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The Banks of the Sweet Dundee

[ Roud 148 ; Laws M25 ; G/D 2:224 ; Ballad Index LM25 ; trad.]

Joe Thomas sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee to Peter Kennedy at Helston, Cornwall, on November 22, 1956. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology Good People Take Warning (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 23).

Stan Staggles sang Banks of Sweet Dundee in Rattlesden 1958/59, and Charlie Carver sang it in Tostock Gardeners' Arms in 1960. Both were included in two volumes of John Howson recordings of traditional music making from Mid-Suffolk on the Veteran label, Many a Good Horseman (cassette 1993; CD 2009). John Howson commented in the liner notes:

A widely sung ballad which seems to have been particularly popular in East Anglia and certainly in mid Suffolk. In Roy Palmer's A Book of British Ballads he introduces this ballad as “Villainy and virtue, blood and tears, innocence triumphant: here are the ingredients for a 19th century melodrama”. It attracted the attention of many broadside printers and thus was another widely published ballad. It was obviously popular in Scotland, also turned up in Ireland and in North America. In the eastern counties Clive Carey collected it in 1911 from Mrs Yeldham in Thaxted, Essex and in the same year Cecil Sharp noted it down from John Darling in Ely, Cambridgeshire, then in 1960 Sam Steele recorded it from Billy Rash of West Wratting, Cambridgeshire and Reg Bacon of Radwinter, Essex: the latter recording can be heard on VT150CD Heel & Toe.

Fred Jordan sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1965. It was included in 2003 on his Veteran CD A Shropshire Lad. The liner notes commented:

Also called, by Fred, The Farmer's Daughter. Scots collector Gavin Greig said of The Banks of Sweet Dundee (or Undaunted Mary as it is sometimes called), “Few ballads are so popular and so widely distributed… It seems to be as well known in England as in Scotland, and appears in several collections. Its popularity may so far be due to its tragic character. As one editor (Frank Kidson) says, there is enough tragedy and injured innocence in the ballad to furnish the plot of a penny novelette. The tune too, which belongs to a well-known type of folk-melody, has doubtless helped to make the ballad a favourite.” It should, perhaps, be noted that Kidson also thought the words of the song to be, “sublime doggerel”! Although Fred did not record this song for the BBC in 1952, he did mention that it was another song that he then knew.

Bob Brader sang The Banks of Sweet Dundee in a recording made by Fred Hamer in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire on July 29, 1967. It was included in 1989 on the VWML cassette The Leaves of Life and in 1998 on the Topic anthology As Me and My Love Sat Courting (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 15).

Charlie Wills sang Banks of Sweet Dundee in January 1971 to Bill Leader. This recording was released a year later on his eponymous Leader album, Charlie Wills.

Rebecca Penfold sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee to Peter Kennedy at Mount Pleasant, Broadwood Kelly, Devon, on April 18, 1973. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology I'm a Romany Rai (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 22).

The Broadside from Grimsby sang The Banks of Sweet Dundee in 1973 on their Topic LP The Moon Shone Bright: Songs and Ballads collected in Lincolnshire.

Harry Upton sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in a recording by Mike Yates in between 1972 and 1975. It was included in 1976 on the Topic anthology Green Grow the Laurels: Country Singers from the South.

Danny Brazil sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee to Gwilym Davies, Staverton, Gloucestershire, in December 1977. This recording was included in 2007 on the Brazil family's Musical Traditions anthology, Down By the Old Riverside. Rod Stradling commented in the album's booklet:

A very popular song, with 218 Roud entries from most of the Anglophone world, this was described by Cecil Sharp as being “known to every singer of the present day”. It was even found as a capstan shanty with the words “Heave away my Johnny, heave away” sung after every line.

While most versions have the two lovers being parted, never to re-unite, there are a number that end with William returning, as here; and one broadside, An Answer to Undaunted Mary, describes his adventures at sea and his coming back in disguise in order to test Mary's faithfulness.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in 1977 on their Free Reed album Popular to Contrary Belief. This track was also included in 1997 on their Free Reed anthology Up to Now.

June Tabor sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in a BBC session recorded January 25, 1977 and broadcast February 22, 1977. This recording was included in 1986 on her Strange Fruit EP The Peel Sessions and in 1998 on her Strange Fruit CD On Air.

Walter Pardon sang The Banks of Sweet Dundee in a recording made by Mike Yates on August 2, 1978. It was included in 2000 on his Topic anthology A World Without Horses: A Portrait of a Traditional Singer.

Bill Smith sang The Banks of Sweet Dundee in 1979 to his son Andrew Smith. This recording was included in 2011 on his Musical Tradition anthology A Country Life: Songs and Stories of a Shropshire Man.

Louis Killen sang The Banks of Sweet Dundee unaccompanied on his 1989 cassette The Rose in June. He commented in his liner notes:

From the singing of Brian Ballinger when we were both living in Oxford in the mid-50s. One of the most popular broadsides of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and found in the repertoire of most country singers well into the 20th.

Vic Legg sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in 1994 to John Howson. This recording was published on his Veteran cassette (1994) and CD (2000), I've Come to Sing a Song: Cornish Family Songs.

Grace Notes sang Banks of the Sweet Dundee in 1998 on their Fellside CD Red Wine & Promises. Maggie Boyle commented in their liner notes:

From the singing of Joe Heaney. A great song of a young lass in no need of assertiveness training. Thanks to Arthur Knevett for sharing his research.

Janet Russell sang Banks of Sweet Dundee in 2012 on her Harbourtown CD Love Songs and Fighting Talk.

Rob Williams sang The Banks of the Sweet Dundee in 2012 on his CD of songs collected from Jane Gulliford of Combe Florey, Outstanding Natural Beauty: Songs from around the Quantock Hills.

Andy Turner learned Banks of the Sweet Dundee from Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl's The Singing Island. He sang it as the August 18, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Danny Brazil sings The Banks of Sweet Dundee

All for a fair damsel I've lately been told,
Her parents died, left her a hundred pounds in gold;
She lived all with her uncle; was the cause of all her woe,
So soon you'll hear the maid so fair when she proved her overthrow.

Her uncle had a ploughing boy that Mary loved fair well,
It was in her uncle's garden, some tales of love they told;
All for a wealthy squire so often come to see,
Still Mary she loved her ploughboy on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.

It was early one morning, Mary's uncle he rose,
Straight away to Mary's bedroom so speedily did go;
“It's rise you up young Mary, a lady you may be,
The squire's waiting for you on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.”

“I don't want none of your squires, nor your lords, dukes likewise,
Young Willie he appeared to me like diamonds in my eyes.”
“We'll have young Willie headed, we'll chain him to a tree,
And we'll send the press gang to him on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.”

The press gang came to William as he sat all alone,
There he boldly fought for liberty where there was ten to one;
The blood flew in torrents. “Now kill me now,” says he,
“I would rather die for Mary on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.”

As Mary was walking all through her uncle's grove,
There she met the wealthy squire dressed in his mornings clothes;
He put his arms around her, “Stand off, stand off,” says she,
“You've sent the only lad I love from the Banks of Sweet Dundee.”

He throwed his arms around her, trying to throw her down
Two pistols and a sword she spied beneath his mornings gown;
She took the weapons from him and the sword she used it free,
She boldly fired and shot the squire on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.

Soon as her uncle heard of it he made haste to the ground
He said, “Since you've killed the squire I will give you your death wound.”
“It's stand you off,” young Mary cried, “undaunted I will be.”
The trigger drew and her uncle slew on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.

The doctor was sent for a man of noted skill,
And likewise a lawyer to sign up his will;
He willed his gold to Mary 'cos she fought so manfully,
He closed his eyes no more could rise on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.

Young William was sent for and quickly did return,
As soon as he came back again young Mary ceased to mourn;
The day it was appointed, they joined their hands so free,
And now they live in splendour on the Banks of Sweet Dundee.

Louis Killen sings The Banks of Sweet Dundee

It's of a farmer's daughter, so beautiful I'm told.
Her father died and left her five hundred pounds in gold.
She lived with her uncle, the cause of all her woe,
But you soon shall hear this maiden fair that causes his overthrow.

Her uncle had a ploughboy young Mary loved fair well
And in her uncle's garden their tales of love they'd tell.
But there was a wealthy squire who oft her came to see
But still she loved her ploughboy on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Her uncle and the squire rode out once on this day.
“Young William's in favour,” her uncle then did say,
“Indeed is my intention to tie him to a tree
Or else to bribe the press gang on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

The press gang found young William when he was all alone;
He boldly fought for liberty, but they were six to one.
The blood did flow in torrents, “Pray, kill me now,” says he,
“I'd rather die for Mary on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

This maid one day was walking, lamenting for her love,
She met the wealthy squire down by her uncle's grove.
He put his arms around her, “Stand off, bad man,” said she;
“You sent the only lad I love from the banks of sweet Dundee.“

He clashed his arms around her and tried to throw her down;
Two pistols and a sword she spied beneath his morning gown.
Young Mary took the pistols and the sword he used so free;
And she did fire and shot the squire on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Her uncle overheard the noise and hastened to the ground,
“Oh since you killed the squire, I'll give you your death wound!”
“Stand off!” oh then young Mary said, “undaunted I will be!”
And the sword she drew and her uncle slew on the banks of sweet Dundee.

A doctor soon was sent for, a man of noted skill;
Likewise came his lawyer for him to sign his will.
He left his gold to Mary who'd fought so manfully
And closed his eyes, no more to rise, on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Grace Notes sing Banks of the Sweet Dundee

It's of a farmer's daughter, so beautiful I am told.
Her parents died and they left her a large amount of gold.
She lived with her uncle, the cause of all her woe,
But you soon shall hear how this maiden fair she proved his overthrow.

Her uncle had a ploughboy young Mary loved quite well
And in her uncle's garden their tales of love did tell.
There was a wealthy squire who oft her her to see
But still she loved her ploughboy on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Well on a Monday morning her uncle went straightway,
He knocked upon the maiden's door and this to her did say:
“Arise, arise, my pretty maid, a lady you can be,
The squire is waiting for you on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

“I care not for your squires, your lords or dukes likewise,
My William he appears to me like diamonds in the skies.”
“Begone, unruly female, you ne'er shall happy be,
For I will banish William from the banks of sweet Dundee.“

Her uncle and the squire went out to walk next day.
“Young William he's in favour,” her uncle he did say,
“Indeed it's my intention to tie him to a tree
Or else to bribe the press gang on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

The press gang came on William while he was all alone;
He bravely fought for liberty, but they were six to one.
His blood did flow in torrents, “Pray, kill me now,” said he,
“For I will die for Mary on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

And Mary was out walking, lamenting for her love,
She met the wealthy squire down by her uncle's grove.
He threw his arms around her, “Stand off, bad man,” said she;
“'Twas you to bribe the press gang on the banks of sweet Dundee.“

He wrapped his arms around her and he tried to throw her down;
A pistol and a sword she spied beneath his morning gown.
She took the pistol from him and the sword he used quite free;
She did fire and she shot the squire on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Her uncle overheard the noise and hastened to the ground,
“Since you have killed the squire,“ he said, “I'll give you your death wound!”
“Stand off, bad man!” said Mary, “undaunted I will be!”
The trigger she drew and her uncle slew on the banks of sweet Dundee.

He willed his gold to Mary who fought so manfully,
He closed his eyes, no more to rise, on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Banks of Sweet Dundee.