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Dame Durdan

[ Roud 1209 ; Ballad Index K293 ; Bodleian Roud 1209 ; Wiltshire Roud 1209 ; trad.]

Luther Hills and Mark Fuller sang Dame Durden in Luther's smithy at East Denn, Sussex, on December 2, 1952. This recording made by Peter Kennedy was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of songs by Southern English traditional singers, You Never Heard So Sweet (The Voice of the People Volume 21).

Bob and Ron Copper of Rottingdean, Sussex, sang Dame Durdan on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and in 1971 on the Copper Family's 4 LP collection A Song for Every Season. Bob and John Copper sang it on the 1998 CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues.

George Townshend sang Dame Durden in two recordings made by Brian Matthews in 1960-64 and by Ken Stubbs in 1960. Both were included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass. Brian Matthews and Rod Stradling commented in the anthology's booklet:

A song which seems to be unknown outside the central/southern part of England—all the known examples being from Sussex, Somerset or Wiltshire. The majority are associated with members of the Copper family of Peacehaven, not far from Lewes, with whom the Townshend family are known to have had musical connections. The song started life as a glee, and was published as such a number of times in the 1820s, and there was a Dame Durden Polka of 1852-1853. Brewer’s first edition of 1894 called it a “famous English song” and confirmed George's “Dorothy Draggletail” in the chorus.

George said that Dame Durden was always sung at Harvest Home. The men, particularly, “… liked to sing that'n, for they had a bit of kissing—they'd grab the girls and kiss 'em” in the chorus.

Maddy Prior and June Tabor learned Dame Durdan from the Copper Family and sang it in 1976 on their album Silly Sisters. Their sleeve notes explained:

General consensus of opinion on meaning of Draggletail: raggetty arsed old boiler.

The Mellstock Band sang Dame Durden on their 1995 Saydisc CD Songs of Thomas Hardy's Wessex.

The Millen Family sang Dame Durden on their 2000 CD Down Yonder Green Lane.

Regal Slip (Graham & Eileen Pratt, Sue Burgess and Ron Taylor) sang Dame Durden on the 2001 Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices in Harmony. Paul Adams commented in the album's booklet

A jolly bit of nonsense from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Regal Slip had their heyday in the 1980s but have recently reformed and the track comes from a recently recorded demo.

Lyrics

George Townshend sing Dame Durden

Dame Durden kept five servant maids, to carry the milking pail,
Also she kept five labouring men, to use the spade and flail.

Chorus:
There was Moll and Bet, and Doll and Kate,
And Dorothy Draggletail.
(There was) Tom and Dick and Joe and Jack,
Old Humphrey with his frail [flail],
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail.
'Twas Tom kissed Molly, 'twas Dick kissed Betty,
'Twas Joe kissed Polly, 'twas Jack kissed Kitty,
And old Humphrey with his frail [flail],
Kissed Dorothy Draggletail
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail,
And Kate she was the charming girl to carry the milking pail.

Dame Durden, in the morn so soon, when she began to brawl [bawl],
To rouse her servant maids and men, so loudly she did call,

'Twas on the morn of Valentine, when birds began to prate,
Dame Durden's servant maids and men, they all began to mate [meet].

Silly Sisters sing Dame Durdan

Dame Durdan kept five servant maids to carry the milking pail,
She also kept five labouring men to use the spade and flail.

Chorus:
'Twas Moll and Bet and Doll and Kit
And Dolly to drag her tail
'Twas Tom and Dick and Joe and Jack
And Humphrey with his flail
Then Tom kissed Molly and Dick kissed Betty
And Joe kissed Dolly and Jack kissed Kitty
And Humphrey with his flail
And Kitty she was a charming girl
To carry the milking pail

Dame Durdan in the morn so soon she did begin to call
To rouse her servants, maids and men, she did begin to bawl

Chorus

'Twas on the morn of Valentine when birds begin to prate
Dame Durdan and her maids and men they all together meet

Chorus:
'Twas Moll and Bet and Doll and Kit
And Dolly to drag her tail
'Twas Tom and Dick and Joe and Jack
And Humphrey with his flail
Then Tom kissed Molly and Dick kissed Betty
And Joe kissed Dolly and Jack kissed Kitty
And Humphrey with his flail
Kiss Dorothy Draggletail
And Kitty she was a charming girl
To carry the milking pail