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The Recruited Collier / Jenny's Complaint

[ Roud 3503 ; Ballad Index DTrecruc ; Robert Anderson / A.L. Lloyd]

Anne Briggs sang The Recruited Collier on the 1963 theme album The Iron Muse: A Panorama of Industrial Folk Music. This recording was also included on her 1990 Fellside anthology Classic Anne Briggs and on her 1999 Topic anthology A Collection. A recording for the BBC programme Folk-Song Cellar, broadcast on August 13, 1966, was released in 2016 on her Fledg'ling EP Four Songs. A.L. Lloyd commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

Enticed by a recruiting party, a young miner enlists, and the sad change in his character breaks his girl's heart. A set of this eighteenth century song was printed in Anderson's Ballads in the Cumberland Dialect (1808). The present version from a collier, J.T. Huxtable of Workington, is in Come All Ye Bold Miners: Ballads and Songs of the Coalfields (1952).

Roy Palmer commented 1:

It is clear that Lloyd's editorial approach was not merely to reproduce the material sent to him. Sometimes the changes made were small… but others were far-reaching. On Jimmy's Enlisted (or The Recruited Collier) Lloyd laconically notes: “Text from J.T. Huxtable of Workington. A version of this ballad appears in R. Anderson's Ballads in the Cumberland Dialect (1808).” In fact, the original is entitled simply Jenny's Complaint and features not a miner who enlists but a ploughman. A third party, Nichol, talks to Jenny about the wars and Jemmy (as he is called) merely ‘led’ (carted) the coals which remind Jenny of him. Lloyd silently (and brilliantly) remade the song. Although one phrase, ‘I'se leetin’, sits uncomfortably in the new text, the adaptation has enjoyed considerable success to a tune also supplied by Lloyd to replace Nancy to the Greenwood Gane, which Anderson prescribed.

Barbara Dickson sang The Recruited Collier in 1971 on her Leader album From the Beggar's Mantle… Fringed With Gold.

Graham Pirt sang The Recruited Collier in 1975 on Alistair Anderson's Topic / Free Reed record Concertina Workshop. The album's liner notes commented:

A.L. Lloyd first recorded this song from a collier in Workington, Cumbria, in 1951. The singer called it Jimmy's Enlisted. It dates at least from the early years of the Napoleonic Wars.

Miriam Backhouse sang The Recruited Collier in 1976 on the fundraiser album The Second Folk Review Record.

Dick Gaughan learned The Recruited Collier “from either Christine Hendry or Kathy Bainbridge, both of whom were resident singers at St Andrews Folk Club in the 60s”. He sang it in 1978 on his Topic record Gaughan; this track was also included in 2006 on his anthology Dick Gaughan: The Definitive Collection.

Louis Killen sang The Recruited Collier in 1980 on his Collector LP Gallant Lads Are We: Songs of the British Industrial Revolution and in 1983 on his CD A Bunny Bunch, giving Anne Briggs as his source. He commented in the first album's liner notes:

A moving song from around the start of the nineteenth century. The call of the so-called glamour and “freedom” of the army life must have attracted—and killed—many a young miner. Includes a line that should make us think again and again—“when Jimmy talks about the wars, it's worse than death to hear him”.

Fred Jordan sang The Recruited Collier in 1990 or 1991 in a series of recordings made for the EFDSS by Ian Russell and Derek Schofield. They were published in 2003 on his Veteran CD A Shropshire Lad.

A very young Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts sang The Recruited Collier in 1995 on their album Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts and on the compilation CD Evolving Tradition. This video shows them at the Albert Hole, Bedminster, Bristol on June 10, 1994:

Barry Dransfield sang The Recruited Collier in 1996 on his Rhiannon CD Wings of the Sphinx.

Bob Fox sang The Recruited Collier in 2006 on his Topic CD The Blast.

Jon Boden sang The Recruited Collier as the April 22, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

There’s something very convincing about this song, regardless of how far Lloyd re-wrote it. The mix of industrial and rural imagery is very evocative and quite compelling. I know it from Anne Briggs.

Andy Turner sang The Recruited Collier as the November 15, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings The Recruited Collier

Oh, what's the matter with you, my lass, and where's your dashing Jimmy?
The soldier boys have picked him up and sent him far, far from me.
Last pay day he went off to town and them red-coated fellows
Enticed him in and made him drunk—and he'd be better gone to the gallows.

The very sight of his cockade, it sets us all a-crying,
And me! I nearly fainted twice, I thought that I was dying.
My father would have paid the smart and he'd run for the golden guinea.
But the sergeant swore he'd kissed the book, so now they've got young Jimmy.

When Jimmy talks about the wars it's worse than death to hear him.
I must go out and hide my tears because I cannot bear him.
A brigadeer or grenadier he says they're sure to make him,
But aye, he gibes and cracks his jokes and begs me not forsake him.

As I walked o'er the stubble field below it runs the seam,
I thought o' Jimmy hewing there but it was all a dream.
He hewed the very coals we burn and, when the fire I's leeting.
To think the lumps was in his hands, it sets my heart a-beating.

[ For three long years he's followed me, now I must live without him.
There's nothing now that I can do but weep and think about him. ] 2
So break my heart and then it's o'er, so break my heart, my dearie.
For I'll lie in the cold green ground for of single life I'm weary.

Graham Pirt sings The Recruited Collier

Oh, what's the matter with you, my love, and where's your darling Jimmy?
The soldier boys have taken him and sent him far from me.
Last pay day he set off to town and them red-coated fellows
Enticed him in and made him drunk—and he'd be better gone to the gallows.

The very sight of his cockade, it sets me heart a sighing,
And me, I nearly fainted twice, I thought that I was dying.
My father would have paid the sum out and he'd run for the golden guinea.
But the sergeant swore he'd kissed the book, and now they've got young Jimmy.

When Jimmy talks about the wars it's worse than death to hear him.
I must go out and hide my tears because I cannot bear him.
A brigadeer or grenadier he says they're sure to make him,
And aye, he gibes and cracks his jokes and begs me not forsake him.

As I walked o'er the stubble field below which runs the seam,
I thought o' Jimmy hewing there but it was all a dream.
He hewed the very coals we burn and, when the fire I'm lighting.
To think the lumps was in his hands, it sets my heart a-greeting.

For three long years he's followed me, now I must live without him.
There's nothing now that I can do but weep and think about him.
So break my heart and then it's o'er, so break my heart, my dearie.
And I'll lie in the cold grey ground for of single life I'm weary.

Louis Killen sings The Recruited Collier

Oh, what's the matter with you, m'lass, and where's your dashing Jimmy?
The soldier lads have ta'en him up and he's gone far, far from me.
Last pay day he went into town and them red-coated fellows
Enticed him in and made him drunk—he'd have better gone to the gallows.

The very sight of his cockade, it sets us all a-crying,
And me! I nearly fainted twice, I thought that I was dying.
My father would have paid the smart and run for the golden guinea.
But the sergeant swore he'd kissed the book, so now they've got young Jimmy.

When Jimmy talks about the wars it's worse than death to hear him.
I must go out and hide my tears because I cannot bear him.
But aye, he gibes and cracks his jokes, and bids me not forsake him;
A brigadeer, or a grenadier, he says they're sure to make him.

As I walked o'er the stubble fields below it runs the seam,
I thought o' Jimmy hewing there but it was all a dream.
He hewed the very coals we burn and, as the fire I'm lighting.
To think the lumps was in his hands, it sets my heart a-beating.

[ For three long years he's followed me, now I must live without him.
There's nothing now that I can do but weep and think about him. ]
So break my heart and then it's o'er, so break my heart, my dearie.
And I'll lie in the cold cold grave for of single life I'm weary.

Notes and Acknowledgements

1 Roy Palmer's explanation (originally from A. L. Lloyd and Industrial Song, in Ian Russell, ed., Singer, Song and Scholar, Sheffield Academic Press, 1986, pp.135-7) was quoted by Malcolm Douglas in the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Add: Recruited Collier. This thread also cites Robert Anderson's original poem Jenny's Complaint.

2 Anne Briggs and Louis Killen omitted the first half of the last verse. I've added it from the Digital Tradition to have the full lyrics.

Thanks to Graham Pirt for correcting an embarrassing error and for sending me his version of this song.