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Down Among the Barley Straw

[ Roud 12814 ; VWML SBG/3/1/480 , SBG/1/1/456 ; trad.]

Cyril Tawney recorded Down Among the Barley Straw in 1971 as the title track of his album of seductions songs from the Baring-Gould manuscripts, Down Among the Barley Straw. However, this album wasn't published on the Leader label until 1976. He noted:

Baring-Gould tells us that this lusty agricultural item was taken down from G.H. Hurrell, the blind organist of Chagford, [on] 30 September 1890. Mr Hurrell had heard it about 30 years previously from a Mr Beare, a carpenter at Torquay. Not to be confused with a different song entitled The Barley Straw.


G.H. Hurrell sings The Barley Straw

As Jan was hurrying down the glade, he met his sweetheart Kit;
“O whither so fast?” the maiden ask'd, “let's bide and talk a bit.”
“I'm going to the barn, and if you'll come, and help me thresh the stro',
That task complete, why then my sweet, a ramble we will go.”

She gave consent, to work they went, as if 'twere only play;
The flail he plied, whilst Kit untied, the sheaves, and cleared away.
O willing hands made labour light, and 'ere the sun was low,
With arms entwined, these lovers kind, did down the vallies go.

Said Jan,“thou art a helpful lass, wilt thou be mine for life?”
“For sure!” she said. To church they sped, and soon were man and wife.
A lesson then, for all young men who would a courting go,
Your sweetheart ask to share your task, and thresh the Barley Stro'.

Now many a year, this couple dear, they lived in harmony;
And children had, both lass and lad, i think 'twas thirty three.
The sons so hale did wield the flail, and like their father grow;
The maidens sweet, like mother were neat: and clean as the Barley Stro'.