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Sweet William's Ghost / Lady Margaret

[ Roud 50 ; Child 77 ; Ballad Index C077 ; Bodleian Roud 50 ; trad.]

Sally Killen sang Sweet William's Ghost unaccompanied in 1975 on hers and Louis Killen's LP Bright Shining Morning. Louis Killen commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Sally has this ballad from Robin Morton's Folksongs Sung in Ulster (Mercier Press, Cork, Eire, 1970), which he in turn collected from Sandy McConnell of Bellanaleek, County Fermanagh. Its drive, created through the repetitions, contrasts strongly with the better known version of this ghostly night-visiting song, Mrs. Cecilia Costello's lyrical The Grey Cock. See also #77 in Child's English & Scottish Popular Ballads.

Paddy Tunny sang this Child ballad as Lady Margaret in 1975 on his Topic LP The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow. This track was also included on the Topic anthology O'er His Grave the Grass Grew Green (The Voice of the People Series Vol. 3; 1998).

Hughie Jones sang Sweet William’s Ghost in a January 1992 recording by Paul Adams on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Hughie regards this as one of the classic English folk songs. It is No. 77 in Child's English & Scottish Popular Ballads. Child asserts that the story has much in common with a supernatural ballad well known in Scandinavia. This particular version was given to Hughie by Bert Lloyd in 1966. As a member of The Spinners Hughie was instrumental in taking folk songs to a mass audience worldwide. He always made a point wherever possible of singing a traditional unaccompanied ballad at concerts. He now performs as a solo artist.

A 1989 recording of Peta Webb singing Sweet William’s Ghost is on her Musical Traditions CD The Magpie's Nest (2003).

Maggie Boyle sang Lady Margaret in 1998 on her album Gweebarra. She commented in her liner notes:

I heard Mike Hockenhull sing this at Whitby Festival 1997, and was transfixed. Generous as always with his knowledge and material, he passed it on to me.

Kate Rusby sang Sweet William’s Ghost on her 2003 album Underneath the Stars.

Cara recorded Sweet William’s Ghost in 2010 for their album Long Distance Love. They noted:

This version of the well-known ballad about Lady Margaret and her lover William hails from Co Fermanagh, Ireland. Patricia Clark taught us the song when we toured together in 2009 and we loved it!

Lyrics

Paddy Tunney sings Lady MargaretPeta Webb sings Sweet William's Ghost

Lady Margaret she lay on her fine feather bed,
The midnight hour drew nigh,
When the ghostly form came to her room,
And to her it did appear, appear,
And to her it did appear.

Lady Margaret she lay on her fine feather bed,
The midnight hour drew near,
When the ghostly form came to her room,
And to her it did appear, appear,
And to her it did appear.

“Are you my father, the king?” she said,
“Are you my brother John?
Or are you my true love William,” she said,
Coming home from Scotland along, along,
Coming home from Scotland along?”

“Are you my father, the king?” she said,
“Are you my brother John?
Or are you my own sweet William,” she said,
Coming home from Scotland along, along,
Coming home from Scotland along?”

“I'm not your father, the king,” he said,
“Nor am I your brother John,
But I am your sweetheart William,” he said,
Coming home from Scotland along, along,
Coming home from Scotland along.”

“No, I'm not your father, the king,” he said,
“Nor yet your brother John,
But I am your own sweet William,” he said,
Coming home from Scotland along, along,
Coming home from Scotland along.”

“Oh Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Will you give me back the plighted troth
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

“Lady Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Would you give me back that true love vow
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

“I'll not give you back your plighted troth
Or any such a thing,
Until you bring me to my father's hall
Where ofttimes we have been, have been,
Where ofttimes we have been.”

“No, I'll not give you back your true love vow
Nor any such a thing,
Until you bring me to my father's hall
Where ofttimes we have been, have been,
Where ofttimes we have been.”

And he took her then to her own father's hall,
And as they entered in
The gates flew open of their own free will
For to let young William in, in,
For to let young William in.

So he took her then to her father's hall,
And as they entered in
The doors flew open of their own sweet will
For to let young William in, in,
For to let young William in.

“Oh Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Will you give me back the treasure troth
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

“Lady Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Would you give me back that true love vow
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

“I'll not give you back your treasure troth
Or any such a thing,
Until you bring me to my own father's hall
And marry me with a ring, a ring,
And marry me with a ring.”

“No, I'll not give you back your true love vow
Nor any such a thing,
Until you bring me to yon high churchyard
And wed me with a ring, a ring,
And wed me with a ring.”

He took her then to yon high churchyard,
And as they entered in
The gates flew open of their own sweet will
For to let young William in, in,
For to let young William in.

Sp he took her then to yon high churchyard,
And as they entered in
The gates flew open of their own sweet will
For to let young William in, in,
For to let young William in.

“Oh Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Will you give me back the plighted troth
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

“Lady Margaret, oh Lady Margaret,” he said,
“For love or charity,
Would you give me back that true love vow
That once, love, I gave thee, gave thee,
That once, love, I gave thee?”

Then out of her pocket she drew a cross
And she laid it on his breast,
Saying, “Here is back your plighted troth,
In Heaven may your soul find rest, find rest,
In Heaven may your soul find rest.”

Then from her pocket she drew a cross
And she's placed it on his breast,
Saying, “Take you back your true love vow,
And may your soul find rest, find rest,
And may your soul find rest.”

“Oh the winds do blow and the moorcock crow
And it's nearly breaking day,
And it's time that the living should part from the dead,
So now, my love, I must away, away,
So now, my love, I must away.”

“Now the winds do blow and the moorcocks crow
And it's nearly breaking day,
And it's time that the living should depart from the dead,
So my love, I must away, away,
So my love, I must away.”

Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Add: Lady Margaret and Lyr Req: Sweet William's Ghost (Hughie Jones).