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GUEST,Matthew Edwards Lyr Add: The Gown of Green (13) Lyr Add: The Gown of Green 22 Aug 03


One of the treats of the Topic 'Voice of the People' series of CD's is that even after repeated listening there are still fresh discoveries to be made. One such little gem that jumped to my attention the other day is The Gown of Green sung by Jack Norris, accompanying himself on accordeon. Naturally others have already spotted this: the Waterson/Carthy/CBS lot never let a good tune escape them and as Blue Murder they perform it on their CD 'No one stands alone' , and those two English roses Jane and Amanda Threlfall seem to have made it the title song of their second CD. However nobody has yet got round to posting any information about the song on Mudcat, and it turns out to be very interesting indeed.

The Gown of Green

Sung by Jack Norris, of Cuckfield, Sussex

As a soldier was walking all on the highway,
Being weary of travelling for many a long day,
Oh, he met a lovely woman with a baby in her arms
Who that she kissed and said, "I wish your father would return".

"Oh, good morning, my fair creature, I'm proud to meet you here
With that sweet baby in your arms that you love so dear.
Oh, I think I know the father, and you before I've seen.
Don't you remember the day, my dear, you wore the gown of green?"

"Oh, it's many battles have I fought all on the raging main,
And many battles have I fought in Portugal and Spain,
But it's now that I've returned again with plenty of gold in store,
I mean to make you my lawful bride and roam abroad no more."

"So come let us buy the licence all on this very day,
And then we will get married, love, without any more delay.
With our pretty little prattling babies some pleasures may be seen,
That you will never regret the day you wore the gown of green.
With our pretty little prattling babies some pleasures may be seen,
That you may never regret the day you wore the gown of green."

Recorded by Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall 1957
Issued on Topic TSCD651 Come let us buy the licence

Notes
1. Jack Norris' song is based on a 19th century broadside known either as the Sequel to the Gown of Green or The Answer to the Gown of Green, both of which can be found in the Bodleian Library online catalogue of Broadside Ballad.
2. The original broadside ballad The Gown Of Green can also be viewed at the Bodleian's catalogue, and refers to events in the American Revolution. However the 'historical' verses fit rather uneasily with the rest of the song.
3. Jack Norris (1898-1972?) was a foreman joiner and coffin maker in Cuckfield, Sussex. Reg Hall has written about him that "He was a remarkable musician, the melodeon player that appeals to me more than any other I have heard. He could play any song-tune that came into his mind on his double-row C/C sharp Hohner, and sing at the same time. It was as if the fingering came automatically as he opened his mouth. He was essentially a singer..." [in '"I Never Played to Many Posh Dances": Scan Tester, Sussex musician 1887-1972' publ. Musical Traditions 1990] In the late 1950's Mervyn Plunkett ran the anarchic West Hoathly Country Band of Music whose members included Scan Tester and Jack Norris. Jack can be heard playing his schottische Brook Street Polka on the double cassette of Scan Tester still available from Veteran music.
It would be nice to know of any other recordings of Jack as he was clearly a fine and vigorous performer.
4. The phrase "to wear the gown of green" will be readily understood by anyone who has had to deal with embarrassing grassy stains! But it does make it difficult to sing The Wearing of the Green with a straight face afterwards.


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