This must have been one of the first Copper Family songs I ever learned – although if my chronology is right, I think by the time I heard A Song for Every Season in the autumn of 1976 I was already familiar with the two-part harmony version on Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’s LP Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1.
Back then, I used to sing it with my friend Mike Eaton (he was Ron to my Bob). I doubt I’ve sung it in public for many years, but it’s one of those songs which frequently gets an outing in the car, or when I’m just singing around the house. It might be a bit of a hoary old chestnut, but it’s a classic – is there anyone on the English folk scene who doesn’t know this song? (apart, it would seem, from the person who chose to sing this at the Bob Copper Centenary event back in January).
I’ve only recently worked out the concertina accompaniment, having borrowed a Bb/F anglo from Rob Fidler, the Fool with Bampton Morris. Previously I could never decide on a suitable key to play it in, but Eb (the People’s Key!) is just right – so many thanks, Rob.
The song was widely collected by the early twentieth century song collectors – exclusively, as far as I can see, in Southern England, although that might just reflect the fact that Sharp and his contemporaries did the vast majority of their collecting in the South. It was also, unsurprisingly, frequently printed on broadsides; in one case – the ‘New Sailor’s Farewell’, so looking for some unnecessary novelty, perhaps – the otherwise ubiquitous Nancy becomes Betsy.
Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy
Andy Turner – vocal, Bb/F anglo-concertina