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The White/Blue/Green Cockade / My Love Has Listed

[ Roud 191 ; Master title: The White Cockade ; TYG 2 ; Ballad Index StoR068 ; VWML SBG/2/1/108 ; Bodleian Roud 191 ; GlosTrad Roud 191 ; Wiltshire 729 ; Mudcat 3704 ; trad.]

In the armies of the 1600s the Colonel of each regiment provided the uniform for his men, and so regiments wore coats of different colours. By the late 17th century, most English regiments wore red or crimson coats, but some wore blue or grey. Regiments in foreign armies, too, wore coats of various colours. The English Army (which became the British Army following the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707) often fought alongside Danish, Hanoverian, Prussian, etc, troops, all with different uniforms. Therefore it was necessary, when going into battle, to display a ‘field sign’ in their hats, to distinguish their own side from the enemy. There are numerous contemporary references in soldiers’ memoirs to the issue of a sprig of oak leaves, or a piece of white paper, or a bunch of ribbons worn in the hat to indicate which soldiers were on their side. The bunch of ribbons was tidied up and became known as a cockade, and worn in the hat or cap it became an significant part of a soldier’s uniform throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Soldiers of the Stuart kings wore a white cockade. Following the overthrow of King James II of England in 1688, his followers (‘Jacobites’) continued to wear the white cockade.
[from the Mudcat Café thread Origins: The White/Blue/Green Cockade]

The White Cockade is a song from the repertoire of the Copper Family. It is printed in The Copper Family Song Book and in Bob Copper’s book A Song for Every Season. Bob Copper sang it in a BBC recording (BBC 21547) made by Peter Kennedy at the Central Club, Peacehaven, on 2 February 1955. There is also a demo version on which Bob Copper accompanies himself when he was learning the concertina in the 1980s. This demo tape was sold without permission by Peter Kennedy on the Folktrax cassette Come All You Bold Britons: The Copper Family 1.

Bob Davenport sang My Love Has ’Listed on his 1959 Collector EP Geordie Songs and in 1965 as The White Cockade on the EFDSS LP Folksound of Britain. Reg Hall commented in the first album’s sleeve notes:

My Love Has ’Listed has one of the commonest themes found in country songs. It tells of the fortunes of a girl and her young man who leaves her to join the army. In Southern England we call this The White Cockade.

Maureen Craik sang The White Cockade in 1965 on her Topic album with Harry Boardman and the Watersons, New Voices. The sleeve notes commented:

This song, also called It was one summer morning is deep-rooted in Maureen’s native Tyneside. As early as 1821, Blackwood s Magazine printed it in a version received from Thomas Doubleday, a Newcastle soap boiler and fiery radical who was also an excellent collector of Northumbrian song (the fine Captain Rover is one of his discoveries). The Yorkshireman Frank Kidson noted a version of The White Cockade (not quite so good as this one) from his mother who heard it sung in Leeds about 1820. The tune is probably older than the words, which belong to the closing years of the eighteenth century.

The Watersons sang The White Cockade in 1966 on their Topic album A Yorkshire Garland. This track was reissued on the Early Days CD and in 2004 on the Watersons’ 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song. On the same anthology is a live performance by the Watersons (Lal, Mike, Norma & Rachel Waterson, and Martin Carthy) from the Whitby Folk Week in August 1990, which has been published previously in 1991 on the Whitby Festival 25th anniversary cassette From the Humber to the Tweed. Another live recording from the Kertalg Folk Festival in 1974 was released on the LP Kertalg 74.

A.L. Lloyd commented in the Early Days sleeve notes:

More than a hundred years ago this song was being spoken of as “a favourite with the peasantry in every part of England but more particularly in the mining districts of the North”. A soap-boiler and vitriol manufacturer, Thomas Doubleday (who was also a fine pioneer folk song collector) heard it sung by a street ballad singer in Newcastle and he sent a copy to Blackwood’s Magazine, who published it in 1821. Every version found since then is so close to Doubleday’s, that it looks as if the song’s early appearance in print quite fixed its form for ever. Frank Kidson noted a version from his mother “who heard it sung in Leeds about the year 1820”, but it’s the Newcastle set, word for word, and note for note. More or less identical is this present version, an amplification of a set found in Yorkshire by Nigel and Mary Hudleston.

Both comments do not mention that the tune My Love Has Newly ’Listed that Doubleday submitted to Blackwood’s Magazine did not accompany the verses discussed here but the song The Snow It Melts the Soonest.

Marie Little sang The White Cockade in 1971 on her Argo album Factory Girl.

The Druids sang The White Cockade in 1972 on their Argo album Pastime With Good Company.

Louis and Sally Killen sang The White Cockade unaccompanied in 1975 on their LP Bright Shining Morning. Louis Killen noted:

Learned from a private issue recording made by Douglas and Mary Hudleston, folklorists of the Cleveland Hills, of four men in a pub in Robin Hood’s Bay, York. This version has missing some of the verses found in Frank Kidson’s collection, and the loss of the first of the verses condemning the man “who enlisted him” causes some unconscious humour, and confusion as to who is being bawled out. It was from these same four men that the Hudlestons collected the now well-known Grimbsy song Three Score and Ten.

White Hart sang The White Cockade in 1979 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album In Search of Reward. This track was also included in 2002 on the Fellside anthology Enlist for a Soldier.

Fred Jordan sang The White Cockade on his 1991 VWML cassette In Course of Time.

Jo Freya sang The Green Cockade in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England and in 2000 on Freyja’s CD One Bathroom. The first album’s liner notes commented:

Most versions of this song refer to the cockade as being white. This version is similar to that collected by the Rev. Baring-Gould from Edmund Fry [VWML SBG/2/1/108] . Fry’s song was of a green cockade but does does not include a chorus. The sentiment of the song is the same whatever the colour of the cockade.

Show of Hands sang a Dorset version called The Blue Cockade on 24 March 1996 on their live album, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, and on 15 November 2009 in this video live at the National Centre for Early Music in York:

Barbara Brown sang The Green Cockade, following the Cornish Ploughboys, in 2000 on her and Tom Brown’s WildGoose album Where Umber Flows. They noted:

More Cornish and more oxen! A version of the more widespread White Cockade— and yet another version was collected by the Hammond brothers from the extraordinary singer Mrs. Gulliver of Combe Florey on the eastern end of Exmoor as The Blue Cockade. We had this version from Moe Keast of Bodmin—and it’s not the tune given in Canow Kernow. Of all the versions we’ve come across, this text seems to make more sense than most. A. song of lost love—even the team of ploughing oxen miss him!

Bob Fox sang The White Cockade in 2000 on his Woodworm CD Dreams Never Leave You.

The Witches of Elswick sang The Blue Cockade in 2003 on their first album, Out of Bed. This track was also included in the same year on the Holmfirth Festival’s 25 years anniversary compilation, Roots and Wings. The Witches noted:

Cock aids come in many colours, ours is blue and orange courtesy of Mr Msikatt, a former tenant of the minging flat where the Witches were spawned.

Kate Rusby sang The White Cockade in a concert recorded at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall in September 2002; this was released two years later on her DVD Live From Leeds.

Jon Boden learned The White Cockade at Forest School Camp and sang it as the 29 June 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

James Findlay sang The White Cockade in 2011 on his Fellside CD Sport and Play. He noted:

All versions seem to stem from the song collected by Thomas Doubleday from a street singer in Newcastle, published in 1821.

Pete Coe and Alice Jones recorded One Summer’s Morning in 2014 on their album of songs from the Frank Kidson collection, The Search for Five Finger Frank.

Andy Turner learned The White Cockade from the repertoire of the Copper Family. He sang it as the 7 June 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

GreenMatthews sang The Blue Cockade on their 2019 CD Roots & Branches. They noted:

A traditional English song which neatly subverts the “wispy sweetheart waiting for her lover to return from the wars” theme. The first two verses are him apologising for getting drunk and joining the army, but vowing to marry her when he returns. The second two are her telling him he’s a selfish idiot and not to bother coming back.

Belinda Kempster and Fran Foote sang Dearly Missed on their 2019 CD On Clay Hill.


Bob Copper sings The White Cockade

’Twas on one summer’s morning as my love walked over the plain,
He had no thought of enlisting when a soldier to him came,
Who so kindly invited him to drink the ale that’s brown,
𝄆 He advanced 𝄇 him a shilling all to fight for the Crown.

So now my love has enlisted and he wears a white cockade,
He is a handsome young man, likewise a roving blade,
He is a handsome young man and he’s going to serve the King,
𝄆 Oh, my very 𝄇 heart is breaking all for the loss of him.

Oh, may he never prosper and may he never thrive
With anything he takes in hand, this world while he’s alive,
May the very ground he walks upon the grass refuse to grow,
𝄆 Since he’s being 𝄇 the only cause of my sorrow, grief and woe.

He pulled out his pocket handkerchief to wipe her flowing tears,
He said, My dear, dry up those tears likewise those mournful sighs,
Be you of good courage stout and bold while I march over the plain,
𝄆 Then I’ll marry 𝄇 you, my dearest, when I return again.

The Watersons sing The White Cockade

’Tis true, my love’s enlisted and he wears a white cockade.
He is a handsome young lad likewise a roving blade.
He is a handsome young lad, just right to serve a king.
𝄆 Oh my very 𝄇 heart is breaking all for the loss of him.

As I roved out one morning, as I wandered over yon moss
I had no thoughts of ’listing till a soldier did me cross.
He kindly did invite me to take a flowing bowl.
𝄆 He advanced 𝄇 me the money two guineas and a crown.

My love is tall and handsome and comely for to see
But by a sad misfortune a soldier now is he.
May the man that first enlisted him not prosper night and day!
𝄆 How I wish that 𝄇 he may perish all in the foaming spray!

And may he never prosper and may he never thrive
On that he puts his hands to as long as he’s alive!
May the very ground he treads upon the grass refuse to bloom
𝄆 Since he has been my 𝄇 only cause of my sorrow, grief and gloom!

She’s then pulled out her handkerchief to wipe her flowing tears.
Wipe up, wipe up them mournful tears, likewise them mournful sighs!
And be you of good courage till I return again!
𝄆 You and I love 𝄇 will be married when I return again.

The Witches of Elswick sing The Blue Cockade

Twas on one Monday’s morning as I crossed over the moss,
I little thought of listing till the soldiers did me cross.
The company enticed me to drink their health all round,
𝄆 And the bounty 𝄇 they gave me, five guineas and a crown.

My head was full of drink, love, and I didn’t think of you,
And now I’m forced to go and join the orange and the blue.
Our ship she waits at anchor to take the flowing tide.
𝄆 I’ll return love 𝄇 in the spring time I’ll make you my bride.

So early the next morning, before the break of day,
The captain gave his orders and my love marched away.
All in your ranks and files, boys, all on your native shore,
𝄆 Fare ye well love, 𝄇 you’re the lad that I adore.

Well I hope you never prosper and I hope you always fail
At everything you venture, I hope you ne’er do well.
And the very ground you walk upon, may the grass refuse to grow,
𝄆 Since you’ve been the 𝄇 very cause of all my sorrow, grief and woe.

Well, it’s true my love is ’listed and he wears the blue cockade.
He is a handsome young man, likewise a roving blade.
He is a handsome young man, but he’s gone to serve his king
𝄆 While my very 𝄇 heart is breaking all for the love of him.


Transcribed from the singing of The Watersons by Garry Gillard, with thanks also to Wolfgang Hell and to Emily Portman for corrections. Thanks to Roger Packwood for information about the Copper’s recording. The Copper’s version is from The Copper Family Song Book.