> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Seven Gipsies
> Shirley Collins > Songs > Seven Yellow Gipsies
> Nic Jones > Songs > Seven Yellow Gypsies
> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > Raggle Taggle Gipsies

The Gypsy Laddie / Seven Yellow Gipsies / Raggle Taggle Gipsies

[ Roud 1 ; Child 200 ; G/D 2:278 ; Ballad Index C200 ; Bodleian Roud 1 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Seven Gypsies in 1956 on his Tradition album The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs. He commented in the liner notes:

As the story goes, 300 years ago, Lady Jean Hamilton, married to the grim puritanical Earl of Cassilis, fell in love with John Faa, a leader of a Scottish gypsy band. The couple eloped, the band was pursued, and John Faa was captured and hanged. History is silent about this incident, but the ballad (Child 200) has survived in many forms all over England, Scotland and America. Perhaps it was the piquancy of the situation in which the rich man's wife finds a poor man more desirable, that has commended it so long to the singer's fancy.

Jeannie Robertson sang The Gipsy Laddies, in a recording made in 1955 where she is accompanied by Josh MacCrae on guitar, on her 1957 Riverside album Songs of a Scots Tinker Lady. Another recording made by Bill Leader in 1959 was released on her eponymous Topic album Jeannie Robertson. Hamish Henderson commented in both album's sleeve notes:

This classic ballad—no. 200 in the great Child collection—is widely known throughout the British Isles and America. In Scotland, the ballad is often associated with the Ayrshire house of Cassilis, and is declared to be a “true” ballad, although history does not bear this out. However, the ballad tale, in which handsome gipsies beguile a noble lady by the sweetness of their singing, has naturally made it very popular with the Scots travelling folk.

Shirley Collins sang a variant called Seven Yellow Gipsies on her 1967 album The Power of the True Love Knot, and it was included on her producer Joe Boyd's compilation CD White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s. She commented in her album's notes:

With two handsome gipsies (Robin Williamson and Mike Heron) clapping her on, the lady's off again, with her lord in full pursuit. This account of a well-known bit of scandal has a rare, crackling pace about it, and a reference to an arranged cash-marriage in the last verse. It comes from an Irish singer, Paddy Doran. I think the girl must be daft to leave her comfortable castle to go rolling in the fields with seven yellow gipsies.

Martin Carthy sang Seven Yellow Gypsies on his 1969 album with Dave Swarbrick, Prince Heathen, and reissued on Martin Carthy: A Collection. He also sang it live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros. Martin Carthy commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

There is a whole school of thought which seeks to show that ballads are records of historical occurrences. Possibly they are but I can't see that it matters two hoots. The idea of a wife being taken by the gypsies is as old as the gypsies themselves. I have taken the liberty of filling the story out by plundering different versions.

Martin Carthy's brother-in-law Mike Waterson recorded Seven Yellow Gypsies for his eponymous album of 1977, Mike Waterson. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

It used to be thought that the ballad told a true story of the elopement, in the seventeenth century, of the young bride of the Earl of Cassilis (pronounced ‘Cassels’). It's rubbish, as is so often the case when historical traditions get attached to ballads. But the ballad is a great favourite and considerably more than a hundred versions of it have been recorded in Britain, Ireland and America, to a variety of tunes. The melody Mike uses here is a very individual variant of the favourite setting of Cecil Sharp's Somerset version, known through school books as The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies. The words, as Mike sings them, are dredged from the memories of his sister Lal, Hull-based Scottish singer Ian Manuel, and of Mike himself, recalling schooldays.

Walter Pardon sang The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies at home in Knapton, Norfolk in ca. 1975. This recording by Mike Yates was released in 1982 on Pardon's Topic album A Country Life, and was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Tonight I'll Make You My Bride (The Voice of the People Series Volume 6).

Nic Jones sang Seven Yellow Gypsies in a BBC “Folk on 2” session recorded on March 1, 1981. This recording was included in his anthologies In Search of Nic Jones and Game Set Match. Like Shirley Collins' version, this one is based on Paddy Doran's.

Ray Fisher sang The Gipsy Laddies in 1991 on her Saydisc CD Traditional Songs of Scotland. She commented in her album's liner notes:

Another song from the extensive repertoire of Jeannie Robertson from Aberdeen. The ballad of the Wraggle, Taggle Gipsies (also known as Seven Yellow Gipsies) has long been a favourite within the folklore of Scotland and England due to the widely held belief that the gipsies could cast spells on people and persuade even ladies of high degree to abandon their fine lifestyles and throw in their lot with the gipsies. It was thought inconceivable that such ladies went of their own free will: thus the perpetuation of the myth that the gipsies cast their ‘glamourie ower’ innocent folk.

The tune of this ballad is sometimes referred to as Lady Cassilis' Lilt: it is interesting to note that the aggrieved Lord is named in several versions as Earl Cassilis!

Gordon Tyrrall sang Seven Gypsies on the 1997 Fellside anthology Ballads. Paul Adams commented in the album's notes:

Gordon's version of this extremely popular ballad (The Gypsy Laddie, Black Jack Davy, The Raggle Taggle Gypsies, etc.) is loosely based on the one collected from the magnificent Norfolk singer Harry Cox. Harry's version mentions the Earl O'Cassil. A basis for the story is reported to be Lady Jean Hamilton who loved Sir Francis Faa of Dunbar (Faa was a common gypsy name and some versions of the song are called Johnny Faa). She married instead the 6th Earl of Cassilis (also called John). According to the story Sir John Faa came to Cassilis castle disguised as a gypsy accompanied by some genuine gypsies. The Earl came home and hanged them all. Another supposition is that it developed from a Celtic tale of a fairy abduction (a theme in Tam Lin). Whatever, it makes a good and lasting story. There is an example of the oral tradition at work where the line “cast their gaze all over her” has become the meaningless, but rather poetic, “cast their gabriel over her.”

Waterson:Carthy with Eliza Carthy in lead sang this song in 1999 as Raggle Taggle Gipsies on their third album Broken Ground; this track was also included on the anthology The Folk Awards 2001. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

The Raggle Taggle Gipsies is about as old an idea as gipsies in these islands are themselves. The story is supposed to be about the Countess of Cassilis who ran away with some gipsies who were hanged for their trouble. Hanging was, of course, par for the course for gipsies at the time—sometimes just for being gipsies—indeed I sometimes think that some people nowadays yearn for such a time, gipsies being the most reviled (and legislated against) portion of our population. Within Norma's and my lifetime there have been two occasions when her descendant, the Countess, has been confidently reported in the paper as having run away with someone or other. Thirty year ago or more one of the Sunday papers splashed that she had run away with (I think) gipsies, and within the last seven or eight year she was said with equal certainty to have run away this time with a travelling salesman. One wonders what the Count had been putting in her caviar or, on the other hand whether the whole thing feeds on and propagates itself as an ongoing myth. (What did they call an urban myth in the 16th century?) This way of doing the song was given by the beautiful Norfolk singer Walter Pardon to Mike Yates in the 1970s.

This video shows Waterson:Carthy playing The Raggle Taggle Gipsies somewhere in 2007 or earlier:

and at Folkfestival HAM 2009:

Jack Beck sang The Gypsy Laddies in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers CD Half Ower, Half Ower tae Aberdour. He commented in his liner notes:

Primarily from the singing of Jeannie Robertson, this was influenced by many other versions heard over the years. Most American variants have the lady going off with the vagabond Black-Jack Davy to live happily ever after—a typical change found across the water. For a fascinating insight into the popularity of Scots ballads in Appalachia read The Lion's Share by Prof. Tom Burton.

Lauren McCormick and Emily Portman sang Seven Yellow Gypsies in 2007 on their privately issued EP Lauren McCormick & Emily Portman.

Jon Boden sang Seven Yellow Gypsies as the April 16, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Stick in the Wheel sang Seven Gypsies with verses nearly identical to Martin Carthy's on their 2015 CD From Here.

Arthur Knevett sang Raggle Taggle Gypsies on his 2016 CD Simply Traditional. He commented in his liner notes:

A very widespread ballad in which a lady forsakes her rich husband to run off with a band of gypsies. Francis J. Child's collection of ballads gives eleven versions and Bertrand Bronson in The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads gives 128 texts with tunes but does not include this version which was collected from the Norfolk singer Walter Pardon after Bronson had compiled his monumental work.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Seven Yellow Gipsies Nic Jones sings Seven Yellow Gypsies

There were seven yellow gypsies and all in a row,
None of them lame nor lazy-o;
And they sang so neat and so complete
They stole the heart of the lady-o.

There were seven gypsies all of a row
And they sang neat and bonny-o;
Sang so neat and they're so complete,
They stole the heart of a lady.

She's kicked off her high heel shoes
Made of the Spanish leather,
And she's put on an old pair of brogues
To follow the gypsy laddie.

It was late that night when the lord came home
Enquiring for his lady-o,
And the answer the servants gave to him,
“She's gone away with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

Late at night her lord come home
And he's enquiring for his lady.
And his servant's down on his knees and said,
“She's away with the seven gypsies.”

“Then saddle me my bonny black horse,
The white one's ne'er so speedy-o.
That I may ride on a long summer night
In search of my false lady-o.”

So he rode west and he rode west,
He rode through wood and copses too,
Until he came to an open field
And there he saw his lady-o.

He's ridden o'er the high, high hills
Till he come to the morning,
And there he's found his own dear wife
And she's in the arms of the seven gypsies.

“Would you give up your house and land?
Would you give up your baby-o?
Would you give up your new-wedded lord?
To run away with the seven yellow gypsies-o?”

“Well, what care I for my house and land?
What care I for my baby-o?
Sure I wouldn't give a kiss from a gypsy laddie's lips
Not for all Lord Cassilis' money-o.”

“Well, last night I slept in a feather bed
And the sheets and the blankets around me;
Tonight I slept in the cold open fields
In the arms of my seven gypsies.”

Seven gypsies all of a row
And they sang neat and bonny-o;
Sang so neat that they all were hanged
For the stealing of a famous lady.

Martin Carthy sings Seven Yellow Gypsies Mike Waterson sings Seven Yellow Gypsies

There were seven yellow gypsies and all in a row
And none of them lame nor lazy-o,
And they sang so sweet and so complete
That they stole the heart of the lady-o.

O there's seven little yellow Cassilis gypsies and they're all in a row,
And they're all of them lame and they're lazy-o,
And they sang so neat and so very complete
That they stole away the heart of the Earl of Cassilis' lady-o.

And she come tripping it down the stair,
She being dressed in her silk and her amber-o,
But they tooken one look at her well-far'd face
And they cast their spells out of her hair-o.

And they sang sweet and they sang shrill
That fast her tears began to flow,
And she lay down her silken gown,
Her golden rings and all her show.

She given to them the nutmeg fine,
So they given her back the ginger-o;
But she given to them a far greater thing,
It was the gold ring offen her finger-o.

She plucked off all her highheeled shoen,
All made of the Spanish leather-o,
And she would in the street in her bare bare feet
To run away with the seven yellow gypsies-o.

They rode north and they rode south,
And they rode it late and early-o
Until they come to the river side
And oh but she was weary-o.

Says, “Last night I rode by the river side
With my servants all around me-o,
And tonight I must go with me bare bare feet
All along with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

It was late last night when the lord come home
And his servants they stood ready-o.
And the one took his boots and the other took his horse,
But away was his own dear lady-o.

And when he come to the servants' door
Enquiring for his lady-o,
The one she sighed and the other one cried,
“She's away with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

Her lord, he come home late that night
Enquiring for his lady-o,
But the servants cried on either side,
Stole away been the Earl of Cassilis' lady-o.

“For I met with a boy and a bonny, bonny boy,
And they were strange stories he told me-o,
Of the moon that rose by the river side
For to pack with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

“Go saddle to me my bonny, bonny mare,
For the brown's not so speedy-o.
And I will ride for to seek my bride
Who's run away with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

“Go saddle to me my good grey steed,
For the black one's not so speedy-o,
And away I will ride over yon hillside
For to seek for the Earl of Cassilis' lady-o.”

O he rode north and he rode south,
And he rode it late and early-o
Until he come to the river side
And it was there that he spied his lady-o.

And he rode high and didn't he ride low,
Why, he rode through the woods and the copses-o
Till on yon hillside there he has espied him
The fire at the camp of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.

And boldly he, he rode up that hill,
It being an hour before the dawning-o,
And so boldly didn't he enter him in
To the camp of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.

“What makes you leave all your house and your land,
All your gold and your treasure for to go?
And what makes you leave your new-wedded lord
To run away with the seven yellow gypsies-o?”

“What makes you leave, leave your houses and your land?
What makes you leave your baby-o?
And what makes you leave your new-wedded lord,
Run away with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o?”

“What care I for me house and me land?
What care I for me treasure-o?
And what care I for me new-wedded lord,
For I'm away with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

“What care I for, for me houses and me land?
What care I for me baby-o?
And what care I for me new-wedded lord?
For I'm happy with me raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“Last night you slept in a goose-feather bed
With the sheet turned down so bravely-o.
And tonight you will sleep in the cold barren shed
All along with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

“Last night you slept and in a goose-feather bed
In sheets turned down O so bravely-o,
But tonight you will sleep in the cold open field,
Rolled around with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“What care I for me goose-feather bed
With the sheet turned down so bravely-o?
For tonight I will sleep in the cold barren shed
All along with the seven yellow gypsies-o.”

“Last night I've slept and in a goose-feather bed
In sheets turned down-o so bravely-o,
But tonight I will sleep in the arms of me dear,
He's the king of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

There were seven yellow gypsies and all in a row,
None of them lame nor lazy-o.
And I wouldn't give a kiss from the gypsies' lips
For all of your land or your money-o.

There's seven little gypsies all in a row,
And they're all of them lame and they're lazy-o.
But the Earl of Cassilis, he had 'em all hung
For the stealing of the Earl of Cassilis' lady-o.

Walter Pardon sings The Raggle-Taggle Gipsies Waterson:Carthy sing Raggle-Taggle Gipsies

Three gypsies come round to my door,
Downstairs ran my lady-o.
One sang high and one sang low
And one sang Bonny Bonny Biscay-o.

Three gypsies come round to my door,
And downstairs ran my lady-o.
And one sang high and one sang low
And one sang Bonny Bonny Biscay-o.

Then she took off her silken gown
And dressed in hose of leather-o.
The dirty rags around my door;
She's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.

Then she took off her silken gown
And dressed in hose of leather-o.
The dirty rags around my door;
She's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.

Twas late at night my lord returned
Enquiring for his lady-o.
The servants one and all replied,
“She's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

Twas late at night my lord returned
Enquiring for his lady-o.
The servants one and all replied,
“She's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“Go harness up my milk white steed,
Go fetch me my pony-o.
And I will ride to seek my bride
Who's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“Go harness up my milk white steed,
Go fetch to me my pony-o.
And I will ride and seek my bride
Who's gone with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

he rode high and he rode low,
He rode through woods and copses too,
Until he came to a wide open field.
There he espied his lady-o.

So he rode high and he rode low,
He rode through woods and copses too,
Until he came to a wide open field
Where he has spied his lady-o.

“Why did you leave your new wedded lord
And your house and lands and money-o
To go and seek a roving life
'Long with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o?”

“Why did you leave your new wedded lord
And your house and lands and money-o
To go and seek a roving life
Along with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o?”

“What care I for my new wedded lord,
My house and lands and money-o?
For I will seek a roving life
Along with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“What care I for my new wedded lord
And my house and lands and money-o?
Tonight I'll seek a roving life
Along with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“Last night you slept in a goose-feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely-o;
Tonight you'll lie in the cold open fields
In the arms of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

Last night she slept in a goose-feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely-o;
Tonight she'll lie in the cold open field
In the arms of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.

“What care I for a goose-feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely-o?
For I will seek a roving life
Along with the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

“What care I for a goose-feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely-o?
Tonight I'll lie in the cold open field
In the arms of the raggle-taggle gypsies-o.”

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard and Greer Gilman with heartily thanks to Steve Willis for corrections.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: The Raggle-Taggle Gypsy.