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Tune Req: Water Cresses

29 Mar 12 - 01:01 PM (#3330686)
Subject: Lyr Add/Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman

Does anyone here have the melody for the British broadside "Water Cresses," which I've added below?

**Please note, I am NOT looking for "The Watercress Girl," nor "Martha, the Watercress Girl," both discussed in the DT. The one I want the tune to is the following song, from Wehman's Songster #4 at:

It's similar to a Bodleian broadside, Harding B 11(4046), dated to 1863-65.

Note: I'm also *not* looking for the "Watercresses" song that Josh White wrote, inspired by "Water Cresses," and included on (I think) his second Decca LP c. 1950-1. I'm only looking for a source of the tune to the song below.

Thanks! Bob


I am a jolly farmer, from Bedfordshire I came,
To see some friends at Harlem, and Morgau is my name;
At a dairy farm, near Dunstable, I live when I'm at home,
And if I get safe back again, from there I'll never roam-
But if you'll give attention. I'll tell you without delay,
How a buxom little damsel my affections led astray,
And promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
And left me with a bunch of water-cresses.

'Twas on the first of April when I arrived in town.
And being quite a stranger. I wandered up And down.
Until I lost myself entirely, I cannot tell you where,
But 'twas in a very quiet street, the corner of a square;
A neatly dressed young woman came walking down the way,
As long as I remember, I shall ne'er forget the day.
For she promised then to marry me upou the first of May,
And she left me with a bunch of water-cresses.

Politely I addressed her, and thus to her did say:
"I wish to go to Harlem, can you direct the way?"
"Oh. yes, sir! oh, yes, sir!" she speedily replied,
"Take the turning on the left, then go down the other side;"
Her voice it was the sweetest I ever yet did hear,
In her hands-which like the lily-were so very white and clear.
She'd a bunch of early onions, a pint of lager beer,
Some pickles, and a bunch of water-cresses.

I bow'd and I thanked her. and walk'd by her side,
And thought how well she'd look as a dairy fanner's bride;
I gathered resolution, half in earnest, half in joke,
I hinted matrimony, these very words I spoke:
"I've a farm of forty acres. I've horses, cows and geese,
Besides I have a dairy filled with butter, milk And cheese;
Will you marry me, and mistress be, fair lady, of all these?
And we'll pass our days on love and water-cresses."

She replied with a smile (or a leer, if you choose),
"You are so very geuerous I cannot well refuse,
So give me your direction, and I will without delay
Prepare for matrimony, to love, honor, and obey;
I've a wedding dress to buy, and some little bills to pay-
I handed her my pocket-book, expenses to defray,
And she promised for to marry me upon the first of May,
When she left me with a bunch of water-cresses.

Next day a letter I received, and read there with surprise
­"Dear sir, for disappointing you I must apologize;
But when you next ask a stranger into partnership for life,
Be sure she is a maiden, or a widow, not a wife;
I've a husband of my own, and his name is Willie Orey,
And when I can afford it the money I'll repay;
To think that I should marry you upon the first of May,
Why, you must have been as green as water-cresses.

29 Mar 12 - 01:13 PM (#3330689)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: maeve

Have you heard this? It may offer enough of the tune.

29 Mar 12 - 01:23 PM (#3330699)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: maeve

I see it's listed there (previous link) as having been recorded by Edith Fowke. For very little money you can buy the download and have a full tune. I hope this is helpful.

29 Mar 12 - 04:01 PM (#3330757)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

Bob, this is the Harry Clifton song and it must be in the DT somewhere in midi and ABC because Artful transcribed it from a sheet music I sent him. There's a tune in The Wanton Seed, the new edition of which will be hopefully out this year. There are also tunes in Greig-Duncan Volume 2, Peacock has a Newfie tune, LaRena Clark sang a version if you're in Canada, but if you wait a short while Artful will surely dip in when he sees the title.

29 Mar 12 - 04:14 PM (#3330761)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

For additional info and leads, see this entry at
In particular, the entry provides two verses from some version titled "The Dairy Farmer" and points to a version called "Watercrest" and another in the Warner collection, which may be online; I haven't checked.

In an book review (1986) by Edith Fowke of The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection Vols. 1 and 2, she mentions that many of the non-Scottish songs in the second volume are also found in Ontario, including some rather rare ones, "Bunch of Water Cresses" being an example. So there's another version you may be able to find.
[ URL for book review: ]

-- Artful Codger

29 Mar 12 - 04:23 PM (#3330768)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

I'll put the abc tune up from The Wanton Seed, later.

In the meantime (if you're in a hurry) you can see the original ms of that version on the VWML Take 6 site. Put in GG/1/7/402 as the search item (select precisely if you want to be nice to the search engine, but the default all of will do). The tune is on the 2nd page of the mss (IIRC).

You'll recognise it from several other songs (eg versions of The Golden Vanity).


29 Mar 12 - 04:29 PM (#3330769)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

The Dairy Farmer is one of the titles in Greig Duncan

29 Mar 12 - 04:44 PM (#3330774)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Steve, Clifton's song "The Watercress Girl" (which begins "One day I took a ramble down by a running stream") is NOT the same song as the one Bob posted and for which he's seeking a tune. For what it's worth, two of the songs which he mentioned it is NOT are in fact the same (Clifton) song: "The Watercress Girl" and "Martha, the Watercress Girl". As it happens, because this is such a well-known song--tune and, I believe, sheet music widely available online--you never sent me the sheet music and I didn't bother transcribing it from another source.

To avoid unwanted thread drift, those wishing to discuss "The Watercress Girl" should post to this thread instead:
     Martha, the Watercress Girl:
(Lyrics and ABC there, taken from a Roy Palmer song collection; lyrics have also been posted in the "Harry Clifton songwriter" thread.)

-- Artful Codger

29 Mar 12 - 04:58 PM (#3330779)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Here's the version from The Wanton Seed. I noticed the title in the ms the title is given as The Bunch of Watercress rather than Watercresses as printed in The Wanton Seed.


T:The Bunch of Watercress
B:The Wanton Seed
S:Collected by Gardiner from George Lovett, Winchester, Hants, Aug 1906
N:The ms has the title as The Bunch of Watercress
F|B2 B B2 c|B3 D2 E|F2 G F2 D|B,3-B,2
w:I am a jol-ly far-mer, from Bed-ford-shire I came,_
D|E2 D E2 F|G2 A B2 d|c2 A A2 G|F3-F2
w:To see some friends at Cam-ber-well, and Mor-gan is my name._
B/c/|d2 d e2 e|c2 A B2 B|B2 c d2 F|(E3 D2)
w:At a dair-y farm, near Dun-sta-ble, I live when I'm at home,_
B,|E2 F G2 A|B2 B D2 D|F2 B B2 A|B3-B2
w:And if I gets safe back a-gain, from there I'll nev-er roam._
F|B2 B B2 c|B3 D2 E|F2 G F2 D|B,3-B,2
w:But if you'll pay at-ten-tion. I'll tell with-out de-lay,_
D/D/|E2 D E2 F|G2 A B2 d|c2 A A2 G|F3-F2
w:How a bux-om lit-tle dam-sel my af-fect-ions led a-stray,_
(B/c/)|d2 d e2 e|c2 A B2 B|B2 c d2 F|E3
w:She_ prom-ised for to mar-ry me all on the first of May,
D2 C|B,2 C D2 E|F2 B d2 B|c6|B3-Bz |]
w:And she left me with a bunch of wat-er-cress-es._

29 Mar 12 - 06:50 PM (#3330830)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: zozimus

Hi Bob,
I have a recording of the version you are looking for by O.J. Abbott on his album "Irish and British Songs From The Ottawa Valley. Send me a PM and I'll send it to you.

29 Mar 12 - 09:56 PM (#3330908)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman

Everyone, my sincere thanks. First, zozimus, thanks for the offer of the Abbott track, but I need not take you up on it as I was able to get the gist of Abbott's version from the link maeve provided further up. Thanks Artful for the clarification, and thanks Mick for the ABC. I'm in clover.

Mudcat rocks!!!

Best wishes all, Bob

30 Mar 12 - 03:10 PM (#3331255)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

Apolgies to all for getting the wrong version. I should have checked more carefully. At least all the references were to the right song.

I think I must have been initially thrown off the scent by Frank Puslow's comment in the notes to the Wanton Seed. Having checked properly now I haven't actually got a copy of the sheet music of either song.

So, Rob, I need to get a copy of at least the Clifton original.

Just to be absolutely clear:
Roud 1653 'I am a jolly farmer from Bedfordshire I came'. Do we have origin details for this one?

Roud 1541 While strolling out one evening by a running stream' is Clifton?

Purslow claims the tune in Wanton Seed is a variant of The Golden vanity/The Tailor's Britches/The Tailor and the Crow.

30 Mar 12 - 03:34 PM (#3331265)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

Whilst I haven't got the sheet music I have got lots of other Cliftons. Either I'm going nuts or they must both be Clifton's if Artful is right.

On the back of 'Bear it Like a man' there is a list of other Clifton songs and they all have first lines with them. The first line of 'Water Cresses' is 'I am a jolly farmer, from Bedfordshire I came'

Totally confused! But that doesn't take much doing nowadays. Somebody put me out of my misery!

30 Mar 12 - 04:44 PM (#3331310)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Interesting Steve. I just had a look at the BL catalogue and they have this entry: Harry Clifton Search, where the details for Water-cresses (click the title in the entry line, then select the Details tab) say [Song begins:"I am a jolly farmer"] (Arranged by J Candy). Author is given as Harry Clifton, contributor J Candy, London [1865].

Elsewhere I looked (search brings up sleeve notes from records, Roy Palmer and others) it gives Martha... as Harry Clifton.

Seems a copy of the sheet music would be good!


30 Mar 12 - 05:33 PM (#3331319)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

By gum, Steve, you're right: Harry Clifton wrote both "Water-Cresses" and "The Watercress Girl", and "Water-Cresses" (1863) does indeed start:
I am a jolly farmer, from Bedfordshire I came
To see some friends at Camberwell, and Morgan is my name, [...]
This is from the unattributed broadside Bob referenced at the The Bodleian Library ballads site: Harding B 11(4046), printed by H. Such and W. Watts, between 1863 and 1885, but the attribution is confirmed by an entry for sheet music once offered on Amazon, which gives the first line as well as crediting Clifton. There were also citations of it quoted in the "Help: Harry Clifton songwriter" thread, one including lines from the song.

Note that the song appears in an American form in a Christy collection published in 1862, the year before the earliest Clifton attribution I've seen. See George Christy's Essence of Old Kentucky, pp. 63-4; "Air--'The Oyster Gal.'" Did Clifton rip off the Americans, just as they'd ripped off his works and slapped their names on them? Probably not, but it's a possibility.

Google Books shows it included in Gavin Greig's Folk-song in Buchan: and Folk-song of the North-east; as mentioned previously, it's also in volume 2 of the Greig-Duncan collection.

So, it appears that Bob's song is indeed Clifton's "Water-Cresses" (not to be confused with Clifton's "[Martha,] The Watercress Girl").

Links for "The Oyster Girl" (for the tune):
DigiTrad: The Oyster Girl (with MIDI from Henry: Songs of the People
Mudcat thread: Lyr Req: The Oyster Girl (with MIDI from MacColl/Seeger)
(BTW, RVW called this a "dreadful tune.")

There is also a Charles Dibdin song "Water Cresses" (Jack came home, his pockets lined, In search of Poll, his only pleasure). Come to that, Dibdin wrote a song "The Oyster Girl" to the tune of another song of his, "Jolly Dick". The text of that "Oyster Girl" may have been written by someone else, but it appeared in a collection Dibdin published. I haven't checked the Dibdin compendium prepared by his sons to see if this song or the melody for "Jolly Dick" are included.

30 Mar 12 - 06:12 PM (#3331326)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

I don't have a problem with Clifton's songs marginally predating the published date as he very likely sang them in public for a while before they were published. Whilst he sometimes parodied his own songs and sang songs written by others there's no evidence to suggest he ripped any texts off. His Irish stuff is well attributed to Gavan.

Do you know where we can get copies of either 'Water Cresses' originals? I will keep a good look out for them. I know where there are some stashes of Clifton sheets for sale, but they're getting a bit pricy.

30 Mar 12 - 06:30 PM (#3331332)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Sorry to thread-drift after all, but is Martha, the Watercress Girl definitely by Clifton? It doesn't appear in BL or the Oxford library catalogues (only Watercresses from this thread). (And I think I wrongly said above that Roy Palmer made this atrribution; I think I was misremembering that). It is attributed to Clifton in other threads here and elsewhere, but I can't see any confirmation.

And if you're collecting watercress songs, Levy has The London Water-Cress Woman (pdf link) (1831), which, according to a note in the song, used the actual melody that the watercress woman used for the words "Come buy my watercresses".


30 Mar 12 - 06:56 PM (#3331338)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Sorry, no clue (which is what a lot of people say about me).

Warning: Thread drift
I thought the score for "The Watercress Girl" was available online, but poking about now, I can't locate it, meaning I probably never found it to begin with. I have a recording by John Kirkpatrick on "A Short History of JK"--track originally from Umps and Dumps: The Moon's in a Fit--and that's how I learned it. Kirkpatrick got it from John Tams (with Umps and Dumps at the time), who got it from Roy Palmer, who collected it from a West Midlands singer, George Dunn. Harry Cox also sang it. See Zierke's entry for more info. There are a couple broadsides of the lyrics at the Bodley ballads site. I'm surprised not to find the lyrics in any of the songsters at Google Books--this song is more elusive than I thought!

30 Mar 12 - 09:37 PM (#3331382)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Mick, you've got a very interesting point there: I can't find any independent corroboration. Steve Roud didn't mention Clifton in his 2000 liner notes for the Harry Cox recording, only the undated and unattributing broadsides published by Such and Sanderson, "later 19th century." If the liner notes for George Dunn's Chainmaker album reflect what Palmer wrote in his Everyman's Book, then Palmer mistook "Water Cresses" and "The Watercress Girl" for the same song. The 1863 date corresponds to the former, which is directly associated with Clifton; consequently, anyone accepting Palmer's equation would attribute the latter song to Clifton as well ... and thus is folklore made.

Steve, have you seen an announcement or H&C catalog listing for "The Watercress Girl" on the back of any sheet music you have?

31 Mar 12 - 05:48 PM (#3331746)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

No. I only have references to Water Cresses. The attribution to Clifton of 'The Watercress Girl' is a mystery to me and confusing. it certainly doesn't appear in my lists so is therefore not mentioned on the back of any of his sheet music I have, but that doesn't exclude from being his. Some of it was more obscure and the odd piece was published by other than Hopwood & Crew.

The H&C number for Water Cresses is 496 which would put it c1863.

Roy, whilst being a well-loved and prolific writer, has been known to get things wrong.

BTW what is the song sung by I think The Young Tradition 'Watercress-o'? The chorus goes 'Watercress-o, watercress-o, won't you buy a little bundle of watercress-o.'

31 Mar 12 - 06:45 PM (#3331763)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Well, you pretty much nailed it: It's called "Watercress-O" and appeared on So Cheerfully Round (1967), reissued on CD in 1999 with the eponymous album The Young Tradition (1966). The song was written by Roger Watson, a friend of theirs; he based in on a memory of his grandmother's from a period of privation in her childhood years. It's in the DigiTrad (click) and there's a thread on it: Lyr Req: Watercress-O (Roger Watson). Reinhard Zierke's entry provides the YT liner notes and lyrics.

01 Apr 12 - 04:42 AM (#3331897)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

Here's a little more info on other Watercresses.

The Water-cress Girl I think is probably later than Clifton's song.
I have references to 5 broadsides, 3 without identified printer, all identical 3v and chorus. One is by Sanderson of Edinburgh which doesn't help as they were printing throuighout the 19thc and into the 20th, but I have one by Forth of Hull with stock number 171. Forth also printed Clifton's song, stock number 12. He started printing broadsides about 1870. I know these stock numbers don't give hard and fast dates and don't always come chronologically, but it does have some bearing.

To complicate matters even further, I have a copy of a broadside titled Water Cresses by Such stock number 377 first line 'Jack came home, his pockets lined' which seems wrong to me so I'm going to check this one.

According to Hindley in the Catnach biography, Catnach also printed a song of this title which would predate all of these.

01 Apr 12 - 04:53 AM (#3331900)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Steve Gardham

I've just been on the Bodl and the Such song is correct. Whilst there is no sign of a Catnach version the Such song was written by Charles Dibdin so is very likely the same song as Such printed, Such being a follower of Catnach.

01 Apr 12 - 02:53 PM (#3332140)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Yes, the "Jack came home" text is the one by Dibdin which I mentioned in passing above. The music is given in The Songs of Charles Dibdin, Vol. II (London: G. H. Davidson, 1848), though the song was written decades earlier.

01 Apr 12 - 04:33 PM (#3332179)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses

In Everyman's Book of British Ballads, Roy Palmer writes; "The Watercress Girl [One day I took a ramble] - Even without a knowledge of the original street ballad, one would have to conclude that the style and sentiment of this song made it unmistakably Victorian. Sung by George Dunn (for whom, see no. 19); collected by Roy Palmer, 24. 5. 71 (Folk Music Journal, 1973, pp, 292-3)." Roy Palmer does not put forward any name for the writer.

The song notes from George Dunn: Chainmaker say; "The Watercress Girl [One day I took a ramble] - More Victorian sentimentality, with the working class girl again snapped up by (we gather) an affluent man. Water Cresses or The Watercress Girl, published in 1863, was sung (and probably written by) Harry Clifton (1832-72)." A note at the end of the booklet says; "All of the above (except some of the song notes) was written by Roy Palmer." While the writer of the song notes does appear to think Water Cresses and The Watercress Girl the same song, it's not clear that the writer is Roy Palmer.

01 Apr 12 - 04:34 PM (#3332180)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: GUEST,henryp

Apologies - the above note was mine.

01 Apr 12 - 04:57 PM (#3332192)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Water Cresses
From: Artful Codger

Thanks for the clarification, Henry.