> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Her Servant Man
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Her Servant Man

Her Servant Man / The Iron Door

[ Roud 539 ; Laws M15 ; G/D 5:1003 ; Ballad Index LM15 ; Full English LEB/2/34/1 , LEB/2/33 ; trad.]

Peter Bellamy sang Her Servant Man accompanying himself on concertina at the Cockermouth Folk Club in January 1991. The concert was published on his cassette Songs an' Rummy Conjurin' Tricks. According to the cassette's liner notes, the song was “collected by Bob Copper from Mrs Gladys Swann of Hampshire.”

The 1977 Topic LP Songs and Southern Breezes: Country Singers from Hampshire and Sussex contains songs originally recorded for the BBC by Bob Copper between September 1954 and November 1957. Amongst them is Gladys Stone singing Her Servant Man. I presume that this is the version Peter Bellamy referred to and that he misspelled the singer's last name. This track was also included in 2012 on the Topic ballad anthology Good People, Take Warning (The Voice of the People Volume 23).

Emily Sparks sang The Iron Door in Rattlesden in 1958/59. This recording was included in 1993 on the Veteran anthology of traditional music making from Mid-Suffolk, Many a Good Horseman. John Howson commented in the liner notes:

This ballad was published by a remarkable number of 19th century broadside printers including Such, Disley, Fortey, Paul, Birt, Taylor and Catnach in London, Willey in Cheltenham, Dalton in York, Walker in Durham, Stewart in Carlisle and Fordyce and Ross in Newcastle, usually under the name The Cruel Father and Affectionate Lovers. Other titles, which are more descriptive of the storyline, include Since Love Can Enter an Iron Door, The Daughter in the Dungeon, and Mary and her Servant Man. It was collected from many southern English singers, yet rarely further north apart from a couple of versions collected in Scotland and several in Ireland. It was also widespread in North America particularly in Nova Scotia. In East Anglia the only sightings come in the Ralph Vaughan Williams manuscripts where the song was noted down in 1905 from Charles Potiphar at Ingrave, Essex and from John Chesson, in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

Nancy Kerr and Fay Hield sang The Servant Man (from the Lucy Broadwood collection) on June 20, 2013 live on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour to promote the The Full English project and CD.

Martin Carthy sang Her Servant Man in 2014 on his and Eliza Carthy's duo album, The Moral of the Elephant. He commented in their album's sleeve notes:

Her Servant Man is from a recording very kindly sent to me by Vic Gammon of a woman called Mrs Stone, and I've enjoyed singing it even more than he insisted that I would. It's not that common a song, originally published as Daughter in the Dungeon, and its shifts in timing are lovely to sing.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Her Servant Man The Full English sing The Servant Man

It's of a damsel both fair and handsome,
These lines are true as I am told.
On the banks of Shannon in a lofty mansion
Her parents claimed great stores of gold.

It's of a damsel both fair and handsome,
These lines are true as I have been told.
On the banks of Shannon in a lofty mansion
Her father chambered great stores of gold.

Her hair was black as the raven's feather,
Her form and features dissemble who can.
There was a young fellow worked on that station,
She fell in love with her servant man.

Her hair was black as a raven's feather,
Her form and features to describe who can?
But still this folly belongs to nature
For she fell in love with her servant man.

As Mary Ann and her love were walking
Her father spied them and near them drew;
As they together so sweet were talking,
Home in rage then her father flew.

As these two lovers were fondly talking
Her father heard them and near them drew;
As these two lovers were together walking
In anger home her father flew.

For to build a dungeon was his intention
And to part true lovers he contrived to plan.
He swore by oaths and powers to mention
He would part his fair one from her servant man.

To build a dungeon was his intention,
To part true love he contrived to plan.
He swore an oath on all his mansion,
He would part his fair one from her servant man.

His dungeon it was of bricks and mortar
With a flight of steps being underground.
The food he gave her was bread and water,
No bed nor blanket for her was found.

Three times a day he did sorely beat her
Till to her father she crying began,
“O if I've transgressed, my own dear father,
Yet I'll live and die for my servant man.”

Young Edwin he found her habitation,
It was protected with an iron door;
He vowed in spite of all the nation
He would set her free or would rest no more.

Young Edwin found her habitation,
It was secured by an iron door;
He vowed in spite of all the nation
He'd gain her freedom or love no more.

Now after leisure he toiled with pleasure
How he'd gain releasement for his Mary Ann.
He gained his object, set free his treasure,
She cried, “My faithful young servant man!”

So at his leisure he toiled with pleasure
To gain the freedom of Mary Ann.
And when he had found out his treasure,
She cried, “My faithful young servant man!”

But when he found his daughter vanished,
Like a lion he began to roar,
Saying, “Out of Ireland you shall be banished,
With my broadsword I will shed your gore.”

When her father found that she was vanished
Then like a lion he thus did roar,
Saying, “From Old Ireland you shall be banished,
And with my sword I will spill your gore.”

“Well I agree,” cried Edwin, “It's at your leisure,
Since I've released her now do all you can.
Oh forgive your daughter, I will die with pleasure,
For the one in fault it is your servant man.”

“Agreed,” said Edwin, “I freed your daughter,
I freed your daughter, do all you can.
But forgive your treasure, I die with pleasure,
For the one in fault it is your servant man.”

But when he saw him so tender-hearted
Down he fell onto the dungeon floor,
Crying, “Such true lovers can ne'er be parted
Since love has entered in an iron door.”

When her father found him so tender-hearted
The down he fell on the dungeon floor,
Saying, “Such true lovers must ne'er be parted
Since love can enter an iron door.”

So they were joined to be parted never
And to roll in riches this young couple can.
And this fair young lady she rules in pleasure
For to live for ever with her servant man.

So soon they're one to be parted never,
They roll in riches as young couples can.
This fair young lady delights in pleasure
Contented with her young servant man.