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The Watercress Girl

[ Roud 1541 , 1653 ; Ballad Index Peac320 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang The Watercress Girl in a recording made by Charles Parker and Ewan MacColl in the mid-1960s, which was finally published in 2000 on his Topic 2 CD box The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud commented in the liner notes:

Several 19th century songs had watercress themes, and two were regularly sung by traditional singers. Harry's song probably dates only from the later 19th century as its only known appearance on broadsides were on sheets printed by Such (London) and Sanderson (Edinburgh). In more recent years, the song was also recorded from George Dunn (Warwickshire) and Johnny Doughty (Sussex), and others.

George Dunn sang The Watercress Girl in a recording made by Roy Palmer on July 14, 1971. This was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker.

John Kirkpatrick sang The Watercress Girl with Umps and Dumps in 1980 on their Topic album The Moon's in a Fit. This track was also included in 1994 on his compilation CD A Short History of John Kirkpatrick. He commented in the liner notes:

A bequest from John Tams (a member of the original line-up of Umps and Dumps), who found it all in a hotch-potch of fragments noted down by Roy Palmer from the West Midlands singer George Dunn, published in the EFDSS Journal in 1973.

Roy Palmer also included this song in his Everyman's Book of British Ballads (1980, pp. 189-190).

Flowers and Frolics sang The Watercress Girl in 2000 on their CD Reformed Characters.

The Fraser Sisters sang The Watercress Girl in 2001 on their No Masters CD Going Around.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings The Watercress Girl

As I strolled out one morning down by a running stream,
The waterlilies growing, it was a lovely scene;
And, as I was a-walking, a damsel I espied,
She was gathering watercresses down by the streamlet side.

Chorus (after each verse):
Her hair it hung in tresses,
Down by the stream that led to the mill;
She was gathering watercresses,
My own little watercress girl.

I asked her if not lonely, she answered with a smile:
“Kind sir, I am not lonely, this is my daily toil.
I have to rise up early my cresses for to sell.”
She said her name was Martha, known as the watercress girl.

We oft-times strolled together down by that running stream,
For since that time, my Martha she has become my queen.
Although she's poor, she proved to be a very useful pal,
A right good wife is Martha, my little watercress girl.

John Kirkpatrick sings The Watercress Girl

One day I took a ramble, oh, down by a running stream
Where the waterlilies gambol, oh, it was a lovely scene;
And there I spied a maiden, a maiden from the dell;
She was gathering watercresses, was Martha, the watercress girl.

Chorus (after each verse):
And her hair hung down in tresses,
Down by the stream that's close to the mill;
She was gathering watercresses,
Was Martha the watercress girl.

Oh, I asked if she was lonely, she answered with a smile:
“Oh sir, I am not lonely, for here I daily toil.
I have to rise up early my cresses for to sell;
My Christian name is Martha—they call me the watercress girl.”

Well, the day will not be long now till I will make her mine,
And on our wedding morning, oh, it will be nice and fine.
I'll have to rise up early and dress me like an earl,
To go and marry Martha, my sweet little watercress girl.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Martha the Watercress Girl.