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The Bedmaking

[ Roud 1631 ; Ballad Index Ord199 ; VWML HAM/4/25/3 , HAM/5/36/9 , GG/1/11/648 ; Wiltshire 259 ; trad.]

Frankie Armstrong sang The Bedmaking in 1973 on her album Out of Love, Hope and Suffering. She commented in her liner notes:

The story told here was not an uncommon one, except, sadly, for the last verse. I knew an old lady well, who as a young girl at the turn of the century, found herself homeless and penniless in the streets of London, as the result of just such an incident.

Martin Carthy sang The Bedmaking on his 1976 album Crown of Horn; it was also included in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. He also sang it live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros, and he sang it on on Stick in the Wheel's 2017 anthology of English folk field recordings, From Here. Martin Carthy commented in his original album's sleeve notes:

The Bedmaking is a variation on the “servant-girl-abused-and-discarded” theme, but altogether more indignant than most, and it was the redoubtable Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset who gave the tune, a version of The Cuckoo's Nest, to the Hammonds at the turn of the century. However, she did what was apparently her usual trick of not remembering too many of the words, so these were taken from other sources by Frank Purslow in The Wanton Seed, a compilation of songs from the Hammond and Gardiner manuscripts, and slightly stretched by me.

This video shows Martin Carthy at the Covent Club in March 2016 or earlier:

Emily Spiers sang The Bedmaking on her 2010 album The Half-Moon Lovers.

The Andover Loft Singers, conducted by Paul Sartin, sang The Bedmaking in 2012 as the title track of their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking. Their liner notes commented:

Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey, Dorset, from whom this tune was collected by the Hammond brothers, was a Sartin by birth—Paul’s ancestor. The Hammonds found a set of words in nearby Halstock, from George Udall, which have been supplemented by ones from Benjamin Arnold of Winchester.

Moirai sang The Bedmaking in 2017 on their WildGoose album Here & Now. They commented:

The Cuckoo's Nest tune has many variations and the term is a euphemism for the charms of the female sex. The first tune is a Gloucestershire version. Intertwined around the verses is another Cuckoo’s Nest variation and the Coleg Y Brifysgol Abertawe from Welsh fiddler Pat Shaw. The words, whilst to a jaunty melody, really tell of the abuse of power by those who have it on those who do not.

Jon Wilks sang The Bedmaking on his 2017 album Songs from the Attic.

Lyrics

Frankie Armstrong sings The Bedmaking Martin Carthy sings The Bedmaking

Me father, he was a good old man,
He sent me to service when I was young.
My missus and I, we never could agree,
Because that my master he would love me.

Me father, he was a good old man,
He put me to service when I was very young.
My mistress and me, we never could agree,
Because that my master he would love me.

Me missus she sent me all up aloft
To make up a bed both neat and soft.
But me master followed after with a gay gold ring,
Saying, “Betty, take this for your bedmaking.”

Well she sent me upstairs to the loft
To make up a bed so neat and soft.
Master followed up with a gay gold ring,
Saying, “Betty, have this for your bedmaking.”

All through the kitchen and down through the hall,
All through the parlour among the women all,
Master followed up with a gay gold ring,
Saying, “Betty, have this for your bedmaking.”

Me missus she come upstairs in a haste,
And caught master's arm all around me waist.
From the top to the bottom she did him fling,
Saying, “Master, take that for your bedmaking.”

Mistress come upstairs in a great haste,
Caught the master there with his arm round me waist.
From the top to the bottom stair she did him fling,
Saying, “Mister, take that for your bedmaking.”

First in the kitchen and then in the hall,
All then in the parlour among the ladies all.
And they all asked me where I had been,
And I told them, “Up aloft at the bedmaking.”

All through the kitchen and down through the hall,
All through the parlour among the women all.
Everybody asked me wherever I had been,
And they laughed when I said, “At the bedmaking.”

Me missus she turned me all out of doors,
She called me a nasty impudent whore.
With the weather being wet and me shoes being thin,
I wished meself back at the bedmaking.

Mistress she flung me out of the door,
She called me a nasty cheeky little whore.
The weather being wet and my clothes being thin,
How I wished I was back at the bedmaking.

When six month were over and seven month were past,
This pretty little maid grew stout about the waist.
She could scarcely lace her stays nor tie her apron strings,
And 'twas then that she remembered the bedmaking.

Six month over and seven month past,
Pretty fair maid grew thick about the waist.
Her stays wouldn't meet nor her pinafore pin;
She cried when she thought of the bedmaking.

When eight month were over and nine month were gone,
This pretty little maid bore a lovely young son.
She took him to the church, and had him christened John,
Then she sent him home again to that gay old man.

Eight month over and nine month gone,
Pretty fair maid had a beautiful son.
She's took him to the church, she had him christened John,
And she took him back again to the dear old man.

She cursed him through the kitchen and down through the hall,
Cursed him through the parlour among the women all,
Saying, “If you won't pay me, take your little son John,
Cos he never cost you nothing but the bedmaking.”

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed by Garry Gillard with thanks to Wolfgang Hell.

See also the Mudcat Café thread DTstudy: Bedmaking and Jon Wilks' Folk from the Attic blog The Bedmaking.