Article MT124

Here's Luck to a Man ...

An Anthology of Gypsy Songs & Music
from South-East England

Musical Traditions Records' second CD release of 2003: Here's Luck to a Man ... (MTCD320), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the record, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Gypsies and their songs] [The Singers]
[The Songs and Music] [Acknowledgements]

Track List:

1 -At the Atchin TanMary Ann Haynes1:16
2 -GeorgieJasper Smith1.34
3 -All Through Mi RakliMary Ann Haynes0:50
4 -The King and the Keeper Joe Jones2:37
5 -Hopping Down in Kent / My Lovely HopsMary Ann Haynes2:40
6 -The Little Footman BoyAlice Penfold2:16
7 -Riding Down to PortsmouthMary Ann Haynes1:56
8 -The BroomdasherLevi Smith1:14
9 -The Oyster GirlMary Ann Haynes1:38
10 -Thorneymoor ParkJasper Smith1:22
11 -Waxford TownMary Ann Haynes2:06
12 -Hartlake BridgeJasper Smith1:41
13 -Stepdance TuneBill Ellson0:50
14 -The Old MiserMary Ann Haynes3:10
15 -Are You Married, or Are You Free;
Cuckoo is a Merry Bird; Derby, Derby
Minty Smith1:22
16 -Young Sailor Cut Down in His PrimeBill Ellson1:12
17 -The Rakish Young FellowMary Ann Haynes1:28
18 -If I were a GrinderJasper Smith1:25
19 -Poor LeonardMary Ann Haynes2:29
20 -The Jewís GardenMinty Smith1:08
21 -The Farmer of CheshireMary Ann Haynes2:03
22 -Ripest ApplesJoe Jones1:51
23 -Pepper and Salt (story)Jasper Smith2:14
24 -Waxy Candles (story)Jasper Smith3:36
25 -Thereíll Come a Time SomedayBill Ellson1:18
26 -Cruel Slavery DaysMary Ann Haynes2:45
27 -The Bloke You Donít Meet Every DayLena Jones1:34
28 -The Sailor BoyMary Ann Haynes2:48
29 -Shooting Sparkís Cocks UpJasper Smith1:48
30 -Erinís Lovely HomeMary Ann Haynes2:49
31 -Swinging Down the LaneChris Willett1:53
32 -Long a-GrowingMary Ann Haynes3:22
33 -You Subjects of England (Young Taylor)Jasper Smith1:24
34 -Lending & Spending; The Little Bee; Hereís
Luck to a Man; Upright & Down; Bold Reynolds
Joe and Lena Jones2:47
35 -Lord BatemanAlice Penfold3:08
36 -Lovely JohnnyMary Ann Haynes1:06
37 -Whistling Rufus/Brighton CampJasper & Derby Smith2:14
38 -The Little Ball of YarnMary Ann Haynes2:22
39 -Will There be any Travellers in Heaven?Derby Smith3:00




I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.  Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me...'

The Song of Songs 1, 5-6

Gypsies, the 'Lords of Little Egypt', do not come from Egypt.  If they come from anywhere, then it is from the Indus Basin and the Hindu Kush.  In the 10th and 11th centuries CE they began the first of many migrations westwards, through what is now Turkey, then through the Balkans and into Europe; or south, along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa and up into Spain.  In the mid-thirteenth century Gypsies serving as armourers, blacksmiths and camp-followers of the Tartar invaders of south-east Europe found their blood-brothers already well-established there in considerable numbers.  By the year 1427 Gypsies had arrived in Paris.  A few years later they were in London.  In 1492 the Royal Court of Scotland was to welcome Johnny Faa, one of whose relatives was to later become the 'Gypsy Laddie' of popular balladry.  Having persuaded the Court that they were also of royal blood they rather overplayed their hand by claiming appropriate privileges.  Such flirtations with royalty, however, were to be short lived.  They were soon to become better known, not as members of a foreign nobility, but rather as wandering marauders, and the Scottish Parliament quickly passed laws which said that Gypsies could be apprehended on sight and hanged.  It was the Gypsy who was to become the Black Man of Scottish demonology.  It was the Gypsy who was to provide Shakespeare with his evil Egyptian sorcerers; and it was the Gypsy, Europe's first 'coloured' race, who was to become the scapegoat for British custom and society.

One reason for distrust was the inherent unease of many European peasants who worked the land, and who were suspicious of any person who did not earn their living in a similar manner.  Shepherds, smiths, foresters and Gypsies were all believed to be capable of involvement in witchcraft and evil.  According to Stephen Wilson, 'This takes us back to the more general symbolic opposition between cultivated land and the wild, the latter being associated nearly always with the forces of evil and death' (The Magical Universe 2000. p.24).  The same peasants would have been extremely careful to avoid places such as crossroads, woods, marshes, rubbish heaps etc. where ghosts and demons were believed to dwell.  Crossroads were especially dangerous places - which may explain why statues of Saints and Christian crosses are often placed there - and yet it was exactly in these sort of places that Gypsies chose to make their campsites.  'Society's marginals reinforced their stigma by choosing to live in marginal, feared places' (Wilson p.456).  It seems possible that these may have been the only places where Gypsies could stay, but it may be that Gypsies were actually safer staying in such feared places.

History may record migratory patterns, but it does not tell us why Gypsies became travellers.  European Gypsies often believe that they are descendants of the Biblical Cain, and that it is they who now carry God's curse.  Until recently, Gypsies, whether in Romania, Hungary or Southern Spain, have resorted to blacksmithing and music-making for their main - sometimes only - occupations, and interestingly the word Cain in some Semitic languages means 'blacksmith' or 'metal worker'.  According to the Book of Genesis, 'When thou tillest the ground, it shall not hence-forth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth ... and the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.'  After an Irish Traveller, then resident in London, was recorded singing a version of the ballad Edward (Child 13), which tells of the banishment of a young man who has slain his brother, the traveller added , 'That's called Cain and Abel - it's our story, you see.'

Other Gypsies believe that it was an early Gypsy who made the nails that were used to crucify Christ.  The Gypsy made three nails, which he gave to the Roman soldiers, and was working on the fourth nail when he was told for whom they were intended.  The smith waited for the fourth nail to cool, but it would not cool, and so he poured cold water onto it.  But the water turned to steam and evaporated; and still the nail glowed red.  The Gypsy, terrified, fled leaving the nail behind.  Hours later he pitched his tent in the desert, many miles from Jerusalem, only to discover the glowing nail at his feet.  Again he fled, but it was always the same.  No matter where he camped, the fourth nail would appear.  And so, Gypsies believe, the fourth nail will always follow them and, because of this, they are condemned to be wanderers for as long as man shall inherit the earth.

The Gypsies and their songs:

Whenever gipsies are introduced in old plays, we find some allusions to their singing, dancing, or music, and generally a variety of songs to be sung by them.

William Chappell, Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1859

Chappell was referring to 17th and 18th century European plays, but reference to Gypsy musicians is made in even earlier texts.  The Persian poet Firdusi, who lived c.1000 CE, tells of Bahram Gour, a prince of the Sassanid dynasty (226 BCE - 640 CE) who entertained his people with 10,000 Luri musicians from India.  However, according to Firdusi, the Luri became lazy and they neglected their tasks so that Bahram ordered their asses and musical instruments to be confiscated, and he directed that they should roam the countryside earning their living singing.  Consequently the Luri roamed the world in search of employment.

The Luri are the first known Gypsies, whose migration lasted until at least the early 19th century when Sir Henry Pottinger met them in Baluchistan and Sind. According to Sir Henry, 'The Loories are a kind of vagabond people who have no fixed habitation and who, by this and many other reports, present a striking affinity with the European Gypsies.  They speak a dialect of their own, have a king for each band, and a reputation as thieves and plunderers.  Their favourite pastime is drinking and musik.  In addition to their instruments, each troupe has half a dozen bears and monkeys, trained to do innumerable grotesque tricks.  In each band there are two or three individuals who make a profession of foretelling the future by various means.'

Nowadays, thankfully, the bears and monkeys have all but gone, and Gypsies have had to seek new forms of occupation.  Many have left their nomadic ways behind and have become assimilated into mainstream society.  And yet, even settled Gypsies often preserve some elements of their own, past culture.  Gypsies may no longer work in Britain as tinsmiths, but many continue to sing in their own distinct way.

In 1888 members of the newly-founded Gypsy Lore Society began to publish their findings in the Society's Journal.  A few years later English song collectors, such as Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, noted a few songs and carols from Gypsy singers, though the proportion of Gypsy material collected was extremely small when compared to the material collected from non-gypsies.  This seems especially odd when we read Sharp's own account of meeting Betsy Holland, the singer of the song James MacDonald, who was living in a tent with her husband and baby.

'Talk of folk-singing!  It was the finest and most characteristic bit of singing I had ever heard.  Fiendishly difficult to take down, both words and music, but we eventually managed it!  I cannot give you any idea what it was all like, but it was one of the most wonderful adventures I have ever had.'

Letter from Cecil Sharp to his wife, dated 21.7.1907

So why was it that Sharp spent so little time with Gypsy singers?  This following story, printed by A H Fox Strangways in his biography of Sharp shows that Sharp had no trouble getting on with them.
Another adventure with Gypsies occurred one Christmas morning.  [Sharp] was noting songs by phonograph from a woman in a caravan, when suddenly she stopped singing and, turning deathly white, announced that she heard her husband approaching, and as he was of a jealous disposition she was afraid he would kill Mr Sharp.  Sharp did not want to be killed, and there was nothing for it but to present a bold face.  Opening the caravan door, he shouted to the man: "A happy Christmas to you. Stop a moment and listen. I've got your wife's voice in a box."  The man listened to the record of his wife's song and was so amazed and delighted that he forgot to kill him, and, instead, they became great friends.

Cecil Sharp. OUP.1933, p.43.

Only one collector, the pioneering Alice E Gillington, published songs that had been noted exclusively from Gypsies.  It seems beyond belief that we know so little about Ms Gillington today.  She is believed to have been born in England, possibly in1863.  Her elder sister, Mary (Clarissa?) Gillington - who was also known as 'Mrs Byron' - was born in Cheshire in 1861, and the sisters are described as being 'of Celtic blood'.  This may be from the mother's side of the family, as the name Gillington is not to be found in the standard Irish and Scottish surname reference books.  Alice and Mary published a joint collection of poetry in 1892 and a few of Alice's poems, including The Doom Bar, The Seven Whistlers, When Days Fall Cold and Rimy and My Pretty Darkness, are included in a number of anthologies.  In the early 1900s Alice and her brother were living in two caravans, one painted yellow, one brown, in Hampshire, where they mixed with some of the New Forest Gypsies.  She published two song collections from Gypsies, Old Christmas Carols of the Southern Counties (1910) and Songs of the Open Road, Didakei Ditties and Gypsy Dances (1911).  In the following year she printed a Hampshire 'Para-Romani, Anglo-Romani' vocabulary in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society (1912).  It was to be years before other collectors would begin to try to comprehensively document the music of British travellers.

It should, perhaps, be noted that major Scottish collectors Gavin Greig and James Duncan (contemporaries of Cecil Sharp) likewise paid little attention to Scotland's travelling people.  Greig collected some eight songs from travellers, while Duncan only managed to note one.  Ian Olson has recently asked whether or not they would have added much 'new' material to their extensive collection of some 3,000 songs ( review of the Greig/Duncan collection in Musical Traditions. 2003), but this rather misses the point.  What we should be asking is precisely why it was that Greig, Duncan, Sharp etc. found themselves unable to collect more from Gypsies and travellers, especially when, for example, the song James MacDonald was the only one that Sharp noted in the Lydian mode.  (A H Fox Strangways links the James MacDonald tune with 'the well-known (sic) Indian (tune) Hamir-Kalian'. See Cecil Sharp op sit p.43).

It was only in the 1950s that the BBC began to record material from Gypsies and travellers, using collectors such as Peter Kennedy, Hamish Henderson and Seamus Ennis, but it was to be almost another twenty years later before other collectors, especially Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger, set out to fully document the folksongs, folktales and folklore of English Gypsies.

Ewan MacColl once told me the following story concerning the song The Deserter from Kent.  In 1974 he was visiting the singer Nelson Ridley (born 1913) at a camp-site in Harlow New Town in Essex.  As Nelson was originally from Kent, Ewan asked whether or not Nelson knew The Deserter from Kent.  Apparently Nelson shook his head and said that he knew of no such song, whereupon Ewan began singing it.  As Ewan progressed through each verse Nelson continued to shake his head, until, that is, Ewan reached the final verse.  "Oh, that song." Nelson said, "I know that one" and he began to sing some of the verses that Ewan had just sung to him.  How, we later wondered, could somebody listen to a number of verses, which they clearly knew, and yet fail to recognize the song?  On another occasion I was sitting in a car with the singer Harry Brazil. We were being driven to a pub in Gloucester, where I hoped to record Harry.  Harry began to sing the song Johnny Sands and I made a mental note of the title, thinking that it would be a good song to record.  An hour or so later I mentioned Johnny Sands to Harry, who, like Nelson Ridley, denied any knowledge of the song.  Like Ewan, I began to sing a version of the song to Harry.  But, try as I might, Harry remained adamant that he knew no such song.  A little while later, during a break from recording, Harry started to sing another song, The Blackbird.  "Why don't we record that?" I suggested.  So Harry stood up, walked a few feet to the microphone, and began singing his version of Charming Beauty Bright.  It was a different song and, as before, Harry later said that he did not know any song about a blackbird.  I should, perhaps, add that I believed Harry to be serious.  He was not, so far as I could tell, trying to 'have me over'.  I had previously experienced the same sort or response from Joe Jones in Kent, although, at the time, I had put this down to his age and, I suspected, his failing memory.

Somehow, though, I now wonder if this was the case.  Did Joe and his fellow Gypsy singers approach their songs in a manner that was different from other non-gypsy singers?  Were their songs 'fixed' - textually and/or melodically - or were the songs 'fluid'?  It is difficult to know whether or not some singers were recreating their songs during each new performance.  On the two occasions that Joe Jones was recorded singing The Bold Reynolds he used the same opening verse, but a different second verse (track 34).  This may well be the result of old age and a faulty memory, but, in truth, we do not know.  In a note to the song New Ross Town, that Irish traveller Mary Delany sang in London to Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie, we find the statement, 'We recorded this from Mary on a number of occasions and, although it was one of her favourite songs and among the first she gave us, she never sang it the same way twice.  She would cut out verses or change them around as the mood took her.' (Booklet notes to Musical Traditions From Puck to Appleby - MTCD325-6. p.35. 2003).  Again, what are we to make of the lines 'Oh, mother, dear mother, bad news I've to tell', 'Oh, Captain, oh, Captain , bad news I've to say' and 'Bad news to you I've to tell' which Mary Ann Haynes includes in her songs Poor Leonard (track 19), The Old Miser (track 14) and The Farmer of Cheshire (track 21).  Did Mary always include these lines each time she sang these two songs.  Or was this a formulaic line that Mary used whenever a song, any song, required a similar sentiment?

In 1954 Margaret Dean-Smith made the following observation regarding one of the Alice E Gillington books mentioned above, 'Some of the pieces are corrupt, and in at least one instance ... two distinct songs have been confused together.'  According to Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger, Gypsy music in southern England is characterized by four factors; though, it should be noted, that these factors are not necessarily unique to Gypsy singers. These factors are: 1) avoidance of strict rhyme; 2) presentation of songs in short, often fragmented, form; 3) the use of words that have become little more than gibberish, and; 4) the running together of lines and stanzas from different songs.  All four factors are present, to some degree or other, in the songs that can be heard on this CD.

Mary Ann Haynes demonstrates the 'avoidance of strict rhyme' in her song At the AtchinTan (track 1).  The final eight lines, which are sung in an extremely 'open' style - one which pays scant regard to strict meter -  show little in the way of rhyme, and yet, when sung in Mary's singing, the resultant song becoming a triumph of the singer's art.

At the Atchin Tan, like many of Mary's other song, such as Lovely Johnny (track 36), All Through Mi Rakli (track 3) or Rakish Young Fellow (track 17) is a short song (MacColl & Seeger's factor 2), as are The Broomdasher (track 8), Hartlake Bridge (track 12), The Jew's Garden (track 20) or Ripest Apples (track 22), for example.  Some singers, Mary Ann Haynes for example, also sang longer songs, but others, such as Jasper and Levi Smith, only seemed to sing short songs.  Perhaps they were attracted to short songs.  Possibly they had only previously heard short songs being sung.  Or were they unable to remember longer songs?  We just don't know.  But, it would, I think, be fair to say that many Gypsy singers sing only short snatches of songs, while some others also sing longer ones.

Often, in both short and longer songs, we find that Gypsy singers will sing words or lines that seem garbled, or meaningless, to the listener (MacColl & Seeger's factor 3).  This does not appear to be a one-off event.  Repeated listening to the same song shows that the same garbled/meaningless words/phrases are used repeatedly in the same places in the song.  With regard to the previously mentioned song James MacDonald, C J Bearman has this to say, 'Betsy Holland may have understood what she was singing about in her "Execution Song"... but it is doubtful whether anyone else would have done.'  (Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Reflections on the Work of David Harker. Folklore 113 (2002): 11-34).

But, it has to be said, this is not a characteristic limited to Gypsy singers alone. In his book South Carolina Ballads (Cambridge, Mass. 1928) Reed Smith devoted a whole chapter to this subject, noting that, 'The variety of distortions in the case of  unfamiliar individual words is almost unlimited' (p. 59).  I would suggest that in many cases the singer may not be making up the 'garbled' or 'meaningless' words themselves.  According to G Malcolm Laws, quoted in MacColl & Seeger (p.243), 'The typical folksinger is the transmitter of a received text.  He (sic) rarely makes an effort to improve upon what he has learned or to invent anything new.'  We have, for example, two versions of the ballad Georgie (sung by Jasper Smith on track 2 and by his brother Levi Smith on Topic TSCD661) where the slightly surreal opening line is given by both brothers:

Presumably the line originally ended with a phrase such as 'lily-white steed' and not 'lily-white breast', which occurs in some other ballads.  What is striking, to me at least, is the fact that neither Jasper nor Levi bothered to query, or change, the phrase.  When I asked Levi if he had changed any of the song (without specifically referring to the line in question) he replied that this was how the song had always been sung.  And I might add that he appeared to be slightly confused as to why I should have raised the point in the first place.  I can only speculate, and I stress that this is speculation on my part, that somewhere along the line of oral tradition an illiterate singer has heard some word or phrase that was beyond comprehension, but, liking the song, the singer has substituted something approaching the sound of the original word or phrase.  Other singers, such as Levi or Jasper Smith, then picked up the song, learing it as exactly as they could from the previous singer who, in turn, could have been repeating the song as he, or she, had first heard it.

Perhaps we can say the same for Alice Penfold's line in her version of The Little Footman Boy (track 6):

or, for that matter, Phoebe Smith's use of the word 'Canada' (rather than 'Caledonia', a word that may have been unknown to some English singers) in the song Johnny Abourne (available on the veteran CD The Yellow Handkerchief - VT136CD).  And, of course, the name Johnny Abourne is somewhat removed from the original title of Jamie Raeburn.

As for MacColl & Seeger's 4th factor ('the running together of lines and stanzas from different song'), we need look no further than Jasper Smith's If I Were a Grinder (track 18).  So far as Jasper was concerned, this was a complete song.  It made sense to Jasper, just as it was.  And yet the song's three verses clearly stem from three separate songs, none of which could be said to be of a compatible subject.  Further details about this song can be found in the notes that accompany the song text later in the booklet.

* * * * *

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger have speculated that when the Gypsies first arrived in Britain from the Indian sub-Continent they must have brought with them Romani songs and stories.  Where are these songs and stories today?  Actually, as MacColl & Seeger were aware, a few songs, sung in Anglo-Romany, do exist, but these are surely only a very small number when compared with what must have been sung at one time.

Why, then, was the Romani song repertoire lost?  And when, roughly, did the Travellers begin to assimilate the songs and ballads of the working people of Great Britain and Ireland?  How was this assimilation effected?  The Travellers were - and still are - members of a pariah-group in a society which has always been hostile to them.  Who, then, were their informantsThe evidence which would enable us to answer these and other questions lies now, alas, beyond our reach.  Without it we are reduced to mere speculation.

Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, 1977, p.5.

In fact, I would suggest, that we can do better than offer 'mere speculation'.  In their later book Till Doomsday in the Afternoon (1986. p.38) Ewan and Peggy show that the Stewart Family of Blairgowrie, in Perthshire, were able to understand much of the Elizabethan cant that was included in 'that Baedecker of Elizabethan low-life', Thomas Dekker's The Gulls' Horn Book, and I would propose that this is an indication that Travellers, like Gypsies, had for centuries mixed and merged with the people who originally evolved their own canting-language out of necessity - people who were, themselves, then living on the fringes of society.  And these were the very people who were almost certainly responsible for the preservation and transmission of our folksongs and music.  On October 4th.1631, a widow who ran an alehouse in Farlington, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, was 'presented' at court, 'for keeping dis-orders in her house and harbouring of fiddlers, pipers, tinkers and wanderers &c.' (Quoted in Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550 - 1640 by Tessa Watt. Cambridge. 1991. p.28. fn.90).  Gypsies, it would seem, have been mixing with non-gypsies for a very long time indeed.

In the 20th century, singers such as Pop Maynard, who was also a noted poacher, came into contact with a number of Gypsy poachers, and I am certain that they would have shared a glass and a song at the completion of a good night's work.  Another singer, Fred Jordan, often told of learning The Outlandish Knight from some Gypsies who were camped in a field close to his home on Wenlock Edge.  Hearing them singing the ballad, Fred walked into the camp, said that he liked the song, and asked if they would teach it to him, which they did.  When I first met Fred in 1964 he took me to a pub in Ludlow to meet the marvelous Gypsy singer May Bradley.  May's husband had been banned from the pub for fighting, and so May would come over three or four times in an evening to have a jar filled with rough cider for her husband, who lived across the road from the pub.  It was a singing pub, full of Gypsies and non-gypsies, and during that first Saturday night I listened in wonderment to Fred and his friends singing all manner of songs, from Marie Lloyd's risqué She'd Never Had Her Ticket Punched Before, to May's breathtaking carol The Leaves of Life.  (There is a recording of the latter on Topic's My Father's the King of the Gypsies - TSCD661).  We often talk of a Gypsy style of singing - here Phoebe Smith comes to mind as a pre-eminent exponent - but what struck me most that night in Ludlow was how similar all the singers, Gypsy and non-gypsy, sounded.  In the notes to TSCD661, Reg Hall quotes the Sussex musician Scan Tester as saying that the main difference between Gypsy and non-gypsy musicians was the fact that the Gypsies usually expected to be paid for playing.  This was not the case that night in Ludlow.

* * * * *

We know where the Gypsies came from.  We can speculate that they would not have spoken English before they arrived in Britain, but, having once arrived, they would quickly have picked up the language as a necessity.  And, they could not have picked up cant words and folksongs, had they not mixed at some time or other with the people who were already conversant with this tongue and with these songs.  Gypsies needed horses in order to travel and, for generations, have attended horse-fairs across the country, where similar non-gypsies, would have been present.  Likewise, their work, as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, hawkers, musicians etc. would have brought them into contact with people from many other communities.  In fact, the questions asked by MacColl & Seeger above are not really all that hard to answer.  Perhaps we don't have exact dates as to when the Romani language was lost, or when specific songs were learnt, but the evidence is there - in the language and the songs themselves.  Gypsies, as we have seen, were mixing with non-gypsies in 17th century taverns.  Today they sing songs that date not only from the 17th century, but also from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as well.

The Singers:

It may be argued that we are guilty of exaggeration when we suggest that the travelling people have become the real custodians of English and Scots traditional song.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger, Travellers' Songs
from England and Scotland,
1977, p.15

One of the first Gypsy singers that I met was Mary Ann Haynes.  I had been told that her son, Ted, was a singer and I drove down to Sussex one Sunday afternoon, looking for his trailer.  Eventually, I found Ted and his trailer in a field.  He was busy and directed me to his mother, who 'knew all the old songs'.  Mary lived in High Street, Brighton, where, according to Ted, she was known to 'everybody'.  High Street turned out to be a narrow street off the sea-front and was full of large tower blocks.  I started knocking on doors, only to be told that nobody knew a Mrs Haynes.  I found that when I mentioned that she was a Gypsy doors were closed very quickly in my face.  I began to wonder if I would ever find Mary, and was about to give up, when a lady said that there were no Gypsies in the area, only 'an Italian looking lady'.  This was, of course, Mary.  When I arrived she was sleeping off a lunchtime session in the pub, but, once roused, she set about making a cup of tea and, having said that I knew her son (sort of), she began to sing as soon as I mentioned songs.  Mary had been born in 1905, in a Faversham waggon parked behind The Coach and Horses in Portsmouth, Hampshire.  Her father, Richard Milest, was a horse-dealer whose family would accompany him across England during the summer as he made his way from fair to fair.  "We used to go to the Vinegar & Pepper Fair at Bristol, then to Chichester, Lewes, Canterbury and Oxford, then up to Appleby and back down to Yalding."  Mary's husband died suddenly, leaving her with a large family, and, having settled in Brighton, she worked as a flower-seller, earning enough to support her family.  Mary died in 1977.

Shortly after meeting Mary, Tony Engle of Topic Records mentioned that he had been approached by friends of Jasper and Levi Smith, who felt that somebody should record their songs.  One of the friends, Cecily Taylor, allowed me to meet Jasper, Levi and their sister Minty, at her home where many of these recordings were made.  Minty was born c.1910, Levi in 1915 and Jasper c.1920.  Their father died in the mid 1920s and Minty, then only aged about 12, took on the job of looking after her siblings.  To earn money, Minty would tell fortunes (they called it dukkering), a skill taught to her by her Granny Charlotte, though she ran away from home when she was sixteen to marry her husband Frank, a knife-grinder.  The couple raised thirteen children and they were living in a lay-by at Sevenoaks, Kent, when I first met them.  Levi was also camped by the roadside, just outside Westerham, Kent, though he was moved-on by the police shortly after I came across him.  He then moved to Epsom, to an unofficial site where Jasper and his family were living.

Derby Smith, one of Jasper's sons, came with his father to one of the recording sessions at Cecily Taylor's house and it was then that we recorded his superb protest song  Will There Be Any Travellers in Heaven?

Joe Jones, or 'Sharper's Joe' - after his father, Sharper Jones - (or even 'Joe Cooper' as I heard him addressed on one occasion) and his wife Lena were living in an old caravan on a site at St Mary Cray, Kent.  Whenever I called, Joe would be squatting over an outdoor fire, no matter whatever the weather, and all of my recordings were made outdoors.  On one occasion, when we were constantly being interrupted by children, we retreated to the edge of a nearby wood.  As I set up my mike stand I felt something tapping my shoe.  Simultaneously Joe began to frantically point and shout and it was only when I looked down that I noticed that I had stepped backwards onto a rather sleepy adder.  Luckily the fangs failed to cut through the shoe and no damage was done.

Chris Willett was the son of Tom Willett.  He had recorded an LP of family songs with his father and brother for Topic Records in the 1960's (The Willett Family - Topic 12T84) and I rediscovered Chris by accident one afternoon near Paddock Wood when I was diverted onto a Kentish side-road to avoid road works.  Having seen some trailers, I stopped and asked about singers and was promptly sent to Chris's door.  Chris, like his father before him, was extremely reticent to talk about his background.  When I asked if I might take his photograph Chris told me that he would rather I didn't.  Later he said that the question of photographs had also come up when the family made their Topic LP.  The family had suffered persecution throughout their lives and they decided that their children should try to find jobs away from Gypsy society.  Accordingly, they had not wanted to be photographed in case it became known that their children were from Gypsy stock, thus prejudicing the children's chances in the world.  It is hard to describe how sad I felt on hearing this story.

Alice Penfold, unlike Joe and Lena Jones or the Smiths or Willetts, was settled with her husband and daughters in a bungalow in Sussex in the early 1970s.  Many of her songs had come from her father, Eli Frankham, though others, such as Catch Me if You Can, The Shannon Side and Jenny On the Moor were from her husband, Edwin, a Cornish traveller.  Having recorded Lord Bateman (track 34), I was intrigued to hear Alice's daughters arguing among themselves as to whether or not a man could really marry two women in one day.  So far as the girls were concerned this was real life and not just a story.

The final performer, Bill Ellson, was also settled.  Born in 1916 in south London, his maternal grandfather was a Penfold.  Bill's parents were general dealers who worked with horse-drawn vehicles.  They moved to St Paul's Cray, Kent, in the 1930s.  For most of his life Bill worked with horses and often travelled to Appleby Fair in Yorkshire.  For a short period of time he trained trotting horses in Canada, but later returned to Kent, where he bought a farm near Edenbridge.  He learnt to play the mouthorgan in Battersea and as a boy would busk in the streets to earn a few coppers.

Other recordings by some of these performers can also be heard on the Topic Voice of the People CD My Father's the King of the Gypsies (TSCD661).

The above essay is an expanded version of the notes which first appeared on the Topic album Songs of the Open Road (Topic 12T253).

The Songs and Music:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud. Currently containing almost 232,000 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.

Other references are taken from the following publications: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, various editors, 1981-2002 (shown as GD in the song notes); Sam Henry's Songs of the People, edited by Gale Huntington, 1990 (shown as Henry); Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger, 1977 (shown as MS); Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, edited by Maud Karpeles, 1974 (shown as Sharp); English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, Cecil Sharp & Maud Karpeles, 1932 [1960 edition referred to in the notes] (shown as Sh App); The Types of the Folktale, Antti Aarne & Stith Thompson, Helsinki, 1961.  Details of American songs have been gleaned from the indispensable Country Music Sources - A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music by Meade, Spottswood & Meade (Chapel Hill, NC. 2002).

Some singers heard on this CD, in common with many (though by no means all) Gypsy singers, sometimes aspirate the start of a word beginning with a vowel, or pronounce some words unusually.  Whilst attempting to transcribe the texts accurately, I have decided to omit all the former and most of the latter of these traits, for fear of rendering the printed texts risible.

Words shown in [square brackets] are either obvious omissions, translations of dialect/cant words, or guesses/suggestions from another recording or standard text where the singer's word is unclear or obviously wrong.

It's always difficult to be precise about exactly which songs are versions of what, since Gypsies tend to mix the texts of their songs differently from Gorgios - creating a kaleidoscopic picture which gives you a graphic idea of what's happening in the story, rather than a linear narrative of the action.  Sometimes this works far better than the normal approach ... other times, particularly if verses or lines have been omitted or reordered, it tends to cause confusion in an audience which is not already completely familiar with the songs - i.e. a non-traditional audience.

Lines, verses - or in some cases complete songs - shown in italics are not included on the CD.  They are fuller versions (where we have them) of very cut-down or reordered songs - to aid the listener's understanding.  In this way we hope to put the listener more into the position of a member of a traditional audience.

1 - At the Atchin Tan (Roud 1732, MS 130)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

When it starts raining my first thing in mind,
Is my ridge pole, my tent rods, my bedclothes to find.
I put the straw down for my chavvs to lay on;
I give 'em their supper and put 'em to bed.

I feather me old pony's legs, there let him go;
So where shall I find him? The Lord only knows.
I got up next morning, I searched round and round,
And when I found me old pony he was in the pound.

Oh, I goes to the house and I gives a bold knock.
'My old pony you have a-got here?'
'Yes', said the farmer, 'there's one pound to pay.'
'If you give me me pony, and there let me go,
I will 'sure you, my gentlemen, you've not seen before.'

He gave me me pony and then I did go.
I travelled all day till I found a sure spot,
I unshipped me pony and unload me lot.

Atchin tan = camping place. chavvs = children.

Quite a common song among English Gypsies, though quite unknown to gorgios. MacColl & Seeger collected versions from both Caroline Hughes and Nelson Ridley, while Peter Kennedy had it from Phoebe Smith's brother, Charlie Scamp, in 1954.

2 - Georgie (Roud 90, Child 209, GD 249, MS 16, Sharp 36, Sh App 34)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey. 1974

Come saddle to me, said my lily-white breast,
Come saddle to me, said my pony.
I'm willing to ride all before the Lord Judge,
But I'll fight for the life of my Georgie.

What did Georgie do on Shooter's Hill?
Did he stole or murder [of] many?
Yes he killed sixteen of the Lord Judge's deers
And he sold 'em down under the valley.

I am the father of six babes, my love.
And the seventh one into her body.
I'm willing to part, but it just breaks me heart
But I'll fight for the life of my Georgie.

Come saddle to me, said my lily-white breast,
Come saddle to me, said my pony.
I'm going to ride all before the Lord Judge,
And I'll fight for the life of my Georgie.

This was the first time that I had recorded a version of Geordie.  Later I recorded another similar, though slightly longer, version from Jasper's brother Levi.  Scholars have long argued over the origin of the ballad, which exists in two basic forms.  The first, from Scotland, is apocryphally ascribed to an incident involving George Gordon, fourth Earl of Huntley, who fell from Royal favour in 1554.  The second possibly stems from two English 17th century blackletter broadsides which, between them, supplied most of the verses used by later printers, including Henry Parker Such of south London.

Other recordings: Levi Smith (Surrey) - Topic TSCD661; Harry Cox (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD512D.

3 - All Through Mi Rakli (Roud 852, MS 129)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Now all through mi rakli,
Kicking up a goudli;
Like my dear old dadus boy
I'll leave her in the tan.
Mandi went to wesh one night,
To chin a bit o'cosh.
Long comes a baulo,
Lelled mandi oprey.
Mandi's lifted up the mush
And delled him in the pur;
Says, 'Like my dear old dadus boy,
You can kor well!'
All through mi rakli,
Kicking up a goudli;
Like my dear old dadus boy,
I'll leave her in the tan.

mi rakli = my girl. goudli (or gouggeli) = row/noise. dadus = father. tan = place (i.e. atchin tan = camp site). mandi = I, me. wesh = wood or forest. to chin = to cut. cosh = wood (the substance). baulo = policeman. lelled mandi opre = took me up i.e. arrested me. delled him = gave him (one). pur (or per) = stomach (literally 'tripe'). kor = fight.

This is a somewhat watered-down version of a song found in Gillington's Songs of the Open Road (1911).  Gillington's text tells of a Gypsy who has an argument with a policeman whilst putting a horse out to graze.  In the end she hits the policeman and runs away to a barn, where she spends the night.  The following morning she steals a cart and once again encounters the policeman, who threatens her life.

Other recordings: Peter Ingram (Hampshire) - Topic TSCD661; Wiggy Smith (Gloucestershire) - Musical Traditions MTCD307; Caroline Hughes (Dorset) - Saydisc CD-SDL407.

4 - The King and the Keeper (Roud 853, MS 116)
Sung by Joe Jones.

The suit of grey russet King William put on.
'And now,' said Queen Mary, 'where are thou a-going?'
'Do you think I'm a fool, or a very unwise man,
Unto tell my counsel unto some woman?'

'I don't want your horse, neither want your hounds,
And I won't have your money if you fling it down.'
'Here is fifty bright shillings, down to you I will fling,
If you will provide that to William our King.
[Repeat last 2 lines]

He ordered his horse, oh, likewise his two hounds,
Likewise a revolver unto pull them down.
'You begone, you bold fellows, you will run no course here,
Without the leave of King William to hunt a fat deer.'
[Repeat last 2 lines]

Repeat verse 2.

A number of blackletter broadsides deal with a king who disguises himself in order to mix freely with his subjects.  Early forms of this theme, such as King Edward the Third and a Shepherd and King Edward and a Hermit, exist in manuscripts of c.1450.  In 1564 the ballad of King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth was licensed to be printed, while our present story was printed about a hundred years later, c.1676, by C Bates of Pye-Corner, London, under the title The Loyal Forrester, or, Royal Pastimes (there is a copy in The Euing Collection of English Broadside Ballads, Glasgow. 1971).

The Hammond Brothers collected a set in Dorset at the beginning of the 20th century (it's printed in Marrowbones edited by Frank Purslow, London. 1965), and Ken Stubbs found it on the lips of Pop Maynard, who was a friend of Joe Jones, in 1960.  Pop's version is in The Life of a Man, London. 1970.

5 - Hopping Down in Kent / My Lovely Hops (Roud 1715)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Now, hopping's just beginning,
We've got our time to spend.
We've only come down hopping,
To earn a quid if we can.

With a tee-i-eh,
Tee-i-ee-i -eh.

Now, early Monday morning,
The measurer he'll come round.
'Pick your hops all ready
And you'll pick them off'n the ground.'

Now, early Tuesday morning,
The bookie he'll come round.
With a bag o[f] money,
He'll flop it on the ground.
Say[s], 'Do you want some money?'
'Yes, sir, if you please.
To buy a hock of bacon
And a roll o[f] mouldy cheese.'

They all says hopping's lousy.
I believe it's true.
Since I've been down hopping,
I've got a chatt* or two.

Early Saturday morning,
It is our washing day.
We boils 'em in our hopping-pot
And we hangs 'em on the ground.

Hopping's all over.
All the money's spent.
I wish to God I'd never done
No hopping down in Kent.

I say one, I say two
No more hopping shall I do

My lovely hops, my lovely hops,
When the measurer he comes round:
'Pick 'em up, pick 'em up off the ground!'
When he starts to measuring,
He never know when to stop;
'Why don't you jump in the bin
And take the bloomin' lot'.

* chatt = louse, from c.1830s

The hopfields of Kent once attracted a large number of itinerant labourers during the summer picking season (it's all mechanized now, of course). Many families from East London spent their holidays there and it seems likely that the song Hopping Down in Kent came to the fields with the eastenders. The writer George Orwell spent time in the hop-fields and was aware of the song. (See The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell vol.1.p.86. Penguin Books, 1970).
The final verse, about the measurer, refers to the fact that the pickers were paid by the number of baskets that they filled and it was the measurer's job to ensure that the baskets were as full as they could be.

Other recordings: Louise Fuller (Surrey) - Topic TSCD655.  (This recording is credited to Mary Ann Haynes in the CD's booklet. Topic had intended to use Mary's version, but a mistake was made during the editing stage and Louise's version was inadvertently substituted).  Peter Kennedy also recorded it from Phoebe Smith for the BBC in 1956.

6 - The Little Footman Boy (Roud 45, Child 65, MS 22. Sharp 14. Sh App 17)
Sung by Alice Penfold, Sussex.

'Oh, mother, oh, mother, come make my bed.
And it's make it deep and narrow.
And go and tell my sister's little son,
That's my sister's only son,
That he may go and tell me own truelove,
I shall be dead 'for ever he can come.'

Now the first three miles that little footman walked.
And the second three miles he ran.
He ran till he came to a broad water-stream,
And he laid on his breast and he swam.

Now he swam till he reached this Lord's white gate,
And the Lord he was just at meal.
'If you know what news I have got to tell,
Not a morsel of bread would you eat.'

'What news? What news, my little footman boy?
Has my high park-gates fell down?'
'Oh, no. Oh, no, but your truelove, she's ill,
And she'll be dead 'for ever you can come.'

'Oh, its saddle to me this white, white stream[steed].
And saddle to me both [most] quick.
That I may go and kiss those red and rosy cheeks,
'For ever they turn to cold clay.'

Now my Lady she died of [on] the Saturday afternoon,
Just as that clock stroke one.
And my Lord he died on the Sunday followed in [following],
Just as the evening prayer begun.

Now my Lady was buried in the high park tomb.
And my Lord he was buried by the choir.
Oh, it's out of me Lady there sprung a [diamond ?] rose,
And out of me Lord a sweet briar.

This briar it grew so very, very tall,
Till it could not grow any higher.
Then it turned and it twisted  in a true-lov-i-er's knot.
And the rose it grew round the sweet briar.

Although assigned the number 'Child 65' by most collectors, Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger have pointed out that it is, 'made up of floater-verses from a number of ballads and yet does not appear to be derived from any particular one'.  MacColl & Seeger have identified lines from at least ten Child ballads.  These are: Lady Maisry (Child 65), Lord Lovel (Child 75), Little Musgrave (Child 81), The Knight and Shepherd's Daughter (Child 110), Child Maurice (Child 83), Fair Mary of Wallington (Child 91), Bonny Barbara Allen (Child 84), Fair Margaret and Sweet William (Child 74), The Gypsy Laddie (Child 200) and Geordie (Child 209).  They conclude with the comment, 'What does stand out, and make this song unique, is that a whole series of ballad formulas have been selected and put together in a form which has remained stable'. See Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland by MacColl & Seeger, London, 1977, pp.112-15.

7 - Riding Down to Portsmouth (Roud 1534, Sharp 227)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

As I was a-riding along in the heith of my glory.
As I was a-riding along shall I tell you of my story?
Oh, I met in love with a fair, pretty maid,
And I asked her if she'd come along with me,
To see some pleasures and some fine company.
'Cause I'm on my way, oh, to Portsmouth.

[She says] 'Young man if I comes along with you; I must be married.'
[She says] 'Young man if I comes along with you; I must be carried.'
She laid all night all in the farmer's barn
And she robbed me of my gold watch and purse,
But she give to me ten times what it was worth.
I was on me way to Portsmouth.

I said, 'Damn, oh damn, oh damn', all to me-self; ain't I paid for my learnings?
I said, 'Damn, oh damn, oh damn', all to me-self; and I paid for my teachings?
Now me old horse, I will leave it right in pawn,
And back into [unto] the sea I mean to return.
Oh, don't you think I lays underneath a curse?
Now I'm on me way, oh, to Portsmouth.

Cecil Sharp, Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams collected versions of this song during the early days of the 20th century.  The only known broadside is a Victorian sheet, without printer's imprint, in the Harris Library collection in Preston.

Other recordings: Tom Willett (south-east England) - Topic TSCD652.

8 - The Broomdasher (Roud 1733)
Sung by Levi Smith, Epsom. Surrey.

For there was a nasty broomdasher,
Shabbin' through the crack;
With his vans and his under-potter,
With his vans upon his back.
For he met with the yogger,
For he stamped and he swore:
'You can believe me, Mister Yogger,
I've never be[en] here before.'
As the broomdasher rises up on his feet,
He did pogger him nice and neat,
And 'way went the broomdasher
Shabbin' for his life.
He said there was a farmer in the field,
But he hollered to his wife,
He said, 'There goes a stark-naked broomdasher
Shabbin' for his life.'
A witness you must be,
'But, no,' says the farmer, 'it's nothing to do with me.'

Spoken: Well, that was a...a broomdasher catching rabbits...and when he come to the burrow, you see,  he had a rough and a tumble, you know what I mean, an he set about the yogger like... [Jasper Smith: Had a big fight with the keeper]...he had a fight with the keeper, like, well, that's the yogger, a keeper's the yogger, like, you know what I mean, he set about the keeper when he went shabbin.  Well, as he's poggered the yogger there was a farmer in the field, like, the farmer's wife... [Jasper Smith. See him going]...see him going, she said...the broomdasher...she told em which way he went, like, you know what I mean.  That was a man a-catching rabbits, that was. a broomdasher, yeah, straight-up. That's few years old, that is!

Broomdasher = a rabbit catcher (literally a man who hits rabbits on the head with a piece of wood); shabbin' or shavvin' = going away, escaping; crack = wood; vans = things/possessions; under-potter = underclothes; yogger = gamekeeper; pogger = hit.

Levi and his brother Jasper, in common with other English Gypsies, believe that a naked poacher is invisible at night.  Although the Roud Index contains another listing with this title, it's a different song - so this one appears to be unique to the Smith brothers.

9 - The Oyster Girl (Roud 875, Laws Q13, GD 304, MS 48)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

'Oh, oysters, oh, oysters, oh, oysters', cried he,
Have you seen that pretty gal who come along with me?
Oh, she's picked all my pockets, took all my money,
And she's left me with a basket of oysters.'

Was it 'Oh, landlord, oh, landlord, oh, landlord.' said me.
'Have you got a private room for this oyster girl and me?
So we might sleep merrily, and merrily we'll be,
And she'll learn me how to bargain for oysters.'

Oh, not long in the private room, a-just an hour or more,
Out of the bed and down the stairs she flew.
She've took all my money and me gold watch too,
But she's learnt me how to bargain for oysters.

'So, oysters, oh, oysters, oh, oysters', cried me.
'Have you seen that little girl, she come along with me?
But don't I call it a shame, she's took a French man in but [for?] trade,
And to learn him how to bargain for oysters.

According to Gavin Greig ( who noted no less than 13 versions of this song) '[it] is a lively ditty and very popular.  The sum stolen from the gentleman varies in different copies from five hundred to ten thousand pounds'.  The song appears to have been first printed in a Stirling chapbook by M Randall, c.1794-1812, under the title The Eating of Oysters.

Other recordings: George Dunn (Staffordshire) - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8; Phil Tanner (Gower) - Forthcoming Veteran CD.

10 - Thorneymoor Park (Roud 222, MS 96)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

Now it's Thorneymoor Park in Buckinghamshire,
The keeper's houses lays in squares.
Their orders were to look after the deers.
Right fol the rol diddle ol day.

So me and my dog went out one night,
A right fol lor al right fol arity.
Oh, me and my dog went out one night,
To catch a fine buck was my delight.
To catch a fine buck in Thorneymoor Park,
Right fol the rol diddle ol day.

Up jumped an old deer lay flat to the ground,
And my little bitch she pulled him down.
I picked him up and cracked his crown.
Right fol the rol diddle ol day.

Then my dog come back so sorry and lame,
And sorry was I for to see the same.
As he was a-not able to follow the game.
Right fol the dol diddle ol day.

The Sussex assizes was drawing near,
He would not allow the old woman to swear.
She had four more pints in Buckinghamshire.
Right fol the dol diddle ol day.

I'll take a short staff in my hand,
I'll range the woods 'til I find the man.
I'll tan his old hide, I would if I can.
Right fol the dol diddle ol day.

Thorney Wood Chase, once a part of Sherwood Forest, was enclosed sometime around 1790. Twenty years later John Pitts issued our present song on a broadside (under the title The Lads of Thorney Moor Wood), which was reprinted by several later printers

Other recordings: Walter Pardon (Norfolk) - Musical Traditions MTCD305-6; George Dunn (Staffordshire) - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8; Sophie Legg (Cornwall) - Veteran VT119; Vic Legg (Cornwall) - Veteran VT129.

11 - Waxford Town (Roud 263 / 409, Laws P35 / P24, GD 200, MS 75, Sharp 65, Sh App 71)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

There was a pretty girl in Waxford Town,
She fell in love with a miller boy.
Oh, he asked her [to] go walking,
Through fields so sweet and green,
So they might walk and they might talk,
For to plan their wedding day.

Oh, he pulled an hedge-stake from the hedge,
And he beat her to the ground.
To John says she, 'have pity on me,
I'm not fit enough to die.'

Now when he got to his master's house,
It was at the break of day,
His master woke and let him in,
By the striking of a light.

He asked him, cross-questioned him,
'Look at the blood-stains on your hands and clothes.'
The answer, John, oh, he thought fit;
'Sir, it's a-bleeding from my nose.'

Just a few days after,
Oh, this poor girl she was found,
A-floating by her mother's door,
Oh, that led to Waxford Town.

This young man was taken up,
And he's bound down in irons strong.
Oh, there he did lay patient there,
For the murder he had done.

Spoken: That's Waxford Town...that's old grannie used to sing that...Yeah, Waxford Town.

MacColl & Seeger quote an American source who says that the villain in this song was a John Mauge, who was hanged at Reading, Berkshire, in 1744.  But, we know that Waxford Town comes originally from a long 17th-century ballad The Berkshire Tragedy, or, The Wittam Miller, a copy of which may be seen in the Roxburgh Collection (vol. viii p.629), and it may be that Mauge's name came to be associated with the earlier ballad because of the similarity of his crime.  Later printers tightened the story and reissued it as The Cruel Miller, a song which has been collected repeatedly in Britain and North America (where it is usually known as The Lexington/Knoxville Girl).

Both Laws and Roud differentiate between the two versions, giving Roud 263, Laws P35 for one and Roud 409, Laws P24 for the other.  However, since Roud includes 228 and 197 examples of each, it must be clear that there will be many versions which, like the above, fall into the grey area between them.

Other recordings: Mary Delaney (London, ex Co Tipperary) - Musical Traditions MTCD325-6; Harry Cox (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD512D.

12 - Hartlake Bridge (Roud 1729, MS 120)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

Now, seven and thirty strangers,
Oh, a-hopping they had been.
They were plied by Mr. Cox's,
Oh, near old Golder's Green
It were in the parish of Hadlow,
That's near old Tonbridge town.
But they heard the screams from those poor souls
When they were going down.

Now some were men and women,
And the others gals and boys.
They kept in contract [contact] with the bridge
'Til the horses they took shy.
They kept in contract with the bridge,
'Til the horses they took shy.
But they heard the screams from those poor souls
As they were going down.

Now, some were men and women,
The others gals and boys.
They was 'plied by Mr Cox's,
Oh, near old Golder's Green.
It was in the parish of Hadlow,
That's near old Tonbridge town.
That they heard the screams from those poor souls
When they were going down.

In October, 1858, during a violent thunderstorm, the river Medway burst its banks just south of the village of Hadlow in Kent. During the storm a wooden bridge was washed away at a time when thirty Gypsies and Irish hop-pickers were being driven across the bridge in a horse-drawn cart.  The victims were later washed up at a spot called Golden Green and they are buried together in Hadlow Parish churchyard.  It would seem likely that this song was composed shortly after the event.  Although I had been told by older Gypsies that other verses exist, I was never able to find a complete version of the song.  MacColl and Seeger recorded a two verse example from Nelson Ridley which has all the same detail, but correctly cites Golden Green, and names the bridge as Larklake Bridge.  Joe Jones also knew a fragment and, like Jasper, used a tune that is also used by Gypsies for another song, Dear Old Erin's Isle.  The Irish singer Tom Lenihan used the same tune for his song Farewell to Miltown Malbay and the notes to The Mount Callan Garland - Songs from the repertoire of Tom Lenihan (Dublin, 1994. pp. 17-19) mention that the tune was formerly used for the song The Felons of the Land.

13 - Stepdance Tune
Played on the mouthorgan by Bill Ellson, near Edenbridge, Kent.

Although I am unable to trace this tune, one or two bars in the 'B' part do seem to resemble the well-known Scottish tune The Muckin' o Geordie's Byre.

14 - The Old Miser (Roud 548, Laws M19, GD 177, Sharp 91, Sh App 64)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Oh, there was an old miser in London once dwell.
He had but a daughter who a sailor loved well.
And when this old miser was out of the way,
She was courted by the sailor, oh, by night and by day.

Oh, when this old miser he become for to know.
Straight away to the Captain, straight away he did go.
He said, 'Captain, oh, Captain, good news I've to say.
Oh, You've got a young sailor, and a transport to sell.'

'Oh, yes', said the Captain, 'your wish shall be,
If he's that sailor I know he to be.
So sailor, oh, sailor you've got to sail,
Far away across the ocean, farewell you must be.'

Oh, when this young damsel, she become for to know.
Straight away to the Captain, straight away she did go.
'Oh, Captain, oh, Captain, bad news I've to say,
Oh, I've got my young sailor, oh, a transport to sell.'

'Oh, no', said the Captain, 'this never can be.
'Cause your father has sold him as a transport to me.
So I've took him, I've sent him, far over the main.
So he'll never come to England, oh, to court you again.'

Put her hands in her pocket, showered handfuls of gold.
Down under the underdeep, ten hundred she told.
'Oh, this I will give you, and twice this much more,
If you give to me my sailor, he's the boy I adore.'

She [says], 'I'll go home to my cottage, I'll set myself down,
And all day I'll be a-wondering my sailor so bold.
Put a curse on my parents wherever they be.
Oh, my sailor's a transport and he'll never come to me.'

Cecil Sharp noted a similar version from Mrs Elizabeth Smithers of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in 1908.  He had previously collected a version from Jack Barnard of Bridgwater, Somerset, although this set had become confused with another broadside, The Silkmerchant's Daughter (Roud 552, Laws N10).  For some reason Sharp, and other later collectors, believed them to be one song, although, unlike The Old Miser's daughter, who never sees her true-love again, The Silkmerchant's Daughter eventually marries her sailor, after an adventure at sea that almost ended in her being eaten by a shipwrecked crew.

Recordings exist of The Old Miser by Harry Cox, Jumbo Brightwell, Ben Baxter and Lilly Cook, and of The Silkmerchant's Daughter by Walter Pardon and Betsy Renals - but none is available on CD.

15 - Are You Married, or Are You Free? (Roud 17037)
The Cuckoo is a Merry Bird (Roud 413, MS 57, GD 1157, Sharp 163. Sh App 140)
Derby, Derby (Roud 17027)
Sung by Minty Smith, Epsom, Surrey

[i]  Now, it's are you married?  Oh, are you free?
Oh, are you came, oh, to marry me?
To marry me, that shall never be,
Not till oranges grow on an apple tree.
Spoken: There'a a lot more to know I can't think...that's all there is to it...I know to it.

[ii] Oh, cuckoo is a merry bird,
She sings, oh, as she flies.
She sucks all the robin's eggs ,
And tells us no lies.
Cuckoo is a merry bird,
She sings, oh, as she flies.
And she only hollers 'Cuckoo'
Three months in a year.

[iii] Oh, Derby, Derby, won't you marry me?
Derby, Derby, won't you say, 'Yes'?
Derby, Derby, won't you marry me?
Show your legs to the Cock-a-ney girls.

Diddles and repeats the verse.

(i) Compare this verse with Must I go bound while he goes free?/Must I love a boy that don't love me?/Alas, alas, it'll never be/Till oranges grow on apple trees which occurs in songs such as The Butcher's Boy (Laws P24, Roud 409).  A version sung by Garrett & Norah Arwood from North Carolina can be heard on MTCD323-4.

(ii) Once a well-known song, athough few English singers seem to know more than this one verse today.  Walter Pardon, from Norfolk, had a couple of verses, available on  MTCD305-6,  while Bob Lewis, from Sussex, has a good version on Veteran VTC1CD.  One of the best-known versions is that from Appalachian singer Clarence Ashley on Smithsonian-Folkways SFW 40090.

(iii) Both Minty and her brother Jasper sang this short piece to accompany step-dancing.  The reference to the Cockney girls suggests that it may have started out in the Kentish hop-fields, which were visited by Londoner's in the picking season.  Minty's tune would seem to be related to one used by Elizabeth Cronin (Co Cork) for her song Lanigan's Ball (see Dáibhí Ó Cróinín's The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Dublin, 2000, pp.134-5.)

16 - The Young Sailor Cut Down in His Prime (Roud 2)
Played on the mouthorgan by Bill Ellson, near Edenbridge, Kent.

Originally the tune to an 18th century Irish song titled The Unfortunate Rake.  19th century singers turned it into The Young Sailor/Soldier Cut Down in His Prime which, like its Irish predecessor, concerns the death of a young man who has spent too much time with 'flash ladies' from the city.  Later versions of the song, The Streets of Loredo for example, have lost the venereal disease element.  The song is still well-known and recorded examples include those by Bob Hart (Suffolk) - Musical Traditions MTCD301-2; Harry Upton (Sussex) - Topic TSCD652 and Johnny Doughty (Sussex) - Topic TSCD662; Walter Bulwer (Norfolk) also plays the tune on the fiddle on the latter CD.

17 - Rakish Young Fellow (Roud 829. Sharp 228)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

I am but a rakish young fellow,
I never took no heed of my life.
But I've travelled this country all over,
I've travelled it far and, oh, near boys.
Oh, damn it, and now I'll give over,
If I go that road any more.

So send for my friends and relations,
And send for them everyone.
And roll up the long pipes of 'bacca,
Say, 'Here's luck to a good hearted man.'

Oh, buy a bottle of rum, oh, boy,
And merrily drink everyone, boys,
And merrily drink over my coffin.
Say, 'Here's luck to a good hearted man.'

So, I've travelled this country all over,
I've travelled it far and, oh, near boys.
And now damn it, I'll never give over,
I won't go that road any more.
Spoken: That's the finish of her.

Popular with Victorian broadside printers - Walter Pardon's set is close to the printed versions - though not frequently collected, apparently.  Cecil Sharp noted a couple of versions at the beginning of the 20th century and Elizabeth Bristol Greenleaf included a set in her Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, published in1939.

Other recordings: Sam Larner (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD511; Walter Pardon (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD514.

18 - If I Were a Grinder (Roud 17038)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

Now, if I were a grinder,
Surely I would marry.
I'd rather marry a grinder-man
Before I'd marry any.
He could grind and I could grind
And we could grind together.
In the middle of the night,
We'd keep grinding one another.
In the middle of the night,
We'd keep grinding one another.

Now, you never marry an old man,
I'll tell you the reason why.
His nose is always dribbling,
His mouth is never dry.
When he gets in the bed with you
He's never no use at all,
'Cause he turns his back a-t'ward you,
And his knees against the wall.

Now I thought my donkey was good enough
To win me a bit of a race.
So I took him to Epsom Derby, lads,
And backed him for a place.
While the band was playing,
Then off me donkey flew,
And the top of his head were playing
Well the rouge-a-lum-cuckoo.

Shout, boys, the road,
More troubles I could find,
There's ne'er a donkey on the course
Could leave me donkey behind.

Although this song is clearly composed of verses from three separate songs, Jasper was adamant that this was a complete song. In his view, the song concerned a couple who came together in the first verse, split in the second, and sought consolation at the race-course in the final verse and a-half.  In fact, the opening verse comes from a song that Elizabeth Cronin (Co Cork) called If I Was a Fair Maid, (See Dáibhí Ó Cróinín's The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Dublin, 2000, pp.126-7.)  A version printed in the 1910 issue of the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society (quoted in the Cronin book) gives the following verse:

If I were a fair one, fairer than any, O!
I'd marry a carpenter before I'd marry any, O!
For he'd chip and I'd chip,
And we'd chip together, O!
And what a jolly time we'd have
Chipping one another, O!

The second verse is similar to ones found in such songs as Maids When You're Young Never Wed an Old Man or The Silly Old Man, which includes this verse:

For every night when I go to bed,
He lays by my side like one that is dead;
Such spitting and coughing it makes me run wild,
Tho' I'm never disturb'd by the noise of my child.

Undated (C19th?) broadside quoted inThe Common Muse
by V de Sola Pinto & A E Rodway, London, 1957, p.531.

Jasper's song ends with part of the song I am a Donkey Driver (which Jasper also sang in full), sometimes called Jerusalem Cuckoo after the rhyming slang for a donkey (Jerusalem artichoke = moke).  Albert Chevalier, the great Music Hall singer, once popularized a song Jerusalem' Dead which told of the death of a costermonger's moke, and I am a Donkey Driver probably dates from about the same period.  It appeared on late 19th century broadsides (a sheet issued by Manchester's T Pearson bears the comment 'sung by Harry Linn') and it has been recorded by a number of singers, including Harry Upton (Topic TSCD664), Murty Rabbett (Traditional Crossroads CD 4284) and Charley Pitman & Tommy Morrissey (Veteran VT122).

19 - Poor Leonard (Roud 189, Laws Q33, GD 228, Sharp 226)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

It was ear-ly one morning, when poor Leonard awoke.
Straight away to his com-er-ades, straight away he did go.
Saying, 'Arise you young fellows, all arise and we'll go,
Oh, it is a fine morning, and a-bathing we'll go.'

Oh, the first man they met was, oh, a keeper in game,
Who advised them to turn around and go back again.
So he says 'Deep in false water, oh; no bathing today.'

Poor Leonard being a big-ed hearted chap, stripped in and [in] he went.
Three times round the ocean, oh, no bottom did he find.
So poor Leonard lays drown-ded in the Lakes of Calin.

'Oh, mother, dear mother, bad news I've to tell,
[That] me brother is drown-ded in the Lakes of Calin.'
She said, 'How was he drown-ded, or was he pushed in?
But, poor Leonard lays drown-ded in the Lakes of Calin.'

We'll have six pretty maidens, all dressed in milk white.
Six pretty maidens all to follow behind.
Oh, they laid him, they put him, laid him under cold clay,
They said, 'Here's adieu to poor Leonard', and they all walked away.

Some folklorists, especially American ones, have tried to link this broadside song with classic ballads such as Clerk Colville (Child 42) and Lady Alice (Child 85), but without any real success.  Tom Munnelly prints a version of the song, from Tom Lenihan of Co Clare, in the book The Mount Callan Garland (Dublin, 1994) and suggests a number of possible Irish locations for 'Calin/Coalfin/Coolfin'.

Other recordings: George 'Pop' Maynard (Sussex) and  Scan Tester (Sussex) - Musical Traditions MTCD309-10; (Scan Tester is also on Topic TSCD653); Amy Birch (Devon) - Topic TSCD661; Sheila Stewart  (Perthshire) - Topic TSCD515; Tom Lenihan (County Clare) - cassette accompanying The Mount Callan Garland; George Dunn (Staffordshire) - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8.

20 - The Jew's Garden (Roud 73, Child 155, MS 14, Sharp 31, Sh App 31)
Sung by Minty Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

Oh, three little boys went out for to play,
A-playing with the ball.
Till they playing with the ball,
Over in the Jew's garden.

'Come here little boy, you can have your ball,
You can have your ball again.'
As he reached for this ball
And she grabbed him like a sheep.

She takes him upstairs and lays him on her knee.
The first thing she picked him was an apple - green as grass.
Then the next thing what she picked him was a cherry - as red as blood.

'Oh, if my mother was to come by this way,
Will you tell her I'm asleep.'

Although the supposed 12th-century murder of Hugh of Lincoln has been cited by some scholars as the origin of this ballad, it would seem more likely that it is, in fact, based on even earlier beliefs - mythological rather than historical. According to Chaucer:

O yonge Hugh of Lincoln - slayne also
With cursed Jewes, as it is notable,
For it is but a litel while ago -
Praye eek for us, we synful folk unstable.

The Prioress's Tale

Bernard Malamud rewrote the story in his novel The Fixer, and James Joyce included a short version of the ballad in his book Ulysses.

The ballad has remained popular with Gypsies in Britain - Child included a set collected by Francis Groome, a Victorian gypsiologist - an ironic fact when one considers that this is a ballad concerning the persecution of the Jews, here being sung by a Gypsy, some 2 million of whom died alongside 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany.  In several American sets the murderer is shown to be a Gypsy - a reflection there of the prejudice that is inherent in so many societies.

Other recordings: Margaret Stewart (Scotland) - Greentrax CDTRAX 9005; Cecilia Costello (Birmingham) - Rounder CD 1776; Viola Cole (Virginia) - Musical  Traditions MTCD321-2; Ollie Gilbert (Arkansas) - Rounder CD 1707; Nelstone's Hawaiians - Smithsonian Folkways - SFW CD 40090.

21 - The Farmer of Cheshire (Roud 2638, Laws L2, Sharp 208)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Now there was an old farmer from Cheshire,
To market his daughter did go.
Thinking nobody would harm her,
As she oftime rode that road before.

She met with two nasty highwaymen.
Two pistols they point[ed] in her face.
'Now hand me over your money and clothing
Or else you will die in disgrace'.

Now while they was searching her clothing,
They give her the reins for to hold.
She put her left feet in a stirrup
And she mounted her horse like a man.

Over hedges and ditches she gallop,
She [said], 'Catch me you rogues, if you can'.
Over hedges and ditches she gallop,
She said, 'You brutes, you have done me no wrong'.

She puts the grey mare in the stable,
She spreads that white sheet on the floor.
She counted her money twice over,
Not one penny of it was gone.

She [says], 'Father, dear father, dear father,
Bad news to you I've to tell.
I met with some nasty highwaymen,
But the brutes they have done me no wrong.'

The Farmer of Cheshire, in common with another ballad The Boy and the Highwayman, is related to the ballad of The Crafty Farmer (Child 283) in which a farmer outwits a would-be robber. Mary's versions fails to explain that the girl escapes on the robber's horse, which carries a saddlebag of money previously stolen by the robbers.  Most versions of Mary's song employ a 17th century tune, The Rant which was also known as Give Ear to a Frolicksome Ditty, a tune that is also found with some versions of both The Boy and the Highwayman and The Crafty Farmer.

The Farmer of Cheshire is widespread within the English Gypsy community and it has been suggested (by Sam Richards) that the girl's actions reinforce the traveller's own attitudes to a somewhat hostile world.

Other recordings: Pop Maynard (Sussex) - Musical Traditions MTCD400-1; Wiggie Smith (Gloucestershire) - Musical Traditions MTCD307; Jimmy McBeath (Scotland) - Musical Traditions MTCD311-2; Charlie Stringer (Suffolk) - Veteran VTC2CD; Harry Green (Essex) - Veteran VT135; Packie Manus Byrne (Donegal) - Veteran VT132CD; Alec Bloomfield (Suffolk) - Veteran VT140CD.

22 - Ripest Apples (Roud 146, Sharp 113)
Sung by Joe Jones, St Mary Cray, Kent.

'Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I've come to court you,
It's your favour I might gain.
Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I've come to court you,
But if your answer's yes or no.'

'Pretty maiden, pretty maiden, I have gold, I've silver.'
'What cares I for your house and land?
For it's what cares I for the world of pleasure?
But all I wants is an honest young man.'

Spoken: Listen then...

'For it's apples is ripe, but they soon gets rotten.
A young man's love that soon grows cold.
For it's what cares I for the world of pleasure?
But all I wants is an honest young man.'

Cecil Sharp linked this fragmentary song with another, titled Twenty, Eighteen, that had been collected by Lucy Broadwood (English County Songs 1893. p.90), and falls within the Oh, no John family.  A version that I recorded from the late Mabs Hall of Sussex includes the Twenty, Eighteen verse (see the Veteran cassette Ripest Apples - VT107), and George Townshend (Sussex) also sings it on Musical Traditions MT CD 304.

23 - Pepper and Salt
Told by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

There was a little girl called Pepper...and the other one was called Salt...but I don't know what the other one's name was.  Granny used to tell me. And this little girl named Pepper, she was unruly, her mother couldn't do a thing with her.  But her father, everything her mother done, she would split on and tell her father what had happened.  So, her father come home this day and found her missing.  So he inquired and inquired for...and asked his wife, where'd she gone, and she said, 'I don't know where she's gone' she said.  'She's around here somewhere.'  But, anyhow, it went one for days and months and weeks, and put 'er in the policeman's hands and all that, and couldn't find her and didn't hear nothing of her.  Well, this man was laying his bed, this thought kept coming in his mind...about the stone...go and look for the stones...and then one night he had this vision come to him, like, er, he could hear this voice,

'My mother killed me.
My mother picked my bones,
Laid me underneath cold marble stones.'

So...then the thought kept coming back in his head about these stones, so he thought, well, I'll go and have a look, he kept going all round these places looking at these stones and seeing where there was anything...and, suddenly, he found these stones, a heap of stones, and underneath this pile of stones there was a little girl...the woman had killed her and cut her up in pieces and put her under a box and put her down in this...bottom of these stones...covered these big stones over, marble stones.  So. I'm not sure who went for the policeman, but the policeman come there on the horseback, the old policeman, and when he got there he was going to arrest the woman, like, but before he could arrest the woman the man run and stabbed her two or three times with a knife and killed her.  And then they hung the man on the gibbet.

24 - Waxy Candles
Told by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

There was a woman and man had three or four children, and she sent this little girl to shop one day...after some waxy candles.  And, er, this little girl went to shop...after the waxy candles...and on the way back down through this big, old wood she was coming, she met with an old wolf...and the old wolf took these candles away from her and scared the life out of her and broke all these candles up in little bits and she come home crying.  She didn't know what to do, or what to say, you know, to her mother and, er, the father...he give the woman a good hiding for sending the child in the first place, you see, and then, over him beating this woman over this girl, when this man went to work the next day she thought, 'Oh, I know what I'll do.'  She killed this little girl and cut her all up in bits and put her in the pot and made a stew with her.  So when this man come home for his tea, she said, 'Here you are,' she said. 'There's your tea.  I made some soup.'  So she give him this bowl of soup, set it on the table in front of him, and, er, she's sitting there, she ain't eating nothing, and don't want nothing to eat, and she said., 'The others have had theirs.'  And she said, 'They've all gone to bed.  You see, children.'  So...this man could hear a voice come in his head, 'Don't do it, father.  Don't do it. Don't touch it.  Go and look in the pot.'  And when he went and looked in the pot he could see all these bits and pieces there from this little girl...what she'd've put it there.  So...he never ate it.  He beat this woman again, he tried to kill her in his way, like.  Man didn't know what to do, he was going mad.  So, er...after a few months went by, as the time went along, it wore off sort of thing, d'you know, he was trying to forgive the woman for what she'd had done...and trying to make things right again between 'em.  And...this little girl still kept coming in his mind.  But, as it went on, the Christmas come and they were all sitting round the fire...and the voice come down the

'Sister, sister look up the chimney pot,
See what I've got for yer.'

Big load of toys in a, in a bag, and dolls and things for the little girl.

'Father, father look up the chimney pot,
See what I've got for yer.'

Big gold watch and chain...and, things for Christmas.

'Mother, mother look up the chimney pots,
See what I've got for yer.'

She looked up the chimney pot, a spear went right down through her...her breast, right out through to her back.  Killed her.

Aarne-Thompson Type 720.  Although Jasper Smith regarded Pepper and Salt and Waxy Candles as two separate stories, they are, in fact, part of the same tale, one in which the spirit of a murdered girl returns to seek revenge for her death.  I think that Jasper believed Pepper and Salt to be a 'real' story - one based on an actual murder- whereas Waxy Candles was a 'made-up' story, i.e. a fairytale.  The Brothers Grimm called it The Juniper Tree, while the Stewarts of Blair call it Appley and Orangey (see MacColl & Seeger Till Doomsday in the Afternoon 1986, pp.77-80).  Other Scottish storytellers call it The Milk-White Doo (see Neil Phillip The Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales 1995, pp. 10 - 12).

Other recordings: Sheila Stewart (Perth) - Offspring OFFCD00101.

25 - There'll Come a Time Someday
Played on the mouthorgan by Bill Ellson, near Edenbridge, Kent.

Written (words & music) by the American Charles K Harris in 1895. The sheet music, bearing the legend, 'Sung with Unbounded Success by James Norrie' (Norrie being an English Music Hall singer) was printed in London in the same year.  A couple of classic old-timey performances, by Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers (1926) and Ernest Stoneman & His Dixie Mountaineers (1928), have been reissued on County CDs - 3508 and 3510 respectively.

26 - Cruel Slavery Days (Roud 12897)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

I'm getting old and feeble and I cannot work no more,
And I'm resting down the lane, by the side.
But through sickness and through sorrows,
We're going to tie both hands tomorrow.
In these haggard [?] nights and these cruel slavery days.

Will they ever come again?
To bring me back all praise [pain?]
I look from where my little children play.
Oh, but every night and morn,
Don't I cry for them 'ats gone,
In these haggard nights and cruel slavery days.

I'll tell the worst of all, they stoled away my joy,
I rocked him in the cradle by the fire.
Oh, they [ripped?] me boy apart,
Where the dogs don't dare to bark,
In these haggard nights and cruel slavery days.

Will they ever come again?
To bring me back all praise
I look from where my little children play.
But in those cotton fields far away,
All my thoughts did fondly strays,
To them haggard nights and cruel slavery days.
If they sell us slaves tomorrow, and old cottons to be [?]
And my darling wife, she worked hard by my side.
Now they'll drift us both apart, where the dogs don't dare to bark,
In these haggard nights and these cruel slavery days.

An American song written c.1876 by Ed Harrigan (words) and Dave Braham (music).  It appeared in a number of American songsters, including Jakey Wolfingstein Songster, Larry Tooley's Turn Down Your Collar Songster, Braham's Vocal Character Sketch Songster, Sam Martin's One Legged Soldier Songster and Pretty Waiter Girl Songster (all 1876), Johnny Roach's Best Songster (1877) and Johnny Patterson's Great London Circus Songster (1878).  The latter title may suggest that the song had been taken to England by American singers; certainly, Alfred Williams found a version in Culham, Oxfordshire.  Fields Ward & The Grayson County Railsplitters, a stringband from Virginia, recorded the song in 1929, although this recording remained unissued until the 1960s (Historical LP BC-2433).

27 - The Bloke You Don't Meet Every Day (Roud 975)
Sung by Lena Jones, St Mary Cray, Kent.

I have landed from Liverpool,
And, oh, what a sight.
And the sight that I gaze on the shore.
There was young William Whyte,
And [?]
[?] and one or two more.

So, fill up your glasses,
And have what you choose.
What is ever the damage I'll pay.
You'll be easy and free,
While you're drinking with me.
I'm the bloke you don't meet every day.

So, we all burst out laughing,
And, oh, what a sight.
And the sight that I gazed on the shore.
There was young Willie Whyte,
And [?]
[?] and one or two more.

So, full up your glasses,
And have what you choose.
What is ever the damage I'll pay.
You'll be easy and free,
While you're drinking with me.
I'm the chap you don't see every day.
A song from the Irish Music Hall.  It has been collected all over the place - Vance Randolph found it in the Ozarks, Edith Fowke collected versions in Canada, while John Meredith heard it being sung in Australia.  It was also one of the songs that Nick & Mally Dow collected from the Dorset singer Bill House, whose father gave songs to the Edwardian collectors Robert & Henry Hammond.  Amy Ford, Ruby Ling and Douglas Dowdy were also collected singing it in England.  Scottish singers call it Jock Stewart and the Stewart Family of Blairgowrie tell of finding the words to the song in their letterbox when they returned home from shopping one day.  The unknown writer stated that it had been written for Alex Stewart; in a sense the song had been written for Alex, who really was 'A man you don't meet every day', but he was not the 'original man' of the song.  In 1985 the Pogues included a version of the song on their album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

Other recordings: Sheila Stewart (Perthshire) - Offspring OFFCD00101 (under the title Jock Stewart).

28 - The Sailor Boy (Roud 387, Henry H79, MS 31, Sharp 126)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

I am a young woman, lately fell in love,
I've been courted by a rating and [dainty?] young man.
I've been courted by night, dear, from nine [noon?] and day,
Oh, now for a sailor my love's gone away.

So if I was a blackbird, I would whistle and sing,
I'd fly to that rigging, to the ship he went in.
And on the top of his rigging I would build my nest,
I'd sit there all night, love, on his lily-white breast.

And if I was a scholar I could handle my pen,
One private letter to  my truelove I'd send.
And while I was writing, I would crown it with joy,
I'll kiss his sweet lips, oh, my bold sailor boy.

So if I was a blackbird, I would whistle and sing,
I'd fly to that ship, dear, where his ship it sailed in.
In the top of that rigging I would build my nest,
I'd sit there all night, love, on his lily-white breast.

So if I was to meet him, I would crown him with joy,
I'd kiss them sweet lips, oh, my bold sailor boy.

Mary called this either The Sailor Boy or The Bold Sailor Boy.  It was a family song, from one of her grandmothers, and she believed that the song If I were a Blackbird, with its verse about 'Donnybrook Fair', was a later, and different, piece.  And, she may well have been right, because most singers these days seem to have been influenced by the 1930s recording of the song by the singer Delia Murphy, which was often played on the radio (as was Ronnie Ronalde's '50s recording).  Some commentators have described If I were a Blackbird as a song composed of 'floating' verses, although most collected sets seem to be quite similar, a fact that suggests broadside origins.  The song does not appear to have been popular in America (only two examples in Roud), though several of the verses associated with it do turn up in any number of Appalachian songs, such as Pretty Saro, The Turtle Dove, The Wagoner's Lad and Little Sparrow.

Other recordings. Walter Pardon (Norfolk) - Musical Traditions MTCD305-6. Diddy Cook (Suffolk) - Topic TSCD665 &  Veteran VT140CD.

29 - Shooting Spark's Cocks Up (Roud 902)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

As you've asked me for to sing I'd best to start at once,
I'll tell you how I got three year, and me mate he got six months.
If Joe he'd never runned away we'd wouldn't not been taken,
But he gave away to the b[r]eak away, that's where he were mistaken.

With your row, dow, dow.
Fol the diddle laddy,
With your row, dow, dow.

Now Joe he looked around to me, he says, 'We're in a muddle.'
He give away to the b[r]eak away, and he left me to the battle.
But Joe he looked around to me, he said that we'll be knowing.
For shooting Spark's cocks up, boy, in a place we knowed was narkry.

Now when they got us to the stir they set us grinding flour.
It was just like pumping water, boys, right from some lawfully [lofty?] tower.
But Joe he looked around to me, he says, 'We're in a muddle.
That is all as we've got to think about was the wives and little children'.

Now as I've had this half of beer it's made me feel so merry.
Cause poor old Joe don't come out of stir for the second of January.
But if Joe he'd never runned away we'd wouldn't not been taken,
But he gave away to the b[r]eak away, that's where he were mistaken.

narkry =  annoying/'iffy' (Cockney origin)   stir = jail (mid-19th century origin)

Better known as Shooting Goshen's Cock-Ups, the incident happened on the Goshen Estate near New Addington in Surrey, and the song was composed by Fred Holman, of Tatsfield in Surrey; who also wrote the song Patsy Flanaghan (Roud 16632), both of which Pop Maynard used to sing (Musical Traditions MTCD309-10).  The tune comes from an earlier song, Bow, Wow, Wow or The Barking Barber, which was popular in the 1780s.  It was sufficiently well-known to be parodied in Alice in Wonderland.

Fred Holman would write out the words for the price of a pint - so, obviously, the song developed over time.  Here's a 'complete' version of his text:

Oh if you'll listen for a while, a story I will tell you,
And if you don't attention pay, I'm sure I can't compel you,
But since you've asked me for to sing I'd better start at once
And tell you how I got six weeks and my mate got two months.

With me row dow, dow, dow,
Fol de riddle oddy,
With me row dow, dow.

It happened on one Monday night; myself, two more, and Clarky,
Went out a-pheasant shooting in a place we knew was narky;*

Three keepers rushed upon the spot when the guns began to rattle,
And my two mates they done a bunk and left us to the battle.

We tried our best to get away, but vain was our endeavour,
We should not have been taken if we had all stuck together,
But me and Clark was captured and taken to the lock-up,
And charged before the magistrate for shooting Goshen's cocks up.*

At ten o'clock next morning to the Town Hall we was taken;
We thought our case could settled be, but we was quite mistaken;
We was put back upon remand 'til the fourteenth of November,
And if you read the Croydon Times, I'm sure you will remember.

When our remand was at an end, for Croydon we came steering,
And soon before the magistrate we stood to have our hearing;
Our case it was so very clear, it did not want much trying,
When our time it was knocked down to us, our wives they started crying.

Now we asked them to propose a fine, but that they would not sanction,
Then soon we knew our residence would be in a public mansion;
The magistrates to me I'll own, they acted like a neighbour,
They let me off with six weeks, but give Clark two months' hard labour.

At four o'clock that afternoon for Wandsworth Jail we started,
Our friends were there to see us off, they all seemed broken-hearted;
Whilst rattling up to Wandsworth Jail our minds seemed to bewildering
About our future station and our wives and little children.

At Holloway our clothes were searched and everything was taken
Away from us, the warders thought, but they were quite mistaken,
For as I paced my lonely cell, I couldn't help but smile,
To think I had deceived 'em; I'd got baccy all the while.

Now the first four weeks I was in jail they put me grinding flour,
Likewise a-pumping water, boys, into a lofty tower;
My strength it quickly did decrease; I thought it rather cruel,
To make a man work hard all day on brown bread water gruel.

Now the twenty-fourth of December, my time it did expire;
When I got out I had some scran, that's what I did require,
And when I'd had a drink of beer, I really felt quite merry,
To think my mate he don't come out 'til the middle of January!

* narky - having narks (keepers) there.
* cocks up - almost always sung as cock-ups.

Other recordings: Pop Maynard (Sussex) - Musical Traditions MTCD400-1.

30 - Erin's Lovely Home (Roud 1427, Laws M6, GD 1098, Henry H46, MS 77, Sharp 85)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

When I was young and in my prime, my age was twenty-one,
When I become a servant, unto a gentleman.
Oh, I served him true and honestly, and very well he did know,
But cruelly he did banish me from my Erin's lovely home.

Now the reason why he banished me sure I mean to let you know,
I owned I loved his daughter, and she loved me also.
She had a heavy fortune, and riches I had none;
But cruelly he did banish me from my Erin's lovely home.

It was in her father's garden, it was in the month of May,
A-viewing all those pretty flowers, all in their rightful bloom.
Oh, she said, 'My dearest William, if along with me we'll go,
And we'll bid adieu to all my friends, and my Erin's lovely home.'

Oh, the very same night she give consent all along with me to go,
And a-parting from her dwelling home it grieved my overthrow.
Ten thousand pounds she did lay down, saying, 'This shall be your own;
And we'll never mourn for those we've left in our Erin's lovely home.'

Oh, when I got to Belfast town, it was in the break of day.
My true love she'd got ready, the words to me did say.
'Oh John, my dear, bear up your heart, for you I'll never disown,
Until I see your face again in my Erin's lovely home.'

Oh, just a few hours after, her father did appear,
And he marched me back to Coman jail in the County of Traleer.
She said, 'My darl-est William, for you I'll never disown,
Until I see your face again in my Erin's lovely home.

Clearly a once-popular song (there are 14 versions in the Greig/Duncan collection, for example, and a total of 82 in Roud), it was published by a number of English broadside printers, including James Catnach (c.1820) and his successor Annie Ryle.

Other recordings: Dan McGonigle (Isle of Doagh) - Inishowen Traditional Singers' cassette ITSC 001.

31 - Swinging Down the Lane (Roud 2870)
Sung by Chris Willett, Paddock Wood, Kent.

Oh, boys and girls would oftimes go,
A-fishing in the brooks.
With bits of thread for fishing line,
And bended pins for hooks.
Now I've oftimes wished,
And thought of things.
Such tricks we used to play.
I'd rather go with Rosy Nell,
A-swinging down the lane.

But yet I'd give the world to see,
Those sweet days again.
Upon each other's violet-top,
To pass the time away.
But I've oftimes wished,
And thought of things.
But I've only wished in vain.
I'd rather go with Rosy Nell,
A-swinging down the lane.

Now boys and girls, take my advice,
And keep it while you can.
Never roam the streets at night,
Or else you'll be like me.
For the girls they are deceitful,
And the boys they are so gay.
They'll serve you as they serv-ed me,
While swinging down the lane.

Another American song, originally titled Swinging in the Lane, written in 1864 by one Charles Carroll Sawyer (although it was also assigned to 'White and Kamplain' in 1868).  It was recorded by a number of American stringbands in the 1920s and '30s, though only the version recorded in 1930 by Vernon Dalhart, using the alias 'Mack Allen', was issued in Britain (Regal MR23).  This is the only example among Roud's 24 instances of it appearing in the British oral tradition.

32 - Long a-Growing (Roud 31, Laws O35, GD 1222, MS 23, Sharp 54)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Oh, the trees they did grow high
And the leaves they did grow green.
There's years have gone and past, my love,
What you and I have seen.
Many a cold and winter's night
You and I have laid alone.
But our bonny boy is young And he's growing.

'Oh, father, dearest father,
Now to me much harm you have done.
You have married me to a young youth;
You knew he were too young.'
'Oh, daughter, dearest daughter,
If you'll only wait for a while,
I will send him to a college while he's growing.'

'I will send him to a college, say,
For one year or two,
And perhaps all in the time, my love,
He may then be for you.
For, a bunch of blue ribbons
We'll tie around his bonny waist.
That will let the ladies know that he's married.'

Oh, I looked over the college wall
And there I see them all.
Five and twenty gentlemen
Was playing bat and ball.
Oh, I looked round to him,
He was the smallest one of all.
So I thought he was a long time a-growing.

I'm going to make my love a stroud [shroud]
Of the best of Holland's brown,
And all the time I'm making it
The tears they will come down.
Saying, 'Once I had a sweetheart
And now I ain't a-got none.'
But his bonny boy is young and he's growing.
At the age of twenty he was a married man.
At the age of twenty-one
The grass grew over his tombstone.
At the age of twenty-one now
The grass grows over his tombstone.
So that cruel death had put an end to his growing.

One of the ballads that Professor Child failed to include in his major work.  A L Lloyd, and others, have suggested a connection between the song and the marriage in 1631 of the juvenile Lord of Craigton to a girl some years his senior.  But such marriages, often formed to consolidate family alliances, were not uncommon.  For example, Prince Arthur, the first-born son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York died aged 15, shortly after marrying Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.  The song has proven highly popular with singers and versions, similar to that sung by Mary, have turned up all over the place.

Other recordings: Tom Lenihan (County Clare) - cassette accompanying The Mount Callan Garland by Tom Munnelly (Dublin, 1994); George Dunn (Staffordshire) - Musical Traditions MTCD317-8; Walter Pardon (Norfolk) - Topic TSCD514; Harry Cox (Norfolk) - Rounder 1839; Lizzy Higgins (Aberdeen) - Topic TSCD667; Fred Jordan (Shropshire) - Topic TSCD653; Mary Townsley (Dundee) - Smithsonian-Folkways SFW CD 40091; Joe Heaney Connemara) - Topic TSCD518D.

33 - You Subjects of England (William Taylor) (Roud 851)
Sung by Jasper Smith, Epsom, Surrey.

Come all you young subjects, and listen a-while,
Now a story I will tell you, I'm sure that you'll smile.
We'll go to some cover where there's luck for us all,
Our guns they will rattle and pheasants will fall.

Now we haven't been in there not a scarce half-an-hour,
Oh, the woods they were mine, soon them keepers drawed near.
But it's just like Young Taylor, that's my time to call,
Before I would round, I would die for you all.

Now the woods they were mine, and the keepers also,
As we fell [?] through those covers some winters ago.
But it's just like Young Taylor, that's my time to call,
Our guns they did rattle and pheasants did fall.

Of all poaching songs known to southern English Gypsies, none has proved so popular as this ballad of William Taylor - and yet, very few have sung it to collectors.  Structurally, the song is based on The King and the Keeper (see track 4) and many Gypsies who know William Taylor also know part, if not all, of the older ballad.  In complete sets, Young Taylor is caught by the keepers, but at his trial he refuses to lay information against his mates, hence the line, "Before I would round, I would die for you all."  Philip Donnellan recorded it for the BBC from Sam Larner in 1958, and both Bob Hart and George Dunn had it in their repertoires.

Other recordings: Pop Maynard (Sussex) - Musical Traditions MTCD309-10 and MTCD400-1.

34 - Toasts,  Riddle, The Bold Reynolds (Roud 358 or 1868, Sharp 268)
Toasts told by Joe and Lena Jones, St Mary Cray, Kent.  Riddle told by Joe Jones, St Mary Cray, Kent.  The Bold Reynolds (2 versions, recorded on different occasions) sung by Joe Jones, St Mary Cray, Kent.

[i] Lending and spending and giving away,
Is the three easiest things you can do on a day.
But working and [labouring?] and earning your own
Is the three hardest things that ever was known.
Here's to the man that's industrious,
Here's to the man that works hard for his brass
And never denies his own country.
The world is round and so is the wheel
The sting of death we all must feel.
If life was a thing that money would buy,
The rich would live and the poor would die.

[ii] The little bee's [up?] aloft,
A-making the little honey,
The soldiers do the dirty-work,
And the bookies get your money!

[iii] Here's good luck to a man who has got a wife,
Who's got a torn coat, he's got no wife to mend it.
[Shall I say the word right out...?]
But damn and bugger a man who has got a shilling,
And he's got no heart to spend it.

The big bee flies high, the small one gives the honey,
The poor man gives all the hard work,
While the rich man pockets the money. Hear, Hear!

[iv] Upright and down straight,
Nine and five makes eight.

M.Y: How?

J.J: Two half-a-crown pieces makes five shillings, and nine fourpenny pieces is three bob ... must be eight shillings.

[v] Oh when we do catch the bold Reynolds,
Back to the Dolphin we'll go back and dine.
We'll dip his front pad in the grog, boys,
And we'll drink the Lord's health out in wine.

Overtaking the way did we follow,
Overtaking away they did cry.
Oh pardon, oh pardon, the huntsmen and hounds
Through this dreadful wound we should die.

[vi] Oh when we do catch the bold Reynolds,
Back to the Dolphin we'll go back and dine.
We'll dip his front pad in the grog, boys,
We'll drink the Lord's health out in wine.

They hunted him through Stonymoor fields,
And the keeper shot him to his side.
Oh, pardon, oh, pardon, the huntsman and hounds
For with this dreadful wound I should die.

Joe's riddle, Upright and down straight, presumably predates 1855, when the fourpenny piece (also known as a groat) ceased to be legal tender.

The Bold Reynolds (Reynard in most other versions) is unusual, in that the story is told from the fox's point of view.  John Pitts issued it c.1820 as The Fox (illustrated with a woodcut of a rabbit, or, possibly, a hare!) and Alfred Williams found it being sung at Thames Valley Hunt Suppers prior to the Great War.  William Barrett included a set in his English Folk Songs (1891) and Cecil Sharp later noted the song (in Devonshire and Somerset) on a couple of occasions.  Joe's tune, of Irish origin, has also been used for the  song The Aghalee Heroes (Topic TSCD658).

The Pitts text is as follows:

Most Gentlemen take delight,
In hunting bold Reynard the fox,
Near to Gaffer Gilding I lay,
I fed upon fat geese and ducks.

'Tis near to Gaffer Gilding I lay,
Not thinking so soon I should die,
I was chased by a fresh pack of hounds,
'Caus'd me from my country to fly.

Lord Jones for the king's hounds did send,
Jerry Balsam he swore I should die,
I have left young brothers behind me,
That love young lambs better than I.

'Tis over Stony fields where I rambled,
Where the blood thirsty hounds did follow.
They made my old coat stand an [sic] end
For to hear how the huntsman did hollow.

Oft times I have been surprised,
By dogs that could run like a cow.
But in all the whole course of my life,
I was never out of breath till now.

Full forty miles have I run,
I have run them in three hours space;
O pardon dear huntsmen and hounds,
So boldly I follow'd the chase.

As by Simon Stuart's I ran,
There the game keeper shot thro' my thigh.
O pardon, dear huntsman and hounds,
By this fatal wound I shall die.

It was in Stone fields they kill'd me,
Where the blood thirsty hounds did me follow.
They tore my old jacket to pieces
And there the huntsman's loud halloo.

But since old Reynard you have kill'd
You may go to the Dolphin and dine.
And put his fore paw in a bumper
And drink my Lord's health in good wine.

Other recordings: for Toasts, see Harry Cox (Norfolk) - Rounder CD 1839 (track 20).

35 - Lord Bateman (Roud 40, Child 53, GD 1023, MS 8, Sharp 9, Sh App 13)
Sung by Alice Penfold, Sussex.

Lord Bateman was a noble fellow,
And a noble fellow we'll all agree.
For it's he was bound in iron so strong,
Until his life was a misery.

Say, 'I have houses and I have land.
Three parts of Northumberland belongs to me.
But I'll free-ly give it, oh, to any young lady,
If out of prison she'll set me free.'

Now this bailiff had one only daughter,
One only daughter, we'll all agree.
For she stole the keys of her father's prison,
And she swor'd Lord Bateman she would set free.

She took him down to her father's parlour,
They drank many a bottle of the best of wine.
And it's every time that she emptied her glasses,
She wished in her heart, 'Lord Bateman were mine.'

Now she pack-ed up all her gay clothing,
And she swor'd Lord Bateman she would go and find.
It's when she got to Lord Bateman's castle,
Saying, 'Is this the Lord? Oh, is he inn?'
'Oh, yes fair maiden, but you cannot see him,
As he's just taken one of his new brides in.'

'Go and tell [him] to send some of his bread,
Likewise a bottle of the best of wine.
Never to forget, oh, the fair young lady,
Who did set him free when he were close confined.'

Now away and away went this young porter,
And away and away, and away went he.
Until he got to Lord Bateman's parlour,
Then down on his knees, oh, did he bow.

'Rise up rise up, my own young porter.
And tell me true what you have to say.'
'Oh, it's yonder's hills there stands a lady.
She's about the fairest lady, as ever me eyes did see.'

'She tells you to send some of your bread,
Likewise a bottle of the best of wine.
Never to forget, oh, that fair young lady,
Who did set you free when you were close confine.'

Oh, it's then Lord Bateman fell in a passage [passion?]
And his sword he broke into splinters three.
Say, 'I'll free-ly part, oh, from all my riches,
If that's a fact she have crossed the sea.'

Now, it's wasn't Lord Bateman a noble fellow,
For he wed two brides all in one day.

Once an extremely popular ballad; Cecil Sharp said that most singers knew at least a verse or two of it, and Roud has 517 instances listed.  Past scholars have suggested a connection between the ballad's story line and the life of Gilbert Beket, father of St Thomas.  According to Professor Child, 'That our ballad has been affected by the legend of Gilbert Beket is altogether likely.  The name Beckie (found in some versions of the ballad) is very close to Becket.'  Child gives similar versions from Scandinavia (Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, the Faroes and Norway), Spain & Italy.  He also mentions that the story is an inverted version of another ballad, Hind Horn (Child 17).  In Britain, the earliest known versions of the ballad date from the mid-18th century, and its popularity was maintained throughout the19th century in chapbooks and on broadsides.  Some people have linked the story with the later song The Turkish Lady, a version of which is sung by Harry Cox (Norfolk) on his Rounder CD 1839, although this seems unlikely.

Other recordings: Wiggy & Denny Smith (Gloucestershire) - Musical Traditions MTCD307; Campbell MacLean & Bella Higgins (Perthshire) - Greentrax CD 9005; Jeannie Robertson (Aberdeen) & Thomas Moran (Leitrim) - Rounder CD 1775; Roby Monroe Hicks (North Carolina) - Appleseed CD 1035; Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander (Virginia) - Musical Traditions MTCD321-2; Joseph Taylor (Lincolnshire) - Topic TSCD600.

36 - Lovely Johnny (Roud 5168)
Sung by Mary Ann Haynes, Brighton.

Oh, the first time we met, was in a dark wood,
With the pinks and wild roses, round and round us it stood.
When you pulled off your apron, shaded me from all wind.
Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, now what havealtered your mind?

Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, can you remember the time?
When you pulled off your apron, you shaded me from all winds.
When you promised you'd marry me, among all women fine.
Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, now what have altered your mind?

This short fragment, almost certainly from Ireland, is similar to a verse in the song Lovely Nancy that Sam Henry collected in 1936 (H.637).  The late Paddy Tunney had a somewhat longer version.

Other recordings: Paddy Tunney (Fermanagh) - Topic TSCD665.

37 - Whistling Rufus / Brighton Camp
Jasper Smith (mouthorgan & vocal) & Derby Smith (guitar). Epsom, Surrey.

Oh, I slept all night in the tinker's arms,
The tinker put his arms around me.
Oh, there was folks and there was jokes,
And Paddy's lost his banjo.
I wouldn't part from my sweetheart
For tuppence half-penny farthing,
Another load of waggon-men
Get a bit of bread with the women.

Whistling Rufus was written by two Americans, W Murdock Lind (words) and Kerry Mill (music), in 1899.  It was recorded extensively, both in America and Britain, by various performers, including the banjo-player Vess L Ossman whose version became especially popular.

The tune Brighton Camp probably dates from the 18th century, when it was used as an army march.  Various sets of words, often scurrilous or obscene, were later added to the tune.

Other recordings: Ray Andrews (Bristol) - Musical Traditions MTCD314 (Whistling Rufus).

38 - Little Ball of Yarn (Roud 1404)
Sung by Mary Ann  Haynes, Brighton.

Now, was in the month of May
When the boys were making hay,
I rolled around my old grandfather's farm.
When I saw a dainty miss
And I asked her for a kiss.
Sure I didn't intend to do her any harm.
Now I said, 'My turtle-dove,
You're the only girl I love.
Now, I'll help to wind your little ball of yarn.'

Oh, we took a steady walk
All behind some lonesome bush,
And there I had my true-love in my arms.
I heard the blackbird tell the thrush,
He said, 'You are my turtle-dove.
Now, I have to twine your little ball of yarn.'

Oh, six long months did pass
And the three it come at last,
She had a dainty babe all in her arms.
'Oh,' I said, 'my little miss.
I did not expect this,
As I rolled you round my grandfather's farm.'

'Now,' I say, 'young girls of mine,
If you can work down on a farm,
Never trust a farmer as far as you can see.
Oh, look at the damage he have done to me,
Now I'm cuddling up his little ball of yarn.'

Still quite a popular song.  Little Ball of Yarn has caused all sorts of speculation as to the origin, and meaning, of its title.  Vance Randolph has suggested that the ball of yarn was possibly an early form of contraceptive (clearly inefficient in this case!), although most English singers would appear to disagree.  Randolph's version can be found in his book Roll Me In Your Arms - 'Unprintable' Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (Univ. Arkansas Press, 1992, pp.97-104.  There is also mention of the song in Texas and the Southern Melody Boys (Odus Maggard & Woodrow Roberts) recorded a version for Bluebird in 1937 (Bb B7057).  Interestingly, in America the song was copyrighted in 1884 to one Polly Holmes.  According to Steve Roud there are no known English broadsides of  the song, a fact which suggests a late date of composition.  Cecil Sharp collected a version in 1904 (the earliest known collected version - still unpublished) and it could well be that this version, along with all the subsequent collected versions, is based on what may have once been quite an innocent song in the eyes of Ms Holmes (if, indeed, she was the composer of the song).

Other recordings: Walter Pardon (Norfolk) - Musical Traditions MTCD305-6; Charlotte Renals (Cornwall) - Veteran VTC1CD; Gordon Woods (Suffolk) - Veteran VTC2CD.

39 - Will There Be any Travellers in Heaven? (Roud 5214)
Written and sung by Derby Smith, with his own guitar. Epsom, Surrey.

Tonight as I stay by the roadside,
Just watching those travellers go by,
Thinking, what will become of those travellers
Whenever their time comes to die.
There's a Master up yonder in Heaven
Got a place that we might call our home
But will we have to work for a living?
Or shall we continue to roam.

Will there be any travellers in Heaven?
Any places at which we might stay?
Will there be any gavvers or Councils
To move our old trailers away?
Will the gorgios join with those travellers?
Will we always have money to spare?
Will they have respect for those Gypsies
In a land that lies hidden up there?

Will there be any travellers in Heaven?
Any pubs where we might get some beer?
Will there be the same old landlords
Who say, 'Sorry. No Gypsies served here.'
Will the travellers have to keep roaming?
Will we have to keep roaming around?
I'm so tired of roaming this country
I'd rather be under the ground.

gavvers (or gaffers) = bosses, gorgios = non-Gypsies.

Derby wrote the words to this song after experiencing a lifetime of prejudice.  The tune comes from a 1932 Jimmy Rodger's song Hobo's Meditation (Victor 23711).


Firstly, and most importantly, to the singers and their families who sang to me so willingly.

To Cecily Taylor and Liz Reagan for help recording the Smith family.  Likewise to Ken Stubbs who accompanied me to record Bill Ellson and to Vic Smith, then of Brighton, who put me up whilst I recorded Mary Ann Haynes.  Jocelyn Aldous introduced me to several Kentish travellers, including Joe and Lena Jones.

Linguists Thomas Acton and Donald Kenrick helped with the Anglo-Romani texts and Sharon Floate and Keith Chandler provided background information on Alice Gillington.

The words to Derby Smith's song Will There be any Travellers in Heaven are his copyright.

Mike Yates - March 2003


All of the foregoing text was written by Mike Yates, who also made all the recordings and took all the superb photos.  My sincere thanks to Mike, and to everyone who has helped to make this project a reality …

Steve Roud - for providing MT with a copy of his Folk Song and Ballad Indexes, and allocating Roud numbers to songs new to the Indexes.

Malcolm Taylor at the VWML - for his usual unstinting assistance with any question we ask him.

Danny Stradling - for proof-reading and transcription checking.

Tim Normanton - for scanning the colour slides and monochrome negatives of Mike's photos; a technology which is currently beyond me.

Clare Gilliam and the NSA - the complete Yates Collection of original recordings are now housed in the National Sound Archive at the British Library. All the recordings used here, bar one, are taken from digital transfers of those originals, done by Clare at the NSA and funded by the National Folk Music Fund.

Booklet: editing, DTP, printing, and CD: formatting, digital editing, sound restoration, production - by Rod Stradling.

A Musical Traditions Records production © 2003

Article MT124

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Gypsies and their songs] [The Singers]
[The Songs and Music] [Acknowledgements]

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