> Lal & Norma Waterson > Songs > Young Billy Brown

Young Billy Brown

[ Roud 945 ; G/D 1:52 ; Ballad Index ReSh066 ; trad.]

Lal and Norma Waterson sang Young Billy Brown on their 1977 duo album, A True Hearted Girl. A live recording from the Tithe Barn, Laycock, during the Chippenham Folk Festival in July 1977, was published in 2004 on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song.

Bob Hudson notes:

Although Lal and Norma do not comment on the origins of this song, nor does their album-notes writer, Bob Davenport, it seems to be a close variant of The Young Sailor Lad, an English song documented in the Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection, transcribed from the singing of Margaret Gillespie in 1905. Young Billy Brown and The Young Sailor Lad not only share the same narrative outline but also much of one verse and several individual lines and images. This type of song, in which a sailor leaves his love behind to wonder whether he'll prove true, is common in folk balladry and constitutes a genre in itself. Two similar sailor songs can be found on A True Hearted Girl: The Welcome Sailor and I Wish I Had Never, tracks 4 and 6 respectively.

Lyrics

Lal and Norma Waterson sing Young Billy Brown

Young Billy Brown, he was a brisk young lad
When first that he raided me away
He brought me from me parents and stole me from me home
And now he's left me in the wicked world to stray

He took me by the lily-white hand
And led me down the garden path so green
And what we have done there, well I never will declare
But the leaves they were pleasant to be seen

He took me by the middle so small
And gently there he laid me down
And what we have done there, well I never will declare
But the winds they came a-whistling all around

When six or seven long months were past and gone
This young man he came a-riding by
She says, Young man, I fear that I am with child by thee
And the very same thing you can't deny

Now if you were with child, me pretty maid
It need not be any one of mine
Unless that you can tell me the where and the when
And also the hour and the time

Oh yes, I can tell you the where and the when
The very same hour and the time
'Twas underneath me father's red and rosy bush
Just as the village clock was striking nine

Then he gave consent for to marry me, poor girl
It was to be the very next day
But instead of getting married to me, poor girl
He took a ship and boldly sailed away

But if ever he should return again from sea
His curly curly locks I will enfold
I never will upbraid him nor tell him of his faults
But encourage him for being so bold

Acknowledgements

Transcription from the singing of Lal and Norma Waterson by Greer Gilman. Thanks to Bob Hudson for the note.