The Jolly Plough Boys

The song collector Cecil Sharp said of this song, “I find that almost every singer knows it; the bad singers often know but little else.” It’s a broadside ballad published by Henry Such of the Borough, London. The song may have originated in Somerset, but this is uncertain. Here’s a melancholy version by Kate Rusby.

Alternate titles: The Ploughboy; We’re All Jolly Fellows That Follow the Plough

The Jolly Plough Boys

‘Twas early one mornin’, at the break of the day
The cocks they were crowing and the farmer did say,
Rise up my jollw fellows, arise with good will,
Your horses want something their bellies to fill.

When four o’clock came me boys, it’s up we did rise,
And off to the stable we merrily flies
With a rubbin’ and a-scrubbin’ our horses we’ll go,
For we’re all jolly fellows what follers the plough

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Mary Ann

Archie Fisher sings a traditional (possibly English) parting song made famous by Bob Dylan on his album “Dylan.”

According to the “Mainly Norfolk” site:

Perry Friedman sang two verses of the parting song Mary Ann in 1960 on his Topic EP Vive La Canadienne. The album notes commented:

“This unusual sailor’s song comes from the collection of Dr. Marius Barbeau, the dean of Canadian folklorists. He heard it in 1920 in the town of Tadoussao in the province of Quebec. The singer, Edouard Hovington, who was then ninety, had been for many years an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the famous fur-trading company which played such an important part in Canada’s early history. He said he had learned it from an Irish sailor some seventy years earlier, which would carry it back at least to 1850.

Mary Ann is obviously descended from the old English song, “The True Lover’s Farewell,” which is also the ancestor of “The Turtle Dove “and Burns’ “My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose,” but this is one of the most unusual of the many variants. The nautical references give it a salty flavour quite appropriate to the Tadoussao region which abounds in tiny fishing villages. However it did not originate in Canada, for almost the same words are given in a book of Victorian Street Ballads edited by W. Henderson and published in London in 1937. Even the lobster and the blue fish, which seem typically Canadian, are found in the English version. The only difference is in the final stanza: instead of longing for a flask of gin, the Victorian ballad concludes:

The pride of all our kitchen rare
That in our kitchen garden grows
Was pumpkins, but none could compare
In angel form to my Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann

Oh fare you well my own true love,
Oh fare you well my dear;
The ship is waiting and the wind is high,
And I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann,
Yes, I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann.

Ten thousand miles away from you,
Ten thousand miles or more,
But the earth will freeze and the sea will burn
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann,
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann.

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Nottamun Town

This ballad has had a life in a number of traditions, including Medieval English all the way to American Appalachian. The tune even crops up in Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” It’s a great tune with a set of contradicting lyrics that seem to obfuscate a deeper meaning, whether that is true or not. The video is the legendary Bert Jansch‘s gritty version of the song.

From Wikipedia:

The song is fairly popular in the English Midlands, particularly in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Southern Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, which lends credence to the theory that the Nottamun in the song is a corruption of Nottingham.

Theories abound as to the meaning of the song, but two are generally accepted as probable:

1. That it derives from the Feast of Fools or Mummers’ Plays and their absurd topsy-turvy worlds.
2. That it refers to the English Civil War. In this war, Charles I of England raised his first army around Nottingham, and it may be a corruption of that city’s name that gives the song its title. A popular theme at the time with diarists and pamphleteers was ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ and there are many famous woodcuts dating from this period with illustrations of cats chasing dogs, men wearing boots on their hands and the like.

Nottamun Town

In Nottamun Town, not a soul would look up,
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
To show me the way to fair Nottamun Town

I bought me a horse twas called a grey mare
Grey mane and grey tail and green stripe on her back
Grey mane and grey tail and green stripe on her back
Weren’t a hair upon her that was not coal black

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