The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #17932   Message #2923877
Posted By: Howard Jones
09-Jun-10 - 09:48 AM
Thread Name: ??Who WAS the 'Brown Girl'
Subject: RE: ??Who WAS the 'Brown Girl'
It is easy to apply our own preconceptions and attitudes. I very much doubt that this is a racial reference.

The multicultural society which we now take for granted is largely a product of the last half-century. Before that, non-white faces would have been an unusual sight (as they still are outside the cities and larger towns). Whilst there have always been immigrants of all races to Britain, and especially to seaport towns, I suspect that at the time of the ballad they would have been sufficiently unusual to have been described more specifically, as a Turk or Moor or whatever, rather than by the rather vague expression "brown girl". Likewise, Gypsies in folk song are usually identified as such.

However, the fact that she is referred to throughout as the "brown girl" rather than being identified by her name perhaps suggests that this description carries some significance.