> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Fanny Blair
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Fanny Blair
> Tony Rose > Songs > Fanny Blair
> Maddy Prior > Songs > Fanny Blair

Fanny Blair

[ Roud 1393 ; Ballad Index WB2103 ; trad.]

For an extensive discussion of this song, see Roly Brown's Musical Tradition article Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade: No 3: Fanny Blair.

A.L. Lloyd sang Fanny Blair unaccompanied on his LP First Person; this track was also included in the compilation album Classic A.L. Lloyd. He recorded it a second time for this Transatlantic LP Best of A.L. Lloyd with somewhat different text. Lloyd commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

Cecil Sharp noted this extraordinarily handsome and elusive tune in Somerset from an old singer [George Say of Axford, Somerset, in 1908 - ed.] who made a terrible jumble of the words. Taking lines from other sources, Sharp produced a text of his own, in which Fanny Blair appears as an eighteen-year-old girl accusing a young man of robbery. Versions have since come to light, including a broadside published by Walker of Durham, and a copy written in the logbook of the whaling ship Jave in 1839, from which it is clear that Miss Blair was in fact eleven years old and that her accusation, seemingly false and malicious, was one of sexual assault. The nymphet is a rare figure in our folk song, yet Fanny Blair is not alone; in the ballad of Leesome Brand is another sister to Lolita, a girl of the king's court, of whom it is said:

This lady was scarce eleven years old
When on her love she was right bold;
She was scarce up to my right knee
When oft in bed with men, I'm told.

Past times had young delinquent problems too.

Peter Bellamy sang Fanny Blair unaccompanied on his second LP, Fair England's Shore. He commented in the sleeve notes:

Fanny Blair I learned from Chris Birch, a superb singer from Liverpool. Chris is one of those talented and fortunate people who read music, which makes him one of those talented and unfortunate people whose musical finds are always stolen by more ignorant singers like myself. Chris gleaned this powerful song, which concerns the execution (for the rape of an eleven year old girl) of an innocent man, from Sharp's English Folksongs Vol. 1.

Another recording from the 1975 sessions of Peter Bellamy was listed on the album's track list but still left out. It was finally included in the double CD reissue of Fair Annie.

Tony Rose learned Fanny Blair from First Person and recorded it for his 1976 LP On Banks of Green Willow with verses very similar to Lloyd's.

Maddy Prior sang Fanny Blair too on her album Arthur the King. Except for the missing first verse, her version is nearly identical to Lloyd's. She explained in the record's sleeve notes:

This song speaks about the taboo of sex with the underaged and the hypocrisy and political wrangling that often go with it.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Fanny Blair on First Person

Come all you young fellows wherever that you be,
I'll have you pay attention and listen unto me.
For by a young female I'm wounded full soon
And you see I'm cut down in the height of my bloom.

It was last Monday morning I lay in my bed
A young friend come to me and unto me said,
“Rise up Henry Higgins and flee you elsewhere
For they're bound out against you by the young Fanny Blair.”

Fanny Blair is a girl of eleven years old
And if I was dying the truth I'll unfold.
It's I never had dealings with her in my time
But now I've to die for another man's crime.

On the day of the trial Squire Vernon was there
And it's on that green table they did lift young Fanny Blair.
And the lies she did swear to I'm ashamed to tell
And the judge spoke up quick, saying, “You've told it so well.”

“Henry Higgins of Branfield, O whither art thou flown?
It's you're a poor prisoner, condemned and alone.
If Jackie McNeill of Newcastle was here,
In spite of old Vernon we'd soon have you clear.”

On the day that young Higgins was condemned to die
The people rose up with a murmuring cry.
“We'll catch her and crop her, she's a perjuring little whore.
Young Henry is innocent, of that we're very sure.”

Just one thing remains before my life do end:
Don't bury me in some old prison ground so far from any friend.
Bring my body to lie in the sweet Branfield mould
And I pray the Lord pardons that little girl's soul.

Peter Bellamy sings Fanny Blair on Fair England's Shore

Come all you young fellows wheresoever that you be,
I will have you pay attention and listen unto me.
For by a young female I am wounded full soon
And you see I'm cut down in the height of my bloom.

It was on one Monday morning as I lay on my bed
A young friend come to me and these words to me he said,
“Rise up Henry Higgins and flee you elsewhere
For they're bound out against you on the count of Fanny Blair.”

Fanny Blair is a girl of eleven years old
And I must die now the truth I will unfold.
I never had dealings with her in my time
It's a hard thing to hang for another man's crime.

Well the trial it come on and Squire Vernon he was there
And onto the long table he handed Fanny Blair.
And the lies that she swore to I'm ashamed for to tell
But the Squire spoke up quick, saying, “You've told your story well.”

When the people all heard that young Higgins was to die
They have rose up against her with a murmuring cry.
“We will catch her and crop her, she's a perjuring little whore.
Young Higgins is innocent, of that we're very sure.”

There is one favour more that I will ask of my friends:
To take me to Bloomfields one night by themselves
And to bury my body in merrily mould.
And I pray that the good Lord will pardon her soul.

Tony Rose sings Fanny Blair

Come all you young fellows wherever that you be,
I pray pay attention and listen unto me.
For by a young female I'm wounded full soon
And you see I'm cut down in the height of my bloom.

It was last Monday evening I lay in my bed
When a young man come to me and this to me said,
“Rise up Henry Higgins and flee you elsewhere
For they're bound out against you on the word of Fanny Blair.”

Fanny Blair is a girl of eleven years old
And if I was dying the truth I'll unfold.
For I never had dealings with her in my time
But now I've to pay for some other man's crime.

On the day of the trial Squire Vernon was there
And on that green table they did lift young Fanny Blair.
And the lies that she swore to I'm ashamed for to tell
And the judge spoke up quick, saying, “You've told us it well.”

“Henry Higgins of Branfield, O whither art thou flown?
Oh it's you're a poor prisoner, condemned and alone.
If Jackie McNeill of Newcastle was here,
In spite of old Vernon we'd soon have you clear.”

On the day that young Higgins was condemned to die
All the people rose up with a murmuring cry.
“We'll catch her, we'll crop her, she's a perjuring little whore.
Young Henry is innocent, of that we're very sure.”

So just one thing remains before my life do end:
Don't bury me in that prison yard so far from any friend.
Bring my body to lie in the sweet Branfield mould
And I pray the Lord pardon that little girl's soul.

Maddy Prior sings Fanny Blair

It was last Monday morning as I lay on my bed
A young friend came to me and unto me said,
“Rise up Henry Higgins and flee you elsewhere
They're bound out against you by the young Fanny Blair.”

Fanny Blair is a girl of eleven years old
And if I must die then the truth I'll unfold.
I never had dealings with her in my time
But now I must die for another man's crime.

On the day of the trial Squire Vernon was there
And on the green table they've lifted Fanny Blair.
And the lies that she swore to I'm ashamed for to tell
But the judge spoke up quick, saying, “You've told it right well.”

“Henry Higgins of Branfield, O whither art thou flown?
It's you're a poor prisoner, condemned and alone.
If Jackie McNeill of Newcastle was here,
In spite of old Vernon we'd soon have you clear.”

On the day that young Higgins was condemned for to die
The people rose up with a murmuring cry.
“We'll catch her and crop her, she's a perjuring little whore.
Young Henry is innocent, of that we're very sure.”

Just one thing remains before my life do end.
Don't bury me in some old prison ground so far from many a friend.
Leave my body to lie in the sweet Branfield mould
And I pray the Lord pardons that little girl's soul.