> Sandy Denny > Songs > Fotheringay: Gypsy Davey
> Trevor Lucas > Songs > Fotheringay: Gypsy Davey
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Black Jack Davy
> June Tabor > Songs > Gypsum Davey

Gypsy Davey / Gypsum Davy / Black Jack Davy / Gypsy Rover

[ Roud 1 ; Child 200 ; G/D 2:278 ; Henry H124 ; Ballad Index C200 ; Old Songs GypsyDavy ; Bodleian Roud 1 ; GlosTrad Roud 1 ; trad.]

Jean Ritchie sang Gypsum Davy in 1952 on her Elektra album Singing the Traditional Songs of Her Traditional Kentucky Mountain Family. Edward Tatnall Canby wrote in the sleeve notes:

Many will recognize this as an American version of the Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies, the word “gypsum” a typical word-of-mouth corruption. Collected about 1900 at the Pine Mountain Settlement school, where mountain children brought in songs from their families to entertain each other and thereby spreading the wealth of folk music. Sharp lists ten American versions of this song—he did much to spread such music himself by “trading” his recent acquisitions for new ones, thus carrying them from locality to locality.

Hedy West sang Gypsy Davy in 1967 on her Fontana LP Serves 'Em Fine. She commented in her sleeve notes:

Gypsy Davy, an Anglo-American ballad, was once well known in Britain and became widespread in America. It is the 200th ballad that the American professor Francis James Child entered in his famous collection of British ballads (compiled in the last half of the 19th century) that is still used as a reference and guide by folkballad scholars.

The version I sing here was collected by Maud Karpeles in 1950 in Western North Carolina, where I went to highschool and college. The story is of a noblewoman who deserts her comfortable life to go with the gypsy she loves. She comments on the hardship of her new life, but doesn't say she is discontent.

Fotheringay recorded Gypsy Davey at Sound Techniques in Autumn 1970 for the aborted Fotheringay 2 album. It was included in 1986 on the Sandy Denny anthology box Who Knows Where the Time Goes?. When Fotheringay was reissued as a CD by Hannibal, this song finally found its way onto the disk. It was dropped from the album's Fledg'ling CD reissue in favour of several other live recordings, but then again was included on the 5CD Fledg'ling Sandy Denny anthology A Boxful of Treasures. Finally in 2008, after 48 years of waiting, Fledg'ling Records published the Fotheringay 2 CD.

Steeleye Span recorded this “old song of the power of lust” (Maddy Prior) as Black Jack Davy in 1975 for their album All Around My Hat and a second time for the CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour.

A live recording from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide, Australia in 1982 was released on the Australian-only LP On Tour and in 2001 on the CD Gone to Australia. Another live recording from the Beck Theatre on 16 September 1989 was released on the video A 20th Anniversary Celebration. And Steeleye Span performed this live in Salisbury on 16 December 2002; this recording can be found on The Official Bootleg.

Joe Holmes sang Dark-Eyed Gypsy in 1976 on his and Len Graham's Free Reed album of traditional songs, ballads, lilts and fiddle tunes from the North of Ireland, Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages.

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley sang Gypsy Davey on their 1978 Rubber Records LP Nowt So Good'll Pass.

Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander of Meadows of Dan, Patrick County, Virginia sang Black Jack Davy on 11 August 1979 in a recording by Mike Yates that was included in 1998 on the EFDSS CD A Century of Song.

Suzie Adams and Helen Watson (now Helen Hockenhull) sang Gypsy Davy in 1983 on their Dingle's Records album Songbird.

Barry Dransfield sang Gypsy Davey in 1996 on his Rhiannon CD Wings of the Sphinx.

June Tabor sang Gypsum Davey live at the Schlachthof, Bremen on 9 February 1995. This recording was included in 2005 on her Topic anthology Always.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang a variant called Whistling Gypsy Rover on Chicago PBS special in July 1962:

Lorna Campbell and the Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Gypsy Rover in 1964 on their second album, Across the Hills, and Jon Boden sang it as the 18 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

I've only ever heard this sung on Forest School Camps but I dare say it was sung a lot in the sixties. I'm guessing it's an American version. Interesting that the subtext here is “you might as well run off with a gypsy cause he might be a lord in disguise”, unlike Seven Yellow Gypsies where the subtext is more “keep an eye on your wife or she may run off with the gypsies.”

Bryony Holden sang Gypsy Davy in 2013 on her Sandy Denny tribute album Across the Purple Sky.

Fay Hield learned Raggle Taggle Gypsy from Suzie Adams and Helen Hockenhull's album and sang it in 2016 on her CD Old Adam, commenting:

Raggle Taggle Gypsy gives an enticing glimpse at a world we could inhabit if we would only follow our hearts.

Jeff Warner sang Gypsum Davy in 2018 on his WildGoose CD Roam the Country Through. He noted:

Cecil Sharp collected this version of the Gypsy Laddie ballad in the mountains of Tennessee in 1916. The fine mixolydian tune is as he found it. I have inadvertently added text from other versions over the years, but the story remains the same, one that has echoed down the generations. I play it in double C banjo tuning.

Lankum sang The Dark Eyed Gypsy on their 2019 CD The Livelong Day. They noted:

The Dark Eyed Gypsy is a song that we learned from Micheal Quinn from Mullaghbawn, County Armagh, a fine singer with whom we have spent many a long night of song and companionship. It is a version of the widely known Gypsy Laddie ballad, and according to Hugh Shields was almost the only old British ballad printed by the Irish popular press, a fact that may help to explain its widespread popularity in the country. This particular version of the ballad has been recorded from the oral tradition many times in the north of the country. There is a recording of Joe Holmes singing a particularly sweet rendition on the album Early Ballads in Ireland 1968-1985 [Góilín 007-8], recently reissued on double CD by the Góilín Singers Club, Dublin.


Fotheringay sing Gypsy Davey Steeleye Span sing Black Jack Davy

There was a gypsy came over the land,
He sang so sweet and gaily.
He sang beneath the wild wood tree
And charmed the great lord's lady.

The lord he did come home
Enquiring for his lady,
“She's gone, she's gone,” said the serving man,
“She's gone with the gypsy Davey.”

Late last night when the squire came home
Enquiring for his lady,
Some denied and some replied,
“She's gone with the Black Jack Davy.”

“Go saddle me my black mare,
The grey is ne'er so speedy.
And I'll ride all night and I'll ride all day
Till I overtake my lady.”

“Go saddle to me the bonny brown steed
For the grey was never so speedy.
I'll ride all day and I'll ride all night
Till I catch that Black Jack Davy.”

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
He rode up hills and he rode down dales
Over many a wild high mountain,
And they did say that saw him go,
“Black Jack Davy he is hunting.”

He rode all by the riverside
On the grass so wet and dewy,
And seated with her gipsy lad
It's there he spied his lady.

He rode east and he rode west
All in the morning early
Until he spied his lady fair,
Cold and wet and weary.

“Would you forsake your house and home,
Would you forsake your baby?
Would you forsake your own true love
And the promises you gave me?”

“Why did you leave your house and land?
Why did you leave your baby?
Why did you leave your own wedded lord
To go with the Black Jack Davy?”

“What care I for my house and home
Or even my wee baby?
What care I for my own true love
For I love the gypsy Davey.”

“What care I for your goose feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely?
Well I may sleep on the cold hard ground
Along with the Black Jack Davy.

“Then I'll kick off my high healed shoes
Made of the Spanish leather,
And I'll put on my lowland brogues
And skip it o'er the heather.”

“Well it's fare thee well my dearest dear,
It's fare thee well forever,
And if you don't return with me
I swear you'll see me never.”

And the lord he did go homeward
And kissed his own wee baby.
And ere six months had passed away
He'd married another lady.

Fay Hield sings Raggle Taggle Gypsy Lorna Campbell sings Gypsy Rover

Gypsy Davey come through the wood,
A-singing so loud and merry.
The green hills all around him rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

“How old are you, my pretty fair miss?
How old are you, my lady?”
She answered him down by the riverside,
“I'll be sixteen next Sunday.”

“Come go with me, my pretty fair miss,
Come go with me, my lady.
I'll take you over the country wide,
You never shall want for money.”

So she kicked off her high-heeled shoes,
All made with bows and feathers,
She pulled on her low flat shoes
And they rode off together.

Chorus (repeated after every other verse):
𝄆 Raggle taggle gypsy, gypsy,
Raggle taggle gypsy Davey. 𝄇

It was late at night when the squire came home,
Enquiring for his lady.
The servants all around him said,
“She's gone with Black Jack Davey.”

Go saddle up for me my milk-white steed,
The black one's not so speedy.
He rode all night to the broad daylight
And overtook his lady.

“How can you leave your house and land,
Your feather bed and baby?
How can you leave your husband man
To go with Black Jack Davey?”

“Very well can I leave my feather bed,
I'm sorry to leave my baby.
Much better can I leave my husband man
To go with Black Jack Davey.

“I won't come back, my darling dear,
I won't come back, my honey.
I wouldn't give a kiss from Davey's lips
For you nor all your money.”

So she pulled off her milk-white glove,
All made of Spanish leather.
She's gave to him her lily-white hand
And bade farewell for ever.

She soon ran through her silken gown,
Her velvet shoes and stockings.
The gold ring from her finger's gone
And she was left with nothing.

“Oh once I had a house and land,
A feather bed and baby.
But now I lie on the cold clay ground
With the gypsy dancing round me.”

The gypsy rover came over the hill
Down through the valley so shady.
He whistled and he sang 'til the green wood rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Ah dee doo, ah dee doo dah day,
Ah dee doo, ah dee day dee,
He whistled and he sang 'til the green wood rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

She left her father's castle gate,
She left her own true lover;
She left her servants and her estate
To follow the gypsy rover.

Her father saddled his fastest stead,
Roamed the valley all over;
Sought his daughter at great speed
And the whistlin' gypsy rover.

He came at last to a mansion fine
Down by the river Claydee;
There was music and there was wine
For the gypsy and his lady.

“He is no gypsy, my Father,” she cried,
“But Lord of these lands all over.
I shall stay 'til my dying day
With my whistlin' gypsy rover.”

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley sing Gypsy Davey

It's of a gypsy come over the land and he sang so sweet and gaily.
Sang beneath the wlldwood tree and charmed.the great Lord’s lady,
She lay down her silken gown, and she left her new-born baby,
She rode down by the riverside, along with the Gypsy Davey.

They rode North and they rode South and they rode it late and early.
They sat down by the riverside for the lady she was weary,
She says, “Last night I came by here with me servants all around me
But tonight I will sleep on the open ground, along with the Gypsy Davey.”

It was late that night when the Lord came home and his servants all stood ready,
And one took his boots, another took his horse, but away was his own dear lady.
He searched the house all round but could only find his baby,
Forsaken by its mother dear, to ride with the Gypsy Davey.

“Go saddle for me my bonny black mare, for the brown she’s not so speedy,
I'll ride all night and I'll ride all day 'til I overtake my lady.”
He rode down by the riverside on the grass so wet and dewy,
And lying with her gypsy lad, it’s there he spied his lady.

“Would you forsake your house, your land, would you forsake your baby,
Would you forsake your own true love and the promises you gave me?”
“What care I for me house or me land, what care I for me little baby,
What care I for me own true love, when I love the Gypsy Davey.”

“Last night you slept in a goose-feather bed with the sheets turned down so bravely,
Tonight you will sleep on the open ground not fitted for a lady.”
“What care I for a goose-feather bed with the sheets turned down so bravely,
Tonight I will sleep on the open ground, along with me Gypsy Davey.”

“Well, it’s fare you well me dearest dear and fare you well for ever,
If if’s you won't return with me I swear I’ ll see thee never.”
The great Lord he went home, and he cursed the Gypsy Davey,
But before six months were up and passed he’d married another lady.