The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #144110   Message #3331319
Posted By: Artful Codger
30-Mar-12 - 05:33 PM
Thread Name: Tune Req: Water Cresses
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
By gum, Steve, you're right: Harry Clifton wrote both "Water-Cresses" and "The Watercress Girl", and "Water-Cresses" (1863) does indeed start:
I am a jolly farmer, from Bedfordshire I came
To see some friends at Camberwell, and Morgan is my name, [...]
This is from the unattributed broadside Bob referenced at the The Bodleian Library ballads site: Harding B 11(4046), printed by H. Such and W. Watts, between 1863 and 1885, but the attribution is confirmed by an entry for sheet music once offered on Amazon, which gives the first line as well as crediting Clifton. There were also citations of it quoted in the "Help: Harry Clifton songwriter" thread, one including lines from the song.

Note that the song appears in an American form in a Christy collection published in 1862, the year before the earliest Clifton attribution I've seen. See George Christy's Essence of Old Kentucky, pp. 63-4; "Air--'The Oyster Gal.'" Did Clifton rip off the Americans, just as they'd ripped off his works and slapped their names on them? Probably not, but it's a possibility.

Google Books shows it included in Gavin Greig's Folk-song in Buchan: and Folk-song of the North-east; as mentioned previously, it's also in volume 2 of the Greig-Duncan collection.

So, it appears that Bob's song is indeed Clifton's "Water-Cresses" (not to be confused with Clifton's "[Martha,] The Watercress Girl").

Links for "The Oyster Girl" (for the tune):
DigiTrad: The Oyster Girl (with MIDI from Henry: Songs of the People
Mudcat thread: Lyr Req: The Oyster Girl (with MIDI from MacColl/Seeger)
(BTW, RVW called this a "dreadful tune.")

There is also a Charles Dibdin song "Water Cresses" (Jack came home, his pockets lined, In search of Poll, his only pleasure). Come to that, Dibdin wrote a song "The Oyster Girl" to the tune of another song of his, "Jolly Dick". The text of that "Oyster Girl" may have been written by someone else, but it appeared in a collection Dibdin published. I haven't checked the Dibdin compendium prepared by his sons to see if this song or the melody for "Jolly Dick" are included.