> 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 ; Ballad Index C200 ; Bodleian Roud 1 ; trad.]

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.

Fotheringay performed Gypsy Davey and Too Much of Nothing live at the Radio Bremen TV programme “Beat-Club” #61 on November 28, 1970. Extracts from these performances were published in 2006 on the DVD Sandy Denny: Under Review.

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 September 16, 1989 was released on the video A 20th Anniversary Celebration. And Steeleye Span performed this live in Salisbury on December 16, 2002; this recording can be found on The Official Bootleg.

Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander of Meadows of Dan, Patrick County, Virginia sang Black Jack Davy on August 11, 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 February 9, 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 May 18, 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.

Lyrics

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.”