This is a song I found on one of my occasional forays through the copies of the Sharp MSS held in the Library at Cecil Sharp House. Often when just browsing, rather than looking for anything in particular, it will be an unusual or striking title which first jumps out and grabs my attention, and that was almost certainly the case with this one. Sharp noted it down on 27th December 1905 from Susan Williams (1832-1915), of Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset.
The song has a long history – see Steve Gardham’s “Dungbeetle” article, The Distressed Maid for Musical Traditions, from which it is clear that this version is derived (and only slightly condensed) from ‘The Dublin Tragedy’, first published on a broadside printed by Mayne of Belfast in the mid nineteenth century.
Floating down the tide