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Bobby Shaftoe

[ Roud 1359 ; Ballad Index FSWB170A ; trad.]

Shirley Collins recorded Bobby Shaftoe during a two day session in London in 1958 for her 1960 LP False True Lovers. She and Alan Lomax commented in the album's notes:

One of the best known British folk songs, is here sung with vigour and snap as it was when John Stokoe found it in Northern England. In the North the tune has been played for country dancing. What one usually hears is a sentimentalised, slowed-down reworking of the song, from which all the Northern dialect has been deleted, along with the child which the girl friend is carrying against Bobby Shaftoe's return.

Isla Cameron sang Bobby Shaftoe in 1960 on her and Ewan MacColl's Topic album of traditional love songs, Still I Love Him. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The Northumbrian bagpipe is an elegant little instrument, played by means of a bellows under the arm, and having a gentle silvery tone. The melody of Bobby Shaftoe was a pipe tune long before words were ever attached to it. In 1761, Robert Shaftoe, a landowner of Benwell, near Newcastle, used the gay little melody for an electioneering song. It seems likely that the present words became attached to it after the election campaign was forgotten. It is perhaps the best-known of all the many songs from the Newcastle district.

Melanie Harrold sang Bobby Shaftoe in 1981 on Tim Hart and Friends' album My Very Favourite Nursery Rhyme Record; this track was later reissued on the compilation CD Favourite Nursery Rhymes and Other Children's Songs.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Bobby Shaftoe

Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea,
Silver buckles on his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's neat and slim,
He's always dressed so fine and trim;
The lasses they all keek at him,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's getting a bairn,
For to dangle on his arm;
On his arm and on his knee,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's fat and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair;
He's my love for ever mair,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's been to sea,
Silver buckles on his knee;
He's come back and marry me,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Melanie Harrold sings Bobby Shaftoe

Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's tall and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair;
He'll be mine for ever more,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's tall and slim,
Always dressed so neat and trim;
The ladies they all look at him,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!

Bobby Shaftoe's gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
    Bonny Bobby Shaftoe!