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Lamkin / Long Lankin / Cruel Lincoln

[ Roud 6 ; Master title: Lamkin ; Child 93 ; G/D 2:187 ; Henry H735 ; Ballad Index C093 ; Long Lankin at Fire Draw Near ; Bolakins at Old Songs ; MusTrad MT147 , DB02 ; Bodleian Roud 6 ; DT BLAMKIN , BOLAMKN3 ; Mudcat 19415 , 52123 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan and Peter Hall: The Scottish Folksinger Nick Dow: Southern Songster David Herd: Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Alexander Keith: Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs James Kinsley: The Oxford Book of Ballads John Morrish: The Folk Handbook John Jacob Niles: The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles Roy Palmer: Everyman’s Book of British Ballads Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle Steve Roud, Julia Bishop: The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Cecil Sharp: One Hundred English Folksongs Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd: Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

Ben Butcher of Popham, near Winchester, Hampshire, sang Cruel Lincoln to Bob Copper at home on 12 August 1955. This recording was included on the anthology The Child Ballads 1 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 4; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), in 1977 on the Topic album of country singers from Hampshire and Sussex, Songs and Southern Breezes, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology O’er His Grave the Grass Grew Green (The Voice of the People Volume 3).

George Fosbury of Axford, Hampshire, sang False Lamkin to Bob Copper in 1955. This recording was included in 2000 on the Rounder anthology Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland Volume 1 (which is a reissue of the above Folk Songs of Britain album with some new tracks).

A.L. Lloyd sang Long Lankin in 1956 on this Riverside album with Ewan MacColl, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Volume III. Like all of his tracks on this series, it was reissued in 2011 on his Fellside CD Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun. Lloyd also included Long Lankin in 1959 on his and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Arthur ‘Hockey’ Feltvell of Southery, Norfolk, sang Lamkin to Sam Steele in ca 1959. This track was included in 2005 on the Veteran anthology of traditional folk songs, music hall songs and tunes from Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex 1959-1962, Heel & Toe. John Howson noted:

Known by a variety of titles sometimes with prefix of Bold, Young or False, and as Lamkin, Lambkin or Lankin this is a rare ballad in England although there are numerous collected versions from America and Canada. It crops up in Northern Ireland where it was collected by Sam Henry from Alexander Crawford and Gavin Greig collected it from Miss Bell Robertson in Scotland.

Interestingly Cecil Sharp has three versions in his manuscripts collected in 1911 which came from not that far away from where Hockey Feltwell lived: from Yarrow Gill and William Murfitt of Ely and George Crabb from Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The story is a gory one about a mason who builds a castle for a lord who later refuses to pay. Lamkin then enters the lord’s home and with the aid of the nurse, brings the lord’s wife downstairs where he kills her. Lamkin and the nurse are hanged or burnt at the stake. There have been several studies of the ballad made but very little is known of its origins or original meaning.

There are few recordings of this ballad and the only others from England seem to be a fragment of Lankin recorded by George Fradley (Derbyshire) on VTC6CD It Was on a Market Day—One and False Lankin sung by George Fosbury (Hants.) on Rounder 1775 Classic Ballads From Britain and Ireland Vol. 1.

Frank Proffitt of Reese, North Carolina, sang Bolamkin to Anne and Frank Warner in 1959. This recording was included in 2000 on the anthology of songs from Frank Proffitt and North Carolina in the Warner Collection, Nothing Seems Better to Me. A 1961 recording of Bo Lamkin made by Sandy Paton was included in 1962 on his Folkways album Frank Proffitt Sings Folk Songs. Frank Warner noted:

This story of the wronged and revengeful mason is Child Ballad No. 93, and may be found in Motherwell (collected in England in 1825) and also in a number of American collections, including those of Cecil Sharp and Frank C. Brown. Brown suggests that “Lamkin” is a Flemish version of the name Lambert, since many fine masons were of Flemish blood and were often brought to England as builders. The “Bo” is, no doubt, an abbreviation of “bald”, since some versions of the ballad are titled Bold Lamkin. It is interesting that the old world “Lord” becomes “landlord” in this and other American versions. We like Frank Proffitt’s own comments:

I want to say that I never gave much thought to Bo Lamkin’s feelings until I too got to building. It seems he got angry because “’pay he got none”. I have had a occasion or two of this kind, not much I am glad to say. I don’t claim that I had murderous intent, but how I would have liked to take a big stone hammer and undone the work that pay I got none for. Old Bo, if he bad only done this to his work would have had my admiration very much. Perhaps we would not have heard of him then, which perhaps would have been just as well.

I like to think of just where the place is now were he built the fine castle. For I believe it really happened as well as all the old ballad things. The older folks wanted a fact, then they went all out in building a legend around it, but never to destroy the fact that planted the seed. They kept it intact and thank God for it.

Hedy West sang Beaulampkin in 1968 on her Topic album Ballads. She and A.L. Lloyd noted:

The song has many titles: Lamkin, Bold Lamkin, Bold Lantern, Bolakin, False Linfinn, even Young Alanthia. The grisly old story of the mason who builds a castle, is cheated of his fee, and exacts a murderous revenge with blood everywhere relates distantly to the ancient legend—which has been the subject of marvellous ballads in Eastern Europe—of the master-builders who make a human sacrifice in the foundations of new buildings, or who use human blood in mixing the cement. The vivid story has been memorable to singers all over the eastern states and the mid-West. This version is from North Carolina, again from [Frank C.] Brown’s collection.

Martin Carthy sang Long Lankin unaccompanied on his 1968 album with Dave Swarbrick, But Two Came By. It was also included in 1971 on his compilation album Selections. Martin Carthy noted:

Long Lankin was the subject of an extensive essay Anne Gilchrist in EFDSS Vol. 1 No. 1, where she noted how the song has developed in two distinct forms. The first which she titles Lamkin, the Wronged Mason, is the Scottish version and the second, found from Northumberland to the south coast of England, she called Longkin, the Border Ruffian, but, she says, the second might have arisen from the first when the verse was lost as the motives appear to be the same, i.e. revenge.

The version here, from the second stream, is from the singing of Ben Butcher, with an expanded text which itself was largely from the singing of a nun, Sister Emma of Clewer, Bucks. It has been suggested that Lankin was indeed a leper seeking to cure himself by bathing in the blood of an innocent, which was often believed to be successful, but attractive (if that is the word) though his idea may seem, I myself incline to the view that it is a simple “bogey man” song, for, after all, if children have bogeymen, why not adults? They just call them by different names (nowadays, “neurotic fancies” et al). Indeed, according again to Anne Gilchrist, until a few years ago a mother near Whittle Dean, Northumberland, had but to go outside, shake a bunch of keys, and cry “There’s Long Lankin!” to recall her straying children at nightfall.

Jon Raven sang Long Lankin in 1968 on the Broadside album The Halliard : Jon Raven.

The High Level Ranters sang Long Lankin in 1973 on their Trailer album A Mile to Ride.

Steeleye Span recorded Long Lankin in 1975 for their album Commoners Crown, and a second time for the CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour. A live version can be found on the DVD The 35th Anniversary World Tour.

Dave Tomlinson notes in his Steeleye Span fanzine The Song and the Story:

Long Lankin is a legend from Northumbrian in northern England. Lankin was either a stonemason or a famous robber and desperado and lived at Nafferton Castle (also known as Lonkins Hall). Lankin was involved in a dispute with Lord Wearie of nearby Welton Hall, this reached a bloody conclusion when Lankin, with the cooperation of Lord Wearie’s grandchild’s nurse, entered Welton Hall and murdered the grandchild and Wearies daughter. Lankin and the nurse escaped but were tracked down. Rather than be captured, Lankin hanged himself from an oak tree near Whittle Dene near the present reservoirs under Harlow Hill. The nurse was burnt at the stake by Lord Wearies men.

The places can be found around the current A69 road between Newcastle and Hexham. Welton Hall has been converted in a farmhouse. The lady’s ghost is said to walk Welton Hall. The oak tree is said to carry the outline of a hanged man.

Martin Simpson sang Beaulampkin in 1976 on his Trailer album Golden Vanity and in 2019 on Topic’s 80th year anthology, Vision & Revision, where he was accompanied by Liz Hanks, Nancy Kerr and Ben Nicholls. He noted:

I learned Beaulampkin from Hedy West’s 1967 Topic album, Ballads. 1 saw Hedy play at the Scunthorpe Folk Club and bought the LP from her, which she signed. I recorded a version of the song in 1975 on my first album. Hedy has remained one of my biggest influences for 50 years.

Dave Burland sang Lamkin in 1979 on his album You Can’t Fool the Fat Man. He noted:

Lamkin is a composite version, the opening tune coming from Martin Carthy, the text and the other tune from the The Oxford Book of Ballads.

Brian Peters sang Lamkin in 1985 on his Fellside album Persistence of Memory.

George Fradley sang a fragment of Lankin to Mike Yates in Sudbury, Derbyshire, in 1984. This recording was released on Fradley’s Veteran cassette of songs from Derbyshire, One of the Best, and was included in 2005 on the Veteran anthology It Was on a Market Day—One. Mike Yates commented:

A mason is owed money for building work on a Lord’s castle. The mason, seeking revenge when the Lord is absent, kills the Lord’s child and wife. The child’s nurse is also implicated in the killings and, like the mason, is subsequently executed. So runs the story to one of the most gruesome ballads that Professor Child included in his English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The ballad may be based on an actual event that occurred at Balwearie Castle in Fife, which was built in the 15th century, although the story is also associated with other places in Perthshire, the Scottish Borders and in Northumberland. Over the years much has been written about this ballad. Anne Gilchrist, for instance, has ingeniously suggested that the name Lamkin / Lammikin (which Child saw as an epithet) possibly indicated that the murderer was pale-skinned and, as such, could possibly have been suffering from leprosy, which was well-known in medieval Britain. Gilchrist, adding that one supposed medieval ‘cure’ for the disease was to be obtained by taking human blood (obtained from an innocent child and preserved in a silver bowl), was thus able to offer a ‘complete’ explanation for she events described in this ballad. George’s fragment probably comes originally from the broadside text printed in London by John Pitts c.1820.

Dave Goulder sang Long Lankin in a 1993 recording that was included in 2018 on the anthology of Fellside Recordings from 1976-2018, Destination.

Tony Lloyd sang Lamkin to Gwilym Davies at the Nag’s Head pub, Malvern, Worcestershire, on 4 April 1993. This recording was included in 2020 on the Musical Tradition anthology of songs from the Gwilym Davies collection, Catch It, Bottle It, Paint It Green, accompanying his book of (nearly) the same title, Catch It, Bottle It and Paint It Green. The album’s booklet noted:

This gory and dramatic ballad has been around for at least 250 years. Despite its grim plot, it has persisted in oral tradition until recent times. Tony Lloyd learnt it from a local Gypsy singer, Joe Jones. The tune here is Green Bushes.

Isla St Clair sang Lammikin on her 2000 CD Murder & Mayhem. She noted:

Balwearie Castle in Fife is the scene of this tragic ballad. The murders of Lady Wearie and her child by Lammikin, a local mason, and Lady Wearie’s nurse, because of a grudge, are based on a true story.

Sharron Kraus and electronic musician David Muddyman recorded Lamkin in 2002-3. This was finally released in 2023 on their download album, Birdloom.

Alva sang Long Lankin in 2003 on their Beautiful Jo album The Bells of Paradise. They noted:

Vaughan Williams collected this dark and atmospheric ballad from Mrs Chidell of Bournemouth in 1905. Our second tune comes from Sister Emma of Clewer, Berkshire, noted in 1909. The spoken introduction, giving the reason for Lankin’s savagery, is taken from Scottish versions of the ballad.

Geordie McIntyre sang Lamkin in 2003 on his and Alison McMorland’s Tradition Bearers album Ballad Tree. He noted:

The tale of the “bloody mason” and his willing, possibly demented, accomplice is widespread. I collected a substantial fragment of text and this superb tune from Arthur Lochead of Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1965. I have collated his six verses with Child’s ‘A’ text. Arthur was aged 73 when I collected this and many other “out of the way” songs as he called them. He was reared by his elderly Aunt Mary (born 1844) who was a great singer. Arthur was aged 17 when he ‘faithfully reported’, i.e. transcribed in m.s.s., his aunt’s songs. The wallet of songs and stories was sung entirely within a family context. Fortunately Arthur had a great memory for tunes—this being no exception.

The Devil’s Interval sang Long Lankin in 2006 on their album Blood and Honey. This track was also included in 2007 on the CD anthology Old Wine New Skins. They noted:

This version was sung to Cecil Sharp by a Nun, Sister Emma of Clewer, Berkshire. The first published version appeared in Bishop Percy’s collection in 1775 but the song is likely to be much older. Lankin could have been a Stone Mason with a grudge, but Jim [Causley] prefers the theory that Mr Lanky was a leper who sought the folk cure of babies’ blood caught in a silver bowl.

Barry Lister sang Long Lankin in 2006 on his WildGoose CD Ghosts & Greasepaint.

Megson sang Lambkin in 2007 on their CD Smoke of Home.

Tinkerscuss sang Long Lankin in 2007 on their CD Mythago.

Jim Moray sang Long Lankin in 2010 on his CD In Modern History.

Moira Craig sang Long Lankie in 2009 on the Askew Sisters’ and Craig; Morgan; Robson’s WildGoose CD of songs collected by George Gardiner from five woman singers in Axford, Hampshire, in 1907, The Axford Five.

Alasdair Roberts sang Long Lankin in 2010 on his CD Too Long in This Condition. This video shows him at a Songs From the Shed session in 2009:

James Findlay sang Long Lamkin in 2012 on his second Fellside CD, Another Day Another Story. He noted:

A Scottish story and graphically hideous song that dates back to the latter half of the eighteenth century but I believe has a much longer and richer history. Looking at the various versions compiled by Child, the protagonist of the murders is often depicted as a mason who has not been paid for building the Lord’s castle and so plans to take his revenge. I like to think of Lamkin as an early ‘Bogey-man’ type character that might scare your children into behaving. Certainly worked for us when my mum used to sing a version to my sister and me!

Rosemary Lippard and Tim Graham sang Lankin on the anthology of songs and tunes from the Leigh Folk Festival 2012, Wrecks Rucks Riots & Resurrection.

Eddy O’Dwyer sang Long Lankin in 2012 on his CD Go and ’List for a Sailor.

Shirley Collins sang Cruel Lincoln on her 2016 album Lodestar. She noted:

And old and rarely found ballad, this tale of revenge and bloodshed was noted down from Ben Butcher, a gamekeeper in Hampshire, in July 1955 by Bob Copper, while collecting folk songs for the BBC. It’s an old story—a mason hasn’t been paid for the work he’s done and he’s out for revenge. This has been lost in Ben’s version, but another one opens with the words:

O Lamkin was a good mason as ever laid a stone.
He built the finest castle, and payment he got none.

On the day we recorded Cruel Lincoln in my cottage, the air was filled with bird song from the bank at the back of my garden. We decided to leave it in; such a normal and beautiful backdrop for the horror of the story.

Helen Diamond sang Long Lankin on her 2018 eponymous first album Helen Diamond. She noted:

The first song I ever learned. Some of my earliest musical memories are of singing Long Lankin as a child and enjoying the shocked reaction of unsuspecting listeners at the gory plot. It comes from a Martin Carthy record that was played often by my parents at home. Martin Carthy subsequently became one of my own favourite singers and I probably wouldn’t be singing now only for that early positive experience.

Henry Parker sang Long Lankin on the 2023 anthology Sing Yonder 1. He noted:

This bogey-man ballad leapt out to me from the first edition of Sing Yonder. The fine detail in the language creates a truly horrific scene, the pricking of pins and three blood-stained rooms seem lifted from the darkest of folk-horror films; a terrifying tale to keep those doors bolted from the terrors outside. I followed the minor key chords supplied in the book and arranged a melody that I felt captured the lyric and atmosphere of this cautionary tale.


Ben Butcher sings Cruel Lincoln

Says the lord to the lady, “I am now going out,
Beware of cruel Lincoln whilst I am gone out.”

“What cares I for Lincoln or any of his kin,
My doors are all bolted, my windows are pinned.”

As soon as the lord had got out of sight
Cruel Lincoln crept in at the middle of the night.

Got and pinched my sweet baby which caused it to cry,
Whilst the nurse sat a-singing, “Oh, hush-a-lullaby.”

“Oh nurse, oh nurse, how sound do you sleep,
Whilst my little baby most bitterly does weep?”

“Oh Lady, dear Lady, come and take it in your lap,
For I cannot quiet it with milk nor with pap.”

The lady came down, not thinking any harm.
Cruel Lincoln stood a-waiting for to catch her in his arms.

“Oh Lincoln, cruel Lincoln, spare my life for one hour.
You shall have my daughter Betsy, who is thy blood’s flower.”

“Go and fetch your daughter Betsy. She will do very well
To hold up this silver basin for to catch her mother’s blood.”

There was blood in the kitchen, there was blood in the hall;
There was blood in the parlour where the lady did fall.

As soon as the lord had heard what was done,
Tears from his eyes gently flowed.

Saying, “The nurse shall be hanged on the gallows so high.
Cruel Lincoln shall be burned in the fire close by.”

‘Hockey’ Feltvell sings Lamkin

What care I for false Lamkin or any of his men,
When the doors are all bolted and the windows painted in,
Except the back kitchen window—false Lamkin crept in,
And he pricked one of the older babes with his bright silver pin.

“Oh nursemaid, oh nursemaid, how sound you do sleep,
Can’t you hear one of the older babes, how loud it does weep?”
Says the nursemaid to the lady, “How do I dare go down
In the dead of the night with no fire a-kindling or no candle alight?”

Now the lady went down not thinking no harm,
And false Lamkin he caught her so tight in his arms.
“Oh spare my life, oh spare my life, my life is so sweet,
And I’ll give you as many guineas as there’s stones in the stream.”

“So many bright guineas is no use to me,
For I’d rather see your own heart’s blood running down to your knees.”

There was blood in the kitchen. there was blood in the hall,
There was blood in the parlour where the lady did fall.
Now pretty little Betsy up at window so high,
When she saw her dear father came a-riding close by—

“Oh father, dear father, don’t lay the blame on me—
False Lamkin has killed her bold lady and thee.”
Bold Lamkin shall be hanged on the gallows so high,
And his body shall be burned in that fire close by.

Frank Proffitt sings Bo Lamkin

Bo Lamkin was as fine a mason as ever laid a stone,
He built a fine castle and pay he got none.

He swore by his Maker he’d kill them unknown;
Beware of Bo Lamkin when I’m gone from home.

Bo Lamkin he come to the castle and he knocked loud and long,
There was no one as ready as the faultress, she arose and let him in.

Oh where is the landlord, or is he at home?
Oh no, he’s gone to Merry England for to visit his son.

How will we get her downstairs, such a dark night as it is?
Stick pins and needles in the little baby.

Bo Lamkin rocked the cradle and the faultress she sung,
While the tears and the red blood from the cradle did run.

The Lady, comin’ downstairs not thinking no harm,
Bo Lamkin stood ready he caught her in his arms.

Bo Lamkin, Bo Lamkin, spare my life one hour,
You can have my daughter Betsy, my own blooming flower.

Bo Lamkin, Bo Lamkin, spare my life one day,
You can have all the gay gold your horse can tote away.

Oh, keep your daughter Betsy, for to go through the flood,
To scour the silver basin that catches your heart’s blood.

Daughter Betsy was a-settin’ in the castle so high,
She saw her dear father come a-ridin’ hard by.

Dear father, dear father, come see what’s been done,
Bo Lamkin has been here and he’s killed your dear son.

Bo Lamkin has been here, he’s killed your baby,
Bo Lamkin has been here, and killed your Lady.

Bo Lamkin was hung to the scaffold so high,
And the faultress was burned to a stake standin’ by.

Martin Carthy sings Long Lankin

Says mylord to mylady as he mounted his horse,
“Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.”

Says mylord to mylady as he went on his way,
“Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the hay.”

“See the doors are all bolted, see the windows all pinned,
And leave not a crack for a mouse to creep in.”

Oh, the doors were all bolted, oh, the windows were pinned,
But at a small peep in the window Long Lankin crept in.

“Where’s the lord of this household?” cries Long Lankin.
“He’s away up to London,” says the false nurse to him.

“Where’s the lady of the household?” cries Long Lankin.
“She’s asleep in her chamber,” says the false nurse to him.

“Where’s the heir of the household?” cries Long Lankin.
“He’s asleep in his cradle,” says the false nurse to him.

“We’ll pinch him and we’ll prick him all over with a pin.
And that’ll make mylady to come down to him.”

So they pinched him and they pricked him all over with a pin.
And the false nurse held the basin for the blood to drip in.

“Oh nurse how you slumber, oh nurse how you sleep,
You leave my little son to cry and to weep.”

“Oh nurse how you slumber, oh nurse how you snore,
You leave me little baby to cry and to roar.”

“Oh, I tried him with the milk and I’ve tried him with the pap.
Come down, my pretty lady, and rock him in your lap.”

“Oh, I’ve tried him with the rattle and I’ve tried him with the bell.
Come down, my pretty lady, and rock him yourself.”

“How dare I come down in the dead of the night
When there’s no candles burning nor no fires alight?”

“You have three silver gowns all bright as the sun.
Come down, my pretty lady, all by the light of one.”

Oh, the lady came downstairs, she was thinking no harm.
Long Lankin he stood ready for to catch her in his arm.

There’s blood in the kitchen, there’s blood in the hall,
There’s blood in the parlour where mylady did fall.

Her handmaid stood out at the window so high
And she saw her lord and master come a-riding close by.

“Oh master, oh master, don’t lay no blame on me.
’Twas the false nurse and Lankin that killed your lady.”

“Oh master, oh master, don’t lay no blame on me.
It was the false nurse and Lankin that killed your baby.”

Long Lankin shall be hanged on the gallows so high.
And the false nurse shall be burned in the fire close by.

Steeleye Span sing Long Lankin

Said the lord unto his lady as he rode over the moss,
“Beware of Long Lankin that lives amongst the gorse.
Beware the moss, beware the moor, beware of Long Lankin.
Be sure the doors are bolted well lest Lankin should creep in.”

Said the lord unto his lady as he rode away,
“Beware of Long Lankin that lives amongst the hay.
Beware the moss, beware the moor, beware of Long Lankin.
Be sure the doors are bolted well lest Lankin should creep in.”

“Where’s the master of the house?” says Long Lankin.
“He’s away to London,” says the nurse to him.
“Where’s the lady of the house?” says Long Lankin.
“She’s up in her chamber,” says the nurse to him.
“Where’s the baby of the house?” says Long Lankin.
“He’s asleep in the cradle,” says the nurse to him.

“We will pinch him, we will prick him, we will stab him with a pin.
And the nurse shall hold the basin for the blood all to run in.”
So they pinched him, then they pricked him, then they stabbed him with a pin.
And the false nurse held the basin for the blood all to run in.

“Lady, come down the stairs,” says Long Lankin.
“How can I see in the dark?” she says unto him.
“You have silver mantles,” says Long Lankin,
“Lady, come down the stairs by the light of them.”
Down the stairs the lady came thinking no harm,
Lankin he stood ready to catch her in his arm.

There was blood all in the kitchen, there was blood all in the hall.
There was blood all in the parlour where my lady she did fall.
Now Long Lankin shall be hanged from the gallows oh so high.
And the false nurse shall be burned in the fire close by.

(Repeat first verse)

George Fradley sings Lankin

You can have my daughter Betsy so young and so sweet
You can have as much money as the stones in the street.

I don’t want your daughter Betsy or the stones in the street
I would rather see your life’s blood rolling down at my feet.

False Lankin nipped the baby and caused it to cry
And the nurse kept on singing “hush-a-baby-by-by”.

There was blood on the staircase, the was blood in the hall,
There was blood on the carpet where the lady did fall.

Tony Lloyd sings Lamkin

Oh the lord said to his lady before he went out
“Beware of Long Lamkin for he’s walking about.”

“What care I for Long Lamkin or any of his kin,
When the doors they are all bolted and the windows close pinned?”

One door left unbolted, Long Lamkin crept in
For to prick that little baby with a silver bodkin.

Said Lamkin to the false nurse, “Where’s the heir of this house?”
“He’s asleep in his cradle as quiet as a mouse.”

How sound he does slumber, how sound he does sleep.
Then with a silver bodkin stabbed the baby so deep.

“Oh lady, oh lady, how sound he does sleep.
Don’t you hear your little baby for to mourn and to weep.”

“How durst I come down in the midst of the night
No candle a-burning, or fire alight.”

“Put on your gold mantle, you may see by that.”
Bold Lamkin, he was ready for to catch her in his lap.

“Oh Lamkin, oh Lamkin, spare my life one half hour
I’ll fetch you my daughter Betsy, she’s the sweetest of flower.”

“What care I for your daughter Betsy or any of your kin?
She may hold the silver basin for to catch your blood in.”

There’s blood in the kitchen, there’s blood in the hall.
There’s blood in the parlour where the lady did fall.

’Twas early next morning before break of day
When the maid she saw her master come a-riding that way.

“Oh master, oh master, don’t you lay the blame onto me
Bold Lamkin he has murdered the lady and the baby.”

Bold Lamkin shall be hung from the gallows so high
And the false nurse shall be burned in the fire close by.

The bells will ring slowly, they’ll make a dull sound
With the lady and the baby lay dead on the ground.

Geordie McIntyre sings Lamkin

Lamkin was as guid a mason as ever hewed a stane
He built Lord Louden a castle and payment he got nane

The Lord said to the Lady ere he gaed abroad
Beware o’ Lamkin that lives in yonder wood

But the nursie was as fause a limmer as e’er hung on a tree
She made a plot wi’ Lamkin when the Lord was o’er the sea

She made a plot wi’ Lamkin when the servants were awa’
Let him in at a wee windae an’ brought him tae the ha’

Whaur’s the lady o’ this hoose that calls me Lamkin
She’s in her bower sewing but we soon can bring her doon

Then Lamkins ta’en a lang knife that hung doon by his gaire
An’ he has gi’en the bonny bairn a deep wound and a sair

Lamkin he rocked an’ the fause nursie sang
Frae ilka bore o’ the cradle and the red bluid oot it ran

Then oot spak’ the lady at the top ’o the stair
What ails my bairn nursie that he’s greetin sae sair

O still my bairn nursie still him wi’ the pap
He’ll no be stilled lady for this nor for that

Still my bairn nursie still him wi’ the bell
He’ll no be stilled lady til ye cam doon yersel’

How can I cam’ doon it’s a cauld winters nicht
There’s neither coal nor candle tae show me doon licht

There’s twa globes in your chaumer as bricht as the sun
Tak’ ane o’ them wi’ ye it’ll show ye licht doon

The firstan step she steppit she steppit on a stane
The neistan step she steppit she met wi’ him Lamkin

O mercy mercy Lamkin hae mercy upon me
Though ye’ve ta’en my young son let me be…

O sall I kill her nursie or sall I let her be
Aye kill her, kill her Lamkin she ne’er was guid tae me

And scour the basin nursie scour it fair and clean
For this lady’s hearts-bluid she comes o’ noble kin

Ye need no basin Lamkin let it run through the floor
What better is the hearts bluid o’ the rich than o’ the poor

Twa or three months had past and gaen lord Louden he cam’ hame
And weary was his heart when first he cam hame

Wha’s bluid is this he says that lies in my ha’
It is your bairns hearts bluid it’s the clearest of a’

Wha’s bluid is this he says that’s lyin in my chaumer
It is your lady’s hearts bluid it’s as clear as the lammer

And bonny bonny sang the linty that sat upon the tree
But sair grat Lamkin when he was condemned tae dee

And bonny bonny sang the mavis oot o’ the thorny brake
But sair grat the nursie when she was burnin’ at the stake

Acknowledgements and Links

Martin Carthy’s lyrics were transcribed by Garry Gillard with corrections by Patrick Montague.