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Here's The Tender Coming

Originating from Newcastle and Sunderland on the North East coast of England “Here’s The Tender Coming” (Roud 3174) speaks of times when the press gangs were prevalent. “Pressing” was devastating to communities, men were taken against their will leaving families behind with no income or means of feeding themselves. The North East coast provided a huge number of men to serve in the Royal Navy during the French Wars, only London lost more people to the pressgang.

Here's the tender coming, pressing all the men
Oh dear hinny, what'll we do then?
Here's the tender coming off at Shield's Bar
Here's the tender coming full of men-o'-war

Hide thee canny hinny, hide thyself away
Hide thee till the frigate makes for Druridge Bay
If they take thee Geordie, who's to win our bread?
Me and little Jackie better off be dead

Here's the tender coming, pressing all the men
Oh dear hinny, what'll we do then?
Here's the tender coming off at Shield's Bar
Here's the tender coming full of men-o'-war

Here's the tender coming, stealing off my dear

Oh dear hinny, they'll ship you out of here

They will ship you foreign, that is what it means

Here's the tender coming, full of red marines

 

Here's the tender coming, pressing all the men

Oh dear hinny, what'll we do then?

Here's the tender coming off at Shield's Bar

Here's the tender coming full of men-o'-war

High Germany

Most likely set in the early to mid 18th century when it was common for armies to come with a large retinue, wives and tradespeople travelled along with the soldiers for comfort or profit. Polly being pregnant is not keen to follow her Billy to war though he is able to tempt her as far as Plymouth. (Roud 404)

Oh Polly love, oh Polly, the rout has now begun,
And we must go a-marching to the beating of the drum.
Go dress yourself all in your best and come along with me;
I'll take you to the wars, my love, in High Germany.

Oh Billy love, oh Billy, come list what I do say,
My feet they are so tender, I cannot march away.
And besides, my dearest Billy, I am with child by thee,
Not fitted for the wars, my love, in High Germany.

I'll buy for you a pony love, and on it you will ride
And all my heart's delight will be a-riding by your side.
We'll stop at every alehouse and drink when we are dry,
Be true to one another, get married by and by.

And when we get to Plymouth town, I'll have for you a bed

It shall be covered in roses, and the roses shall be red

And when your baby's born, smiling at your knee

You'll think of loving Billy-oh in High Germany.

Oh, cursed be the cruel wars that ever they may rise

And out of Merry England press many a lad likewise.

They took my true love from me, and my brothers three,

They never shall return again from High Germany.

The Rolling Hills of the Borders

Written by Matt McGinn (1928-1977) this feels like a love song, written to the beautiful border country of Scotland the people who inhabit it. It’s a beautiful and widely sung song, by a great songwriter.

When I die, bury me low
Where I can hear the bonny Tweed flow
A sweeter place I never did know
The rolling hills of the border

I've travelled far, wandered wide
I've seen the Hudson and the Clyde
I've courted by Loch Lomond's side
But I dearly love the border

Well do I have mind of the day
With my lassie I strolled by the Tay
But all these beauties fade away
Among the hills of the border

There's a certain peace of mind
Bonnie lassies there you'll find
Men so sturdy, yet so kind
Among the hills of the borders

The Begging Song

The first record of "The Begging Song" (Roud 286) appears on a broadsheet published in 1684, it has remained part of the popular folk canon ever since. This version recognises the dark irony of the lyric, where the song paints begging as a life of freedom and leisure, then it moves on to the harsh realities of rough sleeping and social condemnation.

Of all the trades in England, the begging is the best
For when a beggar's tired, he can lay him down to rest
And a-begging I will go, a-begging I will go

 

There's patches on my coat, and on my right eye too
When it comes to pretty girls, I can see as well as you

And a-begging I will go, a-begging I will go
 

I got on the train in Carlisle they kicked me out at Crewe
I slept on every paving-stone from there to Waterloo

A-begging I will go, a-begging I will go

 

Police came down to see us, they came down three together

Put out the fire and left us there, oh lord how we did shiver

A-begging I will go, a-begging I will go

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Written by Ewan MacColl in 1966, "Sweet Thames Flow Softly" formed part of an experimental production based on Romeo and Juliet. A tale of a love affair from its infancy to dissolution using the Thames river journey as a metaphor.

I met my girl at Woolwich Pier beneath the big crane standing
And all the love I felt for her it passed all understanding
Took her sailing on the river, flow sweet river flow
London town was mine to give her, sweet Thames flow softly
Made the Thames into a crown, flow sweet river flow
Made a brooch of Silvertown, sweet Thames flow softly

At London Yard I held her hand, at Blackwell Point I faced her
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth and tenderly embraced her
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing, flow sweet river flow
All the time my heart was singing, sweet Thames flow softly
Limehouse Reach I gave her there, flow sweet river flow
As a ribbon for her hair, sweet Thames flow softly

From Shadwell Dock to Nine Elms Reach we cheek to cheek were dancing
A necklace made of London Bridge her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping, flow sweet river flow
After that there was no stopping, sweet Thames flow softly
Richmond Park it was a ring, flow sweet river flow
I’d have given her anything, sweet Thames flow softly

From Rotherhithe to Putney Bridge my love I was declaring
And she from Kew to Isleworth her love for me was swearing
Love it set my heart a-burning, flow sweet river flow
Never saw the tide was turning, sweet Thames flow softly
Gave her Hampton Court to twist, flow sweet river flow
Into a bracelet for her wrist, sweet Thames flow softly

But now, alas, the tide has changed, my love she has gone from me
And winter’s frost has touched my heart and put a blight upon me
Creeping fog is on the river, flow sweet river flow
Sun and moon and stars gone with her, sweet Thames flow softly
Swift the Thames runs to the sea, flow sweet river flow
Bearing ships and part of me, sweet Thames flow softly

My Faithful Johnny

This song started life as a poem by Anne Grant of Laggan (1755-1838), it was then set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven. It lay mostly forgotten until Johnny Handle stumbled across it in a school song book and the 1970’s saw it re-enter popular folk culture. It is interesting to note the lyrics make reference to Halloween, which is rare among folk songs.

When will you come again, My faithful Johnny,

When will you come again, my sweet and bonnie.

When the corn is gathered, when the leaves are withered,

I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I’ll come again.

 

Then winter's winds will blow, my faithful Johnny,

Then winter's winds will blow, my sweet and bonnie,

Though the night be dark with drift, that I cannot see the light,

I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I’ll come again.

 

Then will you meet me here, my faithful Johnny,

Then will you meet me here, my sweet and bonnie?

Though the night be Halloween, when the fearful sights are seen

I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I’ll come again.

Nay Nay Ivy

From the time of Henry VI it’s an early lyric which arguably has become the modern day “Holly and the Ivy”. The Holly represents Man and the Ivy represents Woman, the chorus please “Let Holly have his mastery”, so the womenfolk stay outside in the cold while the men carouse indoors. Or maybe it tells of the rivalry between holly and ivy for mastery of the forest. The original song is from the 14th century; Jim rewrote the setting for a more modern ear.

Holly stands within the hall fair to behold

Ivy stands without the door she’s full sore cold

Holly and his merry men they dance and sing

Ivy and her maidens they weep and ring

 

(Chorus)

Nay Nay Ivy

It may not be

Let Holly have his mastery

 

Holly hath berries red as any rose

The forester, the hunter keeps them from the does

Ivy hath berries black as any sloes

Then comes the owl and eat him as she goes

 

Holly hath birds, a fair full flock

The Nightingale, the Popinjay, the Laverock

Good Ivy say to me what birds hast thou

None but the Owlet who cries how how

Spencer The Rover

Our version of "Spencer The Rover" has been greatly inspired by John Martyn’s recording from his 1975 album Sunday’s Child. The earliest record we can find of this song was collected by Vaughan Williams from Mr and Mrs Truell of Gravesend in December 1904 (Roud 1115). A beautifully melancholy melody and astonishingly for a folk song it has a happy ending.

This tune was composed by Spencer the Rover
As valiant a man as ever left home
And he had been much reduced
Which caused great confusion
And that was the reason he started to roam

In Yorkshire near Rotherham, he had been on the ramble
Weary of travelling, he sat down to rest
By the foot of yon' mountain
There lies a clear flowing fountain
With bread and cold water he himself did refresh

With the night fast approaching, to the woods he resorted
With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make
But he dreamt about sighing
Lamenting and crying
Go home to your family and rambling forsake

 

Twas the fifth day of November, I've reason to remember
When first he arrived home to his family and friends
And they did stand so astounded
Amazed and dumbfounded
To see such a stranger once more in their sight

And his children come around him with their prittle prattling stories
With their prittle prattling stories to drive care away
And he's as happy as these
As with thousands of riches
Contented he'll remain and not ramble no more

The Bells of Paradise

“Down in Yon Forest” or “The Bells of Paradise” (Roud 1523) is a traditional English Christmas carol dating to the Renaissance era, ultimately deriving from the anonymous Middle English poem known today as the Corpus Christi Carol.

Down in yon forest there stands a hall:
The bells of Paradise I heard them ring:
It's covered all over with purple and pall
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.

In that hall there stands a bed:
The bells of Paradise I heard them ring:
It's covered all over with scarlet so red:
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.

At the bed-side there lies a stone:
The bells of Paradise I heard them ring:
That the sweet Virgin Mary knelt upon:
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.

 

Under that bed there runs a flood:
The bells of Paradise I heard them ring:
The one half runs water, the other runs blood:
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.

At the bed's foot there grows a thorn:
The bells of Paradise I heard them ring:
Which never bore blossom since he was born:
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.

The Shepherds Song

Also known as ‘Stormy Winds’ (Roud 284) versions of this song have been collected from all over England – Gloucester, Herts, Shropshire. This song paints the dualistic life of a shepherd, sometimes respected as the top of rural society, sometimes cast off as a beggar.

We shepherds are the bravest boys that tread old England’s ground

If we go into an alehouse we values not one pound

We call for liquor merrily and pays before we go

While our sheep lie asleep where the stormy do blow

 

Come all ye valiant shepherds who have got valiant hearts

Who goes out in the morning and never feels the smart

We will never be faint hearted, we will feel no frost or snow

While our sheep lie asleep where the stormy winds do blow

As I woke up one morning it caused my heart to bleed

To see my sheep hang out their tongues and they begin to bleat

So I plucked up my courage bold and up the hill did go

To drive them to the fold where the stormy winds do blow

 

And now I have a-folded them and turn-ed back again

I will join some jovial company and there be entertained

A-drinking of strong liquor boys which is my hearts delight

While my sheep lie asleep all for safety all the night

The Hard Times of Old England

Written shortly after The Napoleonic Wars this song documents the living conditions of the working class in a society bankrupted by war. Living conditions all over Europe were challenging with work, food and sanitary housing in short supply. Many families existed close to starvation in freezing conditions. (Roud 1206)

Come all brother tradesmen that travel alone
O pray, come and say where the trade is all gone
Long time have I travelled and I cannot find none

Oh the hard times of Old England
In Old England, very hard times

Provisions you buy at the shop, it is true
But if you've no money there's none there for you
So what's a poor man and his family to do?

Oh the hard times of Old England
In Old England, very hard times

You can go to the shop and ask for a job
They'll answer you there with a shake and a nod
It’s enough to make a poor man go out on the rob

Oh the hard times of Old England
In Old England, very hard times

 

You can see the poor tradesmen walkin' the street
From morning to night his employment to seek
And scarcely they have any shoes to their feet

Oh the hard times of Old England
In Old England, very hard times

 

You soldiers and sailors just come from war

You’ve been fighting for you King and country this year

Come home to be homeless you were better where you were

 

Oh the hard times of Old England
In Old England, very hard times

 

And now to conclude and to finish my song

Let’s hope that these hard times they don’t last for long

And soon I’ll have occasion to alter my song

 

And sing Oh the good times of old England

In old England very Good times

Elsie Marley

Elsie is a renowned ”Ale Wife”, one of the earliest on record. She owned and ran The Swan in Chester Le Street. She was hugely popular and broke many of the social norms of the time. Her pub was frequented by sailors who travelled from the Newcastle docks to drink there.

Di' ye ken Elsie Marley, honey

The wife who sells the barley

She lost her pocket and all her money

The back o' the bush in the garden, honey

 

Elsie Marley's grown so fine

She can't get up to serve the swine

But lies in bed till eight or nine

Di' ye ken Elsie Marley, honey

 

Elsie Marley is so neat

It's hard for one to walk the street

But every lad and lass they meet

Cries "Di' ye ken Elsie Marley, honey?"

 

Elsie Marley wore a straw hat

But now she wears a velvet cap

The Lambton lads dun pay for that

Di' ye ken Elsie Marley, honey?

Elsie keeps rum, gin and ale

In her house below the dale

And every tradesman, up and down

Does call to spend his half-a-crown

 

The farmers they all come their way

They drink with Elsie every day

And call the fiddler for to play

The tune of Elsie Marley, honey

The sailors they all call for flip

As soon as they come from the ship

And they begin to dance and to skip

To the tune of Elsie Marley, honey

 

The gentlemen who go so fine

They treat her to a bottle of wine

And gladly they do sit down to dine

Along with Elsie Marley, honey

Sally Gardens

This song is a setting of a WB Yeats poem which itself was a creative re-imagining of a part overheard lyric sung by a working class Irish woman. Set to music many times we first arranged this song for my (Isobel's) father who loved it dearly, we played it at his funeral.

Down by the sally gardens

My love and I did meet

She passed the sally gardens

On little snow-white feet

She bid me take life easy

As the leaves grow on the tree

But I was young and foolish

With her did not agree

In a field down by the river

My love and I did stand

And on my leaning shoulder

She laid her cold white hand

She bid me take love slowly

As the grass grows on the weirs

But I was young and foolish

And now am full of tears

The Doffin Mistress

The Doffin Mistress originates from the linen mills of Northern Island. A Doffin Mistress was employed to look after the welfare of the women weavers, she would oversee as the weavers worked ensuring that they were using safe practices. Elsie Thompson is named in this song and she is much loved by her co-workers, there are versions of this song which name other Doffin Mistresses.

O do you know her or do you not
That new doffin' mistress we have got?
Elsie Thompson it is her name
She fights for her doffers at every frame

Fal-de right-full-ree

Fal-de right-full-rae

On Monday morning when she comes in
She hangs her coat on the highest pin
Turns around just to greet her friends
Crying, “Hey there, doffers, tie up your ends”

Sometimes the boss he walks in the door
“Tie your ends up, doffers,” he will roar
Tie up our ends we will surely do
But for Elsie Thompson and not for you

Oh Elsie Thompson are you going away?

Will it be tomorrow or today?

Are you going for to break our hearts?

There is no one left here to take our parts

The Smart Schoolboy

Child Ballad number 3. We have chosen an American interpretation of a very old British folk song. With nothing but his wit and faith as armour a solitary school boy defeats the False Knight (the devil) on his way to school. The Knight attempts to steal the boy's soul away using tricks and enticements but he gets nowhere. Pah! to the nasty fairy tricks!

“Where are you going?” said the knight on the road
“I'm going to school,” said the boy as he stood

And he stood, he stood, and it’s well that he stood

“I'm going to school,” said the boy as he stood
 

“And what do you there?” said the knight on the road
“I read from me book,” said the boy as he stood

And he stood, he stood, and it’s well that he stood

“I read from me book,” said the boy as he stood

“And what have you got?” said the knight on the road

“It's but bread and cheese” said the boy as he stood

And he stood, he stood, and it’s well that he stood

“It's but bread and cheese” said the boy as he stood

“Oh pray give me some” said the knight on the road

“Oh no, not a crumb”  said the boy as he stood

And he stood, he stood, and it’s well that he stood

“Oh no, not a crumb”  said the boy as he stood

“I hear your school bell,” said the false knight upon the road
“It's ringing you to hell,”  said the boy as he stood

And he stood, he stood, and it’s well that he stood

“It's ringing you to hell,”  said the boy as he stood

Pleasant and Delightful

A relatively young song in folk terms and also a song which reached such heights of popularity that it became a cliché. However we love it and have endeavoured to reconnect with what is honest and good about the song. It's a tale of lovers separated and their vows to be true until they meet again.

It was pleasant and delightful one midsummer's morn
To view the fine meadows all covered with corn
The blackbirds and thrushes sang on every green spray
And the larks they sang melodious at the dawning of the day
  

A sailor and his true love were walking one day 
Said the sailor to his true love "I'm bound far away
I’m bound for the East Indies where loud cannons do roar
I must go and leave you Nancy you're the girl I adore​"

The ring from off her finger she instantly drew
Saying "Take this dearest Billie, my heart will go too"
And as she embraced him tears from her eyes fell
Saying, "May I go along with you?" "Oh no me love farewell"

"So it's fare thee well my Nancy, I'm bound far away
The ship she is a-waiting out there in the bay
The anchor is hoisted she waits the next flowing tide
And if ever I return again I will make you my bride"

Tam Lin

Tam Lin has been around for hundreds of years, stealing the hearts and maidenhead of women who live on the Scottish Borders and squandering their honest affection to get himself out of a rather nasty hole he's in with the Queen of Fairies (doubtless after mucking about with her affections too). Not much sympathy for the bounder in this household. Janet's the star of the show, staying true to her heart and her principals right to the moment the ground swallows her up with her unborn infant too.

“I forbid you maidens all who wear gold in your hair
For to go to Carterhaugh, for young Tam Lin is there

Them that go by Carterhaugh but they pay him a pledge
Either their mantle green or else their maidenhead”

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she

​“Why come ye to Carterhaugh without command from me?”
“I'll come and go,” young Janet said, “and take no leave of thee”

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she

​So spoke up her father dear, he spoke so meek and mild
“Well alas, Janet,” he said, “I think you go with child”

“If that be so,” young Janet said, “myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your halls shall get the baby's name

​For if my love were an earthly knight, but he's an elfin grey
I'll not change my own true love for any knight you have”

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she

“Tell me, Tam Lin,” she said, “why came you here to dwell?”
“The Queen of Fairies caught me from when my horse I fell

And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to hell
And I so fair and full of flesh and fear it is myself

But tonight is Halloween and the fairy court does ride
Those who would let true love win at Mile's Cross must hide

First let pass the horses black and then the horses brown
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down

For I'll ride on the white steed, nearest to the town
For I once was an earthly knight, and they give me that renown

They will turn me in your arms into a newt or snake
Hold me close and fear not, for I'm your baby's father

​And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
Hold me close and fear not and you will love your child

And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight
Cloak me in your mantle green and keep me out of sight”

And in the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win

So spoke up the Fairy Queen, an angry queen was she
Woe betide her ill-far'd face, an ill death may she die

“Oh, had I known, Tam Lin,” she said, “what this night I would see
I'd have looked him in the eye and turned him to a tree”

The Whitsun Dance

By AJ Marshall, “The Whitsun Dance" is a moving song which paints a beautiful and heartbreakingly accurate picture of women who lost their menfolk to the first world War.

It's fifty-one springtimes since she was a bride 
But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide
In a dress of white linen and ribbons of green
As green as her memories of loving

The feet that were nimble tread carefully now
As gentle a measure as age do allow
Through groves of white blossom by fields of young corn
Where once she was pledged to her true love

The fields they stand empty, the hedgerows grow free
No young men to tend them or pastures go see
They have gone where the forests of oak trees before
Have gone to be wasted in battle​

Down from their green farmlands and from their loved ones
Marched husbands and lovers and fathers and sons
There's a fine roll of honour where the maypole once was
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

There's a row of straight houses in these latter days
Covering the downs where the sheep used to graze
There's a field of red poppies and a wreath from the Queen
But the ladies remember at Whitsun

And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

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