The Parson's Peaches
[words Peter Bellamy, tune trad.]
Peter Bellamy sang The Parson's Peaches unaccompanied in 1975 on his album Tell It Like It Was. He also sang it live in 1977 at the Folk Festival Sidmouth. He commented in the original album's liner notes:
This old tale from Warham, the village of my childhood, had all the hallmarks of traditional humorous song; all it needed was to be pushed into song form. The tune is from the old Norfolk song The Barley Straw.
It's of a jolly old parson who lived in Warham town,
He kept the finest orchard in all the country round.
He had apples, pears and cherries, he had other fruits beside,
But his pretty little peach tree was the parson's proud and pride.
He grew this peach tree from a stone, he tended it with care,
And it made his mouth to water thinking on the fruit she'd bear.
And as last the summer comes to pass, when the bows with bounty hung,
But ere they're soft and ripen then he found his peaches gone.
So the brooded through the winter long till he conceived a plan
To capture who had robbed them, be it child, maid or man.
So he hastened to the good blacksmith who lived just down the street
Saying, “Make for me a stout man trap to capture burglar's fee.”
And so it was a few months off till the blacksmith he came round,
He said, “Show me where you want your trap and I'll chain it to the ground.”
So to the orchard they repaired, the iron snare to hide,
And in long grass concealed with the cruel jaws gaping wide.
Now it was late on in the evenin' before he went to bed,
As the parson sat a-drinking, a thought came to his head.
And it's to the orchard he did go for to find it it were true,
That the trap was not set near the gate that the villain must come through.
And when he found that this was so he stood and he scratched his head,
Then he moved the engine gingerly into a nettlebed.
And says he, “My fruits are ripening but now they'll safer be
Because this bonny nettle clump lies twixt the gate and tree.”
Now it was round about the midnight hour when all lay sound asleep,
Into the parson's orchard dear the stealth feet did creep.
And the silent night was rent with cries, with scream and awful curse,
The parson woke and he grabbed his wick, likewise his blunderbuss.
And then he hurried down the stair and out into the night,
In his nightgown and powdered wig he made a comic sight.
But when he reached the orchard it was he who laughed the main
For to find a sorry blacksmith caught and held by his own chain.