> Shirley Collins > Songs > Lord Allenwater

Lord Derwentwater / Lord Allenwater

[ Roud 89 ; Master title: Lord Derwentwater ; Child 208 ; Ballad Index C208 ; VWML RVW2/1/38 , RVW2/3/146 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer: Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams Roy Palmer: Everyman’s Book of British Ballads

Lord Allenwater was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Emily Agnes Stears of Horsham, Sussex, on 11 November 1905 [VWML RVW2/3/146] .

Shirley Collins, accompanied by Dolly Collins on flute organ and piano, Philip Pickett on cornet, and Michael Gregory on percussion, sang Lord Allenwater in 1978 on the Collins sisters’ album For As Many As Will. This recording was also included in 1992 on their anthology Fountain of Snow. A 1981 live recording from Holland with Julie Carter, vocals, and Jim Younger, concertina, was published in 2000 on her anthology Within Sound. She noted on the first album:

James Ratcliffe, third Earl of Derwentwater, was beheaded on Tower Hill, 24 February 1716, for his part in the Jacobite uprising of 1715. The entire story has been handed down as factual—as if it really happened. And other legends have sprung up around the event. It was said that on the night he was executed, the rivers on his estates ran blood, and that the Northern Lights shone more brightly that night than they ever had before; from then they were locally called “Lord Derwentwater’s Lights”.

Patti Reid sang Lord Derwentwater in 1987 on her eponymous Fellside album, Patti Reid. This track was also included in 2006 on Fellside’s 30th anniversary anthology Landmarks.

Dr Faustus sang Lord Ellenwater in 2005 on their Fellside CD Wager. They noted:

‘Ellenwater’ is a corruption of ‘Derwentwater’. The Lord in question is James Ratcliff, Earl of Derwentwater, who was executed for his involvement in the Jacobite rebellion in 1716. Apocryphal legend has it that the river running past his ancestral home, Dilston Hall, ran red with blood at the moment of his death and that the Northern Lights were seen for the first time that night, giving rise to their alternative title ‘Derwentwater’s Lights’—so Tim [Van Eyken] made up a verse about that. The tune comes from Roy Palmer’s Book of British Ballads, and Tim cobbled the words together from all over the place.

Emily Agnes Stears’ great grandson Ian A. Anderson recorded Lord Allenwater in 2008 on Blue Bloke 3’s Fledg’ling album Stubble. This recording was also included in 2019 on Ian A. Anderson’s Ghosts From the Basement anthology Onwards!. They noted:

Collected in [1905] by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Ian’s great grandmother Emily Stears and transmitted back to Ian by Shirley Collins. In RVW’s handwriting it looks like Lord Alienwater, but the song—Child 208—is actually about James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, who was executed in 1716. History isn’t able to register what Emily Stears might have made of her great grandson recording it with stubbly players of vintage Congolese guitar and electric saz, though she did live to be 99.

Sarah Morgan sang Lord Derwentwater in 2009 on The Askew Sisters and Craig Morgan Robson’s WildGoose album The Axford Five. Her version was originally collected by George Gardiner in 1907 from Sarah Goodyear of Axford.

Jim Moray sang Lord Ellenwater on his 2019 CD The Outlander. He noted:

This tune was sung to Ralph Vaughan Williams by ‘Happy’ Flack, Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, 12 July 1907 [VWML RVW2/1/38] . The words are compiled from several sources.

See also the song Derwentwater’s Farewell (Roud 2616).


Shirley Collins sings Lord Allenwater

The King has wrote a long letter
And sealed it up with gold,
And sent it unto Lord Allenwater
To read it if he could.

The first two lines Lord Allenwater read
They struck him with surprise,
And the next two lines Lord Allenwater read
Made tears fall from his eyes.

He goes up to his gay lady
As she in child bed lay,
And says, “To London I must go,
I’m sure there is great need.”

“Well, if to London you must go,
Before you go away
Make your will, my dear,” she said,
“Lest you should go astray.”

“Well, I will leave my only son
My houses and my land;
And I will leave my dear wedded wife
Ten thousand pounds in hand.”

And he goes out to his stable groom
To saddle his milk-white steed;
Said, up to London he might ride,
“I’m sure there is great need.”

And he put a foot into the stirrup,
The other across his steed;
And the gay gold rings from his fingers burst,
His nose began to bleed.

And as he was riding along the road
His horse caught against a stone.
“Oh, there’s signs and tokens enough I’ve seen,
I’m sure I’ll never return.”

And as he was a-riding up a merry London street
So close up the fair Whitehall,
Oh, the lords and the ladies stood looking hard,
And a traitor he was called.

“No traitor at all,” Lord Allenwater said,
“No traitor at all,” cried he,
“Why, I vow I can find you three score men
To fight for King Georgie.”

Then it’s up and bespoke a grey-headed man,
A broad axe in his hand,
“Oh deliver your soul, Lord Allenwater,
Your life’s at my command.”

“My life I do not value too,
My life I will give unto thee,
And the black velvet coat that I have on my back,
You take that for your fee.

There’s forty pounds in one pocket,
Pray give it unto the poor,
And there’s forty-five in the other one,
Pray give it from door to door.”

And he laid his head upon the block,
The man gave a mighty blow.
“Now there lies the head of a traitor,” he said,
But it answered and it said—“No!”