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Penguin: The Cruel Mother (Child #20)

DigiTrad:
CRUEL MOTHER
THE CRUEL MOTHER
THE CRUEL MOTHER (4)
THE CRUEL MOTHER 2
WELLA, WELLA


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Weela Weela Walia /Wela Wolla (82)
Lyr/Chords Add: Weela Wallia (12)
Lyr Req: Weela Wallia: 'stuck the penknife in his. (15)
Tune Req: Cruel Mother - John Renbourn Group (1)
Lyr Req: The Sun Shines Fair on Carlisle Wall (12)
Icelandic 'Cruel Mother' story (10)
Lyr Req: The Cruel Mother (from Paul Clayton) (3)
William Williamson's "Cruel Mother" (5)
Lyr Req: Cruel Mother variant: Fine Flowers in... (27)
Chord Req: The rose and the lindsey (4)
Child #20 - what is Lindsay? (26)
(origins) Origins: Weila weila waila (7)
The Cruel Mother (6)
Lyr Req: Cruel Mother (#20, Hedy West) (17)
Lyr Req: Cruel Mother (from Dave & Toni Arthur) (5)
Cruel Mother (Redpath) (3)
Lyr Req: Fine Flowers in the Valley / Cruel Mother (7)
Lyr Req: The Rose and the Lindsey-O (27)
cruel mother - with 'penknife three foot long' (4) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Cruel Mother (from The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs)


Alan of Australia 14 Jan 00 - 08:20 PM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Jul 00 - 11:38 PM
Gypsy 27 Jul 00 - 11:54 PM
Jimmy C 28 Jul 00 - 01:33 PM
Malcolm Douglas 28 Jul 00 - 03:21 PM
Jimmy C 28 Jul 00 - 08:43 PM
Nicole Leonard 29 Jul 00 - 04:59 AM
toadfrog 28 Sep 01 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,Q 17 Feb 03 - 10:32 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Feb 03 - 10:45 PM
GUEST,Q 17 Feb 03 - 10:49 PM
GUEST,Q 17 Feb 03 - 10:53 PM
Natch'l Born Easeman 29 Nov 07 - 12:48 AM
SouthernCelt 29 Nov 07 - 08:07 AM
masato sakurai 29 Nov 07 - 11:49 AM
Richie 04 Jan 12 - 10:29 AM
Joe Offer 05 Jan 12 - 03:54 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 05 Jan 12 - 08:59 AM
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Subject: tune add: The Cruel Mother^^
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 08:20 PM

G'day,
From the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs, Ed Pellow's rendition of the tune of The Cruel Mother (Child #20) can be found here.

Previous song: The Cock-Fight (The Bonny Grey).
Next Song: The Daughter Of Peggy, O.

Cheers,
Alan


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Jul 00 - 11:38 PM

From the notes to the Penguin Book (1959):

"The great Scottish collector Gavin Grieg believed that "the numerous versions of this ballad are practically all Scottish", but in fact it has been wide-spread in England too, a form of it even turning up as a London children's street game ¹ (N. Douglas, London Street Games, 1931 ed., p.47).  Apart from that version, and our Essex ² set, the ballad has been recorded from oral tradition in Oxfordshire (Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, ed. A. Williams, 1923),  Shropshire (SFL [abbreviation not explained] p.540),  Dorset (FSJ vol.III, pp.70,71),  Somerset (Folk Songs from Somerset, ed. Cecil Sharp, vol.IV p.54)  and (again as a game song) in Lancashire (FSJ vol.VI, p.80). -R.V.W./A.L.L.

This version was collected by H.E.D. Hammond from Mrs.Bowring of Cerne Abbas, Dorset, in 1907, and was first published in the Folk Song Journal, vol.III, P.71.

¹ Possibly  Old Muvver Lee
² Presumably an uncorrected editorial error?

Child #20
@murder @bastard @baby @deadbaby @ghost @hell

Other versions on the DT:

The Cruel Mother  A collated transcription from two or more commercial recordings, with tune (source not specified, though it appears to be the tune that Ewan McColl used, and which he apparantly learned (and may have adapted) from his aunt, Maggie Henry Logan: ref. Ailie Munroe, The Folk Music Revival in Scotland, 1984).

The Cruel Mother  From Bronson, Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads, with tune.   Collected from Mrs. G. A. Griffin, FL 1937

The Cruel Mother  From Child, originally from Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland; no tune.

In the Forum:

The Rose and the Lindsey O  A transcription of the song as recorded by the Old Blind Dogs, who learnt it from The Gaugers.  "Based on the version found in the Child collection of Ballads", according to the quoted sleevenotes (1995);  it may well be a collation of several of the Child versions, but it's really quite close to, for example, the version that Gordeanna MacCulloch learned from Norman Buchan, which in turn (according to Ailie Munroe, The Folk Music Revival in Scotland, 1984) is very much like the version in Last Leaves of the Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs (Alexander Keith, 1925);  I do wish that people would be a bit less mysterious in their sleeve-notes: we might then have some sort of idea where they got their material, and how much of it they made up themselves...

There is a well-known Irish version, Weela Wallia [sic], a children's game-song famously recorded by the Clancy Brothers.  It's regularly asked for here, under numerous different spellings(!) and the lyrics have been posted in several different threads in varying degrees of completeness.  These links are probably the most useful ones:

Weela Wallia
Tune for Weela Wallia
A slightly different version  -presumably to the same tune.

There is a version from Kirkdale, Liverpool:
Old Mother Lee  (skipping song; 1960s; no tune given.  Recorded by the Spinners.)

There is an entry at  The Traditional Ballad Index:
The Cruel Mother

Other titles:

Down by the Greenwood Side / Shady
There was a Duke's Daughter Lived in York
Fine Flowers in the Valley
Three Little Babies
The Lady of York
The Rose o' Malinde
The Minister's Daughter of New York / In The North

There are several versions at Lesley Nelson's  Child Ballads  site:

The Cruel Mother  with tune
Fine Flowers in the Valley  with tune

All 13 texts given in Child are at:  Cruel Mother Variants

Unfortunately there don't seem to be any broadside copies at the Bodleian Online Collection, but Bruce Olson has the full text of  The Duke's Daughter's Cruelty: Or the Wonderful Apparition of two Infants whom she Murther'd and Buried in a Forrest, for to hide her Shame  (c.1690) at his website.

Iona and Peter Opie (The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, OUP 1959) give a recited version of Old Mother Lee from London (1950s or earlier), which is worth repeating here:

There was an old girl called Old Muvver Lee,
Old Muvver Lee,Old Muvver Lee,
There was an old girl called Old Muvver Lee,
Under the walnut tree.

She 'ad 'er baiby on 'er knee...

A carvin' knife was in 'er 'and...

She ran it through the baiby's 'art...

The rich red blood went runnin' dahn...

The corny cops come runnin' dahn...

They strung 'er up and 'ung 'er 'igh...

"Version recited in dead-pan manner by boy, aged about 11, Waterloo, London.  At the end of each verse one finger was quietly raised pointing up to the walnut tree."

It's also worth looking at Child #21,  
The Maid and the Palmer,  as he called it, (in modernised spelling on the DT,  here)  which deals with a very similar theme.
Closer to The Cruel Mother, though evidently a variant of the former, is  The Well Below the Valley,  the only known example of which was got from the Traveller John "Jacko" Reilly of Co. Leitrim in the late 1960s by Tom Munnelly.   Planxty recorded a reasonably faithful version of it a few years later (1973), by which time Reilly was dead of pneumonia at the age of 44.  Topic Records released an album of Reilly's songs in 1978 (The Bonny Green Tree, Topic Records 12T359).

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Gypsy
Date: 27 Jul 00 - 11:54 PM

Alan, Malcom, a tip of me hat to ye both! Wow, what a font of information, so nicely laid out. Thank you much!


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Subject: Lyr Add: ALL ROUND THE LONEY O
From: Jimmy C
Date: 28 Jul 00 - 01:33 PM

Here is another version I heard in Belfast, it's titled " All Round The Loney O" I would imagine there are hundreds of versions, in Ireland, England, Scotland, Canada and the U.S.A.

ALL ROUND THE LONEY O

There were two sisters going to school
All round the Loney O
They spied a woman at a pool
Down by the greenwood sidey O

She held a baby on her knee
All round the Loney O
A cruel penknife they could see
Down by the greenwood sidey O

She held the baby to her heart
All round the Loney O
She cried "My Dear, we both must part"
Down by the greenwood sidey O

She held the baby to her breast
All round the loney O
She said "my dear we'll both find rest"
Down by the greenwood sidey O

There is a river running deep
All round the Loney O
It's there both baby and mother sleep
Down by the greenwood sidey O


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 28 Jul 00 - 03:21 PM

Thankyou, Jimmy.  Apparantly, Peter Kennedy recorded Hugh Quinn of Belfast singing this version in 1955; it can be found on Folktrax recordings 072-C60, (1975) I'll Tell me Ma.  Does anybody have the tune, by any chance?

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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Jimmy C
Date: 28 Jul 00 - 08:43 PM

I have the tune but it's in my head. I will see what I can to get it onto paper.


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Nicole Leonard
Date: 29 Jul 00 - 04:59 AM

Our band has recorded a version of the Cruel Mother (she says, advertising her band yet again). I don't know which version, or if it was published anywhere - Tamzin learnt it from her parents years ago (born and raised a folkie)!

The mp3 (free) and lyrics are here:

Click Here!


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Subject: Lyr/Tune Add: THE CRUEL MOTHER
From: toadfrog
Date: 28 Sep 01 - 11:30 PM

THE CRUEL MOTHER (5), Child #20
(Down by the Greenwood Sidey-O)(Traditional)

One day I was sitting in my father's hall
I saw three babes a-playing ball.
All day long and I love you all,
Down by the greenwood side-y oh!


"Oh little babes if you were mine,
I'd dress you up in scarlet fine."

"Oh, dear mother, when we were thine,
You neither put on our coarse nor fine."

"Oh, little babes, if you could tell,
How long on earth have I to dwell?"

"Seven long years on earth to dwell,
The balance of your time you'll spend in hell."

T:The Cruel Mother 4
M:4/4/
L:1/4
Q:50
S:Bronson, Variant 48
R:b
K:D Mix
D/2|D D/2B,/2 D/2D/2 D/2D/2|DGB Z/2 B/2|
B d A B|E> D D Z|D D/2B,/2 D D/2D/2|
D G B Z/2 B/2|B d A B|E> D D Z/2||

% ABC2Win Version 2.1 9/28/2001

This version was sung (almost exactly as given here) by Peggy Seeger in American Folks Songs for Children, Rounder Records 8001 (1977?). The record was based on Ruth Crawford Seeger's 1940 book of the same name, and the liner notes are sketchy. They do mention that the full text of the song had seemed inappropriate when the book was written, so that apparently only a verse was included.

Text and melody here are from Bronson, who gives this as his 48th variant. His notes say:
"Davis, 1929, p. 560(B); text, p.134. Sung by Mrs. Virgie Mayhew Keesee, Pittsylvania County, Va., May 26, 1915; learned from her uncle, who learned it in Tennessee, Collected by Juliet Fauntleroy.

JWM.

THE CRUEL MOTHER (6) Child #20

(Fine Flowers in the Valley)(Traditional)

She sat down below a thorn,
Fine flowers in the valley
And there she has her sweet babe born
And the green leaves they grow rarely

Smile nae sae sweet, my bonny babe
An ye smile sae sweet, ye'll smile me dead.

She's ta'en out he little penknife,
And twinned the sweet babe o' ts life.

She's howkit a grave by the light o' the moon,
And there she's buried the sweet babes in.

As she was going to the church
She saw a sweet babe in the porch.

O sweet babe and thou were mine,
I wad cleed the in the silk so fine.

O mother dear, when I was thine,
Ye did na prove to me sae kind.


I have heard Ms. Jean Redpath sing this variant, I think on Prairie Home Companion. It is Bronson's variant #1, his notes state that the earliest written version of the tune dates from 1791, and other things that are probably of interest only to people that own Bronson anyway. The tune is identical to Cruel Mother # 2 in the DT. Malcom also gives a link to this one, but links fade. And the MIDI there is so obnoxious I'd as soon not listen to it.

As I recall it, the tune is also that of the Easter hymn or anthem, "The World Itself Keeps Easter Day." But there does not seem to be a MIDI of that online.

JWM


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 17 Feb 03 - 10:32 PM

Lyr. Add: Down By the Greenwood Side

There was a maid, who had two babes
All alone and lone
She laid those babes down hand in hand
And with a knife, cut off their heads
All down by the greenwood side.

She buried those babes both under a stone
All alone and lone
And prayed to the Lord, it would never be known
All down by the greenwood side.

The maid was passing by one day
All alone and lone
She saw those babes both out for play
All down by the greenwood side.

O babes, O babes, if you were mine
All alone and lone
I'd dress you up in silk, so fine
All down by the greenwood side.

O Mother, dear Mother, we once't were yours
All alone and lone
You neither gave us coarse nor fine
You killed and buried us under a stone
And prayed the Lord it would never be known
All down by the greenwood side.

For seven long years, you shall hear a bell
All alone and lone
And at the end of seven years you shall land in Hell
All down by the greenwood side.

Mrs Pearl Brewer, Pocahontas, Arkansas, 1959. Max Hunter Collection, with audio and sheet music, Cat. #0350 (MFH # 143). She sang two versions for the collection.

This version was collected several times in the Ozark region, by Vance Randolph and by Max Hunter. The subject of murder and haunting probably scared many a child into remembering it, becuse versions show many similarities, from the British Isles to the Ozarks. See thread 17087 for a very complete history of Child 20, The Cruel Mother, and its versions: Cruel mother .


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Feb 03 - 10:45 PM

Down by the Greenwood Side   Cat. #0277 (MFH #143) - As sung by Mrs. Pearl Brewer, Pochahantas, Arkansas on November 12, 1958.

Down by the Greenwood Side   Cat. #0350 (MFH #143) - As sung by Mrs. Pearl Brewer, Pocahontas, Arkansas on May 27, 1959

Both with audio and staff notation.

This here thread is 17087, mind!


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 17 Feb 03 - 10:49 PM

An unnecessary link to this thread, above! Oh, well, used to going in circles.

Lyr. Add: Down By the Greenwood Side

She lean'd her back ag'in the thorns,
All aloney,
An' there she had two pretty sons born,
Down by the greenwood side.

She had a little pen knife both keen and sharp,
All aloney,
An' she pierced them tender babies' heart,
Down by the greenwood side.

She washed her knife all in the flood,
All aloney,
She turned the river all to blood,
Down by the greenwood side.

As she returned back home again,
All aloney,
She seen three pretty babes playin' with a ball,
Down by the greenwood side.

One was dressed in silks so fine,
All aloney,
T'other two was naked as they was born,
Down by the greenwood side.

Oh babes, oh babes, if you was mine,
All aloney,
I'd take an' dress you in silks so fine,
Down by the greenwood side.

Oh mother, oh mother, when we was yours,
All aloney,
You neither dressed us in silks, nor coarse nor fine,
Down by the greenwood side.

You dressed us in our own heart's blood,
All aloney,
You turned the river all to blood,
Down by the greenwood side.

Seven years, seven years you shall burn in hell,
All aloney,
Seven years you shall never enter heaven,
Down by the greenwood side.

Mrs. Emma L. Dusenbury, Mena, Arkansas, 1930. In Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. 1, pp. 73-74, no. 8, with sheet music.


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Subject: RE: Tune Add: The Cruel Mother
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 17 Feb 03 - 10:53 PM

Thanks for posting the links- you compensated for my laziness!
The music for the Randolph version is all low notes; I don't think it is useful.


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother
From: Natch'l Born Easeman
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 12:48 AM

Here's a great haunting variant:

I heard it it on the radio, later Ned Oldham sang me the Child #20 version which I think I prefer.

as performed by Tim Eriksen on A Prairie Home Companion, October 29, 2005 -
http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2005/10/29/

Two Babes

In New York there was a lady fair
All alone and a loney,
Was then she had two pretty little babes
All down by the greenwood sidey.

She had an apron old and worn
To wrap these two pretty babies in

She had her knife both long and sharp
She pierced them to their tender hearts

She dug a grave both wide and deep
She laid them down and she bade them sleep

As she was turning home one night
Was there she saw these two pretty babes

Oh babes, oh babes, if you were mine
I'd dress you in all silk so fine

Oh, Mother dear, we once were thine
And neither dressed us course nor fine

You dug our grave both wide and deep
You laid us down and you bade us sleep


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 08:07 AM

I guess I might as well throw in another version, transcribed from the singing of Ian & Sylvia. This is the one I learned 40 years ago to be sung a capella, preferably with at least one harmony singer complementing the lead.

Greenwood Sidie
(from the singing of Ian & Sylvia)

There was a lady lived in yore
Comely and lonely
Fell in love with her father's clerk
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She loved him up, she loved him down
Anna-lee and loney
Loved him 'til he filled her arms
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She leaned her back against an oak
Anna-lee and loney
First it bent and then it broke
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She leaned her back against a board
Anna-lee and loney
There she had two fine babes born
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She took out her reapin' knife
Anna-lee and loney
There she took those sweet babes' lives
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She wiped the blade against her shoe
Anna-lee and loney
The more she rubbed the redder it grew
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

She went back to her father's hall
Anna-lee and loney
Saw two babes a-playin' at ball
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

Babes, oh babes, if you were mine
Anna-lee and loney
I'd dress you up in scarlet fine
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

Mother, oh mother, when we were yours
Anna-lee and loney
Scarlet was our own heart's blood
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

Babes, oh babes, it's Heaven for you
Anna-lee and loney
Mother, oh mother, it's Hell for you!
Down by the Greenwood Sidie ? o

I first heard this one early in my college career when I was just being introduced to a lot of Anglo-Celtic folk music that I hadn't heard before. This was probably the most haunting song of the whole lot that I was introduced to at that time.

SC


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother
From: masato sakurai
Date: 29 Nov 07 - 11:49 AM

From YouTube.

Ian and Sylvia - Greenwood Sidie-O

The Ballad of Susan Smith by Lee Ann Brown
New "Cruel Mother."


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother
From: Richie
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:29 AM

Hi,

I've been looking at the ballads and I have a question. Child gives A-M in tthe first edition then N is added in 1884. Then in 1886 N and O are added. The n Q what gives? Where is P?


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother (Child #20)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:54 AM

Hmmm. The Loomis House Press edition includes P, and goes on without a gap to "S." This online edition shows your confusion. What's the answer?
I dunno.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Penguin: The Cruel Mother (Child #20)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 08:59 AM

Joe - I posted the answer to the duplicate question in the Child Ballads: US Versions thread. (Essentially: N and O given in Vol2 Additions and Corrections were mislabelled and should have been O and P. The amendment was given in Vol 3 Additions and Corrections)

Mick


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