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Lyr Add: Poor Murdered Woman


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Chord Req: Poor Murdered Woman (11)

Malcolm Douglas 29 Jul 04 - 10:48 PM
Joe Offer 30 Jul 04 - 01:49 AM
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Subject: DT Correction: Poor Murdered Woman
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 10:48 PM

Prompted by an old, recently revived discussion here of an entirely different song (The Old Oak Tree), I looked at the transcription of  Poor Murdered Woman in the DT. It was evidently made by ear from a record by Shirley Collins, and contains mistakes which render some lines incomprehensible. Rather than post detailed corrections, it is better to add the whole song as first published, in 1902, in the Journal of the Folk Song Society, with tune notation which reflects more accurately the way it was sung by the (sole) traditional source singer.

Some details in the DT transcription derive not from mis-hearings, but from small interjections added by Shirley in her arrangement of the song. She herself is keen that people who discover songs through her arrangements of them try to go back to her source rather than learn the song directly from her. Here it is, then, as close as may be to the way it was sung in 1897.


(Sung by Mr Foster, Milford, Surrey, 1897. Noted by the Rev C Shebbeare.)

It was Yankee,1 the squier, as I have heard say,
Who rode out a-hunting on one Saturday.
They hunted all day, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman laid on the cold ground.

About eight o'clock, boys, our dogs they throwed off,
On Leatherhead Common, and that was the spot;
They tried all the bushes, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman laid on the cold ground.

They whipped their dogs off, and kept them away,
For I do think it is proper he should have fair play;
They tried all the bushes, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman laid on the cold ground.

They mounted their horses and rode off the ground,
They rode to the village, and alarmed it all round:
"It is late in the evening I am sorry to say,
She cannot be removèd until the next day."

The next Sunday morning, about eight o'clock,
Some hundreds of people to the spot they did flock;
For to see that poor creature it would make your hearts bleed,
Some [c]old and some violence came into their heads. 2

She was took off the Common down to some inn,
And the man that has kept it, his name is Jonson. 3
The coroner was sent for, the jury they joined,
And soon they concluded, and settled their mind.

Her coffin was brought, in it she was laid,
And took to the churchyard that was called Leatherhead,
No father, no mother, nor no friend at all,
Come to see that poor creature put under the mould.

So now I'll conclude and finish my song,
And those that have done it they will find themselves wrong.
For the last day of judgement the trumpet will sound,
And their souls not in heaven I am afraid won't be found.

Journal of the Folk-Song Society, vol I issue 4, 1902, 186-7.

Mr Forester wrote the words out himself for the Rev Shebbeare.

1 A mis-remembering of Hankey, apparently: see notes below.

2 Lucy Broadwood provided a speculative reading of this line, though she quotes Mr Foster's version slightly differently. See below.

3 "Pronounced 'John Sinn' but spelt Jonson by the singer." See also below.

T:Poor Murdered Woman
S:Mr Foster, Milford, Surrey, 1897
Z:Tune noted by the Rev C Shebbeare, words by Mr Foster
B:Journal of the Folk Song Society, I, 4, 1902, 186-7
N:Roud 1064
"Dorian mode"HA A|G2 E2 (D3/2C/)|C2 D2 G2|G2 E2 F2|D4 A2|
w:It was Yan-kee, the_ squi-er, as I have heard say, Who
A2 c2 A2|B2 d2 B2|G2 A2 c2|A4 G2|
w:rode out a-hunt-ing on one Sat-ur-day. They
A2 c2 A2|(Bc d2) B2|G2 A2 c2|A4 A A|
w:hunt-ed all day,__ but no-thing they found But a
G2 E2 (D3/2C/)|C2 D2 G2|G2 E2 F2|D4|]
w:poor mur-dered_ wo-man laid on the cold ground.

A slightly modified form of the song was published in Lucy Broadwood, English Traditional Songs and Carols. London: Boosey, 1908, pp 70-71 (music), p 121 (notes). Miss Broadwood commented:

"This fine Dorian tune was noted in 1897 by the Rev. Charles J. Shebbeare at Milford, Surrey, from the singing of a young labourer, with whom it was a favourite song. Mr. Foster wrote out the doggerel words, and had heard that they described a real event. Through the kindness of the Vicar of Leatherhead, the Rev. E. J. Nash (who questioned Mr. Lisney, a parishioner of 87, in Feb. 1908), the ballad has proved to be an accurate account of the finding and burial (Jan. 15th, 1834) of 'a woman - name unknown - found in the common field,' as the parish Registers give it. Mr. Lisney, who remembered the events perfectly, said that the author of the ballad was Mr. Fairs, a brickmaker of Leatherhead Common. The Milford labourer's version of names, 'Yankee' for 'Hankey', and 'John Sinn,' for 'John Simms' of the Royal Oak Inn, are in Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. i, p. 186. His obscure line in verse 5 has here been altered to something probably more like the original, for 'the poor woman's head had been broken with a stick.' The Milford singer gave it: 'Some old or some violence came into their heads.' The song is only one of many proofs that 'ballets' are made by local, untaught bards, and that they are transmitted, and survive, long after the events which they record have ceased to be a reality to the singer."

Miss Broadwood's modified text can be seen at Lesley Nelson's Contemplator site:

Poor Murdered Woman

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Poor Murdered Woman
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Jul 04 - 01:49 AM

There's no entry in the Traditional Ballad Index, but there's a bit of an entry at

    POOR MURDERED WOMAN, THE - "It was Hankey the Squire as I have heard say - hunted all day - nothing could they find but a PMW laid on the cold ground - Leatherhead Common - body taken to an inn" - ROUD#1064 - BROADWOOD ETSC 1908 pp70-71 & p121 Rec Charles J Shebbeare: Mr Foster, Milford, Surrey 1897 (notes) - JFSS 1:4 1902 pp186-7 Rev C Shebbeare from Mr Foster, Milford, Surrey 1867 -- Martin CARTHY (voc/gtr) with Dave SWARBRICK (mandolin): FONTANA STL-5434 1967/ PHILIPS international 6382-022 1967 - Shirley COLLINS & ALBION Band: B & C PEG-7/ CREST-11 1971

-Joe Offer-

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