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Lady Franklin's Lament / Lord Franklin

[ Roud 487 ; Master title: Lady Franklin's Lament ; Laws K9 ; G/D 1:16 ; Henry H815 ; AFS 304 ; Ballad Index LK09 ; Old Songs LadyFranklin ; VWML CJS2/9/647 ; Bodleian Roud 487 ; Mudcat 129573 , 170957 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer: Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams Gale Huntington Sam Henry's Songs of the People Joanna C. Colcord: Songs of American Sailormen

This is a ballad about the fate of Sir John Franklin, who perished in 1847 on the search for the North West Passage.

A.L. Lloyd sang Lord Franklin on his his, Ewan MacColl's and Harry H. Corbett's 1954/6 Topic album The Singing Sailor. He was accompanied by Alf Edwards on concertina. This track has also been included on his and Ewan MacColl's albums Row Bullies Row (Topic, 1957), Singing Sailors (Wattle Records, 1957) and Off to Sea Once More (Stinson Records, 1958), and on the compilation CD Sailors' Songs & Sea Shanties (Highpoint, 2004).

Martin Carthy sang Lord Franklin in 1966 on his Second Album; this was also included on his anthologies A Collection (1999) and The Carthy Chronicles. (2001). Carthy noted on the original album:

Sir John Franklin set out with two ships, the ‘Erebus’ and the ‘Terror’, on his second attempt to discover the North West Passage and was never heard of again. It was almost twelve years before the story of what had actually happened to the expedition was finally pieced together. After sailing round the island in the far north of Canada, the ships, predictably, became trapped in the ice; what was completely unexpected, however, was that the lime juice stored in barrels became useless and half the crews of both ships died of scurvy. Some of the others decided to strike across country for a mission station, but one by one they died on the journey. How they managed to die in country that was full of game where Eskimos had lived for generations is a mystery. The real tragedy was Franklin's blunder in not allowing for such a contingency: he had taken along beautiful tea-services, flags and dress uniforms for the celebrations when their mission was accomplished, instead of extra food supplies. Several rescue operations were mounted, one by Lady Franklin herself from the proceeds of public fund she started for that purpose, after the Admiralty had washed it hands of the whole affair, having itself failed in a rather desultory rescue attempt. The truth was actually discovered by an expedition in which the United States Navy took part.

Bob Dylan learned Lord Franklin from Martin Carthy and based his song Bob Dylan's Dream on it.

Jon Raven sang Lord Franklyn on the 1968 Broadside album The Halliard : Jon Raven.

Louis Killen recorded Lord Franklin in 1968 for his 1973 LP Sea Chanteys. and in 1995 for his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. He also sang it in 2003 on the Fellside anthology celebrating English traditional songs and their Australian variants, Song Links. The corresponding Australian variant The Loss of Bob Mahoney was sung by Danny Spooner. The Fellside anthology's booklet noted:

Sir John Franklin was governor of Van Diemen's Land (renamed Tasmania in 1853) in 1837, and was recalled to England in 1843. In 1847 he set out on an ill-fated expedition to seek the elusive north-west passage around the north of Canada, leading from the north Atlantic to the north Pacific. The song known generally amongst sailors as Lady Franklin's Lament was widely sung in the British Isles and in North America, and versions appear in many books of sailor songs. Louis Killen says that he learnt the song from A.L. Lloyd. Lloyd reports that he learnt it whilst working with the whaling fleet operating out of South Georgia. The tune is one of a cluster that is widely used.

Pentangle sang Lord Franklin in 1970 on their Transatlantic album Cruel Sister.

Derek Sarjeant and Hazel King sang Lord Franklin in 1978 on their album English & Scottish Folksongs and Ballads.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Lord Franklin in 1978 on his album Ballad Singer.

Nic Jones sang Lord Franklin live in Italy in 1981. He sang verses 1-2 and 4-5 of A.L. Lloyd's lyrics with slight changes. This recording was included in 1998 on his CD In Search of Nic Jones. He noted:

I've always considered this to be a classic among folk songs and I first came across it during my days with The Halliard. It wasn't a song I used to do and I can't actually remember singing it, so it was quite a surprise to me when I first heard the tape. It was recorded when I was in Italy doing some concerts that Paolo Nuti had arranged for me in 1981. Regrettably, I only have very vague memories of the time just before my argument with a brick lorry, but Julia assures me I had a great time over there.

Cyril Tawney sang Lady Franklin's Lament on his 1990 Neptune Tapes cassette Sailor's Delight. His version is basically Franklin's Crew from Joanna C. Colcord's 1938 book Songs of American Sailormen with an additional “ten thousand pounds” last verse.

Jo Freya sang Lord Franklin in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England. The liner notes commented:

Sir John Franklin set out to Arctic waters with two ships, the Erebus and the Terror on his second attempt to discover the North West passage. The hope was that this would provide a short sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and had been at the forefront of Arctic exploration for centuries. Lord Franklin's expedition, like many before and after, failed when their ships became trapped in the ice. Although the area was teeming with wildlife none of the crew survived the cruel polar winter. This was partly due to their barrels of lime juice becoming useless and half of the party died of scurvy with the rest weakened and ill. Their attempts to strike out across land for a mission station failed and one by one the rest of the crew died. Several rescue expeditions were mounted, one by Lady Franklin herself from the proceeds of a public fund, but it was twelve years before the truth of the tragedy was known.

Éilís Kennedy's sang Lord Franklin, on her 2001 album Time to Sail. Her lyrics are the ususal Lloyd-derived ones, with the first half of verse four from Henry. She also sang Franklin's Crew on her 2020 album So Ends This Day, where she noted:

This version of the well-known song about the fate of Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition from England to the Northwest Passage, I found in a wonderful book called Songs of American Sailormen by Joanna C. Colcord. The efforts of many to solve the riddle had not yet been rewarded by the time this version was written.

According to Joanna Colcord's meticulous notes “it is possible to fix with considerable accuracy the dates between which the version must have been composed; it was after Captain Osborne sailed for the Arctic in 1852, and before Captain Leopold McClintock's discovery in 1859”.

Artisan sang Lady Franklin's Lament in a previously unreleased recording on the 2001 Fellside anthology of unaccompanied English traditional songs, Voices in Harmony. Paul Adams noted:

Lord Franklin set out to discover the northwest passage in two ships. He was never seen again. Lady Franklin herself mounted a rescue attempt. When the remains of the expedition were found, the Eskimos were accused of cannibalism, but it was more likely to be the starving survivors.

Words and tune from the Frank Kidson collection [and possibly Bodleian Collection Bod1322].

David Jones sang Lady Franklin's Lament in 2002 on the Revels' CD Homeward Bound.

Barbara Brown sang Franklin in 2014 on her and Tom Brown's WildGoose album of songs collected by Cecil Sharp in Minehead, Somerset, from Captains Lewis and Vickery, Just Another Day. They noted:

Following the loss of Lord Franklin's 1945 exploratory voyage to find the north-west passage, a campaign was led by Franklin's widow, to try to get the government to mount an expedition to find out what happened. Part of that campaign was a long broadside written in 1850 by George Boker, of which fragments remained in the tradition. Here is Vickery's delightfully abbreviated version [ VWML CJS2/9/647 ] with the text slightly tidied up.

Hannah Sanders sang Lord Franklin in 2015 on her CD Charms Against Sorrow.

Andy Turner sang Lord Franklin as the 21 November 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Jim Moray sang Lord Franklin in 2016 on his CD Upcetera. He noted:

Learned from versions sung by Martin Carthy and Nic Jones. Lady Franklin funded several search expeditions to look for her husband and his crew, and this is possibly the first charity single. The sum of ten thousand pounds mentioned in the final verse was the reward for successfully finding a north-west passage trade route.

John Smith sang Lord Franklin in 2018 on his CD Hummingbird.

Lyrics

Franklin the Brave in Sam Henry's Songs of the People

We were homeward bound all in the deep,
Alone in my hammock I fell asleep.
And I dreamt a dream that I thought was true
Concerning Franklin and his bold crew.

As I was musing on yon foreign shore
I heard a lady and she did deplore.
She wept aloud and to me did say,
Oh, my loving husband, he stops long away.

It is seven long years since three ships of fame
Caused my dear husband to cross the main,
And a hundred seamen of courage stout
A northwest passage for to find out.

They sail-ed east and they sail-ed west
To find their passage they knew not best.
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
If I only knew if my husband lived.

There is Captain Parry of high renown,
There is Captain Hoggs of Seamore town,
There is Captain Ross and many more,
I'm afraid they are lost on some foreign shore.

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blows
The fate of Franklin no one knows
I am afraid he is lost on yon foreign shore
Where he left his home to return no more.

A.L. Lloyd sings Lord Franklin

It was homeward bound one night on the deep,
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek that passage around the Pole
Where we poor seamen do sometimes go.

Through cruel hardships these men did go
His ship on mountains of ice was drove
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one who ever came through

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For my long lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Ten thousand pound would I freely give
To say on earth that my Franklin do live.

Martin Carthy sings Lord Franklin

It was homeward bound one night on the deep,
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek that passage around the Pole
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.

Through cruel hardships these men did go
His ship on mountains of ice was drove,
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one who ever come through.

In Baffin Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For my long lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
To know on earth that my Franklin do live.

Louis Killen sings Lord Franklin

One night when sailing across the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep,
And I dreamed a dream and I thought it true,
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May,
To seek that passage around the Pole
Where us poor sailing men do sometimes roll.

Through cruel hardships he mainly strove,
His ship on mountains of ice was drove,
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one of them whatever came through.

And in the Baffin's Bay where the whalefish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
Oh the fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For me long lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Oh ten thousand pounds would I freely give
For to say on earth that my Franklin do live.

Pentangle sing Lord Franklin

It was homeward bound one night on the deep,
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With one hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May,
To seek that passage around the Pole
Where we poor seamen do sometimes go.

Through cruel hardships they mainly strove,
Their ship on mountains of ice was drove,
Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one who ever came through.

In Baffin's Bay where the whalefish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
Oh the fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For me long lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Oh ten thousand pounds I would freely give
To say on earth that my Franklin do live.

Nic Jones sings Lord Franklin

'Twas homeward bound one night on the deep,
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To that frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the Pole
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.

Near Baffin Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For my long lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
To know on earth that my Franklin do live.

(repeat first verse)

Cyril Tawney sings Lady Franklin's Lament

While cruisin' home across the deep,
Snug in my hammock, I fell asleep.
I dreamed these lines, which I think are true,
Concerning Franklin and his brave crew.

And as we neared old England's shore
I heard a lady in deep deplore.
She wept aloud and she seemed to say
“Alas my Franklin is long away.

“It's a long time now since those ships of fame
Bore my long-lost husband across the main,
With a hundred men, with courage stout,
To find the north-western passage out.

“To find a passage by the North Pole
Where the storms do rage and wild waters roll.
'Twas more than mortal man can do
With heart undaunted and courage true.

“They sailéd east and they sailéd west
Along Greenland's coast, which they knew the best.
'Gainst hardships and dangers they vainly strove.
'Gainst mountains of ice their ships were drove.

“Oh Captain Osborne of Scarborough Town,
Granville and Parry of great renown,
And Captain Ross and many more
Have since been cruising by that arctic shore.

“In Baffin's Bay where the right whale blows,
The fate of Franklin no-one knows.
Which causes many to weep and mourn
While praying for their safe return.

“And now my burden it gives me pain
For my long-lost husband across the main;
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give
To know on earth that my Franklin do live.”

Éilís Kennedy sings Lord Franklin

We were homeward boune one night on the deep,
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamed a dream and I thought was true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the Pole
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.

Through cruel misfortune they vainly strove
Their ships on mountains of ice were drove
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only man to ever get through

It's seven long years since three ships of fame
Brought my Lord Franklin across the main,
To Baffin Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know.

And now my burden it brings me pain,
For my lost Franklin I'd cross the main.
Ten thousand pound would I freely give
To know that on earth my Franklin live.

Artisan sing Lady Franklin's Lament

You seaman bold, that have oft withstood
Wild storms of Neptune's briny flood.
Attend these lines which I now will gain
And put you in mind of a sailor's dream.

As homeward bound one night on the deep
Slung in my hammock I fell asleep,
I dreamt a dream, which I thought was true
Concerning Franklin and his brave crew.

I thought as we neared the Humber shore,
I heard a female that did deplore.
She wept aloud and seemed to say,
Alas! my Franklin is long away.

Her mind it seemed in sad distress,
She cried aloud I can take no rest,
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give,
To say on earth that my husband lives.

Long time it is since two ships of fame
Did bear my husband across the main,
With a hundred seamen with courage stout,
To find a north-western passage out.

With a hundred seamen with hearts so bold,
I fear have perished with frost and cold,
Alas, she cried, all my life I'll mourn,
Since Franklin seems never to return.

For since that time seven years are past,
And many a keen and bitter blast
Blows o'er the grave where poor seamen fell,
Whose dreadful sufferings no tongue can tell.

To find a passage by the North Pole
Where tempests wave and wild thunders roll,
Is more than mortal man can do,
With hearts undaunted and courage true.

There's Captain Austen of Scarborough town,
Brave Granville and Penny of much renown
With Captain Ross and so many more,
Have long been searching the Arctic shore.

They sailed east and they sailed west,
Round Greenland's coast they knew the best,
In hardship drear they have vainly strove,
Their ships on mountains of ice were drove.

At Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin nobody know,
With scores of many a wife and child do mourn,
In grievous sorrow for their return.

These sad forebodings they give me pain,
For the long lost Franklin across the main,
Likewise the fate of so many before,
Who left their homes to return no more.

Barbara Brown sings Franklin

It was on the beach I once did roam,
I met a lady all alone,
In grief lamenting, crying, Pity me
And send my sailor safe o'er the sea.

Now this in sorrow she did bewail,
Behold you widows with an orphan child.
There is only one who alone can save
The British tar from the briny wave.

If was from England my love sailed out
To find the north-west passage route
Around the foam where the Eskimo
Does paddle in his skin canoe.

It was from England his ship set sail
To the frozen regions in a pleasant gale.
Then through ice and snow they did strive
Till there was scarce a man alive.

The cruel ice came floating by
And the gallant ship could make no way,
The summer [lost?], the winter come,
And all of Franklin's crew were gone.

Éilís Kennedy sing Franklin's Crew

While homeward bound across the deep,
Snug in my hammock I fell asleep.
I dreamt these lines, which I think are true,
Concerning Franklin and his brave crew.

And as we neared old England's shore
I saw a lady in deep deplore,
She wept aloud and seemed to say,
Alas, my Franklin is long away.

It's a long time now since those ships of fame
Bore my long–lost husband across the main,
And a hundred seamen with courage stout
To find the Northwestern passage out.

To seek a passage by the North Pole
Where storms do rage and wild waters roll,
‘Tis more than mortal men can do,
With heart undaunted and courage true.

They sailed east and they sailed west,
‘Long Greenland's coast which they knew the best,
Through cruel dangers they vainly strove,
And on the ice their ships were drove.

[ Oh Captain Osborne of Scarbury town,
Granville and Parry of great renown,
And Captain Ross and many more
Have since been cruising on the Arctic shore. ]

In Baffin's Bay where the right whale blows
The fate of Franklin no man may know,
Ten Thousand pounds would I freely give
To know that on earth my Franklin lives.

Note: Éilís Kennedy's did not sing the bracketed sixth verse from Colcord.

Acknowledgements and Links

See also Jürgen Kloss's Just Another Tune's study Bob Dylan's Dream & Lady Franklin's Lament.

The Plight of Lord Franklin and the Efforts of Lady Franklin by Christoper Hudson, 15 May 1999

Martin Carthy's version transcribed by Garry Gillard.