Songs on this site

Our songs come from various sources, including other singers, recordings and books. The Full English archive on the Vaughan-Williams Memorial Library website is also an excellent resource. Often we’ll each know different versions of a song, and we tend to alter them anyway, so what we end up with is rarely anything like what either of us had in mind at the start. Some people call this the “folk process”.

The Sheepstealer

A song about daydreaming. It comes from the Hammond and Gardiner manuscripts, and we learnt it from the version published in the Frank Purslow EFDSS book The Constant Lovers. The Hammond brothers noted the tune from Edith Sartin of Corscombe, Dorset in 1906, but the words are based on those collected from George Dowden of Lackington the previous year. Purslow tells us that the tune is from a Restoration ballad called Cupid’s Trepan and was used in at least seven ballad operas between 1725 and 1745. So it must be good.

Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy

A song from the Copper family of Rottingdean. Does everyone have a Copper song? Probably. This is one of ours. The heartbreaking tale of a man who has to leave his true love to go and fight at sea in order to earn enough money to keep himself in beer.

The Leaves of Life

An old song. So old, we learnt it from an audio cassette. The cassette was called The Leaves of Life: The Field Recordings of Fred Hamer, and featured Romany singer May Bradley singing this song. Vicky leant the cassette to Richard, who (luckily) made a copy and then promptly lost the original. The song is a spring carol and tells of Mary’s trip to see Jesus at Calvary. We’ve kept most of May Bradley’s phrases (e.g. “everlie guide” for “heavenly guide”) but have substituted “fennel” for “phyarm” in the last verse.

Once I Had a Sweetheart

This song was sung to Cecil Sharp by Henry Tidball of Wedmore, Somerset on 16 January 1907. Vicky found it in Maud Karpeles’ book The Crystal Spring. Vicky’s partner comes from Wedmore, so perhaps this is why the song holds a special meaning for her (though he isn’t called Billy and doesn’t, as far as we know, wear a bunch of blue ribbons.)  It’s followed by a tune that Vicky wrote.

William Taylor

We merged a number of different versions of this song, and invented a bit, to come up with this. Vicky thinks it’s a song about a girl standing up for herself. Richard thinks it’s about an overreaction from a psychologically disturbed woman who should be locked up in a secure unit. A man gets forced to leave his new wife behind and go abroad to fight for his country. Five years later she dresses as a man and goes to look for him. Some fighting ensues, during which she is rendered gratuitously topless. Next she discovers him with another woman and, spoiler alert, shoots him dead.

Searching for Lambs

This is more or less the version Cecil Sharp collected in Somerton, Somerset, from a Mrs Sweet in August 1907. Too nice a tune to tart up with harmonies, so we sing it in unison, and then play something resembling the tune a few times at the end.