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There Is a Tavern in This Town

[ Roud 18834 ; G/D 6:1171 ; Ballad Index ShH94 ; Bodleian Roud 18834 ; Wiltshire 979 ; DT TAVTOWN ; Mudcat 13314 ; trad.]

This is one of the many variants of the Died for Love theme, originally clustered by Steve Roud as Roud 60.

The singer laments her lover, who courted her ardently but now goes to a tavern and courts others while leaving her pining. She hopefully anticipates dying and being buried.

Winnie Ryan sang Early Early All in the Spring in a field recording made by Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle in Belfast in 1952. It was included in 2014 on the Topic anthology The Flax in Bloom (The Voice of the People Volume 27).

Emma Vickers from Lancashire sang There Is a Tavern in the Town in a recording made by Fred Hamer in Autumn 1963 that he printed in his 1967 EFDS book of English folk songs, Garners Gay. This recording was included in 1989 on the EFDSS cassette of Fred Hamer’s field recordings, The Leaves of Life, and in 1998 on the EFDSS anthology A Century of Song.

Amy Birch sang Up the Green Meadows in a recording made by Sam Richards, Paul Wilson and Tish Stubbs in her trailer at Exebridge, Devon, November 1976. It was published in 1979 on the Topic anthology from traditional singers, Devon Tradition, and it was also included with the title Over Yonder’s Hill in 1998 on the Topic anthology of English and Welsh travellers and gypsies, My Father’s the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Volume 11).

Vera Aspey sang this song as The Blackbird on her 1977 Topic album The Blackbird. She commented in her sleeve notes:

As sung to me by Emma Vickers of Burscough, who as a child often travelled on her grandfather’s horse-drawn working boat, carrying coal along the canal, from Leigh to Tanhouse in Liverpool. Once there, he would load with cotton from the docks to transport and unload at various factories on the way to Leeds. It was on such a trip as this that Emma learned The Blackbird from the singing of her grandfather, as he steered his boat along the cut.

Vic Shepherd sang The Tavern in the Town on her and John Bowden’s 1982 album A Motty Down. They noted:

Vic learned this in the early 1970s from the singing of Mrs Emma Vickers of Lancashire. It manages to tell a poignant and effective story using practically nothing but floating verses which can be found in many songs on a similar theme.

Peter and Barbara Snape sang There Is a Tavern in 2014 on their CD Snapenotes. Barbara Snape noted:

This is a wonderful version of Died for Love, from the singing of Emma Vickers who lived in Burscough on the Leeds/Liverpool canal. I was lucky enough to meet Emma Vickers in 1975 when she was nearing the end of her colourful life. She was a great character and it has always remained a great privilege to have spent some time with her.

Laura Smyth sang There Is a Tavern on her and Ted Kemp’s 2017 CD The Poacher’s Fate. They noted:

Also known as Died for Love, this song is a lament for love grown cold. It consists of a number of “floating verses”, words and phrases which are found in a range of songs, but here combine to express the sentiment of heartache beautifully. This song was sung by Emma Vickers of Burscough, Lancashire. The tune is similar to that used in the traditional ballad concerning Franklin.


Winnie Ryan sings Early Early All in the Spring

Oh, it is early, early all in the spring
When the small birds whistle and cheerfully sing,
When they change their note, love, from tree to tree,
And they loudly sung over our valley.

And there is an alehouse all in this town
Where my love Willie goes in and sit down,
Where he takes a strange girl all on his knee
And he laughs at her and he frowns at me.

All then I can tell you the reason why,
Sure, that fair maiden has more gold than I.
Let her silver melt, love, and her gold will fly,
And I hoping she will be as poor as I.

Oh then, I can wash, love, and I can wring,
Oh then, I can do, love, all everything.
For ’tis so upsetting for, of course, to find
And for want of money I was left behind.

Oh, but when my apron is slack and slow,
He would follow me through the old frost and snow.
But when my apron would tip my chin
He would pass the old door and he wouldn’t look in.

Oh, I wished to God, then I wished again,
I wished I was, love, a young maid again.
Oh, then that’s the sight, love, I will never see
Oh, till apples will grow on an ivy tree.

Amy Birch sings Over Yonder’s Hill

Over yonder’s hill there is an old house
Where my true love goes and sits himself down.
Takes another fresh girl on his knee,
Now don’t you think that’s a grief to me?

A grief, a grief, I’ll tell you for why:
Because she has more gold than I.
Gold may glitter and silver will shine
And all my sorrows will fade in time.

I wish the Lord my baby was born
And sits smiling in his own daddy’s arm.
And me myself wrapped up in cold clay,
Then all my sorrows would fade away.

Now, there is a flower, I have heard people say,
It grows by night and it fades by day.
Now, if that flower I could only find
It would cure my heart and ease my mind.

So across the fields that poor girl she ran,
Gathering flowers just as they sprang.
Some she picked and some she pulled
Until she gathered her apron full.

She takes them home and makes her bed,
She puts a snow-white pillow in under her head.
She lies down and she closed her eyes,
She closed her eyes, no more for to rise.

Laura Smyth sings There Is a Tavern

There is a tavern in yonder town
Where my true love goes and sets him down.
He takes another girl on his knee,
Now don’t you think that’s a grief for me?

A grief, a grief and I’ll tell you why:
Because she has got more gold than I.
But her looks will fade and her beauty will pass
And then, poor girl, she’ll come like me at last.

O when my apron it tied low
He followed me through frost and snow,
But now it ties underneath my chin
He passes my by and he says nothing.

There is a blackbird in yonder tree,
Some say it’s blind and it cannot see.
I wish it had of been so by me
Before I’d kept my love’s company.

Now all young girls be advised by me:
Never let a stranger take you on his knee.
He’ll court and kiss you, swear to be true,
But the very next moment he’ll bid you adieu.

My heart is weary with all this grief
For my true love was worse than a thief.
A thief will rob you and run away
But a false young man will lead you astray.

Go dig my grave long wide and deep,
Put marble stones at my head and feet,
Plant a red rose bush in the middle of me
For I loved that lad but he didn’t love me.