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Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone

DigiTrad:
LADY ALL SKIN AND BONES
LADY ALL SKIN AND BONES


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Skin & Bones (18)
Lyr Req: Woman All Skin and Bone? (16)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Lady of Skin and Bone i (appears to be an Irish version of the song, from Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland (1855; p.166))


toadfrog 07 Jun 01 - 08:20 PM
toadfrog 09 Jun 01 - 09:49 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 Jun 01 - 11:47 PM
Sorcha 10 Jun 01 - 11:57 PM
toadfrog 11 Jun 01 - 12:22 AM
GUEST,pearl crane beng 21 Aug 04 - 08:01 PM
Stewart 21 Aug 04 - 11:40 PM
John MacKenzie 22 Aug 04 - 05:07 AM
The Fooles Troupe 22 Aug 04 - 05:29 AM
Tannywheeler 22 Aug 04 - 05:15 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Aug 04 - 06:09 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Aug 04 - 06:20 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Aug 04 - 06:28 PM
GUEST 23 Aug 04 - 06:08 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 24 Aug 04 - 05:21 PM
Stewart 24 Aug 04 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,Bluenose Canuk 04 Oct 04 - 08:57 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Oct 04 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Juan 07 Jun 06 - 03:50 PM
Tannywheeler 07 Jun 06 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,Teacher Ben 27 Mar 09 - 11:06 AM
Jim Dixon 28 Mar 09 - 01:29 PM
GUEST,ivy douglas 28 Jul 10 - 12:09 AM
Gurney 28 Jul 10 - 04:31 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: LADY ALL SKIN AND BONE
From: toadfrog
Date: 07 Jun 01 - 08:20 PM

There are two or three short versions of the song in the forum, mostly with screeches & howls interspersed, for Halloween. Here is a somewhat more urbane version, to be sung in harmony. I'll submit the tune when I've worked through ABC some more.

LADY ALL SKIN AND BONE
Author not known

There was a lady all skin and bone,
And such a lady was never known.
It happened on a holiday
The lady went to church to pray.

And when she came unto the stile,
She tarried there a little while,
And when she came unto the door,
She tarried there a little more.

And when she came unto the aisle,
She wore a sad and a woeful smile.
She'd come a long and a weary mile,
Her sin and sorrow to beguile.

And she walked up, and she walked down,
And spied a dead man upon the ground.
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crept out, and the worms crept in.

And the lady to the sexton said,
Shall I be so when I am dead?
And the sexton to the lady said,
You'll be the same when you are dead!

As sung by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, on "Two-Way Trip," Folkways Records FW 8755
The liner notes refer the "Theme of death and the lady," and observe that "most of the songs on this theme retain something of the medieval homiletic poem," and refer to JEFDSS, Vol. V, p. 19.
Edinburgh rhymours, Vol I., p. 108. The liner notes are less than clear on several matters, including to what extent this version is a spoof.

Also see Halloween Songs



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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: toadfrog
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 09:49 PM

Someone said this was a Scottish nursery rhyme. Anyone know if that is correct?


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Subject: Lyr Add: THERE WAS A LADY ALL SKIN AND BONE
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:47 PM

Probably English originally, though it can be found throughout England, Scotland and Ireland and further afield.

There is a set in the DT, heard in Vancouver in 1969, which is very similar to the MacColl recording:

THE LADY OF SKIN AND BONE

In the Forum:

Lady All Skin and Bones  Another set very similar to MacColl's.

Skin & Bones  Discussion with a number of versions, two with tunes.

Know Lady All Skin and Bone or...?  Discussion.

There is an entry at  The Traditional Ballad Index:

Skin and Bones (The Skin and Bones Lady)

The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes (Iona and Peter Opie, 1951) gives the earliest known set of words, from 1810:

There was a lady all skin and bone,
Sure such a lady was never known:
It happened upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.

When she came to the church stile,
There she did rest a little while;
When she came to the church yard,
There the bells so loud she heard.

When she came to the church door,
She stopped to rest a little more;
When she came to the church within,
The parson prayed 'gainst pride and sin.

On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in.

Then she unto the parson said,
Shall I be so when I am dead?
O yes! O yes! the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.

"Here the lady screams, notes the editor of Gammer Gurton's Garland, and ever since the story was first told, her experience has been bringing terror to the listeners in the nursery.  [The poet] Southey, in tears, used to beg his family not to proceed.  An essayist, in 1863, recalled his 'suppressed anticipation' as the story 'drew near its terribly personal ending'; a correspondent in 1946 said that these verses in Rimbault's book 'scared us so much as children, we fastened the leaves together'.  The lady, the title says, was a 'gay' lady before the event, and therefore undoubtedly wanting in virtue.  Perhaps the macabre moralist whe wrote the tale had in mind the paintings of bodies corrupting in the grave at one time hung in churches."

References:
Gammer Gurton's Garland or The Nursery Parnassus, R. Christopher, 1784: edition of 1810, enlarged by R. Triphook.
Nursery Rhymes with the tunes to which they are still sung, Edward F. Rimbault, 1846.

In The Lore and Language of Scoolchildren (OUP, 1959) the Opies give three sets from current tradition:

"The most haunting of these quietly told tales with electrifying endings is probably also the oldest, for it was in print by 1810.  Its popularity today amongst children is, nevertheless, almost certainly due to an unbroken chain of retelling through the years, rather than to print.  They say `Let's play The woman all skin and bone', or `Let's do The woman in a churchyard' (the tale is currently known in two versions), and the children crouch around in the darkest part of the room while the narrator recites in a sepulchral voice :

There was a woman all skin and bone
Who lived in a cottage all on her own,
Oo-oo-oo!

She thought she'd go to church one day
To hear the parson preach and pray,
Oo-oo-oo!

When she got to the wooden stile
She thought she'd stay and rest a while
Oo-oo-oo!

When she reached the old church door
A ghastly ghost lay on the floor,
Oo-oo-oo!

The grubs crawled in, the grubs crawled out,
Of its ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.
Oo-oo-oo!

Oh you ghastly ghost, she said,
Shall I be like you when I am dead ?
YES!

Version from girl, c.12, Welshpool.

A woman in a churchyard sat,
Oo-oo-ah-ah!
Very short and very fat,
Oo-oo-ah-ah !
She saw three corpses carri ed in,
Oo-oo-ah-ah!
Very tall and very thin,
Oo-oo-ah-ah !

Woman to the corpses said,
Oo-oo-ah-ah!
Shall I be like you when I am dead ?
Oo-oo-ah-ah! Corpses to the woman said,
Oo-oo-ah-ah !
Yes, you'll be like us when you are dead,
Oo-oo-ah-ah!
Woman to the corpses said
[piercing deathlike scream!]

Version from girl, 10, London.

Such a story could have been the `sad tale' young Mamillius began to tell on a winter's day long ago.  He, too, knew that the story must be told softly, so softly that `Yond crickets shall not hear it', and he began his tale in the same way: `There was a man dwelt by a churchyard.'

That's Mamillius from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, of course.  M.R. James wrote a chilling little story about the tale that the young prince never had a chance to finish, based on traditional versions that can still be heard now, nearly a century later.

Of the references cited by MacColl, the Rymour Club one he probably got from an article by Anne Gilchrist in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society of 1941: "Death and the Lady" in English Balladry:

There was a lady all skin and bone.
She went to a churchyard all alone,
And when she came to the churchyard door
Behold a dead man lay on the floor.
The worms and snails through him did creep:
Then asked the lady, while sore she did weep,
"Will I be this way when I die?"
And then the dead man answered "'AY!"

[Miscellanea of the Rymour Club, Edinburgh, 1909: contributed by Alan Reid, who had it from a great-aunt who learnt it in Edinburgh c.1850).

The article includes a discussion of various examples of The Lady All Skin and Bone, including one which I think is the version MacColl recorded (the text is the same as the one posted at the beginning of this thread): it's an Irish variant from Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland (1855).  Music is given.  Reference is also made to the use of the song in Dorset as a cure for the hiccups.

The other reference MacColl made to JEFDSS was to a set of Death and the Lady, noted by Francis M. Collinson from Mr. Baker of Maidstone in 1946.  It doesn't really have any direct connection to this discussion, besides the momento mori theme.  Mr. Baker's song was re-published in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959), and the notes, together with links to texts and other related stuff, can be seen here:  Death and the Lady.

Malcolm


Skin and Bones (The Skin and Bones Lady)

DESCRIPTION: "There was an old woman, all skin and bones." The old woman decides to go to church. At the church she encounters a (rotting?) corpse. She asks the (parson/clock), "Will I be thus when I am dead." When told "Yes," she screams and/or dies
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1810 (Gammer Gurton's Garland)
KEYWORDS: death questions
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So) Britain(England)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Randolph 69, "The Skin-and-Bone Woman" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Eddy 86, "The Skin-and-Bone Lady" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 11-12, "[Skin and Bones]" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 167, "The Skin-And-Bone Lady" (2 texts)
Chase, p. 186, "The Old Woman All Skin and Bones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-NEFolklr, p. 586, "Old Woman All Skin and Bone" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, SKINBONE

File: R069

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2002 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Sorcha
Date: 10 Jun 01 - 11:57 PM

Whoosh, Malcolm. Your fingers tired yet, grin?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: toadfrog
Date: 11 Jun 01 - 12:22 AM

Thanks Malcom. A very thorough report. I goofed in not finding this in the DT; the words were just sufficiently non-conforming to resist search. I did find the references in the forum.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST,pearl crane beng
Date: 21 Aug 04 - 08:01 PM

My grandmother would sing me a version of this song when I was very small:

There was an old woman
All skin and bones
Oh such an old woman
Was never known

She went to church one day
To hear the parson preach and pray

And when she got there
Beside the door
There lay a ghost
All dressed in white

She said to the minister
Will I look so when I am...
DEAD!

I realize that this must be quite a corrupted version of the old song. However, it still succeeded in scaring me to death when I was young! I enjoy it very much to this day.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Stewart
Date: 21 Aug 04 - 11:40 PM

This is on Paddy Graber's new CD HERE.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 05:07 AM

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I hear a few lines,

The worms crawled, the worms crawled out
They played Pinochle on her snout.

This is probably of US origin, as Pinochle is a card game I've only ever heard of in America.
Of course it may be lines from a different song altogether, although the wording is similar. Somebody, I have forgotten who, used to replace the last line with just the word 'AYE' shouted out in a loud voice.
Giok


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 05:29 AM

Pinochle developed in the United States in the mid-19th century. It has similarities to some older European games such as the French card game bezique. There are several varieties of the game, but the most popular four-player version (and the one played at Yahoo!) is most often called Double Deck Pinochle.

http://games.yahoo.com/games/rules/pinochle/pinochlehistory.html?page=pi


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 05:15 PM

Shall I assume everyone has heard the Kentucky version done by Jean Ritchie during the 1940s-50s? Called "The Boo Song" by my youngest son (now 34), it was his favorite lullaby!!!

There was an old woman all skin and bone.
Ooo-oo-oo-oo
She lived down by the old churchhouse.
Ooo-oo-oo-oo

One night she thought she'd take a walk.
(Ooo------)
She walked down by the old churchyard.
(Ooo----)

She heard the bones a rattlin' 'round.
(Ooo----)
She thought she'd sweep the old churchhouse.
(Ooo----)

She went to the closet to get the broom.
(Ooo----)
She opened the door and
BBOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

He could be absolutely sack-of-potatoes slumped asleep and giggle in his sleep at the end. I would start with the other popular ones (in our family)-- Hush/word/mockingbird, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, my grandmother's peculiar version of Whole Heap of Little Ponies, etc.-- and when he couldn't keep his eyelids open any more he would ASK for "The Boo Song, mommy."


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Subject: Lyr Add: THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN (from Belden)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 06:09 PM

Belden gave three versons from Missouri (one via Virginia). One is different from those previously posted.

THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN

There was an old woman lived all alone,
Umph-humph, umph-humph!*
She was nothing in the world but skin and bone.
Umph-Humph, umph-humph!*

One day the old woman went to church
To hear the parson pray and preach.

When she got to the stile she stopped to rest a little while; **
When she got to the door she stopped to rest a little more.**

When she opened the door she saw a corpse upon the floor.**
She asked the preacher if she would look like that.

He told her yes and scared her to death!

* "Regarding the refrain, which follows each line but the last. Mrs. A. (Ames) notes that the syllables 'are nasal sounds made with the mouth closed. They are the expressions that Missourians use colloquially to denote assent.'" Printed here only for the first couplet.
** "Each of these lines is probably a couplet in itself. Of the conclusion Mrs A. says that it is delivered as an exclamation instead of being sung. Very exciting to young children."

H. M. Belden, "Ballads and Songs" Collected by the Missouri Folk Lore Society, Univ. Missouri Studies Volume 15, No. 1, 1940, 1955, 1973. Pp. 502-503, no music. Mrs. L. D. Ames, Columbia, MO, 1917.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 06:20 PM

Not mentioned in The Traditional Ballad Index is a version in Moore, Ethel and Chauncy, 1964, Ballads and Folk Songs of the Southwest, 123, p. 255, with music, coll. Norman, Oklahoma. Univ. Oklahoma Press, 414 pp.
Verses similar to others posted, each couplet ending hm, hm, hm.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Aug 04 - 06:28 PM

Short version, "Old Woman All Skin and Bones, in the Wolf Collection, from Arkansas. Old Woman


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Aug 04 - 06:08 PM

Tannywheeler- What good taste your little boy had... that's our family version, all right, or almost all of it. I've been singing it so many years, to children of all ages; I think perhaps it's in every school music textbook in the USA and a few other countries. It may now be heard again, on the same old record- a new combination of EKLP 2, EKL 125 (from Elektra) and "A Time For Singing" from Warner Bros, put out by Rhino/Warner, titled "Jean Ritchie- Mountain Hearth and Home."

Maybe Camsco has it by now, and it should be on my site soon (www.jeanritchie.com).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 24 Aug 04 - 05:21 PM

Apologies and thanks, you hardworking staffers- I didn't realize when I posted yesterday that my cookie was missing. BUT HARKEN: The above post was the FOURTH one I had written and had lost because the Submit Message click-on just wouldn't work. Is this usual?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Stewart
Date: 24 Aug 04 - 07:35 PM

Here's Paddy Graber singing his version of Old Lady of Skin and Bones from his new CD The Craic Was Great

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST,Bluenose Canuk
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 08:57 AM

I remember learning this version in elementary school:

There was an old lady,
all skin and bones
0000-ooo-oo-oo

One evening she though she'd go for a walk
OOOOO-OOO-OO-oo

She walked down by the old grave yar
OOOO-ooo-oo-o

she saw the bones all layin around,
OOOOO-ooo-oo-o

She went to the closet to get a bromm,

oooooo-ooo-oo-o

she open the closet door, and

BOO!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 01:02 PM

Guest Bluenose Canuck- The song did appear in some grade school music books. One was the Silver-Burdett "Making Music Your Own," Grade 5 book.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST,Juan
Date: 07 Jun 06 - 03:50 PM

Wow, I had been looking for this song for a while.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 07 Jun 06 - 07:11 PM

Ya shoulda come to us sooner, Juan. As you can see, it was never missing.            Tw


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST,Teacher Ben
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 11:06 AM

This sond is really effective when using a guitar and playing just using Dm and A7 chords.. picking individual strings.. i use this version

The Scariest Song ever

There was an old woman all skin and bone.
Ooo-oo-oo-oo
She lived down by the old churchhouse.
Ooo-oo-oo-oo

One night she thought she'd take a walk.
(Ooo------)
She walked down by the old churchyard.
(Ooo----)

she saw the bones all layin around,
(Ooo----)
She thought she'd sweep the old churchhouse. out
(Ooo----)

She went to the closet to get the broom.
(Ooo----)
She opened the door and
BOOO!!!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Mar 09 - 01:29 PM

The original text (or at least the oldest known published version), in Gammer Gurton's Garland by Joseph Ritson (London: Harding and Wright, 1810), titled THE GAY LADY THAT WENT TO CHURCH, can be seen at Google Books—click the link.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: GUEST,ivy douglas
Date: 28 Jul 10 - 12:09 AM

My grandmother sang this to us kids and it was very creepy....each line was repeated 3 times

There was an old woman, who was nothing but skin and bones.
Oh-oh,oh,oh

One day the woman said, I'll go hear the parson preach and pray.
Oh-oh,oh,oh

When she got to the church-house stile, she said she'd rest a little while. Oh-oh,oh,oh

When she got to the church-house door, she said she'd rest a little more. Oh-oh,oh,oh

When she got to the church-house aisle, she spied a corpse upon the floor. Oh-oh,oh,oh

The woman to the parson said, will I look so when I am dead?
Oh-oh,oh,oh

The parson to the woman said, Yes you'll look so when you are dead.
Oh-oh,oh,oh

The woman to the parson said....AHHHHHHHHHH (END WITH LOUD SCREAM)

Very cool....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone
From: Gurney
Date: 28 Jul 10 - 04:31 PM

Cyril Tawney recorded it on his LP of children's songs. I gave the LP to my (then) small niece, and she played it ONCE! The scream frightened her.


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