Robin Hood and the Tanner
A.L. Lloyd sang Robin Hood and the Tanner on his and Ewan MacColl's 1956 anthology on the Riverside Label The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume I, All of his tracks from this series were reissued in 2011 on the Fellside album Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun.
Roy Harris sang Robin Hood and the Tanner on his 1972 Topic album, The Bitter and the Sweet. This track was also included in the same year on the Topic Sampler No. 8, English Garland. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:
Blind Henry Larcombe, 82 years old, sang this version to Cecil Sharp on two successive days in September 1903, and each time, and verse by verse he varied the melody gracefully. Lacking a recording machine, and unable to catch the flying improvisations immediately by ear, Sharp got the patient old singer to repeat the song over and again for nearly an hour at a time. The variations Sharp was able to display provide an object lesson for young singers in the art of how to keep a song ever fresh. The tune, which is attached to at least ten separate Robin Hood ballads, is a variant of one that appeared under the title of Arthur a Bland in an anonymous ballad opera, The Jovial Crew, in 1731. Did it go from tradition to stage or vice versa? Arthur a Bland is, in fact, the full name of the “bold Arthur” of our present ballad.
Bob Lewis sang Robin Hood and the Tanner at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival in Collessie, Fife, in May 2009. This recording was published a year later on Bob Lewis' CD Drive Sorrows Away and on the festival's anthology There's Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Vol. 6). The liner notes commented:
Robin Hood meets a stranger, they fight, the stranger wins and is praised for his prowess and asked to join the outlaw band. Of some 35 different Robin Hood ballads in Francis J Child's collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads around 12 have survived in 20th century living tradition.
Robin Hood and the Tanner (Child 126) first appeared in print in a Garland of 1663 and it was included in Ritson's Robin Hood of 1795. Versions have been collected in the south of England and in Virginia. This version comes from the George Gardiner collection from two singers in Hampshire in 1908. It was published in The Wanton Seed, EFDSS (1968). Bob was given the words by a singer at the Wadebridge Folk Club in the 1970s.
Bob Lewis sing Robin Hood and the Tanner
It's of a bold tanner in fair Devonshire,
His name it was Arthur O Brann;
There wasn't a man in all Devonshire,
Could make this bold Arthur to stand,
Ay, could make this bold Arthur to stand.
Bold Arthur walked out on a fine summer's morn,
For to view the merry green wood;
In search of a deer that runs here and there,
And there he spied bold Robin Hood,
Ay, and there he spied bold Robin Hood.
“Good morning bold fellow,” says bold Robin Hood,
“How camest thou here?”
“I will tell thee in brief thou looks like some thief,
Thou art come for to steal the king's deer,
Ay, thou art come for to steal the king's deer.”
“I will have a fat doe afore I do go,
Although it may cause me a fall;
For I have a staff made out of green graff,
And I think he would do for you all,
Ay, and I think he would do for you all.”
“And I have another,” then says Robin Hood,
“Made out of the bonny oak tree;
Three feet and a half he would knock down a calf,
And I think he would knock down thee,
Ay, and I think he would knock down thee.”
“Let's measure our sticks,” then says Robin Hood,
“Before we commence our fray;
And if mine be half a foot longer than thine,
Well that shall be counted fair play,
Ay, and that shall be counted fair play.”
They measures their sticks and at it they went,
For the space of an hour or more;
And every blow made the groves for to ring,
They played their game so sure,
Ay, they played their game so sure.
“Hold on, hold on,” then cried Robin Hood,
“I pray that your courage to fall;
Before that we break or our bones for to smash,
And gain no coin at all,
Ay, and gain no coin at all.”
Bold Robin pulled out his long bugle horn,
He blowed it so loud and so shrill;
And then thereupon he spied Little John,
Come a-trippling down over the hill,
Ay, come trippling down over the hill.
“Oh what is the matter,” then says Little John,
“Bold Robin, I pray me tell;
There is something amiss, I see that there is,
For I see thee doesn't look well,
Ay, I see that thee doesn't look well.”
“Oh here I do stand with my staff in my hand,
Bold Tanner he stands by my side;
He's a bonny brisk man, just fit for our gang,
And so well he has tanned my hide,
Ay, and so well he has tanned my hide.
“Oh if he's a tanner,” then says Little John,
“The tanner that tans so true;
There's not the least doubt he'll have one more bout,
And so well he shall tan my hide too,
Ay, and so well he shall tan my hide too.”
“Oh no, oh no,” then says Robin Hood,
“For he is a hero so bold;
He's a bonny brisk blade and master of his trade,
And by no man he won't be controlled,
Ay, and by no man he won't be controlled.”