When I was a student in Oxford in the early 80s, Len & Barbara Berry were regular visitors to the Heritage Society, the University folk club. In fact they were regular visitors to pretty much every folk club in the area, as well as running their own monthly club in Kirtlington Village Hall.
Len sadly passed away at the start of the year, and the obituaries give a sense of the affection in which he was held.
Barbara did a lot of work on the songs collected by Alfred Williams, and published in Folk Songs of the Upper Thames. Williams noted only the words, so Barbara found suitable tunes, or simply composed her own – as was the case with this song, which was always my favourite.
Alfred Williams collected the words from Mrs Rowles of Witney, and noted that it was “Formerly sung by her father, W. Barrett, of Marston Meysey.”
A search of the Roud Index reveals that the song was published on a number of broadsides – the example shown is from the English Ballads collection being built up by the National Library of Scotland. A couple of verses were even included in Theodore Hook’s Hungarian melodrama Tekeli
As performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury-Lane.
This piece made its first appearance at Drury Lane, on the 24th of November, 1806, and is said to be a translation by Mr Hook, Jun. and by him adapted to the English stage. The interest is supported with much ingenuity through the whole performance, and the music on which the success of this species of drama so much depends, well suited to the action. It abounds in loyal and noble sentiments, calculated for the meridian in which it was produced. It was received with the most unbounded applause, and announced for a second representation amidst repeated bravoes.
[text above corrected by me from the poorly OCR-d version at the Internet Archive]
When I asked Barbara Berry if I might sing this song, she said “yes” – as long as I credited her as my source. I have of course always been very happy to do so. Thank you, Barbara.
I’ll weave her a garland