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> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Creeping Jane
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Creeping Jane

Creeping Jane

[ Roud 1012 ; Laws Q23 ; Ballad Index LQ23 ; VWML PG/19/3/1 , CJS2/9/299 ; Bodleian Roud 1012 ; Wiltshire Roud 1012 ; trad.]

Percy Grainger collected Creeping Jane from Joseph Taylor of Saxby, Lincolnshire, on April 11, 1905 [VWML PG/19/3/1] and on July 28, 1906, and from Joseph Leaning of Brigg, Lincolnshire on August 4, 1906. He noted that Taylor learnt it “when a boy of eleven from an old woman in Binbrook, Linc.”. Grainger's 1906 cylinder recording of Joseph Taylor was included in 1972 on the Leader album Unto Brigg Fair, in 1998 on the Topic anthology A Story I'm Just About to Tell (The Voice of the People Series Volume 8), and in 2009 on Topic's 70th anniversary anthology Three Score and Ten. The first album's sleeve notes commented:

It is fitting that this fine song (sung here with a superb sense of pace that modern imitators have sought unsuccessfully to capture) should have been collected in Lincolnshire for the county has some right to be regarded the birthplace (or at the very least one of the birthplaces) of modern horse racing.

Many versions of Creeping Jane have been collected though comparatively few of them have yet been printed. Cecil Sharp for example collected no less than ten sets. Amongst the printed versions are the following; REC, BSS, SFS, KG, GCSM (a solitary Anglo-American version), FSJ No. 5 and broadsides by the following: H, Fo, SM, HP and S.

A.L. Lloyd sang Creeping Jane in 1958 on his and Ewan MacColl's Topic album Bold Sportsmen All and on their Riverside album Champions and Sporting Blades. He commented in the liner notes:

One of the most famous of English racing stables was that owned by the I'Anson family of Malton, Yorkshire. More than a century ago, Charles I'Anson started a little dun mare in an important race at Newmarket. She looked like a rat, but she left the champion horses standing. Ballad makers were quick to sing her praises, and the broadside of The Little Dun Mare found a steady sale at horse-fairs and in the back streets of sporting towns, and she has been remembered with affection by country singers from Yorkshire to Somerset.

Martin Carthy sang Creeping Jane on his 1968 album with Dave Swarbrick, But Two Came By, and it was reissued in 1971 on their compilation album Selections. A previously unreleased live recording from 1973 at the Memphis Folk Club, Leeds, was included in the 4 CD anthology The Carthy Chronicles. Martin Carthy commented in his original album's sleeve notes:

The White Hare was collected by the composer Percy Grainger during his trip to Lincolnshire armed with phonograph recording equipment, from his finest singer/informant, Joseph Taylor: likewise Creeping Jane. The former is the story of the hunting and killing of an elusive hare and the latter is about a horse race where Jane, given no chance whatsoever of winning by the pundits, thrashes her luckless rival.

Dave and Toni Arthur sang Creeping Jane in 1969 on their Topic album The Lark in the Morning. They and A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

How old is this song? Possibly it originated late in the eighteenth century. English racing really began with the formation of the Jockey Club in 1750. There had of course, been racing of sorts before this: Charles the Second raced on Epsom Downs, for instance. The race mentioned in Creeping Jane is unknown, what matter? The appeal of the song is in the surprise victory of the underdog (underhorse?), who had been laughed to scorn by the fancy.

It seems to have been a widespread song. Percy Grainger recorded this version from Mr G. Leaning at Brigg, Lincolnshire, in 1906. Lt is almost identical to Joseph Taylor’s well known version. which Grainger also collected, and which appeared on an HMV record some sixty years ago. Frank Kidson, H.E.D. Hammond, Cecil Sharp and Alfred Williams, all collected versions from districts as far apart as Yorkshire and Somerset. Henry Such, of London, produced a broadside of it. Although also known in U.S.A. (Michigan), Creeping Jane never achieved the fame of the other racehorse, Skewball, a Yorkshire beast that became a figure of U.S. Negro mythology.

The Broadside from Grimsby sang Creeping Jane in 1972 on their Topic album of songs and ballads collected in Lincolnshire, The Moon Shone Bright.

Bill Smith learned Creeping Jane from his father, who in turn, learned it from his father. He sang it on May 27, 1979 to his son Andrew Smith. This recording was included in 2011 on his Musical Traditions anthology Country Life: Songs and Stories of a Shropshire Man.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Creeping Jane in 1998 on their CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs Collected by Percy Grainger.

Martin Simpson sang Creeping Jane on his 2005 Topic CD Kind Letters.

Steeleye Span sang Creeping Jane in 2009 on their CD Cogs, Wheels and Lovers and in 2011 on their live album Now We Are Six Again.

Andy Turner learned Creeping Jane from Martin Carthy's album and sang it as the October 28, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Gavin Davinport sang Creeping Jane in 2013 on his CD The Bone Orchard. He commented in his liner notes:

Famously collected from Joseph Taylor by Percy Grainger, this is one of a body of Horse Race songs. In the great tradition of English Folk animal songs, it takes us through to the inevitable demise of its protagonist. The tune here has taken a short transatlantic diversion.

Martin Simpson sang Creeping Jane on the Full English's eponymous 2013 Topic CD, The Full English.

Rosie Upton sang Creeping Jane in 2014 on her CD Basket of Oysters. She noted:

Collected by Cecil Sharp from Farmer King at The Castle of Comfort Inn, Mendip, Somerset [VWML CJS2/9/299] . I never liked this song until I heard Harry Langston sing this version in Bristol. It's really quirky and the chorus is wonderful, even though for brevity I've left some of the choruses out! A great victory when the underdog, or in this case ‘poor little Jane’, with the demeaning name unexpectedly wins the race.

Lyrics

Percy Grainger's transcription of the first verse

(written above his musical notation)

I will sing you a song and a very pretty one,
Concerning Creeping Jane o!
She never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valid [sic] to the worth of half a pin,
Lol di day de ay the didle lol the di-do,
For she never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valid to the worth of half a pin, lol the day.

Joseph Taylor sings Creeping Jane Martin Carthy sings Creeping Jane

I will sing you a song and a very pretty one,
Concerning Creeping Jane o;
Why she never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued to the worth of half a pin,
Lol the day, dee-ay, the diddle ol the die doh,
Why she never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued to the worth of half a pin, lol the day.

I'll sing you a song and a very pretty one
Concerning Creeping Jane o
Why she never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valued at the worth of half a pin
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol de day o
She never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued at the worth of half a pin, lal the day

When Creeping Jane on the racecourse came
The gentlemen view-ed Jane all around o;
And all they had to say concerning little Jane,
"She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground",
Lol the day etc.

When Creeping Jane to the racecourse came
The gentlemen giggled all around o
And all they had to say concerning little Jane
She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol de day o
And all they had to say concerning little Jane
She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground, lal the day

Now when that they came to the second milepost
Creeping Janie was far behind o;
Then the rider flung his whip around her bonny little neck,
And he said, "Me little lassie, never mind",
Lol the day etc.

Now when they came to the first milepost
Creeping Jane he was far behind o
But the lad flung his whip into the bonny little maid
And he says, My little lassie never mind
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol the day o
Then the rider flung his whip into the bonny little maid
And he says, My little lassie never mind, lal the day

Now when that they came to the third milepost,
Creeping Janie looked blithe and smart o;
And then she lifted up her little lily-white foot
And she flew past them all like a dart,
Lol the day etc.

Now when that they came to the third milepost
Creeping Jane he looked blithe and smart o
And then she lifted up her little lily-white hoof
And she fleered past them all like a dart
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
And then she lifted up her little lily-white hoof
And she fleered past them all like a dart, lal the day

Now Creeping Janie this race has won,
And scarcely sweats one drop o;
Why, she's able for to gallop the ground o'er again,
While the others is not able for to trot,
Lol the day.

Now Creeping Jane the race has won
And scarcely sweat one drop o
She's able for to gallop the ground all again
While the others is not able for to trot
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
She's able for to gallop the ground all again
While the others is not able for to trot, lal the day

Now Creeping Janie she's dead and gone,
And her body lies on the cold ground o;
I'll go down to her master one favour for to beg,
That's to keep her little body from the hounds
Lol the day, dee-ay, the diddle ol the die doh,
I'll go down to her master one favour for to beg,
That's to keep her little body from the hounds, lol the day.

Now Creeping Jane is dead and gone
And her body lies on the cold ground o
I'll go down to my master and tell the boy today
To keep her little body from the ground
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
I'll go down to her master and tell the boy today
Just to keep her little body from the ground

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard; Martin Carthy's version is from But Two Came By.