The Brisk Lad / The Sheepstealer / All I Have Is My Own
Mike Waterson recorded this song as The Brisk Lad in 1977 for his eponymous LP Mike Waterson. The track was also added to the Watersons' Green Fields CD reissue. A live recording from the Udazkenean Festival, Donostia, Spain, in 1986 was released in 2004 with the title All I Have Is My Own on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd noted on the first album:
Mike's version of this is based on one got from George Dowden of Lackington in the Thomas Hardy part of Dorset in 1905 [VWML HAM/2/9/1] . It is ironical that the words of this disreputable old sheepstealer song are carried by a tune whose close relatives have done good service as hymns and carols such as The Truth Sent from Above, The Sinner's Dream, There Is a Fountain of Christ's Blood, and The Carnal and the Crane.
Folly Bridge—Ian Giles, Graham Metcalfe and Claire Lloyd—sang The Sheepstealer in 1991 on their WildGoose cassette All in the Same Tune. Claire Lloyd noted:
This song about a desperate man trying to feed his family is also known as The Brisk Lad. It probably originated in Dorset, a small county in southwest England noted for sheep-farming, and where rural poverty reached crisis point in the early 19th century.
The Voice Squad sang The Sheepstealers on their 1992 album Holly Wood. Frank Harte noted:
My friend Vic Legg from Cornwall said that this song was very popular and widely sung among the travelling people of that regions. It could date from the time of the “Land Enclosures” around 1805.
Magpie Lane sang The Sheepstealer in 1998 on their CD Jack-in-the-Green.
Pete Wood sang A Brisk Lad on his 2007 CD Manchester Angel. He noted:
This version of The Sheepstealer is a song I've always known, and I don't know why. When I heard The Voice Squad do it some years ago, it stirred up memories, I don't know where from, and I started singing it, maybe again. I chose to see this song, not as the boast of a braggart poacher who knows no fear, but as the declaration of a man who has no choice, no other way of feeding his kids, as indeed was the case when these songs were created. Four different Dorset singers provided Hammond with the song, and as far as I know it's not been found anywhere else.
Faustus sang Brisk Lad in 2008 on their CD Faustus. They noted:
Sung by Paul [Sartin]’s ancestor Edith Sartin in Corscombe, Dorset, to the Hammond Brothers in July 1907 [VWML HAM/4/25/13] .
James Findlay sang The Brisk Lad on his 2009 CD As I Carelessly Did Stray. He noted:
Or the Sheep-Stealing Song. Collected in Dorset and can be found in the Hammond and Gardiner collection. The song confronts an issue still very much in the hearts and minds of the Dorset constabulary.
Paul Sartin's Bellowhead bandmate Jon Boden sang The Sheepstealer as the 13 October 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:
A strange song in that it glorifies theft. It was sung a lot at the Half Moon, I think by Ian Giles but it may have been Graham Metcalfe.
Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang The Brisk Lad in 2011 on their CD The Old Songs, giving their source in their liner notes:
Another song from the Mike Waterson's classic, eponymous 1977 solo release. Heard many versions since, but not surprisingly, Mike's takes the biscuit.
Paul Davenport sang Grange Moor in 2011 on his and Liz Davenport's Hallamshire Traditions CD Spring Tide Rising. They noted:
Paul met Arthur Laycock in 1970, a chance meeting which led to the collection of a small but rare repertoire from a truly excellent singer. Arthur was an estate worker on the Wentworth Woodhouse estate near Rotherham. In his prime he had a fine baritone voice and a wicked sense of humour. The original recordings were lost but Paul managed to re-record him in the mid-1980s after he came out of hospital where he had been treated for a heart condition. He was determined that his songs should live on and sang as best he could still retaining good pitch but little of his previous power.
A version of The Sheepstealer, this is a rare song and deserves a wider circulation.
Danny Spooner sang The Sheep Stealer in 2011 on his CD The Fox, The Hare and the Poacher's Fate.
Piers Cawley sang The Brisk Lad on his 2020 download album Isolation Sessions #2. He noted:
I got this from Mike Waterson's self-titled solo album (I've not quite lifted the whole thing into my repertoire, but it's close). As Mike sings it, it's on a knife edge between bravado and desperation. I'm not sure I can manage to tread such a narrow path and tend to come down more on the s‘'desperation’ side of things, but then I always was scared of heights.
Mike Waterson sings The Brisk Lad
I am a brisk lad and my fortune is quite bad,
In fact I am wondrous poor.
But it's I do intend my fortune to mend,
I s'll build me an house down on the moor, my brave boys,
I shall build me an house down on the moor.
My father he keeps fat oxen and sheep
And a neat little nag on the down.
But in the middle of the night when the moon do shine bright
There's a number of jobs to be done, my brave boys,
There's a number of jobs to be done.
For it's I'll roam around on some other man's ground,
I s'll take a fat ewe from his pack.
And with the aid of my knife, I shall shorten its life
And I'll carry him home on my back, me brave boys,
I shall carry him home on my back.
Then my children shall pull the skin from the wool,
I'll carve him up to the bone.
And when the constable do come I'll stand there with my gun
And I'll swear all I have is my own, my brave boys,
I shall swear all I have is my own.
Jon Boden sings The Sheepstealer
I am a brisk lad though my fortune is bad
And I am most wonderful poor.
But indeed I intend oh my life for to mend,
And to build a house out on the moor, my brave boys,
And to build a house out on the moor.
The farmer he keeps fat oxen and sheep
And a neat little nag on the downs.
In the middle of the night when the moon does shine bright
There's a number of work to be done, my brave boys,
There's a number of work to be done.
I'll ride all around in some other man's land,
And I'll take a fat ewe for my own.
With the aid of my knife I will end of its life
And then I will carry it home, my brave boys,
And then I will carry it home.
And my children they will pull the skin from the ewe,
And I'll be in a place where there's none.
When the constable comes I will stand with my gun
And I'll swear all I have is my own, my brave boys,
I'll swear all I have is my own.
Thanks to Greer Gilman, Wolfgang Hell and Paul Tracy for the transcription.