> Anne Briggs > Songs > Willie o' Winsbury
> Tony Rose > Songs > Tom the Barber
> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > Thomas of Welshbury
> Nic Jones > Songs > William of Winesbury

Willie o' Winsbury / Tom the Barber

[ Roud 64 ; Child 100 ; G/D 5:999 ; Henry H221 ; Ballad Index C100 ; trad.]

Robert Cinnamond sang this ballad in a recording made by Diane Hamilton, probably in County Antrim and probably in 1961. It was included in 1975 with the title The Rich Shipowner's Daughter on his Topic LP You Rambling Boys of Pleasure and in 1998 as There Was a Lady Lived in the West on the Topic anthology It Fell on a Day, a Bonny Summer Day (The Voice of the People Series, Volume 17).

Sweeney's Men—Andy Irvine, Johnny Moynihan and Terry Woods—recorded Willie o' Winsbury in 1968 for their first LP, Sweeney's Men. Johnny Moynihan's then girlfriend Anne Briggs recorded this ballad too in 1971 for her first solo album, Anne Briggs. A.L. Lloyd commented in its sleeve notes:

English singers have called this Johnny Barbary or Tom the Barber, but from Somerset to Aberdeen its distinguishing feature is that the seduced girl's father—often, as here, the king—is so taken by the young man's looks that he forgives all. Cecil Sharp, publishing a West country version, suppresses this amiable but equivocal motif. Ah well. For those who care, this ballad is listed as Child 100. Johnny Moynihan adds his bouzouki to Anne's in the accompaniment.

As all recordings of Anne Brigg's album, this track was reissued on her Fellside and Topic compilation CDs, Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. It was also included in the Topic compilation English and Scottish Folk Ballads and on the 2 CD anthology The Legend of Sweeney's Men.

Joe McCafferty of Co. Donegal sang John Barbour to Hugh Shields on August 24, 1969. This recording was included in 1975 on the Leader album Folk Ballads from Donegal and Derry.

Barbara Dickson sang Lord Thomas of Winesberry and the King's Daughter in 1971 on her album From the Beggar's Mantle… Fringed With Gold.

Pentangle sang Willie o' Winsbury in 1972 on their album Solomon's Seal.

John Goodluck sang Willie o' Winsbury in 1974 on on his album The Suffolk Miracle.

Staverton Bridge sang Tom Barbary in 1975 on their eponymous Saydisc album Staverton Bridge (SDL-266). This recording was included on 2001 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices in Harmony. Paul Adams commented:

The idea of a courtship being conducted in disguise by a prince or a rich man's son is the common stuff of oral tales the world over. In Tom Barbary it makes for a remarkably amiable ballad with smiles, forgiveness and fortunes all round at the end of the story. It is a version of Willie o' Winesbury (Child 100). Prof. Child's Scottish versions all have him as Willie or Thomas of Winsbury (or Winesberry), Tom (or John) Barbary (or Barber) seems to emanate from the West Country.

Dick Gaughan sang Willie o' Winsbury in 1978 on his Topic album Gaughan. He commented in his sleeve notes:

I couldn't have imagined myself singing this a few years back, but I found a couple of verses for the middle which change the whole emphasis of the song. I first heard it sung by Anne Briggs to a different tune, but don't remember where I got this tune. The guitar is tuned DADGAD and the accompaniment is from an idea my wife Dorris gave me.

Hazel King sang Willie o' Winsbury in 1978 on her and Derek Sarjeant's album English & Scottish Folksongs and Ballads.

Dave Burland sang Willie o' Winsbury in 1979 on his album You Can't Fool the Fat Man. His version is from Maud Karpeles' book Folk Songs of Newfoundland.

Tony Rose recorded Tom the Barber in 1982 for his fourth album, Poor Fellows. As his albums weren't available any more, he re-recorded it in 1999 for his CD Bare Bones. He commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

For some 200 years, dating from the mid-17th century, the Barbary coast of North Africa—present day Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria—was notorious pirate territory. ‘Barber’ seems to derive from ‘berber’, but whether this is the hero's nickname, disguise or genuine identity is uncertain. Other versions of Willie o' Winsbury have him “lately come from Spain.” In either case it must have seemed fairly exotic to Mr Gordge of Bridgwater from whom Cecil Sharp collected this fine tune.

Steve Turner sang Lord Thomas of Winesbury in 1984 on his Fellside album Eclogue.

Brian Peters sang John Barbour in 1989 on his Harbourtown album Fools of Fortune. He noted:

Fortune favoured John Barbour, whose physical attractiveness landed him on the gallows but then reprieved him. This version of Willie o' Winsbury appears in Peacock's Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, and was collected from a Mrs. Charlotte Decker.

Frankie Armstrong sang Thomas of Welshbury in 2000 on her Fellside CD The Garden of Love. Brian Pearson commented in the liner notes:

Frankie lives in Wales and was initially attracted by the title of this version of Willie of Winsbury. She likes the way that disaster is averted by the king's unexpectedly broad-minded appreciation of a pretty young man. The idea that the folk tradition is ferociously heterosexual doesn't hold up—think of all those songs about cross-dressing or of phrases like “girls, if you must love, love another”.

Nic Jones sang William of Winesbury on his 2001 album of previously unreleased material, Unearthed. He commented:

My approach to learning songs was quite undisciplined and somewhat lazy. I used to trawl through a variety of books such as the Child Ballads, Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs, Bronson, and the EFDSS Folk Song Journals, and listen to old recordings of traditional singers. Rather than conscientiously learn the songs by writing them down and working out the arrangement, I tended to absorb them over a period of time. Add the facts that I couldn't read music very well and had a terrible memory even then, the end result was words and tunes were not always remembered correctly nor, in some cases, were the sources. […] William of Winesbury [is] such [a] song.

Jim Eldon sang High Castle Wall in 2004 on his album Home from Sea.

Kate Rusby sang John Barbury in 2007 on her CD Awkward Annie.

Hannah James and Sam Sweeney sang There Was a Lady Lived in the West in 2012 on their second duo album, State and Ancientry. They noted in their liner notes:

Hannah learnt this song from a spectacular recording of Robert Cinnamond [see above] and only hopes that her delivery is half as enthralling as his. It's a tale of a princess who falls for John Barlow, an “unsuitable” sailor, but when the King meets him he decides he's a fine looking young man and lets them marry anyway.

Martha Tilston sang Willie o' Winsbury live at Bush Hall in London on November 8, 2012:

Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer sang Willie o' Winsbury in 2013 on their CD Child Ballads. They also sang it live at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014:

Jim Moray sang William of Barbary in 2016 on his CD Upcetera. He commented in his sleeve notes:

As sung to Cecil Sharp on January 2, 1906 by Mr Gordge of Somerset, who confusingly called it Tom the Barber., despite the name Tom not featuring anywhere in the song. I learned this from Steve Turner's recording on his album Eclogue, where he called it Lord Thomas of Winesbury.

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne sang Tom the Barber in 2017 on his WildGoose CD Outway Songster. He commented:

A variant of Child ballad 100, commonly known as Willie o’ Winesbury. I first heard this sung by Tony Rose on his 1982 LP Poor Fellows. [Its] sleeve notes comment that this song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mr Gordge of Bridgwater (collected January 2, 1906). This variant was published in Volume I of Sharp’s English Folk Songs presented there under the title Lord Thomas of Winesberry. The only variant I’ve found with the title Tom the Barber is that collected by Hammond from W. Bartlett of Wimborne, Dorset in September 1906, and it appears that Tony Rose’s text draws on this variant. The most convincing explanation of the term ‘barber’ is that it is a corruption of ‘Berber’ referring to the people of North Africa.

Note: Richard Thompson used the tune of this song in 1969 for his own song Farewell, Farewell.

Lyrics

Anne Briggs sings Willie o' WinsburyTony Rose sings Tom the Barber

The king has been a prisoner
And a prisoner long in Spain,
And Willie of the Winsbury
Has lain long with his daughter at hame.

As I looked over the castle wall
To see what I could see,
There I saw my father's ship
𝄆 Come a-sailing home to me. 𝄇

“What ails ye? what ails ye, my daughter Janet?
Why you look so pale and wan?
Oh, have you had any sore sickness
Or yet been sleepin' with a man?”

“What's the matter, my daughter Jane,
That you look so pale and wan,
Have you had some sore sickness
In 𝄆 lying with some young man?” 𝄇

“I have not had any sore sickness
Nor yet been sleepin' wi' a man.
It is for you, my father dear,
For biding so long in Spain.”

“Oh, I've had no sore sickness
In lying with no young man,
But I have a grieve to my very, very heart
𝄆 That you've been so long at sea.” 𝄇

“Cast off, cast off your berry-brown gown,
You stand naked upon the stane,
That I may ken ye by your shape
Whether you be a maiden or none.”

And she's cast off her berry-brown gown,
She stood naked upon the stone.
Her apron was low and her haunches were round,
Her face was pale and wan.

Then she's took off her gown of green,
She's hanged it against the wall.
Her apron strings they would not untie
𝄆 She was three quarters gone. 𝄇

“Oh, was it with a lord or a duke or a knight,
Or a man of birth and fame?
Or was it with one of me serving men
That's lately come out of Spain?”

“It is to a noble gentleman
Or to one of low degree?
Or is it to some jolly, jolly tar
𝄆 That sails in along of me?” 𝄇

“No, it wasn't with a lord, nor a duke, nor a knight,
Or a man of birth and fame.
But it was with Willie of Winsbury,
I could bide no longer alone.”

“ 't is to no noble gentleman
Nor to one of low degree;
But it is to that jolly, jolly tar
That sails in along of thee,
Aye, he sails along of thee.”

And the king he has called on his merry men all,
By thirty and by three,
Says, “Fetch me this Willie of Winsbury,
For hanged he shall be!”

So he's called up his merry, merry men,
By one, by two, by three,
And Tom the Barber that used to come first,
𝄆 The last come in was he. 𝄇

But when he came the king before,
He was clad all in the red silk.
His hair was like the strands of gold,
His skin was as white as milk.

In came Tom the Barber bold,
He was dressed all in silk.
His eyes did shine like morning sun,
His skin it was like the milk,
Oh, his skin was like the milk.

“And it is no wonder,” said the king,
“That my daughter's love you did win.
If I was a woman, as I am a man,
My bedfellow you would have been.”

“And will you marry my daughter Janet,
By the truth of your right hand?
Oh, will you marry my daughter Janet?
I'll make you the lord of my land.”

“Will you marry my daughter Jane?
Will you take her by the hand?
Will you prove a father unto that child,
The 𝄆 heir to all my land?” 𝄇

“Yes, I will marry your daughter Janet
By the truth of my right hand.
Yes I will marry your daughter Janet,
But I'll not be the lord of your land.”

“Yes, I'll marry your daughter Jane,
I'll take her by the hand.
I'll prove a father unto that child,
But I value not your land,
No, I value not your land.

And he's mounted her on a milk-white steed
And himself on a dapple grey.
He has made her the lady of as much land
As she'll ride in a long summer's day.

For I have gold and silver store,
I've houses and I've land.
If it were not for your daughter Jane,
I'd never been your man,
No, I'd ne'er been your man.”

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Willie O Winsbury.