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Banks of Fordie (Child #14)

DigiTrad:
BABYLON, OR THE BONNIE BANKS O' FORDIE
BONNIE, BONNIE BANKS OF THE VIRGIO (Cruel Brother)
BONNY FARDAY
ROCKY MOUNT
THREE SISTERS


The Sandman 26 Oct 11 - 08:10 AM
Susan of DT 26 Oct 11 - 09:45 AM
GUEST,leeneia 26 Oct 11 - 09:59 AM
Anne Neilson 26 Oct 11 - 11:52 AM
Susan of DT 26 Oct 11 - 02:00 PM
Brian Peters 26 Oct 11 - 02:14 PM
The Sandman 27 Oct 11 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Oct 11 - 01:42 PM
MGM·Lion 27 Oct 11 - 01:50 PM
The Sandman 27 Oct 11 - 02:26 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Oct 11 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Oct 11 - 11:19 AM
GUEST 28 Oct 11 - 12:27 PM
The Sandman 28 Oct 11 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Gerry 29 Oct 11 - 07:48 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Oct 11 - 08:13 AM
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Subject: banks of fordie
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 08:10 AM

appears to be a song about mistaken identity, the banished man is going around killing the older sisters just because they wont marry him., then when he discovers the youngest one is his sister and kills himself
I have seen on folk song a day, some comments that this song is rubbish.
the song has a fine tune and tells an unusual story, perhaps this sort of thing was common centuries ago?and it is supposed to have a moralistic warning?It is certainly a good song for joining in choruses. what are others thoughts on the song/


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Subject: RE: banks of fordie
From: Susan of DT
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 09:45 AM

Child #14, known variously as Babylon, Bonnie Banks of Virgio, Banks of Fordie, and Duke of Perth's Three Daughters (Bronson has some by this title, which I have never heard of). Several in the DT:

Fordie
Virgio
Farday
Three Sisters
Banks of the Buffalo


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Subject: RE: banks of fordie
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 09:59 AM

Thanks for the lead to some fine tunes for me to try on my flute.

I'm not much interested in the story, to tell you the truth. It seems artificial to me.


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Subject: RE: banks of fordie
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 11:52 AM

I sometimes think of ballads as 'matching up' with other art forms, so - for example - 'The Twa Brithers' would be the equivalent of a Greek tragedy; "Young Beichan' would be an opera; and 'The Bonnie Banks of Airdrie' (Babylon) would be a fairy story.
Thinking of it as a fairy story makes the narrative acceptable for me. (And it certainly makes an exciting song for 8 and 9 year-olds, who are amazed that they can learn such a long song - 14 verses in my version - without written words!)


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Subject: RE: banks of fordie
From: Susan of DT
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 02:00 PM

There are a lot of dysfunctional families in the Child ballads. Usually when the brother kills the sister, he knows who it is - Cruel Brother (Child #11) or Mill o' Tifty's Annie (Child #233). When the brother sleeps with the sister, two ballads having them knowing who they are, Sheath and Knife (#16) and Lucy Wan (#51) and two having them not recognizing them (after long absence) - King's Daughter Lady Jean (#52) and Bonny Hind (#50), often leading to murder, suicide, or natural death, probably in childbirth.


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Subject: RE: banks of fordie
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Oct 11 - 02:14 PM

I would interpret the request for 'marriage' as a euphemism for rape, threatened or actual.

I've just read an interesting account of the ballads Susan listed, by
Ruth Perry: Brother Trouble: Incest Ballads of the British Isles - in: The Eighteenth Century - Volume 47, Number 2, Summer 2006, pp. 289-307.

Unfortunately it's not available free online unless you have JSTOR / Athens access. The paper discusses the extent to which the brother is the prime mover in the incestuous sibling relationships in those ballads, and why this kind of incest occurs in several ballads whereas the more common father / uncle - daughter / neice types don't appear (outside of 'The Well below the Valley').


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 01:13 PM

it is strange that none of the sisters recognise him, or that he doesnt recognise them


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 01:42 PM

That's only slightly more illogical than the rest of it.

Killing healthy young women with a little bitty penknife? Not likely.


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 01:50 PM

A penknife then did not necessarily mean the folding pocket knife of today, but was probably a larger one suitable for sharpening quill pens. A sort of sheath knife, perhaps?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 02:26 PM

But MURDER has little to do with logic, but the story does ring true.


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Oct 11 - 03:13 PM

"it is strange that none of the sisters recognise him, or that he doesn't recognise them"
Fairly common motif in traditional songs and stories and has been for a long time - I think Odysseus had the same thing happen to him (though he did make an effort not to be recognised).
An interesting parallel between the broken-token songs and Mrs Gaskell's 19th century 'Sylvia's Lovers' where the sailor returning from the war is not recognised by his sweetheart because he had been burned by the backfire of a cannon (if memory serves me right).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 11:19 AM

Have you ever noticed that people from blended families often do not introduce somebody as "my half-brother," etc? No, they often just say "my brother."

The outlaw is probably their father's bastard, whom they've heard of but never seen.

But that still doesn't make this into a sensible song. Besides the penknife, there's the fact that a family of substance, capable of producing professional men such as the other brothers, would never allow their young women to go out-of-doors alone.

In any genre, some songs are going to be more stupid than others, and this is one of them.


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 12:27 PM

"It is strange that none of the sisters recognise him, or that he doesnt recognise them"

The aforementioned Ruth Perry paper quotes one version in which this is rationalized by the brother telling his sister that he's been away at sea: "last time I saw you, you were a babe in arms", or suchlike.


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Oct 11 - 08:08 PM

"It is strange that none of the sisters recognise him, or that he doesnt recognise them"

The aforementioned Ruth Perry paper quotes one version in which this is rationalized by the brother telling his sister that he's been away at sea: "last time I saw you, you were a babe in arms", or suchlike
   an example of people rewriting traditional material,further proof that the tradition is not a mummified corpse to be preserved in aspic . please excuse the mixed metaphors


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 29 Oct 11 - 07:48 AM

I read somewhere - probably in some previous Mudcat discussion of this song - that what we may sing as "wee penknife" was actually "weapon knife" which is an odd turn of phrase, I know, but does sound more lethal.


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Subject: RE: Banks of Fordie (Child #14)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Oct 11 - 08:13 AM

"an example of people rewriting traditional material"
Not necessarily - it is more likely to be a case of modern minds attempting to make sense of a centuries old ballad - as is happening on this thread a we speak (so to speak).
"weapon knife"
Without looking it up, I think this appears in an American version; I have always assumed it to be a case of a singer from one culture coping with an unfamiliar piece of vernacular from another - wee pen-weapon.
Some of the versions give the killer as being a "banished man" which, for me, clears away any question of his not being recognised by an estranged family member.
While it is interesting to speculate on these things. I think there is a danger of making these things far more complicated than they really are.
Of all the ballads, Fordie/Airdrie/Babylon is one of the least problematical when it comes to interpretation as far as I'm concerned.
Jim Carroll


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