This reason and another I give later, perhaps suggest the possibility that the American version was put together in Scotland and taken to America by emigrants, or perhaps a Scot composed it in America.

Another feature of the American ballad is, in comparison with its likely antecedents, somewhat garbled.  Barton attacks a merchant vessel and drowns all its seamen and then when a naval vessel is in pursuit a battle commences and the navy vessel is defeated and surrenders.  All of this suggests some knowledge of the early ballad, but only cursory as there are important inaccuracies, particularly towards the conclusion, as the naval vessel in reality, and in the early ballad, defeats and kills Barton.

The two later ballads have the first five stanzas in common, stanza 6 is stanza 8 in Henry Martin and in addition the seventh stanza in Henry Martin is the thirteenth in Andrew Barton.  So, excluding these seven stanzas, the three repeated stanzas, and the final stanza from Captain Ward, we have left three stanzas, 7, 8 and 12 here.  Stanzas 7 and 8 do have a vague resemblance to the equivalent places in Sir Andrew Barton except perhaps that in the latter they set sail in 'cold winter' and in Andrew Barton it is a 'cold frosty morning'.  As we have seen stanza 12 has similar text in three of the Sir Andrew Barton stanzas, all three found in the early broadside texts, but also in the shorter Scottish text given in Child's Appendix, Volume 3, p.348.  (used below).

Stanza 52.  'Fight on, fight on, my mirrie men all . . .'

Stanza 35.  '. . . as tho he cared not a pin . . .'

Stanza 25.  'For he's brass within and steel without . . .'

Though these are all commonplace phrases there can surely be no doubt that in this case the Andrew Barton usage came from remembrances of the early ballad.

Here now is a summary of what the American version and the English broadside version have in common.  Three brothers living in Scotland cast lots to see which one would go robbing all on the salt sea, to maintain all three.  The lot falls on the youngest who is named in both versions.  He had not been sailing for a night and a day when he saw a ship sailing that way.  He then asks for details of the ship and the reply is she is a rich merchant ship from old England, and please to let them pass by.  He denies them this request and after threatening to do so he plunders and sinks the merchant.  Both versions include a battle between two vessels though not the same one in the case of the English vessel.  News of this gets back to King Henry in England.

The differences are that in the English broadsides the youngest brother is always Henry Martin and in the American version his name is some corruption of Andrew Barton.  When he sets sail in the broadside he had not sailed 'a long winter's night', the American version, 'a long summer's night', before sighting the other vessel.  In the broadside Martin tells the merchant to lay to under his lee, before the threats and sinking, but this is not in the American version.  In the longer American ballad, after the news reaches England, a Captain Charles Stewart asks for a ship to be built and he will bring in the pirate.  The ship is rigged and armed and then follows the repeated sequence of the setting sail, this time encountering Barton and the same conversation takes place with Stewart being the questioner and Barton doing the pleading, in almost the same dialogue as the encounter between Barton and the merchant earlier.  Barton then challenges Stewart to 'Come on', not valuing him a pin as Barton's vessel is brass without and steel within.  Once the battle commences it is Stewart who has to give in and Barton tells him to go home and tell King Henry if he rules on land Barton rules on the sea.  In the American version therefore there are two encounters, Barton and the merchant, and then Barton and Stewart, in both of which Barton is the victor; whereas in the broadside Martin only defeats and sinks the merchant vessel.

We now need to discuss the problem of the names of the main characters.  There can be little doubt that Andrew Barton and King Henry were named in the earliest version of the American ballad.  In the seventeenth century ballad we have the incorrect Lord Charles Howard leading the naval expedition (actually Thomas Howard) and in the American ballad Charles Stewart, understandably demoted to Captain.  Stewart is not a million miles in sound from Howard, and more familiar to a Scot than Howard, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which could again suggest a further Scottish connection.

It is also worth mentioning briefly the tune relationships.  My own skill set doesn't include reading music so all I have is taken from Bronson, Volume 4, p.25.  The tune designated on the early broadside for Sir Andrew Barton is Come, follow , my love which has survived, and Bronson tells us he can find no relationship between it and tunes of the later ballad.  Sir Andrew Barton is designated as tune for some other seventeenth century broadside ballads.  The tunes of the later English and American ballads are, however, very closely related, further emphasising their over-all close relationship.

Summarising, whoever wrote Andrew Barton had some cursory knowledge of the early ballad, possibly having read it some years earlier and remembering snatches of it.  Just a reminder here also that Henry Martin has no text in common with the early ballad and indeed concerns an earlier event in the Barton story, just cursorily mentioned in the early ballad.  Putting all of the above information together, three main possibilities arise as to the relationship between the two later ballads.  The first is that both derive from an earlier printed version, probably from the late eighteenth century.  We have already seen that an earlier version of Henry Martin must have existed which may have been longer.  Many eighteenth century longer ballads were cut down in length or rewritten in shorter form, for a variety of reasons, towards the end of the century.

Secondly, and some scholars have proposed this idea, Henry Martin derives from the American ballad.  If it was written in Scotland as I have suggested then this is more possible.

Thirdly, and this is the theory I adhere to most, the American version was written using Henry Martin and some loosely remembered material from the early ballad.

Most of the above is conjecture, but in writing down these ideas I hope I have given food for thought to anyone who might like to investigate further.  I am indebted to Robert Waltz, curator of the Traditional Ballad Index for his invaluable help and advice in writing this article.

Many thanks, Bob!

Steve Gardham, January, 2024.


Barry, Phillips, Fannie H. Eckstorm, and Mary W. Smyth, British Ballads from Maine.  New Haven, 1929.

Belden, Henry M. Ballads and Songs.  Columbia, Mo., 1940.

Bronson, Bertrand H. The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, 4 volumes, Princeton University Press, 1972.

Child, Francis J. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 volumes, Cambridge, Mass., 1882-1898.  (ESPB)

Coffin, Tristram P. The British Traditional Ballad in North America, Philadelphia, 1950.

Davis, Jr., Arthur Kyle, More Traditional Ballads from Virginia, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1960.

English Broadside Ballad Archive:

Hubbard and Robertson, JAF, LXIV (1951), p49, also in Hubbard, Lester A.  Ballads and Songs from Utah, Salt Lake City, 1961.

Percy, Thomas, Reliques of Ancient Poetry, 3 volumes, London, 1765 and many later editions.


Child's synopsis of Sir Andrew Barton, Version A, from Percy's Folio Manuscript.  ESPB Volume 3, pp.337-338

King Henry Eighth, having been informed by eighty London merchants that navigation is stopped by a Scot who would rob them were they twenty ships to his one, asks if there is never a lord who will fetch him that traitor, and Lord Charles Howard volunteers for the service, he to be the only man.  The king offers him six-hundred fighting men, his choice of all the realm.  Howard engages two noble marksmen, Peter Simon to be the head of a hundred gunners, and William Horsley to be the head of a hundred bowmen, and sails, resolved to bring in Sir Andrew and his ship, or never again come near his prince.

On the third day he falls in with a fine ship commanded by Henry Hunt, and asks whether they have heard of Barton.  Hunt had been Barton's prisoner the day before, and can give the best intelligence and advice.  Barton is a terrible fellow; his ship is brass within and steel without - not less magnificent than strong.  He has a pinnace of thirty guns, and the voluble and not too coherent Hunt makes it a main point to sink this pinnace first.  But above all, Barton carries beams in his topcastle, and with these if he can drop them, his own ship is a match for twenty; therefore let no man go to his topcastle.

Hunt borrows some guns from Lord Howard, trusting to be forgiven for breaking the oath upon which he had been released by his captor the day before, and sets a glass (lantern) to guide Howard's ship to Barton's, which they see the next day.

Barton is lying at anchor; the English ship, feigning to be a merchantman, passes him without striking topsails or topmast.  Sir Andrew has been admiral on the sea for more than three years, and no Englishman or Portingal passes without his leave; he orders his pinnace to bring the pedlars back; they shall hang at his main-mast tree.  The pinnace fires on Lord Howard and brings down his foremast and fifteen of his men, but Simon sinks the pinnace with one discharge, which includes nine yards of chain, besides other great shot.

Sir Andrew cuts his ropes to go for the pedlar himself.  Lord Howard throws off disguise, sounds drums and trumpets, and spreads his ensign.  Simon's son shoots and kills sixty; the perjured Henry Hunt comes in on the other side, brings down the foremast and kills eighty.  Sir Andrew sends a man up to the topcastle to loose the beams on the enemy, but had not taken the English archery into his reckoning.  Gordon, the first man to mount, is struck through the brain; so is James Hamilton, Barton's sister's son.  Sir Andrew dons his armour of proof and goes up himself.  Horsley hits him under his arm; Barton will not loose his hold, but a second mortal wound forces him to come down.  He calls on his men to fight on; he will lie and bleed awhile, and then rise and fight again.  They should fight on while they hear his whistle blow, but soon the whistle is mute and they know he is dead.  The English board; Howard strikes off Sir Andrew's head, while the Scots stand by weeping, and throws the body over the side, with three hundred crowns about the middle to secure it a burial.

Lord Howard sails back to England and is royally welcomed.  Hunt, Horsley and Simon are generously rewarded and Howard is made Earl of Nottingham.  When King Henry sees Barton's ghastly head, he exclaims that he would give a hundred pounds if the man were still alive, and in conclusion says that each of Barton's men shall have half a crown a day to take them home.

The version of Sir Andrew Barton given in ESPB, volume 4, p.502 is The Sonnge of Sir Andraye Barton, Knight, from English Miscellanies, edited by James Raine, Surtees Society, vol.  Lxxxv, p.64, 1890, transcription from the original manuscript then in York Minster Library, originally No.  25 of a ballad book in small quarto.  It came into the library with a number of papers which belonged in the seventeenth century to the episcopal families of Lamplugh and Davenant.  The manuscript disappeared shortly after the transcript was published.  It was in with the papers of Thomas Lamplugh (1615-1691) who was Archbishop of York, 1688-91.  Lamplugh was born at Thwing near Bridlington, East Yorkshire.  He married Katherine Davenant in 1663 at Gillingham.  He moved around the country having sees at Rochester and Exeter.

A Volume of English Miscellanies Illustrating the History and Language of the Northern Counties of England : Surtees Society, Durham, Eng : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

List of versions and other ballads consulted

All versions published in the ESPB and Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads for Child 167 and Child 250, but specifically:
Sir Andrew Barton:  Child 167, ESPB, Vol.  3, pp.334-350
                  ESPB, Vol.  4, pp.502-507
Henry Martin/Andrew Barton:  Child 250, ESPB, Vol.  4, pp.393-396
                  Bronson, Vol.  3, pp.133-139
                  Bronson, Vol.  4, pp.24-46
The Earl of Westmorland:  Child 177, ESPB, Vol.  3, p.419
The Young Earl of Essex's Victory over the Emperor of Germany:  Child 288, ESPB, Vol.  5, p.146
A Famous Fight between Captain Ward and His Majesty's Ship the Rainbow:  Child 287, ESPB, Vol.  5, p.144
Johnny Armstrong:  Child 169, ESPB, Vol.  3, pp.368-369
English broadsides of Henry Martin c1820-1860
Henry Martin, printed by John Pitts of London, Madden Collection (London Printers 2)[VWML mfilm No.75] item no.  317.
Henry Martin, printed by John Pitts of London, Madden Collection (London Printers 3) [VWML mfilm No.76] item no.  448.
The Three Scotch Brothers, printed by Edward Baines, of Leeds and sold at J.  Kendrew's, Colliergate, York, A Collection of Publications of J. Kendrew of York and others (BL 1870 c 2) [No.176].
Other British broadside printings of Henry Martin have survived and these are almost verbatim the later Pitts broadside.
All British and some American oral versions appear to derive from these broadsides.
There is no extant broadside version of the American version Andrew Barton.

Article MT338

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