Week 32 – The Rakish Young Fellow

During my time at Oxford, the Heritage Society, the University folk club, was supposedly run by students, but in fact it received a very significant helping hand from former student Caroline Jackson-Houlston – who is still active today in the running of the Friday night Oxford Folk Club. I sang with Caroline in various vocal harmony groups throughout my time as a student. In my last year we performed as a duo, under the name Flash Company, and this was one of our songs.

The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from William Nott, Meshaw, Devon in 1904, but I’m pretty sure that Caroline learned the song from Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs’ book The English Folksinger.

This Mudcat thread provides links to a number of more modern versions involving airmen, Lancers and stockmen as well as sailors – oh and a decidedly politically incorrect Australian parody which commences “Charlotte the harlot lay dying, A piss-pot supporting her head…”

I sang this last night at the Frittenden Old Fashioned Night Out
I chose it because it’s a song with a jolly chorus. Temporarily forgetting that actually it’s a song about a man planning his funeral. And that maybe this wasn’t the best choice given that a very close friend had died the previous night, after a long illness. But actually, as I got to the last verse it occurred to me that this was exactly the kind of rumbustious  funeral Dave might have planned for himself. Wherever you are Dave, RIP.

The Rakish Young Fellow - ballad sheet from the Bodleian Library collection

Ballad sheet from the Bodleian Library collection. Published J. Pitts, Seven Dials, between 1819 and 1844

The Rakish Young Fellow

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