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The Indian Lass

[ Roud 2326 ; Ballad Index CrNS051 ; Bodleian Roud 2326 ; Wiltshire 605 , 846 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd recorded this song in 1956 for his Riverside LP English Street Songs. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Engravings of the early 19th century often show a handsome curly-headed sailor, with dashing clothes and light dancing pumps, beguiling a dark, feathered girl of Greek proportions with the aid of a string of beads or a watch. The dark girl is of doubtful nationality—she may be African, or a South Sea Islander, or conceivably an idealised Redskin queen. So with the charmer in this ballad, American singers like to think of her as another Pocahontas, but to most English folk singers she is firmly and indubitably a Sandwich Islander from Maui, a haven often visited by whaling ships of the 18th and early 19th century. The ballad may have begun its circulation as a fo'c'sle song, but its mark is definitely that of the broadsheet.

Nic Jones sang The Indian Lass in 1971 on his third LP, The Noah's Ark Trap.

Bernard Wrigley sang The Indian Lass on his 1971 Topic album The Phenomenal B. Wrigley. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

One for Enoch Powell, this. The song is as common in America (where singers tend to think the girl is a Red Indian) as it was in England (where singers usually had an East Indian in mind). Whatever sort of Indian, she’s a sweet and welcoming girl, a model of hospitality to those of another race than her own. Bemard got the version from Marrow Bones, a compilation from the MS collection of H.E.D. Hammond.

Jumbo Brightwell sang The Indian Lass in 1975 on this Topic LP Songs from the Eel's Foot: Traditional Songs and Ballads from Suffolk.

Danny Spooner sang The Indian Lass in 2013 on his CD Gorgeous, Game Girls and in 2014 on Sailor's Consolation. He noted:

I got this version from the EFDS publication Marrow Bones (1965) but later found a version in Joanna C. Colcord's book Songs of the American Sailormen (1924), where it's called The Lass of Mohea. She said it was popular among the Arctic whalers. Here a lonely sailor is comforted by a beautiful young woman and left with a lasting memory of something grand.


Nic Jones sings The Indian Lass

As I was a-walking on a far distant shore,
I called at an ale house to spend half an hour.
And as I sat smoking, beside me a glass,
By chance there came by a young Indian lass.

This lovely young Indian on the place where she stood,
I viewed her fair features and I found they were good.
She was neat, tall and handsome and her age was sixteen;
She was born and brought up in a place called New Orleans.

She sat down beside me and she squeezed my hand,
“Kind sir, you're a stranger, not one of this land,
And if you've no lodgings, with me you shall stay;
And dearly I'll love you by the night and by the day.”

Well, we tossed and we tumbled in each other's arms
And all of that long night I enjoyed her charms.
As I embraced her, oh, this was her tongue:
“You are a young sailor so far from your home.”

“Oh kind sir,” said this Indian, “I pray you to stay
And you shall have my fortune without more delay.
Oh don't go leave me to cross the wide seas,
For I have enough both for you and for me.”

But the day was appointed that we were to sail
To cross the wide ocean and leave her awhile.
She says, “When you've over in your native land
Remember that young Indian that squeezed your hand.”

And so early next morning we were going to sail;
This lovely young Indian on the beach she did wail.
I took out my handkerchief and wiped her eyes,
“Oh don't you go and leave me, my sailor,” she cries.

But we weighed up our anchor and away then we flew
And a sweet pleasant breeze parted me from her view.
And now that I'm over and taking my glass
I'll drink a good health to the Indian lass.