> The Copper Family > Songs > Young Johnnie

Young Johnnie / Searching for Young Lambs

[ Roud 1437 ; Laws O9 ; G/D 5:966 ; Ballad Index LO09 ; VWML CJS2/10/1109A , CJS2/10/1109B ; trad.]

Bob Copper collected Young Johnny in about 1954 from George Fosbury of Axford, Hampshire; see Chapter 14, pp. 114-122, of his book Songs and Southern Breezes for the details. This recording wasn't included on the accompanying album, but Bob Copper later recorded it for his 1977 Topic album Sweet Rose in June. The album's sleeve notes commented:

In the mid 1950s Bob and his wife moved to Cheriton in Hampshire as landlord of the H.H. Inn, an episode described in his third book, Songs and Southern Breezes (1973). Here, working part-time on behalf of the BBC, Bob himself assumed the role of collector. Many of the songs that he collected are preserved on disc in the BBC archives, and a selection may be heard on a Topic record (12T317), but some songs (for reasons best known to the BBC) were wiped from the tape without being transferred to disc. Luckily for us, Bob’s receptive ear and memory ensured their survival. These include The Trooper, from Frank Cole of North Waltham; The Squire’s Lost Lady, from Ben Butcher of Popham; The Fisherman, from Victor ‘Turp’ Brown of Cheriton and both The Rose in June and Young Johnnie from George Fosbury of Axford, supplemented in George Fosbury’s case by the texts in Folk Songs of the Upper Thames.

[…] The remaining songs are 18th century compositions. Anonymous broadside verses; lyrical, as in Rose in June—a song known to Thomas Hardy—or again in Young Johnny, possibly a late 18th century stage song that is also known to country singers as The Long and Wishing Eye—a corruption of the term ‘languishing eye’; or factual, with characters like Bold General Wolfe and Dick Turpin.

George Spicer sang Searching for Young Lambs in 1972 in his home in Selsfield, West Hoathly, Sussex. This recording by Mike Yates was released in 1974 on his Topic LP Blackberry Fold: Traditional Songs and Ballad and in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology Up in the North and Down in the South: Songs and Music from the Mike Yates Collection. Mike Yates commented in the latter's booklet:

Not to be confused with the song Searching for Lambs [Roud 576] so beloved by Cecil Sharp and other early collectors on account of its splendid tune. The formal structure of our present song belies its origin, namely the Pleasure Garden stage, and, indeed, it first appeared in print c. 1750 in Six English Songs and Dialogues, as they are Performed in the Public Gardens. The song was obviously a favourite at the time and was included in two other song collections, Apollo's Cabinet, printed in Liverpool in 1757, and Cleo and Euterpe, printed in London in 1758.

Today it is seldom encountered, although odd sets were reported during the last century—Roud has 21 examples; all the English ones are from the southern counties of Devon, Somerset, Hampshire and Sussex. P.W. Joyce found the song still being sung in Ireland and Helen Creighton found it in Nova Scotia.

Henry and Robert Hammond collected Searching for Young Lambs in May 1905 from Jane Gulliford of Combe Florey. Rob Williams sang this version in 2012 on his album of Jane Gulliford's songs, Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Bernie Cherry sang Searching for Young Lambs on his 2013 Music Traditions anthology With Powder, Shot and Gun. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Not to be confused with the song Searching for Lambs so beloved of Cecil Sharp and other early collectors on account of its splendid tune. The formal structure of this present song belies its origin, namely the Pleasure Garden stage and, indeed, it first appeared in print c.1750 in Six English Songs and Dialogues, as they are Performed in the Public Gardens. The song was obviously a favourite at the time and was included in two other song collections, Apollo's Cabinet, printed in Liverpool in 1757, and Cleo and Euterpe, printed in London in 1758.

Today it is seldom encountered, although odd sets were reported during the last century; Roud has 34 examples; all the English ones are from the southern counties of Devon, Somerset, Hampshire and Sussex, while just three Canadian and two Scottish singers are named. The only still currently available sound recording is of George Spicer.

Bernie: Apart from one verse, this is from George Spicer who was, like me, from Kent. Another of those love songs of which I am so fond.

Lyrics

George Spicer sings Searching for Young Lambs

As Johnny walk-ed out, one midsummer's morn,
And where did he hide himself? all under a thorn.
'Twas there he spied a pretty fair maid as she as passing by,
She went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh.

She searched the meadow over, no lambs could she find.
Oftimes did she cross that young man in her mind.
Then turning round so careless-lie and smiling with a blush,
For young Johnny followed after and hid all in a bush.

“Have you seen ere a ewe with its two pretty lambs,
Strayed away from the dame, strayed away from the fold?”
“Oh yes, oh yes, my pretty fair maid I saw them passing by,
They went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh.”

And now they are got married and living in 'rocked bands,
Never more to go roaming in search of young lambs.
In searching of young lambs, my friends, no friendships do renew,
And the lambs they skip all round them all in the morning dew.

Rob Williams sings Searching for Young Lambs

As Johnny was walking one midsummer's morn,
Oh! there he did hide himself all underneath a thorn,
A beautiful damsel by chance to pass him by,
And there he did cast her in his long and wishing eye,
    In his long and wishing eye, in his long and wishing eye,
    Oh! there he did cast her in his long and wishing eye.

She traced the valleys over, no lamb could she find,
Her Johnny, dear Johnny, so often in her mind.
She turned herself quite curiously, and smiling with a blush,
And there she saw her Johnny all hiding in a bush.
    All hiding in a bush, all hiding in a bush,
    Oh! There she saw her Johnny, all hiding in a bush.

Oh! then the words of love did begin to overflow,
He tooked her down those meadows, down the meadows down below,
And whilst his arms was round her, her charms to impose,
Then the lambs played all around them all in the morning dew,
    All in the morning dew, all in the morning dew,
    Oh! The lambs played all around them all in the morning dew.

So now to conclude and to finish my song,
This being the happiest couple and the highest of the folk,
So now they are got married happy in wedlock's bands,
No more to go a­roving in searching for young lambs,
    In searching for young lambs, in searching for young lambs,
    No more to go a­roving, in searching for young lambs.

Bernie Cherry sings Searching for Young Lambs

Young Johnny walked out on one Midsummer’s morn
And where should he hide himself but under a thorn
He was waiting for that pretty fair maid as she came passing by
She went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh.

She looked all around her, no lambs could she find
Often had she crossed that young man all in her mind
Then turning round so carelessly she smiled with a blush
For young Johnny had followed after and hid all in a bush.

“Have you seen ‘ere a ewe with her young and tender lambs,
Strayed away from the fold, strayed away from their dams?”
“Oh yes oh yes my pretty fair maid I saw them passing by
They went down in yonder meadow and that is very nigh.”

He held her hand, he whispered love, he swore his heart was true
He kissed her lips, the lambs they skipped all in the morning dew
About them in the morning dew beneath a sunny sky
It was down in yonder meadow, and that is very nigh.

And now they are got married and are joined in wedlock’s bands
No more to go roving in search of young lambs
In searching for young lambs, kind friends, old friendships to renew
And the lambs they skip all round them, all in the morning dew.