One of my favourite songs, and another from the wonderful May Bradley (see last week’s post). I learned this from the book Garners Gay, prompted by having heard the song on the LP Rose of Britain’s Isle by John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris. I adjusted the way I sing ‘Sweet Swansea’ a little bit after hearing May Bradley herself sing it on the Garners Gay LP. In particular I really liked the way she repeated the last verse, but changing the words ever so slightly. It was the lack of this feature on either of the versions included on the Musical Traditions CD Sweet Swansea which made me realise that some of the recordings from the 1971 EFDSS LP had not (initially) been included on this CD. It turned out that the National Sound Archive had provided Rod with all of the recordings they had of Mrs Bradley – which, sadly, suggests that one reel of tape must have gone missing at some point between 1971 and 2010; hopefully this will reappear at some point.
According to May Bradley the song was based on an actual incident, and had been written by her “double great grandfather”; and it’s certainly the case that only one other version is known to have been collected, by Cecil Sharp in 1907, from Caroline Passmore, Pitminster, Somerset.