> Martin Carthy > Songs > Lord Randall
> Tony Rose > Songs > Lord Rendal
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Lord Randall
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Lord Randall / Maddy Prior: What Had You for Supper?
> Cara > Songs > Poisoned Peas
> June Tabor > Songs > Buried in Kilkenny
> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > Lord Randal

Lord Randall / What Had You for Supper / Buried in Kilkenny / The Wild, Wild Berry

[ Roud 10 ; Child 12 ; Ballad Index C012 ; trad.]

Lord Randall is an Anglo-Scottish border ballad built in the form of a dialogue. The different versions follow the same general lines, the primary character (in this case Randall, but varying by location) is poisoned, usually by his sweetheart. This is revealed through a conversation where he reports on the events and the poisoner. Variants of this ballad are found all over Europe.

Ewan MacColl's singing of Lord Randall is the very first track of the massive eight-record Riverside series of Child ballads, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, first published in 1956.

A medley of Jeannie Robertson, Aberdeen, Elizabeth Cronin, Macroom, Co. Cork, Thomas Moran, Mohill, Co. Leitrim, Colm McDonagh, Carna, Galway, and Eirlys and Eddis Thomas, Glamorgan, South Wales singing Lord Randal was included on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 4; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

The Elliotts of Birtley sang Henry My Son in 1961 on their eponymous Folkways album, The Elliotts of Birtley.

Frank Proffitt sang Lord Randall on the 1962 Folk-Legacy album Traditional Songs and Ballads of Appalachia that was reissued in 1966 as the Topic album North Carolina Songs and Ballads.

Joe Heaney sang An Tighearna Randal (Lord Randal) on his 1963 Topic album Irish Traditional Songs in Gaelic & English.

Frank Harte sang Henry My Son in 1967 on his Topic album Dublin Street Songs.

Cyril Tawney sang this song as Jacky My Son in 1969 on his Polydor album The Outlandish Knight: Traditional Ballads from Devon and Cornwall.

George Dunn sang Henry My Son in a recording made by Roy Palmer on September 21, 1971 that was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Another recording made by Bill Leader on December 4-5, 1971 was published in 1975 on the Leader album George Dunn.

Martin Carthy sang Lord Randall on his 1972 album, Shearwater; this recording was also included on his anthology Carthy Chronicles. He recorded a different version in 1979 for his album Because It's There which was reissued in 1993 on The Collection. Martin Carthy commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

Lord Randall and John Blunt must be among the more widespread story-ideas in the folk consciousness, the stories remaining more or less the same and varying according to locale and-or the individual imagination of whoever sings them. [...] I have to thank Phil and Sid of Edinburgh for the original idea which led me recasting the tune sung to Lord Randall, known as My Wee Croodlin' Doo.

Steve Winick commented in the sleeve notes of The Collection:

Lord Randall is one of the most widely-known ballads in the English-speaking world, and indeed the plot is common to much of western Europe. This version, which Martin learned “virtually by accident”, comes originally from Sonny Ryan and is a rather compressed one in which the unfortunate boy knows his fate from the beginning, rendering unnecessary the song's usual progress through various clues to a dark revelation. It is a superb example of Martin's passionate unaccompanied singing of the old ballads.

George Spicer sang Henry My Son in a recording made at home in 1972-74 by Mike Yates on his Topic album Blackberry Fold: Traditional Songs and Ballads. This track was also included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from the Mike Yates Collection, Up in the North and Down in the South.

John MacDonald sang Lord Ronald in a recording made by Tony Engle and Tony Russell in the singer's caravan, Pitgaveny, Elgin, Morayshire, in November 1974. This recording was published in 1975 on his album The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire and in 1998 on the Topic anthology O'er His Grave the Grass Grew Green (The Voice of the People Series Volume 3). A recording of Mary Delaney singing Buried in Kilkenny at home in Hackney London on October 14, 1977 was published in Volume 17 of the same series, It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day.

Tony Rose sang this ballad as Lord Rendal on his 1976 LP On Banks of Green Willow. He commented in the album notes:

Lord Rendal is the classic food-poisoning balled, dedicated here to the crisp eaters of Britain's folk clubs. This version is from Mrs. Louie Hooper of Hambridge, Somerset, via Cecil Sharp, neither of whom had that particular problem to contend with.

Dick Gaughan sang Lord Randal on his 1977 Trailer album Kist o' Gold.

Peter Bellamy recorded Lord Randall in 1985 for his album Second Wind. According to his sleeve notes he learned it from a Ewan MacColl recording:

The search for authentic blues recordings—not too easy in Norfolk around 1959—brought me my first contact with British Isles traditional music. An American anthology LP was borrowed from a school mate because it contained a track by Reverend Gary Davis, but there with it was Something Completely Different: someone called Ewan MacColl was singing Lord Randall, learned from his mother, Betsy Miller. A new world opened up; the high drama of the performance of this dark mediaeval tale grabbed me, literally by the throat, and never let me go. A pilgrimage to the Singers' Club in 1962 or '63 brought me face to face with the man himself, and I can't deny that the impression he made has been a major influence on my approach to performance unto the present.

Lizzie Higgins sang Lord Donald at the Blairgowrie Folk Festival in between 1986 and 1995. This recording was included in 2000 on the festival anthology The Blair Tapes.

Ray Driscoll of Dulwich, London, sang this song as The Wild, Wild Berry in a recording made by Mike Yates on April 5, 1989 on the EFDSS anthology A Century of Song (1998). Another recording made by Gwilym Davies is the title track of Driscoll's 2008 CD Wild, Wild Berry. Gwilym Davies commented in the album notes:

The gem of Ray’s repertoire and unique to him. Ray learnt this song, as The Death of Queen Jane from the itinerant farm labourer Harry Civil in Shropshire. The story is clearly the same as Lord Randal but reworked. It is not clear whether the song is a old revival or is the product of 19th Century re-working. Whatever the truth, the song has struck a chord with many revival folk singers on both sides of the Atlantic who are now performing it.

Bram Taylor sang Lord Randal in 1992 on the Fellside anthology Voices: English Traditional Songs. Paul Adams commented in the liner notes:

One of the most widespread and indestructible of the “big” ballads. The story has cropped up all over Europe and the Scandinavian countries. It is No. 12 in Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads and it can be seen to share some similarities with other ballads, notably Edward (Child 13) and The Two Brothers (Child 49). It has also spawned some less epic versions in the form of Henry My Son and a comic version of Henry My Son (sometimes called Green & Yellow). Bram's is a particular fine example, possessing a superb melody and was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Louie Hooper of Hambridge, Somerset.

The Clutha sang Lord Ronald in 1996 on their CD On the Braes.

Bob Johnson collated and adapted the words of Lord Randall and sang it on Steeleye Span's album of 1998, Horkstow Grange. He commented in the sleeve notes:

The entire song consists of a tense dialogue between Lord Randall and his mother, during which dawns the awful realisation that he has been poisoned by his lover and is going to die. But why did she poison him? Why is his mother's questioning so quick and skillful at reaching the diagnosis? Did she collude with his girlfriend? Why is Lord Randall so ready to give up and die? Is it the knowledge of the betrayal that has removed his will to live? We don't know; Lord Randall doesn't know and he doesn't care. He is sick to the heart and he just wants to lie down.

The Witches of Elswick sang Lord Randal—with verses starting quite similar to Tony Rose's—in 2003 on their first album, Out of Bed, and they drily commented:

Bry convinced our friend Colin that this was a true story about someone she knew called “Lord Randal”, even down to the exploding bloodhound (that doesn't appear in our version). It is, in fact, one of the Child ballads learnt from the singing of Bram Taylor.

Paddy Reilly sang Buried in Kilkenny on the 2003 Musical Traditions anthology From Puck to Appleby: Songs of Irish Travellers in England.

Fred Jordan sang Henry My Son on the 2004 Musical Traditions anthology of songs from the Mike Yates Collection, The Birds Upon the Tree.

Cara recorded the ballad under the title Poisoned Peas for their second album, In Between Times, and later performed it live at the Arsenaal Theater in Vlissingen, Netherlands, on their 2008 DVD In Full Swing—Live. In the first album's notes they cite Martin Carthy's Shearwater arrangement in 7/8 as their inspiration and they use nearly the same lyrics as he does.

Brian Peters sang Lord Randal in 2008 on his CD of Child ballads, Songs of Trial and Triumph.

Jon Boden sang Lord Randal as the August 27, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Emily Smith sang Lord Donald in 2011 on her CD Traiveller's Joy.

Compare to all these versions Maddy Prior's song What Had You for Supper? with “modernised” lyrics on her album Year. She commented in her liner notes:

I've altered the lyrics of this attractive Irish version of Lord Randall to give it an extra kick of relevance. Poison in small quantities can be healing, in gross mass is dangerous stuff.

I heard this version of Lord Randall from the singing of Paddy Reilly and he called it Buried in Kilkenny.

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sang the just mentioned Buried in Kilkenny live at Burnley Mechanics in October 1988. This live recording was included in 2005 on the first CD of June Tabor's anthology Always.

Stephanie Hladowski learned The Wild Wild Berry from Mike Yates recording of Ray Driscoll [see above] and chose it for the title track of her and Chris Joynes' 2012 album The Wild Wild Berry.

John Kirkpatrick sang Lord Randal in 2012 on his CD of Shropshire folk music, Every Mortal Place. He commented in his liner notes:

Another song based in the singing of Ray Driscoll—this time one that he really did pick up while he was living in Shropshire. Versions of this tale have been sung all over Europe for hundreds of years, and in the long winter evenings of times gone by the number of verses could run into the hundreds too! The order of the verses in Ray's version implies a slightly unusual and more engaging way for the story to unfold, and I've emphasised this by picking appropriate lines from the million other variants available.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Lord Randall on Shearwater

“Where have ye been all the day, my own dear darling boy?
Where have ye been all the day, my own dear comfort and joy?”
“I have been to my stepmother, make my bed mummy do,
Make my bed mummy do.”

“What did she give you for your supper, …?”
“I got fish and I got broth, …”

“Where did she get the fish that she give you?”
“Hedges sought and ditches caught.”

“What did you do with your fishbones?”
“I gave them to my greyhound.”

“Tell me what did your greyhound do?”
“There he swelled and there he died.”

“I fear that she does you deadly wrong.”
“She took me in but she did me slay.”

“What will you leave to your mother?”
“I'll leave you me house and land.”

“What will you leave your stepmother, my own dear darling boy?
What will you leave your stepmother, my own dear comfort and joy?”
“Bind her with rope and there let her hang with the halter that hangs on the tree
For poisoning of me.”

Martin Carthy sings Lord Randall on Because It's There

“Where've you been all the day now, my own dear darling boy?
Where've you been all the day now, my dear comfort and my joy?”
“I have been to my sweetheart, mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and I want to lie down.”

“What'd she give you for your supper, …?”
“I got eels and strong poison, …”

“What happened to your two dogs?”
“Oh they cried and they died there.”

“What'll you leave your mother?”
“All my gold and my silver.”

“What'll you do with your farmlands?”
“I will leave them to the wild things.”

“What'll you give your sweetheart, my own dear darling boy?
What'll you give your sweetheart, my dear comfort and my joy?”
“Oh the rope and the halter that do hang on yonder tree
And there let her hang for the poisoning of me.”

Tony Rose sings Lord Rendal

“Where have you been, Rendal my son?
Where have you been, my sweet pretty one?”
“I've been to my sweetheart's, mother make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and fain would lie down.”

“What did she give you, …?”
“She gave me some eels, …”

“What colour were they?”
“All spickled and speckled.”

“Where did she get them?”
From hedges, from ditches.”

“Where are your greyhounds?”
They swelled and they died.”

“I fear you were poisoned.”
Yes I'm poisoned.”

Steeleye Span sing Lord Randall

“O where have you been, Lord Randall, my son?
Where have you been, my handsome young man?”

“I've been to the wild wood, mother, and I want to lie down.
I met with my true love, mother, make my bed soon.”
“And what did she give you?”
“She gave me some supper and I'm -

Chorus
Sick, sick, weary and tired,
Sick to the heart and I want to lie down”.

“O what did you eat, Lord Randall, my son?
What did you eat, my handsome young man?”

“She gave me some eels, mother, fried in a pan,
They were streaked and striped, mother, make my bed soon.”
“And where did they come from?”
“They came from the ditches.”
“And what got your leavings?”
“My hawks and my greyhounds.”
“And what did they do then?”
“They laid down and died and I'm -

Chorus

“O what will you do, Lord Randall, my son?
What will you do, my handsome young man?”

“I fear I am poisoned, mother, make my bed soon.
Down in the churchyard, mother, and lay me down easy,
For I've been to the wild wood and I met with my true love.”
“And what did you eat there?”
“Eels in a pan.”
“And what was their colour?”
“All streaked and striped.”
“And where did they come from?”
“My father's black ditches.”
“And what got the leavings?”
“My hawks and my greyhounds.”
“And what did they do then?”
“They laid down and died.”
“Oh, I fear you are poisoned.”
“Make my bed soon.”
“And where shall I make it?”
“Down in the churchyard.”
“Down in the churchyard.”
“And lay me down easy for I'm -

The Witches of Elswick sing Lord Randal

“Oh, where have you been, Randal my son?
Oh, where have you been, my sweet pretty one?”
“I've been to my sweetheart's, mother make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and fain would like down.”

“Oh, what did she give you, …?”
“She gave me some eels, …”

“Oh, where did she get them?”
“From the hedges and ditches.”

“Oh, what colour were they?”
“They were spickled and speckled.”

“Oh, they were strong poison, Randal my son,
Oh, they were strong poison, my sweet pretty one.
You'll die, you'll die, Randal my son,
You will die, you will die, my sweet little one.”

“What will you leave your father?”
“My land and my houses.”

“What will you leave your mother?”
“My gold and my silver.”

“What will you leave your lover, Randal my son?
What will you leave your lover, my sweet pretty one?”
“A rope for to hang her, mother make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and fain would like down,
For I'm sick to my heart and fain would like down.”

Cara sing Poisoned Peas

“Where have you been to all the day, my own dear darling boy?
Where have you been to all the day, my own dear comfort and joy?”
“I have been to my stepmother, make my bed mummy do,
Make my bed mummy do.”

“What did you get for your supper, …?”
“I got fish and I got broth, …”

“Where did she get the fish she gave you?”
“Hedges sought them, ditches caught them.”

“What did you do with your fish bones?”
“I gave them to my greyhound.”

“Tell me, what did your greyhound do?”
“There he swelled and there he died.”

“I fear that she did you deadly wrong!”
“She took me in, she did me slay.”

“What would you leave to your mother?”
“I'll leave her my house and land.”

“What would you leave to your stepmother, my own dear darling boy?
What would you leave to your stepmother, my own dear comfort and joy?”
“Let her hang all on a tree for poisoning of me,
Poisoning of me!”

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sing Buried in Kilkenny

“What had you for your dinner now, my own darling boy?
Oh, what had you for your dinner, my comfort and my joy?”
“I had bread, beef, and cold poison, mother, dress my bed soon,
I have a pain in my heart and wouldn't I long to lie down.”

“What will you leave your father …?”
“I will leave him a coach and four horses, …”

“What will you leave your mother?”
“I will leave her the keys of all treasure.”

“What will you leave your children?”
“They can follow their mother.”

“Where will you be buried now, my own darling boy?”
Oh, where will you now be buried, my comfort and my joy?”
“I will be buried in Kilkenny, there I'll take a long, nice sleep,
With a stone to my head and a scraith to my feet.”

Maddy Prior sings What Had You for Supper?

“What had you for your supper, my own darling boy?
What had you for your supper, my comfort and my joy?”
“I had fish all from the Irish sea, mother make my bed soon,
For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.”

“What will you leave your wife, my own darling boy?
What will you leave your wife, my comfort and my joy?”
“I will leave her with compensation, she can fight for it when I'm gone,
For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.”

“What will you leave your son, my own darling boy?
What will you leave your son, my comfort and my joy?”
“I will leave him my job at Sellafield so that he won't need to sign on,
For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.”

Links and Acknowledgements

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Lord Randall.

Transcribed from Martin Carthy's singing by Garry Gillard. The lyrics to Buried in Kilkenny were transcribed by me first but later compared to what Paddy Reilly sings on the Musical Traditions CD From Puck to Appleby.