The False Bride / The Week Before Easter / I Once Loved a Lass / I Courted a Wee Girl
Cecil Sharp collected The False Bride in 1904 from Lucy White, Hambridge, Somerset [VWML CJS2/10/75] . It was included by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. In 1960, A.L. Lloyd recorded it for the album A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Like all tracks from this LP it was reissued in 2003 on the CD England & Her Traditional Songs. Lloyd wrote in the album's sleeve notes:
A version of this sad, tender song was printed on a Newcastle broadsheet in the 1680s, but it may be more than three hundred years old. A feeble prettied version, called The False Nymph, was current in concert halls in the eighteenth century. But as often happens, the common people preserved the song in much finer form than fashionable folk had it. It seems to have lasted best in the South, for several sets have turned up in Somerset, Devon and Sussex. Cecil Sharp had this one from Lucy White of Hambridge, Somerset.
The False Bride was also sung by John Bowden (vocals, concertina) with Martin Carthy (guitar) on the Fellside anthology A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. This album's sleeve notes said:
From Elizabeth Mogg, Holford, Somerset; noted in 1904 by Cecil Sharp [VWML CJS2/9/505] . This melancholy song has remained long in the affections of country singers. Its age is uncertain. A version was published in the late seventeenth century, but it may not have been new then. Mrs White's text has been slightly amended with lines from two other Somerset versions collected by Sharp in 1904. Versions have been printed in Devon and Sussex.
Bob Copper sang The False Bride on April 24, 1952 for a BBC recording made by Seamus Ennis. This recording was later included on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968). He also recorded this song as A Week Before Easter in 1971 for the Copper Family's 4 LP box A Song for Every Season.
John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang It Wisnae My Fortune to Get Her in 1952. This recording made by Hamish Henderson was included in 2005 on his Kyloe anthology CD Hamish Henderson Collects.
Jeannie Robertson sang I Saw My Own Bonnie Lass at a concert in 1958 that was published in 1984 on her Lismor CD Up the Dee and Doon the Don.
Ewan MacColl sang I Loved a Lass, accompanied by Peggy Seeger on guitar, in 1956 on their Tradition album Classic Scots Ballads. He commented in the sleeve notes:
Songs of jilted and forsaken lovers are common enough in Scotland but, for the most part, they tend to be ironical rather than pathetic in feeling. “There are plenty more fish in the sea” is the philosophy of our jilted heroes and heroines. In this curious little song, however, the jilted lover, after attending his ex-sweetheart's nuptials, just lies down and dies. I learned the song from Miscellanea of the Rymour Club, Edinburgh. The air is a variant of The Old Gael's Lament.
George ‘Pop’ Maynard sang The Week Before Easter on May 18, 1960 at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne. This recording made my Brian Matthews was included in 2000 on Maynard's Musical Traditions anthology Down the Cherry Tree and a year later on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from country pubs, Just Another Saturday Night.
Shirley Collins recorded The False Bride in 1963 for her EP Heroes in Love. She learned it from the repertoire of the Copper Family. Like all tracks of her EP, it was included in her compilation Fountain of Snow and on the CD reissue of The Sweet Primeroses. It was also included in her anthology The Classic Collection. A live recording from the St Andrews Folk Club in December 1964 was released in 2002 on the Shirley Collins anthology Within Sound. In 1969 Shirley Collins used the tune of The False Bride for Austin John Marshall's poem Whitsun Dance on her album Anthems in Eden.
Archie Fisher sang I Loved a Lass at the Edinburgh Folk Festival in 1964. This recording was included in the same year on the Decca album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 2.
Alex Campbell sang The False Bride in 1965 on his eponymous Transatlantic album, Alex Campbell.
Danny Brazil sang The False Bride to Peter Shepheard at Over Bridge, Gloucester, on May 12, 1966. This recording was included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside.
Owen Hand recorded I Loved a Lass for the title track of his 1966 Transatlantic album, I Loved a Lass.
Norman Kennedy sang She's Only My Auld Sheen at a concert in Aberdeen in 1966. This recording by Tom Spires was included in 2002 on Kennedy's Tradition Bearers CD Live in Scotland.
Sandy Denny sang a version with somewhat different verses that is sometimes known as I Once Loved a Lass. This recording was originally released in 1967 on Alex Campbell and His Friends and later reissued on the Saga LP Sandy Denny, on the Mooncrest CD The Original Sandy Denny, and in 2005 on Where the Time Goes. Sandy sang it with minimum accompaniment and maximum sensitivity; on this track she approached the quality shown on her solo radio broadcasts (as collected on The Attic Tracks Vol. 3). Two radio recordings from the BBC broadcast “The Johnny Silvo Folk Four” on November 7, 1966, where Sandy is backed by the Johnny Silvo Folk Group (Johnny Silvo, David Moses and Roger Evans), and from “Cellar Full of Folk” on March 21, 1967 are not released.
Sarah Makem sang this song as I Courted A Wee Girl in a recording made by Bill Leader in her home in Keady, Co. Armagh, in 1967. This was published a year later on her Topic LP Mrs Sarah Makem: Ulster Ballad Singer and in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the License (The Voice of the People Series Volume 1).
The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang I Loved a Lass on their 1968 Transatlantic album The Cock Doth Crow. This track was also included in 2005 on their anthology The Times They Are A-Changin'.
Pentangle sang I Loved a Lass in 1968 on their second Transatlantic album, Sweet Child.
Seamus Ennis sang The False-Hearted Lover on his 1969 Leader album Masters of Irish Music. He also sang The False Bride on July 15, 1969 at the King's Head Folk Club in Islington, London. This recording was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology King's Head Folk Club.
Lizzie Higgins sang She's Only My Old Shoes (The False Bride) on March 11, 1970 at the King's Head Folk Club in Islington, London. This recording made by Rod Stradling was included in 2006 on her Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins and in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology King's Head Folk Club.
Robin and Barry Dransfield sang A Week Before Easter in 1970 on their Trailer album The Rout of the Blues, and Barry Dransfield sang it in 1996 on his solo CD Wings of the Sphinx. The latter recording was also included a year later on their Free Reed anthology Up to Now. Barry Dransfield commented in his liner notes:
I heard this from the Coppers and Louis Killen in the early days. I still can't resist this one and often sing it on gigs when I'm feeling sentimental.
In 1971 in Edinburgh, Andrew Cronshaw recorded June Tabor singing The Week Before Easter a cappella with lyrics very similar to those of Shirley Collins. This recording was finally published in 2005 on the June Tabor anthology Always.
Dave Burland sang The False Bride in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album, Dave Burland.
Louis Killen sang The Week Before Easter in 1973 on his album Sea Chanteys.
Cyril Tawney sang The False Bride in 1973 of his Argo album of traditional love songs from South West England, I Will Give My Love.
John Lyons sang The Lambs on the Green Hills in 1974 on his Topic album The May Morning Dew. A.L. Lloyd and Sandra Kerr commented in the sleeve notes:
England knows the song under the title: The False Bride. This Irish version became famous after Colm O'Lochlainn printed it in his valuable Irish Street Ballads (Dublin, 1939). O Lochlainn had learnt it from Mrs Reddin, of Dublin, in 1915. John Lyons first heard it from Tom Leach, likewise of Dublin.
Mick Flynn sang The Lambs on the Green Hills in a recording made by Roly Brown in 1976/77 that was included in 1978 as the title track of the 1978 Topic album of songs from County Clare, The Lambs on the Green Hills.
The Clutha sang The False Bride on their 1977 Topic album The Bonnie Mill Dams.
Whippersnapper sang A Week Before Easter in a live recording made in between 1994 and 1988 on their 1988 album These Foolish Strings.
Elizabeth Stewart of Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, sang I Aince Hid a Lass on her 1992 cassette 'Atween You an' Me. This track was also included in 2004 on her Elphinstone Institute anthology Binnorie. This album's notes commented:
There can be few more cutting lines than those found in some North-East versions of this song, referring to the compromised bride: “She's jist my aul sheen though you've got her.” There are strong parallels with Down in Yon Valley [Roud 567; G/D 6:1199], but this song is probably the older. Sometimes known as The Forsaken Lover, The False Bride, The Week Before Easter, or I Aince Hid a Lad, depending on circumstances, it is found in a c.1685 broadside, printed by John White, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is well-known throughout England, Scotland, and North America. Gavin Greig maintained that the song was English in origin, “The ecclesiastical machinery being Anglican” (Greig-Duncan, vol. 5, p. 568). Elizabeth's very full version was learnt from her aunt Lucy [Stewart], whose version can be found in Kennedy, p. 352.
Sheena Wellington sang The False Bride in a concert at Nitten (Newtongrange) Folk Club, Scotland, that was published in 1995 on her Greentrax CD Strong Women. She commented in her liner notes:
One of many versions of this theme; I had this from the singing of Gordeanna McCulloch. I am indebted to that other fine singer, Anne Neilson, for unravelling some textual puzzles. The tune bears a strong resemblance to that often used for the Irish variant, The Lambs in the Green Hills.
Maggie Murphy sang The Clock Striking Nine on her 1996 CD of traditional folk songs and ballads from Tempo, Co Fermanagh, Linking O'er the Lea.
Pete Coe sang I Courted A Wee Girl on his 1997 CD Long Company. He commented in his liner notes:
Back to Sarah Makem again—this version is based on hers. The song is variously known as The Week Before Easter, The False Bride, and The Lambs on the Green Hill. No fanciful imagery, no strawberries growing in the salt sea etc. Mrs Makem got down to the plain misery of this song on betrayal and lost love.
Rod Paterson sang I Loved a Lass on the 1998 anthology Scottish Love Songs.
Sangsters sang Fause Bride in 2000 on their Greentrax CD Sharp and Sweet.
Gordon Hall sang The Week Before Easter on his 2001 CD Good Things Enough.
Alasdair Roberts sang The False Bride in 2001 on his CD The Crook of My Arm.
Duncan Williamson of Ladybank, Fifeshire sang Those Men of the Forest on August 13, 2001 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2002 on the Kyloe anthology Travellers' Tales Volume 2.
Jim Moray sang The Week Before Easter in 2003 on his CD Sweet England.
John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang The Week Before Easter in 2003 on their CD Twiddlum Twaddlum. They commented in their liner notes:
Early Christians believed the week before Easter was a good time to be baptized, calling it “White Week” because of the clothing customarily worn between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The song is also known as The False Bride who was, in keeping with the season, “dressed all in white”. We took this version in the 1970s from the singing of Robin and Barry Dransfield.
Rod Stradling sang The Week Before Easter on the 2005 Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece.
Chris Foster sang The False Bride in 2008 on his CD Outsiders.
Chris Miles sang My Auld Sheen at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2009. This recording was released a year later on the festival anthology There's Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs and Bothy Ballads Volume 6). The liner notes commented:
This is a version of I Aince Loed a Lass or The False Bride In many versions the jilted lover asks for his grave to be dug as he prepares to die of a broken heart. However, in this version, as in others from the northeast traveller community, the jilted lover compares his false love to a pair of worn shoes and declares in the last lines, “a-roving I'll go, never fear, but I'll soon find another”.
Jon Boden sang A Week Before Easter as the April 17, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.
Sam Lee sang My Ausheen (My Old Shoes) on his 2012 CD Ground of Its Own.
Matt Quinn sang The Week Before Easter on his 2012 CD Broom Abundance. He commented:
This brilliantly detailed and rather lengthy version comes from Gordon Hall.
Rosie Upton sang The False Bride in 2014 on her CD Basket of Oysters. She noted:
Pete MacGregor used to sing this version of The False Bride when I first met him and I stole it because I thought it was such a strong account. I don't have much sympathy for the jilted lover. In most versions he lies down and dies but not in this. It's more than jealousy, he's manipulative, cruel and selfishly determined to ruin her new marriage.
Olivia Chaney sang The False Bride in 2015 on her Nonesuch CD The Longest River. This video shows her singing it on Guernsey in Summer 2011:
Peter Knight sang A Week Before Easter in 2015 on Gigspanner's CD Layers of Ages:
Top Floor Taivers sang The False Bride, “a traditional ballad that tells the story of a forsaken lover”, on their 2017 CD A Delicate Game.
|A.L. Lloyd sings The False Bride||Sandy Denny sings I Once Loved a Lass|
I once loved a lass and I loved her so well
Oh, when that I saw my love in the church stand,
And I saw my love up to the church go
Oh, when that I saw my love out the church go,
Oh, when that I saw my love sat down to meat,
I saw my love as she sat doon to dine.
All men in yon forest they asked of me,
Go dig me a grave both long, wide, and deep,
Oh dig me a grave and dig it sae deep,
So they dug him a grave and they dug it sae deep
|Shirley Collins sings The False Bride|
I courted a bonny girl for many's the day,
The week before Easter, the morn bright and clear,
The first time I saw my love it was to the church go,
The parson that married them aloud he did cry,
The next time I saw my love, it was in the church stand,
And the last time I saw my love, she was all dressed in white,
The ladies and gentlemen they are all asking me,
Go dig my grave both long, wide and deep,
Chris Miles sings My Auld Sheen
When I saw my bonnie love tae the kirk go,
Wi bridegroom and maidens they made a fine show;
And I follaed her on wi a hert fu o woe,
She's gaen tae be wad tae another.
When I saw my bonnie love at the kirk style,
I trod on her goun-tails but didnae them fyle;
And she turned hersel roond and she gaed a sweet smile,
But she's gaen tae be wad tae another.
The clerk o the parish he gaed a loud cry,
“If ye've ony objections, pray bring them by."
And I thocht tae masel guid objections hae I,
But I hadnae the will tae affront her.
When I saw my bonnie love sit doun tae dine,
I sat doun beside her and poured oot the wine;
And I drank tae the lassie wha should hae been mine,
But noo she is wad tae another.
Up spak the bridegoom, “Begone for a coward,
Ye've ridden ower lang on the point o your word;
Ye hae ridden ower lang o'er an unknown ford,
Sae be gane for ye ne'er shall enjoy her.
“Ye but wear my auld sheen, ye but wear ma auld sheen,
Ye may dance in them till ye dance them dane;
Aye and when they are dane ye maun sew them again,
For they're but ma auld sheen noo ye've got them.”
And noo she is gaen, even so let her go,
For I'll never gie ower tae sorrow and woe;
And I'll cheer up ma hert and a-rovin I'll go,
Never fear but I'll soon find another.
Sorry, I can't show the lyrics here as I don't have the copyright owners' permission to publish them. But please feel free and ask me to send you the song's lyrics.
Acknowledgements and Links
See also Just Another Tune's study I Once Loved a Lass…— The Story of the False Bride and Her Forsaken Lover.
Lloyd's words are from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, eds Ralph Vaughan Williams & A.L. Lloyd, Penguin, 1959. Thanks to Garry Gillard.