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(Bold) William Taylor

[ Roud 158 ; Laws N11 ; G/D 1:169 ; Ballad Index LN11 ; Full English PG/6/16 , CJS2/9/21 ; Bodleian Roud 158 ; Wiltshire 1027 ; trad.]

Joseph Taylor sang Bold William Taylor on a cylinder recorded in 1908 for Percy Grainger. This was published in 1972 on Taylor's Leader LP Unto Brigg Fair and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Tonight I'll Make You My Bride (The Voice of the People Series, Vol. 6). The Leader album's notes commented:

An extremely popular song in the English, Irish, Scottish and Anglo-American traditions, Bold William Taylor has appeared in a variety of forms, including the music-hall parody Billy Taylor that was printed in sheet form by Laurie and Whittle in London, c. 1811 with a large coloured engraving by George Cruikshank. For American sources one should consult G. Malcolm Laws' bibliographical index, American Ballads from British Broadsides, N. 11. Of English collections one might consult SFS, KP, AMS, GBF; Irish sources are JIFMS, PCI; Scottish versions in GNE, CTBA and broadsides by C, F, H. S, KY, FH, and MB. Sound recordings BBC 18483 (a) and (b), TC 1164, 12T196.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand's CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger contains William Taylor too, of course.

Harold Covill of March, Cambridgeshire sang William Taylor in a recording by Peter Kennedy on the anthology A Soldier's Life for Me (The Folk Songs of Britain Vol. 8, Caedmon 1961, Topic 1970).

Rob Watt of Fetterangus, Aberdeen, sang Billy Taylor in 1967 to to Bill Leader. This recording was included a year later on the Topic anthology of songs and ballads from the lowland east of Scotland, Back o' Benachie. Peter Hall commented in the album's sleeve notes:

The broadside press was responsible for the widespread dissemination of this song and the relative lack of variation in the text. Dean Christie found a version in the mid-nineteenth century with a tune which seems unsuitably sombre, as are many of the English sets. Perhaps the modern attitude to the ballad has helped to change the tune for those found this century are of a rattling gay type. Sometimes there is an additional verse which rubs in the feminist moral:

When the Captain did behold it,
And the deed that she has done,
He has made her chief commander
O'er a ship and a hundred men.

Hedy West sang Willie Taylor in 1967 on her Fontana album Serves 'Em Fine. She commented in the sleeve notes:

Willie Taylor (sometimes called The Female Lieutenant) is also an Anglo-American ballad. It was once, said Cecil Sharp, “a favourite song with folksingers all over England.” It's had its versions in Scotland, Newfoundland and all along the entire 1500-mile eastern coast of the USA. There was a comic Cockney version called Billy Taylor that was popular on the English stage from the last half of the 18th century through the first half of the 19th century.

I've learned Willie Taylor from Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs.

John Faulkner and Sandra Kerr sang William Taylor on their 1969 Argo album John & Sandra. They commented in their liner notes:

It is not difficult to think of reasons why the theme of the Maiden Warrior has been a popular one in folk balladry for centuries. To seamen on a long voyage, the thought that underneath the working apparel of one of his comrades there might be a handsome young female, would have afforded him some comfort or at least provided a source of interest to while away the time!.

William Taylor, however, provides a contrast to the usual theme of the devoted girl dressing in soldiers' or sailors' clothing in order to follow her pressed or enlisted sweetheart into battle. Here the reason for her masquerade is to seek revenge on her unfaithful sailor.

Tony Rose sang Bold William Taylor on the 1970 BBC record Folk on Friday. The sleeve notes comment:

One of the songs collected and phonographed by Percy Grainger from Joseph Taylor of Saxby-All Saints, Lincolnshire. The story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to follow her lover to war or to sea is a fairly familiar one in traditional English music. However, the outcome of this particular ballad is perhaps more realistic than many of the other tales of womanly devotion which end in happy reunion.

Dave Burland sang William Taylor with somewhat different verses—see below—on his 1971 Trailer album A Dalesman's Litany. He also sang it in a 1991 Barnsley recording on the 1992 Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the latter album's notes:

This song appears in a variety of forms and can be found in the English, Scottish, Irish and American traditions. The story is a fairly familiar one, but the rather drastic measure employed by the heroine to prevent her true love being unfaithful to her, is perhaps a little closer to reality than is usually encountered in folk songs! Dave's version, sung in his characteristically relaxed style, was collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset. Another version was collected by Percy Grainger, the first collector to use a recording machine, in 1908 from Joseph Taylor, of Saxby-All Saints, Lincolnshire.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang Bold William Taylor in 1971 on their Trailer album Lord of All I Behold.

Martin Carthy recorded William Taylor for his 1972 album Shearwater. He wrote in the album's sleeve notes:

Of all the traditional singers I have listened to, I think my favourite is still Joseph Taylor of Saxby-all-Saints, Lincolnshire. A few years ago, Patrick O'Shaughnessy of the Lincolnshire Association gave me a copy of a tape of his singing, and it has proved the steadiest source of inspiration. The song William Taylor comes originally from him, although with thinking about it and singing to myself, a few little variations in the melody have come in. Some sets of the song have the last verse

If all young men in Wells and London
Used young girls like he use she
Then all young girls would never marry
Very scare young men would be

Frankie Armstrong sang William Taylor in 1973 on her LP Out of Love, Hope and Suffering and again in 2008 on her CD Encouragement.

Muckram Wakes sang William Taylor in 1976 on their eponymous Trailer LP Muckram Wakes.

Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise sang this song as Billy Taylor in 1978 on their Folk-Legacy album For Foul Day and Fair. They commented in the album's booklet:

Vic and Christine Smith from Brighton taught us this version of a very popular story in British Isles folklore. They learned it in turn from Jane and Cameron Turriff of Fetterangus. We've always enjoyed the twist in the last verse, an enjoyment that seems to be shared by U.S. audiences in particular.

Sophie Legg sang three verses of Young Billy Taylor in a recording made by Pete Coe in 1978 on the 2003 Veteran CD of songs from Cornish Travellers, Catch Me If You Can. Pete Coe sang William Taylor himself on his 1997 CD Long Company. Mike Yates commented in the former album's notes:

In this well-known broadside ballad, William Taylor is engaged to be married, but is taken by the press gang and sent to sea. His bride-to-be dresses up as a sailor and follows after in search of William/Billy. Eventually finding him, she discovers that he has a new girlfriend—or new wife in some versions—and so she shoots him dead. The ballad, surprisingly, concludes with the girl being made an officer:

And then our Captain was well pleased,
He was well pleased with what she had done.
Soon she became a bold Commander,
Over the Captain and his men.

Lucy Broadwood traced the ballad to a late 18th century stage song, “as sung by Mr.Bannister, Junr., at Several Theatres with great applause,” although Cecil Sharp (who collected a dozen versions in England) felt that the final verse was only added towards the end of the 19th century. Sophie’s version, as sometimes happens, is incomplete.

June Tabor learned Hedy West's version of Willie Taylor and sang it accompanied by Martin Simpson on guitar live at Ormskirk Festival in March 1985. This recording was included in 2005 on her Topic 4 CD anthology Always. She commented in the album's booklet:

This is the tale of the young girl who, when her true love is taken away to go and fight in the navy, dresses up as a man and sets off to find him. As is compulsory in theses set-ups she has an unfortunate accident with her clothing in the middle of the battle. Which rather exposes the fact that she's not a chap after all. After that everything goes to pieces.

Swan Arcade sang William Taylor on their 1990 CD Full Circle.

Jo Freya sang Bold William Taylor in 1992 on her CD Traditional Songs of England.

Bram Taylor sang William Taylor in 1997 on his CD Pick of the Grinner.

Hen Party—Heather Bradford, Sarah Morgan, Alison Muir—sang William Taylor on their 2002 CD The Heart Gallery. Sarah Morgan returned to the song in 2009 on Craig; Morgan; Robson's CD with the Askew Sisters, The Axford Five: Songs Collected from Five Hampshire Women.

Magpie Lane sang Bold William Taylor on their 2002 CD Six for Gold.

Malinky sang Billy Taylor in 2002 on their second CD, 3 Ravens. They commented in their liner notes:

Adultery, cross-dressing and murder in only five verses! Karine [Polwart] first heard this sung by Alistair Brown from London, Ontario, who got it from the Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise album For Foul Day and Fair. Karine liked the lyrics so much that she started singing them to a tune of her own before she could chase up Cilla and Artie's version. Thanks to Kris Drever for unwittingly helping with arrangement ideas.

Patterson Jordan Dipper sang Bold William Taylor on their 2002 CD Flat Earth.

The Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective sang William Taylor in 2003 on their CD As I Cycled Out on a May Morning.

Jim Moray sang William Taylor, accompanied by Eliza Carthy on fiddle and Saul Rose on melodeon, on his 2009 CD In Modern History.

Jon Boden sang Dave Burland's version of William Taylor as the August 30, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Hannah James and Sam Sweeney recorded William Taylor it in 2012 for their second duo CD, State and Ancientry, noting:

This song was collected by Cecil Sharp in [September] 1903 from two sisters, Lucy White and Louie Hooper. The tune, although based on this version, is Hannah's own interpretation. We also think it has one of the best last lines of any folk song!

This video shows Hannah James singing William Taylor in 2010 at an unknown venue:

Fi Fraser recorded William Taylor with The Old Fashioned for their 2016 No Masters CD Strawberry Leaves. They commented:

One of Fi's favourites although on this occasion she has left out the last verse where the female protagonist is made a bold commander over a ship and all its men.

Iona Fyfe sang Billy Taylor in 2015 on her EP The First Sangs. She commented:

A very popular song in Scots, English and Irish song Tradition. Otherwise known as Willie Taylor, the song theme is found in English and Irish variants. Billy Taylor is said to be the “music hall parody” of Bold William Taylor. Billy Taylor can otherwise be found in the Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection Volume 1.

Alex Cumming and Nicola Beazley sang Billy Taylor on their 2016 CD Across the Water. They commented:

A popular song across UK and USA traditions, this song tells the tale of William Taylor and his love affair. His ‘onshore’ partner discovers Taylor with another, and she is not best pleased! This version was learnt from Scottish singer, Aaron Jones.

Rosie Hood sang William's Sweetheart on the BBC Folk Awards 2016 anthology and on her 2017 RootBeat CD The Beautiful & the Actual. She commented in her liner notes:

Based upon William Taylor collected from Henry ‘Wassail’ Harvey, Cricklade, by Alfred Williams. I rewrote this traditional song to be from the point of view of the girl who William Taylor leaves behind. Her name isn't mentioned in the original song, hence the new title.

The tune comes from Joseph Taylor's Bold William Taylor on The Voice of the People 06.

Please note that William Taylor the Poacher as sung by George ‘Pop’ Maynard and by Martin Carthy on Crown of Horn is a completely different song that is also known as Keepers and Poachers.

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor sings Bold William Taylor Martin Carthy sings William Taylor

I'll sing you a song about two lovers,
Who from Lichfield town they came.
The young man's name was William Taylor,
The maiden's name was Sarah Gray.

I'll sing you a song of two young lovers,
Oh from Lichfield town they came.
Oh the young man's name was William Taylor,
Sarah Gray was the maiden's name.

William Taylor he has 'listed,
For a soldier he has gone.
He has gone and left his own true lover
For to sigh and for to mourn.

William Taylor he has enlisted,
For a soldier he has gone.
And he's gone and he's left his own true lover
For to sigh and for to moan.

Sally's parents did despise her,
Filled her heart with grief and woe;
And then at last she vowed and told them
For a soldier she would go.

Sally's parents they abused her,
Filled her heart with much grief and woe;
And for to seek young William Taylor
For a soldier she would go.

She dressed herself in man's apparel,
Man's apparel she put on;
Then for to seek her own true lover
For to seek him she has gone.

She dressed herself in man's apparel,
Man's apparel she's put on;
And for to seek young William Taylor
For a soldier she has gone.

One day as she were exercising,
Exercising one, two, three,
A silver chain hung down her waistcoat
And exposed her lily-white breast.

One day as she was exercising,
Exercising one, two, three, all with the rest,
Oh a silver chain fell down from her waistcoat
And exposed her lily-white breast.

The sergeant-major stepped up to her,
Asking her what brought her there,
“I've come to search out my true lover
Who has proved to me so dear.”

The sergeant he stepped up to her,
He asked her, “Young lady, what brings you here?”
“Oh I've come in search of William Taylor
Who was pressed from me last year.”

“If you've come to seek your own true lover,
I pray you tell to me his name.”
“His name it is bold William Taylor,
O, from Lichfield town he came.”

“If his name be William Taylor,
William Taylor is not here;
He's lately married a rich young lady,
Worth ten thousand pound a year.”

“Oh if you come in search of William Taylor,
William Taylor he's not here;
For I do hear that he's to be married
To some lovely lady fair.”

“If you rise early in the morning,
Just before the break of day,
Why there you'll find bold William Taylor,
A-walking out with his lady fair.”

“And if you rise early in the morning,
Early at the break of day,
Oh it's there you'll see your William Taylor
Walking out with the ladies gay.”

Then she rose early in the morning,
Just before the break of day;
And there she spied bold William Taylor
A-walking out with his lady fair.

So she rose early in the morning,
Early at the break of the very next day;
And it's there she's seen her William Taylor
Walking out with the ladies gay.

And then she called for a sword and a pistol,
Which was brought at her command;
She fired and shot bold William Taylor,
With his bride at his right hand.

She has called for a brace of pistols,
A brace of pistols was brought all there to her hand;
And she's shot William Taylor
With his bride at his right hand.

And then the captain stepped up to her,
Was well pleased at what she'd done.
He took her and made her a bold commander
Over a ship and all his men.

Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise sing Billy Taylor June Tabor sings Willie Taylor

Billy Taylor was a sailor
Full of joy and beauty gay;
'Stead o' Billy gettin' married
He was pressed and forced away.

Willie Taylor, youthful lover,
Full of love and loyalty,
Just as he was about to get married
Pressed he was and sent to sea.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Fol rol lol, de rol lo lie do,
Fol rol lol, de rol lol lay

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Ride the ring rattle-de-ho
Rattle-diddle-day-te
Rattle-diddle-day

But the bride soon followed after
Under the name o' Richard Carr:
Snow-white fingers long and slender,
A' covered over wi' pitch and tar.

She dressed herself in man's apparel,
Went by the name of Richard Carr.
Pretty little fingers all red and rosy
All bedaubed with pitch and tar.

She's buttoned on the sailor's clothing,
Dressed herself up like a man;
Awa' she sailed like a tarry sailor
All aboard the Mary Anne.

A storm arose upon the ocean,
She being there among the rest.
The wind blew off her silver buttons;
Then appeared her snow-white breast.

One day in the heat of battle,
Shot and shell were flying there.
Silver button flew off her waistcoat,
Left her lily-white breast quite bare.

“Now,” says the captain, “My fair lady,
Come pray tell me what's his name?”
“Some folk ca' him Billy Tailor,
But Willie Taylor is his name.”

Then up stepped her bold commander,
Says, “Fair maid what brought you here?”
“Come in search of Willie Taylor
Who was pressed from me last year.”

“If Billy Taylor's your true lover,
He has proved to you untrue;
He's got married tae another,
Left ye here alone to rue.

“You come in search of Willie Taylor,
Willie Taylor, he's not here.
I do hear he lately got married
To some lovely lady fair.

“Rise ye early in the mornin',
Early by the break o' day,
There ye'll see young Billy Taylor
Walkin' oot wi' his lady gay.”

“If you rise early in the morning
Just before the break of day,
There you'll see your Willie Taylor
Walking out with his lady gay.”

She rose early the next mornin',
Early by the break o' day,
There she saw young Billy Taylor
Walkin' oot wi' his lady gay.

She rose early in the morning
Just before the break of day;
There she spied her Willie Taylor
Walking out with his lady gay.

Gun and pistol she's commanded,
Gun and pistol by her side;
She has shot young Billy Taylor
Walkin' oot wi' his new-made bride.

She's called for a brace of pistols
That were brought at her command;
Fired and shot her false Willie
And the bride at his right hand.

“Now,” says the captain, “My fair lady,
Come tell me what you've done.”
“I have shot young Billy Taylor
Wi' a double-barred gun.”

Come all you young men, pay attention,
Don't play tricks on your young wives.
Willie got shot and Polly got drownèd
And that was the end of both their lives.

When the captain did behold her
And the deed that she has done,
He has made her chief commander
Over a ship and a hundred men.

Dave Burland sings William Taylor Hannah James & Sam Sweeney sing William Taylor

William Taylor was a brisk young sailor
He who courted a lady gay.
Well, bells were ringing and sailors singing
As to church they did repair.

William Taylor was a brisk young sailor
He who courted a lady fair.
Bells were ringing and sailors singing
As to church they did repair.

Now forty couple were at the wedding,
All were dressed in rich array.
Instead of William getting married
He was pressed and sent away.

Thirty couples were at the wedding,
They were dressed in a rich array.
'Stead of William being married
He was pressed and sent to sea.

So she dressed up in a man's apparel,
Man's apparel she put on,
And she has gone to find her true love,
Afore to find him she has gone.

She's dressed herself in a man's apparel,
A man's apparel she's put on,
And she's follow'd her true love William,
For to find him she has gone.

And then the captain stepped up to her,
Saying, “Fair maid, what's brought you here?”
“Oh, I am a-come to find my true love
Whom I lately loved so dear.”

And then the captain he stepped up to her,
Asking her what she did here;
“Oh, I've come to seek my true love
Whom I lately loved so dear.”

“If you have come to find your true love,
Well, tell me what his name may be.”
“Oh, his name is William Taylor,
And from the Irish ranks came he.”

“If you have come to seek your true love,
Tell me then what his name may be.”
“Oh, his name is William Taylor,
From the Irish ranks came he.”

“If you rise early the very next morning,
If you rise up at the break of day,
Then you shall see your true love William
Walking with a lady gay.”

“You rise up early in the morning,
You rise up by the break of day,
There you'll see your true love William
Walking with some lady gay.”

So she rose early the very next morning,
And she rose up at the break of day,
And there she saw her true love William
Walking with a lady gay.

She rose up early in the morning,
She rose up by the break of day,
There she saw her true love William
Walking with some lady gay.

So sword and pistol she did order
To be brought at her command,
And she has shot her true love William
With the bride on his right hand.

She for a sword and a pistol ordered
To be brought to her command,
And she shot her true love William
With his bride on his right hand.

If all young men from Wells or London
Were served the same as she served he,
Young girls then would soon be undone,
How very scarce young men would be.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: William Taylor and Lyr Req: William Taylor (from Robin Williamson).