> Anne Briggs > Songs > Martinmas Time
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Martinmas Time

Martinmas Time

[ Roud 2173 ; G/D 1:161 ; Ballad Index DTmartin ; trad.]

Anne Briggs sang Martinmas Time in 1966 on the Topic theme album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Erotic Songs. As all of her tracks from this album it was reissued on her two compilations Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. It was also included in the folk anthology And We'll All Have Tea. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

The folk have always loved songs of seduction, but, fair's fair, they've delighted too in recitals about girls who nimbly extricate themselves from a ticklish position where their heart isn't in it. So the girl on the Broomfield Hill, and Lovely Joan, and the Maid on the Shore, who all escaped from unwelcome embraces by the exercise of their wit, are admired folk heroines. To their gay company belongs the young woman in this song, seldom heard now, though Gavin Greig, who printed a text (fuller than this one), in his Folk-Song of the North-East, reported it as “popular beyond most of its class” earlier in this century.

Emily Smith sang It Fell About the Martinmas in 2005 on her CD A Different Life. She commented in her liner notes:

The lyrics to this song come from Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads. It's about a girl who fools a troop of Scottish soldiers by dressing up as one herself. She beats them at their own game and triuphantly escapes capture.

Maddy Prior sang Martinmas Time in 2008 on her CD Seven for Old England. She commented in her liner notes:

Gavin Greig was famous for the massive collection he made with Rev. J.B. Duncan of songs from North East Scotland. He says of Martinmas Time that it was was popular beyond most of its class. Bert Lloyd honed the song and adapted a tune from several versions and gave it to Anne Briggs, where I first heard it. But it was later sung by Andy Irvine and Paul Brady and I think our performance owes more to them.

James Yorkston sang Martinmas Time in 2009 on his CD and DVD Folk Songs.

Pilgrims' Way sang Martinmas Time in 2011 on their CD Wayside Courtesies. They commented in their liner notes:

Described by Gavin Greig as “popular beyond most of its class” in the early part of the 20th century, we first heard this song from the wonderful singing of Anne Briggs. Here the heroine easily outwits a whole garrison of stupid men in the first of our cross-dressing ballads. Tom says he relates well to the character of the “solemn oaf”.

Me too.

Bryony Griffith got Martinmas Time from the singing of Anne Briggs and recorded a slightly shortened version in 2011 with her husband Will Hampson for their duo CD Lady Diamond.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings Martinmas Time Bryony Griffith sings Martinmas Time

It fell upon Martinmas time
When snow lay on the borders,
There came a troop of soldiers here
To take up their winter quarters.

Chorus (after each verse):
With me right fol-de-li-dle ly-die li-dle ly-dee-o
With me right fol-de-li-dle ly-dee la-ry.

As it fell upon Martinmas time
When snow lay on the borders,
There came a troop of soldiers here
To take up their winter quarters.

They rode up and they rode down
And they rode over the border.
There they met a fair pretty girl
And she was a farmer's daughter.

Now they've marched up and they've marched down
And they've marched over the border.
And there they spied a fair pretty maid
And she was a farmer's daughter.

They made her swear a solemn oath
With a salt tear in her eye, oh,
That she would call at their quarter gates
When no-one did her spy, oh.

They made her swear a solemn vow
With a salt tear in her eye, oh,
That she would come to the quarter gates
No-one would her spy, oh.

Chorus (after every other verse):
To me right fol-de-li-dle ly-die li-dle ly-dee-o
With me right fol-de-li-dle ly-dee la-ry.

So she goes to the barber shop,
To the barber shop went soon, oh.
She's made him cut her fine yellow hair
As short as any dragoon, oh.

So she's gone to the barber shop,
To the barber shop went soon, oh.
And off they've cut her long yellow hair
As short as any dragoon, oh.

Then she goes to the tailor shop
And dresses in soldier's clothes, oh.
A pair of pistols down by her side
And a nice little boy was she, oh.

And she's gone to the tailor shop
And dressed in soldier's clothes, oh.
With a brace of pistols down by her side
A nice little boy was she, oh.

When she came to the quarter gates,
It's loud, loud she did call, oh,
“There comes a troop of soldiers here
And we must have lodgings all, oh!”

So she's gone to the quarter gates,
And loudly did she cry, oh,
“There comes a troop of soldiers here
And they must have lodgings all, oh!”

The quartermaster he comes out,
He gives her half a crown, oh:
“Go and find lodgings for yourself,
For here there is no room, oh.”

But she drew nearer to the gates
And louder she did call, oh:
“Room, room, you gentlemen,
We must have lodgings all, oh!”

The quartermaster he comes out,
He gives her eighteen pence, oh:
“Go and find lodgings in the town
For tonight there comes a wench, oh.”

So the quartermaster he came out,
And he's thrown her eighteen pence, oh:
“Go find your lodgings in the town,
For tonight there comes a wench, oh.”

She's pulled the garters from her legs,
The ribbons from her hair, oh.
She's tied them 'round the quarter gates
As a token she'd been there, oh.

So she's pulled the garters from her legs
And the ribbon from her hair, oh,
And she's tied them 'round the quarter gates
As a token she was there, oh.

She drew a whistle from her side,
And blew it loud and shrill, oh:
“You're all very free with your eighteen pence,
But you're not for a girl at all, oh.”

And when they knew that it was her
They tried to overtake her.
She's clapped her spurs to her horse's side
And she's galloped home a maiden.

And when they saw that it was her
They tried to overtake her.
But she's clapped her spurs in her horse's side
And galloped home a maiden.