> Tony Rose > Songs > Basket of Eggs
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Eggs in Her Basket

The Basket of Eggs / Eggs in Her Basket / Eggs and Bacon

[ Roud 377 ; G/D 2:307 ; Ballad Index VWL018 ; trad.]

Ralph Vaughan Williams collected The Basket of Eggs from several singers in the eastern counties including, in Norfolk, Joe Anderson at Kings Lynn in 1905 and George Locke at Rollesby in 1910, in Suffolk, Jake Willis at Hadleigh in 1907, and in Sussex, Henry Burstow at Horsham in 1903. The last version was printed in Vaughan Williams & A.L. Lloyd's book The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959).

Stan Steggles sang Eggs and Bacon in Rattlesden, Suffolk in 1958. This recording by Des Herring was included in 1993 on the Veteran anthology Many a Good Horseman.

George Dunn sang The Basket of Eggs in a recording made by Roy Palmer on May 24, 1971 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker.

Fred List of Framingham sang Eggs in Her Basket in a recording made by Keith Summers in 1971-77 on the Veteran anthology Good Hearted Fellows: Traditional Folk Songs, Music Hall Songs, and Tunes from Suffolk. Mike Yates commented in the liner notes:

English folklorist Roy Palmer has traced this song to The Man of War's Garland, a chapbook that was printed in 1796 (Bodleian Library, Harding Chapbooks, A15, no. 19). The song was titled Eggs and Bacon and tells of two sailors who steal a woman's basket, thinking it to be full of eggs which they plan to have cooked in an alehouse. When a child is discovered in the basket they offer five hundred pounds to any woman who will foster the child. Of course, the whole thing is a set-up by the mother who, having recognised one of the sailors—the father of the child, takes the money before declaring who she is! Gavin Greig, the assiduous Scottish song collector found nine versions, which he titled The Foundling Baby, though singers throughout England and Scotland have preferred to use another broadside title The Basket of Eggs. In the late 1950s Ken Stubbs collected a version from a Gypsy called Frank Smith and a recording of the song, sung by Frank's wife Minty Smith, can be heard on the CD My Father's the King of the Gypsies.

Bob Blake sang The Basket of Eggs in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1972-75 on the Topic anthology Sussex Harvest: A Collection of Traditional Songs from Sussex. This track was also included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from the Mike Yates collection, Up in the North and Down in the South.

Minty Smith sang The Basket of Eggs in a recording made by Mike Yates in her home near Epsom, Surrey in c. 1974 on the 1977 Topic album The Travelling Songster: An Anthology from Gypsy Singers. This track was also included in 1998 on My Father's the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Series Volume 11).

Tony Rose sang Basket of Eggs unaccompanied in 1971 on his second Trailer album, Under the Greenwood Tree. He commented in his sleeve notes:

[Searching for Lambs] certainly contrasts markedly with the tongue in cheek humour of Basket of Eggs—another song which, surprisingly, is not heard often in the folk clubs. The sailor, like the tailor in many other songs, seems to fall an easy prey to the sharp-witted girl of whom he thinks he can take advantage. It reminds me of the old Westcountryman who, finding himself the target of the visiting townsman's jibe about rustic slowness, commented laconically that slow he might be, but there weren't many able to live for nine months of the year on what they made out of the visitors in the other three!

Roy Harris sang this song with the title Sandbank Fields as title track of his 1977 album, By Sandbank Fields.

Linda Adams sings Basket of Eggs too, accompanied by John Bowden, concertina, and Jez Lowe, cittern, on the 1986 Fellside anthology A Selection from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. The record's sleeve notes said:

From Henry Burstow, Horsham, Sussex; noted in 1903 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This wry song of two sailors who thought to outwit a trusting girl and were themselves tricked has been found in slightly differing versions in Norfolk, Herefordshire, Sussex and Shetland.

Martin Carthy recorded this songs as Eggs in Her Basket in 1988 with somewhat different verses for his album Right of Passage. This track was also included in his compilation The Collection. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

In the 1970s, a cardboard box containing over a hundred wax cylinders of music, recorded before the first World War, came to light in Cecil Sharp House. They were in varying states of decrepitude—none was identified—so the educated guessers went to work and they identified a Vaughan Williams recording of Harriet Verrall singing Eggs in Her Basket, whence I learned this. The sailor's flash of temper at the end would seem to make him a cousin in spirit to the character finally on the receiving end in A Stitch in Time, a true story put into song by Mike Waterson about four years ago. It happened about 1962 in the Hessle Road area of Hull and the tune is that of a brutal Royal Navy song called On Board of a Man-of-War.

However, in the The Collection sleeve notes, the singer of the Vaughan Williams recording of Eggs in Her Basket is identified as gypsy singer Priscilla Cooper.

See also the Digital Tradition study thread The Basket of Eggs at the Mudcat Café.

Lyrics

Tony Rose sings Basket of Eggs Linda Adams sings Basket of Eggs

Down in Sandbank fields, two sailors were a-walking,
Their pockets were both lined with gold,
And as together they were talking,
A fair little maid they did behold,
With a little basket of eggs standing by her,
As she lay down to take her ease.
To carry it for her one of them offered.
The answer was: “Sir, if you please.”

Down in Sandbank fields, two sailors they were walking,
Their pockets were both lined with gold,
And as together they were talking,
A fair maid there they did behold,
With a little basket standing by her,
As she sat down to take her ease.
To carry it for her one of them offered.
The answer was: “Sir, if you please.”

So it's one of these sailors he took the little basket.
“There's eggs in the basket, please take care;
And if by chance you should out-walk me,
At the Half-way House please leave them there.”
Behold these sailors, they did outwalk her,
The Half-way House they did pass by.
The pretty damsel she laughed at their fancy,
And on the sailors she kept her eye.

One of these sailors took the basket.
“There's eggs in the basket, please take care;
And if by chance you should out-walk me,
At the Half-way House please leave them there.”
Behold these sailors, they did outwalk her,
The Half-way House they did pass by.
This pretty damsel she laughed at their fancy,
And on the sailors she kept her eye.

Oh it's when these two sailors came into an ale-house,
There they did call for a pint of wine,
It's “Landlord, landlord, what fools in the nation!
This pretty maid from her eggs we have twined.
Landlord, landlord, bring us some bacon.
We have got these eggs and we'll have some dressed.”
Behold these sailors were very much mistaken,
As you shall say when you hear the rest.

When these two sailors came unto an ale-house,
There they did call for a pint of wine,
“Landlord, landlord, what fools in this nation!
This young maid from her eggs we've twined.
O landlord, landlord, bring us some bacon.
We've got these eggs and we'll have some dressed.”
Behold these sailors, they were much mistaken,
As you shall say when you hear the rest.

Oh 'twas then that the landlord he went unto the basket,
Expecting there some eggs for to find.
He said: “Young man, you're very much mistaken,
Instead of eggs I found a child.”
Then one of them sat down to weeping,
The other said: “It's not worth while.
Here's fifty guineas I'll give to the baby
If any woman will take the child.”

'Twas then the landlord he went to the basket,
Expecting of some eggs to find.
He said: “Young man, you're much mistaken,
Instead of eggs I've found a child.”
Then one of them sat down to weeping,
The other said: “It's not worth while.
Here's fifty guineas I'll give to the baby
If any woman will take the child.”

This pretty little damsel was sitting by the fire
And she had a shawl drawn over her face.
She said: “I'll take it and I'll kindly use it,
But first I must see the money paid.”
One of the sailors he threw down the money,
Great favour to the babe was shown.
“Well since it is so, then let's all be friendly,
For you know, this baby is yours and mine.”

This pretty young damsel she sat by the fire
And she had a shawl drawn over her face.
She said: “I'll take it and kindly use it,
When first I see the money paid.”
One of the sailors threw down the money,
Great favour to the babe was shown.
“Since it is so, then let's be friendly,
For you know, this child is yours and mine.”

For it's “Don't you remember a-dancing with Nancy,
As long ago as last Easter day?”
“Oh yes, I do, and it pleased my fancy,
And now the fiddler I have paid.”
One of the sailors he went to the basket
And he kicked the basket over and o'er.
“Well, since it is so, may we be all contented,
But I'm hanged if I'll like eggs any more.”

“Don't you remember a-dancing with Nancy,
As long ago as last Easter day?”
“Oh yes, and I do, and she pleased my fancy,
So now the fiddler I have paid.”
One of the sailors went up to the basket
And he kicked the basket over and o'er.
“Since it is so, may we be all contented,
But I'm hanged if I'll like eggs any more.”

Martin Carthy sings Eggs in Her Basket

It is of two sailor lads both set out a-walking
With their pockets a-being both lined with gold.
As they went a-walking and civilly talking,
Oh some fair pretty damsel they do behold.

Oh one of those young men
“Should I chance for to carry your basket?”
“Oh there's eggs in the basket oh do take care.
And if you should chance to out-walk me,
At the Half-way House you'll find me later there.”

These two young men oh they start out boldly
Until they come to the Half-way House.
And it's: “Landlord, oh landlord, go start the kitchen,
Oh, for you'll need your saucepan and skillet now.”
And it's: “Landlord, oh landlord, take back the blanket,
Oh, for we'll give you bacon and eggs to fry.”

Oh that landlord went out to the basket,
A-thinking he'd got eggs to fry.
“Oh, say, young man, ain't you mistaken,
Oh, for in this basket we've got a child.”

Up steps this young Nancy, o dearest Nancy,
That he'd taken to bed on last Whitsuntide.
“We got this young child since I take your fancy,
So now the gay fiddler you've got to pay.”

“That child's not ours, lovely Nancy,
He's no babe of mine nor no friend's beside,
Here's fifty golds I'll give anybody
If she'll take care of this little child.”
“Oh, I will take it, I'll kindly treat it
If you will say all my money's paid”

Oh that young man went up to the basket,
He's kicked it around and around the floor.
“Uh, since it is done I will surely pay it,
But damn me if I do eat eggs any more.”