> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Girl With the Box on Her Head
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(The Girl With the) Box on Her Head / The Staffordshire Maid

[ Roud 289 ; Laws L3 ; G/D 2:268 ; Ballad Index LL03 ; VWML AW/3/135 ; Bodleian Roud 289 ; Wiltshire Roud 289 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Girl With the Box on Her Head in about 1956 on his Riverside album English Street Songs. This album was reissued in 2008 as part of his Fellside compilation Ten Thousand Miles Away. He commented in the sleeve notes:

This ballad has many titles, three of which are The Undaunted Female, The Staffordshire Maid, and The Serving Girl and the Robber. Nearly every ballad-sheet publisher in the North of England issued a version of this favourite ballad of the simple girl who outwitted a whole gang of robbers and mowed them down by gun-fire, to the admiration of a rich young stranger who proposed marriage to her on the spot.

George ‘Pop’ Maynard sang Box on Her Head in a recording made by Brian Matthews at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne in 1961. It was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Down the Cherry Tree.

Martin Carthy sang Box on Her Head in 1966 on his Second Album. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

As the treacherous girl is regarded with the utmost hatred, so is the resourceful girl regarded with the greatest admiration. Having shot the young man who has tried to rob her, she then helps a gentleman who has heard the noise to shoot the rest of the robbers who are in hiding nearby chalking up three to his one. The version here is basically from the Lucy Broadwood collection.

Alec Bloomfield sang Shoot Them All (The Box Upon Her Head) in a recording made by Keith Summers in 1971-77 on the Veteran anthology Good Hearted Fellows: Traditional Folk Songs, Music Hall Songs, and Tunes from Suffolk. Mike Yates commented in the liner notes:

The earliest known version of this popular song can be found in the Andrew Crawfurd Collection (Edinburgh. The Scottish Text Society. 1975. Volume 1. pp. 143-44), where it is titled A Yarmouth Story. Crawfurd had collected the song in 1827 from Meg Walker (Mrs Caldwell), a widow living at Bridgend in Lochwinnoch, Ayrshire, and may have been aware that the song was then being produced by numerous broadside printers throughout England and Scotland. Most printers called the song The Undaunted Female, although Stephenson, a Gateshead printer, titled his sheet The Fair Maid and the Robber. Just about every Edwardian English collector found a version or two of the song and some noted quite a few versions, although, as Cecil Sharp observed, most were sung to the tune used for The Banks of the Sweet Dundee (Roud 148), another highly popular broadside ballad. Alec probably learnt his version of the song from Bud Burrows, who sang it in Bruisyard Butcher's Arms.

Jackie Oates sang this song as The Staffordshire Maid in 2006 on her eponymous first album, Jackie Oates.

Rosie Hood sang Undaunted Female on her 2011 eponymous EP Rosie Hood and on her 2017 RootBeat CD The Beautiful & the Actual. She commented in her liner notes:

Collected from Thomas Smart, Blunsdon, and Herny Potter, Standlake. Published in [Alfred Williams'] Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, 1923. “Formerly a very special favourite in the Vale. I have been offered the piece at least twelve times though I have heard it but once accurately—assuming that the following version is accurate: it is the best I have obtained.”

I learnt the melody from Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick's version of Box on Her Head.

This video shows Rosie Hood at Cecil Sharp House, London, in December 2015:

Rob Williams sang The Lady and the Box in 2012 on his album Outstanding Natural Beauty: Songs from Around the Quantock Hills, Vol. 1: Jane Gulliford of Combe Florey. It was collected in April-June 1905 from Jane Gulliford by the brothers Henry and Robert Hammond.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Box on Her Head

There was a fine young damsel that in London town did dwell,
For wit and for beauty there was none could her excel.
She took her box all on her head and so she travelled along
And the first one that she met with was a strolling naval man.

He says, “My pretty fair maid why do you go this way?
I'll show you a quicker road across the country.”
He's taken her by the lily-white hand and he's led her down the lane,
But he turned and said, “Deliver your gold or else your life I'll have.”

While this young feller was a-feeling for his knife
She stole his pistol from his belt and she took away his life.
She took her box all on her head and so she travelled along
And the next one that she met with was a noble gentleman.

Oh he says, “My pretty fair maid where are you going so late?
And what was the noise that I heard be yonder gate?
That box you carry upon your head it doesn't to you belong,
To your master or your misteress, oh you have done something wrong!”

“My master or my misteress I have done something new
But I feel it in my own heart that the man that I have killed.”
She took his horse by the bridle rein and she led him to the place
Where this bold young robber lay a-bleeding on his face.

The gentleman knelt down for to see what he had got,
He'd two loaded pistols, some powder and some shot.
He'd two loaded pistols, some powder and some ball,
A knife and a whistle his comrades for to call.

He put the whistle to his lips and he blew both loud and shrill
And four more bold young robbers came a-running o'er the hill.
The gentleman he shot one of them and that right speedily
And this beautiful young damsel she shot the other three.

Alec Bloomfield sings Shoot Them All

A young country maiden did leave her home one day,
And many miles she had to walk to where she meant to stay.
She met a roving gentleman who tried to force his will.
She struck him with her box, but she never meant to kill.

Then with the box upon her head she carried it along.
The next man who stopped her was a hunting gentleman.
“Your master or your mistress you have done something ill.”
“No, the one thing I fear is a man that I did kill.”

He took her on his horse and they rode back to the place.
The two of them sat looking down upon the gruesome face.
“Cast fear aside, my bonny girl, there’s nothing I will do,
For the moment we met I have been in love with you.”

He got from off his horse for to see what he had got.
He got three loaded pistols, some powder and some shot.
He got three loaded pistols, some powder and some ball,
A knife and a whistle, the robbers for to call.

He put the whistle to his lips and blew it loud and shrill,
Four ruffian fellows came running down the hill.
He shot one of them and she, most speedily,
This beautiful damsel, she shot the other three.

Rosie Hood sings Undaunted Female

It's of a pretty fair maid in London town did dwell,
Of wit and of beauty, though none that could excel.
To her master and her mistress she served seven years,
And what follows after you quickly shall hear.

She put the box upon her head, and so she went along,
The first that she met was a stout and able man.
Said he, “My pretty fair maid, where are you going this way?
I'll show you a shorter road across the country.”

Along he took her by the hand and led her to a lane,
He said, "My pretty fair maid, I mean to tell you plain:
Deliver up your money without you fear or strife,
Or else this very moment I'll take away your life.”

The tears from round her eyes like two fountains did flow,
“O, where shall I wander? O, where shall I go?”
But whilst this young fellow was a-feeling for his knife,
This damsel found his pistol and took away his life.

She put the box upon her head, and so she went along,
The next that she met was a noble gentleman,
Said he, “My pretty fair maid, where are you going this late?
And what was that noise that I heard at yonder gate?

The box upon your head to yourself does not belong,
To your master or your mistress you have done something wrong!
To your master or your mistress you have done something ill,
For one moment from trembling you cannot keep still.”

“The box upon my head to myself it does belong,
To my master or my mistress I have done nothing wrong!
To my master or my mistress I have done nothing ill,
But I fear in my heart it's a man I have killed.

He asked me for my money, and soon I let him know,
And when he took his knife I proved his overthrow!”
Along she took him by the hand and led him to the place
Where this stout and able fellow lay a-bleeding on his face.

They searched him all over to see what he had got;
He had three loaded pistols, some powder, and some shot,
He had three loaded pistols, some powder, and some ball,
A knife and a whistle, more robbers for to call.

He put the whistle to his lips and blew both loud and shrill,
And four stout able fellows came a-traipsing down the hill.
The gentleman shot one of them, and that most speedily,
But this beautiful young damsel she shot the other three.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.