This unique series of recordings was conceived, edited and produced primarily
for the major purpose of making available to scholars, lecturers and instructors
in the fields of folklore, balladry and English literature, recordings of the
great traditional ballads appropriate for use in classrooms and lecture work.
Any instructor who has been forced to use recordings of opera stars, art singers
and over-theatrical "singers-of-folksongs" can attest to the hazards of doing
so. This is not to say that there have been no recordings of folk balladry
available which properly presented the material in a traditional manner. There
are superb ballads available from the Library of Congress, as well as some
commercially available recordings of traditional singers such as Jean Ritchie,
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Artus Moser, and a few others. But these American
versions of the great British ballads, while frequently vastly superior
musically to their Old World ancestors, are usually inferior textually,
frequently presenting debased forms of what once was poetry of the highest
order. In the singing of Ewan MacColl and A. L. Lloyd, the editor believes he
has found two traditional, or traditional-sounding, voices, capable of
presenting the musical and poetic richness of these ballads without detracting
from or interfering with the beauty thereof. The ballads are sung unaccompanied,
in the manner of the singers from whom they have been collected over the past
few centuries. For this, the editor has been taken to task by various
folksong-enthusiastic friends. But these recordings are primarily for scholars,
rather than the commercial paublic.
The editor, however, believes that those persons with a non-scholarly interest in the ballad who are willing to listen to unaccompanied singing attentively and with an open mind will derive as much pleasure (or more) from such performances as they do from folksong renditions to various instrumental accompaniments to which they have become accustomed and conditioned from the presentation of modern "popular" music over the radio and television.
THE BALLADS: Of the 82 ballads comprising this series, 72 were among the 305 ballads with Francis James Child included in his great textual compilations. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, originally published from 1882 to 1898, and recently reprinted by The Folklore Press in association with Pageant book Company.
These 72 ballads are fully representative of the entire child collection. Included are romantic and tragic ballads, ballads of yeomanry and outlawry, historical and semi-historical ballads, and humorous and supernatural ballads. Approximately 60 percent are Scottish variants, with the remainder English, closely following the relative proportion of Scottish to English texts in the Child books.
The Child ballads have long remained the rigidly high standard by which ballads are judged, so that only a few others have been recommended as additions to child's canon. Of these. only one, The Bitter Withy, has been universally accepted by scholars as worthy of admission. The last volume of this recorded series offers ten British ballads not included by Child. Not all are of the same high order as The Bitter Withy, but neither are many which child included. There is little doubt, however, that all ten are equal or superior to many of the Child ballads.
The ballads in these recordings have been learned from three main sources. Many have come wholly from tradition, either from the families of the singers, or collected in the field by MacColl and Lloyd. Others have been learned wholly from printed sources. A large number are fragments learned from tradition and collated with material from printed sources. In most cases, as complete a text as possible is given; in some few cases only fragmentary texts have been presented to order to indicate the accidents of time, memory and oral circulation which work upon the ballads.
More than half of the 82 ballads here have never been previously available on commercial recordings. Many others have been recorded rarely. Few earlier recordings have maintained the language and dialect of the original folk rendition, especially in the case of Scottish ballads. In this series the full flavour of authentic ballad performances, including the factors which turn upon language and dialect, have been presented with unusual fidelity.
EDITORIAL APPARATUS: No attempt has been made by the editor to include in the presentation of this series a definition of the ballad, or descriptive matter concerning its origin, poetry, music, folklore, or scholarship, much excellent material having been written on these subjects. For such information, reference should be made to the following books:
Coffin, Tristram P., The British Traditional Ballad in North America, Publications of the American Folklore Society, Philadelphia, 1950.
Friedman, Albert B., The Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World, Viking, New York, 1956.
Gerould, Gordon H., The Ballad of Tradition, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1932.
Hodgart, M. J. C., The Ballads, Hutchinson's University Library, London, 1950.
Hustvedt, Sigurd B., Ballad Books and Ballad Men, Havard University Press, Cambridge, 1930.
Leach, MacEdward, The Ballad Book, Harper & Bros., New York, 1955.
Pound, Louise, Poetic Origins and the Ballad, Macmillan, New York, 1921.
Wells, Evelyn K., The Ballad Tree, Ronald Press, New York, 1953.
Wimberly, Lowry C. Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1928.
The notes before each ballad are intended to aid in the critical appreciation of this material. For musicological information, the reader is referred to the writings of Cecil Sharp, Phillips Barry, Gavin Greig and Alexander Keith, Samuel Bayard and Bertrand Bronson. A glossary of words and dialect terms follows each text for its use where necessary for full appreciation and understanding of the ballad. the numbers in parenthesis appearing after each ballad title are those assigned to the ballad by Francis James Child in his great textual compilation, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The ballad title given first is that by which it was known to the singer. In the case of those ballads in which the title known to the singer differed from the one under which Child grouped his variants, the title in parenthesis is Child's .
Side one, track 1
Eppie Morrie (223)
This magnificent ballad of abduction was known to child from only a single
printed source, Maidment's A North Countrie Garland (1824), Sir Walter
Scott had an almost identical version in manuscript. Of it, Maidment wrote:
"This ballad is probably much more than a century old, though the circumstances
which have given rise to it were unfortunately too common to preclude the
possibility of its being of a later date." Maidment did not comment on the
source of the ballad, nor did Scott leave any information concerning it.
The ballad seems not to have been reported since Child, though it has apparently continued to exist in tradition. the version MacColl sings was learned from his father and collated with stanzas from Samuel Wylie of Falkirk and additional stanzas from Child.
See Child (223), Volume IV, pp 239-240.
Side 1, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
Sir Hugh (155) (The Jew's Daughter)
Charges of "ritual murder" of innocent Christian children have regularly been
made against Jewish communities from the 11th century on. To modern minds, such
fantastic charges (which often resulted in wholesale pogroms and genocide)
represent the barbaric functioning of medieval thinking - an outgrowth of the
superstition and ignorance of the times. What is more shocking, however, is that
such beliefs have continued to modern times; in the twentieth century, charges
of ritual murder have been made against Jewish communities in various parts of
the world, including the United States.
No wonder, then, that the ballad of the murder of Hugh of Lincoln in 1255 (the ballad itself dating from at least the 17th century) should be widely circulated in both Great Britain and America to this day. The details of the story, which first appeared in the Annals of Waverley, concern the kidnapping, torture and crucifixion of a young boy who had been playing ball with friends near a house where Jews from all over England had congregated. When the murderers attempted to get rid of the body, they found it impossible to do. The body was finally thrown into a well, whereupon the air was filled with a bright light and a sweet odor. The miracle drew many people to the well. When the body was raised, it was found to have marks of the crucifixion upon it ... obviously the work of the Jews, 18 of whom were convicted of the crime and hanged.
Recently collected texts of the ballad retain the Jew's daughter as the murderer and a description of the murder which suggests some ritual purpose, not unlike the earliest printed versions. Scholars believe, however, that the implications of these actions no longer have any religious significance to the folk singers relating them.
A. L. Lloyd sings a jury-text made of three Somerset versions collected by Cecil Sharp; the melody was collected by Sharp in 1905 from John Swain of Donyatt, Somerset.
See Child (155), Volume III, p. 233 ff.; Coffin, p. 110 ff; Dean-Smith p 85.
Side 1, track 3
The Shepherd Lad (112)
This delightful ballad has charmed listeners from at least as far back as the
17th century. The earliest known printed version appearing in Thomas Ravenscroft's Deuteromelia (1609). It may have been known in tradition or
from broadsides at an earlier date, for analogous ballads and tales from many
parts of Europe have been known since the 15th century.
The ballad appears to be little known in America, though a secondary version entitled Katie Morey has circulated widely in the United States.
That the ballad lends itself easily to ribaldry is apparent, and several related, but nevertheless secondary, bawdy versions are known in a popular tradition in both Great Britain and America. Indeed, the text sung by MacColl, though definitely a primary version, makes excellent use of a device common in popular bawdy balladry: the obvious utilization of a pipe or flute as a phallic symbol.
The tune and part of the text sung by MacColl were learned from his father; additional text is from Greig and Keith.
See Child (112), volume II, p. 479 ff; Coffin, pp 103-104, Greig & Keith, pp 90-92.
Side 1, track 4
A. L. LLOYD
Robin Hood and the Tanner (126)
The earliest reference to the Robin Hood ballads occurs in
(1377) in which Sloth says that he knows "rymes of Robyn Hood ..." Frequent
mention is made in the centuries following, all of which tend to prove the
abundance of ballads concerning Robin Hood, but none of which conclusively
identified Robin as as an historical figure. The argument concerning his status
as a true-life hero-outlaw, or a mythical figure, is very much alive today, and
reference for this point should be made to the writings of William E Simeone in
the United States and to P. Valentine Harris and J.W. Walker in England.
Child prints more than 30 Robin Hood ballads, allotting a position of importance to them far out of proportion to their oral currency. Most of the Child texts are from chapbooks, broadsides and garlands, and it is highly unlikely that many of these ever existed in an oral tradition, for their language and style are far from popular. Only five of these ballads have been collected from tradition in England since Child, and fewer than ten in the United States; some two or three have been collected in Scotland. It should be noted that the few Robin Hood ballads which have been collected from tradition are only slightly removed from chapbook and broadside literary tradition.
Robin Hood and the Tanner is one of several Robin Hood ballads in which our hero is defeated in battle with an adversary whom he later befriends. One is forced to admire a hero who is human enough to suffer defeat, especially when the position he assumes is not an honorable one and the real hero of the ballad is his adversary.
Lloyd's version, collected by Cecil Sharp in 1904 from Henry Larcombe of Haselbury-Plunknett, Somerset, is a considerably shortened telling of the ballad. No mention is made of Robin Hood's offer to have Bold Arthur join his band, or to Arthur's kinship to Little John. what is left, however, is an interesting song-narrative with a genuine ring of folk-created balladry.
See Child (126), Volume III, p 137; Coffin pp 106-107; Dean-Smith, p 101.
Side 1, track 5
Richie Story (232)
Child printed seven texts of this ballad, mostly from manuscript. the
earliest printed text appeared in Sharpe's Ballad Book (1823), in which
it is stated that Lady Lillias Fleming, a daughter of the third Earl of Wigton,
married a footman. With the consent of her husband, she resigned her estate into
the hands of her brother. The Fleming family afterwards procured for Richie a
position in the Custom-House.
There appear to be two distinct forms of this ballad - one in which the story follows the historical situation closely and Richie Story is an actual footman, and a second and romanticised version of the story in which he is a nobleman in disguise. This last has apparently been the more popular in recent times, for Greig and Keith indicate "all our complete versions ... assume that the position of the footman was a disguise."
MacColl's version was learned in fragmentary form from his mother and was collated with the complete text in Greig and Keith.
See Child (232), Volume IV, p 291 ff; Greig & Keith p 171 ff.
Side 2, track 1
Get Up and Bar the Door (275)
This amusing domestic comedy has numerous analogues in the tales and
literature of Europe and Asia (See Child's headnote).
The generally ribald nature of the ballad has encouraged the creation of additional bawdy stanzas, and versions so embellished are in vogue as a college students' song. The origin of this new oral tradition, however, is based on printed texts to which the bawdy stanzas have been added.
The ballad has been collected from tradition several times since Child, most of these texts being reported in America.
MacColl's version, learned from his father, follows the Greig and Keith text very closely. See Child (275), volume V, p 96 ff, Coffin, pp 145-146; Greig and Keith pp 216-218.
Side 2, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
The Outlandish Knight (4)
"Of all the ballads this has perhaps the widest circulation. It is nearly as
well known to the southern as to the northern nations of Europe." Thus writes
Child in the opening lines of the more than 40 pages of notes, analogues and
texts on this ballad. As a result, the ballad has been subjected to extensive
study, major contributions to its analysis having been made by scholars from
several countries. The Norwegian scholar Bugge believed that the ballad was a
folk-offshoot of the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. though modern
scholars find this interesting as a conversation piece, little weight is given
to it when the frequency with which Bluebeard-type stories exist generally is
taken into consideration. The most detailed analysis of any ballad has been made
of this ballad by the Finnish scholar Dr. Iivar Kemppingen. In The Ballad of
the Lady Isabel and the False Knight (Helsinki, 1954), he comes to the
conclusion that the ballad probably originated between 1100and 1200 citing
philological and musical evidences in support of his claims.
The ballad is still known widely in Europe, including Great Britain. Part of this popularity may be attributed to the numerous stall printings of the ballad in the 19th century.
The version sung by A. L. Lloyd was noted by R. Vaughan Williams in 1908 from a singer named Hilton, at South Walsham, Norfolk.
See Child (4), volume I, p 22 ff; Coffin pp 32-35; Dean-smith p 97.
Side 2, track 3
The Bonnie Hoose O' Airlie (199)
This ballad describes the burning and sacking in 1640 of the castle of the
Earl of Airlie, a supporter of Charles Edward, by the Duke of Argyle. Airlie,
aware that he would be forced to renounce the King, left Scotland, leaving his
home in the keeping of his oldest son, Lord Ogilvie. Argyle, ordered to proceed
against the castle, raised several thousand men for the purpose. When Ogilvie
heard of his coming with such a huge force, the castle was abandoned. Lady
Ogilvie's defiance is an invention of the ballad muse, for it has been fairly
well established that none of the family were there at the time the castle was
The version MacColl sings was collected from Boston Dunn, an iron moulder from Falkirk, Stirlingshire. See Child (199), Volume IV, p 54 ff; coffin pp 119-120; Greig and Keith p 123 ff; Ord p 470.
Side 2, track 4
The Rantin' Laddie (240)
If there is the slightest historical basis for this ballad, research has not
yet revealed it. The Earl of Aboyne, the hero and "rantin laddie" of the ballad,
has not been identified, as any one of the lords of Aboyne who played a large
part in Scottish history.
MacColl's version was learned from his father. See Child (24), Volume IV, p 351 ff; Coffin, pp 137-138; Greig & Keith pp 193-194.
Side one, track 1
The Broomfield Hill (43)
This ballad may have been known as early as the 16th century in Britain, for
mention is made of a song "Broom, broom on hill" in various publications of that
period, including The Complaynt of Scotland (1549). European analogues of
the ballad tale date from an ever earlier period, one (which has the same story
with interesting variations) having been written in the 12th century.
Most early versions, as well as the foreign analogues, make mention of the use of a magic rune, charm or herb to cast a spell over the knight to induce a deep sleep. In the version sung by MacColl, as learned from his father, no mention is made of such a charm, but magical overtones may be intended in stanza 6, in which the young lady's action of walking nine times around the knight's body may be for the purpose of casting a spell. It is also conceivable that the seemingly meaningless refrain sung by MacColl was used as a magic incantation.
See Child (43), Volume I, p 390 ff; Coffin pp 57-58, Dean-smith, p 56; Greig & Keith, pp 31-32.
Side 1, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
The Prickly Bush (95) (The Maid Freed From The Gallows)
Here we have the prime example of incremental repetition as a ballad device.
In that capacity, this ballad has served as an important pawn to those scholars
who followed the communal school in the study of ballad origins (see Kittredge's
introduction in the one-volume edition of Child's ballads).
The ballad is known in almost every European country, usually in a much fuller than is found in any of the English-speaking nations. British and American variants have reduced the ballad tale to the attempt by a prisoner to be saved by the intervention of various members of his or her family, the wife or sweetheart finally coming to the rescue. In this form (no doubt due to the incremental device) has maintained a very firm framework upon which many interesting forces of variation have played. It has been found as a folk-drama, as a children's game, as a prose tale and as a cante-fable, and in these forms, as well as in the more familiar song structure, it has proved to be the best known of the traditional ballads among American and West Indian negroes.
American variations never show the 'prickly bush' variation which Lucy Broadwood connected with The Seeds of Love (the prickly bush is a familiar symbol of unhappy love in British folk song). Miss Broadwood also interpreted the golden ball (silver comb, cup or key), which appears in some variants, as a symbol of virginity (see JFSS, V, p. 228 ff.). It should be noted, in connection with his last-mentioned thesis, that the sex of the offender in early versions was female, but that most versions collected in recent times have a man awaiting execution.
The version sung by MacColl was collected by J. A. Fuller Maitland in Somerset towards the end of the 19th century. See Child (95), Volume II, p.346 ff.; Coffin, pp.96-99; Dean-Smith, p. 86.
Side 1, track 3
Johnnie O'Breadisley (114)( Johnie Cock)
This fine ballad, which Child referred to as a "precious specimen of the
unspoiled traditional ballad," had not been reported before the end of the 18th
century; an examination of early texts with their interesting examples of
primitive beliefs suggests a greater antiquity.
Various attempts have been made tom identify the specific localities in which the action took place. Tradition and local pride, however, have served to confuse the issue. That it is a 'Border Ballad' there is no doubt; here we have a prime example of the lawlessness and heroics which made the Scottish-English 'no-man's land' fertile ground for the creation of the greatest popular ballads.
MacColl's version, learned from John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, ends on a note of defiance, very much like the child "D" text in which anti-climactic details concerning the sending of a message to Johnnies mother have been deleted.
The ballad has been reported only once in America (in Virginia). See Child (114), volume III, p. ff.; Coffin, p. 104; Greig & Keith, pp. 92-95; Ord, p. 467.
Side 1, track 4
A. L. LLOYD
George Collins (85) (Lady Alice)
This ballad concerns the meeting of a young man with a water-fairy, and the
subsequent death of both him and his sweetheart. It appears to be a composite of
the two Child ballads Clerk Colvill (42) and Lady Alice (85), though it is
presented here as the latter in order to make it consistent with various
bibliographic listings. Perhaps George collins represents the full form of a
ballad which Child only knew as two apparently unrelated portions. (See Barbara
M. Car'ster, "George Collins," JFSS, IV, pp. 106-109, and Samuel P. Bayard, "The
Johnny Collins Version of Lady Alice"," JAF, LVIII, pp. 73-103.)
The ballad, in the form discussed and sung here, is widely diffused in the United States, but has not often been reported from tradition in the British ISles; four texts and three melodies, however, were collected in Hampshire, England, in 1906 by J. F. Guyer. the version sung here by A. L. Lloyd is one of these, collected from Henry Stansbridge of Lynshurst.
See Child (42), volume I, p. 371 ff., and (85), Volume II, pp. 279-280; Coffin, pp. 90-92; Dean-Smith, p 58 (under title Clerk Colvill).
Side 1, track 5
The Trooper and The Maid (229)
For many centuries, soldiers have been leaving young maidens just at the time
when they were beginning to know one another quite well. That this should be the
theme of numerous ballads is to be expected; this ballad is distinguishable from
all the rest by reason of the soldier's obvious honest, but evasive-sounding,
answers to the maiden's entreaties as to when she will see him again and/or when
they will marry.
The ballad is known in Scotland to this day, and has been collected, though not very frequently, in the United states; it has been reported from tradition in England in modern times.
MacColl's version was learned from Jimmie MacBeath, tramp and ballad singer of Elgin, Scotland. See Child (299), volume V, pp. 172-174; Coffin, pp. 161-162; Greig & Keith, pp. 246-248.
Side 2, track 1
The Cooper O' Fife (277) (The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin)
Child summarises the story of this humorous ballad as follows: "Robin has
married a wife of too high kin to bake or brew, wash or wring. He strips off a
wether's skin and lays it on her back, or prins her in it. He dares not beat
her, for her proud kin, but he may beat the wether's skin, and does. This makes
an ill wife good."
The ballad probably was derived from the traditional tale of The Wife Lapped in Mare's Skin, dating from the 16th century of earlier. Long a favourite in both Britain and America, the ballad has been the subject of interesting speculation concerning its various refrains, as well as the native American additions to the text (see William Hugh Jansen, "Changes Suffered by the Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin," HFB, IV, pp. 41-48).
MacColl's version, learned from his parents, most nearly matches the Child "C" text, originally from Alexander Whitelaw's The Book of Scottish Song (1844), and this is the form in which the ballad is best known in Scotland today.
See Child (277), volume V, pp. 104-106; Coffin, pp. 146-148; Belden, pp. 92-94; Brown, p. 185 ff.; Greig & Keith, pp. 218-220.
Side 2, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
Fair Margaret and Sweet William (74)
This ballad traces back to at least the beginning of the 17th century, for
two stanzas from it are quoted in Beaumont and Fletcher's Knight of the Burning
Pestle (ca 1611). by the end of the 18th century, it had been printed frequently
as a broadside or stall ballad, which may account for its popularity in tradition. similarly, in America, where it has been collected frequently in
versions quite far removed from the child texts, frequent printings in early
popular songsters may have accounted for its widespread circulation.
In versions recently collected, the stanzas mentioning the appearance of Lady Margaret's ghost have been dropped. This is consistent with the tendency on the part of modernday folksingers to rationalise or discard supernatural elements.
A. L. Lloyd's version was collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough, Yorkshire, probably towards the end of the 19th century.
Side 2, track 3
Glasgow Peggie (228)
Though bonnie Peggie's parents view their daughter's departure as an
abduction by the Highland laddie, it is obvious that Peggie goes of her own
choice. the appearance of the Earl of Hume (Argyle or Weems in other versions)
seems to be an unnecessary intrusion into the ballad tale. IN other versions,
the hero finally identifies himself as some specific Highland lord; in MacColl's
version, learned from his father, no specific identification is made other than
he is the possessor of vast lands, and that, in any case, Peggie's fortune is
now far greater than before.
The ballad appears to be little known outside of Scotland, and it is not reported either from England or America.
Side 2, track 4
The Broom Of Cowdenknowes (217)
That this was at one time one of the most popular of all Scottish ballads can
be judged from the comments of various early collectors as to its wide
diffusion. Child printed 15 texts, none earlier that the 18th century. However,
the ballad is probably older; there are copies of an English "ditty" on a
similar theme which were printed in the first half of the 17th century, and this
song, entitled The Lovely Northern Lasse, indicated that it was to be
sung "to a pleasant Scotch tune, called the broom of Cowden Knowes." At best,
the English song is but a poor derivative of the Scottish ballad.
The ballad continued its popularity into this century and is still sung in Scotland. A single fragmentary text has been collected in America (in Maine).
The version MacColl sings was learned in fragmentary form from his father and collected with the text in Greig & Keith. See Child (217), volume IV, p 191 ff.; Coffin, pp. 132-133; Greig & Keith, pp. 150-153.
Side one, track 1
The Battle Of Harlaw (163)
This ballad describes (through rather inaccurately) the battle of Harlaw,
fought on July 24th, 1411. Donald of the Isles, who justly claimed the Earldom
of Ross, invaded the Scottish lowlands with 10,000 islanders and men of Ross in
hope of subjugating the people of the country as far as the Tay river. He was
met at Harlaw, north of Aberdeen, by the Earl of Mar, and was forced to retire
after losing 900 of his men; the Lowlanders lost 500. As would be expected, the
Lowlanders made a ballad about the battle and, in The Complaynt of Scotland
(1549), mention is made of a ballad "The battel of the Hayrlau," but this ballad
has apparently been lost.
Child believed the traditional ballad, which he knew in only two texts, to have been of relatively recent tradition, chiefly because of the prominence given to the Forbeses, whom history does not report as even being in the battle, and from the omission of the real leaders such as the Earl of Mar.
The ballad is likewise inaccurate in reporting the size of the Highland armies, and in telling of the killing of Macdonald. the names of Sir James the Rose and Sir John Graeme are out of place in this ballad and have probably been borrowed from the ballad of Sir James the Rose (213). The version MacColl sings was learned from Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen.
See Child (163), volume III, p. 316 ff.; Greig & Keith, pp. 101-106; Ord, p. 473.
Side 1, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
The Dover Soldier (295) The Brown Girl
Child relates the story of this ballad as follows: "A young man who has been
attached to a girl sends her word by letter that he cannot fancy her because she
is so brown (he has left her for another maid). She sends a disdainful reply. He
writes again that he is dangerously ill (he is love-sick), and begs her come to
him quickly and give him back his faith. She takes her time in going, and when
she comes to the sick man's bedside, cannot stand for laughing. she has,
however, brought a white wand with her, which she strokes on his breast, in sign
that she gives him back the faith which he had given her. But as to forgetting
and forgiving, that she will never do; she will dance upon his grave."
This ballad has not been recovered from tradition as Child knew it. There are, however, several derivatives of it which have been collected widely, especially in America. What has resulted is a wholesale disagreement on the part of collectors, some of whom include these derivatives as part of the Child 295 tradition, and others who list it as a separate Child ballad. In most of these ballads, the sex of the principal characters have been reversed, and there are lines which clearly show their broadside origin (the ballad appeared frequently on broadsides during the 18th and 19th centuries).
The version sung by A. L. Lloyd, undoubtedly derived from 19th broadside prints, was collected in 1908 by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Lucy Durston of Bridgwater, Somerset. See Child (295), Volume V, pp. 166-168; Coffin, pp. 159-161; Dean-Smith, p. 56..
Side 1, track 3
Amang The Blue Flowers And the Yellow (25) (Willie's Lyke-Wake)
The full story of this ballad concerns an unsuccessful lover who seeks
information as to how to win his lady. He is told to feign death, and his
desired one will come to his wake and indicate her love for him. He does so, and
when his loved one attends the wake and is shown into the death chamber, he
starts up, claims her for his own, and informs her that she cannot return home
until their marriage is completed.
The ballad appears to be extinct, and, indeed, except for a single fragmentary text collected by Greig at the turn of the century (and sung here by MacColl), has not been reported for almost 100 years. The ballad tale is a popular one in northern European countries where it is known to this day.
The text sung by MacColl has lost the heart of the story, the part concerning the lyke-wake itself. what is left is two introductory stanzas concerning the youth's plight and three ending stanzas in which Willie, in answer to the girl's request to be allowed to return home a maiden, tells her she cannot return until they are married.
See Child (25), volume I, p. 247 ff.; Greig & Keith, pp. 24-25.
Side 1, track 4
A. L. LLOYD
The Golden Vanity (286) (The Sweet Trinity)
The earliest known text of this still-favourite ballad is a broadside from
the Pepysian collection dating back to the last half of the 17th century. In
that version, the villain-captain is played by Sir Walter Raleigh, but in later
texts ballad singers have deleted all references to him.
Details of the ballad vary greatly in the many versions collected since child. Aside from the usual havoc wreaked by oral circulation on names and places, an unusual amount of variation exists in the emotional contexts of the ballad ending. In some versions, the cabin-boy hero is amply rewarded, in others he is left to drown, or is pulled aboard too late and dies on deck (As i9n this version). Some few texts even have the cabin-boy take his revenge by returning (in ghost form) and sinking the ship.
The text sung by A. L. Lloyd was collected by W. P. Merrick in 1900 from Henry Hills of Shepperton, Sussex; the melody was noted by Miss A. G. Gilchrist from Mr. Bolton of Southport, Lancashire, in 1906.
See Child (26), Volume V, pp. 135 ff.; Coffin, pp. 153-155; Dean-Smith, p. 60.
Side 1, track 5
The Douglas Tragedy (7) (Earl Brand)
This superb tragic ballad is well known in the northern European nations,
from whose analogues we are able to develop the complete ballad, for certain
details are lacking in both the Scottish and English versions of the ballad. Two
lovers elope from the castle of the bride's father, only to be stopped by a
relative (friend) of the bride's father. after some discussion as to whether he
should be killed, the lovers decide to bride him into not telling the bride's
father. No sooner do the lovers depart than the malicious relative rides to the
castle and tells the bride's father. This is the point at which the Scottish and
English versions of the ballad begin their story.
A second interesting detail not found in the British variants concerns the fight between the hero and members of the bride's family. In the Scandinavian versions, the hero warns his bride not to speak his name while he is fighting. This is obviously a remnant of the primitive belief that a man's name and his soul are one, and that to reveal his name is to weaken his body. As the bride sees her brothers and father being killed, she calls out her lover's name and at that moment he receives his death wound. From that point on the British and Scandinavian ballads tell almost identical stories.
The ballad appears to have been extinct in England since Child's time; it has been reported frequently in America and still exists in tradition in Scotland. MacColl's version was learned from the singing of his mother.
See Child (7), Volume I, p. 88 ff.; Coffin, pp. 35-37; Dean-Smith, p. 64; Ord, p 404; Greig & Keith, pp. 5-7.
Side 2, track 1
The Dowie Dens O' Yarrow (214) (The Braes o' Yarrow)
Child printed nineteen texts of this beautiful Scottish tragic ballad, the
oldest dating from the 18th century. Sir Walter Scott, who first published it in
his minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1803), believing that the ballad referred
to a duel fought at the beginning of the 17th century between John Scott of
Tushielaw and Walter Scott of Thirlestane in which the latter was slain. Child
pointed out inaccuracies in this theory, but tended to give credence to the
possibility that the ballad did refer to an actual occurrence in Scott family
history that was not too far removed from that of the ballad tale. In a recent
article, Norman Cazden discusses various social and historical implications of
this ballad (and its relationship to Child 215, Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow),
as well as deriding Scott's theories as to its origin (see "The Story of a
Catskill Ballad," NYFQ, Winter, 1952, pp. 243-266).
The ballad still exists in tradition in Scotland. It has been reported rarely in America, a fine text having been collected in New York State.
See Child (214), Volume IV, p. 160 ff.; Coffin, pp. 129-131; Dean-Smith, p. 64; Ord, p. 426; Greig & Keith, pp. 141-144.
Side 2, track 2
A. L. LLOYD
Robin Hood And The Bishop Of Hertford (144)
That Robin Hood was a devoutly pious man, especially in his devotion to the
Virgin Mary, is stated in several of the Robin Hood ballads (e.g. A Gest of
Robyn Hode (117), Robin Hood and the Potter (121), Robin Hood and the Guy of Gisborne (118),
Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar (123). That Robin Hood was the
enemy of the higher orders, whether they were secular or religious, is made
equally clear. Monks and bishops and archbishops all fall prey to him when they
meet him in his bailiwick. Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford relates one
such encounter, with the bishop coming off a decided second-best.
In the middle of the 19th century, William Chappel indicated that this was the most popular of the Robin Hood ballads known at that time. the ballad has been reported rarely in England in this century, and has not been found in America.
The version sung by A. L. Lloyd was collected by H. E. D. Hammond from George Stone of Wareham, Dorset, in 1906. See Child (144), Volume III, pp. 193-196; Dean-Smith, p. 101.
Side 2, track 3
The Gairdner Child (219) The Gardener
Child's two texts for this "pretty ballad" (as Child termed it) both date
from the early 19th century. That the Ballad was known earlier, is evident,
however, from a considerably corrupted copy of it found in an Edinburgh chapbook
The ballad tale, if we may call it that, is a simple and highly poetic one; a gardener comes courting a maid and will dress her from head to toe with flowers if she will be his bride. He receives a chilling answer in return. She will clothe him in the winter's worst elements and every time he passes by she'll wish he was gone.
The ballad appears to be unknown outside of Scotland. Child noted that occasional stanzas from it were intermixed with lines from Seeds of Love and A Sprig of Thyme; it is possible that some lines from the ballad may be known in England and America as a result of this borrowing, but in neither country has the entire ballad been found.
The version MacColl sings was learned in fragmentary form from his mother, with additional stanzas from Greig and Keith. See Child (219), volume IV, pp. 212-214; Greig & Keith, pp. 155-158.
Side 2, track 4
Gil Morice (83) (Child Maurice)
In the 18th century, this classic ballad excited more interest than had any
other of the many ancient ballads preserved from tradition in Scotland. No doubt
this was due not only to its merits as an exquisite piece of poetry, but because
it furnished the plot for John Home's very popular tragedy of Douglas (1756).
the ballad has been printed in Glasgow in 1755 and had wide distribution; after
Home's play, the ballad came into greater vogue than previously, and it is
probably that the sophisticated printed copy passed into tradition and infected
those which were repeated from earlier tradition. Indeed, an old woman told
Motherwell that she had learned "Chield Morice" in her infancy from her
grandmother, but at a later period of her life she committed to memory "Gil
Morice" (probably from the printed copy) "which began with young lasses like
her, to be a greater favorite and more fashionable than the set which her
grandmother and old folks used to sing" (Motherwell, Minstrelsy, ancient and
It is interesting to note that Greig collected a version in this century that had been learned about 1850 and which closely reproduced the printed Glasgow text of a century earlier, indicating rather strongly that the printed copy definitely took hold in tradition. At the present time, the ballad may well be extinct in tradition. the last version reported was a fragmentary recited text collected in Newfoundland in 1920.
The version sung by MacColl was learned from Greig and Keith. See Child (83), Volume II, p. 263 ff.; Greig & Keith, pp. 64-67.
Last updated on 07/02/2011