> Anne Briggs > Songs > Gathering Rushes in the Month of May
> Shirley Collins > Songs > Gathering Rushes in the Month of May
> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > Underneath Her Apron
> Steeleye Span > Songs > Underneath Her Apron

Gathering Rushes in the Month of May / Underneath Her Apron

[ Roud 899 ; G/D 7:1493 ; Ballad Index DTundrap ; VWML RoudFS/S276420 ; Bodleian Roud 899 ; trad.]

Edgar Button sang Underneath Her Apron at The Eel's Foot in Eastbridge, Suffolk, in 1938/39. This BBC recording by A.L. Lloyd was included in 2000 on the Veteran CD of traditional singing and Music from The Eel's Foot, Good Order! Ladies and Gentlemen Please.

Anne Briggs sang Gathering Rushes in the Month of May in 1966 on the Topic theme album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Erotic Songs. As all of her tracks from this album it was reissued on her two compilations Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

How many country girls through the centuries have been heartened by the sweet nobility of this song? A girl bears a bastard. She is afraid of her father's displeasure, but her pride in her baby and in the way she got it triumphs over her fear. The song has been common enough (the present set was got in Suffolk in 1937) but no collector thought it fit to publish. Queer lot. It's one of the masterpieces of English love songs. Gathering rushes—used chiefly as floor covering and for basket-making—was traditionally thought propitious for love encounters, no doubt because rushes grew in lonely spots and offer good cover for secret sport.

Danny Brazil sang Underneath Her Apron in a recording made by Peter Shepheard in The Tabard Bar in Gloucester in May 1966 that was included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Tradition anthology Down By the Old Riverside.

Shirley Collins sang Gathering Rushes in the Month of May unaccompanied in 1969 on her and her sister Dolly's album Anthems in Eden, next to another song about unwanted pregnancy, Nellie the Milkmaid.

Bob Hart sang this song as Underneath Her Apron in a recording at home in Snape, Suffolk, in July 1972 made by Tony Engle. This was released a year later on his Topic album Songs from Suffolk. An earlier home recording made by Rod and Danny Stradling on July 8, 1969 was included in 2007 on his Musical Traditions anthology A Broadside.

Swan Arcade sang this song as Little Maiden in 1976 on their LP Matchless.

Percy Ling sang Underneath Your Apron in a recording made by Keith Summers in 1974-5. It was published in 1977 on the Ling Family's Topic album Singing Traditions of a Suffolk Family.

The Battlefield Band sang this song as The Tamosher in 1978 on their Topic album At the Front. They commented in their sleeve notes:

Alan [Reid] learnt this song from Tocher magazine, a publication of selections from the archive of The School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University. It was collected from Bessie Whyte, who is of travelling stock, but now lives in Montrose. [VWML RoudFS/S276420] We hope she doesn't mind the slight changes we have made in our arrangement of the song. Bessie says that the “Tamosher is the thing that makes weans…”

John Kirkpatrick sang Underneath Her Apron in 1980 on the Umps and Dumps' Topic album The Moon's in a Fit. This track was also included in 1994 in his Topic anthology A Short History of John Kirkpatrick. He recorded the song again in 1998 for his CD One Man & His Box.

Peta Webb sang Underneath Her Apron in a 1989 recording by John Howson on her 2003 Musical Traditions anthology The Magpie's Nest.

Maddy Prior sang Underneath Her Apron in 1996 on Steeleye Span's album Time. The latter album's sleeve notes commented:

A fifteen year old girl woke her mother at 4 o'clock in the morning with the words “I think I'm going to have a baby, now.” This happened to my personal knowledge within the last ten years. And she shared her room with her sister. She just used a baggy sweater rather than an apron to hide her predicament.

Jon Boden sang Gathering Rushes in the Month of May as the May 8, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

From Anne Briggs, whose version is so sublime nobody else has bothered trying to record it. A great song to sing. On the odd occasion when I feel the need to do a warm up (I don’t normally hold with ‘em really) I generally end up singing this through as an ornaments exercise apart from anything else.

Andy Turner learned Underneath Your Apron from Percy Ling's recording and sang it as the October 30, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Furrow Collective sang The Tamosher in 2017 as the title track of their digital download EP The Tamosher. They commented on their website:

We learnt The Tamosher [VWML RoudFS/S192027] from the singing of the late Perthshire Traveller singer Betsy Whyte, who was also well-known as the author of the autobiographical book The Yellow on the Broom. It's a song about concealed pregnancy and childbirth, a relatively common theme in both Scottish and English tradition with other examples including songs such as A Wee Bird Cam Tae My Apron and Gathering Rushes. One theory about the origin of the term ‘tamosher’ suggests that it might be a corruption of “stomacher”, referring to a triangular panel women wore over the chest ending in a stiff point over the stomach. Another theory suggests that it may be related to a Gaelic term for reproach, disgrace or offence—but Betsy herself believed that ‘tamosher’ is an old Scots word for ‘the thing that makes a wean’.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings Gathering Rushes in the Month of May

A fine young girl all in the month of May,
She was gathering rushes just at the break of day.
But before she's come home she's born a little son,
And she's rolled him underneath her apron.

Well, she cried at the threshold as she coming at the door,
And she folded in her apron the little babe she bore.
Said her father, “Where've you been, my little daughter Jane,
And what's that you've got underneath your apron?”

“Oh father, dear father, it's nothing then,” said she.
“It's only my new gown and that's too long for me.
And I was afraid it would draggle in the dew,
So I rolled it underneath my apron.”

But in the dead of the night, when all were fast asleep,
This pretty little baby, oh, it began to weep.
Said her father, “What's that bird a-crying out so clear
In the bedroom among the pretty maidens?”

“Oh father, dear father, it's nothing then,” said she,
“It's just a little bird that fluttered to my knee,
And I'll build for it a nest, and I'll warm it on my breast
So it won't wake early in the May morning.”

But in the third part of the night, when all were fast asleep,
This pretty little baby again began to weep.
Said her father, “What's that baby a-crying out so clear
In the bedroom among the pretty maidens?”

“Oh father, dear father, it's nothing then,” said she,
“It's just a little baby that someone gave to me.
Let it lie, let it sleep this night along o' me
And I tell to you its daddy in the May morning.”

“Well, was it by a black man or was it by a brown,
Or was it by a ploughing lad a-ploughing up and down,
That gave to you the stranger you wear with your new gown,
That you rolled up underneath your apron?”

“No, it wasn't by a black man and it wasn't by a brown,
I got it from a ploughing lad that ploughs the watery main.
He gave to me the stranger I wear with my new gown
That I've rolled up underneath my apron.”

“Well, was it in the kitchen got or was it in the hall?
Or was it in the cow-shed or was it in the stall?
I wish I had a firebrand to burn the building down
Where you met with him on a May morning.”

“No, it wasn't in the kitchen got, it wasn't in the hall,
And neither in the cow-shed and neither in the stall.
It was down by yonder spring where the small birds they sing
That I met with him on a May morning.”

Shirley Collins sings Gathering Rushes in the Month of May

It's of three young maidens a-rushing they went,
And a-gathering of rushes it was their intent;
But before one's come home she's born a little son,
And she's rolled it underneath her apron.

So it's home came young Sally with her eyes all full of tears,
“What is it that ails you, my little daughter dear?
And what is it that ails my pretty little Sal?
And what have you got underneath your apron?”

Oh then, “Father, oh father, oh father dear,” said she,
“It is but my new gown that's too long for me,
And I was afraid it would draggle in the dew,
So I rolled it underneath my apron.”

But it's in the first part of the night, when all were fast asleep,
The pretty little baby began for to weep.
Said her father, “What's that a-crying out so shrill
In the room all among the pretty maidens?”

Well then, “Father, oh father, oh father dear,” said she,
“It is but a little baby someone gave to me.
Let it lie, let it lie this night along of me
And I tell to you its daddy in the morning.”

“Well then, was it by a black man got, or was it by a brown,
Or was it by a ploughing lad a-ploughing up and down,
For if I had a sword I would run the villain through,
And leave him to die in the morning.”

“Well, it wasn't by a black man got, it wasn't by a brown,
But it was by a sailor lad that came from London town,
And he left me a posy to wear with my new gown
And I met him early in the May morning.”

“Well then, was it in the kitchen got or was it in the hall?
Or was it in the stable or was it in the stall?
For if I had a brand I would burn the building down
Where you met with your love on a May morning.”

“Well, it wasn't in the kitchen, it wasn't in the hall,
It wasn't in the stable, it wasn't in the stall.
It was down by yonder spring where the small birds they do sing
That I met with my love on a May morning.”

Maddy Prior sings Underneath Her Apron

A pretty young girl all in the month of May,
A-gathering rushes just at the break of day
And before she's come home she has born a little son,
And she's rolled him underneath her apron.

All in the first part of the night, when all were fast asleep,
This pretty little baby, oh, it began to weep.
“Oh what's that little babe that's a-crying out so clear
In the bedroom among the pretty maidens?”

“Oh father, dear father, it's nothing then,” said she.
“It's a little bird that my sister gave to me
And I'll build for it a nest, and I'll warm it on my breast
So that it won't wake you early in the May morning.”

All in the last part of the night, when they were fast asleep,
This pretty little baby, again, began to weep.
“Oh what's that little babe that's crying out so clear
In the bedroom among the pretty maidens?”

“Oh father, dear father, it's nothing then,” said she.
“It's just a little baby that someone gave to me
Let it lie, let it sleep this night along o' me
And I tell to you its daddy in the May morning.”

“Oh, was it by a black man or was it by a brown,
Or was it by a ploughing boy that's ploughing up and down,
That gave to you the stranger you wear with your new gown,
That you've rolled up underneath your apron?”

“It wasn't by a black man and it wasn't by a brown
But it was by a sailor lad that ploughs the watery main
And 't was him gave me the stranger that I wear with my new gown
That I've rolled up underneath my apron.”

“Oh, was it in the kitchen got or was it in the hall?
Or was it in the cow-shed or up against the wall?
I wish I had a firebrand to burn the building down
Where you met with him on a May morning.”

“It wasn't in the kitchen got, it wasn't in the hall.
It wasn't in the cow-shed nor up against the wall?
It was down by yonder spring where them pretty birds do sing
That I met with him on a May morning.”

The Furrow Collective sing The Tamosher

The were twa bonnie lassies and they were dressed in blue,
And they went out some rushes for tae pu'.
And yin o' them caught a wee thing before she did return
And she bundled it and rolled it in her apron.

Well, the first yin that she met was her faither on the stair,
“Oh daughter, dear daughter, it's what have you got there?
Who gave to you the tamosher to wear the starched gown
And you bundled it and rolled it in your apron?

“Oh was it to the baker, or was it to the clown,
Or was it to the bonnie boy who sails the world around?
Who gave to you the tamosher to wear the starched gown
And you bundled it and rolled it in your apron?”

“Well, it wasn't to the baker, it wasn't to the clown,
But it was to the bonnie boy who sails the world around.
He gave to me the tamosher to wear the starched gown
And I bundled it and rolled it in my apron.”

Well, here comes little Molly, she comes to the town
With her ricky-rocky slippers in her newly starched gown.
Her ricky-rocky slippers in her newly starched gown,
And she bundled it and rolled it in her apron.