> Louis Killen > Songs > The Rose in June

The Rose in June

[ Roud 25337 ; Ballad Index Guig315 ; DT ROSEJUNE ; Mudcat 43126 ; trad.]

The Rose in June was a 7 year-old 15 ton lugger registered at Kirkcaldy, Captain Andrew Davidson, on her way from St Monance to Elie in the East Neuk of Fife when she capsized outside Elie Harbour at one o’clock in the morning of Tuesday 17 December 1872. The master and owner, Andrew Davidson, and crew member, John Allan, were both swept overboard and drowned. The boat drifted on shore where the remaining crew of four men were rescued through the surf with lines and belts by fishermen on the shore. The bodies of the two men were found next day and taken home to St Monance. Andrew Davidson was 35, and he left a widow and three children, while John Allan was 22 and unmarried. The rescuers William Marr, Thomas Fernie, William Warrender, Walker Thomson, Jas. Corrybear, Andrew Lowrie, Alex. Meldrum, Jas. Warrender, William Thomson, J. Innes Davidson and Alex. Innes all received awards out of the Mercantile Marine Fund.
This was a big North Sea storm, lasting several days, and which caused much loss of ships and men all along the East Coast.
[Matthew Edwards in the Mudcat Café thread Origins: The Rose in June]

Louis Killen sang the ballad The Rose in June unaccompanied as the title track of his 1989 cassette, The Rose in June. He noted:

This magnificent ballad was collected from Bill Dobbin, in Blanc-Sablon, Labrador, by Dr. Kenneth Goldstein. Mr Dobbin learned the song as a young man working in the Newfoundland lumber camps. No versions of this song have yet been found in Scotland, despite its strong reflection of the religious fundamentalism found among the religious fishermen of northeastern Scotland.

JWM gave us the song’s lyrics on Mudcat. He commented on Louis Killen’s version:

This tune is that of the repetitious ballad verses. The hymn is distinct. Its contrasting rhythm and feel breaks the repetition of the ballad tune, and it seems to me this is what makes the song really interesting. So far as I can ascertain, the hymn is I Am Thine, Salvation Army 739. But it bears a close family resemblance to Revive Us Again, a standard Protestant hymn. Which has exactly the same tune as Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.

Killen’s hymn tune is a bit different, and I have no idea whether it was he who changed it, or the Salvation Army, or the person he collected it from. I’m not sure how many people would spot the difference, and unless someone is really interested in the hymn tune, I will let it go.

Pete Morton sang The Rose in June on his 1998 Harbourtown album Trespass. He noted:

Louis Killen recorded this one on an album which I heard totally by chance. One of those musical Damascus experiences—changed my life—thanks Louis. O.T.T. or what!

Jiig sang The Rose in June in 2005 on their eponymous album Jiig. Ian Robb noted:

I could not record The Rose in June without asking for the blessing of my old friend Louis Killen, who as far as I’m concerned, almost owns this remarkable ballad. It was collected by American folk song scholar Dr Kenneth Goldstein, from Mr Bill Dobbins, a resident of Blanc Sablon, near the Quebec-Labrador border. Mr Dobbins recalled learning it in the Newfoundland logging camps. Goldstein gave it to Killen, and Louis recorded it on an album he named after the song. My Finest Kind bandmate Shelley Posen found one other version in the archives of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, collected in 1958 by Kenneth Peacock in Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland.

While no other versions have surfaced elsewhere, it seems likely that The Rose in June originated in the God-fearing fishing communities of northeastern Scotland, which were reportedly so consumed by Christian Revival fervour around 1860 that fishing was virtually suspended while men rushed to secure their salvation at revival meetings. How the song became established in the northeast corner of the New World is intriguing. The interposed hymn near the end of the ballad has the melody and refrain of the mid-nineteenth century hymn Revive Us Again (words by William P. Mackay, music by John J. Husband) on which the American IWW song leader Harry McClintock based his worker’s anthem Hallelujah, I’m a Bum around 1898. The text of the two verses, however, appears to be derived from an earlier Charles Wesley hymn I Am Thine, which Salvation Army co-founder Catherine Booth credited for her own salvation. The ‘Sally-Ann’, with its strong Christian Revival origins, was—and remains—a significant presence in Newfoundland. The plot thickens…

Jon Boden credits Louis Killen as his source for his rendering of The Rose in June as the 30 June 2010 entry of his blog A Folk Song a Day. Hw also sang it as the title track of his 2019 album Rose in June. The next video shows Jon at the Quay Sessions in 2018 and the following one is from the album. Which version do you like better?

Dave Webber sang Rose in June in 1998 on his and Anni Fentiman’s CD Bonnet & Shawl, crediting Louis Killen too.

There is another, completely different, song also called Rose in June (Roud 1202). Bob Copper sang it on his album Sweet Rose in June and June Tabor sang it on her CD Rosa Mundi.


Louis Killen sings The Rose in June

On the rocky coast of Scotland, in a little village there,
There dwelt a man of honour, serving God without a care,
But he was not a man of honour, but a humble fisherman,
Working hard to earn his living, his name was Andrew Davidson.

He was the master of a vessel, and he claimed her as his own.
She was fitted with all was needed; she was called the Rose in June,
And with eager expectation he was waiting for the day
When the time would come for fishing and the boats would sail away.

Now, Andrew had been lately married, and before he left his home,
Andrew and his wife together knelt in prayer before the Throne,
Asking God for His protection on his wife while he was gone,
Praying nothing would befall her, not a danger nor a harm.

And his wife was kneeling by him, and she heard his fervent prayer
Asking God for her protection, not a word of that for his,
And her heart did sink within her as she rose from her bended knee,
Thinking on those terrible dangers and those perils of the sea!

Now when the Summer winds blew softly herrin’ fishing season came.
Andrew Davis was preparing, herrin’ fishing was his game.
Andrew Davis was preparing with his crew to go to sea,
Not thinking t’would be his last time evermore his friends to see.

And all night long that storm was raging and those angry billows roared,
Many a vessel was tossed and driven all along that rocky shore.
Their crews were clinging to them, all seamen strong and brave,
Praying that the Lord would save them from a seaman’s watery grave.

And all along the coast, next morning, anxious eyes did watch and wait,
The children of those absent seamen, still returning ships were seen.
And one by one, those vessels sailed in, till morning until noon,
Till all were safely anchored, all but one, the Rose in June.

Whom the seas turned bottom upwards, dashed against that rocky shore.
Her crew was clinging to her, thinking the storm would soon be o’er.
Andrew Davis our captain, in that time of sudden fear,
Called on Jesus Christ the Savior, and he bowed his head in prayer.

Sayin’ come on and sing God’s praises, and at last they all begun.
Dearest Jesus, I am dying, what a comfort divine,
What a comfort to know that the Savior is mine.
Hallelujah, send the Glory, Hallelujah, amen,
Hallelujah, send the Glory to revive us again.

But these words were scarcely ended when the out-wave struck our side.
Tore our captain from his holdings, and he sank beneath the tide,
Gone to join those friends and shipmates in that heavenly home,
Welcomed by his lovin’ Savior singing praise forevermore.

And John Allen was our young mate, and he knew he was forgiven.
Let us keep on with our singing, our captain is in Heaven,
And they sang so loud and trialled, till they came to this last verse:
Slowly onward we haste to the heavenly place,
For this is the glory and this is the grace.
Hallelujah, send the Glory, Hallelujah, amen,
Hallelujah, send the Glory to revive us again.

But these words were scarcely ended when the out-wave burst around.
Tore our young mate from his holdings and his body too was drowned.
Going to join those friends and shipmates on that heavenly shore,
Welcomed by his lovin’ Savior singing praise forevermore.

And the rest of the crew was rescued, but they’ll ne’er forget the scene,
In that hour and that moment when that song they tried to sing,
Oh! Were no sermons ever preached or experience ever known,
Like the power and that moment, that hour of sudden doom!

So sinners, give your souls to Jesus, it can never be too soon.
If in heaven you meet the captain, meet the crew of the Rose in June.
Oh, sinners, give your souls to Jesus, it can never be too soon.
If in heaven you meet the captain, meet the crew of the Rose in June.