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Barbara Allen - Martinmas

DigiTrad:
BARBARA ALLEN
BARBARA ALLEN (2)
BARBARA ALLEN (5)
BARBARA ELLEN (3)
BAWBEE ALLAN


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GUEST,Terry Wilkinson 11 Nov 22 - 06:52 AM
GUEST,Terry Wilkinson 11 Nov 22 - 07:20 AM
Steve Gardham 11 Nov 22 - 04:02 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Nov 22 - 04:19 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Nov 22 - 04:30 PM
GUEST 12 Nov 22 - 06:05 AM
Steve Gardham 12 Nov 22 - 09:33 AM
Stilly River Sage 12 Nov 22 - 09:33 AM
Steve Gardham 12 Nov 22 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Terry Wilkinson 13 Nov 22 - 12:54 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Nov 22 - 01:08 PM
Vic Smith 14 Nov 22 - 08:09 AM
Vic Smith 14 Nov 22 - 12:56 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Nov 22 - 02:20 PM
The Sandman 15 Nov 22 - 02:05 PM
Mo the caller 16 Nov 22 - 09:08 AM
The Sandman 16 Nov 22 - 12:25 PM
GeoffLawes 18 Nov 22 - 06:59 PM
GeoffLawes 18 Nov 22 - 07:03 PM
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Subject: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GUEST,Terry Wilkinson
Date: 11 Nov 22 - 06:52 AM

There seems to be a common belief found in Youtube comments and elsewhere that the ballad Barbara Allen is Scottish in origin and that the fact that the Scots versions includes 'Martinmas' in the lyrics somehow proves this.
I am aware of the Samuel Pepys 1666 connection and the possibility of the song having been written for the stage. Also, that the earliest lyrics are found on a c1690 London broadside (with no mention of Martinmas or the name of the young man) and that the earliest Scots lyrics are c1740 and in which Martinmas and Lord Douglas are now present.
If the above is correct why did the Scottish origin belief become so prevalent?


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GUEST,Terry Wilkinson
Date: 11 Nov 22 - 07:20 AM

I should have added - Is it because Martinmas and a Scots Lord give the Scots versions a seemingly ancient origin and so they must have been circulating in the oral tradition prior to 1666? And, therefore, who's to say the Pepys song wasn't 'Scotch' but Scottish?


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Nov 22 - 04:02 PM

The most likely scenario on what little evidence is extant is that the song was like many other London stage songs 'Scotch', i.e., written in London with a 'Scotch' (i.e., Northern) setting. Martinmas was and always has been general British (if not European). It was the period when rural hiring fairs were held all over the country, presumably the Festival of St Martin.
Personally I think Ramsay's piece was that same piece sung by Mrs Knipp for Pepys, as most of the pieces published by Ramsay in Tea-table and Evergreen were straight from the London theatres. (Very little folk-material). So by say 1680 there were probably at least 2 versions floating about and which came first it is almost impossible to say now. The broadside is a little less flowery/stagelike but that doesn't really tell us any precedent.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Nov 22 - 04:19 PM

Why would 'Martinmas' and 'Scots Lord' give anything an ancient setting?
Martinmas was being celebrated in England at least up to WWII.

>>>who's to say the Pepys song wasn't 'Scotch' but Scottish?<<<
To make this look more plausible you would need to demonstrate that 'Scottish' as opposed to 'Scotch' songs were being sung on the London stage in 1666. I haven't come across any, but that doesn't say there weren't any.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Nov 22 - 04:30 PM

How do you get Lord Douglas from Sir John Graeme? Just curious.

The Scottish origin belief is only 'so prevalent' in Scotland and has no precedent. We get similar scenarios with 'Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor', 'Earl Brand' and 'The Three Ravens' to mention just a few. Scottish versions suddenly appear towards the end of the 18th century and usually Walter Scott is somewhere in the mix.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Nov 22 - 06:05 AM

Thanks for your thoughts Steve.

Perhaps if not 'ancient' then perhaps more Scottish.

No idea where 'Lord Douglas' came from but I am reading Steve Roud's 'Folk Song In England' at the moment - perhaps he is lurking in there.

If we take it that the 1740 version with its strong Scottish flavour was the one sung at Pepys' party (and that would tie in with it being 'Scotch' far more than the 1690 version) then does this lend some credence to the theory that the 1690 version stripped of the Scottishness but with the added 'Scarlet Town' is a libel against Barbara Villiers (scarlet in this case having various connotations) -with later versions being changed to 'Reading' when Charles and Barabara V had passed into history? I assume this version would have been in circulation during Charles ll reign.

However, if the 'Scotch' version was the one sung in 1666 I am still puzzled at the 70 year gap before the printed lyrics appear.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Nov 22 - 09:33 AM

Why be puzzled at a gap with print? Only a tiny fraction of what was printed has survived, moreso the further back we go.

George's missus, always possible, but not much point in the conjecture with no corroborating evidence. As I say, we can't assume anything without some evidence. I'd be more inclined to think 'scarlet' was a pun on 'Reading'. The 'scarlet' is specifically the name given to the town so I don't see how that could be describing Mrs Villiers.

What would be useful is a contemporary reference to 'Reading' as 'scarlet' in a piece of literature.

Well, Martinmas is neither more Scottish nor more ancient.

Even if what was sung in 1666 was the Ramsay version the Scarlet/Reading could still be older. Without further evidence we simply don't know. All we can say with any certainty is that one or other version of the ballad has existed in print and oral tradition for about 350 years.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 12 Nov 22 - 09:33 AM

There seems to be a common belief found in Youtube comments and elsewhere that the ballad Barbara Allen is Scottish in origin and that the fact that the Scots versions includes 'Martinmas' in the lyrics somehow proves this.

YouTube comments? This initial premise seems to be flawed. I can't find any such lyrics as suggested.

Broadsides are a solid source of these songs (heard a great lecture by Lucy Skeaping on this subject when she visited Texas years ago).

British Library Ballads and Broadsides

Smithsonian Folkways - British Broadside Ballads in Popular Tradition

Bodleian Libraries - Broadside Ballads Online

Harvard Library - English Broadsides: The Bute, Huth, and Percy Collections

These are a few starting points.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 12 Nov 22 - 09:43 AM

Also useful are the versions at UCSB online. Check out EBBA 35480. That version has 16 stanzas as opposed to Brooksby, Deacon, Blare & Back version which only has 15. The 16 st version was the one reprinted by other printers in the 17th century. Andrew Clarke nr Tower Hill dates are 1674-8, earlier than the Brooksby impression. (EBBA has no dates for Clarke)


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GUEST,Terry Wilkinson
Date: 13 Nov 22 - 12:54 PM

Many thanks for the informative comments and links.

OK third time lucky - Martinmas = Rustic?

I didn't explain my Youtube comment very well. I found myself listening to different versions of Barbara Allen on Youtube and noticed in the comments sections that of those who gave an opinion as to the song's origins the majority would say Scottish. Also, many of the videos are described as'A traditional Scottish folk song' or similar.
Recalling the Pepys connection led me here.

Once again thanks for your time.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Nov 22 - 01:08 PM

>>>>The 16 st version was the one reprinted by other printers in the 17th century<<<< Sorry, that should say '18th century'.

'Martinmas time' means generally 'autumn' but more specifically throughout Britain until about WWII was the day for hiring fairs when rural workers and servants were hired for a year at a time, lasting from Martinmas to Martinmas. In some places it was the only holiday they had
and in some places an actual fair was held.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Vic Smith
Date: 14 Nov 22 - 08:09 AM

The date of Martinmas has been the matter of some dispute. The Feast of St Martin has been given as "Old Hallowe'en" and as 7th November though most commonly it was celebrated on 11th November and has been subsumed for over a century because this has become Armistice Day.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Vic Smith
Date: 14 Nov 22 - 12:56 PM

I'm going to move slightly away from the main thrust of this thread with a few thoughts on what this song has meant to me.
When I first started to go to folk clubs in the late 1950s, Barbara Allen was often sung and it was always the "In Scarlett town....." version and I knew why it was so well known; it was because it was reproduced several times in the BBC Singing Together booklets and radio broadcasts. I was taught it at junior school by an excellent teacher (who was to become my excellent mother-in-law ten years later). An accomplished musician, she didn't need the radio programmes but she used the booklets. I will have to say that I strongly disliked the ballad because of one line that stuck in my craw : -
... made every youth sing well-a-day

Do me a favour! I thought. However much I get into this folk song stuff, I will never sing or like this song. I started to hear different versions with a different first verse and I thought they were better but I thought that I would never learn it. I was wrong.
I knew the name of Stanley Robertson and had met his aunt Jeannie and a number of his cousins including the great Lizzie Higgins. Stanley was booked at the first TMSA festival when it moved from Blairgowrie To Kinross (1971? 1972?) and John Watt, the compere called on Stanley Robertson to sing. He came up to the front, looked around the audience, said nothing then started to sing -
It fell aboot one Martinmas time
When the green leaves were doon-falling....

I felt the skin move against the bones on my forearms - always a good sign with me. Where did the power and majesty of this singing come from? I asked myself. By the end of the first verse, I knew I would have to learn it. I spent a long time that weekend in his company and we became firm friends, us visiting him in Aberdeen and me arranging folk club bookings at our club in Lewes and in other discerning clubs.
I have heard other fine versions since then, notably Vic Legg's and Brian Peters' reconstruction of the version collected by Cecil Sharp in 1918 from the ex-slave Aunt Maria Tomes from Virginia but Stanley's compelling is still the top one for me


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Nov 22 - 02:20 PM

Hi Vic. The phrase 'well-a-day' features in some of our earliest songs dating back to Tudor times and probably earlier. Check out the earliest versions of 'Adieu, Adieu' and 'Devol the Highwayman'. Also one of the earliest forms of the Jack Hall/Benbow tune/format from the 16th century uses it. I interpret it as a verbalised sigh, but it may have had different connotations at different times.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Nov 22 - 02:05 PM

one particular verses attracted me to this song.
1. As she walked down the long stair steps
she heard the small birds singing
And every voice it seemed to say
Hard hearted Barbara Allen


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: Mo the caller
Date: 16 Nov 22 - 09:08 AM

Scottish???? Surely it's Irish. After all, everything else is.


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Nov 22 - 12:25 PM

I am not sure, but imo it is a good song .


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 18 Nov 22 - 06:59 PM

MUDCAT DT Lyrics of Bawbee Allan /mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=540


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Subject: RE: Barbara Allen - Martinmas
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 18 Nov 22 - 07:03 PM

Bawbee Allen Ewan MacColl ( Barbara Allen child 84) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYpwMGCd5pw


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