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Beg Your Leave

[ Roud 614 ; Ballad Index RcPaceEg ; trad.]

This pace-egging song from the live repertoire of both Steeleye Span Mk 2 and the 1973 incarnation of the Albion Band (e.g. at Norwich Folk Festival on 16 June 1973 of which an audience recording by Tony Rees exists; they sing verses 1, 4, 2, 5, 3 and 6) was never released on any of their albums. Ashley Hutchings noted in his songbook A Little Music:

I have included this fine pace-egging song—which we used to sing onstage—as representative of that period of the band. It used to be sung by four of us, each one taking a character’s part, virtually unaccompanied.

The song itself comes from Overton Village, Sunderland Point, Lancashire, and was sung by the pace-eggers (locally known as “jolly-boys”), the North-Western Easter-time mummers.

Cliff Haslam sang I Beg Your Leave on the 1976 LP Here’s a Health to the Man and the Maid.

Compare to this A Calling-On Song from Steeleye Span Mk 1 on their album Hark! The Village Wait.


Beg Your Leave in A Little Music

I beg your leave, kind gentlemen and ladies of renown,
If you’ll please to make us room we will sing to you a song,
You please to make us room, we will sing to you a song,
And we’ll call in our comrades and call them one by one.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh we’re jolly boys, we do no harm
Wherever we do go
For we’ve come a pace-egging
As you very well do know

So the first that does come in, he is a blooming youth,
He courts all the pretty girls, and always tells them truth;
He say’s he’ll never deceive them, he’s always kind and true,
And ’tis his delight both day and night in drinking of strong brew.

So the next that does come in, he is a sailor brave,
He says he’s ploughed the ocean, and split the briny wave,
He says he has got gold, and he says he has got store,
And he says he’ll marry a pretty girl and go to sea no more.

So the next that does come in, oh he is a roving blade,
Amongst the lasses he will be, for he is such a jade,
Red rosy cheeks are his delight, most beautiful and fair,
And if you want a sweetheart, you must come to Overton fair!

So the next that does come in, oh she is Miss Kitty Fair,
She takes a great delight in the curling of her hair,
She carries a basket by her side - she’s got no store put in -
It’s her delight delight both day and night in drinking of strong gin.

So now you’ve seen us all, speak of us as you find,
You’ll please to give up a trifle - it will be very kind.
So cheer up your spirits while we drink a glass of beer,
And we’ll drink you health and store your wealth until the very next year.