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The Wild, Wild Berry

[ Roud 24845 ; trad.]

Ray Driscoll of Dulwich, London, sang The Wild, Wild Berry, to Mike Yates on 5 April 1989. This recording was included in 1998 on the EFDSS anthology A Century of Song. Another recording made by Gwilym Davies on 27 October 1993 is the title track of Driscoll's 2008 CD Wild, Wild Berry. It was also included in 2020 on the Musical Tradition anthology of Gwilym Davies recordings, Catch It, Bottle It, Paint It Green. Gwilym Davies noted on Driscoll's CD:

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.

John Kirkpatrick sang The Wild, Wild Berry in 2007 on his Fledg'ling CD Make No Bones. He noted:

A wonderful compact ballad sung to the collector Mike Yates by Ray Driscoll in 1989, and included on the EFDSS CD A Century of Song. in 1998.

Ray Driscoll was born in 1922 in Ireland, but spent most of his life in England, including a spell as a farmhand in Shropshire where he learned this song from Harry Civil, one of the singers at the Cock Inn, Hanwood, just south of Shrewsbury. All the experts agree that there is no other song quite like it.

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

Former Witch of Elswick Bryony Griffith sang The Wild, Wild Berry in 2014 on her CD Nightshade. She noted:

This unique version of Lord Randal was poached from the lovely Lancashire singer Heather Dunn, who got it from John Kirkpatrick's album Make No Bones. John got it from the singing of the late Shropshire singer Ray Driscoll, whose repertoire of rare songs was recorded by Gwilym Davies. In this version, Lord Randal dies after being fed the poisonous berries of the Woody Nightshade.

Lyrics

Ray Driscoll sings The Wild, Wild Berry

Young man came from hunting faint and weary.
“What does ail my lord, my dearie?”
“Oh mother dear, let my bed be made
For I feel the gripe of the woody nightshade.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Lie low, sweet Randal.
So come all you young men that do eat full well
And they that sup right merry:
‘Tis far better, I entreat to have toads for your meat
Than to eat of the wild, wild berry.

This young man he died eft soon
By the light of the hunter’s moon.
‘Twas not by bolt nor yet by blade
But the deathly gripe of the woody nightshade.

This lord’s false love they hanged her high
For her deeds were the cause of her lord to die.
And in her hair they entwined a braid
Of the leaves and berries of the woody nightshade.

Bryony Griffith sings The Wild, Wild Berry

Young man came from hunting faint and weary,
“What does ail my love, my dearie?”
“O Mother dear, let my bed be made,
For I feel the gripe of the woody nightshade.”

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Lie low, sweet Randall.
Come all you young men that do eat full well
And them that sups right merry:
'Tis far better, I entreat, to eat toads for your meat
Than to eat of the wild, wild berry.

This young man, well, he died fair soon
By the light of the hunters' moon.
'Twas not by bolt, nor yet by blade
But the leaves and the berries of the woody nightshade.

This lord's false love, well, they hanged her high,
For 'twas by her deeds that her lord should die.
Within her locks they entwined a braid
Of the leaves and the berries of the woody nightshade.