The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63902   Message #1041627
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
25-Oct-03 - 11:41 AM
Thread Name: 'Patrick Spens' and 'Hughie Graeme'
Subject: RE: 'Patrick Spens' and 'Hughie Graeme'
There are a number of tunes for both songs, and various forms of greater or lesser authenticity have been recorded by all manner of Revival performers. It is to tradition that we must look for an answer to Alex's main question, though guitar chords will have to come from another source; perhaps one of Ewan MacColl's books of Scottish songs.

Hughie (the) Graeme or Graham is number 191 in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads, and number 84 in the Roud folk song index. Various attempts have been made to tie it to historical events, and certainly some of the names may refer to real people of the 16th century; but details do not seem to correspond, so this remains, so far as I know, speculative. Child examined the evidence with his usual care. Although found more often in Scottish than in English tradition, the earliest examples are English broadside ballads of the later 17th century, and some of these can be seen at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The life and death of Sir Hugh of the Grime.

There are actually two distinct versions of the song associated with Ewan MacColl, and that may lead to some confusion. One had a tune learned from Thomas Armstrong of Newcastle, and MacColl set it to Child's C text, from Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (Bronson, The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, III, no. 191.6 p. 181, note). That tune is a close relative of the one printed in Bruce and Stokoe's Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882, 34-36) which was from Liddesdale tradition.

It is the other set with which we are concerned here. Text and tune are in the DT:  Hughie Grame: unfortunately, no information is given as to any traditional source for either tune or text. The tune appears to be that noted by James Duncan from a Mrs Lyall of Skene, Aberdeenshire, in August 1908; she had learned it "from a schoolgirl thirty years ago" (Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, II, 1983, no. 271 pp. 291, 557). Only one of the two verses Mrs Lyall knew survives; it has the "Tey ammarey" refrain. A small number of other versions have refrains, but they are quite different. Assuming that this is not one of the rather surprising number of unusual ballad variants that turned out to be circulating among MacColl's close relatives, then I would think that he set a collated text to Mrs Lyall's tune and refrain. The result is the best-known form of the song among Revival singers, I'd say.

Sir Patrick Spens (Child 58, Roud 41) has been rather more widespread in tradition, though only in Scotland and (thence) the USA. Child's notes are reproduced at  The Child / Carthy / Watersons Discography. It is another ballad which many have tried very hard to tie to real events; though without managing to prove anything conclusive. The tunes usually associated with it don't seem to be related to the one in question here. I rather think that Fairport Convention just lifted it from MacColl's recording of Hughie Grame (or got it from that source at some further remove) and stuck it on to a Patrick text from somewhere or other, cut down and anglicised by themselves. The refrain is still there, though they play that part of the melody instead of singing it.