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Lyr Add: The Gown of Green

22 Aug 03 - 02:25 PM (#1006585)
Subject: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: GUEST,Matthew Edwards

One of the treats of the Topic 'Voice of the People' series of CD's is that even after repeated listening there are still fresh discoveries to be made. One such little gem that jumped to my attention the other day is The Gown of Green sung by Jack Norris, accompanying himself on accordeon. Naturally others have already spotted this: the Waterson/Carthy/CBS lot never let a good tune escape them and as Blue Murder they perform it on their CD 'No one stands alone' , and those two English roses Jane and Amanda Threlfall seem to have made it the title song of their second CD. However nobody has yet got round to posting any information about the song on Mudcat, and it turns out to be very interesting indeed.

The Gown of Green

Sung by Jack Norris, of Cuckfield, Sussex

As a soldier was walking all on the highway,
Being weary of travelling for many a long day,
Oh, he met a lovely woman with a baby in her arms
Who that she kissed and said, "I wish your father would return".

"Oh, good morning, my fair creature, I'm proud to meet you here
With that sweet baby in your arms that you love so dear.
Oh, I think I know the father, and you before I've seen.
Don't you remember the day, my dear, you wore the gown of green?"

"Oh, it's many battles have I fought all on the raging main,
And many battles have I fought in Portugal and Spain,
But it's now that I've returned again with plenty of gold in store,
I mean to make you my lawful bride and roam abroad no more."

"So come let us buy the licence all on this very day,
And then we will get married, love, without any more delay.
With our pretty little prattling babies some pleasures may be seen,
That you will never regret the day you wore the gown of green.
With our pretty little prattling babies some pleasures may be seen,
That you may never regret the day you wore the gown of green."

Recorded by Mervyn Plunkett and Reg Hall 1957
Issued on Topic TSCD651 Come let us buy the licence

1. Jack Norris' song is based on a 19th century broadside known either as the Sequel to the Gown of Green or The Answer to the Gown of Green, both of which can be found in the Bodleian Library online catalogue of Broadside Ballad.
2. The original broadside ballad The Gown Of Green can also be viewed at the Bodleian's catalogue, and refers to events in the American Revolution. However the 'historical' verses fit rather uneasily with the rest of the song.
3. Jack Norris (1898-1972?) was a foreman joiner and coffin maker in Cuckfield, Sussex. Reg Hall has written about him that "He was a remarkable musician, the melodeon player that appeals to me more than any other I have heard. He could play any song-tune that came into his mind on his double-row C/C sharp Hohner, and sing at the same time. It was as if the fingering came automatically as he opened his mouth. He was essentially a singer..." [in '"I Never Played to Many Posh Dances": Scan Tester, Sussex musician 1887-1972' publ. Musical Traditions 1990] In the late 1950's Mervyn Plunkett ran the anarchic West Hoathly Country Band of Music whose members included Scan Tester and Jack Norris. Jack can be heard playing his schottische Brook Street Polka on the double cassette of Scan Tester still available from Veteran music.
It would be nice to know of any other recordings of Jack as he was clearly a fine and vigorous performer.
4. The phrase "to wear the gown of green" will be readily understood by anyone who has had to deal with embarrassing grassy stains! But it does make it difficult to sing The Wearing of the Green with a straight face afterwards.

22 Aug 03 - 03:47 PM (#1006630)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: GUEST,Me

'Gown of green' was the cure for 'greensickness'. For 17th
century songs based on this see ZN571, ZN1095, and
ZN3646 in the broadside ballad index at

22 Aug 03 - 04:33 PM (#1006659)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green

#1085 in Steve Roud's folk song index, where several other traditional versions with tunes are noted, along with several broadside copies not on the Bodleian Ballads website.

22 Aug 03 - 04:51 PM (#1006669)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green

The inclusion of references to the American Revolutionary War (apparently- date 1780-1812 for one broadside at the Bodleian) suggests that for topical purposes two songs may have been put together. Haven't checked yet the 17th c. songs to see if a war is referred to there.

22 Aug 03 - 05:17 PM (#1006689)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: GUEST,Matthew Edwards

Apparently Harry Brazil also sang this song, and a recording of him appears on a now deleted Topic LP of Traveller's songs.

The reference to the American Revolution in the earlier broadside has the intriguing lines:-

"From New York down to Imos we all did march away,
To fight our own relations in North America."
Anyone know where Imos is?
The song then goes on to describe a naval action where the unfortunate sailor lays on the deck "both killed and wounded"

22 Aug 03 - 05:29 PM (#1006693)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green

'Gown of green' is both a proverbial phrase and a song title, like 'Money makes the mare to go', and 'Nine tailors make a man'. The 17th century songs on greensickness cured have nothing to do with our song here.

23 Aug 03 - 04:07 AM (#1006864)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: nutty

Matthew ....if you go to the Bodleian Broadsides you will see that this set of words is a sequel to the original song which has an entirely different set of words as shown below ........

Both songs are shown side by side on this Broadside
Bodleian Library

23 Aug 03 - 04:20 AM (#1006871)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: nutty

With regard to the original song was collected in the East Riding of Yorkshire and sent to Frank Kidson who included it in his "Traditional Tunes" published in 1891.

Kidson says, "This delectable effusion is found upon broadsides, and is also in a very scarce book (small quarto in size), entitled, The Vocal Library dated 1818. The song seems to have been an old one, with verses produced at the time of the last American war grafted on."

23 Aug 03 - 06:21 AM (#1006891)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: GUEST,Me

It also appears that Kidson's text (incomplete) is from a broadside. The Vocal Library John Souter, London, 1818, contains both song and sequel. That's a most interesting songbook, with "Bendemer's Stream" and "O nothing in life can sadden us (Dear creatures, we can't do without them) credited to T[homas] Moore.
Also in it are "The Spotted Cow", and "Skewball", "Croppies Lie Down", "Cheasapeakw struck to the Shannon", Shannon and Cheasapeake", "A Frog he would a wooing go, Heigho says Rowley" and a few other folk favourites.

23 Aug 03 - 08:05 AM (#1006926)
Subject: Lyr/Tune Add: GOWN OF GREEN / GOWN SO GREEN

Here is the tune with the words Kidson included from a broadside. Also the words from Harry Brazil.


X: 1
S:Frank Kidson: Traditional Tunes
A|A A F|A B c|d3|e2 d|(c e) c|A B c|d3-|d2
w:As my love and I were a-walk-ing to view_ the mea-dows a-round_
d|c2 B|G2 B|B3|(A G) A|B2 A|G2 E|D3-|D2
w:A-gath-er-ing sweet flow-ers_ as they sprung from the ground_
A|A2 F|(A B) c|d2 d|e3|c e c|(A B) c|d3-|d2
w:She turned her head_ and smi-ling said "Some-bo-dy here_ has been_
d|c2 B|G2 B|B2 A|A (G A)|B2 A|G2 E|D3-|D2||
w:Or else some charm-ing shep-herd-ess has_ won the Gown of Green_"


As my love and I were walking to view the meadows around,
A-gathering sweet flowers as they sprung from the ground,
She turned her head, and smiling, said, "Somebody here has been,
Or else some charming shepherdess has won the Gown of Green."


"O, Polly love! O, Polly, love! mind what I write to thee,
And when that you do read it 'twill cause you many a tear;
'Twill cause you many tears, my love, and grieve you heart full sore,
For to relate our story when we left our native shore.

"It was early the next morning, all by the dawn of day,
From New York down to Imos we all did march away;
From New York down to Imos we all did march away,
To fight our own relations in North America.

"Thro' fields of blood we ranged, while cannons loud did roar,
And many a valiant sailor lay bleeding in his gore;
There was many a valiant sailor who on the deck did lay,
Who was both killed and wounded in North America.

"It would grieve your heart with pity for to hear the sailors' wives
Lamenting for their husbands, and the melancholy cries,
The children cried out, 'Mammy, we will make them rue the day,
As they did kill my father in North America.'"


Source: Kidson - Traditional Tunes

In addition to the comment given by nutty above, Kidson introduces the song with:
"An air, apparently old, sent to me by Mr.Charles Lolly, who heard it many years ago in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The words are from a broadside. The old English songs have frequent allusions to wearing the "green gown", just in the same manner the Scotch ones speak of the loss of the snood, or of the "bonny broom"."

In 1st verse, note walking in text and a-walking in the tune.


Now as-broad as I was walking all on the King's highway,
I been weary of my travelling of many a long day,
I met a lovely woman with a babe all in her arm
And she kissed the babe and said she wished its father would return.

"Now, good evening, lovelie woman, but I love to meet you here,
With that pretty babe all in your arms you seem to love so dear.
I think I knew its father and you before I've seen,
And don't you remember the day, my love, when you wore the gown so green.

Now her arm, she placed it round him and fainted away.
"Is it you, my lovely 'Enery, 'turn home to me again?
Long time I've made a remention but now I'll make a voh,
Not peace nor comfort have I had since from me you've been gone."

"Now, I've lost one limb in battle, love, and that you plain can see
I'll save the bold commander's life, it proved the prince of me.
I'm left a noble pension, both silver, gold and store,
And I means to make you my nawful bride and go abroad no more."

"Now, let's you and I take a licence, and on the very day
Let's you and I get married, love, 'dout any more delay
With your sweet faddlin' baby more pleasure you will see
And never no more you'll repent the day when you wore the gown so green."

Source: Harry Brazil on LP, Travellers - Songs, Storied and Tunes from English Gypsies

I haven't tried to give Harry's pronunciation everywhere (the Romany singers have a style of their own), but a few obvious ones: as-broad for abroad, voh for vow. I like nawful for lawful. I don't know if faddling as an adjective has any special Romany meaning, but the verb to faddle meant to fondle or pet a child.

23 Aug 03 - 08:47 AM (#1006941)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: Yvonne

Matthew, the version of The Gown of green that Jane and Amanda sing is by Patrick O'Shaughnessy and is published in one of his books on 'Lincolnshire Folk Songs'. They too say that 'Green has often been symbolic of seduction or betrayal in folksong'.

I shall bring the CD for you when we next meet :o)


23 Aug 03 - 10:15 AM (#1006967)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: Malcolm Douglas

It isn't actually by Patrick O'Shaughnessy, though the text was collated by him from a broadside issued by Pitts (copies at the Bodleian) and from a text noted by the Hammond brothers from Robert Barrett of Piddletown in Dorset (1905). The two variant tunes in Yellowbelly Ballads (1975, I 37-8) are from Joseph Taylor (recorded by Percy Grainger, 1906), who remembered only a few words of the song. O'Shaughnessy traces the "extraneous" verses to a song called (The) North Americay; copies of this can be seen at the Bodleian (as (The) North (of) America), in one case on the same page as a Gown of Green text.

24 Aug 03 - 03:51 AM (#1007244)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Gown of Green
From: nutty

This is the oldest "Gown of Green " song that I have been able to find in the Bodleian Library ....................

Printers: Brooksby, P. (London); Deacon, J. (London); Blare, J.                (London); Back, J. (London)

Date:    between 1683 and 1696
Imprint: Printed for P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back.          License note: Licensed according to Order
         Illus. Ballads on sheet: 1
Copies: Douce Ballads 2(205b)
Ballads: 1. The shepherd's ingenuity: or, The praise of the green             gown ("Amongst the pleasant shady bowers ...")
             To the tune of: The two entire lovers
             Subject: Pastoral

The Shepherds Ingenuity or In Praise of the Green Gown