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info req: Long lankin


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Why didn't Lamkin get paid? (84)
Lyr Req: Long Lankin/Lord Lankin (37)
Lyr Req: Long Lankin (Bill Caddick) (13)
Penguin: Long Lankin (7)

Catrin 13 Oct 02 - 10:05 AM
Leeder 13 Oct 02 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,iains (info poached fom another site) 13 Oct 02 - 12:54 PM
GUEST 13 Oct 02 - 01:17 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Oct 02 - 01:25 PM
Charley Noble 13 Oct 02 - 01:30 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Oct 02 - 01:33 PM
GUEST 13 Oct 02 - 02:21 PM
Jon Bartlett 13 Oct 02 - 07:00 PM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Oct 02 - 10:41 AM
GUEST,gelfling 15 Oct 02 - 10:45 AM
CraigS 15 Oct 02 - 08:00 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Oct 02 - 08:17 PM
CraigS 16 Oct 02 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,James S. 08 Jan 03 - 09:00 PM
Desert Dancer 09 Jan 03 - 12:00 AM
Le Scaramouche 02 Aug 05 - 06:49 AM
GUEST,DB 02 Aug 05 - 12:01 PM
GUEST 05 May 22 - 06:12 AM
GUEST,Jon Bartlett 05 May 22 - 03:26 PM
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Subject: info req: Long lankin
From: Catrin
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 10:05 AM

Has anyone any idea of the orgins of Long Lankin? (as discussed here

Just curious,


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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Leeder
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 11:21 AM

I'm not sure if the historic background is known, but we could look for a time when new castles were being built in England (which would imply a time of prosperity and upward mobility) and masons were being brought in from the Low Countries (one theory is that "Lamkin" is a diminutive of the Flemish name Lambert). Either it was early enough that castle-building expertise was unavailable in Britain, or so many castles were being built that the demand was greater than the local workers could supply. This is all, of course, pure speculation.

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Subject: Lyr Add: FALSE LAMKIN
From: GUEST,iains (info poached fom another site)
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 12:54 PM

Information Lyrics
The ballad appears in the Percy Papers (1775) as Long Longkin.

The full ballad explains that a mason built a castle for a nobleman, but was not paid and, so he sought revenge. The nursemaid helped Lamkin into the castle where Lamkin killed the family. Lamkin was caught and hanged, burned or boiled in oil and the nursemaid was likewise burned, hanged or boiled in a caldron.

The mason is variously Lamkin, Lammikin, Lankin, Lonkin, Lantin, Long Lankyn or Longkin, Rankin, Ballkin, Lambert Linkin or Balcanqual. There is speculation that all of names are derived from Lambert Linkin. The nobleman is variously Lord Earie, Erley, Murray, Arran, Montgomery, Cassilis or the Lord of Prime Castle.

Motherwell notes there is a Lambirkyns Wood near Dupplin, in Perthshire and speculates the name may be related to the ballad. Sharp states that there is a tradition in Northumberland which says the original tower (which no longer exists) was near Ovingham-on-Tyne.

This ballad is Child Ballad #93 (Lamkin). This is one of twenty-two versions Child collected.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.
The Lord said to the Lady,
Before he went out:
Beware of false Lamkin,
He's a-walking about.

What care I for false Lamkin
Or any of his kin?
When the doors are all bolted
And the windows close pinn'd.

At the back of the kitchen window
False Lamkin crept in;
And he pricked one of the elder babes
With a bright silver pin.

O Nursemaid! O Nursemaid!
How sound you do sleep;
Can't you hear one of those elder babes
A trying to weep?

How durst I go down in
The dead of the night?
Where there's no fire a-kindled
No candle to light.

As she was a-going down,
And thinking no harm,
False Lamkin he caught her
Right tight in his arm.

O spare my life! O spare my life!
My life that's so sweet;
You shall have many bright guineas
As stones in the street.

O spare my life! O spare my life!
Till one of the clock;
You shall have my daughter Betsy,
She's the flow'r of the flock.

Fetch me your daughter Betsey,
She will do me some good;
She will hold the silver basin
To catch her own heart's blood.

Pretty Betsey, being up
At the window, so high,
Saw her own dearest father
Come a-riding close by.

Dear father! Dear father!
O blame not of me;
For it was false Lamkin
Murder'd baby and she.

Here's blood in the kitchen,
Here's blood in the hall,
Here's blood in the parlour,
Where the Lady did fall.

False Lamkin shall be hung
On the gallows so high;
While his bones shall be burned
In the fire close by.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 01:17 PM

As John Routledge mentioned in the other thread this ballad was discussed by Nick Caffrey in the Jan/Feb 2002 edition of Living Tradition Issue #46, but the article is not yet available online. However some material from the article and music and sound samples are available at

The substance of the article is that the ballad is thought to date back to 15th century Scotland, possibly referring to an actual event at some unknown place - with Balwearie in Fifeshire being one of a number of suggested locations.
The name Lambkin or Lammikin is widely agreed by singers of the song to be an epithet which as Child observed "was a sobriquet applied in derision of the meekness with which the builder had submitted to his injury."
Child believed that the original name of the mason was probably Lambert Linkin.

Caffrey notes some of the interpretations of the ballad:-
1. pure revenge
2. ritual sacrifice/ masonic rite
3. Lamkin a symbol of the Devil exacting payment for a bargain
4. Lamkin was a leper, and the bloodletting is a kind of purification/cure
5. ballad is symbolic of revolt against nobility by peasantry

He also notes that the use of a silver bowl to catch the lady's blood has some possible symbolic meanings.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 01:25 PM

The above is copied from Lesley Nelson's site: Contemplator. The text quoted was noted by Cecil Sharp from Yarrow Gill at Ely Union, Cambridgeshire, in 1911. It appears (very slightly changed by revival performers), with tune, in a previous discussion here: Penguin: Long Lankin. That thread also contains A.L. Lloyd's notes on the song, and links to various related material, including Lesley's example.

The tune to which Sharp set Mr. Gill's text in One Hundred English Folksongs (1916), which Lesley uses, is not from Mr. Gill (whose tune was, however, very similar) but from another inmate of Ely Union, William Murfitt. Sharp noted versions of the song from both men on the same day.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 01:30 PM

Such disputes between building contractors and their clients can be traced back to Roman times as evidenced by Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. to 65 A.D.) bitterly lamenting the state of the art in the building industry:

"Life is the gift of the immortal gods, living well is
the gift of philosophy. Was it philosophy that erected
all the towering tenements, so dangerous to the persons
who dwell in them? Believe me, that was a happy age,
before the days of architects, before the days of builders."

Landlady's Daughter, not to be confused with Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 01:33 PM

The above refers to Iains post, of course. As mentioned in the concurrent thread, note that the sound samples at GUEST's link are not properly labelled; the second belongs to the third piece of notation, and the third belongs to none of them, being the Murfitt/Gill set mentioned above. The Blaikie MS notation doesn't have a sound sample at all. The link will not work in Netscape 4x, due to css incompatability of some kind.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 02:21 PM

Since a lot of useful information is appearing here, it may be worth adding the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:-

Lamkin [Child 93]

DESCRIPTION: (Lamkin) rebuilt a lord's castle, but was never paid. As the lord sets out on a journey, he warns his wife to beware of Lamkin. The precautions are in vain; Lamkin (helped by a false nurse) steals in and kills the lord's child (and wife) (and is hanged)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1775 (Percy)
KEYWORDS: death theft revenge children punishment homicide cannibalism
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord),England(Lond,South,West)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (48 citations):
Child 93, "Lamkin" (25 texts)
Bronson 93, "Lamkin" (30 versions (some with variants)+3 in addenda)
GordonBrown/Rieuwerts, pp. 256-258, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Greig #40, p. 2, "Lamkin" (1 fragment)
GreigDuncan2 187, "Lambkin" (3 texts)
Lyle-Crawfurd1 9, "Lord Meanwell" (1 text)
Leather, pp. 199-200, "Young Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #19}
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 200-206, "Lamkin" (1 text plus 1 fragment, 1 tune; also extensive notes on version classification) {Bronson's #16}
Randolph 23, "False Lamkin" (1 text with variants, 1 tune) {Bronson's #25}
Eddy 17, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
Gardner/Chickering 127, "Lamkin" (2 texts plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune) {Bronson's #15}
Flanders/Olney, pp. 104-107, "Squire Relantman" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Flanders-Ancient2, pp. 297-316, "Lamkin" (7 texts plus 3 fragments, 4 tunes) {C=Bronson's #7)
Linscott, pp. 303-305, "Young Alanthia" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-Maine,pp. 90-91, "Lamkin the Mason" (1 text, with no indication of source)
Davis-Ballads 26, "Lamkin" (3 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune entitled "Lampkin") {Bronson's #10}
Davis-More 28, pp. 214-220, "Lamkin" (1 text)
BrownII 29, "Lamkin" (1 text plus assorted excerpts)
BrownSchinhanIV 29, "Lamkin" (4 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 42, "Lamkins" (1 text, apparently a fragment of Child #93 (containing only a threat of cannibalism) plus three "My Horses Ain't Hungry" stanzas)
Moore-Southwest 26, "Bow Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 62-64, "Bolakin (Lamkin)" (1 text)
Brewster 16, "Lamkin" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
Creighton-Maritime, pp. 20-21, "Lamkin" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 806-807, "Bold Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 13, "Lamkin" (1 text, 4 tunes)
Lehr/Best 35, "False Limkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 288-295, "Lamkin" (4 texts)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 116-119, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Leach-Labrador 6, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 199, "Lamkin" (1 text)
OBB 78, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Warner 102, "Bolamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 27, "Lamkin" (5 texts, 5 tunes){Bronson's #11, #14, #12, #4, #9}
Sharp-100E 27, "False Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
PBB 64, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Niles 38, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 60-61, "Long Lankin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 258-259, "False Lanky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-Circle 80, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Hodgart, p. 64, "Lamkin" (1 text)
DBuchan 16, "Lamkin" (1 text)
TBB 19, "Lamkin" (1 text)
SHenry H735, p. 133, "Lambkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 241-248, "Lammikin" (5 texts)
Darling-NAS, pp. 63-64, "Bo Lamkin" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Bob Stewart, _Where Is Saint George? Pagan Imagery in English Folksong_, revised edition, Blandford, 1988, pp. 127-128, "Long Lankin" (1 text)

Roud #6
Jim Bennett, "Bold Lamkin" (on PeacockCDROM)
Ben Butcher, "Cruel Lincoln" (on FSB4, Voice03)
George Fosbury, "False Lamkin" (on FSBBAL1)
Frank Proffitt, "Bo Lamkin" (on Proffitt03)

Bodleian, Harding B 25(1048), "The Lambkin," J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844
cf. "Batson" [Laws I10] (plot)
NOTES: John Jacob Niles claims that this song was once sung in the Louisville schools. One can only wish he had offered supporting evidence.
Anne G. Gilchrist examines the development of this ballad in "Lambkin: A Study in Evolution" (first printed in the Journal of the Emglish Folk Dance and Song Society, I, 1932; see now MacEdward Leach and Tristram P. Coffin, eds, The Critics and the Ballad, pp. 204-224).
Gilchrist finds two basic forms of the ballad. In one, primarily Scottish, Lamkin is a mason defrauded of his pay by the lord whose castle he built. In the other, Northumbrian and English, Lamkin is simply a ruffian or a border raider, seeking loot or perhaps the hand of the lord's daughter.
Gilchrist believes the Scottish form to be older, and believes that the other arose when the first stanza (in which the lord's fraud is described) was lost. She argues that the name "Lambkin" is diminutive of the Flemist name Lambert, and speculates that it may have been based on a (hypothesized) incident at Balwearie in Fife -- a site mentioned in some versions of the ballad, and located near a Flemish colony.
Some versions mention Lamkin catching the infant's blood in a bowl. This has caused all sorts of speculation about ritual, or perhaps about some sort of trick to further punish the child (because, according to the Bible, the blood is the life). Obviously some such explanation is possible -- but I think we have to allow the possibility that he's just a nut, or trying to avoid leaving a trail.
James Reed, in his article "Border Ballads," included in Edward J. Cowan, editor, The People's Past: Scottish Folk, Scottish History 1980 (I use the 1993 Polygon paperback edition), discusses this ballad on pp. 24-25, and considers it most unusual among border ballads because it features a class conflict (between the lord and Lamkin). It's an interesting point -- but the question then arises whether the song is really a border ballad. The mere fact that it has been widely collected along the border between England and Scotland does not make it one. - RBW
Whitelaw-Ballads is one of Child's sources for composite text D. - BS
Last updated in version 3.3
File: C093

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 07:00 PM

My partner Rika Ruebsaat and I have just written a paper on Lamkin: it's in the Canadian Society for Traditional Music's Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, Fall 2002 Vol 36.3. We have looked at all the scholarly articles published on the ballad and canvass and discuss each theory from the mason to the leper. We really aren't happy with any of them: our theory starts with the fact that the ballad is sung and has been sung for hundreds of years, by nurses, mothers, sisters (in the main) to children, often enough at bedtime. We first thought this was an old method of child control (fear of the boogieman); but that didn't seem to answer the question of its longevity and popularity. We think that the ballad has to do with abandonment, both of children by parents (and what child hasn't lost its parents in a supermarket, etc. and thought in a flash of terror of losing them for good?), and of later adolescents recently married now removed to their husband's house among strangers, etc. and far away from their mum. Mudcatters who'd like to read it all can PM me and I'll email it.

Jon Bartlett

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Oct 02 - 10:41 AM

Kids ADORE the blood-and-guts songs! Those are high among the songs that get repeat (and repeat and repeat) requests from my child audiences!

Dave Oesterreich

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: GUEST,gelfling
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 10:45 AM

actually the ruins of the tower, near ovingham, do still exist and are old and quite picturesque...
assuming there werent several similar towers in the area of course

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: CraigS
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 08:00 PM

I have somewhere a copy of a book called The Border Ballads, written by J Reed or Read. It is not to hand, so I apologise for the shaky nature of what follows.

There was a border area of no-mans-land between Scotland and England, which was difficult to govern, due to uncertainties as to whose laws applied. There were, however, certain laws applied to those who lived there as attempts to combat those who lived like bandits. These included rules about fortifying dwellings, and lighting beacons when marauders were marauding. I feel certain that, given the circumstances in the song, the events relate to a border lord whose keep was not adequately fortified, and had to do something about it to comply with the recently-issued edict. A little more research could provide a very close date for the song, as the laws mentioned are quoted in the above book.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Oct 02 - 08:17 PM

James Reed. That would be if those laws were referred to -even vaguely- in any traditional example of the song; which they're not. I'm afraid that it's most likely a red herring (though certainly an interesting one), as are so many attempts to tie such ballads to historical events.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: CraigS
Date: 16 Oct 02 - 03:41 PM

The songs do not refer to the laws, but Mr Reed does, and also links court references to the songs in a couple of cases. The book is a search for the historic links and true figures behind the songs, rather than a song book.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: GUEST,James S.
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 09:00 PM

I always heard the title character referred to as False Longshanks in the version of the song I grew up with. When I grew old enough to research such things, I interpreted Longshanks to be a fairy or demon lover of the nurse's or possibly the lady's (the malevolent fairies are often known as blood drinkers in Celtic legend.) A possible suggestion of fairy origins lies in the connection of certain birds with the supernatural. The last two stanza went, as best I remember:

"Oh harsh cries the hoodie who roosts in the brake,
But louder cried Longshanks when they bound him to the stake.
And wild screams the hern from the fenland so wet,
But wilder screamed Longshanks as the faggots were lit.
Then sweetly sang the wren as she soared up on high,
"Thou art a villain, False Longshanks, and deserve well to die." "

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 12:00 AM

The Living Tradition article is now on line - click here - click on "Back Issues" and look for Issue #46.

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 02 Aug 05 - 06:49 AM

Is it really more than a melodrama of a dreadful outlaw?
Personally, I prefer the English ones without the contrived element of revenge.

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
Date: 02 Aug 05 - 12:01 PM

Further back in this thread there is a mention of the Hampshire singer, Ben Butcher's version of this ballad, 'Cruel Lincoln', which you can hear on Topic's 'Voice of the People' Vol. 3. This is one of my favourite versions of the ballad - short, punchy and extremely well sung by a singer who effectively conveys the loathing and dread in the grisly story without ever resorting to histrionics; the true mark of a great traditional singer.
On the same CD is also another fine, and rather underrated performance - Enos White singing, 'George Collins'.
Both of these recordings would have to be in my top ten of all time great recordings of English traditional singers. Both were made by Bob Copper in 1955. All of us who love English trad. song owe that man so much - I wish I could have met him!

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
Date: 05 May 22 - 06:12 AM

Does this remind anyone else of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley?

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Subject: RE: info req: Long lankin
From: GUEST,Jon Bartlett
Date: 05 May 22 - 03:26 PM

Further to my note of 2022 (jeez, 20 years ago!), those who'd like to look at our piece (which we also presented to the Ballad Commission at its Austin TX meeting) can find it at

Jon Bartlett

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