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> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Brigg Fair
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> Martin Carthy > Songs > Brigg Fair

Brigg Fair

[ Roud 1083 ; Ballad Index RcBF ; Full English PG/5/104 ; trad.]

Percy Grainger collected two verses of Brigg Fair sung by Joseph Taylor of Saxby-All Saints, Lincolnshire, in April 1905 during the musical competition in the small market town of Brigg in North Lincolnshire. He collected the same two verses from a Mr Deene, too.

Forsyth Bros. Ltd of Regent Street, London, published Brigg Fair in 1905 in Grainger's setting for tenor solo and chorus. He wanted the massed choirs to perform it at the Brigg musical competition in 1906. As the song was so short, Grainger added extra verses from two different folksongs, Low Down in the Broom—the third and fourth of Martin Carthy's verses below—and A Merry King of Old England. The tenor solo at this first performance was sung by Gervase Elwes.

In 1908, Grainger recorded onto wax cylinders Joseph Taylor singing twelve songs, amongst them the two verses of Brigg Fair. Nine of these were issued on seven 78 rpm records, and all but two of them were included in 1972 on the LP Unto Brigg Fair. The album's sleeve notes commented:

Only one other variant of this song is known. The tune is a wonderfully adapted variant of the last two strains of the Come All You Worthy Christian Men / Dives and Lazarus / Star of the County Down tune, many versions of which are illustrated and discussed in FSJ No. 7. Mr. Dean of Hibaldstow, North Lincolnshire sang the identical text as that given above to a version of his own tune for Lisbon; this Grainger recorded on cylinder No 71. In more recent years, John Taylor and Mrs Marion Hudson have both been noted singing the reconstruction that Grainger published in 1911. Both of these singers are related to Joseph Taylor ([son, ed.] and grand-daughter). Sound recordings: BBC 6643.

Joseph Taylor's recording of Brigg Fair was also included in 1996 on the Topic anthology Hidden English: A Celebration of English Traditional Music.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand sang Brigg Fair with additional verses on their 1998 CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger. Their sleeve notes commented:

The additional verses come from his granddaughter whose version, collected and arranged by Francis Collinson, was published in sheet music form in 1953. Mr. Taylor had learned the song from a gypsy. Grainger published a setting of it in 1911, adding two of the same extra verses which he took from another song he had collected. Delius also used the tune in his English Rhapsody, Brigg Fair. The story goes that Mr. Taylor, having been invited to a performance of this work, upon hearing his tune raised his voice and joined in.

Note: As you can see in the lyrics below, Joseph Taylor's weather is different from that of his granddaughter's.

A.L. Lloyd sang Brigg Fair in 1956 on his Tradition album The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs. He also sang it live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on November 5, 1972. This concert was published in 2010 on the Fellside CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd. He commented in the original album's liner notes:

This is surely one of the most beautiful melodies in the English tradition. It is a rare song, reported from only one singer, Joseph Taylor, a onetime carpenter of Saxby, Lincolnshire. The song came to light by accident. A folk song competition was held at Brigg, Lincolnshire. The contest yielded no great finds. After it was over, an unsuccessful entrant, Mr Taylor, came privately to the judges' tent and, rather diffidently, he dredged up from memory this unforgettable song. Nowadays it is best known as the theme of Delius' orchestral rhapsody of the same name.

Shirley Collins recorded Brigg Fair for her 1964 Collector EP The Foggy Dew and her 1967 Topic LP The Sweet Primeroses. The latter version was also included in her compilation Fountain of Snow and on the two anthologies And We'll All Have Tea and A Woman's Voice: First Person Singular.

Martin Carthy sang Brigg Fair on his and Dave Swarbrick's 1967 album Byker Hill; this track was reissued on their compilation This Is... Martin Carthy and on the The Spinners, The Corries and Martin Carthy compilation Focus on Folk. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

When Percy Grainger first went up to Lincolnshire in the early days of field recording (he was one of the first in England to use recording techniques in the collection of folksong) one of the men he recorded was a beautiful singer by the name of Joseph Taylor. Among the many songs taken down on the wax cylinders was Brigg Fair, slightly pensive but very happy. Mr Taylor subsequently became one of the first of the traditional (or “field”) singers to have recordings issued by a commercial recording company; he has great subtlety, beautiful timing, and, despite of his old age, a fine clear voice.

Isla Cameron sang Brigg Fair on the Alan Lomax Collection CD World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: England and very likely on some earlier recording.

The Full English included Joseph Taylor's gramophone recording of Brigg Fair on their rendering on their 2013 Topic album The Full English.

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor sings Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August, the weather hot and fair,
Unto Brigg Fair I did-e-repair, for love I was inclined.

I got up with the lark in the morning with my heart full of glee,
Expecting there to meet-e-my dear, long time I wished to see.

[Note: The "-e-" in the transcription, taken from the LP sleeve, indicates that there is a note and a beat between the words, not really another syllable—nor an anticipation of the internet.]

Tony Barrand sings Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August, the weather fair and fine,
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair; for love I was inclined.

I got up with the lark in the morning, with my heart so full of glee,
Expecting there to meet my dear; long time I wished to see.

I looked over my left shoulder to see whom I could see,
And there I spied my own true love come tripping down to me.

For it's meeting is a pleasure, love, and parting is a grief,
But an inconstant lover is worse than any thief.

For the green leaves they shall wither and the branches they will die,
If ever I prove false to thee, to the girl that loves me.

It was on the fifth of August, the weather fair and fine,
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair; for love I was inclined.

Shirley Collins sings Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August, the weather fair and mild
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair, for love I was inclined

I rose up with the lark in the morning, my heart was full of glee
Expecting there to see my love, long time I'd wished to see

I looked over my left shoulder to see whom I could see
And there I saw my own true love come walking down to me

I took hold of his hand and merrily sang my heart
And now we are together I trust we ne'er shall part

For the green leaves they'll all wither, the roots they'll all decay
Whenever I prove false to him, the man who loves me

Martin Carthy sings Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August, the weather fair and mild
When to Brigg Fair I did repair, for love I was inclined

I rose up with the lark in the morning, my heart was full of glee
Expecting there to see my love, long time I'd wished to see

I looked over my left shoulder to see what I might see
And there I spied my own true love come a-tripping down to me

I took hold of her lily-white hand and merrily sang my heart
For now we are together we never more shall part

For the green leaves they will wither, the roots they'll all decay
Before that I prove false to her, the lass that loves me well

A.L. Lloyd sings Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August and the weather fair and mild
Unto Brigg Fair I did repair, to love I was inclined

I got up with the lark in the morning with my heart so full of glee
Expecting there to meet my dear, long time I'd wished to see

I looked over my left shoulder to see what I could spy
And there I saw my own true love come tripping after me

I took her by the lily-white hand, oh merry was my heart
And now we're met together I hope we never shall part

For it's meeting is a pleasure and it's parting is a grief
And an inconstant lover is worse than any thief

The green leaves they may wither and the branches fade and die
If ever I be false to her, to the girl that loves me

Acknowledgements

Tony Barrand's verses are copied from his Heartoutbursts website. Thanks to Tony Barrand, Tony Rees and to Di Plumb of Saxby All Saints for invaluable help and correction.