Week 147 – The Sheffield Apprentice

A bit of a classic this: really good story line (young man puts love before riches, is falsely accused, and faces a sticky end) and a fine modal tune. What’s not to like?

I had the tune from Joseph Leaning, via a 1908 cylinder recording made by Percy Grainger at Brigg in Lincolnshire, via the iconic 1970s Leader LP, Unto Brigg Fair.

It is not unusual for songs from the oral tradition to have incomplete or confused sets of words, and to then resort to printed sources to fill in the gaps. But the exact opposite was true in this case – Mr Leaning’s version seemed to me to be just too wordy (maybe he learned the song from a printed broadside, which have a tendency to be prolix). So I’ve used a more concise set of words from Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl’s Singing Island. Those words are credited to William Miller of Stirling, who I think I’m right in saying was Ewan MacColl’s Dad.

 

Sheffield 'prentice - broadside ballad printed by Harkness of Preston, from the Bodleian collection.

Sheffield ‘prentice – broadside ballad printed by Harkness of Preston, from the Bodleian collection.

 

An earlier recording of me singing this song can be found on my 1990 cassette Love, Death and the Cossack.

The Sheffield Apprentice

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