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Six Dukes Went A-Fishing

[ Roud 78 ; Ballad Index FO078 ; trad.]

Percy Grainger collected Six Dukes Went A-Fishing in 1906 from Georg Gouldthorpe at Brigg Union Workhouse, Lincolnshire. This song was published in 1959 in Ralph Vaughan Williams' and A.L. Lloyd's The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. A.L. Lloyd recorded it in 1956 for the album Great British Ballads Not Included in the Child Collection and again in 1960 for A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Like all tracks from the latter LP it was reissued in 2003 on the CD England & Her Traditional Songs. Lloyd wrote in the album's sleeve notes:

It is plausible to suggest that the drowned man in this dark story was really the first Duke of Suffolk, murdered my political enemies in 1450, and bis body flung on the seashore at Dover (the incident is illustrated in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II). Folk singers were evidently impressed by the gaunt imagery of the song, for fragments of the funeral scene turn up in other, later songs. Percy Grainger recorded it phonographically from a poor lime-burner, George Gouldthorpe of Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, in 1906. Benjamin Britten has piano-set it. The word “flamboys” means “torches” (flambeaux, in French).

Shirley and Dolly Collins recorded this with the title Six Dukes in 1970 for their album Love, Death & the Lady.

Lisa Knapp sang Six Dukes in 2007 on her album Wild and Undaunted.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Six Dukes Went A-Fishing Shirley Collins sings Six Dukes

Six dukes went a-fishing
Down by yon sea-side.
One of them spied a dead body
Lain by the waterside.

Six dukes went a-fishing
Down by the sea-side.
One spied a dead body
Come floating in the tide.

The one said to the other,
These words I heard them say:
“It's the Royal Duke of Grantham
That the tide has washed away.”

And the one said to the other,
These words I heard them say:
“It's the Royal Duke of Grantham
That the tide has washed away.”

They took him up to Portsmouth
To a place where was known;
From there up to London
To the place where he was born.

And they took him up to London
To the place where was known;
From there back to Grantham,
The place where he was born.

They took out his bowels,
And stretched out his feet,
And they balmed his body
With roses so sweet.

And they took out his bowels,
And they bound up his feet,
And they balmed his body
With roses so sweet.

Six dukes stood before him,
Twelve raised him from the ground,
Nine lords followed after him
In their black mourning gown.

Six dukes went before him,
Nine raised him from the ground,
Twelve lords followed after
In their black mourning gowns.

Black was their mourning,
And white were the wands,
And so yellow were the flamboys
That they carried in their hands.

So black was their mourning,
So white were the wands,
So yellow were the flamboys
They carried in their hands.

Now he lies betwixt two towers,
He now lies in cold clay.
And the Royal Queen of Grantham
Went weeping away.

He now lies twixt two towers,
He now lies in cold clay.
And the Royal Queen of Grantham
Went weeping away.