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Gentle Annie

[ Roud 2656 ; Ballad Index R701 ; Stephen Collins Foster, Lame Jack Cousens]

Gentle Annie is a popular American song written by Stephen Foster in 1856. Tradition has that it was written in honour of Annie Jenkins, the daughter of a grocer in Federal Street, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, named Morgan Jenkins. However, Foster's biographer and niece, Evelyn Foster Morneweck, disputes this and states that it is probably written in honour of his cousin, Annie Evans, who died shortly before it was composed. Some sources say it is Foster's farewell to his maternal grandmother, Annie Pratt McGinnis Hart. His paternal grandmother was Ann Barclay. [Wikipedia]

Kate and Anne McGarrigle sang Gentle Annie on their 1998 CD The McGarrigle Hour.

An alternative version from Australia is also known as Gentle Annie. This was published in Australian Tradition, Vol. 1, no. e, in 1964. The tune is the same as the Stephen Foster version, but the lyrics are different. The Australian lyrics were written by Lame Jack Cousens of Springhurst, Victoria. Sources state that its subject is Annie Waits.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Gentle Annie in 1971 on his eponymous Trailer album Martyn Wyndham-Read and in 1981 on his Fellside album Emu Plains. The latter recording was also included in 1996 on his compilation Undiscovered Australia. The latter's notes commented:

This song was originally an American one written by the venerable Stephen Foster in 1856. Subsequently it migrated to Australia and, after suitable adaptation in true bush style, eventually made it to Martyn from David Lumsden of Melbourne, who had it from an old Victorian (State, not era) singer, Tom Newbound. The suggestion has been made that the line “your mutton's very sweet, Gentle Annie, and I'm sure it can't be packed in New South Wales” may be a reference to the time of the Land Act in the 1890s, which prevented the movement of meat from state to state. If so there maybe an implication of cattle rustling (called ‘duffing’ in Australia).

Vin Garbutt sang Gentle Annie in 1977 on his Topic album Eston California. He noted:

When I left the chemical industry in 1969 to go on the road as a singer, I was given a great deal of encouragement by a fine singer of Australian songs. Martyn Wyndham-Read is the fella’s name and this is one of the grand songs that he brought back to Britain for us. I think there’s probably more than meets the eye with this one.

Bill Price sang Gentle Annie in 1978 on his Autogram album I Sing As I Please. He commented:

An Australian song I learned from Martyn Wyndham-Read. I particularly like the tune and arranged it this way to make full use of it. This farming advice can be taken as very evocative symbolism.

Danny Spooner sang Gentle Annie in 1986 on his Sandstock album I Got This One From…. He noted:

While I was in Britain in 1979 I learned Gentle Annie from my brother Mick. He had got this beautiful Australian song from Martyn Wyndham-Read who, while living in Australia, had picked up the song from the Lumsden family of Victoria. Learning the song this was indicated to me that the oral folk tradition is still alive and operating. I travelled to the other side of the world and learned a song which was made up in Australia and current in the Australian tradition, yea I had never heard it sung there. Bloody marvellous.

[…] The words were by Jack Cousens who wrote many poems which appeared in the Rutherglen Star in the 1890s. He was an itinerant worker around the Murray River, spending much of his time on the travelling steam-driven threshing machines that moved from farm to farm. Dave Lumsden who gave me the text that appears on this records says that one tradition in his family has is that the words were written for his grandmother's sister; he believes it was probably written for her friend. Both girls were about fifteen at the time.

Hamish Bayne and Martin Cole sang Gentle Annie in 1991 on their Fellside album Making Music. They noted:

A beautiful song from Australia. We never find out why he couldn't stay with Annie—he may even be speaking from beyond the grave—but we do know how much he loved her.

Lyrics

Stephen Foster's Gentle Annie

Thou wilt come no more, gentle Annie,
Like a flow'r thy spirit did depart;
Thou art gone, alas! like the many
That have bloomed in the summer of my heart.

Chorus (after each verse):
Shall we never more behold thee;
Never hear thy winning voice again
When the Springtime comes gentle Annie,
When the wild flow'rs are scattered o'er the plain?

We have roamed and loved mid the bowers,
When thy downy cheeks were in their bloom;
Now I stand alone mid the flowers
While they mingle their perfumes o'er thy tomb.

Ah! the hours grow sad while I ponder
Near the silent spot where thou art laid,
And my heart bows down when I wander
By the streams and the meadows where we stray'd.

Danny Spooner sings Gentle Annie

Now the harvest time is come, gentle Annie,
And the wild oats they all scattered o'er the field.
And you'll be anxious to know, gentle Annie,
How your little crop of oats is gonna yield.

And we're travelling down the road into Bonar
And we're following the feed of Billy Yates.
When we arrive and we see the donor,
She's a little girl we left at Tommy Waites.

So we must meet again, gentle Annie,
As each year we travelling round you go.
And we never will forget you, gentle Annie,
You're the little dark-eyed girl we do adore.

Well your mutton's very sweet, gentle Annie,
And your wines they can't be beat in New South Wales,
But you'd better get a fence round your cabbage
Or they'll all be eaten up by the snails.

And you'll take my advice, gentle Annie,
And you're bound to watch old Chaffie going away
With a packbag hung over his saddle,
For he stole some knives and forks the other day.

Yes we must meet again, gentle Annie,
Each year as we a-travelling round you go.
And we never can forget you, gentle Annie,
You're the little dark-eyed girl that we adore.

Well your little bit of oats is pressed, dear Annie,
And the bullocks they are yoked to go away.
You'll be sorry when we're gone, gentle Annie,
For you'll want us then to stop and thresh the hay.

But we must say farewell, gentle Annie,
For you know with you we cannot longer stay.
But we hope one and all, gentle Annie,
To be with you on another threshing day.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Req: Gentle Annie (Stephen Foster) and Lyr Add: Gentle Annie .