> Martin Carthy > Songs > Long John, Old John and Jackie North

Long John, Old John and Jackie North

[ Roud 3100 ; Child 251 ; G/D 2:246 ; Ballad Index C251 ; Mudcat 24474 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Lang Johnnie More in 1956 on his and A.L. Lloyd's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume III. This and 28 other ballads from this series were reissued in 2009 on MacColl's Topic CD Ballads: Murder·Intrigue·Love·Discord. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the album's booklet:

This ballad was apparently included by Child as an afterthought. In his notes to Johnie Scot (Child 99), he referred to Lang Johnnie More as being either an imitation as a parody of the Johnie Scot ballad because of their identity. It is hardly likely that Child would have included Lang Johnnie More as a separate ballad in his canon if he had maintained that opinion. Obviously, some time during the six years between his printing of Johnie Scot and Lang Johnnie More, he changed his mind about this point.

The ballad is unknown in tradition outside of Scotland. Aside from the single text published by Child, only the four versions collected be Greig in Aberdeen have been reported from tradition; the ballad has remained alive, however, for the version MacColl sings was learned in fragmentary form from his father, and was collated with stanzas from a version in Greig and Keith [Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs].

John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang Lang Johnny More in a recording made by Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and on his 2002 Rounder anthology, Songs from Aberdeenshire.

The Battlefield Band sang Lang Jonnie Moir in 1978 on their Topic album At the Front.

Martin Carthy sang Long John, Old John and Jackie North in 1979 on his album Because It's There. He commented in the record's sleeve notes:

… The exceptions are Long John, Old John and Jackie North which is a reworking of Long Johnny Mor, full of swash and buckle, and the Death of Young Andrew, a reworking of a severely holed set of words, and both songs are to be found in F.J. Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads.


Martin Carthy sings Long John, Old John and Jackie North

Now Long John's from the mountain gone, he's to London town,
And the king's daughter in fair London she fell in love with him.
Now Long John was a giant born, he was fourteen feet in height,
And the king's daughter she wept for him as she laid alone at night.

And when the king he heard of this an angry man was he,
Says, “This mighty man shall stretch the rope that hangs on the gallows tree!”
So he sent men and cunning men and around him they did creep
And they fed him drops of laudanum and they laid him fast asleep.

So that when he's awaked out of his sleep a sorry man was he,
With his jaws and hands in iron bands and his feet in fetters three.
So he's bribed him a servant, Long John he's given him meat and fee
To run to his uncle Old John to come and rescue he.

And the first few miles the little boy walked and the next few miles he ran
And he run till he come to the broad water where he lay down and swam.
And when he come to the mountain high he cried out aloud
For there he spied him Jackie North with Old John by his side.

And there as these two giants stood a grisly sight to see
For they were tall as the eagles call and broad as the oaken tree.
“Oh rise rise, Old John, Jackie North, come thee!
For Long John's in prison strong and hanged he must be.”

So they ran over hill and they ran over dale and they ran over mountain high
Till they come down to London town at the dawning of the day.
They cried upon up your city gates, “Open at my call!”
Then they up with their feet and they kicked a hole straight in through London Wall.

And they trampled down by Drury Lane, the crowd before them ran,
Till there they spied him, Long John stood under the gallows pin.
They said, “Is it for murder? Is it for rape? Is it for robbery?
For if it's any heinous crime we'll stand and watch you die.”

He says, “Not for murder, not for rape, not for robbery.
But it's all for the love of a gay lady they are here to see me die.”
So they took him from the gallows pin, before the king went they
Their armour bright cast such a light it fair dazzled his eye.

“Good day to you,” cries Jackie North, “Good day to you,” cries he,
“For we have come for your daughter's wedding all down from the mountains high.”
When the king he seen them come an angry man was he,
Cries, “One of you is tall enough what shall I do with three?”

“Oh cursed be that serving boy the tidings bore away.
For I do vow and I do swear high hanged he shall be.”
“Oh if you hang this little boy the tidings brought to me
We three shall come to his burial and paid you'll surely be.”

“A priest, a priest,” Long John he cries, “to join my love and me,
A priest, a priest,” Long John he cries, “for married we will be.”
“Oh take my daughter, Long John, my curse upon you fall.
And take my serving boy also lest all my city fall.”

They've taken the lady by the hand, set her prison free
And the drums did beat and the fifes did play, they spent the night with glee.
And then Long John and Old John, Jackie North all three,
A freed bride and a serving boy went back to the mountains high.


Transcribed by Garry Gillard.