Article MT132


Country Songs and Music

Musical Traditions Records' third CD release of 2003: Oak - Country Songs and Music (MTCD327-8), 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] [Appreciations] [Introduction] [The Songs and Music] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

Track Lists:

CD One
1 -Thousands or More2:40
2 -Bob Cann's Barndance / Hilligo Filligo2:12
3 -Roving Round County Tyrone (Peta)2:56
4 -Rose of Allandale4:33
5 -Australia (Rod)2:19
6 -Bluebell Polka1:58
7 -Bonny Hawthorn2:56
8 -False, False (Danny)1:52
9 -Cupid's Garden (Tony and Peta)2:42
10 -Nutley Waltz / Faithful Sailor Boy5:55
11 -Caning Girl (Tony) 2:23
12 -Scarlet and the Blue3:03
13 -Lovely Banks of Lea (Peta)5:05
14 -Lass of Newcastle Town3:38
15 -Maggie (Danny)4:50
16 -Bunch of Thyme / Perfect Cure / Sweets of May5:14



CD Two

1 -Shepherds Arise3:08
2 -Steamboat Hornpipe / Speed the Plough2:32
3 -Lakes of Cold Flynn (Tony)3:04
4 -Genevieve3:07
5 -Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth2:25
6 -New Rigged Ship / Rig-a-Jig-Jig2:04
7 -Rambling Royal (Rod) 3:28
8 -Our Good Ship Lies in Harbour3:24
9 -Our Ship is Ready (Peta)4:38
10 -Scan's Polkas Nos 1 & 22:20
11 -Maggie May2:32
12 -Broomfield Wager3:53
13 -See Me Dance the Polka, Oh Joe (Oscar's)2:34
14 -The Old Rustic Bridge (Danny)4:43
15 -Young Ellender 3:12
16 -My Old Man / Tipperary / Troubles / Daisy / Dicky Bird / Hour3:40




‘How I found Oak and discovered The Copper Family’ could almost be the title of this brief appreciation. The slightly fuzzy years which I am told existed between the late ‘60s and early ‘70s found me making the acquaintance of one John Copper. Such was the degree of fuzziness that I was blissfully unaware of the major importance of his family's singing heritage. From the early ‘60s I'd been interested in folk music - or at least a version with which I was content, namely that bluesy stuff emanating from the USA. But this is about Oak; I'll come back to John in a moment.

The Lewes Arms folk club exposed me, an innocent sixth former, to a tradition right here in Olde Englande interpreted by many a revivalist singer who passed through those folk club doors accompanied by guitar, banjo or (occasionally) fiddle. In due course, the proprietor of our small local book and music store, himself a hangover from the beatnik era, replete with beard, duffle coat, sandals and CND badge, persuaded me to make purchases from the Topic catalogue. One particular recommendation was for a new album by a band called Oak - "You'll like it" he said "They're different". The first thing to strike me was the look of the album - sort of Edwardian modern with the pictures of the band in evocative monochrome. Looking refreshingly cool and hip; Rod was wearing sunglasses indoors for goodness sake!

Then the music. "What's this?" thinks I (always fairly slow, me) "They've credited their sources" - and whose name should run beside Shepherds Arise, Thousands or More and Cupid’s Garden, but the surname of my chum John Copper... and what a glorious sound they made. Up-tempo songs and tunes, some of them rather more 78rpm than the usual 33rpm speed of most revivalists I'd heard, and a dawning realisation that they'd actually bothered to return, where they could, directly to source material (written or living). Not an uncommon philosophy today, it made a startling difference back then. The point was that, having listened to and even played and sung with the original torch bearers and returned to vintage archive material, they took the music by the scruff of its neck and did it their way. Interestingly, this proved to be a natural progression and bore the all the hallmarks of authenticity. Rather than view our musical heritage like some poor dead butterfly pinned to a display board, beautiful but inert, they breathed some real life, fun and, where needed, pathos back into it. Just what the music had always been, but what it was in danger of losing.

The choice of repertoire on Welcome to Our Fair is memorable; naturally the Sussex content resonated with me. Having been lucky enough to have heard Scan Tester play, I feel they had the essence of his music in their style - spare, lively and true. Great singing too, I still remember Peta's version of Roving Round the County Tyrone as a haunting piece of work. It's unfair to single out individual tracks however, for it was in the inspired grouping of Stradlings, Webb and Engle that the band drew its life force. Instrumentally I am certainly ill-qualified to make any judgement, but it still sounds wonderfully exciting and fresh to me. Again, on both the solo and group tracks the voices - and particularly the changes in pace and rhythm of the songs - are what takes them away from what was standard fare at the time... Just listen to Thousands or More or Rose of Allendale and you'll see what I mean.

So it was Oak that really confirmed to me the importance and value of the tradition. That experience prompted me to start asking John Copper a little more about his family songs. He's been my brother-in-law now for the thick end of thirty years, as I eventually married his sister Jill. So thanks Oak; I owe you big-time!

Jon Dudley

In November 1970, I began to pay regular visits to a folk club in central London at the Roebuck in Tottenham Court Road. It was a folk club with a difference in that part of each evening would be taken up with dancing to the residents, Dingle’s Chillybom Band (led by John Kirkpatrick) and often the guest artists would provide something out of the rut - John Foreman memorably did an evening of London pub games. There was once even a film show. At the time I was a long-haired and quasi-rebellious youth and I had the feeling of something slipping in under the radar. One week, a quartet named Oak turned up and did a short floor spot. I now have no memory of exactly what they performed that night - probably an unaccompanied song and certainly a set of tunes and probably their set of polkas from Scan Tester - but I do remember liking it immediately, particularly the music. It was quite different from anything I had heard previously, although I could not, at the time, put my finger on exactly how and why. I became a fan and went to see them whenever they did a gig in London.

It was those Scan Tester polkas that really did it for me - two good memorable tunes played at a steady pace, in a clear, no-nonsense style with no frills - a concertina, a fiddle and a melodeon played with total concentration on the tune and the rhythm and accompanied by a gutsy tambourine. And here we have the difference. After years in the dark listening to a procession of EFDSS bands (and countless others) churning out Irish and American reels, in comes Oak and the light goes on! A totally different approach to playing dance music - rough and ready, cheap and cheerful, intensely rhythmic and, what’s more, comparatively slow. How could you dance to this? Of course you could and, after Oak, the follow-up bands, Webb’s Wonders and the Old Swan Band proved it a thousand times over. Hearing Oak live, and the ensuing Topic LP Welcome to Our Fair alerted us to the continued existence of English traditional music and, after the demise of the band, the four members have continued to poke around in the nooks and crannies of traditional music past and present.

Back to those Scan Tester polkas. It is interesting to note that, thirty years on, we now have easy access to recordings of Scan Tester himself playing the same tunes and that Oak’s versions of these tunes turn out to be significantly different from Mr Tester’s originals. Ah, that old folk process in action again! But it is a measure of Oak’s lasting influence that it is the band’s version of these tunes that is still played today, despite the efforts of myself and Will Duke to bring the originals back into the common repertoire. Oh, all right - the sleeve notes of their Topic album do state that they’ve changed the tunes a bit. The flavour of the tunes remains, even if some of the notes are in a different order. Following the issue of the LP, it was one of the first sets of tunes I learned when I started playing the melodeon and everyone I knew who was interested in this kind of music and who played an instrument had them in their repertoire.

To my knowledge, there was no-one publicly performing English country music and song in the English country style prior to Oak. They had met and played and sung with the likes of Scan Tester and Bob Hart and Percy Webb and absorbed songs, tunes and styles of singing and playing still alive and kicking in southern English pubs, and their straightforward, non-academic approach to the music was refreshing and hugely influential.

Dan Quinn


Oak were:

Tony Engle: voice, anglo concertina, fiddle, bones
Danny Stradling: voice, tambourine
Rod Stradling: voice, melodeons
Peta Webb: voice, fiddle

Rod and Danny, Peta and Tony first met during 1965-7 when Rod was running the Fighting Cocks folk club in Kingston, Surrey. In 1968 the Stradlings moved into Camden Town and soon became involved in running the King’s Head folk club in Islington. This had been started in response to the closure of The Fox (the legendary club run by Reg Hall and Bob Davenport (196?-68) which inspired so many young performers through its presentation of traditional singers and musicians) a few months before, and brought them into contact with most people in London interested in traditional song, music and dance, plus a good percentage of the similarly inclined visitors to the capital. It was probably the only club in southern England, at that time, to include social dancing as a regular part of the evening’s entertainment.

Both Tony and Peta also moved into North London at around this time, and the four became far more closely involved when they were all living in the same area. In 1970 Rod joined Tony in The Garland (replacing Mel Dean, who had been relocated out of the area by his job), and they even made an EP, on Vic Gammon’s Nebulous Records label.

During Danny’s prolonged stay in hospital during and after the birth of their son in October 1970, Rod found himself with a lot of free evenings, and spent many of them with Tony, often going to folk clubs and singing and playing as a duo. The response was so enthusiastic (they were in the right place at the right time?) that when Danny returned home with young Barnaby, they said “We’ve got a group - will you and Peta be in it too?”  Either Rod or Tony came up with the name Oak - and so began the most hectic two years of their lives!

By early 1971, Oak had performed in most of the folk clubs in and around London which were amenable to such material, and had been asked by Bill Leader to make an LP for his Trailer label. They were overjoyed at the prospect but, since Tony worked for Topic Records, he felt morally (and contracturally) obliged to offer the project to Topic first. It was to their considerable surprise that Bert Lloyd agreed to the idea. On May Day 1971, Oak recorded Welcome to our Fair at Livingstone Studios in Friern Barnet, with the legendary Nic Kinsey at the sound desk.

When the LP was released a couple of months later, the really hectic stuff started. Despite Danny having a young child to cope with - and Rod, Tony and Peta also having full-time jobs - Oak played 163 gigs in the 18 months between the record’s release and their final appearance in Walthamstow.

To step back a little; they had all been interested in listening to the traditional singers and players still active in those days and, during the previous two or three years, had spent many weekends in Suffolk, Sussex, Devon - meeting and playing along with the likes of Scan Tester, Oscar Woods, Bob Cann, and enjoying the company and singing of Phoebe Smith, Bob Hart, Turp Brown, Percy Webb, Alfie Ainger, the Copper Family, in addition to all those they had heard at the Fighting Cocks, The Fox and, later, at the King’s Head.

In the notes to Oak’s 1971 LP Welcome to our Fair, Bert Lloyd said that they wanted to perform ‘the kind of traditional song that, in the 20th century, countryfolk have liked to perform for themselves’, and implied that this was their rationale for selection of material. While there’s an element of truth in this, it’s probably more accurate to say that this was the sort of stuff they liked - and which was resonant with their own experience of being with these people - and that the ‘unusually clear idea of what they want to do’ was the later rationalisation of a required ‘mission statement’ for the record. But certainly, many of the tracks on the record came directly from people they had spent social evenings with.

This present pair of CDs contains all the songs and tunes from Welcome to our Fair - though in three cases the group felt that some live recordings available were better, or more interesting, than the studio ones, so these have been substituted. The live recordings heard here come from three different sources: Dennis Olding made recordings of Oak’s gig at Cheltenham Folk Club, at the Victory Club, 24th October 1971; Keith Summers made recordings of Oak at Benfleet Folk Club, The Hoy and Helmet, Benfleet, Essex, in 1972; and Alan White made recordings of Oak’s final gig at Walthamstow Folk Club, King William IV, 19th December 1972. Our thanks to all of them, and to Ken Langsbury for help in making the Cheltenham recordings available.

The Songs and Tunes:

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

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

Any Musical Traditions Records releases mentioned below are indicated only by their MTCD numbers, likewise Topic Records releases only by their TSCD numbers.

CD One:

1 - Thousands or More (Roud 1220)

The time passes over
More cheerful and gay,
Since we’ve learnt a new act
To drive sorrows away.
Sorrows away, sorrows away,
Sorrows away.
Since we’ve learnt a new act
To drive sorrows away.

Bright Phoebe awakes
So high up in the sky,
With her red, rosy cheeks
And her sparkling eye. 
Sparkling eye, sparkling eye,
Sparkling eye.
With her red, rosy cheeks
And her sparkling eye.

If you ask for my credit,
You’ll find I have none.
With me bottle and friend,
You will find me at home.
Find me at home, find me at home,
Find me at home.
With me bottle and friend,
You will find me at home.

Well, although I’m not rich
And although I’m not poor,
I’m as happy as those
That’s got thousands, or more.
Thousands or more, thousands or more,
Thousands or more.
I’m as happy as those
That’s got thousands, or more.

A song from the Copper Family of Peacehaven, Sussex. It seems to have been found in the oral tradition only in Sussex; George Townshend of East Chiltington used to sing it in harmony with his father - one of several songs they shared with the Coppers.

It was composed by Samuel Arnold, proprietor of the Marylebone Entertainment Gardens and founder of several London glee clubs at the turn of the 18th/19th centuries. It became popular with country singers in the mid-19th century when the choral society and part-singing club movement began to effect villages close to the towns.

2 - Bob Cann's Barndance / Hilligo Filligo

The first tune was probably learned from Bob himself, or from a tape of his playing. The second, had been absorbed by osmosis from the many EFDSS style bands who played at the PTA dances of our youth, and/or at folk festivals in the sixties.

3 - Roving Round the County Tyrone (Roud 1991) - Peta

Oh it’s as I was roving,
One fine summer’s morning,
I met an old man as he being walking along.
I asked him if he’d direct me
To where I’d get protection
And he told me to travel on to
Th’old County Tyrone.

Ah, but when it’s I got in to Newry
Well, it’s there I fell a-courting
With a handsome young fellow;
Had a wife of his own.
He said he would take me
And he’d never forsake me,
And after some time, we could get married,
Where there’s no-one to know.

Ah, but now from him I’m departed,
And it’s left me broken-hearted,
No-one for to talk to,
Or to call me their own.
For my father, he denies me
And my sisters, they criticise me,
And I wished I ne’er went roving
Round the County Tyrone.

Well, it’s now to make a finish;
My love’s name it is Maginnon.
I’ve travelled this wild world
Far over and o’er.
But I ne’er met a companion
Like that handsome young fellow
That’s first took me a-roving
Round the County Tyrone.

Peta learned this from the singing of Lal Smith, a northern Irish Traveller recorded in Belfast for the BBC by Peter Kennedy in 1952. The only other recording was that of Robert Cinnamond by Seán O’Boyle in 1955, also for the BBC. A fuller version variously known as Sweet Jane of Tyrone, Bold Maginnis of the County Tyrone, etc. turns up in several broadside collections. Lal Smith's version omits much of the narrative to focus on the troubled experience of the female narrator; as so often travellers do, she brings out the emotional content of the song.

4 - The Rose of Allandale (Roud 1218)

The morn was fair, the sky was clear,
No breath came over the sea,
When Mary left her highland home
And wandered forth with me.
Though flowers decked the mountainside
And fragrance filled the vale,
By far the sweetest flower there
Was the Rose of Allendale.

Sweet Rose of Allendale,
Sweet Rose of Allendale,
By far the sweetest flower there
Was the Rose of Allendale.

Where'er I wandered east or west,
Though fate began to lower,
A solace still was she to me
In sorrow's lonely hour.
When tempests lashed my lonely barque,
And rent the quivering sail
One maiden form withstood the storm,
'Twas the Rose of Allendale.


And when my fevered lips were parched
On Africa's burning sands,
She whispered hopes of happiness
And tales of distant lands.
My life had been a wilderness,
Unblessed by fortune's gales
Had fate not linked my lot to hers,
The Rose of Allendale.


The first appearance of the text of The Rose of Allandale is c.1835. The words are credited to Charles Jeffreys (1807-1865) and the tune to Sidney Nelson (1800-1862). Although Roud lists almost 100 instances of this song, the vast majority are broadside printings and it has rarely been found in the oral tradition. Henry Burstow (Sussex) had it in his book (Reminiscences of Horsham), and the Copper Family sang it - from where we learned it. Fred Jordan heard us do it, remembered a local choir singing it when he was a kid, and promptly added it to his repertoire.

5 - Australia (Roud 1488) - Rod

Come all you young fellows,
Wheresome’er you may be
And listen a while to my story.
For when I was a young man,
Me age seventeen,
I ought to been serving Victoria, our Queen.
But those hard-hearted judges,
Oh, how cruel they be
To send us poor young lads to Australia.

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

Where the judges, they stand,
With their whips in their hands,
They drive us, like horses,
To plough up the land.
You should see us poor young fellows,
Working in the jail yard;
Oh, how hard is the life in Australia.

Australia, Australia,
I would ne’er see thee more,
I’m worn out with fever,
Cast down to Death’s door.
But if I live to see, Say, seven years more,
I would then bid adieu to Australia.
I would then bid adieu to Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

6 - The Bluebell Polka

Jimy Shand’s greatest hit - but not as played here. Shand’s version, if started in the key of D, would progress to G for the second part and C for the third. Playing in C in a D/G melodeon was beyond the capacity of most revival players of the time, so the third part remained in the key of G - as played here. We probably learned it from Reg Hall in a session.

7 - The Bonny Hawthorn (Roud 9268)

One midsummer’s morn,
When all nature looked gay,
I met a lovely creature a-taking the air.
Oh, I said “Me lovely dear,
Come tell me where you dwell?”
“Beside the bonny hawthorn
That blooms in the vale
That blooms in the vale, that blooms in the vale
Beside the bonny hawthorn
That blooms in the vale.”

Then hark, bonny Bess,
To the birds in yon grove,
How delightful they sing
When invited to rove.
I said “Me lovely dear,
Come tell me where you dwell?”
“Beside the bonny hawthorn that blooms in the vale”

I kissed her and said
That my love was sincere.
Not one on that green
Was so charming and fair.
I said “Me lovely dear,
Come tell me where you dwell?”
“Beside the bonny hawthorn that blooms in the vale”

“Then, come, me pretty fair maid,
How can you refuse?”
How sweet were those words
And how charming those views.
Then I listened with pleasure
To her kind and tender tale.
Beside the bonny hawthorn that blooms in the vale.

The only instance in Roud of this song in the oral tradition is the 1953 BBC recording by Peter Kennedy of Billy Pennock, of Goathland, Yorkshire, but it was first collected early 1900s from butcher George Williamson of Lealholm, near Danby, Cleveland. It was sung in harmony and was known locally as Lealholm's National Anthem. It came to us from Bob and Carole Pegg - Bob collected it in 1967, from Frank Wetherill of Lealholm. Frank, by then over 80, who was a cellist, and had been village musician before the 1914 war.

8 - False, False (Roud 8276) - Danny

False, false, have you been to me, my love;
How often have you changed your mind.
But since you’ve laid your love on another fair maid,
I’m afraid you’re no more mine.

I will climb into a tree that is too high for me,
Asking fruit where there weren’t any growing,
I was lifting warm water from beneath cold clay,
And against the stream I was rowing.

Oh, but I mean to climb some higher tree,
And harry a wild snowflake’s nest.
Then down shall I fall, without any fear,
To the arms that love me the best.

Danny learned this lovely collection of floating verses from Sheila Stewart, who she heard sing it at Blairgowrie in the late-sixties; but it was not available on a commercial record until 1998 when Doc Rowe recorded Sheila for TSCD515. Sheila said she heard it the once from an old woman traveller. Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (Routledge & Kegan Paul,1977) gives an almost identical version from Mrs Christina MacAllister, from Crooten Bay, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, recorded 1962.

9 - Cupid's Garden (Roud 297) - Tony and Peta

‘Twas down in Cupid’s Garden,
I wandered for to view
The sweet and lovely flowers
That in the garden grew.
And one it was sweet jas-e-min,
The lily, pink and rose;
They are the finest flowers
That in the garden grow,
That in the garden grow.

I had not been in the garden,
But scarcely half an hour,
When I beheld two fair, pretty maids,
Sitting under a shady bower.
And one was lovely Nancy,
So beautiful and fair;
The other one was a virgin
And did the laurels wear ...

I boldly stepped up to her
And unto her did say,
“Are you engaged to any young man?
Come, tell to me I pray.”
“No, I’m not engaged to any young man,
I solemnly declare,
I mean to stay a virgin
And still the laurels wear ...”

So hand in hand, together,
This loving couple went,
To view the secrets of her heart
Was the sailor’s full intent.
Or whether she would slight him,
Whilst he to the wars did go;
Her answer was “Not I, my love,
For I love a sailor bold ...”

It’s down in Portsmouth harbour,
Our ship lies waiting there.
“Tomorrow to the sea I go,
If the winds blow high or fair.
And if I live to return again,
Oh, how happy I should be,
With you, my love, my own true love,
Sitting smiling on my knee ...”

Quite a well-known song in England thanks to fairly frequent broadside publication; Roud lists ten English singers from whom it was collected. This version is from the Copper Family of Sussex. The only current CD example is that by Bob and Ron Copper on Topic TSCD534.

10 - The Nutley Waltz / Your Faithful Sailor Boy (Roud 376 / Laws K13)

‘Twas on a stormy New Year’s Eve,
The snow lay on the ground,
A sailor boy stood on the quay,
His ship was outward bound;
His sweetheart standing by his side
Shed many a bitter tear,
And as he pressed her to his breast
He whispered in her ear:

“Farewell, farewell my own true love,
This parting brings me pain,
I’ll be your own true guiding star
’Til I return again;
My thoughts will be of you, of you,
When the storm is raging high,
Farewell my love, remember me,
Your faithful sailor boy.”

And with the gale, the ship set sail,
He kissed his girl goodbye,
She watched the craft 'til out of sight
The tears bedimmed her eye;
She prayed to Him in heaven above
To guide him on his way,
And the loving words he spoke to her
Re-echoed o’er the bay.

“Farewell, farewell my own true love ...

But sad to say, the ship returned
Without her sailor boy,
He died whilst on the voyage home,
The flag was half-mast high;
And when his comrades came on shore,
Told her that he was dead,
A letter he had wrote to her,
The last line sadly read:

“Farewell, farewell my own true love ...

The Nutley Waltz was one of Scan Tester’s tunes, named for a village near his Sussex home. A really beautiful melody; we’ve never heard it anywhere else in the country.

Your Faithful Sailor Boy was written by G W Persley towards the end of the 19th century. Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. It turns up again and again in pub sing-songs throughout Britain, even through into the 1980s. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of this century” (and, sure enough, Daisy Chapman had it in her repertoire), and we have heard it in both Donegal and Cork in the last few years. Two versions have been found in the North Carolina mountains (there's a '20s hillbilly recording by Flora Noles, Sailor Boy's Farewell - Okeh 45037), while other sets have been reported from as far away as Australia and Tristan da Cunha. -245 Danny learned the song from Percy Webb in Suffolk, who swapped it with her for the full text of The Wild Colonial Boy, which we’re sure he never managed to remember in performance!

11 - The Caning Girl (Roud 17153) - Tony

'Twas down in Mandy Street
A girl I chanced to meet
She had deep blue eyes and golden hair
Her smile was warm and sweet.
She blushed and turned away from me
But still I did not mind
And underneath her arm she held
A small bundle of cane.

She fairly won my heart
Though I'd never see her again
The blue-eyed girl with her hair in curl
I met with a bundle of cane.

Then we agreed to meet again
On top of Tom Burl's Hill
To talk of happy moments past
And sweet the memory still.
We talked of happy days in store
And it made a sudden stop.
Would you condescend to marry a girl
Who works in a caning shop?

So come all you lads take my advice
When to Wycombe Town you go.
Don't talk to pretty caning girls
Or else they'll serve you so.
They'll steal away your hearts, my boys
And promise to be true
Then with some bloody potisher
Away from you they'll go.

As The Wycombe Caning Girls' Song, this appears in Ken Piper's book To Pass the Music On...Songs and Rhymes from Buckinghamshire.  It was collected by L J Mayes, a Wycombe librarian, during research among chair workers for information on the industry in the 1960s.  Piper says that both words and tune are traditional, and they're very similar to Tony's version.

12 - The Scarlet and the Blue (Roud 163)

Well I once was a jolly ploughboy,
Used to ploughing up the fields all day,
When a funny thought came to me mind
That I should run away.
For I’m tired of me country life,
Since the day that I was born,
And I’ll go and join the Army; and
I’m off tomorrow morn.

Then hurrah for the scarlet and the blue;
Helmets glistening in the sun.
Where the bayonets flash like lightning to
The beating of the old militia drum.
And there’s a flag in dear old England
Floating proudly in the sky.
And the watchword of our soldiers is:
“We’ll conquer, or we’ll die.”

Well, I’ll leave behind me old smock coat,
I’ll leave behind my plough.
And I’ll leave behind my old grey mare,
No more I’ll need her now.
No more to travail in the harvest fields,
Or gather in the golden corn,
For I’ve got the good king’s shilling and
I’m off tomorrow morn.

Then hurrah for the scarlet and the blue ...

Well’ there’s just one thing that grieves me mind,
And that’s my Nellie dear.
And I hope that she’ll be proud of me,
When I am far from here.
And if ever I do return again,
Well then, I’ll let you all see me,
And I’ll take my Nellie to the church,
And a sergeant’s wife she’ll be.

Then hurrah for the scarlet and the blue ...

Written by John J Blockley in the late 1870s, this song has not proved particularly popular, if the total of only 17 Roud entries is to be believed. However, we encountered many singers who knew it, either under this title or as The Warwickshire R H A. We collected this version from Alfie Ainger, landlord of the Royal Oak, Hooks Way, Sussex, in the late-sixties, but had to add to his rather truncated text from other traditional sources. Today, it’s probably more widely know in its Irish version We're off to Dublin in the Green.

There are only five known published sound recordings from the oral tradition - Freda Palmer (Oxon), George Spicer (Sussex) on MTCD309-10, Bob Hart (Suffolk) on MTCD301-2, Fred Whiting (Suffolk) on Veteran VT102, and Gordon Syrett (Suffolk) on Vintage 001. 

13 - The Lovely Banks of Lea (Roud 9493 or 6857) - Peta

And it's what will you do, me love,
When I am on the ocean?
What will you do, me love,
When I am far away?
For I'll think of you all the while,
You're me Irish girl, I love you.
I will pray to the stars to guide you
On the lovely banks of Lea.

Every branch, every bower,
Every rosie and may flower,
Reminds me of my darling
On the lovely banks of Lea.

Oh, don't you remember
That evening where I met you?
I'd kiss you and I'd court you
And dandle you on me knee.
I own to God above,
You're me Irish girl, I love you.
There is nothing in this wide, wide world
I would rather have than you.

Don't stay out so late
On the moorlands, my darling.
Don't stay out so late
On the moorlands for me.
But little was the notion
I'd part from you forever,
Never more to meet you
On the lovely banks of Lea.


I wrote me love a letter
With roses in the bottom,
I wrote me love a letter
But no answer to it came.
Ah, for you my heart is breaking,
My Irish girl I love you.
There is nothing under the heavens
I could love as well as you.

Oh get for me some roses,
Some blooming Irish roses,
Get for me some roses
Of the finest ever grew.
I'll sow them on the heather
For my fond Irish girl
Who now lies in the churchyard
On the lovely banks of Lea.


The only example of this song in Roud is Peter Kennedy’s 1952 BBC recording from Mary Connors, of Belfast, and this is where Peta learned it. The song is also given as Roud 6857 (When True Lovers Meet) and was sung by Joe Heaney, Angela Mulkere, Sheila Stewart and others. It is now a well-known-to-hackneyed song in Ireland, but Peta sticks to Mary Connors' enjoyably idiosyncratic version.

14 - The Lass of Newcastle Town (Roud 1416)

It was down by Fernham Barracks
I alone one evening strayed,
A-viewing of the soldiers,
I spied a pretty fair maid,
Her hair it was as black as jet,
In ringlets hanging down,
She was the blooming rose of Tyneside
And the lass of Newcastle Town.

Well, I said to her "My pretty fair maid,
What makes you wander here?"
She said, "Kind sir, I'm looking
For me bonny soldier dear.
Eight years ago he left me,
When to Bermuda he was bound,
And he swore he would prove faithful
To the lass of Newcastle Town."

And her hair it hung three-quarters long,
In ringlets hanging down
Search the universe all over,
Her equal can't be found.
She was the blooming rose of Tyneside
And the lass of Newcastle Town.

Well, I said to her, "My pretty fair maid,
Sad news I have to tell.
Your lover was a comrade
And in the battle fell.
A cannonball caused him to fall
And give him his death wound
A he begged me protect
The bonny lass of Newcastle Town."

Oh then on the ground in agonies
This pretty fair maid did roll,
Saying, "I never will rest ‘til in me breast
There strikes a cannon ball
Eight years ago he left me,
When to Bermuda he was bound,
And he swore he would prove faithful
To the lass of Newcastle Town."


Well, I've searched this country o'er and o'er,
‘Cross many a hill and stile.
I've searched through Ireland and through Wales,
Full many a weary mile,
I've searched through England time and time
‘Cross many a hill and down
But an equal yet I ne'er did get
To the lass of Newcastle Town.

We think we may have learned this from Gus Grenfell. As The Lass of Swansea Town, it has been recorded from Phil Tanner (Gower) by the BBC in 1949, and Robin Morton had a rather different version naming Glasgow as the town, from John Maguire, Co Fermanagh, in 1970. Roud has no other examples in his Index. It seems to be one of the few ‘broken token’ songs of the period not to have had any references to Waterloo (with all its attendant and useful rhyming possibilities) subsequently attached to it.

15 - Maggie (Roud 3782) - Danny

I have wandered today through the hills, Maggie,
To watch the scene below.
To the creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
That we used to know, long ago.
The green grass is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where once the daisies sprung,
And the creaking old mill, it is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.
But now we are aged and grey, Maggie,
The trials of life are nearly done.
Let us think of the days that are gone, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.

The city, so silent and low, Maggie,
The young and the brave and the best,
In polished white mansions of stone, Maggie,
Have each found their place to rest.
The fields where the birds used to sing, Maggie,
And join in the songs that were sung;
But we sang as gay as they, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
But now we are aged and grey, Maggie ...

They say I am wrinkled with age, Maggie,
My step is less sprightly than then,
But my face is a well-written page, Maggie,
And time alone is the pen.
They say that your hair is as grey, Maggie,
As the spray by the white breakers flung;
But to me you’re as fair as you were, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
But now we are aged and grey, Maggie ...

An American song written by George W Johnson and J A Butterfield in 1866 and popularised by Harry MacDonough and the Christy Minstrels. Maggie was Maggie Clark, to whom Johnson wrote the poem as a love tribute; sadly, she died within 12 months of their marriage. Danny had the song via race-memory and osmosis.

The only traditional singer from whom it had been collected was Arthur Wood, of Middlesborough.

16 - The Bunch of Thyme (Roud 3) / Perfect Cure / Sweets of May

Come all you maidens young and fair,
All you that are blooming in your prime,
Aye be aware, and keep your garden fair,
And let no man steal away your bunch of thyme.

For time it is a precious thing,
Time brings all things to your mind
Time with its labours along with all its joys,
Oh time bring all things to an end.

Once I had a bunch of thyme,
I thought it never would decay,
Until a saucy fiddler he chanced to pass my way,
And he stole away my bonny bunch of thyme.


The fiddler played to me a tune,
A tune that never would decay.
He played me the tune to keep me well minded
Of the night he stole away my bunch of thyme.


The Bunch of Thyme, or Plenty of Thyme / Seeds of Love as it is better known, belongs to that class of songs and ballads (going back at least to A Nosegaie Alwaies Sweet... included in A Handful of Pleasant Delights, 1584) which centre around the symbolism of flowers - thyme for virginity, rue for its loss, rose for passion, willow for regret, etc. The leading nineteenth century music-antiquarian, William Chappell included Seeds of Love as one of the three most popular songs with servant-maids of his time (1859). It doesn't turn up in the written record until 1816, although one characteristic verse appears in a version of The Gardener printed in a Scottish chapbook in 1766. Although it wasn't common on broadsides, it was widely collected in Britain and North America.

Danny got our version basically from the wonderful Jane Turriff, via Ray Fisher, but we changed it around a bit with little alterations and additions from other traditional sources.

CD recordings from the oral tradition are available by - Pop Maynard (Sussex) on TSCD660, Cyril Poacher (Suffolk) on TSCD662 and MTCD303, and Billy Bartle (Beds) on EFDSS CD 002.

Tony learned The Perfect Cure from a recording of the Norfolk melodeon player H R Mallett, but Rod no longer has the slightest idea where he found The Sweets of May, an Irish tune which just seemed to fit.

CD Two:

1 - Shepherds Arise (Roud 1207)

Shepherds, arise; be not afraid,
With hasty steps repair,
To David’s city; sin on earth,
And to our blest inf...
To our blest infant there.
To our blest infant there,
To our blest infant there.

Sing, sing, all earth
Sing, sing, all earth, eternal praises sing
To our redeemer, to our redeemer
And our heavenly King.

Laid in a manger, view the child,
Humility divine.
Sweet innocence and meek and mild.
Grace in his fea...
Grace in his features shine,
Grace in his features shine,
Grace in his features shine.

Sing, sing, all earth ...

For us a saviour came on earth,
For us his life he gave.
To save us from eternal death,
And to raise us from...
To raise us from the grave,
To raise us from the grave,
To raise us from the grave.

Sing, sing, all earth ...

Learned from the Copper Family of Sussex, who appear to have been the only traditional source. Bert Lloyd, in our original sleeve notes, said that it is ‘probably from the 18th century, although extensive searches through old hymnbooks have failed to cast light on its origins.’ Certainly James ‘Brasser’ Copper (b.1845) said it was one of the oldest carols he knew.

The only versions still available on CD are on Rounder CD 1719, Songs of Christmas and Waterson:Carthy, Dark Light TSCD536.

2 - Steamboat Hornpipe / Speed the Plough

Two now well-known hornpipes; the first one is the ‘simpler’ version of this tune - what it lacks in melodic charm it more than makes up for in drive. We got them both from recordings of Yorkshire melodeon player George Tremain.

3 - The Lakes of Coldflynn (Roud 189, Laws Q33) - Tony

‘Twas early one morning
Young William, he arose
Straightway to his comrade’s
Bedchamber he goes
Saying, Comrade, oh comrade;
Don’t let anyone know
For it is a fine morning
And a-bathing we’ll go.

As they were a-walking,
‘Twas down a long lane
When who should they meet with
But a keeper of game
Saying, “I would advise you
To return home again
For there’s death in false waters
In the lakes of Coldflynn”.

Young William stepped in
And he swam the lake round,
He swam round the island,
But not the right ground
Saying, “Comrade, oh Comrade,
Do not venture in
Or your doom is to die
In a watery stream”.

‘Twas early that morning
His sister she arose
Straightway to her mother’s
Bedchamber she goes
Saying, “Mother, oh mother,
I have had a strange dream
Young William lies floating
In a watery stream”.

That very same morning,
His mother she got there
She rowed around the island
Like one in despair
Saying, “Where was he drownded,
Or did he fall in?
Oh, there’s death in false waters
In the lakes of Coldflynn”.

God help his dear mother,
She’s reasons to mourn,
God help his dear sister,
She ’ave reasons to mourn,
For every each other morning
He would her salute
With the pink and red roses
And the fine garden fruit.

Oh the day of his funeral
It will be a fine sight,
With four-and-twenty Irish girls
And they’re all dressed in white.
They’ll carry him along
And they’ll lay him in cold clay
Saying, “Adieu to young William”
And they’ll all march away.

Tony learned this from Scan Tester of Horsted Keynes, Sussex, the renowned anglo-concertina player and great, though infrequent, singer.

Otherwise known as the Lakes of Cold Finn, Coolfinn, Col Fin, Shallin, Colephin - or Willie Lennard - this ballad is extremely widely distributed throughout the English-speaking world, given that it has only 72 Roud entries. Some scholars, including Phillips Barry, MacEdward Leach and G Malcolm Laws have tried to suggest that Willie was lured to his death by a water-woman who lived in the lake, thus linking the song with ballads such as Clerk Colville or Lady Alice (Child 42 and 85). Today, there is little support for such supposition and, as Tom Munnelly so poetically put it, 'we must now let our Irish Clerk Colville sink, like Willie, beneath the waves'. (Tom Munnelly, The Mount Callan Garland, Dublin, 1994. p.105). 

Although there are several areas in Ireland with similar names, it is probable that the story was originally set either at Loughinsholin, near Garvagh, in Co Derry, or Lough Sillin, Co Cavan. At one time the clan living around the latter were the O'Flynns. The name of the song means 'the lake(s) of the island of the O'Flynns'. P W Joyce collected it from Peggy Cudmore in Limerick in 1854 and printed it in 1873 - it also appeared in a number of other Irish and English broadsides shortly afterwards, which is possibly the reason it is so widespread. 

Given that it appeared in print during the lifetimes of many of the singers who knew it, the variety of titles the song has attracted - particularly since the published Lakes of Cool Finn would be so obvious a choice - is quite astonishing. Some of the more interesting ones are Royal Comrade (Amy Birch following widespread Traveller tradition there), Johnny Bathin' (from Donegal), Billy Henry (Scotland), The Cruel Lake of Woolfrinn (New York) ... and the almost inevitable 'Twas early One Morning. For some reason, the song has remained popular to this day with Gypsies and other travellers. 

Of the 28 sound recordings in Roud, those by Sheila Stewart (TSCD515), Amy Birch (TSCD661), Scan Tester (MTCD309-10 and TSCD653) and Pop Maynard (MTCD309-10) are available on CD.

4 - Genevieve (Roud 13643)

Oh, Genevieve, I’d give the world
To live again that lovely past.
The rose of youth was dew-empearled
But now it withers in the blast.
I see thy face in every dream,
My waking thoughts are full of thee;
Thy glance is in the starry beam
That floats along the summer sea.

Oh, Genevieve, sweet Genevieve,
The days may come, the days may go.
But still the hands of memory weave
Those lovely days of long ago.

Ah, Genevieve, my only love,
The years have made thee dearer, far.
My heart shall never, never roam;
Thou art my own true guiding star.
To me the past has no regrets
What e’er the years may bring to me.
I bless the hour when first we met;
The hour that brought me love and thee.

Oh, Genevieve, sweet Genevieve,
The days may come, the days may go.
But still the hands of memory weave
Those lovely days of long ago.

Sweet Genevieve, words by George Cooper, music by Henry Tucker c.1870, a popular parlour and music-hall piece leant from Peta and Tony’s 78 collection - probably from duettists Layton and Johnston, or Bob and Alf Pearson. The only example of this song from the oral tradition is by Walter Pardon, recorded by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie in the 1980s.

5 - Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth (Roud 407)

Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth,
You’re me own heart’s delight,
And a long and kind letter,
Unto you I will write,
Being for to inform you
What we do undergo
While we’re sailing on the ocean,
Where the stormy winds blow.

It happened one evening,
After it had grown dark
Our honourable brave captain,
Well, he showed us a mark,
And the mark that he showed us,
It appeared in the sky,
And he showed us, and he told us,
That the storm was close by.

She come a-bearing down after us,
And she tossed us about,
Causing many a bold sailor lad,
With courage so stout
To go a-shiverin' and a-shakin'
In hope and despair.
She’s one moment in the ocean
And the next in the air.

A ship in distress, love,
Is a most dis-i-mal sight,
Like an army of soldier boys,
Going out for a fight
For a soldier he can fight, my lads,
To the rattling of a drum,
Whilst a sailor's committed
To a watery doom.

Sweet Nancy of Yarmouth,
You’re me own heart’s delight,
And while I’m on the ocean,
Here’s a letter I’ll write,
Being for to inform you
What we do undergo
While we’re sailing on the ocean,
Where the stormy winds blow.

Many songs and ballads tell of the exploits of a young girl called Nancy. One lengthy ballad, which runs to fifty-six verses in some versions, is called The Yarmouth Tragedy or Nancy of Yarmouth and when John Pitts first printed our present song in the early 1800's he gave it the title Nancy of London to distinguish it from the longer, and better known, Nancy of Yarmouth. Well, that was the idea. Singers, however, had other ideas and when one encounters the song nowadays, be it in East Anglia or along the American Maritime coast where it is highly popular, the sailor's sweetheart is usually said to live in Yarmouth. 

(An interesting aside: Nancy of Yarmouth using the tune we sing here appeared on the Young Tradition LP for Transatlantic in 1966. The sleeve notes say 'This version was collected in Middlesborough, Yorkshire'. Now, Steve Roud's Index shows 37 published entries for Nancy of Yarmouth and not one of them is noted as coming from Middlesborough. Moreover, the only singer collected in Middlesborough that anyone seems to know about is Arthur Wood and apparently the song is not in his published repertoire. Heather Wood doesn't know where Peter Bellamy got it from.)

6 - New Rigged Ship / Rig-a-Jig-Jig

This version of The New Rigged Ship probably comes from the playing of Yourkshire melodeonist George Tremain - though we’d also heard versions from fiddler Billy Pennock, of Goathland, and from Jimmy Shand. Rig-a-Jig-Jig is from the great Norfolk fiddler Herbert Smith. Peter Kennedy recorded eight tunes from him back in the fifties and every one was a winner; all now have a firm place in the English country music repertoire.

7 - The Rambling Royal (Roud 982, Laws J15) - Rod

I am a rambling Royal,
From Liverpool town I come,
And to me sad misfortune,
I enlisted in the Marine.
But being drunk when I enlisted
And not knowing what I done,
Until me sober senses
Returned to me again.

I had a girl in Liverpool,
And a true friend, so it seemed;
It broke her heart and made it smart,
To see me in the Marine.
She says “If you’ll desert, me boy,
Then quickly let me know,
And I’ll hide you in me own room,
If you should choose to go.”

Well it was early the very next morning,
As our officer give command,
That me and me loyal comrades,
That night on guard should stand.
But the night being dark and cold and wet
Did not with me agree;
So I knocked out the guard-room corporal
And I ran for liberty.

And I rambled all that livelong night,
Until I lost me way.
Then I crept into a farmer’s barn,
To sleep all in the hay.
Oh, but when I awoke, it was no joke,
For there, all at me feet.
Well, the sergeant and the corporal
And four bloody squaddies stood.

And we had a murderous fight of it,
And I damn-nigh beat them all.
Yes, I made me cowardly comrades
In agonies to bawl.
But they took me to the guard house,
There me sorrows to deplore,
With four men at the window
And another four at the door.

Well, it was early the very next morning
As I paced me cell around,
I leapt out from the window and
Dashed four of ‘em to the ground.
The Provost and his bullies,
They was quickly after me,
But I legged it off to Birkenhead,
And so gained me liberty.

For I am a rambling Royal
James Cronin is me name.
I can fight as many corporals
As you’ll find in the Marine.
I can fight as many Orangemen
As ever banged a drum,
And I’ll make ‘em fly before me
Just like bullets from a gun.

This boastful song is likely to be a modern re-write of the Irish Belfast Shoemaker which, although widely printed as a broadside, has never, as far as Roud knows, been collected from the oral tradition in these islands - although it has in north America. As the Rambling Royal, it was collected - by Roy Palmer, from Phil Colclough, of Crewe, Cheshire, who may have done the re-write. Rod learned it from Dave Robbins of Exeter, in 1963.

8 - Our Good Ship Lies in Harbour (Roud 1011)

Our good ship lies in harbour,
Just ready to set sail
May the heavens be your guide my love
'Til I return again.
May the heavens be your guide my love
'Til I return again.

Says the father to the daughter,
"What makes you so lament?"
"Oh, the lad that you have sent to sea
Can give my heart content."

"Well, if that's your inclination"
The old man did reply,
"I hope he will continue there
And on the seas may die."

Then ten long weeks were over
And ten long tedious days,
She saw the ship come sailing in
With her true love from the seas.

"O yonder stands my angel,
She's waiting there for me,
Tomorrow to the church we'll go,
And married we will be."

Says the father to the daughter,
"Five hundred pounds I'll give
If you'll forsake that sailor lad,
And come with me to live."

"Well it's not your gold that glitters
Nor your silver that do shine.
I'm going with the lad I love
And I'm happy in my mind."

A pretty widely published song; most versions trace back to Gardiner's, collected from William Brown of Cheriton, Hampshire.

9 - Our Ship is Ready (Roud 2995) - Peta

Our ship is ready to bear away
Come, comrades, o’er the stormy sea.
Her snow-white wings, they are unfurled
And soon she’ll swim in a watery world.

Ah, do not forget, love; do not grieve,
For the heart is true and can’t deceive.
My heart and hand with you I’ll leave;
Fare thee well truelove and remember me.

Farewell to thee, my precious pearl,
It’s my lovely dark-haired, blue-eyed girl.
And when I’m on the stormy sea;
When you think on Ireland, remember me.

Ah, do not forget, love; do not grieve ...

Farewell to Dublin’s hills and braes,
To Killarney’s lakes and silvery seas.
There’s many a bright, long, summer’s day
When we passed those hours of joy away.

Ah, do not forget, love; do not grieve ...

Oh, Erin, dear, it grieves my heart
To think that I so soon must part.
And friends so ever-dear and kind
In sorrow I must leave behind.

Ah, do not forget, love; do not grieve ...<

A song almost entirely confined to the north of Ireland, it has been collected from Sarah Makem and Robert Cinnamond and other Northern Irish singers, and is a version of the broadside ballad An Emigrant's Farewell to his Country. Peta learned this from Peter Kennedy's 1952 recording of Mary Toner, Markethill, Co Armagh. The broadside has many references to the beauties of Dublin, including Killiney, which Peta heard as Killarney.

10 - Scan's Polkas Nos 1 & 2

Two superb un-named polkas from Scan Tester, from whom Tony learned them. Rod is unsure as to whether he did too, or from Reg Hall’s recordings, or from Reg himself. Whatever; by the time we came to record them they were somewhat different from the recordings of Scan on I never Played to Many Posh Dances (Veteran VTVS03/04).

11 - Maggie May (Roud 5383)

The spring 'tis here, the flowers in bloom,
The birds ring out their lay
Down by a little murmuring stream
I first met Maggie May.
My little winchy Maggie,
Singing all the day,
Oh, how I loved her none can tell,
My little Maggie May.

Her hair is gold, her eyes are blue,
And shining like the day.
Her heart is ever pure and true,
My little Maggie May.
My little winchy Maggie,
Singing all the day,
Oh, how I loved her none can tell,
My little Maggie May.

The years have flown, my eyes grow dim,
My hair is turning grey,
But never will I cease to love
My long lost Maggie May.
My little winchy Maggie,
Singing all the day,
Oh, how I loved her none can tell,
My little Maggie May.

Danny learned this from Charlie Bate, of Padstow, Cornwall, whose mate Tommy Morrissey can be heard singing it on Veteran VT 122.

12 - The Broomfield Wager (Roud 34 / Child 43)

Oh it's a wager, a wager, a wager I'll lay you,
I'll lay you five thousand to your one
That a maid I will go to yon merry green broom
And a maiden I'm sure I will return.
That a maid I will go to yon merry green broom
And a maiden I'm sure I will return.
Hold the wheel!

Oh and when that this fair maid
Mounted her grey hobby's back,
She's rode until she come to that green broom.
Oh and when she got there
She has found her own true love
Lying in that merry green broom fast asleep
Oh and when she got there
She has found her own true love
Lying in that merry green broom fast asleep.
Hold the wheel!

Nine times did she walk round the crown of his head
And nine times around the sole of his feet.
Nine times did she say "Awake, Master,
For your own true love is a-standing close by."
Nine times did she say "Awake, Master,
For your own true love is a-standing close by"
Hold the wheel!

Oh and when she had doneall that she dare do
She crept behind that bunch of green broom,
All for to hear what her own true love should say
When he awakened out of his domestic sleep
All for to hear what her own true love should say
When he awakened out of his domestic sleep
Hold the wheel!

He said, "If I had been awake,
Instead of being asleep,
My will I would have done toward thee.
Oh your blood it would've been spilled
For those small birds to drink,
And your flesh it would have been for their food.
Oh your blood it would've been spilled
For those small birds to drink,
And your flesh it would have been for their food."
Hold the wheel!

She says, "You hard hearted young man,
Oh how can you say so,
Your heart it must be hard as any stone,
For to murder the one that lov-ed you so well,
Far better than the ground that you stand on.
For to murder the one that lov-ed you so well,
Far better than the ground that you stand on."
Hold the wheel!

Cyril Poacher learned this version of The Broomfield Wager from his mother, Alice Ling, who used to sing it in Blaxhall Ship. It is a very old ballad which has been somewhat stabilised into its present form by broadsheet printers. 

In its original form, the ballad tells of a wager between a girl and a supernatural knight who threatens her virginity, and wagers she will not keep a tryst with him. To outwit him the girl resorts to witchcraft, agreeing to meet the knight in a broom field where the plant's magical qualities will send him to sleep. As in all good ballads, the magic works and, after encircling the knight's sleeping body three times as a further magical precaution, the girl slips her ring on to his finger, thus proving her presence and, accordingly, winning the wager. 

An ancient song then, but one which nevertheless still proves popular among country audiences, not only in East Anglia but also in Sussex and occasionally elsewhere. 

On the recording we’d heard (the 1953 Peter Kennedy one), Cyril and the audience constantly interject the phrase 'hold the wheel'. This allegedly arose as a result of the singer trying to explain the story to a visiting yachtsman who misunderstood 'had his way' as 'hold the wheel'. As might be expected, by the time we got to meet him, a year or so after our learning the song, he had stopped doing so!

CD recordings from the oral tradition are available by - Cyril Poacher (MTCD303), Walter Pardon (TSCD 600), and Pop Maynard (MTCD 400-1).

13 - See Me Dance the Polka / Oh Joe the Boat is Going Over

The first was a well-known music hall song from 1886 written by George Grossmith Snr. and popularised by him and the likes of Billie Barlow and Jolly John Nash. The second, a version of Oh, Joe, the Boat is Going Over (another music hall song), comes from Oscar Woods, the great Suffolk melodeon player, and was the one we’d learned at that time. Oscar played the tune often, but it sometimes had different B and C musics ... and why not?

14 - The Old Rustic Bridge (Roud 3792) - Danny

I'm thinking tonight of the old rustic bridge
That bends o'er the murmuring stream.
'Twas there, Maggie dear, with our hearts full of fear
We met 'neath the moon's gentle beam.
'Twas there I first saw you, the light in your eyes
Awoke in my heart a sweet thrill.
Though it's now far away,
Still my thoughts fondly stray
To the old rustic bridge by the mill.

Beneath it the streams gently ripple
Around it the birds love to trill.
Though it's now far away,
Still my thoughts fondly stray
To the old rustic bridge by the mill

How often dear Maggie as years passed away
And we plighted lovers became,
We'd travel the path to the mill day by day
The smiles of each other to gain.
But one day we parted in pain and regret,
Our vows then we could not fulfil.
Oh, may we soon meet and our fond love repeat
On the old rustic bridge by the mill.


I keep in my memory the dreams of the past.
With me they're as bright as of old
For deep in my heart they are planted to last
In absence they never grow cold.
I think of you, darling, when lonely at night,
And when all is silent and still.
My heart wanders back in a dream of delight
To the old rustic bridge by the mill.


Although a very well-known song, Roud has only three instances in his Index - not the sort of thing many collectors of the Sharpian school were interested in!  Both Greig and Ord found it in Scotland, while Steve himself collected the only known English version from Mr and Mrs Charlie Ryder, of Vernham Dean, Hampshire, in 1982. It was extremely popular in the late 19th century throughout America and Australia, where advertising leaflets for a drapers' shop printed it. It has been variously attributed but most reliably to J P Skelly, published in New York, 1884. Danny learned it from Scan Tester in the sixties. Peta would like credited this unique recording of her piano playing!

15 - Young Ellender (Roud 1750)

Here's a loving couple they were walking,
Down by a running river clear,
Where they met with her cruel old father,
Where this loving couple did repair.
He flew into such a passion,
With the daughter and her man,
That he has sworn by the Gods that made him,
They should never, never meet again.

As for him you call your sweetheart,
I will send him across the sea,
I will send him across the salt sea,
Where the loud billows do roar,
He shall never return to England,
For to court you, court you any more.

As for you, my young Ellender,
I'll confine you to your bed,
You shall have nothing else but bread nor water,
Once a day my love, alone, he said.

I don't want none, your bread nor water,
No nor nothing what you've got,
I shall work night and day, like horses,
I'll go with my love, and take his part.

Soon as the word was spoken,
That gold ring was broke in two,
Here is one half for you, my Ellender,
Here's adieu my pretty girl, adieu.

A song from Phoebe Smith, a Gypsy originally from Kent, later settled in Woodbridge, Suffolk, and one of England’s finest women singers. She is the only source of Roud’s four instances. Frank Purslow’s 1969 recording of Phoebe is available on TSCD656.

Mike Yates, who also recorded Phoebe singing it, wrote: 'This would appear to be a version of a song that Cecil Sharp called The Chain of Gold.  George Butterworth noted two versions, in 1907 and 1909, which he called ‘Twas by the Town of Weddingmore, and George Gardiner noted a Hampshire version, under the title Down in the Town of Marlborough.  There appear to be no known broadsides, and the only non-English version of the song was one sung by the Australian singer Sally Sloane, that can be found in Folk Songs of Australia by John Meredith & Hugh Anderson. (Sydney & London, 1967. p.167).  Mrs Sloane had the song from her grandmother, Sarah Alexander, who came originally from Co Kerry in Ireland.'

16 - My Old Man / Tipperary / Troubles / Daisy / Dicky Bird / Hour

For those of us who grew up just after the second World War, these songs and countless others like them are an integral part of our cultural baggage. They were played on the radio, on park bandstands, and sung at family parties. And then, just as they were fading from the memories of our generation, we encountered them again in the sessions at Bampton, and at those folk clubs which supported bands of tyro musicians.

When Oak played socially with the likes of Oscar Woods, Scan Tester, etc, it was tunes like these which were the staple fare which connected us with them, and helped us to become - briefly and in a small way - a part of their community.

This track runs on to finish with the perennial Now is the Hour (for me to say “Goodbye”) but the recording deteriorates badly towards the end, so we’ve just faded that bit out.


Our thanks are due to the following:

Dr Alan White - for making available his recordings of Oak’s final gig at Walthamstow Folk Club (indicated as W on the track listings), King William IV, 19th December 1972.

Ken Langsbury - for making available digital copies of Dennis Olding’s recordings of Oak’s gig at Cheltenham Folk Club (indicated as C on the track listings), The Victory Club, 24th October 1971.

Keith Summers - for making available his recordings of Oak at Benfleet Folk Club (indicated as B on the track listings), The Hoy and Helmet, Benfleet, Essex, in 1972.

Topic Records Ltd - for permission to use the original tapes of the Oak LP Welcome to Our Fair, 12TS212 (indicated as LP on the track listings), and for converting them to digital format.

Don Walker - of Editpoint Mastering Services for noise reduction.

Dave Duce and John Bryan - for photos.

Danny Stradling - for song transcriptions and proof-reading.

Steve Roud - for providing MT with a copy of his Folk Song and Ballad Indexes, whence came some of the historical information on the songs.

Booklet: text, editing, DTP, printing
CD: formatting, digital editing, production
by Rod Stradling

A Musical Traditions Records production ©2003

Article MT132

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