> Martin Carthy > Songs > Lowlands of Holland
> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > Lowlands of Holland
> Sandy Denny > Songs > Lowlands of Holland
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Lowlands of Holland

Lowlands of Holland

[ Roud 484 ; G/D 6:1116 ; Henry H180 ; Ballad Index R083 ; Bodleian Roud 484 ; Wiltshire Roud 484 ; trad.]

The ballad Lowlands of Holland is connected to Child #92, Bonny Bee Hom.

Bella Higgins of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, sang The Lowlands of Holland to Hamish Henderson in 1954. This recording from the School of Scottish Studios Archive was included in 2005 on the Kyloe anthology Hamish Henderson Collects.

Charlotte Higgins of Blairgowrie sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1955 to Maurice Fleming. This recording was included in 2011 on the Greentrax anthology Songs and Ballads from Perthshire Field Recordings of the 1950s (Scottish Tradition 24).

Isla Cameron sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1956 on her Tradition album Through Bushes and Briars.

Ewan MacColl sang a variant of this song called The Cold Coast of Greenland on his and A.L. Lloyd's 1957 Riverside album Thar She Blows!. Shirley Collins sang a shortened three-verse version of this as The Spermwhale Fishery on her 1960 LP False True Lovers and on her 1964 EP English Songs Vol. 2.

Paddy Tunney sang The Lowlands of Holland on the anthology Sailormen and Servingmaids (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 6; Caedmon 1961; Topi 1970) and in a 1965 studio recording on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge and on the 1998 Topic anthology My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean (The Voice of the People Volume 2). Sean O'Boyle commented in Tunney's album's sleeve notes:

This is a Scots press gang song naturalised in Ireland. Hence, being an Irish singer, Paddy Tunney naturally sings of ‘Galway’ where the original text speaks of ‘Galloway’. The Holland in the song is New Holland, or the East Indies:

Where the sugar cane is plentiful
And the tea grows on each tree.

Versions of The Lowlands of Holland are to be found in every part of Britain and Ireland. Texts with various tunes have been published in Folk Songs from Somerset (No. 44), Herbert Hughes’ Irish Country Songs (Vol. ii, 70) and Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (p. 214). Cecil Sharp collected a fragmentary version of it at Nash, Virginia, and published it in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, Vol 1 (p. 200). The beautiful air here used is sometimes cheapened by being sung in marching time, but Paddy’s tempo, learned traditionally from his mother, is very much in keeping with the feeling of the words. Like so many of Paddy’s songs, the tune is Doh mode hexatonic.

The Galliards sang Lowlands of Holland in 19643 in their album England's Great Folk Group.

Paddie Bell sang The Lowlands of Holland on her 1965 album Paddie—Herself.

Martin Carthy sang Lowlands of Holland in 1966 on his Second Album and re-released in 1970 on the anthology Shades of Folk and in 1999 on the Martin Carthy compilation CD A Collection. His original album's sleeve notes commented:

Until well into the last century the only way of keeping the Royal Navy up to strength was by pressing men into service, and press gangs terrorised the coastal towns in search of likely young men to serve on board. Although this service was ostensibly for the duration of a campaign, in practice it was more often a life sentence. Apparently the system was never officially abolished by act of Parliament.

Norma Watersons sang a different version of Lowlands of Holland in 1996 on Waterson:Carthy' second album, Common Tongue. Waterson:Carthy also sang Lowlands of Holland at Peggy Seeger's 70th birthday; this concert was published in 2007 on Three Score and Ten. Martin Carthy commented in the first album' liner notes:

The big mystery facing anyone who sings The Lowlands of Holland appears at the very moment that person tries to decide where they are; the Lowlands of Holland, that is. It was an extremely hot day in Holland when the sugar cane was plentiful and tea grew on trees. An alternative might be Australia (the fact that ti trees grow there is almost too tempting to ignore), but perhaps the Caribbean would be closer. Surinam perhaps. There were endless territorial squabbles among the British, French, Dutch and Spaniards, and the press-gang was always super-busy. Norma's way of doing it is based on a version in Pedlar's Pack found originally in Hull.

Sandy Denny recorded Lowlands of Holland twice for the BBC; both times unaccompanied. One version was part of the session for the BBC Radio One show “Sounds of the Seventies”, hosted by Bob Harris, was broadcast on September 6, 1971. It appeared first in 1997 on the The BBC Sessions 1971-73 and was also included in 2004 on the 5CD Fledg'ling Sandy Denny anthology A Boxful of Treasures and in 2007 on the 3CD+DVD set Live at the BBC. The other BBC version dates back to Sandy's time with Fotheringay in November 1970. It was included in 2015 on the Fotheringay anthology Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay and in 2016 on her anthology I've Always Kept a Unicorn.

Steeleye Span recorded quite another song about press gangs with the same title Lowlands of Holland in 1970 for their first album Hark! The Village Wait. The record's sleeve notes commented:

Although it happens quite often in the field of folk music that many versions of a particular song are reported, it is rare that, so in the case of of Lowlands of Holland, completely differing story lines are recorded. James Reeves (The Everlasting Circle) suggests that “there may have been an original in which a young bridegroom is pressed for service in the Netherlands, but in some of the later versions Holland appears to have become New Holland, the former name for Australia, which has perhaps been confused with the Dutch East Indies.” The words of the version we perform refer to Galloway (Scotland) but the song crops up in all parts of the British Isles. Our tune was learned from Andy Irvine, a former member of Sweeney's Men. Ashley Hutchings: “It's no more than coincidence that there are two songs [this and All Things Are Quite Silent] on the album about press gangs, and this one was suggested by Terry & Gay.”

A Steeleye Span live recording from St. David's Hall, Cardiff on December 6, 1994 can be found on the video 25 Live: The Classic Twenty Fifth Anniversary Tour Concert. Another live recording from The Forum, London on September 2, 1995 was released on the CD The Journey.

Martin Carter sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1972 on his Traditional Sound album Ups & Downs.

Ian Manuel sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1972 on his Topic album The Frosty Ploughshare.

Johnny Collins and Company sang Lowlands of Holland in 1975 on his Traditional Sound album Johnny's Private Army.

Swan Arcade sang Lowlands of Holland on their 1976 album Matchless.

Gordon Tyrrall sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1978 on his Hill & Dale album Farewell to Foggy Hills.

Maggie Boyle sang Lowlands of Holland on her 1987 album Reaching Out.

Patti Reid sang Lowlands of Holland in 1987 on her eponymous Fellside album Patti Reid.

Brian Peters sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1992 on his Harbourtown CD The Seeds of Time.

Caledon sang The Lowlands of Holland on their 1996 CD The Noble Trousers.

Dave Burland sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1996 on his CD Benchmark. He commented in his liner notes:

It may be that because we are an island race, many of our songs are about the sea. The Lowlands of Holland has nothing to do with the Netherlands, being a song about New Holland or Australia as it was later known.

The Fraser Sisters (Fi Fraser and Jo Freya) sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1998 on their eponymous No Masters CD The Fraser Sisters.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan sang The Lowlands of Holland in 1999 on their Fellside CD Steely Water.

Heather Heywood sang Lowlands of Holland in 2000 on her Tradition Bearers CD Lassies Fair and Laddies Braw.

Tom and Barbara Brown sang Lowlands of Holland in 2005 on their WildGoose CD Tide of Change. They noted:

Reality of a different kind crashes in on another heroine, in the ballad-soliloquy The Lowlands of Holland. Should we quote the Child number? the Laws or Roud? nah, look it up if need be! The Lowlands of Holland, of course, were the Dutch East Indies you don't get a very good crop of sugar-cane in the Netherlands! This version was published in Herbert Hughes' Irish Country Songs (1915) with what appears to be one of the standard tunes except that on manuscript it staggers, with unpredictable irregularity, between 4/4 and 5/4. The tune became an intellectual challenge until it came alive again of itself, astonishing us with the resultant ethereal intensity and poignancy of the song. The version was collected in County Derry but, sadly, we don't know who from.

Emily Smith's words of The Lowlands of Holland on her 2005 CD A Different Life are quite similar to Steeleye Span's lyrics. She commented in her liner notes:

I found the words to this tragic song in Robert Ford's Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland in which he states that the song was originally written by a young woman from Galloway whose husband was lost to the sea on a voyage across to Holland.

Keith Kendrick sang Lowlands of Holland in 2006 on his WildGoose CD Songs from the Derbyshire Coast. He noted:

Likely the first British traditional song I ever sang in public—thanks to Martin Carthy for his early recorded performance (and much, much more) and Tom Addison for leading me to it. Good on yer chaps!

Craig Morgan Robson sang The Lowlands of Holland on the 2009 WildGoose CD of songs collected by George Gardiner from five woman singers in Axford, Hampshire, The Axford Five.

Jim Moray sang Lowlands of Holland on his 2010 CD In Modern History.

Tan Yows sang The Lowlands of Holland on their 2012 CD Undipped.

Martha Tilston sang The Lowlands of Holland in 2014 on her CD The Sea.

Gudrun Walther and Jürgen Treyz sang Lowlands of Holland on their 2017 CD Duo. They commented in their liner notes:

A very popular traditional anti-war song from a woman's perspective—the husband is pressed to fight in the army and never returns from the war. According to most sources, its origins are likely to be Scottish, but it is also widely known in Ireland and England.
The interlude [Lonesome Reel] was written as a slow reel in a dressing room during a tour with our band, Cara.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Lowlands of Holland

On the night that I was married and on my marriage bed
There came a bold sea-captain and he stood at my bedhead
Crying, “Oh, rise oh rise, young married a man, and come along with me
To the low lowlands of Holland, to fight your enemy.”

Oh I held me love all in my arms still thinking he might stay
But the captain he gave another order, he was forced to march away.
Crying, “There's many a blithe young married a man this night must go with me
To the low lowlands of Holland, to fight the enemy.”

Oh Holland is a wondrous place and in it grows much green
'Tis a wild inhabitation for me true love to be in
Where the grass do grow and the warm winds do blow and there's fruit on every tree
But the low lowlands of Holland parted me love and me

No shoe no stocking I'll put on no comb go through my hair
Nor shall no coal nor candlelight shine in my bower fair
Nor will I lie with any young man until the day I die
For the low lowlands of Holland parted me love and I

Waterson:Carthy sing Lowlands of Holland

On the night that I was married and laid in my marriage bed
There came a bold sea-captain and he stood at my bedhead
Saying “Rise up, rise up, Riley, and go along with me
To the lowlands of Holland, to fight and never flee.”

Ar the ship she lies in harbour with her anchor at her prow
There's a gale blows down the Humber, I can hear it roaring now
And I cannot wait for other men to come along with me
To the lowlands of Holland, for to fight and never flee.

Now Holland is a pretty place for my love to dwell in
But there's no deep sea harbour for a sailor to remain
But the sugarcane was plentiful and tea grows on every tree
And the lowlands of Holland lie between my love and me.

I will build my lover a bonny boat, a boat with silver sails
With four and twenty young mariners for to rock her through the waves
Come all you ranting roaring lads come on boys pull away
For I never had but one true love and he is far away

No shawl goes around my shoulder and no comb goes through my hair
No candlelight nor firelight will shine in my bower fair
And never will I married by until the day I die
Since the raging seas and stormy winds parted my love and I

Sandy Denny sings Lowlands of Holland

On the night that I was married and in my marriage bed
There came a bold sea-captain and he stood at my bedhead
Saying, “Arise, arise young wedded man this night for to go with me
To the low lowlands of Holland to fight the enemy.”

Oh, I held my love all in my arms, still hoping he might stay,
When the captain he gave another order and we had to march away,
Saying, “There's many a blithe young married man this night must go with me
To the low lowlands of Holland to fight the enemy.”

But Holland it is a wondrous place and in it grows much green
'Tis a wild inhabitation for my true love to be in.
Where the leaves they grow and the winds they do blow and strange fruit grows on every tree
'Tis the wild wild lands of Holland where twined my love and me.

No shoes nor stocking I'll put on nor comb to go through my hair
And nor shall day or candlelight shine on my bower fair
Nor shall I sleep with any young man until the day I die
For the lowlands of Holland they parted my love and I.

Steeleye Span sing Lowlands of Holland

The love that I have chosen I therewith be content
And the salt sea shall be frozen before that I repent
Repent it shall I never until the day I dee
But the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love lies in the salt sea and I am on the side
It's enough to break a young thing's heart what lately was a bride.
But lately was a bonny bride with pleasure in her e'e.
But the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love he built a bonny ship and set her on the sea
With seven score good mariners to bear her company.
But there's three score of them is sunk and three score dead at sea
And the lowlands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love has built another ship and set her on the main
And nane but twenty mariners all for to bring her hame.
But the weary wind began to rise, the sea began to roll
And my love then and his bonny ship turned widdershins about.

There shall nae a quiff come on my head nor comb come in my hair
And shall neither coal nor candlelight shine in my bower mair.
And neither will I marry until the day I dee
For I never had a love but one and he's drowned in the sea.

Oh hold your tongue my daughter dear, be still and be content.
There's men enough in Galloway, you need not sore lament.
Oh there's men enough in Galloway, alas there's none for me
For I never had a love but one and he's drowned in the sea.

Dave Burland sing The Lowlands of Holland

New Holland is a barren place, in it there grows no grain,
Nor any habitation wherein for to remain.
Where the sugar canes are plenty, the wine drops from the trees,
The low low lands of Holland has twined my love and me.

My love he built a bonny ship and set her on the sea
With four score twenty crewmen to keep her company.
There's a score is lost, a score is drowned, there's a score is dead at sea,
The low low lands of Holland has twined my love and me.

So my love he built another ship and set her on the main,
Four and twenty crewmen for to bring her home.
But the raging seas began to roar, the wind began to rout,
My love and then his bonny ship turned widdershins about.

Then shall neither coif go on my head nor comb go through my hair,
Nor any coal nor candlelight shine in my bower more,
Nor will I love another one until the day I die,
The low low lands of Holland has twined my love and I.

Hold your tongue, dear daughter, be still and be content,
There are more lads in Galloway, you need not so lament.
There is none in Gallow, there's none at all for me,
The low low lands of Holland has twined my love and me.

(repeat first verse)

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Add: Lowlands of Holland (from Dave Burland).