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Lamkin / Long Lankin / Cruel Lincoln

[ Roud 6 ; Child 93 ; G/D 2:187 ; Ballad Index C093 ; Bodleian Roud 6 ; trad.]

Ben Butcher of Popham, near Winchester, Hampshire, sang Cruel Lincoln to Bob Copper at home on August 12, 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).

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.

Hedy West sang Beaulampkin in 1968 on her Topic album Ballads. She and A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

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 reissued on his compilation album Selections. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

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 this murderous ballad 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.

Dave Burland sang Lamkin in 1979 on his album You Can't Fool the Fat Man.

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, on 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.

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. Their original album's liner notes commented:

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.

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 Fellside CD Another Day Another Story.

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 commented in her album notes:

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.

Lyrics

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.”

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.

Acknowledgements and Links

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

See also the Mudcat Café thread Chord Req: Long Lankin.