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The Lady of Riches / The Press Gang

[ Roud 601 ; Laws N6 ; G/D 1:174 ; Henry H108a ; Ballad Index LN06 ; trad.]

John Kirkpatrick sang The Press Gang in 2009 on Brass Monkey's sixth album, Head of Steam. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Based on one of the songs sung to Cecil Sharp by Jack Barnard on April 4, 1907 in Bridgwater, Somerset, and included in Still Growing, edited by Steve Roud, Eddie Upton, and Malcolm Taylor, and published in 2003 by The English Folk Dance & Song Society in conjunction with Folk South West. Other versions call it The Lady of Riches which might well be a better title, as it is she who calls all the shots and saves the day, even if she can't resist being a bit of a tease!

Lyrics

It's of a rich gentleman in London did dwell
And he had but one daughter, a most beautiful girl.
Three squires came a-courting but she refused all:
“I will marry a sailor that's proper and tall.”

“Now father, dear father, now hinder me not,
I will marry my sailor, it will be my lot.
To see him in his charm with a smile on his face
To marry a sailor I'm sure is no disgrace.”

They walked and they talked both by night and by day;
They walked and they talked and fixed their wedding day.
The old man overheard it and these words said he,
“He shan't marry my daughter; I'll press him to sea.”

As they were a-walking towards the church door
The press gang they took him and from her him tore.
Instead of being married he was pressed away;
Instead of great joy they knew sorrow that day.

She cut off her hair and she altered her clothes,
Unto the press master she immediatley goes.
“Press master, press master, do you want a man?
I am willing and ready to do all I can.”

Then she shipped on board 'twas that very same day,
Her true love shw found but no word did she say.
Her true love for a mess mate amongst that ship's crew,
Till a plan she drew up to see what she could do.

So many a night oh so close she did lie
And little did the think that his true love was nigh.
“Once I had a sweetheart, in London lived she,
But it's her cruel father that pressed me to sea.”

She says, “I have skill with the ink and the pen,
And a scrollager's part I can take now and then.
Pray tell me your age and I'll paste out your lot,
To see if you will marry your true love or not.”

So he told her his age and the date of his birth;
She told him his fortune, a great deal of worth.
She told him his fortune, said, “This is your lot,
For I am your true love though you knew it not.”

She went up close to him, ”Now look well on me,
Beneath this man's clothing your sweetheart you'll see.
For now we'll get married before our ship's crew,
And we won't care for father or all he can do.”

Now when this young couple returned to the land
Her father was dead as you'll now understand.
So she was now lady of his great estate
And he was her lord now with riches so great.