Week 126 – Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

I first heard this song on the album Amaranth. This was the 1970s reissue of Shirley and Dolly Collins’ Anthems in Eden suite, where the suite itself was paired with new recordings featuring what one might loosely describe as the Albion Dance Band. The arrangement on this track was greatly enhanced by the presence of a sackbut quartet (for 10 points:  which other Albion track from the early seventies featured four sackbuts?). I actually learned the song from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs where I found that, as taken down by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall in 1904, the song had a rather more unpredictable rhythm than when rendered by Ashley and the boys. I think I was always aware that I hadn’t quite learned it “right”. Checking back now with the book  I can see that my interpretation of the tune owes at least as much to the way Shirley sings it, as to the way it was collected from Mrs Verrall.

I remember hearing Tony Rose sing this song on Radio 2’s folk show Folkweave back in the late seventies or early eighties. He said that, as a young singer, he had gained a reputation for being very knowledgeable about the songs he sang. Little did people realise, he confided, that all he was doing was regurgitating the notes from the back of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. So imagine his horror when he turned to the back of the book and found that, inexplicably, the editors had failed to provide any notes for this song. With its republication as Classic English Folk Songs, this error has of course been redressed. Malcolm Douglas’ notes to the new book tell us that

  • this appears to be one of those songs which have only been collected from a single traditional source (the Roud Index has ‘Over the Mountain’, collected by Gardiner in Hampshire, sharing the same Roud number, but comparing the three verses of that song, I’m not convinced)
  • it is descended from a late seventeenth century broadside, ‘The Two Faithful Lovers’
  • the tune prescribed for the words on one seventeenth century broadside at least was ‘Franklin is Fled Away’, from which Harriett Verrall’s tune appears to be descended – see (and indeed, listen) for yourself at abcnotation.com

Incidentally, I can only find Mrs Verrall’s tune and first verse in the Full English archive, although six verses are given by RVW in the 1906 Journal of the Folk-Song Society.

Fare thee well my dearest dear, noted by Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall, Horsham, Sussex, 22 Dec 1904; image copyright EFDSS.

Fare thee well my dearest dear, noted by Vaughan Williams from Harriett Verrall, Horsham, Sussex, 22 Dec 1904; image copyright EFDSS.

The two faithful lovers. Broadside printed in London, between 1663 and 1674, from the Douce Ballads. Image copyright the Bodleian Library.

The two faithful lovers. Broadside printed in London, between 1663 and 1674, from the Douce Ballads. Image copyright the Bodleian Library.

Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

Andy Turner: vocals, G/D  anglo-concertina

3 Comments to “Week 126 – Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear”

  1. Which other Albion track from the early seventies featured four sackbuts?

    Gallant Poacher on Battle of the Field. And three of its four sackbut players are playing on Shirley Collins’ Fare Thee Well too.

  2. I just saw on Mudcat a revived thread on “Fare Thee Well My Darling Hair” whis is quite a different song. But, like me, Artful Codger was reminded of Shirley’s song, and he supplied a verse:

    Fare thee well, my dearest hair, fare thee well, adieu,
    Since I have gone to seed and cannot accrue
    A mass of curly locks, not even with Minox-
    idil; a barren pate does now await.

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