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> June Tabor > Songs > The Bonny Boy
> Ashley Hutchings All Stars > Songs > My Bonny Boy

My Bonny Boy / Many's the Night's Rest

[ Roud 293 ; G/D 6:1141 ; Henry H215 ; Ballad Index FSC037 ; VWML LEB/5/298 ; Bodleian Roud 293 ; Wiltshire Roud 293 ; trad.]

W. Percy Merrick collected My Bonny Boy or Many a Night's Rest on June 17, 1901 from Henry Hills of Sussex, who learned the song from his mother. It was included in Lucy Broadwood's manuscript collection.

Anne Briggs sang this passionate song of a betrayed lover in 1964 on her Topic Records EP The Hazards of Love. This recording was also included in the same year on the Topic Sampler No 1, Folk Songs, and reissued in the 1990s on her Fellside and Topic compilation CDs, Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A recording for the BBC programme Folk-Song Cellar, broadcast on August 13, 1966, was released in 2016 on her Fledg'ling EP Four Songs. A.L. Lloyd wrote in the original album's sleeve notes:

This passionate old song spread as far north as Stromness (Balfour's Orkney Melodies, 1885) and as far west as Glenosheen, Co. Limerick (Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland, 1855). Fifty years ago, it was to be heard in many parts of England from Sussex to Westmorland, including the King's Cross district of London where a good version was obtained. It first appeared in print on a mid-17th century broadside as Cupid's Trepan or the Scorne Scorn'd or the Willow Turn'd into Carnation; but it wasn't a new song then. In 1730 a rather popped-up version was used in the stage play The Female Parson, or The Beau in the Suds, reminding us that the impoverishment of folk songs by commercialisation is nothing new. The grand tune also turns up in simpler (but, this time, not impoverished) form adapted to the words of the ballad Henry Martin. A later use of it is in the well known Folk-Song Suite by Vaughan Williams.

Shirley Collins sang My Bonny, Bonny Boy on in the album A Pinch of Salt. She recorded it again as Bonnie Boy for her own 1967 album The Power of the True Love Knot. This was also included in her anthologies The Classic Collection and Within Sound and on Topic Records' The Acoustic Folk Box. She commented in her original album's sleeve notes:

A broadside of this song was around at the time of the restoration, with a “reply” which gave it a happier ending.

Dolly has based her setting around my existing 5-string dulcimer pick. On this track and Greenwood Laddie we are joined by Bram Martin on his 1740 Tosturi cello. Having played for the Beatles on Eleanor Rigby and She's Leaving Home, Mr Martin was able to grasp very quickly the idiom we were after: even, discreet and wonderful warm.

June Tabor learned The Bonny Boy from Anne Briggs and sang it in 1983 on her Topic album Abyssinians. This recording was also included on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album notes:

June Tabor has been at the forefront of performing unaccompanied traditional songs for several years now. She possesses a highly individual, polished style using subtle ornamentation. One of her early influences was Anne Briggs and here she sings a song she learnt from Anne. Anne, in turn, had the song from A.L. Lloyd.

The Ashley Hutchings All Stars recorded My Bonny Boy live in June 1988 for their album As You Like It.

Marc Block sang My Bonny Boy in 2014 on his CD The Hawthorn Spring. He commented in his liner notes:

I got this from June Tabor's Abyssinians. As soon as I heard “I built him a bower in my breast”, I thought I'm having that.

The Furrow Collective sang Many's the Night's Rest, with Emily Portman singing lead, in 2016 on their digital single and album Wild Hog. They commented in their liner notes:

Emily stumbled across Many's the Night's Rest in amongst Lucy Broadwood's manuscript collection included in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society from 1905. It is a version of Bonny Boy collected by W. Percy Merrick in 1901 from a Henry Hills in Sussex. Emily was struck by the resolute tone of the chorus:

Many's the night's rest you've robbed me of,
But you never shall do it again.

The Furrow Collective released this video in March 2016:

Fay Hield sang Bonny Boy on Stick in the Wheel's 2017 anthology of English folk field recordings, From Here. She commented:

Alan and Lynda who used to sing at Bacca Pipes Folk Club in Keighley, they used to give me blank cassettes with recordings of things they thought I should listen to, Anne Briggs was on there and I'd never heard her before. It was the first song I picked out of about a hundred songs, to learn and sing. I knew, if I sang at a singaround, this was my go-to song. So for a long time this felt like my song. I like it because it's a girl looking for her boyfriend, she can't find him, then she sees him with somebody else, and then instead of being a bit depressed and grumpy about it or dying from a broken heart, she says, “well, I'll just see him now and then, then”. I'm not sure if I admire her for that but it's interesting. I would never record this, because it's so Anne Briggs' song, it's missed all my albums but it's still a strong part of me. It's quite nice that this is a pure unaccompanied song, one that's nice kept that way.

Compare to this song its variant The Grey Hawk as sung e.g. by Bob Roberts or by Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings My Bonny Boy Shirley Collins sings Bonnie Boy

I once loved a boy and a bonny, bonny boy
Who would come and would go at request.
And this handsome young boy was my pride and my joy,
𝄆 And I built him a bower in my breast. 𝄇

I once loved a boy, a bonny, bonny boy
And I loved him, I will vow and protest.
I loved him so well, so very, very well,
𝄆 That I built him a bower on my breast. 𝄇

Well, up the long alley and down the green valley,
Like one that was troubled in mind
I hollered and I whooped and I played upon my flute,
𝄆 But no bonny boy could I find. 𝄇

It was through the green valley and up a green hill,
Like one that was troubled in mind,
I called and I shouted and played on my pipe,
𝄆 But no bonny boy could I find. 𝄇

I sat myself down on a green mossy bank
Where the sun it shone wonderful warm;
And who did I spy but my own bonny boy
𝄆 Fast locked in some other girl's arms. 𝄇

I looked up high and I looked down low,
And the sun it shone wonderful warm;
When who should I see but my own bonny boy
That's so close in another girl's arms,
Oh, so close in another girl's arms.

Well, the girl who's the joy of my own bonny boy
Let her make of him all that she can.
And whether he loves me or whether he don't,
𝄆 I'll walk with that boy now and then. 𝄇

Now, my bonny boy has gone far away,
And I fear I shan't see him again.
But were I to have him or were I to not,
I will think of him once and then,
Yes, I'll think of him once now and then.

Henry Hills sings Many a Night's Rest The Furrow Collective sing Many's the Night's Rest

Many a night's rest you've robbed me of,
That you shall never do it again,
But you shall never do it again.

Many's the night's rest you've robbed me of,
That you never shall never do it again,
No you never shall do it again.

I looked up high and I looked down low,
But no bonny boy could I spy,
But no bonny boy could I spy.

She's looked up high and she's looked down low,
But no bonny boy could she find,
No bonny boy could she find.

She hipped and the holloa'd, and played on her flute,
And the sun did shine beautiful warm,
And the sun did shine beautiful warm.

So she hollered and she whooped and she played on her flute,
And the sun did shine wondrous warm,
The sun did shine wondrous warm.

Till at length then I spied my own bonny boy,
He was closed in some other girl's arms,
He was closed in some other girl's arms.

At last there I spied my own bonny boy,
Wrapped up in some other girl's arms,
Wrapped up in some other girl's arms.

Many's the night's rest you've robbed me of,
That you never shall never do it again,
You never shall do it again.