> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > Up in the North

The West-Country Couple / Up in the North

[ Roud 582 ; Master title: The West-Country Couple ; Laws P3 ; G/D 4:895 ; Ballad Index LP03 ; Wiltshire 576 ; trad.]

Freda Palmer sang Up in the North at her home in Witney, Oxfordshire, in a 1972 recording made by Mike Yates. It was released in 1975 on the Topic album of countryside songs from Southern England, When Sheepshearing’s Done, and it was included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs and tunes from the Mike Yates collection, Up in the North and Down in the South. Mike Yates commented:

Up in the North, or, No Sign of a Marriage as it is called in the Southern Uplands of the United States, appeared on several early 19th century broadsides and chapbooks, although it has seldom been encountered by collectors in England. The Hammond brothers noted a fine Dorset version, Down in the West Country, in 1907, while Alfred Williams found it sometime before 1914 at Brize Norton, only a few miles from Mrs Palmer’s home. In Scotland and North America it has been more popular and most of Roud’s 34 entries refer to these countries—however, Freda’s is the only sound recording of the song ever made in these islands.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang Up in the North in 1974 on their Topic LP The Rose of Britain’s Isle. The liner notes commented:

This moral tale of the awful consequences of taking the wrong decision in courtship was collected in Oxfordshire in 1969 by John Baldwin.

Andy Turner learned Up in the North from the singing of Freda Palmer. He sang on his 1990 cassette Love, Death and the Cossack and on the 7 March 2016 issue of his blog A Folk Song a Week.

Linda Adams sang Up in the North in 1992 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the liner notes:

Despite being printed in various broadsides and chap books in the early nineteenth century it has been rarely collected in the tradition. Alfred Williams collected it prior to the Great War at Brize Norton, the Hammond brothers collected a Dorset version called Down in the West Country in 1907, John Baldwin collected one in Oxfordshire in 1969 and in the Southern Uplands of the U.S.A. it has been found as No Sign of Marriage (c.f. Young Emma). Linda’s version comes from the singing of Freda Palmer of Witney, Oxfordshire. Again, the twist in the tale is that having made the wrong decision our hero has to live with it. Full marks to the young lady in question.

James Findlay sang Up in the North on his 2019 CD The Where and the When. He noted:

A fun song with a great twist for an ending. It had its birth in the early nineteenth century when it was printed in various Broadside and Chap books. Despite this, the song has seldom been collected in the tradition. I first came across it from the singing of Linda Adams whose version comes from Freda Palmer of Witney, Oxfordshire.


Freda Palmer sings Up in the North

Up in the north, there lived a brisk couple,
Where young men and maiden a-courting do go.
Always a-courting, but never talked of marrying,
Until this young girl she began forth to say:
“Young man, young man, what is it you mean?
Of courting I’m weary, I’m resolved to get married,
Or else from your company I must refrain.”

“And then I must own, I do love you dearly,
But that’s forth to marry I don’t feel inclined.
When a man he get’s wed, his joys are all fled,
He’s free from all liberty, bound down towards slavery,
So whilst I am single I’ll wish you good night.”
“Oh, there’s one thing, dear John, I should like to ask you.
That’s if you’re married first, ask me to your wedding
And if I am before you, then I’ll do the same.”

So the bargain was made, when up stepped a young jade.
He step-ed up to her, he intended to have her.
He was a ship-carpenter’s son by his trade.
So she wrote John a letter, a kind, loving letter,
To come to her wedding on the ninth day of June.
To wait at her table, instead of a better,
To wait at her table all on the bridegroom.

When this letter he read, it made his heart bleed,
In sorrow he mourn-ed, his tail was soon turn-ed.
“I’m a fool, I’m undone, I have lost her indeed.”
So he saddled his horse, rode off to the station,
Thinking to meet with his true-lover there.

But when he got there, he was sadly amaze-ed,
To see this young girl so highly surmounted,
Which caused from his eye to fall many a tear.
“If I had of a-known you’d been had so soon,
I would not have tarried, but you I’d have married.
So jump up beside me and leave him alone.”

“Oh no, my dear John, for I’ve much better choos-ed,
And can’t you remember what you said to me?
When a man he get’s wed, his joys are all fled,
He’s free from all liberty, bound down towards slavery.
So whilst you are single, you’d wish me goodnight.”