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Rambleaway / Derry Down Fair

[ Roud 171 ; G/D 7:1485 ; Ballad Index ShH31 ; VWML SBG/1/2/442 ; Bodleian Roud 171 ; Wiltshire 440 ; trad.]

Nick Dow: Southern Songster Frank Kidson: Traditional Tunes James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle Steve Roud, Julia Bishop: The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Stephen Sedley: The Seeds of Love Cecil Sharp: One Hundred English Folksongs

Frank Purslow and John Pearse sang Young Rambleaway in 1960 on their Folklore Records album Rap-a-Tap-Tap.

Shirley Collins sang Rambleaway in 1963 on her Topic EP Heroes in Love. Like all tracks of this EP, it was included in her compilation Fountain of Snow and on the CD reissue of The Sweet Primeroses. It was also included in the Topic Sampler Folk Songs: An Anthology. The original recording's sleeve notes comment:

Here our hero is something of a rake, and the encounter has been related in several broadsides. The tune is from Somerset, collected and published by Sharp in the Folk Song Society Journal No. 31. This latter incomplete text has been collated with a broadside published by Hodge, of Seven Dials, London.

Shirley and Dolly Collins recorded this song for a second time in 1969 for their album Anthems in Eden. This version was included in 1999 on the anthology Troubadours of British Folk Vol. 1.

Cyril Tawney sang Young Rambleaway in 1965 at a concert presented by the English Folk, Dance and Song Society at the Royal Festival Hall, London on 4 June 1965 which was released in the same year on the EMI/HMV album Folksound of Britain. He also sang it in 1976 on his Trailer album Down Among the Barley Straw.

The Young Tradition sang this song as Derry Down Fair on their eponymous debut album of 1966, The Young Tradition. They noted:

In the more common variants of Young Rambleaway, the song ends with the girl going home to her parents, sadder, wiser and pregnant. This Dorset version ends instead with a boastful half warning, half invitation from Rambleaway himself: “My hat, cap and feathers, my dear, you shall wear, and a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair.” And that is the limit of what any girl can expect of him. The words were collected by Hammond from Robert Barrett, of Puddletown, in 1905. The tune is not Mr. Barrett's, however, it came to us in its present form by mistake, but we liked it and kept it.

Jon Rennard sang Brimbledon Fair in 1970 as the title track of his Traditional Sound album Brimbledon Fair. This track was included in 2002 on the Fellside anthology of the calendar in traditional song, Seasons, Ceremonies & Rituals.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Rambleaway in 1971 on their album Spencer the Rover Is Alive and Well. They tersely noted:

A very common song in the English tradition, especially in the South.

Al O'Donnell sang Ramble Away in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album Al O'Donnell.

Janet Kelley sang Rambleaway in 1972 on the Cambridge, Mass. Living Folk anthology Pleasant and Delightful Vol. 2.

Jumbo Brightwell sang Rambleaway in 1975 on his Topic LP of traditional songs and ballads from Suffolk, Songs from the Eel's Foot. Keith Summers and Mike Yates noted:

Versions of Rambleaway have been collected in Devonshire by the Reverend Baring-Gould, in Dorset by the Hammond Brothers, in Hampshire by George Gardiner, in Somerset by Cecil Sharp and in Yorkshire by Frank Kidson. Peter Kennedy recorded a version for the BBC from Alec Bloomfield of Framlingham in Suffolk who, unlike Jumbo, places the song’s activity in Burlington Fair—a corruption of Birmingham Fair, the title given to the song by early 19th century broadside printers such as Jackson of Birmingham. Unlike other singers, Jumbo uses the well known Villikins and Dinah tune for his set of words.

Jean Redpath sang Rambleaway in 1975 on her eponymous album Jean Redpath. She noted:

I've heard several different people sing this song and I suspect that what I have here is a composite text and a hybrid melody. The important thing is that I enjoy singing it. There are several other titles: Brimbledon Fair, Brocklesby Fair, and from Co. Antrim, Moneymore Fair—with as many different twists to the story line,

Come all you young maidens where 'ere you may be
Find lovely Nancy and bring her to me
All you young ramblers I'd have you take care
Or else you 'll get brim bled at Brimbledon Fair

Roger Wilson sang Ramble Away in 1988 on his Harbourtown cassette The Palm of Your Hand.

The Albion Band sang Rambleaway in 1990 on their Topic album 1990.

George Withers from Donyatt, Somerset, sang Brimbledown Fair to John Howson in 1995. This recording was released on the Veteran Tapes cassette The Fly Be on the Turmut, and it was included in 2004 on Veteran's anthology CD of folk songs sung in the West Country, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. John Howson noted:

Often called Young Ramble Away, this popular song was published by many broadside printers and was collected extensively in the West Country. H.E.D. Hammond noted down the song from William Barrett in Piddletown, Dorset in 1905 and Cecil Sharp collected three versions including one sung to him in 1904 by Jim Woodland at Stocklinch, Somerset. Sharp published a composite text in Folk Songs from Somerset (Series 3, 1906). George learned the song from his father, who had lived next door to another of Sharp’s informants, James Bishop. In other parts of the country different names have appeared including Burlington Fair (Suffolk) and Brocklesby Fair (Lincolnshire).

Pete Harris sang Rambleaway in 1996 on his and Mick Ryan's album The Widow's Promise.

Norma Waterson sang Rambleaway in 1996 on Waterson:Carthy's second album, Common Tongue; this was finished with the Valentine Waltz arranged by Saul Rose. The recording was re-released on the Topic anthologies And We'll All Have Tea and English Originals. Martin Carthy commented in their album's sleeve notes:

Norma loves waltzes and so do we. The tune of Rambleaway is more usually associated with a song that I don't like much—called Old Mother Crawley—and it's an absolute peach. The character himself advertises himself for what he is and yet there is still somebody who falls for it. And, how they fall. You see people like him on Ricki Lake or Oprah Winfrey all the time. The audience boo and hiss and it makes not a ha'porth of difference. For him it's just another advert.

Saul (Rose) had the idea for Valentine Waltz—it's the morris tune, Valentine's Day, slowed right down.

Jackie Oates sang Rambleaway in 2006 on her eponymous first album, Jackie Oates.

Steve Roud included Young Rambleaway in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Brian Peters sang it a year later on the accompanying Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose.

Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett sang Rambleaway in 2013 on their WildGoose CD Buy It, Try It (and Never Repent You). Jeff Gillett noted:

Ron learnt this song from Jill Smith in the days of the excellent Exmouth Arms Folk Club in Cheltenham. The song is common throughout the Midlands, particularly Warwickshire. The behaviour of the protagonist is probably quite common, too…

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll sang Rambleaway in 2014 on their WildGoose CD A Handful of Sky. They noted:

The version of this well-known song comes from the collection of folk songs by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould. We have combined the words of James Parsons with Sam Fone's melody and added our own interpretation to the mix.

Nick Dow sang Young Ramble Away on his 2015 CD Unaccompanied. They noted:

Baring-Gould got this from James Parsons of Lewdown in Devon [ VWML SBG/1/2/442 ] . He rewrote the song with some nonsense or other, to make it acceptable for publication in the late 19th century. I first heard Cyril Tawney sing it in the 1970s and tracked down the words online.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Rambleaway Norma Waterson sings Rambleaway

As I go a-walking down Birmingham Street
In my new scarlet jacket all neat and complete,
The girls all say as they pass me by,
“Is that the young man they call Rambleaway?”

As I was a-going to Pocklington Fair
In my fine scarlet jacket and everything rare,
Enough to 'tice all the maidens away
When they set their eyes on young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
When they set their eyes on young Rambleaway.

As I was a-walking to Birmingham Fair
I saw lovely Nancy a-curling her hair.
I tipped her the wink and she rolled her dark eye,
And said I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

Now the very first steps that I took to the fair
I saw lovely Nancy a-combing her hair.
I smiled at the lass and she laughed and she sighed,
Said I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”
There by and by, there by and by,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

As I was out walking that night in the dark
I took lovely Nancy to be my sweetheart;
She smiled in my face and to me she did say,
“Aren't you the young man they call Rambleaway?”

As I was a-walking that night in the dark
I took that young maiden to be my sweetheart;
She sighed in my face and a word she did say,
“Are you the young fellow called Rambleaway?”
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
“Aren't you the young fellow called Rambleaway?”

I said, “My dear Nancy, don't smile in my face,
For I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
“Then where are you going, come tell me, my dear.“
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.

I said, “Pretty Nancy, don't smile in my face,
I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
I packed up my clothes and I went from the fair;
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.
Devil knows where, devil knows where,
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.

Before twelve weeks was over and past
This pretty young Nancy, she grew sick at last.
Her dress wouldn't pin nor her apron strings tie
And she longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.

When twenty-four weeks they were over and past
This pretty young girl she did sicken at last.
Her gown wouldn't meet nor her apron strings tie;
She longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
She longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.

My dad and my mother have both come from home.
But when they return I won't sit down and mourn
I'll tell them the story and leave them to say,
“Well, no doubt she's been playing with young Rambleaway.”

So come all you young ladies, take a warning by me,
When courting the boys, don't be easy and free.
Just dress yourselves up as you step out to pay
But take care if you meet with young Rambleaway.

Come all you young maidens wherever you be,
When you're courting fellows don't make yourself free.
For if you do you'll rue the sad day
You met with the likes of young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
You met with the likes of young Rambleaway.

The Young Tradition sing Derry Down Fair

As I was a-going to Derry Down Fair
With my neat scarlet cloak and everything rare,
In order to entice all the buxom and gay
Who wished for to go with young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway,
Who wished for to go with young Rambleaway.

The very first steps I put into the fair
I spied pretty Nancy a-combing her hair.
I tipped her the wink and she rolled her dark eye,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by,”
There by and by,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

As I was a-walking that night in the dark
I took pretty Nancy to be my sweetheart.
She smiled in my face and to me she did say,
“Ain't you the young man that's called Rambleaway?
Rambleaway,
Ain't you the young man that's called Rambleaway?”

Says I, “Pretty Nancy, don't smile in my face
For I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
So I give her three doubles and fair length and share
And I said that I'd ramble but didn't know where,
Didn't know where,
And I said that I'd ramble but didn't know where.

So come all you young maidens where'er you may be,
From this jolly bank wit I'll have you go free;
My hat, cap and feathers, my dear, you shall wear
And a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair,
Tie up your hair,
And a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Rambleaway

As I was walking down Birmingham Street
In my new scarlet jacket all neat and complete
The young girls they smiled as they passed me by
Saying one to another, “There goes Rambleaway.”

And as I was walking through Birmingham Fair
I spied pretty Nancy a-combing her hair
She smiled in my face and to me did say
“Ain't you the young lad they call Rambleaway?”

I said, “Pretty Nancy, don't you smile in my face,
I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
“Then where are you going, come tell me my dear?”
I told her I'd ramble the Devil knows where.

When twenty-four weeks, they were over and past
This pretty young wench she grew thick round the waist
And her gown wouldn't meet nor her apron strings tie
And she longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.

So come all you young maidens, take a warning from me
When you're courting your fellows, don't be easy or free
Don't dress yourselves up and go out on the play
For it's there you may meet with young Rambleaway
Rambleaway
It's there you may meet with young Rambleaway.

George Withers sings Brimbledown Fair

As I was a-riding to Brimbledown Fair,
I saw pretty Nancy a-curling her hair.
I gave her a wink and she rolled a dark eye,
And I said to myself, “I'll be there, by and by.”

I watched and I watched all that night in the dark,
For to ask pretty Nancy to be my sweetheart.
But all she replied when I saw her next day,
“Are you the young rogue they call Ramble Away?”

“Oh,” I said, “Pretty Nancy don't you laugh in my face.”
But she answered by slipping away from the place.
And to find her I rambled through fair Lincolnshire,
And I vowed I would wander I would not care where.

So all you fair maidens where ever you be,
Go and find pretty Nancy and bring her to me.
And all you young fellows take heed and take care,
Or else you'll get brimbled at Brimbledown Fair.

Acknowledgements

Norma Waterson version transcribed by Garry Gillard, with a bit of help from Steve Willis: thanks!