> June Tabor > Songs > The Merchant's Son

The Merchant's Son / The Beggar Wench

[ Roud 2153 ; G/D 2:303 ; TYG 65 ; Ballad Index K338 ; Bodleian Roud 2153 ; trad.]

Davie Stewart sang The Merchant’s Son and the Beggar’s Daughter in a recording made by Alan Lomax in Angus, Scotland on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968). This recording was also included in 2002 on his and Jimmy McBeath's Rounder compilation Two Gentlemen on the Road. Another recording of Davie Stewart singing The Merchant’s Son was made by Hamish Henderson in the home of James Ross, Edinburgh, in probably 1955 but possibly 1962. It was released in 1978 on his Topic album Davie Stewart, and included in 1998 on the Topic anthology They Ordered Their Pints of Beer and Bottles of Sherry (The Voice of the People Volume 13). Another recording made in Blairgowrie by Hamish Henderson, who also joined in on the chorus, was published in the early 1960s on the Prestige album Folksongs & Music from the Berryfields of Blair. A fourth recording of The Beggar Wench made by Peter Kennedy in Dundee in 1956 was included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology Songs of the Travelling People.

John Strachan sang a fragment of The Merchant's Son to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson on July 16, 1951 in Fyvie, Aberdeenshire. This recording was included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Songs from Aberdeenshire.

Jimmy McBeath sang The Merchant and the Beggar Maid on his 1967 Topic album, Wild Rover No More. Peter Hall commented in the sleeve notes:

The first known copy of this song is in A Collection of Old Ballads (London, 1723), and Logan, in his Pedlars Pack, prints a version from later in the some century under the title The Merchant’s Son and the Beggar Wench of Hull. Singers in Aberdeenshire were still giving Hull as the location when Gavin Greig was collecting at the beginning of this century although Dean Christie records hearing a version as The Beggar Wench of Wales.

Isabel Sutherland sang The Beggar Wench on the 1960 HMV album of broadside ballads old and new, A Jug of Punch.

Owen Hand sang The Beggar Wench in 1966 on his Transatlantic album I Loved a Lass.

Archie Fisher sang The Beggar Wench in 1968 on his eponymous Transatlantic album, Archie Fisher.

Norman Kennedy sang Oh, Hae Ye Heard o' the Merchant’s Son in 1968 on his Folk-Legacy album Ballads & Songs of Scotland. and on his Topic LP Scots Songs and Ballads.

Ian Manuel sang The Merchant’s Son and the Beggar Wench on his 1977 Topic album The Dales of Caledonia: Scots Traditional Songs.

June Tabor sang The Merchant's Son in 1976 on her first solo album, Airs and Graces. She commented in her sleeve notes:

From the singing of Dave Stewart; first heard from Ian Manuel of Hull.

Lyrics

Norman Kennedy sings Oh, Hae Ye Heard o' the Merchant’s Son June Tabor sings The Merchant’s Son

A merchant's son, he lived in wrong
And tae the beggin' he has gone;
He mounted on a noble steed
And awa wi pleasure he did ride.

A merchant's son, he lived in wrong
And to the beggin' he has gone;
He mounted on his noble steed
And awa wi pleasure he did ride.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Fal al the dooral i do
Fal al the day

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Fal al the dooral i do
Fal al the day

A beggar wench he chanced tae meet,
A beggar wench of low degree.
He took pity on her distress
An' says: “My lass, you've got a bonny face.”

A beggar wench he chanced to meet,
A beggar wench of low degree.
He took pity on her distress
An' says: “My lass, you've got a pretty face.”

They both inclined noo tae have a drink;
Into a public house they both went.
They both drunk ale and brandy too
Till the both o' them got rollin' fu'.

They both inclined now to have a drink;
Into a public house they went.
They ordered ale and brandy too
Till the both of them got rollin' fu'.

They both inclined noo tae go tae bed
Soon under cover they were laid;
Strong ale and brandy went tae their heid
And both now slept as they were deid.

They both inclin-ed to go to bed
And under cover soon were laid;
Strong ale and brandy went to their heads
And both now slept as they were dead.

Later on this wench she rose
And put on noo the merchant's clothes;
With his hat so high and his sword sae clear
For she's awa wi the merchant's gear.

Later on the wench she rose
And put on now the merchant's clothes;
With his hat so high and his sword so clear
And she's awa wi the merchant's gear.

Early next morning the merchant rose
And looking round for tae find his clothes.
There's nothing left into the room
But a ragged petticoat and a linsey goun.

Early next morning the merchant rose
And looking round for to find his clothes.
There's nothing left into the room
But a ragged petticoat and a linsey gown.

The merchant being a stranger to the toon
He put on the old coat and goun;
And down the street he soundly swore,
He would never lie with a beggar no more.

The merchant being a stranger to the town
He put on the old coat and gown;
And down the street he loudly swore,
He would never lie with a beggar no more.